Hey there, fellow Maui adventurers!
I’ve got a treat for you today that’ll make your vacation truly unforgettable. You see, after countless summers spent at our cozy little beach house in Maui, my boyfriend and I accidentally stumbled upon the secret to experiencing this paradise like never before – all in just three days!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Three days? That’s impossible!” But trust me when I say that we’ve cracked the code. By driving the island counterclockwise and hitting up some of the most jaw-dropping spots along the way, you’ll be able to soak up all of Maui’s magic without feeling rushed.
As someone who has lived through both amazing and not-so-great vacations on this lovely island, believe me when I say that this itinerary is tailor-made for travelers like us who crave hidden gems and picturesque views without breaking the bank. Plus, with my insider knowledge (wink-wink), you’re guaranteed to avoid those pesky tourist traps!
Warning: You might find yourself wanting to extend your stay or plan your next trip ASAP because let’s face it – three days might not be enough once you get a taste of everything wonderful Maui has to offer.
So buckle up and get ready for an epic adventure full of enchanting sunrises and sunsets, mesmerizing waterfalls, pristine white sand beaches, and mouthwatering dining experiences!
Day 1: Central Maui and West Maui
If your flight arrives early in the morning, you can do all the things on today’s itinerary. No need to check into your hotel, rather grab a rent-a-car and get started right away. On the first day, you should visit a couple of amazing beaches for snorkeling and swimming, eat at a local stop, and enjoy a Luau. For fans of world-renowned art and local music, there is also a stop at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
1. Kanaha Beach Park (close to the airport)
This is the best beach for swimming on this part of the island. Yet it’s often overlooked and mostly frequented by the locals (very few tourists). It’s a gorgeous sand beach that stretches over 2 miles long and has everything you need. No need to check into your hotel before visiting, because the beach has plenty of parking, a nice grassy area for picnics, grills, bathrooms, Outdoor showers, water fountains, and even some shade. Overall its 40 acres of fine white sand beach surrounded by incredible ocean and mountain views. This beach will get you in the mood for Hawaii.
2. Grab a funky fast lunch at Cupies Maui Drive In
Address: 134 W Kamehameha Ave. Kahului, HI 96732
Stop by for a great lunch at this local and iconic drive-in-style restaurant. They serve great portions of local comfort food and all the fixings that go with it (think chilly fries and dry mein). This isn’t a high-end restaurant, but the food is delicious, fresh, and cheap. They have large tables for seating, including a great porch area outside. Try the Pork adobo with rice and corn, breaded Teriyaki, or the sweet and sour spare ribs with rice or mack salad. They also have a great collection of authentically flavored slushies and smoothies (think lilikoi, pineapple, and ube).
3. Maui Arts & Cultural Center (live music and art exhibits)
Address: 1 Cameron Way, Kahului, HI 96732
Check and re-check their website for amazing concerts and events before your visit. This venue attracts top musicians, theaters, and comics. If not, they have two amazing outdoor settings that are mostly open to guests. Visit the Community Events Lawn and Yokouchi Pavilion for wonderful live music and hanging out in the open-air space. Art fans will also love the Schaefer International Gallery with an ever-changing art exhibit covering over 4.000 square feet.
4. Punalau Beach aka (the Windmills) – relax and explore the beach
This beach is hidden, and you can’t see it from the road. So most tourists visiting the Nakalele Blowhole just drive by. This is a white sand beach, but it’s not great for swimming. Rather take a quiet walk, go shell hunting, explore sea life in the shallow rocks and watch the waves while resting in the shade. The beach has an amazing open ocean view and serves as a popular surf spot in the winter. If the waves are good, you’ll see a few pro surfers out on the waves.
5. Kapalua Bay Beach – The best beach for swimming and snorkeling
Don’t miss this beach if you want to swim and snorkel. It’s very pretty with turquoise water and fine white sand. It’s located in a protected cove, which makes it tranquil and calm for swimming. As you get into the water it gets rocky, so it’s a perfect place to snorkel (even for beginners). While snorkeling you will see lots of coral, tropical fish, and even eel and green turtles. The beach is small but beautiful, there is designated parking and roadside parking available.
6. Drums of the Pacific Luau – The best luau experience
Address: 200 Nohea Kai Dr, Lahaina, HI 96761
Don’t leave Hawaii without experiencing a Luau. I recommend ending your first-day adventure with the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui. This Luau has an amazing venue with a gorgeous Oceanside stage, surrounded by palm trees, a beach, and tiki torches (as expected from Hyatt). Enjoy the sounds of the drums, chants, fire torches, and authentic dances that last about 3 hours. Even the standard seating guarantees an excellent view.
The standard package also includes a pre-show with hula dancers and live music, a lei as a souvenir, an authentic imu ceremony, a Polynesian plated dinner, and an open bar. The cocktails are great, the wine is high quality, and so is the food! In the final act, there is a 3-man fire knife dance.
Day 2: Explore the perfect beaches of South Maui
To do the 5 activities picked for South Maui, you will only need to drive around an 18 stretch. All these amazing locations are close to Wailea – Makena, so plan to spend the night in the area. And head on to your next destination in the morning. South Maui has the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii, so dig your feet into the sand, and end your day with an open bar cruise.
1. Charley Young Beach – Perfect morning beach
Make this beach your first stop, because it is calm, tropical, and serene. Though a small beach, it has the perfect powder gold colored sand and is a great location for swimming, sun tanning, and snorkeling. The entrance into the water is gradual and without rocks, so it’s a perfect place for all swimming levels. The beach is rarely crowded and more of a local spot, so you can enjoy some privacy and space. This is the best family beach in Kihei and a great morning spot for couples.
2. Grab some breakfast or lunch at the amazing Ami Ami Bar and Grill
Address: 2259 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753
This is a beautiful and modern restaurant serving a diverse menu with great portions. It’s less advertised than most, and kind of hidden away. Choose outside searing and enjoy the palm trees. They are open from 7 am, so I love to have breakfast here. A delicious choice is the breakfast burrito with the Pepper jack cheese Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs, and hash browns. If you prefer something sweet, the bananas foster pancakes with cognac caramel syrup and a side of fresh fruit are the best. You get real portions here and you will leave full.
3. Makena Beach (Makena) or Big Beach
Only minutes from Wailea and Kihei the Big Beach is known for its beauty. It’s approximately 3,000 feet long and over 100 feet wide, making you feel like you are surrounded by sand. This beach isn’t too crowded, and because of its size, you can always find a great spot. It’s a perfect place to swim or sunbathe and enjoy the view of Kaho’olawe and Molokini. There are usually some ways here, making it perfect for trying surfing or boogie boarding in Maui.
4. One’uli Black Sand Beach
Make a short stop at this long narrow beach and enjoy the unusual black sand. The shore is somewhat rugged from lava rocks, but it’s great for taking a walk and exploring the pools for shells and crabs. People do swim and snorkel here too. There is a great green patch to the side of the beach to enjoy shade and food while enjoying a view of Haleakala as well. Asides from the stunning sand, this beach attracts marine life so set some time aside and enjoy.
5. La Perouse Bay & Lava Fields – Best hiking and kayaking spot
These lava fields were created by the Haleakala volcano. This is a unique site that is great to walk through and observe the power of nature. You will encounter several blow holes, incredible lava formations, and small critters living between the rocks and ocean. You can make this a quick stop, or enjoy a few hours kayaking and hiking the area. There is road access (but it is a narrow one). Also, it’s not uncommon to see dolphins and turtles off the shore here.
6. Adventure Sunset Sail (Maui sunset, with a Molokini silhouette)
Your vacation needs to include a beautiful Maui sunset sail. The sunsets here are incredible and full of fiery colors like you’ve never seen. Set out onto the peaceful water, for a once-in-a-lifetime view of the ocean and shore.
I highly recommend Kai Kanani’s Adventure Sunset Sail. The tour lasts for 2 hours and is reasonably priced. It also includes a three-course appetizer plated and served, and an open bar. The food is sourced from The Market Maui restaurant and store and made fresh for the trip. The drinks are also mostly locally sourced including great companies like Ocean Vodka and Kula Rum.
Day 3: drive the historic Road to Hana (and do it backward)
This is the most beautiful drive in the country. You can make a few quick stops, or spend the whole day exploring and making fun stops. Do this drive in reverse, after your night in South Maui. You will have an amazing experience and end up, back at the airport by nightfall.
1. Waimoku falls – The Pipiwai Trail Hike (just before mile marker 42)
If you love to hike, this is the best and most beautiful hike on Maui (The Pipiwai Trail Hike). I would rate it as an easy to moderate trail, just because of the length of the trail. It’s a 3.8-mile out-and-back trail, that should take about 2.5 hours round trip (not including the time at the falls). It is safe, well maintained, and easy to follow.
Asides from being the most picturesque and beautiful trail on the island, you get to stop by two amazing waterfalls. About half a mile into the trail you will pass the 185-foot Makahiku Falls. Also, there are jungle-like areas, followed by immense bamboo forests. The final destination is the jaw-dropping 400-foot waterfall known as Waimoku falls. Though is too shallow to swim in, it will take your breath away.
2. Hana Lava Tubes aka (Ka’eleku Cave) (mile marker 31)
Make sure to check out one of two lava tubes on the island. This is the better one. If you did the Pipiwai Trail Hike or instead hit a close by the beach, this is the perfect stop to hide from the sun. It will take you about 30 to 40 minutes to explore the large caves, and you get a flashlight with your entrance (no electricity inside). The site is perfectly maintained and safe, with hand rails, so don’t hesitate. They have a self-guided tour every day of the week (between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm).
If you brought your lunch, feel free to use their large and beautiful grounds for a picnic. There is a covered seating area by the garden. There is also a Red Ti Botanical Garden Maze (one-of-a-kind in the world) that is very large and unique. A great additional activity.
3. Upper Waikani Falls aka Three Bears (mile marker 19)
If you want to swim and take incredible pictures while standing under a waterfall, this is your spot. This is the best swimmable waterfall in Maui. If you want to go down to the three waterfalls, park in the small parking up the road, then walk down the trail (a small trail on the side of the falls). Make sure it’s not a wet muddy day, and feel comfortable moving down to the swimming hole.
Once you get to the swimming hole which usually has no swimmers (unless a few locals show up), there are great opportunities to swim, jump and take pictures while standing under the waterfall. It is shallow on the edges, so you can cool off even if you are not a strong swimmer. This is also one of the safest waterfalls to swim at. Overall, a true jungle experience not to miss.
4. Hookipa Beach Park – The turtle watching spot (mile marker 9)
This is another spacious public beach. It’s covered with fine white sand and is known as a surfing spot. In the winter you can catch some pro surfers here doing amazing tricks. The beach has accommodations including pavilions (with electricity), outdoor showers, bathrooms, and a picnic area. There are also three large parking lots nearby.
But the reason you should visit here is the turtles! They regularly gather on the shores of this beach and sunbathe. The best time of day to see them is in the afternoon (usually come in between 2 pm and 4 pm), but chances are there are at least a few there all day long.
5. Twin Falls Hike and Waterfall (mile marker 2)
Twin Falls are another great place to take a swim. It’s also a short and easy hike from your car. The hike is a 1.8-mile out-and-back trail that takes under 1 hour to complete (not counting the time you want to spend at the falls). The trail is safe, public, and open year-round.
The trail follows the river, and there are other great spots on the way to cliff jump into the water. The best part however is the Twin Falls. Once you arrive you will see a pretty waterfall about 15 feet high. It’s not big, but it’s powerful and a great swim. You can take some amazing jungle adventure pictures while swimming here. Bring some food and water with you, or visit the decent snack bar on the trail.
6. Paia Town – Local food, artwork, and shopping
Paia Town is a small tourist-friendly town full of small shops and galleries. It’s a perfect place to eat at the food stand with some locals, shop for handmade crafts or explore the artwork. It’s a good last-day stop for souvenirs and some non-commercial presents for your family. Check out – By the Bay – for some local artwork and jewelry.
Paia town is actually known as the “hippy town” of Maui and is a relaxed and great place for a stop.
While here, if you have some, time check out Paia Secret Beach for a quick swim. Otherwise, I recommend a great meal at Flatbread Company or Paia Fish Market. Also, we like to stop in at Mana Foods to stock up on snacks and water before our trip home.
Maui, also known as The Valley Isle is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. It’s also my favorite island in Hawaii. The island is famous for the most beautiful sand beaches, unparalleled jungle-like trails and waterfalls, and the historic road to Hana. It’s a destination that can be visited and re-visited many times.
If you are limited with time or are visiting the island for the first time, you must follow my 3-day itinerary to make sure you get the best of what this island has to offer.
Looking for the most beautiful beach? Visit Charley Young Beach, Makena Beach (Makena) or Big Beach, or Kapalua Bay Beach. Want to swim under a waterfall? Head to Waimoku falls or Upper Waikani Falls aka Three Bears. Have the best luau on the island by booking Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui.
Whatever adventure you are looking for you will find it on Maui (and in this article). So plan your trip carefully and have a great time.
Support my hard work by sharing this article with your friends. Everyone’s guaranteed to find their favorite spot on this itinerary.
Is 3 days enough for Maui?
No matter how much time you have, a visit to Maui is always worth it. It’s also a place you will want to visit again and again and relive new and old adventures. Seven to ten days is the ideal time in Maui if you wish to explore the entire island for the first time. But if you follow my itinerary for a 3-day visit you will be able to visit all the key destinations and sites the island has to offer. You will visit the best beaches, waterfalls, hikes, and the road to Hana all in 3 days.
What is the prettiest part of Maui?
If you are looking for endless white sand beaches, clear water, and palm tree shade, South Maui is the best destination for you. South Maui has the driest weather on the island and the least amount of rain. Making the weather perfect for swimming and snorkeling. South Maui has the prettiest beaches.
For those looking for an active vacation, with jungle hikes, exotic waterfalls, swimming in a waterfall hole, and enjoying local food trucks, the road to Hana is for you. This stretch of the coast has the most beautiful lush forests and exotic plants perfect for an active tourist. The road to Hana has the prettiest waterfalls and trails.
What do you wear on the road to Hana?
The road to Hana has lots of great stops. The destinations include Upper Waikani Falls, Twin Falls Hike, the Pipiwai trail hike, the Hana lava tubes, and more. There are many opportunities for swimming (including some beaches), hiking and even shopping.
Since you will be doing all of this while driving up and down the coast, you need to dress comfortably. Sometimes the forest heavy areas can get cooler, so I recommend bringing a light jacket or a hooded sweatshirt (depending on your style choice). Also, wear breathable clothing like a cotton t-shirt and comfortable shorts. You want to be able to easily change into your swimming gear and back. Also, don’t forget your sunglasses and backpack.
What should you not forget about Maui?
Maui is a tropical and sun-covered island. Make sure to pack lots of sun protection including hats, sunglasses, body covers, and reef-safe sunscreen (SPF 50) for applying and re-applying. Nature-friendly bug spray is also a plus for the evenings.
But just in case the weather turns, have a light raincoat, jacket, or sweatshirt available. Otherwise, enjoy your regular summer clothes and make sure they are comfortable and breathable.
Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Brigitte