When you’re invited to a Hawaii destination wedding, you go. My cousin recently had her wedding on Maui, and given my relocation to France, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it. If you look at France on the map, Hawaii is literally on the other side of the globe. I mean, c’mon! But I can’t turn down getting invited to a Hawaii wedding and having the opportunity to enjoy time with the whole extended family. So, we made quite the adventure of it, especially given the wild state of airport cancelations and delays. But four flights later, one missed flight, one hotel stay and 40-something hours later, I made it to Maui. We were able to spend an entire week on the island, and here are some of my top things to do in Maui, Hawaii.
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Where we stayed
When you’re traveling with a party of 8, you need space, and space comes at a premium in Hawaii. While the Montage and the Westin offer luxurious views directly on the beach, they come at a hefty price. Given our large party size and limited budget, we opted for a condo a little further from the water at Ka’anapali Plantation condos in Lahaina. We appreciated the modern touches and patio — and just a 5- or 10-minute drive from the beach.
Rent a car
You cannot do Hawaii well unless you rent a car. There’s so much to do all over Maui, and you can drive for hours and still be on Maui. I didn’t realize it would be as big as it was, but having a car made it manageable. You can rent a car directly at the Kahului airport (OGG) on Maui.
I didn’t realize the sheer size of Maui and that there would be many small towns to explore. And one spot to add to your list of things to do in Maui is the town of Paia, which is on the northern side of the island. Paia is filled with cute boutiques, trendy coffee shops and snow cones that will make you melt. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite activities to do in and near Paia.
When I heard “26-mile bike ride,” I wasn’t so sure. I like being active, but I’m not the sportiest of girls. Yet Maui Sunriders’ Downhill Self-Guided Bike Tour was well-rated on Trip Advisor, so we gave it a go. I don’t have the best hand-eye-foot coordination, but I had no problem on this gorgeous bike ride. We started at the bike shop where we had a safety briefing and then hopped in a van to drive up the volcano. Our tour guide was quick to answer our questions about biking and the island as we went up the volcano.
After our short drive, he dropped us off and fitted us on our bikes. Lucky for us, it’s a downhill bike ride, which means I barely pedaled. The Maui Sunriders’ bike tour was an amazing way to soak up the Hawaiian countryside with its lush foliage, rolling fields and delightful flora. I remember coasting along the relatively empty road and inhaling deeply to fill my lungs with the sweet floral perfumes along the way. We stopped along the way to say hello to farm horses and chickens strolling about.
The bike tour stops along several cute towns where you can grab a bite or do some light shopping. I love that it was self-paced because my family and I were able to go at our own speed. Once we started rolling, we spent about 2 hours completing the bike tour. Biking down the Haleakala Volcano was one of my favorite memories from my time in Maui.
Just steps away from the Maui Sunriders shop sits this trendy coffeeshop. When we arrived to our bike tour 40 minutes early (thanks, Dad), they recommended that we head over there while we wait. Better Things offers açai bowls, fancy coffee drinks and gluten-free goodies. Oh, and avocado toast! We stopped here multiple times during our time in Maui.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice
When it comes to dessert, I’m an ice cream girl through and through. And when it comes to ice cream, I prefer the richer flavors such as chocolate, caramel and Nutella and less so fruity flavors. But Hawaii is the land of fruit, so when in Hawaii “do as the locals” briefly became my motto. On the plane ride to Kahului, we sat next to a local from Maui, and we asked him the best things to do. And Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice was on his list of best things to do in Maui.
I’ve eaten many snow cones in my day. Heck, I even had a snow cone maker as a child. And in my humble opinion, 9 out of 10 snow cones are about the same in terms of quality. It’s ice and syrup; what’s so difficult? I don’t know what Ululani’s does differently, but their snow cones were indeed superior. The texture and consistency were soft and had the right amount of syrup. If eating snow cones is on your list of things to do in Maui, Ululani’s is the one to try.
Lima Cocina and Cantina
After we finished our Maui Sunriders bike tour, our group wanted a bite to eat. The guides at Maui Sunriders recommended Lima Cocina and Cantina, a Peruvian restaurant next to the bike shop in Paiia. Lima is a tastefully decorated and classy restaurant with fresh fish and thoughtfully prepared dishes. And we had a coupon from Maui Sunriders, too! The food was good, but I felt a tad underdressed after a 2-hour bike ride. In retrospect, Lima is a great spot for date night or drinks.
The Shoppe by Hale Zen
During our time in Maui, we browsed multiple shops, but The Shoppe by Hale Zen remains my favorite. They offer stylish home decor such as candles and tableware and thoughtful jewelry, including the darling tortoise shell hoops I purchased there.
Located on the western side of Maui, Lahaina is a town sure to charm you with its close location to beaches and mega resorts. Lahaina also has a wide array of shops to peruse. Here’s a roundup of what we enjoyed doing in Lahaina.
Cool Cat Cafe
If you’re looking for a casual spot to grab a quick bite, the Cool Cat Cafe is calling your name. We enjoyed their burgers and sandwiches, so much so that we returned during our visit. We were also delighted that Cool Cat Cafe had gluten-free buns for our Celiac bunch.
Eat a Dole Whip
Like I’ve said, when in Hawaii, do as the Hawaiians. And Dole Whip is the big kahuna of the land. This soft-served pineapple ice cream can be found all over Maui, but we were able to taste some refreshing Dole Whip at Lahaina Ice Cream Parlour. Order your Dole Whip in a cup or cone and maybe even sprinkle it with real pineapple to enjoy as you browse downtown Lahaina shops.
Shop at the Maui Pineapple Store
In the same vein, after eating your Dole Whip at Lahaina Ice Cream Parlour, head next door to the Maui Pineapple Store. This store has all the pineapple-themed memorabilia you could ever wish for. They also sell Camp Craft Cocktails; these mason jars filled with dried fruits and ingredients become DIY cocktails once you add alcohol.
Walk along Kapalua Coastal Trail
Although the beach is certainly on your list of things to do in Maui, you may want a break from being in the water. The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a beautiful walk-meets-hike along the ocean. It’s accessible for all levels and guides you along stunning views in Kapalua. There’s free (very limited) parking, and the walk takes you right past the beautiful Montage resort and to volcanic rock juxtaposing the Pacific.
Brunch at Waicoco
When on vacation, we brunch. If you’re looking for a scrumptious brunch array with stunning views, look no further than brunch at Waicoco located at the Westin. We enjoyed brunch after surf lessons with a large part of my extended family. At Waicoco, you can try one of the Hawaii “classics” called the Loco Moco, a beef patty and eggs on a bed of rice smothered in gravy.
Ka’anapali Surf Club
Although most of our group wasn’t brave enough to face the waves, Nem and Annalise sure were — they took surfing lessons at Ka’anapali Surf Club. They offer private and group lessons, which last 1.5 hours. During the lesson, the surf students had a quick debrief on the basics of surfing while on land, and then they hit the waves as a group. There was even a professional photographer who took photos of participants during the session, and you had the option to purchase them at the end. Their lesson easily had 20 people participants, and they took turns practicing on the waves. Be sure to check the waves forecast before you book your lesson. The day they had their lesson with the Ka’anapali Surf Club, the waves were very weak.
Black Rock Beach
If you’re headed to Maui, the beach is certainly on your itinerary, and our group loved Black Rock Beach, on the west side of the island. You can rent body boards, surfboards and umbrellas, which are essential in the extreme Hawaii sun. There’s a volcanic rock at the far side of the beach where you can jump into the deep turquoise water. It was a short drive from our condo in Lahaina and wasn’t wildly crowded.
Our group had originally planned to go to another restaurant, but upon arrival, we realized their supposed gluten-free options were nonexistent. And that’s a big deal for a group with half of its members being gluten-intolerant. But we were “hangry” and looked for any restaurant that wasn’t too far from us and had some gluten-free options. We saw that the Castaway Cafe wasn’t too far, so we headed that way. It was a bit hidden, as you had to park and then walk toward the beach to find the restaurant.
The Castaway Cafe is actually the restaurant for the Maui Ka’anapali Villas and was located among its properties. Even still, it ended being great. The servers were extremely helpful with our gluten intolerances, and my pork nachos were packed with flavor. And we had beautiful ocean views and a great breeze at our tables. It wasn’t what we had planned, but everyone left satisfied.
When you think Hawaii, you most likely think hula dancing. We bought tickets to the Wailele Luau at the Westin, which had good ratings on TripAdvisor. The show included a buffet of Hawaiian food with unlimited Mai Tais, hula dancing in traditional dress and fire-knife dancers. They also had small vendors located at the venue with Hawaiian goods and was just steps away from the beach. The fire-throwing was very impressive, and we enjoyed talking to the couple who was also placed at our table.
This is by no means a Michelin-starred restaurant; on the contrary, it’s a total dive. But it seems to be well-loved by its community and also has something for everyone in the family. Pizza Paradiso is a casual joint serving up pizza (duh), kabobs, pita and Dole Whip. So it’s a little all over the place, but if you’re looking for a chiller option or even takeout, Pizza Paradiso is a great option. They had our hearts because they serve up gluten-free pizza, and that meant we visited Pizza Paradiso multiple times during our trip to Maui.
More helpful tips for Maui
Listen, I live on the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille, France; I know the sun well. But the Hawaii sun was another level. We religiously applied sunscreen, but I think the strong waves wiped that sunscreen off fairly quickly. Be sure to apply sunscreen amply and often because part of our group was burnt to a crisp despite multiple applications. Here are some of the helpful items we packed to keep up safe and stylish in Maui:
As for budgeting tips, I use the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card as well as the American Express Delta credit card to earn points for my trips.
As wild as it was to travel from the other side of the world, I’m so grateful that my cousin’s wedding gave us a good excuse to explore part of Hawaii. From our stunning bike ride to our favorite beach, here are some of my favorite things to do in Maui.
You might also be interested in my guide to Oahu, Hawaii.