Tips for your First Maui Vacation - Maui Surfer Girls
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Tips for your First Maui Vacation

Are you looking for some insider tips for your first Maui Vacation?  The amount of information online can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ve interviewed some of Maui’s top industry professionals to get their opinions.  From what to splurge on, to what to miss, read on to see what’s hot on Maui! 

Leanne Pletcher, Director of PR, Maui Visitors & Conventions Bureau

What’s the best time of year to visit?   

My very first visit to Hawaii was in late October (my husband and I eloped), so this will always be a favorite season for me personally.  The early fall in September/October as well as the first few weeks of December tend to be quieter seasons for Maui.  

Where should I stay? 

It really depends on what you’re up for…   If you’re looking for a luxury experience, Wailea Beach Resort is an excellent choice.  For family-friendly activities, Kaanapali Beach Resort and Kapalua Resort are your best options.

First Maui Vacation Head to Family Friendly Kaanapali to make some magical Maui Memories! Image Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Head to Family Friendly Kaanapali to make some magical Maui Memories! Image Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

What activity should I not miss? 

No matter what, a beach/water activity, whether it’s a surf session, stand-up paddling, snorkeling or going on a sunset cruise.   My other favorite go-to-spots areIao Valley and Hookipa.  

iao needle hookipa beach park
A visit to Maui isn’t complete without a trip to Iao Needle and Ho’okipa Beach Park. Images Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

What should I splurge on? 

Paragliding, a helicopter tour or seeing Maui Nui (which includes the other islands of Maui County, Lanai and Molokai) by air.  Soaring over Maui Nui is spectacular and truly unforgettable. 

Which activity should I pass on?   

Please respect ‘No Trespassing’ signs for everyone’s safety, and give all sea animals, including turtles and dolphins, plenty of space!

What do I need to reserve before I get there?  

Your accommodations and mode of transportation, whether it’s a rental car, limo service or taxi/Uber/Lyft.  Also, if you have a restaurant, spa or luau on our Maui bucket list, it’s best to set up your reservations ahead of time!  

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui?  

Even though there’s so much to do and explore, find the time to breathe everything in, relax and enjoy all the aloha that Maui has to offer through it’s people and natural beauty.  

More about Leanne: 

A 16-year veteran of Hawai‘i’s tourism industry, Leanne has more than 28 years of experience in communications and marketing. Leanne currently serves as the director of public relations for Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau, prior to which she was director of marketing communications at Hilton Waikoloa Village (on the Big Island) for 14 years. 

 

Susan Fazekas, Owner, Awapuhi Adventures  

 

What’s the best time of year to visit?  

Maui is wonderful year round because of our mild tropical climate. Winter is my favorite time of the year on Maui because the whales, the more dramatic waterfalls and the rainbows bring magic to the island. Also shoulder season (Sept – mid-December) is good if you want to avoid the crowds. 

First Maui Vacation : Maui private tour guide
Explore Keanae with a private tour guided by Awapuhi Adventures

Where should I stay? 

My favorite places are off-the-beaten path and/or the smaller hotels and inn’s.  Some of my favorites: Camp Olowalu‘s Tentalow’s, Napili Kai resort, Hotel Wailea, Ala Kukui Retreat in Hana, Travassa in Hana, Lumeria in Makawao, The Inn at Mama’s Fish House in Paia. 

camp Olowalu tent camping maui
Maui Surfer Girls stays at Camp Olowalu for the women’s and teen camps – we agree their location can’t be beat!
Travaasa Hana Pool Hana maui
After completing the road to Hana, this should be everyone’s reward: a stay at Travaasa Hana. Image Courtesy Travaasa Hana

 

What activity should I not miss?

A guided hiking tour to Hana or the West Maui Mountains, Whale Watching, Snorkeling, Visiting Haleakala for sunrise or sunset, Surfing!

Awapuhi Tours
Awapuhi Adventures will guide you to Maui’s best waterfall locations! Courtesy Awapuhi Adventures

 

What should I splurge on? 

Maui has amazing cuisine, definitely explore the restaurants! For relaxation, spa treatments are a must! 

 

Which activity should I pass on? 

Large capacity tours loose the personal touch that you would get from smaller reputable companies. I find that Trip Advisor is an effective tool for choosing companies and more importantly it gives current feedback.

 

What do I need to reserve before I get there? 

Hiking tours to Hana or around the island, top Luau’s, a reservation at Mama’s Fish House

maui bamboo forest tours
Head to bamboo forests and explore remote waterfalls with Awapuhi Adventures as your guides!

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui? 

Do your research, but don’t over schedule yourself. If you have any full day activities planned, make sure to follow it up with a leisurely day by the beach or pool.  Don’t miss exploring Paia, Makawao and the surrounding upcountry areas.  It’s amazing to experience Maui’s diverse culture and climate.

More about Susan: 

I moved to Maui 16 years ago from the East Coast and never looked back. My husband Matt, a 30 year resident of Maui and I own a small family operated hiking company called Awapuhi Adventures.  We have been in business for over 10 years and love taking visitors on private, off-the-beaten path tours of Hana, West Maui and Upcountry! On our tours, we are committed to sharing our knowledge & respect of Maui’s amazing history, micro climate, Kai (Ocean) and ‘Aina (land). We enjoy water sports as a family with our 8 year old son Benjamin and have settled into the upcountry community of Makawao. I also work with the restaurant industry and have been fortunate to have established great relationships with some of Maui’s top Chef’s and restaurant Managers.

 

 

Karen Christenson, Marketing & Beverage Manager, Mama’s Fish House & Inn

 

What’s the best time of year to visit?

May and October have always been my favorite months – not too hot and not so much chance of rain.

Where should I stay?

A few different places to get the sense of how different it all is …. And for sure a few nights at The Inn at Mama’s to experience the North Shore.

Maui North Shore Hotel
Enjoy Maui’s North Shore from your ocean view room at the Inn at Mama’s Fish House

What activity should I not miss?

Get in the water, however you’re comfortable …. With a snorkel, raft, noodle … and to see Maui from the water in a boat

 

What should I splurge on?

A meal at Mama’s Fish House!

Which activity should I pass on?

I have never enjoyed the drive around the back side of West Maui – it’s beautiful but that drive is just too harrowing for me.

 

What do I need to reserve before I get there?

Accommodations, rental car, luau, reservations at the most popular restaurants

 

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui?

Stay a bit, don’t rush it, a week minimum and two is even better to get a chance to stay in different parts of the island.  Drive Upcountry at sunset time … it makes it last what seems like forever!  Head towards Ulupalakua and watch it sink into the ocean.

Ulupalakua Winery View
The beautiful view from Ulupalakua. Image Courtesy Maui Winery

 

More about Karen:
I have lived in Hawaii for all of my life, mostly on Maui.  I currently live in Wailuku. My parents started Mama’s Fish House in 1973 and I do the Marketing and Beverages for the Restaurant and Inn. I am married and have 2 sons, 20 and 25 years old.  My hobbies are traveling, gardening and hula.

 

 

Danny Boren, Owner, Skyline Eco-Adventures

 

What’s the best time of year to visit?

The best time of year to visit Maui is the fall. Temperatures are the most comfortable and generally more predictable and it tends to be less rainy than the winter. You can avoid the large crowds in the high season.

Where should I stay?

There is something for every traveler on Maui. From hotels, to airbnb’s and youth hostels… I myself prefer to camp.

What activity should I not miss?

The legendary Haleakala sunrise. The best way to see this is via Skyline Hawai’i, followed by a zipline tour at Skyline Eco-Adventures!

Haleakala Sunrise Tours
Enjoy a memorable sunrise at Haleakala National Park with Skyline Hawaii Tours.

What should I splurge on?

You should splurge on dinner (& dessert) at Merriman’s in Kapalua. You should also make sure to treat yourself and your family to an Ululani’s shave ice each day you are on Maui.

maui first time visitor tips ululanis
Treat your family to Maui’s best shave ice with Ululani’s – found around the island! Image Courtesy Ululani’s

Which activity should I pass on?

You should pass on time share presentations!!!

What do I need to reserve before I get there?

Besides reserving your Haleakala National Park sunrise tour & zipline tour provided by Skyline, many restaurants, luau’s and activities need to be booked in advance, so plan ahead and book activities before you arrive in Maui especially during summer, Christmas and Spring Break.

maui visitor tips first time
Soar over the land with incredible ocean views with the Skyline Eco-Adventures Ka’anapali Zipline Tours. Image Courtesy Skyline Eco-Adventures

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui?

Book the best show Hawai’i has to offer: ‘Ulalena!

ulalena maui best show
Enter the world of Hawaii’s fascinating history, told through music, dance, acrobatics and more! Image Courtesy Ulalena

More about Danny: 

I was raised on Maui most of my life and am passionate about preserving Hawai’i’s fragile environment. We started our business, Skyline Eco-Adventures, in 2002 to help raise awareness and funds for many nonprofit groups as well as provide a great place to work for people on Maui. To date, we have donated over 1.4 million dollars to charity and are proud that each one of our customers is helping us to support groups that are committed to protecting Hawai’i’s fragile environment and unique culture.

 

 

Liz Smith, Surf School and Marketing Manager Maui Surfer Girls

 

What’s the best time of year to visit?  

If you aren’t tied to the school calendar, May or September tend to be less crowded, and flights and hotels may be a bit cheaper.  The weather in Hawaii tends to be nice year-round!

Where should I stay? 

While there’s something to be said for exploring the island on your first trip to Maui, I’d recommend just staying somewhere central (like Kihei) for your first Maui vacation, and taking day trips from there.  You don’t want to spend a whole day of your vacation packing, unpacking, checking in and out… 

What activity should I not miss?  

Obviously surf lessons are a must… but when you have had enough time lounging in the sun, spend some time in Makawao, and check the calendar of events to watch some Rodeo or catch a Polo match!   Take a drive upcountry to check out the Vodka Farm (how could you resist?) at Ocean Vodka, then head over to Ulupalakua’s Maui Winery for more tastings.  If you are bringing kids with you, make sure you stop by the Surfing Goat Dairy

Ocean Vodka Maui Tour First Time to Maui Tips
Organic and Gluten Free Vodka Made on Maui from Sugarcane – What Else? Image Courtesy Ocean Vodka

 

What should I splurge on?  

We love going to Mama’s Fish House, we always head there for special occasions, and what could be more special than your first trip to Maui? Make an early reservation so you can enjoy the gorgeous view, and time the sunset to hit right around the dessert course.   A helicopter ride would also be a fun splurge to see the whole island in one incredible tour! 

blue Hawaiian helicopters Hana Tour
A helicopter tour is one of the recommended ‘splurges’ for any trip to Maui! Image Courtesy Blue Hawaiian Helicopters of the Hana Coastline

Which activity should I pass on?  

Pass on over-scheduling yourself! Leave some flexibility in your vacation! 

What do I need to reserve before I get there?  

Besides accommodations and your car or transportation, make reservations for Mama’s Fish House, a luau, your surf lessons, and any other smaller, limited capacity activity.  They tend to book up quickly, especially in peak travel seasons of Christmas, Spring Break and Summer. If you  aren’t taking a guided tour to see the sunrise at Haleakala, you need to make a reservation at least 60 days in advance here at recreation.gov  

kids surf lessons hawaii
Surf Instructor Sharky teaches kids and adults of all ages how to safely ride the waves!

 

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui? 

Book the activities that you definitely want to do, but also leave some room in your schedule for adding new activities that you see while you are here, or in case of weather issues!  Since most activities on Maui are outdoors, plan your activities early in your trip, so you can reschedule! I’m heartbroken for people who plan their Luau for their last night on Maui, who can’t reschedule when it gets cancelled for a rain-out. 

More about Liz: 

My family moved to Maui when I was 13 years old, and it quickly became my home.  I returned to Maui after college, and besides working with Maui Surfer Girls, I’m married with two kids, and I’m on the board of Carden Academy.  

 

 

Debbie Hollomon, Social Media Manager, Sail Maui 

 

What’s the best time of year to visit? 

Any time. Maui is always a good idea.

Where should I stay? 

Most visitors stay in Ka’anapali or Wailea for a reason — it’s generally super sunny and the beaches are amazing! If you’re adventurous and want to get off the grid, booking a house on Maui’s North Shore is incredible! You will, however, be more likely to encounter real Hawaii — insects and all. If you can swing it, the lush and exclusive Travaasa Hana has the best of both worlds.

Paia Maui Surfboard Fence Blake Bronstad
A trip to colorful Paia, on Maui’s North Shore, should be on everyone’s itinerary. Image Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority / Blake Bronstad

 

What activity should I not miss? 

Personally — sailing. Maui’s trade winds are not to be missed! Check out Sail Maui for the island’s fastest sailing charters.

sail maui maui boat tours recommended
For Snorkeling, Sailing, Sunsets, and Searching for Whales and Dolphins…. Check out Sail Maui. Images Courtesy Maui Surfer Girls

 

What should I splurge on?

Mama’s Fish House is as good as they say. It’s a splurge, but their menu is amazing and they emphasize locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, not to mention the ambiance is to die for.

 

What do I need to reserve before I get there? 

That depends on your activity, but it’s a good idea to reach out and inquire about availability at least a month in advance.

 

Any other Hot Tips? 

Do your research! There are so many amazing activities to do and it can be overwhelming trying to take it all in! You’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to relax, so pick a few excursions that you don’t want to miss and book early so that you can take advantage of every minute of your vacation without stressing.

sunset kat gaskin maui hawaii to do list vacation tips guide
Add Enjoy Each Sunset to your Maui To Do List: Image Courtesy Kat Gaskin

More about Debbie:

Maui’s been my home for the last 10 years! I’ve primarily worked on charter sailboats but have also been a surf instructor, zipline guide, opened coconuts with a machete at a local farmers market! I’m a licensed coast guard captain, an avid kite surfer, and love to take photos and make pottery!

 

 

Jennifer Polito, Owner, Jenerate PR

 

What’s the best time of year to visit?

The best part about Hawaii is our weather is beautiful year round.

 

Where should I stay?

The island of Maui has so much to offer. I would recommend splitting your stay and booking separate accommodations to explore Kaanapali, Wailea, and the North Shore areas.

 

In Wailea, I would indulge in a lavish suite in Hotel Wailea. It’s an adults-only escape and offers an ultra-private, “behind-the-gates” luxury experience. The ocean-facing suites are spacious and the luxurious bathrooms feature deep-soaking tubs where you can completely immerse yourself. While staying at Hawaii’s only Relais & Chateaux resort, you can also arrange for kite-boarding lessons, take a couples’ tropical mixology class or unwind with aerial yoga.

Hotel Wailea Suites
Pamper yourself with a stay at the adults-only Hotel Wailea. Image Courtesy Hotel Wailea

Located in the heart of Paia is Mangolani Inn. It’s a chic boutique inn with an adorable mango treehouse as one of its rooms. This tropical sanctuary is complete with swaying hammocks, an outdoor Jacuzzi, refreshing outdoor shower, and lush Hawaiian fruit trees. Only minutes from Maui’s famed North Shore, it’s a favorite among surfers.

 

What activity should I not miss?

Definitely go on a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour and discover corners of Maui that you can’t easily explore on foot. Discovering Hawaii from a bird’s eye view is an incredible perspective. The Molokai Tour, for example, showcases the world’s tallest sea cliffs that are absolutely stunning and you can even enjoy exclusive landing sites only available to guests of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

molokai blue Hawaiian helicopters
Check out the dramatic Molokai Sea Cliffs from the comfort of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Courtesy Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

 

What should I splurge on?

Almost every experience in Hawaii is a treat. Experience-wise, I would say channel your inner celebrity and go for a ride in a Maui Roadster, a reproduction of the 1957 Porsche 356 convertible Speedster, it’s the perfect vehicle to take in the scenic coastal roads of Maui. If you’re into retail therapy, head to The Shops at Wailea with a fun range of shops from surf brands, art galleries and luxury boutiques.

Maui Roadsters Porsche Car Rental
Enjoy Maui’s scenic roads with one of these beauties from Maui Roadsters! Image Courtesy Maui Roadsters

 

Which activity should I pass on?

Scrolling on social media. When you spend too much time on your phone, you miss all the wonders that are in front of you. Unplug and enjoy each moment.

 

What do I need to reserve before I get there?

Aside from reserving your hotel and car rental reservations, it would be a good idea to make dinner reservations. The rest can be spontaneous.

 

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui?

Ask the locals where they love to eat. They will direct you to the best places in town.

 

More about Jennifer:

I’m loving life, leading Jenerate PR, a public relations company, and living in Hawaii. I enjoy working with my team and bringing results to our clients. Among my favorite things are listening to Latin music, going to the beach and spending time with my partner David and our dog Bear.

 

 

Chris Detchon, North Shore Vans

 

What’s the best time of year to visit? 

Maui has great weather year-round, so it depends on what you’re interested in.. Winter months offer world class wave riding on the North Shore and thousands of humpback whales swimming all around the island.  During the summer, water and air temps warm up a few degrees and many more moderate surfing areas start breaking on southern shores of the island.

maui humpback whales and rainbow
Splashing Humpback Whales and Vivid Rainbows, what could be more Maui? Image Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority / Joe West

Where should I stay? 

If you’re looking for poolside cocktails and a daily golf routine, the resorts on Kaanapali and Wailea are great for families. If you’re searching for more adventure and want to experience multiple aspects of the island, North Shore Vans rents custom built camper-vans at a very reasonable daily rate. They come with everything you need to find your way around and sleep comfortably when the sun goes down.

maui camper van rental
Your transportation and accommodations all in one! Image Courtesy North Shore Vans

What activity should I not miss? 

Kayaking with whales, Snorkeling Honolua Bay

 

What should I splurge on? 

A helicopter tour

What do I need to reserve before I get there? 

A tour, a surf lesson, and a camper van 🙂

Other ‘Hot Tip’ for visiting Maui? 

Check out the amazing sunset at Haleakala National Park, then stick around because Haleakala is one of the top 3 star gazing places in the world. Also, make sure you buy “reef safe” sunscreen for your trip! Our vibrant coral reefs are in rapid decline because of the toxic chemicals in most lotions.

girls camp haleakala maui sunset watch
Cap off a memorable day by watching the sunset from Haleakala National Park. Image Courtesy Maui Surfer Girls

More about Chris: 

I moved to Maui from Oregon about 3 years ago. That winter I built a custom camper-van so could explore more of the island. It was designed to be efficient, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the “Valley Isle”, the Hawaiian culture and Maui’s endless potential for outdoor recreation. In an effort to share this experience, I’ve created a fleet of camper-vans and rent them through my website NorthShoreVans.com. My goal is to help visitors enjoy Maui with “Malama Aina” – care and respect for the land. When our visitors arrive, I share where to find the most beautiful areas, where to camp legally and how to respect the local community while they’re here, whether it’s the first Maui vacation or their 15th!

 

And Finally : Safety First!!!

We hope that everyone has a fun and safe visit to Maui!  To help ensure these goals, Maui Visitors Bureau has put together these helpful hints below

For your safety and the safety of others, please be mindful of where you visit:

  • Follow the rules and laws in place; 
  • Do not approach sea animals as most are protected;
  • Be sensitive to the culture of our island; 
  • Do not go on private property without permission; and 
  • Be aware that not all beaches have lifeguards.

Tips for your First Maui Vacation! What to see, what to miss, and what to splurge on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip for your First Maui Vacation! What to see, what to pass on, and what to splurge on! Tips First Maui Vacation | Maui Visitor Tips

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