A 4 day Maui Itinerary
We kicked off our first vacation of 2017 with a 4 day Maui itinerary. Considered by many to be the prettiest island of the archipelago, Maui is home to abundant natural beauty, incredibly delicious food, and beautiful, scenic views. Although we only spent 4 days in Maui (we flew in to Big Island next), we did manage to squeeze in a few things which I’ll cover in detailed Maui guide to help you plan your best island vacation. In this post, I will be sharing our travel experience which includes some of the top Maui attractions, tips on where to stay in Maui (where we stayed) as well some of the best restaurants on the island.
When is the best time to visit Maui?
Hawaii has great weather all year round and is a perennial hotbed for tourists. Summer can be hot and humid while winter (especially around Christmas vacation) is when the island is the most crowded. Although we visited Maui during March (which is still during rainy season), we did not get any inclement weather. The best time to visit Maui would ideally be April-May or the fall months of September and October for drier, cooler weather with less tourists.
Where to Stay in Maui: Hotel options
Hawaii is one of the most popular tourist destinations in USA, and Maui with all its natural beauty, is a huge tourists magnet. This means that you have to plan months in advance when booking rooms at some of the best places to stay in Maui. Because Hawaii is anything but cheap and hotel fares can quickly climb north of $500/night if bookings are not made in advance.
It is worthwhile to know that the western and southern parts of the islands, with stunning beaches and relatively dry weather, are where the tourists reside while the Kahului airport (main Maui airport) is to the north and the wettest zones of the island are to the east (Hana), with the dormant volcanic mountain of Haleakala in the center. Affordable hotels are all on the west while expensive resorts, secluded beaches and wineries are to the south past Kihei. Many people also stay close to the airport at Paia, another small town with the famous Mama’s Fish house restaurant and the surfers’ paradise Ho’okipa Beach as it’s major attractions.
For our four days in Maui, I booked the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, based on a friend’s suggestion who had been to Maui. Located right next to the famous Black Rock and the breathtaking Ka’anapali beaches along with its close proximity to Lahaina (western Maui’s prominent town), this hotel gets brownie points for “affordability” (less than $250 stay per night with $12 self parking), great location, friendly hotel staff, clean and spacious rooms and a darn good evening entertainment program comprising of hula and other traditional dance forms at no extra charge (unlike the adjacent Sheraton that charges a tidy $112 for their evening entertainment program).
The hotel prides itself on being the most “Hawaiian” hotel in Maui, which means making the guests aware of Hawaii’s heritage (Polynesians were the first inhabitants of this island and much of their culture, language and practices persevere), an “orientation breakfast” where they introduce you to the many top Hawaii attractions, Hawaiian etiquette and several activities for adults and kids such as Lei (a Hawaiian garland of flowers) making along with a small Lei ceremony for the guests when they depart.
For people like us who tend to stay out the entire day simply to crash in at night, this top Maui hotel l with its decent amenities worked well. If you have a mountain of cash to spare and would like a stellar resort experience, I highly recommend the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in the south, where we had dinner one night at Morimoto Maui.
How to get around in Maui: Transportation options
Another thing to keep in mind while chalking your 4 day itinerary for Maui as well as other Hawaiian islands in general is that though public transportation is available, it is best to rent a car to do sightseeing on your own terms. Don’t worry about the roads cause they are in great condition but are full of hairpin bends, twists and turns, specially when you are driving to the the two major attractions of Haleakala and Hana. Speed limits are enforced and driving is slower here than on the mainland, as a result of which relatively short distances can take longer to cover.
4-day Maui itinerary: Best things to do in Maui
There is so much to in Maui that four days is simply not enough, even more so if you are into water activities. Since S and I are strictly land animals and were running short of time, we chose to explore a few top Maui attractions and must dos, enjoying them thoroughly in the process.
An easy way to kick off your stay is by visiting the Black rock beach just before sunset to witness the ceremonial dive from the black rock jutting out into the ocean (thus the name of the beach) which happens “daily”. Essentially, a young Hawaiian man, lights up the lamps with his torch to the sound of conch shells and after offering a prayer to the ancestral Gods, jumps off into the ocean from the rock.
This event, organized by the Sheraton hotel, is free for viewing by the public from the beach but we unlucky souls chose that one fateful evening where the dive did not happen (so much for this being a “daily” ceremony) despite seeing a lone figure standing patiently at the end of the rock for what appeared to be the longest time. However, this is a rare, free event and so you should definitely snag a spot prior to sunset at the beach to witness this spectacular dive, or at the very least, a breathtaking sunset.
This unique natural attraction is a must do in Maui, should be included on any Maui itinerary, and lies north of Ka’anapali past Kapalua. What happens here essentially is that the seawater gets trapped in an underwater lava tube and frantically finds a way to escape, resulting in a jet of water blowing upwards in full force.
The hike down to this spot from the parking lot is covered with volcanic rocks which are huge with jagged edges. Therefore, appropriate footwear (read sneakers and not beach flip flops) is a must. Also, obey all posted signs and do not venture near the blowhole since it might simply suck you in. Watch it from a distance near the dry rocks and venture out to the north-west direction (with the blow hole to your back, aka south) to discover the cute heart shaped rock.
This rock with a heart shaped hole in the middle will fall to your right as soon as you descend from the last set of jagged boulders while facing the blowhole. That or persistent tourists with cheesy smiles and poses will guide you:-)
3) Exploring Whaler village and Lahaina
Whaler village is a tiny mall located right next to Ka’anapali beach hotel, where you can stop by for some yummy shaved ice, a Hawaiian dessert introduced by the Japanese plantation workers to the island. It is a simple concoction of shaved ice with fruit syrup of your choice and you can choose up to three flavors in one cone.
You can do some shopping here if you want or in Lahaina, the only “downtown” in west Maui with a bustling Front street full of shops and restaurants. Unlike other beach towns, Lahaina has a Hawaiian twist to its proceedings with several historic centers still intact along Front street, such as the conspicuous red and white Wo Hing Museum (built in the 1900s for Chinese immigrants) or Old Lahaina courthouse and the sprawling Banyan tree, Baldwin museum, Hongwanji Mission (for Lahaina buddhists) and many more hidden remnants of Hawaii’s past.
A Lahaina historic walking tour is a good way to familiarize yourself with a slice of this port town’s past if you have time. We simply had some delicious tacos at Lahaina Luna cafe and strolled around for some time on this busy Front street.
Another one of the best activities in Maui is to watch the sunrise from atop the dormant volcanic Haleakala mountain crater standing at 10, 023 feet above sea level is an experience like no other. There are several things to note if you are planning to experience this out of the world phenomenon starting with making a sunrise reservation online at least a month in advance to watch the sunrise since the park now regulates the number of visitors entering between 3-7AM to witness the same. Without a reservation, you will be TURNED AWAY and not allowed to enter until past 7 AM (we saw that happen to a car right behind us).
Reservations ($1.50 per vehicle) are non refundable in case of inclement weather and non -transferable (a photo ID of the person making the reservation along with his/her name on the print out has to be handed to the park ranger while entering). Also, the entrance fee per vehicle is separate ($20/vehicle) which has to be paid in cash. Do not throw away this receipt because it is good for the next three days and can be reused on your road trip to Hana when you have to reenter the park to see the Oheo gulch.
Helpful tips to plan your Haleakala sunrise trip during your 4 days in Maui:
a. If you are staying anywhere in the south or west (almost guaranteed that’s where you will end up staying), the drive to the summit will take a good two hours. It is highly advisable that you start early, preferably 2.5-3 hrs to give yourself some buffer and to snag a spot at the summit parking lot, since reservations do not guarantee parking.
b. There are four viewing spots in Haleakala, including the visitor center at over 7000 ft elevation, but the best views are undoubtedly from the summit. It is best to drop a pin and save the “haleakala summit parking location” on your phone’s Google map and do print out directions just in case you lose signal while driving. The drive up can be tedious since you are not only ascending but also navigating hair pin like bends in the dark. So please drive carefully!
c. It is extremely windy and cold at that very high elevation, with temperatures dropping rapidly as you ascend, sometimes to as low as 30-40F. Please wear sturdy shoes covering your feet and bring in cap, gloves, scarf and warm clothes (sweater and jacket) to keep yourself from dying of hypothermia!
d. The sunrise is an event like no other, so come in early to set up your goPros or tripods to avoid jostling for space with fellow photographers. I would advise you to get zoom lenses (telephoto) for your DSLRs since my 18-35mm did not work great (understandably) to capture the sunrise in all its glory.
Now that we have sunrise covered, let’s talk about a Maui excursion at sunset! South Maui is blessed with incredibly beautiful beaches but what makes a sunset in town overrun with tourists, is sunset in a secluded beach, hidden from prying eyes. Maluaka beach in Wailea, is one of the best beaches in Maui with soft white sand, very few people (it is located in a beautiful residential area near the Keawalai church; note there is no beach access via the church grounds) and presents you with a gorgeous sunset which you can enjoy in solitude.
Your 4 day Maui itinerary is incomplete without this epic road trip across the island along the Hana highway, commonly known as the “Road to Hana”. The tagline for this drive is “it’s the journey and not the destination that counts” because with 90 one way bridges, lots of hairpin bends, spectacular waterfalls, arboretums, beaches and blowholes, this is one of the most beautiful journeys that you will undertake. Although I have covered our Road to Hana trip in details in this post, here are a few things to remember while planning this epic road trip, which is one of the top Maui attractions:
a. Road to Hana is a road trip that needs to be savored, thanks to the many beautiful stops along the way that should not be missed just because you have stuffed your itinerary with a gazillion other things that pale in comparison to the beauty of this road trip. Although you could squeeze the entire round trip in a day, I highly advise against doing so. Because of the hairpin bends and one way bridges, driving back to your hotel at night from Hana (which will likely be in the south or west side of the island) is very risky and so I highly recommend staying overnight at Hana. In other words, keep at least 1 day and a half for this road trip to enjoy this experience.
b. Download the Gypsy guide app, which is a super detailed narrating driving tour guide to Hana filled with information and tips on finding hidden gems along the way. This app works offline as well which is great for those patches along the road where there is no wifi signal.
c. Hana is a tiny town with very few hotel options, one of them being a very expensive resort. My road to Hana guide provides information on a great budget lodging option that you should check out along with all other tips and resources to make your drive fun and hassle free.
7) Whale watching tour
Maui is one of the best places in USA to go on a whale watching tour and I highly recommend joining one if you have time to spare. Thousands of North Pacific Humpback whales can be spotted in the warm waters of Hawaii during their annual winter migration from November-May, which is the best time to view them in action. Here are reviews on several whale watching tour companies to choose from when in Maui.
8) Helicopter rides
An aerial view of the lush, green Hawaiian islands replete with waterfalls and jagged coasts is something that is very difficult to pass up. So if you have the time and $$$ to spare, riding a helicopter to get a spectacular view of Maui from up above is not a bad idea, especially to get a glimpse of those hard to reach hidden valleys of West Maui! Sunshine Helicopter tours and Air Maui are two of the top rated tour companies to check out for Maui and Molokai tours.
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Aloha 🌴🌊 Excited to visit Maui for the first time! Started the day with an incredible doors-off 🚁ride to Molokai island (we booked @airmaui and loved them!). Saw whales, waterfalls, even mountain goats … almost made me forget how terrified I was 🙈 Follow along our trip on my Insta Stories! #maui #hawaii #helicopter #vacation #upintheair #molokai #airmaui #soludos #stripes #beach #island #🚁
9) Where to eat in Maui: Top restaurants in Maui
Being a land blessed with fertile soil with vegetation growing from every pore, Hawaii has no shortage or dearth of fresh tropical fruits and veggies and the freshest catch (seafood/fish) imaginable. However, given the Polynesian heritage the diet is very fish and meat centralized, so vegetarians will be left wanting for options, although we did find a few everywhere we went during our four days in Maui.
Hawaiian cuisine is a mishmash of eclectic ingredients borrowed from a population that is a melting pot of cultures, thanks to plantation workers pouring in from China, Japan, Philippines and even Portugal in the past. All these people brought in their indigenous food and style of cooking, which when adapted to island ingredients has given rise to dishes that are unique to Hawaii and must be sampled if you are a foodie with an adventurous soul.
Some of the best food in Hawaii is actually made with Taro (Colocasia esculenta), the edible starchy root vegetable occupies the center of the table and is utilized fully (including the leaves) to make either the sludgy poi or Lau lau (steamed chicken or pork wrapped in Taro leaves). Hawaii is also home to the famous Kalua pork sandwiches here and super tasty fish tacos made from the freshest of catch! Another traditional Hawaiian food is the poke bowl, which is ahi tuna chunks marinated in lime (much like ceviche) and served with different toppings.
A hearty, yet cheap meal would be a “plate meal” with rice, protein and sides as relished by the plantation workers in the past. Do not forget to stop by fruits stands on the way (like the roadside Olowalu juice stop between Kihei and Lahaina) to pick up some freshly squeezed cane juice, tropical smoothies or mango/guava/pineapple bread from a neighboring vendor. Fresh papayas, coconuts, passion fruits, guavas abound while a taste of the Maui Gold pineapple is a must! Finally, quench your sugar craving with some Hawaiian hula pie (an island favorite made of chocolate cookie pie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped mac nuts) or Kona mud pie.
Our favorite restaurants in Maui
We tasted our first poke bowl at Leilani’s on the beach, a super popular restaurant near our hotel on the beachfront (reservations highly recommended), had excellent crab cakes, coconut curry fish at Mama’s fish house (a MUST VISIT with great food and exceptional service although super expensive), mouth watering chocolate chip pancakes, side of papaya and freshly squeezed pineapple juice for breakfast at the super popular Kihei Caffe and a sumptuous dinner of sushi and Ishi Yaki-buri-bop (Korean bibimbap/ fried rice with egg) at the famous Morimoto Maui in Andaz Wailea. Some vegetarian dishes can be made vegan upon request by removing the fried egg.
I hope you enjoyed reading this 4 days in Maui guide and are planning your island vacation sometime soon to see the top Maui attractions! As promised, I have provided a FREE PRINTABLE MAUI ITINERARY for you to download by clicking on the link below. Maui is also the ideal honeymoon destination and you can read this post on Hawaii honeymoon guide for more inspiration. For more on Hawaii and all the things that you need to know before you get there, read this article to plan your travel smoothly! As always, thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your time in Maui to the max!