With a scenic coastline, charming beach towns and hidden waterfalls in tropical rain forests, Maui is one of the most picture-perfect islands in Hawaii. And more travelers are flocking there than ever before. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, visitors increased by 7 percent so far in 2018 (since the same time last year).
If you plan on heading to Maui this summer, when temperatures are in the high 80s, you can beat winter’s high season prices (but expect more crowds — you’re not the only one who’s looking to save). Whether you want to budget or splurge on a luxury trip, here are the best places to stay, eat, play and see on this Hawaiian island.
Save: The Plantation Inn in Lahaina is a best-kept secret. The adults-only (18 and older) bed and breakfast is intimate, with 18 colorful rooms, a sunny courtyard with a pool and an award-winning French restaurant, Gerard’s, known for his baby spinach and scallop salad ($16) and Confit of Duck ($39). It’s just steps from famed Front Street, which is lined with boutiques, restaurants and art galleries, and a mile from Baby Beach. Doubles start at $200 per night.
Splurge: In the tony beach town of Kapalua, Montage Kapalua Bay is a stately, 50-room resort where guestrooms start at 1,000 square feet (translation: they’re huge), equipped with balconies and gourmet kitchens. Additionally, there’s an outdoor spa, restaurant and a multi-tiered pool, and the beach (with complimentary towels and chairs) is just steps away. Doubles start at $1,325 per night.
Save: If you’re famished after your flight, or need a quick bite before you leave town, Like Poke? is a locals’ favorite food truck less than a mile from Maui International Airport. Equipped with bench-style seating, Like Poke? serves heaping portions of daily, fresh-caught poke (a fish salad served cooked or raw like sashimi), along with rice and greens for $12 a plate. (Yes, that’s actually cheap for Maui.) Poke originated from Hawaii, and it remains a popular dish.
Splurge: A magnet for honeymooners, families and gourmands, Mama’s Fish House is the most romantic restaurant in Maui, and it’s also the most famous (you’ll need to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance). Situated on a quiet beach facing the sunset, this rustic, al fresco seafood restaurant is known for fish caught literally hours ago, as well as other dishes like crab cakes and wasabi-crusted calamari. A meal for two with drinks averages $250.
Save: Due to Maui’s beautiful landscape, many vacationers opt to see the island from an aerial perspective, flying over diverse terrain, from sandy beaches to rugged mountains. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters offers 50-minute, guided helicopter tours of Maui visiting popular, natural attractions like sprawling national parks. Prices start at $259 per person. If that’s too steep, head to Haleakala Crater, the highest volcano in Hawaii. The summit at 10,000 feet is a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts who congregate for either sunrise or sunset with the sprawling backdrop of Haleakala National Park. You can drive to the summit with your own rental car but allow for at least two to three hours’ drive, depending on what part of the island you come from. Sunrise entrance fee is $1.50. For both sunrise and sunset, you must make a reservation in advance.
Splurge: With Maui Flight Academy, visitors can literally fly a private jet with a licensed pilot sitting shotgun (these instructional planes have dual-flight controls). You can choose from several destinations (like Hana or Pearl Harbor), and they generally last about an hour long. Mimimum age is 10. Prices start at $699 for up to three people.
Save: Maui has a variety of cool, hip neighborhoods, like Kihei, where you can find a large concentration of young locals and ex-pats. Vibe bar and nightclub gets packed on weekends, but you’ll find a more casual cocktail scene on weeknights. Beers start at $4, cocktails at $7. Come at Happy Hour (6-9 PM) for $5 well drinks and $5 signature cocktails.
Splurge: The upscale lobby lounge at Four Seasons Maui is a breezy, ocean-front spot that’s become popular for its live Hawaiian music and hula dancers every night at sunset. It’s a great place for expensive cocktails, like the $260 Maui Elite martini with Remy Martin Louis XIII, Stoli Elit vodka, local honey and local sugar cane. The people watching is worth a visit alone, especially for the celebrities that check in, like Jessica Alba.
Save: A rite of passage for first timers to Maui, the Road to Hana is a long, curvy road hugging the eastern coastline and snaking through rain forests with spectacular ocean views and sheer-drop cliffs. Throughout the 68-mile drive, stop off at many designated areas where short hikes lead you to hidden, cascading waterfalls. Renting a car can start at $28 a day on Kayak.
Splurge: Catch the sunset on your own privately hired luxury yacht. Visitors can book a charter through Maui Yacht Charters (approximately $1,100 per hour up to six passengers). It’s a terrific way to explore the coastline and visit more secluded spots for snorkeling, scuba diving and dolphin and whale spotting — without being crammed into a crowded charter.