If you’re planning a trip to Maui, this Maui guide is for you – I’ve got Maui recommendations for so many things following our recent babymoon to Muai.
I won’t bury the lead here, there is so much that is amazing about Maui. I found it to be the perfect balance of enough busyness/touristy-ness to have things to do and be busy, while still being wild enough to explore and feel like you can find hidden beaches and lush environments.
Let’s get to my Maui recommendations as well as travel tips:
Both Alex and I agree the best place to stay in Maui is Ka’anapali beach. We spent a lot of time exploring the island and had the benefit of going down the entire west coast as well as checking out the East coast and places like Paia and Haiku. No matter where you stay you’re sure to have a good time, but Ka’anapali just offers the perfect balance of everything. The beaches in Ka’anapali are beyond amazing, and you can walk to Whaler’s Village if you want to do some shopping and have restuarant options. The problem with areas like Wailea is they are SO touristy that you’re really just going to stay at your hotel. In Ka’anapali you can get to so many beaches, restuarants, etc with ease and it’s cheaper than Wailea.
We stayed at the Marriott Ocean Beach Club (view from our balcony is below) and we loved it! It’s definitely family friendly (as are most Maui hotels/resorts) so be prepared for lots of kids around, but with the Mariott Ocean Beach Club it has more space than a lot of surrounding hotels – there are THREE pools – so you can usually find some privacy and quiet if that’s what you’re looking for.
Our favorite restaurants in Maui and, therefore, our recommendations for the best restaurants in Maui, are below. I’ve grouped them by neighborhood 🙂
The Gazebo (Ka’anapali):
My favorite restaurant by far is this casual brunch spot by the beach. They’re famous for their fluffy pancakes which come in flavors like pineapple, banana & macadamia nut. People are die hard fans of The Gazebo so the wait can often be an hour+, but it’s so worth it! Tip: If you don’t want to wait you can do a take out order, they have a separate line for take out and you can have a picnic down at the beach.
Monkey Pod (Ka’anapali, Whaler’s Village):
This Maui local & tourist favorite uses fresh ingredients sourced on Maui and their food is great. They’re also known for their cocktails and have a great happy hour. Pictured to the right is their most popular cocktail – they’re take on a Mai Tai – as well as my mocktail and our favourite appy – the lobster deviled eggs.
Monkey Pod has two locations, one in Wailea and one in Ka’anapali in Whaler’s Village.
Island Vintage Coffee
(Ka’anapali, Whaler’s Village):
This was our favorite coffee spot in Maui for good, local coffee. I was surprised that most places do Columbian roasts or 10% Kona coffee blends, but Island Vintage has 100% Kona coffee on drip. They also make amazing lattes – my favorite was a macadamia milk latte with banana syrup.
Star Noodle (Lahaina):
This Asian fusion place is a celebrity favorite, and it’s easy to see why – the food is incredible. I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the service though – they definitely had a “we’re so important and cool” vibe; similar to a lot of LA restaurants if you know what I mean. The food is incredible though and definitely worth going for that.
Mama’s Fish House (Paia):
One of the most iconic restaurants on Maui, if you go to only one restaurant in Maui, make it Mama’s. Even if you’re staying in West Maui, it is well worth the 45minute drive just for Mama’s. Be warned this restaurant is expensive (definitely the most expensive we had on our trip) but it’s an experience worth having. We tried a ton of dishes and everything was incredible. My favorite was the octopus appetizer (fresh caught by a hand diver each day). Both Alex and I agreed it was the best octopus we’ve ever had.
Mama’s Fish House is also worth a visit to explore the grounds! I highly recommend getting there early and exploring the property and their beach front before heading inside for your meal. The property is so picturesque and you’ll want to take a million photos. We saw quite a few professional photographers using the grounds for photo shoots. The beach front that is steps away from the restaurant is also one of my favorite beaches in Maui and a hot bed for spotting sea turtles who’ve come up to relax in the sun. We hung out with our turtle friends for a solid half hour and it was one of the highlights of the trip (just remember not to get too close and NEVER touch a sea turtle on land or when snorkeling in Hawaii)
My last but certainly not least restaurant recommendation is Mala in Lahaina. Located just down the street from Star Noodle, this restaurant has incredible fresh fish and Hawaiian dishes. I didn’t snap any photos (sorry) but my favorite thing – oddly enough – was the Taro sweet bread. PLEASE get this appetizer if you go, I need to live vicariously through you.
Twin Falls “Hike”:
I put hike in quotes because while it may be called that, this is not much of a hike and is perfect for families with kids and pregnant ladies like me lol.
Located in Haiku, near Paia (perfect for an activity before or after Mama’s fish house), there is a clearly marked exit off the road to Hana for where to park for this hike. There is a $10 parking fee, but just think of it as the fee to getting to visit this incredible natural attraction.
There are 3 waterfalls / natural pools, increasing in size. The first is steps from the parking lot. The next is about a 5 minute hike from there and the last is about 15-20 minutes from there. You can swim in each!
Swimming with Sea Turtles:
Grab your snorkeling gear and find some sea turtles! One of the coolest things to do in Maui is snorkel since the ocean life in Maui is incredible. My personal favorite is seeing sea turtles. There are certain beaches where you have a better chance than seeing turtles than others (apparently) but honestly we found them to be so easy to find.
We saw sea turtles every single day of our trip and twice went swimming with them (once at Ka’anapali beach and once at Kapalua Bay beach)
Haleakala National Park / Crater:
The drive is LONG so be prepared, but it’s a great thing to do for a day out of the sun. You have to pay to go at sunset (who gets up that early!?) but it’s cool any time of day. At the top of Haleakala you’re more than 10,000 feet above sea level and it feels like you’re on Mars! Tip: Since the road to Haleakala starts so near the airport, this is a great thing to do on your last day if you have a later flight. Since check out at most places is at 10am and most flights are afternoon/evening this is a great way to spend your time.
I had to share some of our tips & tricks and things I wish we knew before traveling to Maui.
1. Book Restaurant Reservations AS SOON AS you book your trip:
I had no idea restaurant waitlists would be as insane as they are. Mama’s fish house, for example books dinner reservations 6 months out! 😱 Other restaurants we tried like Mala and Star Noodle book a few weeks in advance.
2. Do Early “Walk-Ins” for Restaurants Without a Reservation:
Considering we only booked our trip like 3 weeks before we went, clearly we didn’t have any advance reservations. A tip a friend of mine recommended is to go quite early to put your name on any restaurant’s wait list. While the reservations may book out weeks or months in advance they do all do day of walk’ins. If you go around 5pm to put your name down most restaurants can get you seated in about an hour and so you can have dinner at sunset (the perfect time since the sunset views at most restaurants are incredible). All of the restaurants I’ve recommended are in great areas to explore, so put your name down and just explore the area until the restaurant texts you to come back.
The exception to this would be Mama’s Fish House where, from what I’ve told, you won’t get a table for dinner without a reservation. Be like us though and go for lunch! They still have a full lunch reservation system, but they do accommodate a few walkins and we were able to get a spot for a late lunch at 2pm one day.
3. Rent a Car!
I hate renting cars when I travel, but in Maui it’s worth it, and many would say it’s necessary. Unless you want to eat only at your hotel and maybe the one on either side of you, you’re going to want a car. Plus with a car you can explore way more beaches, hikes, & neighborhoods.
1. Rely on Weather Apps
Seems ridiculous, but I had to add this in here. The weather in Maui is SO unpredictable and I’ve never been somewhere where weather predictions get it so very wrong. Be prepared for rain at anytime (it never lasts long) but will frequently come down in a downpour for a few minutes before you get sunny skies again.
And there you have it! My Maui recommendations. We had the most amazing time in Maui and I can’t wait to go back and bring Baby B (mostly so I can tell him about how he swam with sea turtles here while in mommy’s belly lol). I also really want the banana macadamia nut pancakes from The Gazebo again (and I swear that’s not just the pregnancy cravings talking).
If you have any questions about our trip just let me know! If you missed it, I also did a post on getting photos in Maui with Flytographer, which I highly recommend as a fun way to get amazing pictures to remember your trip. The below photo was taken by our photographer Ali 🙂
Until next time,