[Updated June 2018]
While on the West Coast we were fortunate to discover the paradise that is Maui. Vacationing there is just too fantastic to not write about! I am delighted to share all our favorites with you.
We stayed in a area called Wailea which is picturesque, calm and claims to have the best weather of the island. It is a great spot to make your home base where you can relax with the beach, pools, hotel amenities, shops and many great places to eat all nearby. From there you can make many fun excursions too. I do suggest getting a rental car as you’ll want to drive around and explore. We were also told that further north tends to be very windy – good for surfing, less great for young families.
I have included a ton of information below, which might be overwhelming. So here is the one minute summary of the key things and my favorites:
- Rent a car
- Stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani
- Eat at Monkey Pod, Mama’s Fish House, Gazebo Restaurant, Fours Seasons for weekend brunch, and the Kei Lani restaurants (good and easy!). Those are my top picks.
- Go to a luau once (the one at the Grand Wailea is super close to the Kea Lani, pre-book tickets)
- I'd say relaxing, enjoying the ocean views, soaking in the weather and eating great food should be your top priority.
- For a daily schedule, I suggest, breakfast at the hotel, then out on an excursion and back to the hotel mid afternoon for some pool and relaxation time before dinner.
- Submarine tour out of Lahaina or a snorkel trip to Molokini
- Look out for wild chickens... so fun to spot.
WHERE TO STAT
There are many lovely parts to the island, but our favorite is Wailea. It reportedly has the best weather on the island (for instance, the northern sections tend to be windy) and has what we feel is the best ratio of natural beauty/calm and things to do/places to eat.
- Fairmont Kea Lani – The Kea Lani is just great. They have a variety of room options to choose from, from a regular basic room to one bedroom suites with balconies that look out onto vast ocean to 2 and 3 bedroom villas with private terraces that include a plunge pool and grill. When my sister joined us on a trip, we stayed in a 2 bedroom villa which was fantastic. The other times, we always get a Deluxe Ocean Front one bedroom suite where the bedroom is really separate and the sofa pulls out to make a nice bed for our daughter. We splurge on the ocean front view, because to me that is one of the main reasons to go to Hawaii - that ocean view. And that is where the rooms can trump the villas, being higher up the views are better. The hotel and grounds are beautiful, clean and service is stellar. You can walk to the beach from the hotel, or take advantage of the pools. There is a large pool with a slide, with a small 1 foot deep kiddie pool nearby. There is also an adult only pool but views are not as nice from there! Lots of options to eat right at the hotel (kids under 5 eat free) or nearby places, including the other excellent hotels. The hotel is kid friendly, which a kids menu at each restaurant. There is a kids club though we have not tried it yet. Sign up for their free membership as you get some nice perks right away, like free wi-fi and notices of sales, which are sometimes very good.
- I have heard fantastic things about the other 2 large hotels there as well, the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons. If you are up for it, many people also rent out their condos in the area, which might get you a bit more space and probably a kitchen, but you won’t get hotel amenities.
- For a splurge/larger gathering, look into renting a villa. We celebrated some significant family birthdays a couple years ago and rented an fantastic ocean front house that had 4 bedrooms, and every convince of home you could think of, plus a gorgeous pool. Your own private ocean front home experience is hard to beat. Happy to share details on how we found ours with anyone interested.
PLACES TO EAT
Wailea (or nearby)
- Monkeypod – a must!! right up the hill from the The Shops at Wailea Mall. Great locally sourced, sustainable food that’s modern yet island influenced. Our favs: Truffle fries, Poke tacos, Saimin (w/o mint and cilantro), fish and chips, macadamia crusted fish. We never make it to dessert until our last time there when they had a special chocolate salted peanut caramel cream pie – which was amazing. I like their pina colada and my husband loves their Mai Tais..lots of good beers too. Get a table outside to enjoy a great sunset and setting. They have a nice happy hour too.
- Ko at the Fairmont Kei Lani – the lumpia (pork and shrimp) are great, as is the seafood stew (forget what it is called) and lobster tempura.
- Four Seasons Brunch – one of their brunch days they serve pina colada waffles which are so yummy. I ate way too many. We’ve been twice and once they told us there was a special brunch pricing where you get the buffet and all you can drink mimosas and bloody marys – score. You can walk there from the Kei Lani via a nice ocean side path.
- Nick’s Fish Market at The Fairmont Kei Lani
- Humuhumunukunukuapua'a at the Grand Wailea - is known to be good and the setting is gorgeous. By the way, Humuhumunukunukuapua'a is the national fish of Hawaii.
- Sansei – (Kihei) great Japanese food in Kihei, 15-20 min drive from Wailea. Gets really busy.
A little further
- Mama’s Fish House (Paia) – A must!! a long drive (30-40 mins), back near the airport but it is so worth it. AMAZING seafood. Make a reservation. We went for lunch twice on our last visit. My favorite on the menu…whatever fish they have prepared with the “Upcountry style with caramelized Maui onion, avocado and baby bok choy.” – so amazing. If they have the spicy mahimahi soup you should share it – really different and yummy. There is a small beach in front of the restaurant which is fun for the kids to hang at for a little bit - not for swimming though.
- Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina – pretty drive out there) - If you want a local plate lunch, this place is fun. A far drive though, in Lahaina. Worth it if you are going to check out Front St, which feels like a boardwalk, lots of shops and eateries.
- Gazebo Restaurant (Lahaina) - A must!! Further out and completely worth the drive is the Gazebo Restaurant for breakfast/brunch/lunch. The macadamia nut pancakes are insanely good. Insanely good!!! The view is great. Last time we were there during whale season and had a fantastic show of whales jumping in the water as we waiting for a table. Lines do form, so get there early. It is tricky to find. It is tucked away along the water basically inside a condo complex.
- Hali’maile General Store – (Up Country) another far one, but yummy if you are up for the drive.
- Ono Gelato (Paia) – if you go to either Mama’s Fish House or the General Store you’ll drive by Ono Gelato in Paia, which supposedly is great.
- Cafe Mambo (Paia) - we have never been but it comes highly recommended.
Of of these my absolute favorites are: Monkey Pod, Mama's Fish House, Gazebo Restaurant, Four Seasons weekend brunch. Most definitely worth going, likely more than once.
THINGS TO DO
- Beach – I suggest going in the mornings as winds get stronger midday. Polo beach at the Fairmont is a really nice beach with soft sand and tiny crabs which delight everyone young and old.
- Pool – We went in the later afternoon into the evening (happy hour pool side!!)
- Luau – A Luau is fun. They host one at the Grand Wailea on certain nights – book your tickets ahead of time. The show is fun, the food is mediocre and the drinks watered down… but still fun to do at least once. I have heard the one in Lahaina is better but it is a long drive from Wailea and with kids we opted to stay closer and not have a long drive afterwards.
- Ask the hotel for good spots to see sea turtles. We stumbled on one just a couple minute drive past Mama's Fish House. So fun to see.
- The drive to and view from Haleakala is supposed to be amazing, with waterfalls and other gorgeous sites on the Road to Hana along the way to see. We didn’t go as I would get too car sick.
- Helicopter tour – Pricey but amazing. Though I did get motion sick toward the end, which was less fun. We used Blue Hawaiian.
- Whale watch – during the season. We must have seen 30 whales when we went! Including one calf who put on a great show breaching over and over again. Amazing. We booked with Trilogy and were really pleased. The boat was fantastic and they do not overcrowd it, the crew great as well serving a few snacks and drinks (alcoholic drinks available for purchase in the cabin, which is also where the restrooms are). The crew shared great information at certain points of the tour but then mostly let us relax and enjoy the views and whales. I was a little worried at first as I get sea sick, but at no point did I feel any discomfort on this boat! In fact, it felt quite luxurious to sit on the deck relaxing with the wind in my hair and the gorgeous views. I suggest brining a sweater though, in case it gets a bit chilly. You can book on their website, just print your tickets out for boarding. Update: We went on another one and the seas were rough, it you get motion sick, keep that in mind.
- Snorkeling – My husband and daughter loved snorkeling! You can rent gear from the hotels and go straight out from their beaches! Or for better viewing book a boat to go to a snorkeling spot. The company above we used for a whale watch does snorkeling trips. My husband and daughter most recently went on the Signature Deluxe Snorkel trip with Kai Kanani out of Makena and it was fantastic with food and drinks, even hot chocolate for the kids.
- Submarine tour - out of Lahaina with Atlantis Adventures! Such a unique and fun experience. I highly recommend it!! All 3 of us loved it. You take a short boat ride out to the submarine and then board easily. There are 2 rows of seats, both facing out so everyone gets a view. Definitely worth doing at least once.
- You can rent all kinds of water vehicles on the beaches, from kayaks to paddle boards to small group boat rides from the beach at the Fairmont Kei Lani (Polo Beach)
- Aquarium – there is the Maui Ocean Center which I have heard it great but we have never made it there.
- Sugar Cane train – I have heard this is fun, especially for kids, but we never made it.
- Surfing Goat Dairy – another one we never made it too, but have heard good things.
- Shopping (see below)
- Shops at Wailea – a nice stroll, mostly shops you’d find at a nice mall in the US mixed in with a few local ones. I did get a nice pearl ring at a local jeweler and we bought a small sculpture at one of the galleries.
- Front Street – in Lahaina. It is about a 45 minute drive from Wailea, but you could hit a restaurant out there for lunch/dinner or the aquarium which is on the way, to make it more worthwhile. Mostly touristy shops with cheap souvenirs. But it is on the water and fun walk down, though it can get very hot in the afternoon. There is also a jewelry shop, I think called the Green Mango, that carries cuff bracelets made with vintage kimono fabric that are super cool. Both my sister and I got one.
- Town of Paia – cute, small downtown with shops and places to eat. There is a great local natural grocery store, Mama Foods which is great to stop up on snacks and fruit. You’d be close if you go to either Mama’s Fish house or The General Store.
- Four Seasons Hotel – hosts local artists in their lobby showcasing their creations. We got an amazing wood carving and were very temped by some pottery.
- All of the hotels have a few shops that are fun to poke around in.
- Rent a car. It is easy to drive to many excursions and it is nice to have the freedom. Take a look at a map to orient yourself. Next to Wailea is Kihei which has more shops and farmer’s markets. Further east/north is Lahaina. Head back North from Wailea and you’re heading back toward the hotel and up toward Paia. It is really straightforward.
- Bring sunblock, especially if you want specific brands as they can be pricey or hard to find there. Be sure it is reef friendly! I am a big fan of COOLA.
- Groceries/Snacks – if you need more than what your hotel can provide, there is a Safeway a short drive away from the Kea Lani. It's a fun place to load up on local treats too! You'll also find Whaler's General Store in various spots which has a great basic selection of snacks and drinks.
- My suggestion for most of your days there:
- Beach in the morning before it gets too windy and hot. The mornings offer sunshine, calmer waters and perfect temps.
- Eat lunch away from the hotel and couple it with an excursion
- Chill in your room for a little while to let everyone recuperate a bit
- Head to the hotel pool late afternoon so you and the kiddos can get some more water time in. Also, poolside means poolside services, which means happy parents! I sort of OD on Pina Coladas while in Maui.
- Dinner at the hotel or nearby as everyone will be getting tired (Luckily, there are many great choices!)