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Maui Island Overview: What is Maui Like?

Cows grazing at the rocky beach in Maui, Hawaii

Cows grazing at the rocky beach in Maui, Hawaii

Is Maui the Best?

Maui is my personal favorite of the Hawaiian islands. Why Maui? Maui No Ka Oi! The Hawaiians have a saying, or maybe it’s those Hawaiians that live on Maui that say it… it means basically that Maui is the best. I have to agree with that assessment.

Wailuku

Before you land at the Maui Airport you’ll notice that there is one major populated area – the Wailuku area that has the airport, malls, port for receiving autos and shipped goods, and many of the locals and businesses of Maui are located here. There is a Costco where many visitors stock up on food to save money as they go back to their rented condominium.

Wailuku, Maui is at the base of Haleakala volcano and is not a very pretty place – it’s just like any other city with palm trees. From Wailuku you can easily reach the other areas of the island.

Haleakala

Haleakala is a 10,000+ foot volcano (inactive) that towers over the island and is amazing to see from the bottom or the top. Hiking is possible, though you’ll be breathless and tire quickly at 10K feet. The interior of the volcano is awesome to behold. A must see on Maui.

Makawao is a small village on the way up Haleakala that is like countryside living. There are a number of awesome little breakfast places and restaurants here. Maui onions are found here – and you’ve got to try some in your lunch or dinner if you see them on the menu.

Northeast Maui

You could opt for a trip around to Hana, Maui if you’re up for driving it. It’s a tiring drive – you have to be alert for cars coming in the other direction. But again, a must see. Hana has pink and black sand beaches and the little community is a must see.

“Jaws” the gigantic wave break in Winter is close by Wailuku at Paia beach and is worth a stop whether the waves are big or the wind is strong. There are many kite surfers and windsurfers at Ho’Okipa beach – world renowned for the activities.

South and East Maui

South and east a bit from Wailuku is Kihei. This is a nice touristy location with great beaches, soft waves and just a great atmosphere. There are hotels & condos all over here and there are many people that stay the winters here from the USA mainland. The lava fields in south Kihei are particularly cool to visit and to snorkel around.

Maui’s Rugged West Side

The west side has the West Maui mountains and the far west is beautiful. Before you get there, traveling from Wailuku to the west side of the island of Maui you’ll pass amazing beaches too. Whales are plentiful in the winter and I’d consider this the best place in Hawaii to see whales breaching from the shore. Boat tours take you out to see them too – very affordable. A must do.

Lahaina is a sleepy little town. Sort of like Key West but much more tolerable. Lovely even. Lahaina has some amazing restaurants and overall is just fun to wander through doing some shopping and eating. All the regular stores like Haagen Dazs are here, Pizza, and ocean front restaurants that are quite affordable. Mahi-mahi fish (a type of dolphin – not Flipper) is out of this world, try a Mahi burger!

There are no great beaches in Lahaina that I’m aware of as there is coral under the surface. Most of the tourist beaches if you have family with kids are in Ka’anapali. I stayed in the Ka’anapali Ali’i for my honeymoon and it was quite nice. The beach has easy waves and it’s a good place for bodyboarding if you want to give it a try.

Heading way out west – we’re at the south western side of the island now, are steep rocky cliffs that are just amazing to have a look at… another must see. In fact, the whole island of Maui is a must see – that’s why I keep saying that. You must take a rental car around the entire island or you’re missing the big picture of what Maui is all about.

As you drive around the island you’ll see some amazing views. The western side of Maui after Ka’anapali is quite undeveloped and I hope it stays that way for a very long time. The road turns back into Wailuku as you complete the western side half-loop.

Maui has a couple nice hiking paths up the west Maui mountains that were fun, and one called the “Iao Needle” hike that was great, but overall Oahu has better hiking.

Maui is an awesome vacation spot as well as a great place to live if you can pull it off. The housing is expensive. I stayed in 350 square foot Ohana (mother in law suite) for $1100 per month. It had air and carpeting and little else. Many homeowners rent rooms out in their home to offset the high cost of housing. There aren’t really apartment buildings in Lahaina, Kahana, or Ka’anapali – but there are some in Wailuku.

Maui is not as big as Oahu, but nearly so. The rain is not a problem, though it might rain once or twice per day it clears up quickly. There are plenty of things to do on Maui like snorkeling to Molokini crater, or a downhill volcano ride on bikes, or helicopter tours around the island… there are numerous golf courses, a blowhole, and fantastic beaches for surfing, bodyboarding, or just laying around.

The locals on Maui are mostly haoles (mainlanders, usually caucasians) themselves – having moved there from California most often times it seems like. They are laid back and concerned about their island becoming too commercial, yet there are a number of businesses that are trying to make it more so.

To get a good idea what Maui is like geographically I encourage you to have a look at Google maps – Google Earth and see for yourself!

Maui, Hawaii on Google Maps

Maui Photos on Flickr >

Maui Videos on YouTube >

More articles to read about Hawaii here >

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