Lay of the Land
“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully.”~Mark Twain
The Southwest: The island’s most built up coast begins in Kihei and runs south towards Wailea, home of the Four Seasons Maui and the Andaz hotels. Wailea is also home to upscale shopping malls, spas, spectacular golf courses, beaches and hillside mansions. Just beyond Wailea is Makena, a wilderness beach park where locals join with those looking to escape manicured Maui.
The West: Unlike the Big Island, most of whose grand resorts are found in one region, Maui has several primary locales. The western coast centers around the old fishing village of Lahaina, with its historic architecture, cute cafes and restaurants, art galleries and local shops. Lahaina harbor has a lot of whale watching activities (a recommended outfitter is the Pacific Whale FOundation) and is also from where ferries to Lanai depart. Further north sit the planned resort communities of Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua, with upscale homes, golden beaches and exquisite views.
The North: Northern Maui comprises a wind-thrashed shore, home of the surfing community (it’s where legendary Hookipa and Jaws surfing areas are located). There are also some really nice beaches with more of a local crowd, including Baldwin and Spreckelsville (aka Baby) beach. But just a 30-minute drive from its sandy shores (two of the north shore’s best are Baby Beach and Baldwin Beach) northern Maui is also home of Up Country, comprised of rolling hills dotted with pines, farms and incredible gardens. The open hillside runs straight towards central Maui’s Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano.
The East: The east side of the island remains wildest. The fifty-two-mile switchback-beset Hana Highway is the only path leading to Hana, an old sugar town set between a rain forest and the Pacific. The difficulty in getting there has ensured that there are no golf courses or shopping malls, just one boutique hotel—the Travaasa Hana—that harks back to old Hawaii—that is, no televisions or telephones but glorious vistas and beach treks.
Public transportation on Maui is spotty. There are some taxis, but since towns, and even restaurants and hotels, can be quite far apart, taxis tend to be expensive and inconvenient. A rental car is nearly a must.
When to Go
Weather is rarely a concern on this sunny and temperate isle. Daytime temperatures range between 75 and 85 degrees year-round, with the warmest weather in the summer and most of the rain falling between November and March. (Hana, however, tends to be rainy a lot.) The west and south sides of the island are warmest and driest, while the east and north are a bit cooler and, therefore, more lush. Maui is also famous for being the windiest Hawaiian island, particularly the north shore in winter, which is why it is so attractive to windsurfers and kite boarders. Interestingly, the slowest seasons on Maui are the months when the weather is finest: mid-April to mid-June and September to mid-December. That said, it is best to avoid the last week of April, when Asian holidays attract huge numbers of tourists. Whale watching is best between December and April—particularly along the western shore, you can observe whales breaching close to shore, as they make their way through the channel between Maui and Molokai.