Aloha!!! Last week one of my good friends and I jumped on a plane for Maui! To be honest, Hawaii has never been a bucket list location. I am much more a Europe girl than a tropical beach girl. Blame it on my pale skin, the need for constant sunscreen, getting hot really fast… I HATE being hot. Regardless my friend convinced me to look past my reservations and celebrate my big 3-0 in style! So many of you reached and wanted a travel guide so here you go!
If you are interested in seeing behind the scenes check out my Maui Instagram story! And if you are more of a visual learner I also created a quick YouTube travel guide that I linked below. I will preface ALL of this saying that videoing, photographing, etc, AND trying to enjoy is super HARD so there are definitely things I missed. I’m trying harder to live in the moment, take in the sights, smells, and sounds, and enjoy the things around me instead of constantly trying to capture them!
Overall I would highly recommend Maui. I definitely think it’s a great idea to define your vacation before you go. So many people asked me if I had a nice, relaxing vacation but honestly it was go, go, go, a lot of injuries, dehydration, and lack of sleep. I know that I am not meant to be too far outside of my routine, not because I don’t love travel or change, but my body doesn’t handle travel as well as I would like it to. That being said I still at least jump on a plane three times a year and plan about 100 road trips so regardless of the lack of routine and impossible to get rest, I still enjoy the heck out of discovering new places.
For us, Maui was about experiencing all that it had to offer. So that meant 14 hours days sometimes. We wanted to see all the sites, hike, and experience good food. Beaches are great but I could go to California or Florida (much closer and cheaper!) for the beach. I don’t think I would go to Maui again but go instead to another island…. and because it’s such a romantic place I will likely go back someday only when I’m married.
Tip and Tricks
Bring reusable water bottles!
I am not sure this is a tip or trick as much as it is a shameless plug from me and Mother Earth! Since I’ve changed to a zero-waste lifestyle I’ve started bringing my reusable water bottle and even my Camelbak everywhere I go. It’s very easy to fill it up at gas stations, airports, museums, hotels, etc! I was in Hawaii for 8 days and I think I only used 4 plastic items. I would highly recommend you bring a water bottle to Hawaii. It saves you $$ overall, you feel great doing such an awesome job preventing plastic from floating in the beautiful oceans you are enjoying, and you get more water. I use a Yeti 36 liter water bottle and it holds so much more water than a single water bottle. I took the Camelbak out of my Osprey Pack and it saved my butt quite a few times, especially on The Road to Hana and during the 7.5 hour flight!
PS I linked everything I used but I don’t get paid if you click.. I just like sharing!
Rent a car
This is the suggestion of all suggestions. I have actually never rented a car while traveling but in Hawaii I would recommend it. It’s not impossible to get around without it but it makes it very hard. Driving is just like the US and again The Road to Hana would be nearly impossible without it! Plus it’s nice to have a place for your stuff. Just be careful though because cars have been broken into in popular tourist areas.
Don't be a jerk
I’ll just quickly mention this but if you drive The Road to Hana DO NOT rent this car. This car is extremely wide and we had to help some tourist navigate it as some of the road it only one way traffic. Depending on your wants and needs, keep this in mind. There are roads that are just too narrow for trucks and wide cars! Don’t be that jerk!
I have a few pieces of advice.
Figure out how to sleep best on a plane. Because you will likely be sleeping one or both ways. I highly recommend you layer and use ear plugs, an eye mask, a head pillow, a blanket…whatever you need to get comfortable. I once used a hard pillow on a plane and couldn’t sleep - that was a miserable red eye. This trip I bought a pillow filled with squishy beads and I slept much better. I also brought fuzzy socks and foam ear plugs as my noise canceling ear phone hurt to sleep on.
Bring things to do… because it’s a long flight
Bring food because they don’t feed you
Bring a giant water bottle and fill it in the airport
Don’t ear leggings/yoga pants or bring a dress/skirt to put over them. For some reason United and associated flights are super picky and told my friend she couldn’t ride wearing yoga pants and a tee shirt so she had to put a skirt on over it.
Embrace beach hair
If you are like me and have slightly wavy hair, embrace it! It was SO nice to just wake up in the AM and go. My hair was slightly frizzy but who cares. I used two of my favorite products HERE and HERE (bonus they smell amazing) each morning and just went for it. My friend tried to curl hers but they didn’t last. Also with the rain styling is hard! Keep in mind that you will likely have sand in your hair for a week after your trip if you go in the ocean but I highly recommend you let the humidity do what it will!
If you don’t plan to hike much skip this recommendation but if you do bring your hiking boots. I read SO many recommendations that you shouldn’t because they are bulky and hot but mine are AMAZING, waterproof, comfortable with extra inserts, and I love them. We hiked on rocks, in a river, in mud, up and down cliffs, and the terrain is rough. I trust and know my hiking boots and I wished I had them numerous times. I do have Teva hiking sandals (here, here and here) but they failed me multiple times, especially when I fell into a river and bruises up my legs. We went off trail and hiked ~5 miles per day so if you have those plans, bring the right shoes.
Go. Stock up. Save money. Get snacks. Fill up your gas tank. Buy booze and reef-friendly SUNBLOCK!
Bring a Go pro (or a cheaper equivalent)
Although a GoPro is very expensive, I highly recommend one. I actually bought a cheaper version from Amazon that had good ratings. It was so fun to take it out in the water and take underwater photos and videos. I think the video came out alright after I edited it a little with Adobe Premiere Pro. If you are interested I posted video from it on my YouTube below.
Learn the lingo!
Pau - (pow) - done, as in “all pow” meaning all done (with dinner or something)
Keiki - kid
Aloha - means love - used as hello and goodbye
Maholo - thank you
Da kine - catch all word
Road to Hana
If you search for things to do in Maui this is one of the first things to pop up. I would highly recommend the road to Hana (pronounce sauna like sauna NOT Hannah). First thing bring snacks and lots of fluids. It’s a long drive and there not a lot of stops. None of the bathrooms have soap so bring soap or hand sanitizer. Bring hiking shoes if you can to get out and explore the waterfalls. Be careful and respectful on the road and I would highly recommend you buy the Shaka Guide app on your phone. The app tells you ALL the things to do, places to stop and not stop, interesting facts, history, etc! The next few photos are are from The Road to Hana itself.
7 Sacred Pools of Ohe’o Gulch
This is the last part of The Road to Hana, in Haleakala National Park, and it’s so beautiful. We were able to get down and take photos because the gate was open but sometimes there is so much water that its’s unsafe.
Three Bears Waterfall
Another stop along The Road to Hana. You can hike down to the waterfall under the bridge and I thought it was worth the view. If not you can take photos from the top off the road. The water, as you can see, is swimmable, although I didn’t get in because I was cold. Be careful not to fall if you do climb down and watch for slippery rocks!
Waiʻanapanapa State Park Black Sand Beach
A beautiful black beach along The Road to Hana. We didn’t go to the actual beach because we were trying to make good time but apparently there are swimming holes/caves and blowholes in the area. There is also a lot of trails along the rocks for hiking/walking in addition to areas for camping.
4 Falls of Na’ili’ili-haele
The last of The Road to Hana. There are 4 waterfalls if you keep walking; however, the most reported injuries along The Road to Hana are attempting to reach waterfall 3 and 4 so we didn’t try. Sona, my friend, hiked to the second one but I fell on the rocks twice a few days before so I wasn’t feeling brave enough…if I had my hiking boots I would have done it tho. To get from the first waterfall to the second you have to use a rope to climb an edge… and to get from the second to the third you have to climb a legit metal house ladder.
Nakalele Blowhole and Maui’s Heart Shaped Rock
This was one of my favorite areas to photograph. This is NOT part of The Road to Hana but instead on the other side of the island. As you can see the area kind of looks like Ireland. There is a blowhole that fun to watch and if you turn around and look there is a heart shaped rock that is super fun to photograph!
This was our favorite beach. I didn’t take any photos here because I was enjoying the moment. We did take some Go Pro video here though so head to my YouTube channel below.
Walk around Kihei
We stayed in Kihei with friends. One day we stopped downtown and walked around all the cute little shops and parks. It was adorable and there was a fun outdoor market. We grab drinks on a patio which was quite relaxing!
Walk the boardwalk in Ka’anapali
There is a boardwalk that goes along the edge of beach that is quite popular. It’s flat and we saw a lot of older people and children walking. After a bit we got bored so we headed over to the walk along the beach itself. The water, as you can see, was amazing colors of blue. I’ve never seen so many variations!
Oh Iao Valley. A lot happened here. First I was dehydrated and we started climbing. Basically we went from sea level to mountains in a short period of time and I started to feel dizzy. Second we went off trail, sort of, up river, and I slipped and fell in the river twice. I was pretty banged up but it didn’t hurt too bad. I would highly recommend you make the trip up. You can pay for parking at the very end or park along the road before the parking lot like we did. There is a bunch of steps and you are basically at the view point. Like I said we went farther and hiked a total of 5 miles that day… in dresses!
This park and heritage garden was created to celebrate the immigrants and history of the island. It’s on the way to Iao Valley and you should stop. There are picnic benches which make for a great post-hike lunch!
Rent something to play in the water
I get bored laying on the beach, really quick, so I would recommend, if you are like me, you rent a kayak or paddle board or something to play in the water with. We had this little raft and it was a BLAST to row around in.
Watch the sunset on the beach
Very self explanatory but one of my favorite things to do in Hawaii was sit on the beach each night and watch the sunset. I’ve never watched and enjoyed sunsets more. It was so relaxing!
We walked around the little down of Paia our last day before our flight. We grabbed lunch, visited some art galleries, then sat at an outside coffee shop/bar and it was beyond amazing. It’s a fun little town to walk around
Haleakalā National Park
For those of you who don’t know I made it my mission to visit all 60 national parks so of course I had to stop by Haleakala! This national park, as you can see, is beautiful and unique. You summit to almost 10,000 feet (I chugged a lot of water before!) and reach the top which is a crater! I wish we would have spent more time here exploring… maybe I will have to go back. PS I am a national park pass owner. It’s $80/year but you can get into any national park with it.. and most are $30-40 each time. It’s worth it in my eyes since I’ve gone to 3 already using it… and many more to come.
Lavender Fields aka Alii Kula Lavender
Beautiful lavender fields and gardens with all sorts of lavender flavored food and home products. They have yurt and I think a private room you can rent which looked amazing! We stopped here on our way to the national park since they were near each other.
Hike around Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
Surprise, another hike! We did a lot of hiking on this trip. We walked around the national reserve area for sunset and were not disappointed. If you keep walking you will find a cool beach with black and white sand and rocks. There were also a few blowholes, some cool man-made structures made out of rock, and if you pay attention there is even a rock that looks like a dragon!
On our way to the national park we stopped by the winery. I am always a suck for a good glass of wine or microbrew. I believe 3 of the wines are made there and the rest are imported from California. We did a flight and really enjoyed quite a few of them.
Maui Brewing Company
Not near the winery, I thought I would include it here. The brewery is actually near Kapalua and the blowhole. We stopped on our way around that side of the island and both fell in love with a pineapple wheat beer. My friend, who was in Maui at the same time as me but not with me, ate there and said the food was good!
Surfing Goat Dairy
Surfing Goat Dairy is the cutest little establishment. They serve all types of goat cheese, chocolate made with goat milk, and even some food like paninis made with goat cheese. In addition to food and seating you can actually pet the adorable little goats! The cheese was amazing, we got a cheese flight, and my friend had a panini that she said was delicious.
Mill House Restaurant
We went to Mill House for my birthday dinner and the food was AMAZING! The waiter was awesome and ambiance was to die for. We had appetizers, dinner, drinks, and dessert and it was some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Hana Ranch Restaurant
We stopped at this cute little restaurant once we made it to Hana for food and drinks. We were both craving a beer and coconut shrimp which was amazing! We had just enough fuel to make it the rest of the way around the road!
Shown below, we got mac and cheese, rice, and amazing shrimp at Plantation Grindza after our hike in Iao Valley… even now I crave that delicious food!
This little dive bar is not a tourist attraction… unless you know the right people! Once our plane landed our friend told us to go to this place and wait for her. We grabbed drinks, whatever the special was that day, and enjoyed the decor and dollar bills all over the walls. One of the coolest things about this place? The serve you dinosaur chicken nuggets as an snack!
I found Brekkie Bowls on Instagram and knew I needed to go. I love acai bowls. It’s actually a little off the map, outside of a gym that is located in a storage shed container, but it was worth it!
We sat outside at the Tiki Lounge when we were walking about Paia. They have great happy hour specials although I heard it turns into a scary club/bar at night.
Duke’s Beach House
I had fish tacos which were great but a little spicy and we had a few drinks at Duke’s. They don’t have wifi which is what we were looking for but they definitely have the views as you can see!
The concept is so basic but I fell in love with sushi via train. Basically you order whatever you want and it’s brought to you on a little train. It’s seriously SO fun and the sushi was amazing quality… I always get a little nervous ordering sushi is a mall based restaurant. Coolest thing about this one is that they have single seating almost like a library cubby. You can totally go alone and not feel like a weirdo!
Things we didn’t do but probably would be fun
Snorkeling with turtles and taking a helicopter ride. We ran out of time for snorkeling and the water wasn’t super great the days we thought about trying. We didn’t see an turtles which was sad. And I thought about going on a helicopter ride but I didn’t really feel that brave. You can drive to most of the island so I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. But if I ever went to Kauai I would do it because there is a whole side of the mountain that is unreachable.