Renowned for its 30 miles of gorgeous white, red, and black sand beaches, the second-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago is also a prime spot for spotting humpback whales. Discover the best places to eat, drink, sleep, and play, on this gorgeous island.

By Caroline McKenzie

Visit Hawaii’s second largest island for the best of every watersport under the sun. (Many argue Maui is home to the world’s most beautiful beaches.) While there you’ll also want to explore the breathtaking hiking trails and drive the stunning Road to Hana. 

Makena Cove Beach
 M Swiet Productions/Getty Images

The Best Beaches

Red Sand Beach: For one-of-a-kind beach terrain visit Hāna’s Red Sand Beach. (Once in town, you’ll take the walking trail at the end of Uakea Road.) The crescent-shaped beach takes its rusty hue from Ka’uiki Head cinder cone, and its green-tinged waters are just as striking. Fair warning: The hike to Red Sand Beach is strenuous, and the beach itself is clothing optional. (For detailed directions—you’ll need them—go to mauiguidebook.com and search for “Red Sand Beach.”)

Big Beach: Want to catch Maui surfers in action? Spend a day at Big Beach (also known as Makena Beach), which lives up to its name with ample shoreline, impressive waves, and throngs of surfers.

Related: The Best Beaches in Hawaii

Maluaka Beach: In south Maui, Maluaka Beach once fronted the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. With the property recently closed, the crowds have vanished. But the calm waters and supple sand remain.

Road to Hāna
wingmar/Getty Images

The Best Things to Do

Paddle with Whales: Let the folks at Hawaiian Paddle Sports expertly guide you through Maui’s south/west shores. Thanks to warm, protected waters, a large population of humpback whales migrates to the coastal waters around Maui. December through April you’re likely to see the mammoth mammals in droves.

Hike to Incredible Views: Maui possesses an abundance of stunning hiking trails (even by Hawai’i’s high standards), and a standout among them is Waihe'e Ridge Trail. The 2.5-mile trail winds through the windward slope of the West Maui Forest Reserve and culminates in the clouds. Along the way, you’ll encounter lush rainforest, Makamakaole Falls, and, if you’re lucky, the prized ‘Ōhi’a lehua, a powderpuff of a flower that blooms sporadically throughout the year.

Visit a Winery: Take a breathtaking drive through the lush Maui countryside and spend the day at MauiWine. There you can tour the scenic winery and sip one of their twenty wines made at the vineyard. Hitting just the right note is Maui Blanc, a crisp white wine produced from Maui Gold pineapples.

Related: How to Do Maui Like a Local

Drive the Road to Hāna: Regardless of where you book accommodations, you’ll want to take the time to drive the Road to Hāna on Maui’s rugged, unspoiled eastern side. Hāna is less than 60 miles from bustling Kahului, but may take several hours to complete. One lane bridges and hairpin turns abound on the twisting trek, which, of course, is part of the allure.  But don’t make the rookie mistake of driving there and back in a day; stay the night in Hāna and explore Haleakalā National Park. 

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman
Courtesy of Steven Czerniak

The Best Restaurants and Bars

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, Wailea: Amid the buzzy fun of Wailea, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman has everything you want in a hangout: craft beers (many local), an excellent list of wines by the glass, smart cocktails, live music, and lobster deviled eggs.

Kihei Caffe, Kihei: For large portions and a small bill eat at Kihei Caffe. Order the Loco Moco (two eggs, fresh ground beef patty, rice, and brown gravy), and come dinner you may just find you’re still full. Come with cash in hand and be prepared for a line. (Locals promise it will be well worth the wait.)

Mama's Fish House, Paia: Mama's Fish House has been a Maui favorite since 1973. While the buzzy restaurant gained acclaim for its straight-from-the-boat seafood (still a crowd pleaser), locals head to the bar for a splash of retro-tiki charm (and no wait in line).

Tin Roof, Kahului: Chef and owner Sheldon Simeon’s Tin Roof has a small menu and a mere eight bar stools, yet the novel creations are at the epicenter of the Maui food scene. Regulars suggest calling in a streamlined order (Daily Chef Special and a couple of Six-Minute Eggs at just $1 a piece) ahead of time and then eating curbside.

Related: The Best Little Beach Towns in Hawaii

The Best Places to Shop

Driftwood, Makawao: For accessories, shoes, and jewlery capturing island style, check out Driftwood, an airy shop in the artsy upcountry town of Makawao.

Homme by Nature, Makawao: While in the art-forward enclave, hit Homme by Nature. The handsome store is chock full of rugged, made-in-the-USA goods including Ampal Creative ball caps and Shwood sunglasses.

Wings Hawaii, Paia: At Wings Hawaii in Pā’ia, best friends Samantha Howard and Melody Torres create breezy, bohemian clothing and jewelry. Souvenir alert: At $9 a pop, the designers’ “Lucky You” necklace makes an affordable, easy-to-pack Maui keepsake. And don’t leave Pā’ia without a Grateful Dead-fueled check-in at Jammin’ On Maui, an eye-popping marketplace of tie-dye.

Hotel Wailea
Courtesy of Glenn Parry

The Best Hotels and Resorts

Hotel Wailea, Wailea: Tucked into the hillside above the bustle of the beach, Hotel Wailea has 72 rooms spread across 15 lush acres. Guest should plan to “eat in” at least one night at The Restaurant, an elegant island-to-table eatery. (Go all-in on sweeping views with a table on the garden terrace.)

Travassa Hana, Hāna: Travaasa Hana (in Hāna on the northeastern side of the island) features romantic private cottages and an experiential approach that features five different concentrations: Adventure, Culinary, Culture, Fitness, and Spa & Wellness.