Aloha, fellow travelers!
If you’re anything like me and my boyfriend, you love the idea of spending quality time on sandy beaches, surrounded by stunning landscapes in Maui. Trust me when I say that choosing the perfect city for your vacation hub can make all the difference in turning a good trip into an unforgettable one. As self-proclaimed beach bums and seasoned Maui explorers, we’ve spent countless summers trying out different cities on this beautiful island just so I could share our expert insight with you.
Picking the right city can be overwhelming – you don’t want to end up too far from your favorite activities or deal with unnecessary travel costs. That’s why I’ve put together this ultimate guide showcasing cities that cater to varying interests – from wild jungle adventures to luxurious resorts and everything in between.
Now, who am I talking to here? If you’re planning a dream vacation in Maui, chances are you’re seeking excitement blended with relaxation while soaking up the diverse experiences this paradise offers. And guess what? We both share that passion for adventure!
Warning: This introduction might spark some serious wanderlust! But hey, isn’t exploring new places part of the fun?
So fasten your seatbelts and get ready for takeoff as we embark on this journey together through paradise – one awe-inspiring city at a time!
#1. Lahaina Town (West Maui)
45 minutes from Kahului Airport is the sunny and beautiful town of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui. The town is famous for its eclectic shops and art scene with over fifteen galleries, many local shops, and handmaid clothing and jewelry boutiques (check out Front Street). Lahaina is also the go-to destination for humpback whale watching, especially in the winter.
The town is surrounded by several great beaches including Lahaina Beach, Emily’s Beach, Baby Beach, and Kaanapali Beach. It offers many cruise and tour options and has the best Luaus on the island (my favorite is the Drum of the Pacific Luau).
For those looking for a luxury resort experience, Lahaina is home to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, and Kaanapali Alii Resort.
It serves as a great hub if you wish to explore the rest of the island with Kihei (24 miles away), Paia (30 miles away), and Kula (36 miles away).
#2. Kihei (South Maui – Southwest shore)
Kihei has the most beautiful beaches on the island. It’s the perfect destination for the white sand, relaxing under a palm tree with a cocktail tourist. Check out Charley Young Beach, Sugar Beach, Kalepolepo Beach Park, Kamaole Beach Park I, and my favorite (Secret Cove Beach).
Because of its unparalleled beauty, it’s home to the Maui Ocean Center, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, and Humpback Whale Sanctuary (all well worth a visit).
For those searching for more excitement, Kihei has a great selection of luaus, sunset cruises, restaurants, and bars. For evening drinks and a fun atmosphere check out Vibe Bar Maui or Lava Rock Bar & Grill (which also serves amazing food).
Kihei is home to great resorts (for guests looking for all-inclusive service) including Mana Kai Maui Resort and Hilton Grand Vacations Club Maui Bay Villas. But also has lots of private apartment rentals.
#3. Paia Historic Town (North Shore)
Historic Paia is a laid-back hippy town, and perfectly located within reach of other great destinations in Maui. The town is famous for maintaining its culture without becoming touristy or gentrified. That means staying here, you get to meet mostly locals and get to live and vibe the same way they do. Here you will find tons of small shops (painted in pastels), galleries, and locally owned restaurants.
From Paia, you can make the one-day historic drive to Hana which are under 10 miles from the airport. But there is so much to do and see here, you might decide just to stay put your entire trip. Especially because you can find much cheaper rentals here.
Check out the beautiful beaches including Baldwin Beach Park, Paia Bay, Paia Secret beach, and Baby beach. For a spot unknown to the tourists’ visit Tavares Beach.
Don’t skip on visiting some of the best restaurants in Paia including Paia Fish Market, Flatbread Company (organic wood-fired pizza), and Mama’s Fish House (a local landmark with a beach view).
#4. Napili (West Maui – Northwest Shore)
Napili is home to the beautiful Napili Kai Beach Resort and Napili Bay (an idyllic horseshoe-shaped sandy beach, with calm and clear waters). This area is the hidden gem of Maui because it remains a calm, quiet, and tropical residence with all the beauty and half the tourists.
This is the town if you want to check out some live evening music without a huge crowd, walk the beach or have a couple of beers while watching the sunset. Some close attractions include the Maui Brewing Company, Ironwood Ranch, and the trail to Pu’u Ka’eo Lookout.
The best close-by beaches include gorgeous Kahana Beach, Ka’anapali Beach, and Kahekili Beach Park (with a stunning sunset). Check them all out.
For great dining don’t miss out on Kitchen 5315 Restaurant & Tiki Bar, FOND (modern Japanese, American, and fusion), and China Boat Restaurant,
#5. Hana Town (East Maui)
If you are looking for a calm, authentic, and jungle-like vacation, Hana town should be your hub. To some, it’s a sleepy town, but for those looking to experience the local life and food of this island, Hana is a gold mine. Some even refer to it as “Real Hawaii” because it has managed to keep its identity regardless of tourists.
Just a few miles out of the city either way you will find waterfalls with swimmable water holes, lava tubes, and jungle hikes. My favorites include Waimoku falls with the Pipiwai Trail Hike and Upper Waikani Falls aka Three Bears.
The area has some great beaches that are virtually tourist free including Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach (red and black sand with a beautiful swim), Hāna Bay Beach Park (black sand beach), and Waiʻanapanapa State Park (122-acre Park with a black sand beach, caves and lava formations). Though these beaches are not the white sand beaches you might be used to, they are unique and very much worth your time.
#6. Kula (Upcountry Maui – Haleakala side of Maui away from the shoreline)
If you prefer to spend your vacation exploring the breathtaking Haleakalā National Park, Red Hill, and Kula forest reserve, Kula is your perfect hub. Though this town is not a beachfront location, it is surrounded by some of the world’s best hiking trails, botanical gardens (visit Kula Botanical Gardens), and an inactive volcano (check it out for an amazing sunrise or sunset trip).
Kula is about 25 miles from Kihei and 16 miles from Paia, still giving you access to some gorgeous beaches on two different coasts.
While in Kula you can eat some of the best food ever at funky venues including Nui’s Garden Kitchen Food truck (think egg noodles with oho fish, beef salad, and Pad Thai). It’s much better than some fine dining restaurants. Also, check out Bully’s Burgers and Thai Mee Up. These might not be fine dining sports, but the food is fresh, authentic and some of the best you can find.
Maui is a gorgeous island that offers every type of vacation you wish to have.
You can have a luxurious resort experience staying at the world’s top resorts situated in Lahaina Town and Kihei.
You can explore authentic local destinations like Paia town.
Or opt for a jungle adventure in mellow Hana and its one-of-a-kind waterfalls and hikes.
Maui even offers great inland destinations like Kula. Here you can experience authentic dining and the majestic volcano that hovers over the island.
Whatever your taste, Maui has it.
Enjoy your time on the island, and share my article if you support us!
Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Brigitte