What to wear
I am usually perfectly comfortable night & day wearing an aloha shirt & shorts.
Everyone wears ‘slippers’ (flip-flops or sandals.) You’ll only need warmer clothes if you go up to Haleakala where it will be cooler temperatures (~45-50°F, though it will feel much colder). Likewise you’ll only need shoes if you plan on hiking or doing other ‘adventure’ type stuff.
If you need a jacket or aloha shirt, you can always buy one at the thrift shop (see below.)
Aloha shirts are considered ‘formal’ wear, what folks wear to a nice restaurant or wedding. Day-to-day people wear t-shirts, but it’s fine to wear aloha shirts all of the time too.
Radio station to listen to in the car
KPOA 93.5 — beautiful local Hawaiian music
KLHI 92.5 — 92.5 plays ‘Island Music’, a combination of Hawaiian and Reggae.
Places to stay
Maui Coast – nice hotel in Kihei
Kamaole Sands – a little more expensive, but a little nicer. Condo rentals.
Best dive shop
Mau`i Dreams – run with aloha by our friends Rachel & Don
You can do all of your studying in advance, and then the training takes three mornings from 7am-1pm while you’re in Maui. Afterwards you’re certified to dive anywhere in the world.
The peak of whale season is from January 15-March 31, though the season officially runs from December 15-May 15. You may see whales anytime between October and June, but during the peak part of the season they are everywhere. If you go snorkeling or scuba diving, listen to hear them singing when your head is underwater.
Best locals event
Sunset on Little Beach on a Sunday. Go there in the afternoon. It’s a clothing optional beach. At sunset they start dancing and juggling fire. A very memorable event.
To get there, go to Big Beach. Go to the beach, take a right, and follow the path over the rocks to Little Beach. Body surfing is MUCH better at Little Beach, too. (It’s dangerous at Big Beach.) And L.B. is kid-friendly.
Best musical show
Uncle Willie K at Mulligan’s, usually every Wednesday at Thursday night.
Amazing performer. You can pay for the dinner show (~$50/person) or simply find a table on the deck and have drinks. A great time either way.
Honoloa Bay – There are two sides to this bay, and I love snorkeling from one side to the other.
If you do this, bring flip-flops. The walk along the road to get back to your car will burn your feet otherwise.
I prefer the bay that is further along the road. This is not the ‘official’ entry to the bay, so it is less visited and has more fish, turtles, and other interesting wildlife. The entrance to this side is on a path through the jungle. Occasionally local families try to charge admission. This isn’t technically legal, but I usually give them a tenner. If you enter this way, be careful entering the water across the rocks… they can be slippery! Once you’re in, swim out towards the right side of the bay. When you’re done there, swim across the bay (southwest) and continue along that lava coast back to the ‘official’ beach. From there someone can climb out and go back to get the car. You remembered the car keys and slippers, right? Careful doing this with electronic keys!
Best Pizza Joint
There are at least three very good places to have pizza on Maui. You can’t go wrong with any of these places.
Mateo’s Osteria — A really good Italian restaurant in Wailea.
Fabiani’s Bakery and Pizza — A more family-oriented (i.e., cheaper) Italian restaurant in Kihei.
Porto — A great pizza in Ma’alaea Harbor, supporting the Pacific Whale Foundation.
Most Romantic Dinner
Incredible food, beautiful ocean-side location.
You NEED reservations, because this is the best restaurant on the island, the place movie stars go. Plan on spending $100+ apiece. Make your reservation for 5 – 5:30pm. Sunset is usually right around 6pm, since Hawai`i is on the equator. Mama’s is on the other side of the island, so sunset is the indirect glow of the setting sun, but still beautiful.
Get to Mama’s about 15 minutes BEFORE your reservation time, and ask for a ‘front table’. You can’t reserve these in advance, but you can ask for them when you get there, and they’re perfect for a party of two. You sit side-by-side looking out at the crashing waves. It’s wonderful.
This is a very nice restaurant on an old pineapple plantation.
Great food, less expensive than Mama’s, but also a little less romantic. It’s more casual, more old-Hawai`ian. It’s at 900’ elevation, so safe after a day of diving.
Best thrift shop
Savers — a great thrift shop in Kahului, where you might find some surprisingly beautiful clothing, jewelry, and other treasures. (380 Dairy Rd.)
Best get-away destination
Yes, you can ‘get away’ without leaving Mau`i!
Hana is on the wet corner of Maui, and is gorgeous. Oprah owns a lot of land there, and for good reason. It’s old Hawai’i.
If you’re interested, and willing to get up early, you can drive the road to Hana, which is long and winding. There is also a clothing-optional beach in Hana with the most amazing surging water. It’s like a massive jacuzzi.
There are many sights along the road to Hana that you won’t see unless you bring the guidebook “Maui Revealed”. Highly recommended.
Even though the rental car contract says you can’t, keep going around the island after Hana. The loop is easy and beautiful.
Even better, plan on spending one or two nights in Hana. You’ll be less rushed, and you’ll get to enjoy the quiet of Old Hawaii.
The Na’ili’ili-haele Waterfall Hike
On the Hana Highway, between mile markers 6 and 7 1, there is a place where you can hike down into a beautiful lush bamboo forest. If you keep hiking, you will come to a series of waterfalls, each more difficult to reach than the last. Perseverance is rewarded, however, by lush jungle waterfalls tumbling into pristine swimming holes.
You will recognize the spot because there are usually cars parked along the side of the road. There is a gated field on the ocean side of the road, and thick bamboo on the mountain side. Park as close as possible to the fence on either side of the road. Pick any opening into the bamboo and head downhill to find the main trail. Even when it’s not raining, the slopes can be very slippery, so watch your step and hold onto bamboo as you make your way downhill.
Your first challenge will be crossing a rock slot carved by water. It’s actually just a step across, but looks scarier because it’s fairly deep. After crossing this, you can take either the high path or the low path through the bamboo… they rejoin quickly before descending down to the main stream bed.
When you reach the stream you’ll need to go across and continue to the left. The main trail follows along the direction of the stream. If you’re lucky, you may see a waterfall on the left, but most times it is dry. (It is overflow from the East Maui Irrigation system.)
Continue upstream and you’ll come to another waterfall & a nice swimming hole. (There is wild ginger growing along the sides of this pool.)
To the left of the swimming hole the trail continues up a steep and very slippery slope. Luckily there are usually some ropes and fallen bamboo to help you scramble up this, but be careful. Look for rocks that you can use as footholds. Don’t trust the ropes. 🙂
This will bring you to the next waterfall, which is a beauty and has a large swimming hole.
To continue you climb up to the left again, which will bring you to a 20-foot cliff face. Usually there is a wooden ladder and some grab ropes to help you climb up. You’ll be rewarded by another waterfall. 🙂
To reach the final waterfall, follow the trail upstream along its rocky bed. The stream bed gets more and more flat and overgrown, and you’ll find yourself walking through the grassy edges with a bit of rock-hopping. Eventually the path crosses from the left side of the stream to the right, and soon afterwards you reach a water-filled canyon.
The way on involves swimming up the canyon to the waterfall you can see at its end, climbing that waterfall (which isn’t that hard), and then continuing a short way upstream.
The final waterfall is spectacular and well-worth the effort. It falls from high above into a large deep pool which is great for swimming and briskly cold. Watch out entering the pool… the rocks along the side can be very slick. I’d also suggest NOT swimming too close to the waterfall… rocks have been known to wash down occasionally.
This is a hike where you can hurt yourself, either slipping or falling. Be careful. I’ve been here a dozen times and I’ve never hurt myself, but I hear that this is the number one injury rescue site along the road to Hana.
If it is raining, there is a danger of flash floods here, so I would strongly advise you to avoid this hike in the rain. It’ll be muddy and not much fun anyhow.
Other Things to Do
- Visit Lahaina, and see the massive banyan tree. While you’re there, eat at Star Noodle, which is amazing. If you have a large party, make a reservation beforehand.
- Drive to the top of Hale’a’kala, and feel what it’s like to be on
top of a 10,000′ mountain in the middle of the Pacific.
- Bring a warm coat. If you can get up early, arrive in time for the 6am sunrise or the 6pm sunset.
- Dive or snorkel Molokini. It’s some of the clearest water, and it’s a cool volcanic crater. If you learn to dive, go out with Mike Severns Diving, though Maui Dreams’ boat is good too.
- Have a Mai Tai. 🙂 Tommy Bahama’s makes a good one.
- Charter a private plane from the OGG airport to fly you to the neighbor island of Molokai. You can land at the leper colony, though you can’t leave the airport.
Good day-to-day restaurants (Kihei)
- The Kihei Cafe – my go-to place for breakfast. Have the Loco Moco at least once.
- Cafe O’Lei – Very upper-end delicious food.
- Surfside – One of the most delicious, authentically-hawaiian places that you could possibly eat lunch at. I could eat here every day, and often do.
- Izakaya Matsu – Delicious japanese.
- Sansai Sushi – More japanese, but long lines. Make a reservation!
- Monkeypod – A higher-end place, but not too expensive. A night here qualifies as ‘special’. Great for dates.
- Tommy Bahama – A great place to go for tropical drinks. Call for happy hours, which seem to change all of the time.
- Ko – Newcomer fancy hotel restaurant, very nice and very expensive.
- Da Kitchen Express – Second-best plate lunch after Surfside.
Good day-to-day restaurants (Lahaina)
- Star Noodle – high-end noodles come to Mau`i, and they’re delicious. I’ve never had anything here that I didn’t love. There is usually a line, but make a reservation and you can usually jump right to your table.
- Aloha Mixed Plate – A really wonderful plate lunch place right by the water. A short ways outside of central Lahaina but worth the trip.
Coolest T-shirts & stickers
Mau`i Tropix / Maui Built — Only sells these in Mau`i, has stores in Kihei and Kahului. It’s worth stopping by just to browse their cool stuff.