Whether you’re looking for a place to experience the island’s wilder natural side or you're craving luxury accommodations for a relaxing beach vacation, Maui will deliver. What’s more, the best part about choosing where to stay on this island is that you can’t go wrong. Maui has some of the most beautiful scenery in Hawaii, as well as an excellent selection of quality restaurants and miles of gorgeous coastline. It is a famous destination for water sport enthusiasts, a favorite for visitors dreaming of sipping cocktails under the sun and the perfect island getaway for adventure seekers. Maui’s various microclimates and vibrant communities can cater to any traveler’s needs, taste or budget.
West Maui has consistently been the most popular area to stay on the island. The oceanside resorts, incredible weather and stunning beaches have kept travelers coming back for years. Most people stay in Lahaina or Kaanapali due to their proximity to a large number of hotels, shopping, and dining, but nearby Napili and Kapalua shouldn’t be discounted either.
For those trying to decide between West and South Maui, consider the weather. West Maui tends to be lusher than the south shore, with quite-possibly (depending on who you ask) the best year-round weather on the island. The island’s best selection and variety of stores and restaurants can be found on West Maui, though that comes with the added cost of more crowds and tourism. Also, if you have your heart set on the Maui highlights of Haleakala National Park and the Road to Hana, keep in mind that West Maui will put you the furthest away.
We recommend spending a night or two in areas closer to the Road to Hana or Haleakala and then finishing the trip relaxing in West Maui. There are a couple of hiking trails within driving distance from Kaanapali and Lahaina, but you will most likely have to rent a car to get to them.
South Maui, including Kihei and Wailea, shares the same great weather and selection of beaches as West Maui, but with less shopping and restaurants. There are, however, several resorts to choose from offering dining options and smaller shops in this area.
There is an abundance of beautiful surfing spots along the coast of Kihei, which stretches over 6 miles, centering around the popular Kalama Beach Park. It is also known for clear views of Molokini Crater and the outer island of Lanai.
Even further south, the resort community of Wailea offers luxury accommodations, world-class golf courses and gorgeous beaches. Wailea tends to have smaller surf than Kihei, so snorkeling and swimming are more popular there. South Maui is an excellent area for all kinds of tourists, whether they want to experience Maui’s natural beauty or be pampered at a resort. If you’re looking to spend some time lounging on the beach without doing much exploring, this area is for you.
Considering this area’s rugged, untamed environment, there aren’t many visitors who choose to stay in East Maui. While extremely beautiful, the area is lacking in accommodations and amenities, with hardly any hotels in the vicinity. Your best bet if you’d like to stay in Hana is a rental through VRBO or Airbnb. If you’re driving the Road to Hana, a famous road trip that brings drivers past valleys, waterfalls and unparalleled coastal views, consider staying for one night in Hana town to break up the trip.
North Coast of Maui
While the Northern coast of Maui offers a smaller selection of beaches when compared to other parts of the island, they tend to be much more beautiful with better waves for surfing. Plan accordingly if you’re traveling in the wintertime, however, as this part of Maui is known for getting a great deal of rain during the wet season.
Paia Town is a perfect starting point to the Road to Hana, while Haiku offers beautiful, often-secluded beaches. Geographically, North Maui is pretty isolated, so you won’t find any large resorts there, just a couple of hotels and smaller eateries. Stay in Paia if you want to see Maui’s small-town hippie side, but don’t bother if you want to be catered to in a resort setting. Apart from surfing, Paia is also known for its windsurfing—most notably at Ho’okipa Beach, which has even been called one of the “windsurfing capitals of the world.”
Kahului and Wailuku, as well as the immediate surrounding area, are centrally located on the island. That means staying there will keep you close to many attractions, shops and the Hana Highway.
It’s not very scenic compared to the rest of the island, and there are far fewer beaches to choose from. There are also a limited number of accommodations and a greater chance of rainy weather in this area. Central Maui is a great choice for visitors who want to rent a car for their entire trip and visit various parts of the island such as Haleakala, the Road to Hana, Iao Valley, as well as the Kahului Airport—the busiest airport on the island. This area is also known for its locally-owned businesses, as it is the commercial and government center of the island.
While Upcountry Maui has some of the most beautiful scenery on the island, there are zero beaches. The slightly isolated location means a lack of accommodations, stores, and restaurants as well. For some travelers, this may be exactly what you’re looking for, however, if you are dreaming of spending most of the time laying on the beach, this area might not be the best choice.
The town of Kula offers some excellent options for attractions itself, including the Ali’i Kula Lavender fields, the Kula Botanical Garden and MauiWine. Though nearby Makawao is historically a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town, the neighborhood has become a center for the area’s art community for everything from painting to glassblowing and more.