From sunrise to sunset, your vacation on the breathtaking island of Maui will exceed your expectations. It doesn't matter if you'd rather explore the ocean floor or lounge on Sugar Beach, Maui is one of the most popular islands for travelers seeking fun and sun in Hawaii. From the moment you arrive and unwind in your Maui vacation rental, you'll experience what it means to be on "island time" as you adjust to the laid back atmosphere. If you're looking for a more active vacation, you'll find that there are plenty of things to do on Maui. We hope our Maui travel guide gets you excited about planning your next trip to the Aloha State. If we've overlooked something or you have a great tip for visitors, please let us know!

What to Do in Maui

maui vacationThere's a good chance your first couple of days in Maui will start early as you adjust to being in a new time zone, but there are definite perks to being an early riser. Plan an early morning drive to the top of Haleakala Crater. You'll witness the colors of the sunrise infuse the morning sky as you stand atop this dormant volcano that's nearly 10,000 feet high. Once the sun is up, plan to explore Haleakala by venturing to the crater floor.

Enjoy the Surf and Sun of Maui

Many people come to Maui to relax on the beach. You'll have a tough time choosing where you want to spend your time because Maui has so many gorgeous beaches. When you ask someone about the beaches on Maui, you're sure to hear about Makena Beach. Its spacious strand attracts many sun worshipers and beachcombers. The view isn't bad either. You'll be able to see the islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe. Head to the quieter beaches when you're ready to ditch the crowds. There's the peaceful vibe of Sugar Beach, Maui, which opens up to Maalaea Bay. In the lovely town of Wailea, you'll find quiet, intimate beaches, some connected by a small wooden boardwalk.

The beauty on land is just the beginning of what nature has to offer here. Get acquainted with the underwater scene where you'll see colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins. The waters around and near Maui boast some of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive in the world, including the Molokini Crater and Honolua Bay. Expect to find a trove of spectacular aquatic life in the waters right off your favorite beach.

When you're ready to go further into the ocean, there are plenty of companies that offer boat trips for snorkelers and divers. Be sure to shop around until you find the tour that's right for you. Consider the kind of boat you want, how much time you'd like to spend in the ocean, and what size group you prefer. Many companies offer deals and discounts at various times of the year so don't be shy about asking if there are any specials. Some tour companies go to the nearby island of Lanai and the Molokini Crater where you're sure to find exciting snorkeling adventures.

Explore the Ocean without Going into the Water

If you'd like to see what's underwater but you're not into snorkeling, plan a visit to the Maui Ocean Center, also known as the Hawaiian Aquarium. You'll get a first rate view of live coral, sea turtles, sharks, and tropical fish. It takes nearly two hours to wander through the aquarium, which includes pools where you can touch sea creatures. One of the most popular features here is the walk-through aquarium. It's like someone cut a tunnel through the middle of the ocean and you can walk through it!

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Have a Whale of a Time!

The chance to see humpback whales is one reason so many people choose to stay on this island. The best time for Maui whale watching is mid-winter through early spring. These giant creatures leave their feeding grounds in the North Pacific and head south to spend winter in Maui where they mate. During mating season, males compete for mates, sometimes taking their combat above water.

If you book a Maui whale watching tour, make sure you have an expert guide. You'll want someone who can describe whale surface behavior, so you'll know what to expect when you're on the water. Many travelers are delighted to discover that they don't have to fork over one penny to a tour company to see a whale. It's possible to catch glimpses of whales from one of our Maui vacation rentals if you're staying next to the beach!

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What to See in Maui

It doesn't matter where you stay on this island, you're going to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes. If you've spent hours on the beach, you might be ready for something different. Head to upcountry Maui where you can tour a lavender farm and a goat dairy.

You can see bird habitats by visiting Kealia Wildlife Refuge on the south side of the island. Head to Hana for waterfalls, rain forests, and red sand beaches. Enjoy some of the best of Maui's lush plant life by visiting the National Tropical Botanical Garden. You can learn a bit of island history at the Hana Cultural Center and Museum.

Be sure to attend a luau during your visit to the island. Luaus blend Polynesian culture, traditional food, and lively entertainment to create an evening that's pure magic.

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Where to Shop and Eat in Maui

maui travelShopping can be a real treat when you're looking for fun things to do on Maui. Don't be afraid to explore the smaller, locally-owned shops and galleries on the island like the ones that you'll find in the towns of Wailuku, Makawao, and Wailuku. Many of these places sell beautiful works of art by local artists. You might just discover some unique treasures in these stores.

One of the more popular shopping destinations is the ABC Store. You'll find a mix of quality souvenirs, packaged food, and beach supplies. There are ABC Stores scattered across the island. Chances are good that there's one near one of our Maui vacation rentals.

When you want something a little more familiar, you have your pick of shopping centers and malls. The Shops at Wailea gives you an open-air shopping experience where you can visit high end stores like Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. Whalers Village in Kaanapali offers a variety of well-known brand name stores. Queen Kaahumanu Center, anchored by Macy's and Sears, provides shoppers with the chance to browse.

Here's a useful tip: Many name brand stores like Gap and Banana Republic put winter clothes on sale shortly after they arrive because most Maui visitors aren't looking to buy jeans, sweaters, and coats. You can scoop up some real bargains on cold weather attire if you don't mind trying on winter clothes when it's warm outside!

maui vacation guide

Fresh Seafood: A Maui Specialty

It's probably not surprising that mouth-watering seafood is the thing to eat on Maui. When it comes to preparing and serving fresh seafood with flare, the place that does it best is Mama's Fish House. Maui dining at its finest is on display at this restaurant, which embodies the essence of Polynesian cuisine. Customers have been coming to Mama's Fish House since it opened in 1973 for dishes like macadamia nut crab cakes and Hawaiian octopus Carpaccio. Reservations are highly recommended at this popular Maui restaurant.

Another favorite restaurant is Pineapple Grill in Kapalua. It serves up tasty Asian and Pacific Rim fare. Don't be afraid to ask the locals where they like to eat. Most people will be eager to tell you about their favorite local cafe or bar.

Fresh Fruits Is a Must in Maui

Many restaurants serve delicious island fruit like pineapple, guava, and papaya. If you enjoy fresh fruit, don't miss the chance to visit Ohana Farmers Market, located at the Queen Kaahumanu Center to buy directly from growers. You'll have a fun time chatting with farmers about their produce and life on Maui.

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When to Visit Maui

Maui is a favorite escape for snowbirds coming from the mainland, so if you're interested in finding a quieter time to visit, opt for the summer months or fall. That's when you'll find it's easier to get into your favorite restaurants and shops. The climate in Maui is dryer in the summer and fall. The chance for showers is greater November through March. If you do encounter a cloudy day, rain showers are usually brief. The south side of Maui stays mostly dry, sunny, and warm year round.

If you're coming for Maui whale watching, then you need to make sure you visit between mid-December and April. That's when whale sightings are virtually guaranteed.

Try to include a Friday night in your travel plans, so you'll have the chance to experience Art Night in Lahaina. There's often live music. Some local shops and galleries offer visitors wine and hors d'oeuvres during this weekly event.

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What to Bring on a Maui Vacation

Bring a laid back attitude, comfortable island wear, and swimming attire. If you plan on snorkeling, you might save some money by bringing your own gear, but there are plenty of places on the island where you can rent equipment. If you forget something, you won't have any problem finding a place to buy the essentials.

Dress on the island is casual. You'll fit right in if you bring your favorite Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and comfortable footwear. Attending a luau or another special occasion calls for smarter island attire like nice sandals instead of flip-flops, a casual sundress for women, and a nice polo shirt for men.

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Local Services in Maui

It doesn't matter who your traveling companions are, you'll find the services you need while you're staying here. There are childcare providers who cater to travelers. Maui also has pet care services like grooming, dog walking, veterinary care, and pet daycare. If you have any medical needs while you're on the island, there are clinics and a hospital on the island.

When it comes to outdoor activities, there are places where you can rent and buy snorkeling, diving, surfing, and fishing gear. The island has plenty of fishing charters and bicycle tours. You can rent mopeds, cars, kayaks, and bicycles.

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What to Know About Maui

Travelers coming from the continental U.S. will need a couple of days to adjust to being on Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time. Most people find themselves wanting to go to bed early, virtually ensuring they'll wake up early. It's not such a bad thing when you can catch a beautiful sunrise from the comfort of your Maui vacation rental.

People here are friendly. They strive to "live aloha." Don't be surprised if a merchant wants to chat before ringing up your purchase. Most business transactions end with both parties saying "Mahalo" (MUH-hah-loh), the Hawaiian word for "thank you."

Know where your nearest ABC Store or other convenience store is located in relation to your Maui vacation rental. You never know when you're going to run out of sunscreen or need some extra bottles of water.

Maui is almost entirely smoke-free. Smoking is prohibited in most indoor settings and even on some beaches.

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Getting to Maui, Hawaii

Whether you fly direct from the mainland or come from another island, you'll probably arrive at Kahului Airport. However, if your Maui vacation rental is in Kapalua or Kaanapali, flying Island Air to the Kapalua-West Maui Airport puts you closer to your destination. Once you're on the island, there are taxi and shuttle services available at the airport. You can also pick up a rental car at the airport.

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Why Maui Vacation Rentals?

It doesn't matter why you're coming here, you'll find Maui vacation rentals near the places you want to visit. Savvy travelers know the benefits of staying in a vacation rental instead of a hotel. You'll have the chance to live like a local. Most rentals have kitchen areas, giving you the chance to prepare meals yourself instead of always spending money at pricey restaurants. Give yourself the pleasure of unpacking and stowing your suitcases, so you'll feel more at home. That means you'll be able to relax as you begin to "live aloha"!

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