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Accomodations and activities in Maui, in March!
January 22, 2013 6:19 PM   Subscribe

We ended up biting the bullet on tickets to Maui for our spring break in March yesterday (arriving 3/10). You guys were awesome when we went to the Big Island last year- where should we stay and what should we do in Maui?

We need to find a hotel (or week-long VRBO/Airbnb rental) this time- no campervan- and we have no idea even what part of the island we should base out of, let alone a specific place to stay. Ideas? We will probably rent a car unless it turns out that's not necessary, and probably don't want a big fancy resort-y type place.

I know absolutely nothing about Maui, except that it is warm and new to me. We love snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, biking, wildlife/nature/tidepools etc., most active-type things, farmer's markets, shave ice, good restaurants with a decent vegetarian option, and enjoy a limited amount of beach-sitting. Where should our base camp be, and what should we not miss?
posted by charmedimsure to Travel & Transportation around Maui, HI (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get a copy of Franko's Guide Map -- indispensable!
posted by cubby at 6:29 PM on January 22, 2013


I grew up on Maui, and my favorite thing to do is drive to the top of Haleakala for sunrise. It's incredible. I like going the night before and watching the stars all night long. I've never seen anything like it. There is also great hiking at the crater as well.

On your way back down, stop in the small town of Makawao and the Komoda General Store. They have the best donuts ever. They are made fresh on site, and I miss them terribly.

Another local favorite is the Tasaka Guri Guri shop; it's sort of like ice cream but better. It's in the Maui Mall. The mall needs some sprucing up but the guri guri is still worth going for.
posted by frizz at 6:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had our wedding in Maui and were there in March/April.

I highly recommend the Plantation Inn in Lahaina. It's a small B&B and very reasonable for Maui. It's a short walk to the harbor/shops/restaurants in Lahaina, but it's not on a swimable beach. However, guests there can use their sister property, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel which is about 5 minutes away. Oh, and the included breakfasts are awesome. If you get the French Toast on day 1, you won't order anything else ever. My husband and I were in Waikiki last week and we both said that we wished we had gone back to Maui and the Plantation Inn.

I really like Lahaina as opposed to the mega resorts of Ka'anapali (families) or Wailea (golfers).
posted by 26.2 at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2013


Road to Hana, and then Lindburg's grave:

The Palapala Ho'omau Church is located 8 miles south of Hana on the ocean side of the highway. A small road just past Mile Marker #41 leads to the church.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:47 PM on January 22, 2013


Eat at Star Noodle! I have only stayed in the Kaanapali and Lahaina areas. It was a good home base.

Still looking for a great place to stay there, I have tried the Westin and Aston Shores and liked neither.
posted by dottiechang at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2013


Things we do:
1) Drive up Haleakula (see either a sunrise or sunset from the summit). Dress warmly for this, as the summit is over 10000 feet, and it's cold up there.
2) Rent a convertible and drive the road to Hana. Start early in the morning for this, and take a picnic lunch.
3) We stay at Napili Shores on the Northwest end of the island--nice place with 2 restaurants on site, loads of grills--and the rooms are decent with full kitchens. Very friendly people there. If you get an ocean front you will have a view of neighboring island Molokai. Units rent through either Outrigger or VRBO. Napili Bay is beautiful.
4) Swim with sea turtles in Honokeana Cove (within a few minutes walk of Napili Shores).
5) We like Paia Fish Market, Mama's Fish House, or Peggy Sue's (burger joint) to eat.
6) Old Lahaina Luau is not to be missed.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 6:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Go whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation! It's an incredible experience seeing them up close, and was the highlight of our Maui trip.

About the sunrise on Haleakula--we did this, and it was a huge disappointment. Pretty much every sunrise is gorgeous, right? And we'd been told it was a must see from the summit. But it wasn't picturesque at all. We expected streaks of color, illuminating the sky or the land below for a gorgeous vista. Nope.

Now, I did some more research, and supposedly the best sunrises tend to follow a rainy day, so that was probably why our trip was a bust. So, just keep that in mind, and also that it is REALLY cold up there (especially considering you usually pack warm-weather clothes for Hawaii), AND that you have to go super early because it's a bit of a drive up Haleakula.
posted by misha at 7:11 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Orient yourself quickly with the geography.

Get a copy of Maui Revealed (the blue book). It's available as an e-book or an iOS application. It will give you recommendations on everything -- where to stay, sights to see, dining, activities. Given that Maui is much smaller than the Big Island, it won't be quite as overwhelming, but it does take a while to drive from place to place. Also if you have the iOS application, it's a lot easier to skip directly to the Best Bets section or use the GPS to find sights near your current location.

You will definitely need a car. Most of the best sights can only be reached via car (especially the road to Hana, sunrise on Haleakala, or anything Haleakala, or any of the upcountry farms).

The two most popular areas to stay are West Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili, Kapalua, etc.) and South Maui (Kihei and Wailea). I would lean more towards West Maui for you, if only because South Maui is dominated by beaches. Kihei is kind of sleepy, strip mall-ish and Southern California. Wailea is full of glitzy resorts and huge golf courses. I think you'll have more fun in West Maui if you're into activities than sunbathing (though that is the easy/lazy way to spot some whales).

Lahaina is the only city that has any sort of a downtown (Front St), but it can feel very touristy with all of the chain restaurants. Luckily, you don't have to go there if you don't want to! There is an excellent map store, though, on Front St called Gallery Oceanica, that has many beautiful reproductions of old maps of Hawaii.

I would start looking on TripAdvisor under Specialty Lodging to find condos ASAP so you can have a kitchen and a fridge to hold all of the fresh fruit you're going to want to buy.

Both the West and South Maui areas are on the dry side of the island. Both of these are also a bit of a drive from the airport in Kahului (OGG). And you will definitely need a car if you plan to drive the road to Hana, which is a day long excursion in and of itself. It's basically as far as you can get from Lahaina.

The road to Hana is a long, winding road with lots of sights along the way -- waterfall after waterfall, caves, pools, etc. People get up early just to do the leisurely drive to Hana, and then at the end, they turn around and have to go back the way they came (maybe they get as far as the Seven Sacred Pools). Do not attempt this if you get motion sick easily.

As for sun rise on Haleakala, it's best to do it while you're still jetlagged I think. Maui Revealed recommends getting there 1/2 hour before sunrise. Add on a 2 hour drive from where you're staying, and that's pretty early. It's also not consistently spectacular -- my husband did it years ago and thought it was a waste of time.

One town that you might want to consider finding a rental in is Paia. It's got kind of a hippie/Berkeley vibe and I'm guessing the vegetarian options will be pretty good. You'll also be by Mana Foods, a natural foods grocery store. And Ho'okipa Lookout is a great place to watch windsurfers. Paia is on the wet side of the island, too.

O'o Farm Lunch Tour might be interesting to you, or Kula Farms or the Ali'i Lavender Farm.

The best shave ice on Maui is at Ululani's. It's run by a husband and wife couple who moved from Washington State. Their focus is on a great product (they literally throw it out if it's not up to their standards) and customer service. The husband's background is in fine dining. They have multiple locations: one by the airport, two in Lahaina, and one in Kihei.

I didn't find the farmer's markets in Maui as impressive as other ones (such as the famous KCC Saturday Market in Honolulu). I wasn't as impressed with Kula strawberries compared to NJ/NY ones. However, Maui Gold pineapples are delicious and less tart than other pineapples. Buy mango jam and lilikoi butter for your toast in the mornings!

And Maui is one of the few places you can get Golden Glow mangoes. Yee's Orchard in Kihei sells them. Not cheap (~$3 each), but very tasty fruit. They also sell starfruit, apple bananas, papaya, passionfruit, guava, coconut, and more. The Golden Glows also have a very skinny seed, so you get more flesh off this variety than other types. They are also a bit larger and hefty than Mexican mangoes. Closed Mon and Fri. Only open 11-5. Easy to miss as it is literally a small hut at Kihei Road and Nohokai St. It is on the east side of the street. Great fruit, worth the effort to find it!

Nearby is Kihei Caffe, a wonderful hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot. Their cinnamon roll French toast special appears sporadically when they have leftover cinnamon rolls. Vegetarian friendly.
posted by kathryn at 7:22 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you will need to rent a car.

I recommend looking on TripAdvisor for "vacation rentals". That's people who rent out their condos or spare rooms. It's usually cheaper than a hotel and you get a whole condo instead of just a hotel room.

I'm seconding swimming with sea turtles. Rent some snorkel gear and ask at the shop where the closest place to do that is. Also seconding Kihei Caffe- amazing food but it's cash only.

Let me know if you want to get a drink when you're here.
posted by entropyiswinning at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2013


We always stay in kihei-simple and less expensive but a great central location. We rent a condo at the Maui Sunset every year-it's older but a beautiful view and impeccably maintained. We really like to cook most meal in our condo, and will stop at Costco for groceries.

We love to do snorkel/kayak trips down by Wailea. Have a drink at The Grand Wailea and wander the grounds and pretend we're rich. Check out Yelp and Chowhound for restaurant reviews. We like Eskimo Candy in kihei for poke and Sam Sato's in Kahului for Japanese noodles-both cheap and not tourist traps.

Have a blast! We love doing not much of anything in Maui. So sad this year because my folks have rented the condo but we can't swing the spring break airfare for five :(
posted by purenitrous at 7:32 PM on January 22, 2013


I do not really love either Kihei or Lahina. I do really, really, really love Paia—a funky/hippie North Shore town—and Hana. Stay half the time "in town" at the Paia Inn and half the time in the remote, otherworldly, green and gorgeous Hana. (You can find a private rental, but they're sorta on the DL, because Maui, unlike the other Hawaiian Islands, really cracks down on vacation rentals. This is old, but gives some background.) Doing the road to Hana in one afternoon is really a bummer. It's best to meander and take your time. I would get a Jeep and take the top down for the road to Hana, and then drive around willy-nilly on the bad roads with it all week.

Haleakala is amazing. I really liked checking out Surfing Goat Dairy. The whales are really nice. If I were you, I might consider taking a day trip on the ferry to Molokai or Lanai, just because who the hell goes to Molokai or Lanai?

A snorkeling trip to Molokini, the crescent-moon-shaped crater just offshore, is totally worth it.

My husband did a powered Hang Gliding trip out of Hana with Hang Gliding Maui. It's hella expensive, and he had a fantastic time.

A few anti-recommendations: The Seven Sacred Pools (not seven, not sacred, etc) were a total letdown. DO NOT GO TO THE BLUE POOL, no matter what you read on the internet. It's gorgeous, but you will likely encounter some furious, possibly dangerous residents. Warren & Annabelle's (highly recommended by the blue book and my in-laws) was laaaaaame.
posted by purpleclover at 8:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A snorkeling trip to Molokini, the crescent-moon-shaped crater just offshore, is totally worth it.

Seconded. Remarkable.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live on Maui in Haiku. I used to live next door to a very nice legal vacation rental in Haiku (on the north shore). It is about 6 miles or so from Paia town. Very beautiful tropical property with a lovely pool. Paia Inn is right in Paia town and while Paia town is fun, it is busy and noisy (and occasionally smelly). So if you want some quiet in lush surroundings the vacation rental is the place. Paia is right near Baldwin Beach Park and about 4 miles from Hookipa Beach Park (windsurfing paradise). Paia would have everything you need in walking distance (but you will still need a car).

You will need a car. Maui has a rudimentary bus system, but a car is really the way to go.

I would avoid Kihei, I find it depressing and sad. Wailea is great, but expensive. The best beaches in my mind are in Wailea. You should also go to Big Beach, a truly beautiful expanse. All the beaches on Maui are open to the public. You can usually find a parking area set up by a hotel so you can park and use the beach their hotel fronts. We do have a lot of hotels.

As for places to go: Waianapanapa is beautiful, historic, and culturally important, AND it has an amazing black sand beach; Nakalele Blowhole, it is on the other side of West Maui (across from Lahaina) and the drive to it and beyond it is fun.

I adore Lahaina. It is touristy but very historic and culturally important. If you learn about its history before you go, it makes the town much more interesting than just a bunch of shops.

For food, I live on the North Shore, so I can tell you about the places I know: most of Paia is ok. Casanova's in Makawao Town is very good (restaurant, not the deli), all the other restaurants in Makawao are good. The Kula Lodge is great and on the way up to Haleakala (they also have an inn). Colleen's in Haiku is very good and a local favorite. A lot of tourists like Mama's Fish House (past Paia), but I think it is a tourist trap and too expensive.
posted by fifilaru at 10:39 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


We like Eskimo Candy in kihei for poke and Sam Sato's in Kahului for Japanese noodles-both cheap and not tourist traps.

Poke is marinated, cube ahi tuna, BTW. If you are a strict vegetarian I imagine you'll be skipping this. Eskimo Candy is a fish specialty store and takeout counter and has very few vegetarian dishes on the menu. I think there's a salad or two.

Sam Sato's serves saimin. Saimin is the Hawaiian version of ramen and the broth, is usually not a vegetable base (may be pork or shrimp or chicken).

It is pretty tough to eat local foods in Hawaii if you are a vegetarian. You can't have kalua pork, lau lau, chicken long rice, spam musubi, teri beef, chicken katsu, pipikaula, saimin, huli huli chicken, poke, loco moco, lomi salmon, etc.

But vegetarians can have malasadas, shave ice, all manner of local fruit, local fruit jams and butters, various fruit breads (like mango bread), haupia (coconut pudding), Portuguese sweet bread, Maui onions, mochi, Roselani ice cream, Ono Pops, poi (though I personally dislike poi), mac salad, rice, local coffee, local honey, local cheese, and local chocolate.
posted by kathryn at 2:30 PM on January 23, 2013


Coming to this late to recommend Kipahulu Ohana for an interpretive hike/taro patch goofiness just past Hana. Call in advance (aka not the morning you fly into Kihei, driving down the Hana highway, desperately trying to find decent cellphone reception) if you want to set it up and wear mosquito repellent if you go. I had to plunge thigh-deep into the lo'i to get relief from the skeeter bites. Kawiki was our guide and humored our complete inability to weed a taro patch.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:23 PM on January 23, 2013


We ended up booking a place in Lahaina (for reasons of package deal cheapness), and we do have a car. We have a cabin in Hana booked for the 12th, too. We leave tonight, so if anyone has last-minute suggestions please feel free to post. :)
posted by charmedimsure at 1:16 PM on March 9, 2013


We're back! For future readers of this thread, we stayed at the Lahaina Shores, which was a) cheap with a package deal b) air-conditioned (important for the boyfriend) c) really quite nice and d) right on the beach (although not on the best beach). Lahaina felt really, really touristy- there were cruise ships in while we were there on a few nights, and the main drag was totally packed- but it was nice to be able to walk to dinner etc.

The best meals we had in Maui were at Star Noodle and I'o (expensive), both in Lahaina. We had quite good meals at the Maui Brewing Company and at Aloha Mix Plate. The best shave ice was indeed Ululani's, and we loved our introduction to malasadas in Makawao.

The whale-watching was incredible, and pretty cheap (at least compared to Alaskan prices), so we went twice, once on a big boat with the Pacific Whale Fountation and once on a Zodiac with about ten other people with Ultimate Whale Watch. If I had to go again, I'd go with the smaller boat both times. Snorkeling at Molokini was great, but so was the snorkeling on our own at Black Rock and Honolua.

We drove the road to Hana (pretty, but a lot of rain and surprisingly little water in most of the falls) and were glad to have booked a cabin in Waianapanapa that night so that we didn't have to drive back out the same day. We stopped at the little health food store in Paia on the way for provisions and would definitely do that again. We thought the drive over the northwest side of the island was just as nice, actually, fewer waterfalls but a lot of green and sweeping views of the ocean and we found a bunch of little stops like the Blowhole and others to kill our last day after we checked out of hotel the last day but before our evening flight.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:22 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


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