Maui Island Overview: What is Maui Like?

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Maui Island Overview: What is Maui Like?2019-01-09T08:26:59+00:00
Yes, this the view from your hotel room in Maui
Maui 2006 by Kei Noguchi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

What is Maui like? Like Lahaina and the West Maui Mountains.


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


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 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.


What is Maui like? Haleakala Volcano on the Island of Maui.

Haleakala Volcano – interior cones. Awesome!

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.


What is Maui like? Kapalua, Maui Island, Hawaii, USA

Kapalua on the West side of Maui is my dream spot for retirement. I’ll be there someday!

What is Maui like in Lahaina?

Lahaina is a sleepy little town you might have guessed by the photo at the top of this page. 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. There is one public parking area with a big lot – but it is sometimes tough to find a place to park.

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 (2003). 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.

What is Maui like? There are cows grazing at the rocky beach in West Maui!

Cows grazing at the rocky beach in Maui, Hawaii

Maui is not as big as Oahu, but nearly so. What is Maui like for rain? 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 transplants (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 >



  1. Af 02/14/2016 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Lots of good information on here, thinking of moving to Hawaii.

    I did spot a mistake though, Mahi Mahi is not related to the dolphin in any way as dolphins are mammals and not fish. Mahi are sometimes called “dolphin fish” but that’s just a name.

  2. Ben T 07/21/2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Just bought a 2 bedroom condo at South Kihei. It will be a vacation home for now (vacant most of the time) but my wife and I are looking forward to eventually moving to Maui from California in about 5 years. We like that fact that Maui is not too busy like Oahu or too laid back like Kauai. There’s still the little things a big city has like a shopping mall and Home Depot, Costco, etc. But you can still get a way from those with a few minutes drive.

    • Vern Lovic 07/21/2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      I personally think there is no place like Maui – the best… Maui No Ka Oi!

  3. monica 02/13/2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Which island has the most homeless?

  4. John 12/13/2014 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Maui’s cool to visit but not to live if you’re used to a big city. To me it’s warm year round, too many roaches, too expensive, few career options. But none of that matters if your families there.

    • Vern 12/13/2014 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      All good points. I love Maui the best, but I had no stressors there. If you make enough money, have a spouse or you’re OK with the singles scene – which is very weak, you can maybe get along there and love it. Everyone needs different things I guess.

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