Maui Travel Guide
By Brittany Soares
Maui is the 2nd largest Hawaiian island, but it’s not nearly as populated as Oahu or the Big Island. Its nickname is the “Valley Isle,” which was given because when viewed from the air, it looks like a big valley sitting in between the two volcanoes that have been formed on this island. Maui is a gorgeous island with a multitude of things to do and places to see, but the number one place you’ll find the locals is at the beach. What they all do for fun is surf, paddleboard, snorkel, dive, sail, and anything else you can think of that has to do with water. While Maui is a big island, a must see area of it is Lahaina.
Located in Lahaina, this resort is part of the Aston hotels and resorts chain. There are studios, one, two, and three bedroom suites available, which include fully equipped kitchens, in-room washer and dryers, and a private furnished balcony with a beautiful ocean or garden view. It all includes free WiFi and air conditioning for less than $150 per night. The resort is located on Maui’s Kaanapali Coast on 13 acres of tropical gardens with koi ponds overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Also included in your nightly price are free self parking, putter and tennis racket rental with golf courses and tennis courts on site, two pools with jet spa tubs, shuffleboard, and an outdoor barbeque grill. Yoga, pilates, and swim workouts are complimentary as well.
You just can’t go wrong with the price for this resort with all of the awesome and fun things to do here. The main issue is that the property is on the water, but it is not swimable and there are only rocks and no sand. However, just drive less than 5 minutes away and you’ll run into several excellent public beaches. Nearby, you’ll also find a grocery store and nice shops and restaurants.
Nearby the resort are gorgeous beaches, including Ka’anapali Beach, which is a great snorkeling spot with striking views of both islands of Molokai and Lanai. A concrete path runs from the Sheraton Hotel, where the Black Rock is, to the Hyatt on the other end of the beach, and you won’t trip on any seaweed or rocks while walking on the soft white sand or through the warm clear water. It’s in walking distance from many resorts, including Kaanapali Beach Hotel and Sheraton Hotel. If you do want to get there from Papakea Resort, you will have to take a short 10-minute drive down. It’s best to get here in the early morning, around 8am, since closer to 10am it starts to get crowded. There are so many colorful fish to see, and if you get lucky maybe you’ll get to catch a glimpse of a turtle or stingray. Turtle sightings are more frequent here than in other beaches on Maui. The beach is protected so it’s relatively calm, but there is a “turning point” that is basically when you’re not protected anymore. You can choose to go past the turning point and continue on, but it’s a helpful point so you can redirect your kids back to shore if you find yourself coming close to the marker.
One of the most popular things to do at Ka’anapali Beach is jumping from the Black Rock. If you like some thrill in your life, you can swim out to the rock and climb up the 20 feet high rock and jump off of it. It’s a pretty tough climb and a tough swim since the currents can get strong. You need to also be fairly coordinated to climb up the rock. Tons of locals and tourists, both kids and adults jump off of the rock without any problems, but be careful if you find yourself snorkeling near the rock. The rock jump can be dangerous, so keep your eye out for snorkelers if you’re jumping and plan your jump so you don’t get hurt on any of the jagged rock edges.
Only a few minutes drive (or a mile walk) further up the coast from Black Rock, you’ll find Kahekili Beach also known as Airport Beach. This beach is much more secluded than the other beaches in Lahaina. You can really get away from the crowds here since this area isn’t lined with resorts like the other beaches. It’s a beautiful beach to go snorkeling or diving, but parking is the only thing that can be a bit hard to find because parking is shared with the resorts. To find this quiet beach park, turn left onto Kai Ala Street, and you’ll see the large, shaded parking area for airport beach straight ahead. You may be confused though when you see the sign that says “Ali’I Kahekili Nui Ahumanu Beach Park” if you don’t know that Airport Beach is only the nickname given by locals because the road nearby led to the old airport building now torn down and replaced with a new one. Snorkeling here is perfect for beginners, although since the reef is close to shore, you must be careful when wading out into deeper waters. The reef area, however, is very long and expansive, so there is so much to explore in these clear and calm waters. You’ll be able to see many different types of tropical fish, eels, sea turtles, and octopus if you swim slowly and look carefully. Nice restrooms, showers, and picnic tables are available.
Although you may never want to leave the gorgeous seclusion of Airport Beach, if you have enough time, you should drive a bit further up the coast to admire another lovely beach of Lahaina. Only about 15 minutes from the Black Rock and 10 minutes from Kahekili Beach is another strikingly beautiful Napili Beach. It’s a fairly small beach that can get crowded, but it is perfect for snorkeling with abundant wildlife, including many sea turtles, and gentle waves pulsing through the crystal clear water. If you happen to be there at the right time, you might be lucky enough to see some whales breaching from the shore while you’re sunbathing on the beach. In the morning before the tide comes in at Napili, you can also go snorkeling in the tide pools and see plenty of interesting sea life. Parking can be difficult, but the easiest way to solve that problem is to come as early as you can, possibly around 7-8am before the crowds arrive and so you can get to see the tide pools as well. Napili is the kind of beach that is so picturesque that it makes you finally realize you are in fact in paradise. There’s also a great general store just a few steps away from the beach where you can buy snacks and cold drinks, or you can go a bit further and you’ll find some nice restaurants.
After your fun day snorkeling and jumping off rocks at the stunning Maui beaches, go down to Front Street for Maui’s best nightlife. Admire the sunset as you get some “grinds” at Aloha Mixed Plate. They have good plate lunches and fun drinks, and everything will taste even better if you are lucky enough to snag a beachside table, which there aren’t many of. This restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has traditional large Hawaiian plate lunches for a good price for being in Hawaii.
Walk that large traditional Hawaiian dinner off by going 17 minutes down Front Street to Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. This top dessert shop in Maui is a MUST HAVE. Hawaii’s most popular dessert is by far shave ice (not “shaved” with a “d”), and while there are many places that offer this treat, you should go nowhere else on Maui but Ululani’s to truly experience what everyone is talking about. Their syrup is made with cane syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup, the ice is sliced in such fine slivers and so fresh tasting and almost creamy, the portion sizes are enormous, and they have a delightfully large menu to choose from. If you feel like your shave ice doesn’t have enough flavoring, they’ll add some more free of charge. ‘Nuff Said.
If you happen to be in Lahaina on a Friday night, Front Street holds an Art Night that is completely free to the public. Lahaina has the nickname “The Art Capital of the Pacific” because of its large amount of art galleries compared to any other city in America. More than a hundred shops and galleries hold special gallery shows, artist demonstrations, refreshments, and entertainment galore every Friday night. You’ll find a free map of participating gallaries at the Lahaina Visitor Center.
Located right next to Ululani’s, consider booking a spot at the great Hawaiian show Ulalena, located at the Maui Theater. Tickets range from $60-$80 for adults, but the show includes a wide variety of traditional Hawaiian performances. The show is 75 minutes long and performed 5 nights a week. It’s achieved a multitude of awards, including the “Best Show of the Year” from the Hawaii Music Awards. Ulalena’s is a fantastic display of Hawaiian mythology with awesome lighting, dancing, costumes, and music.