Let’s be honest, you could sit idly in the sand for seven days straight and still have a perfect week in Maui. A Hawaiian island so famously bucolic that it’s become catnip for honeymooners and filmmakers alike, this is the rare place that lives up to all those paradise cliches and expectations. Plus, who wouldn’t want to stay at the place where The White Lotus was filmed? So yeah, it’s not hard to have a dreamy time on the Valley Isle, so nicknamed for the fact that most residents and businesses reside in the lush valleys sandwiched between the island’s two soaring mountain ranges.
But even still, you’d be remiss not to at least try and pry yourself away from the Splenda-white beaches or pool cabanas for a day or two — or seven. With so much to see, do, sip and scarf, Maui is teeming in cultural and culinary abundance, from epic volcanic hikes (don’t worry, they’re dormant…mostly) and whale watching to Disney-worthy Dole Whip, sushi feasts and adrenaline-jolting water sports. Oh yeah, and this is the only place in the world to permanently exhibit art from Sir Anthony Hopkins, so you can go channel your inner Clarice Starling and then treat yourself to a mai tai.
What to do in Maui: 7-day itinerary
Stay: The Westin Maui Resort and Spa
A good home base in Maui is the Kāʻanapali Beach area of the island, on the west side. Conveniently close to myriad shopping, dining and outdoorsy adventures, it’s also a region filled with all manner of resorts, lodges and hotels — and the glam Westin Maui Resort & Spa ticks all of those aforementioned boxes. It’s the kind of chic beachside resort where guests are greeted by literal flamingos in the lobby-side lagoon, before ascending to their terrace-clad room overlooking multiple pools and the beach. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag a suite in the redesigned Hokupa’a Tower, where views are the most sweeping, and where guests of that particular tower have exclusive access to the posh all-day Lanai, equipped with infinity pools and all the cocktails you can drink.
Soar: UFO Parasail
Not only is the Kāʻanapali Beach area a great place to luxuriate and lounge, but it’s also a great place to conquer your worst fears, like the irrational anxiety of plunging 500 feet into the open ocean. Fear not, though, because parasailing is a time-tested rite of passage in Maui, and outfitters like UFO Parasail know how to ensure a fun — and safe — time. For sailings, guests convene on the beach before heading out into the breezy bay for an hour of aquatic adrenaline (guests typically go up in twos, and each pair gets a good 15 minutes of airtime).
Pro Tip: The shocking thing about parasailing is that, as soon as you ascend, everything becomes oddly quiet and still. The whole ride is unexpectedly smooth, but the same can’t be said of the speedboat itself. Expect choppy water and a lot of motion on your way out to sea and back, which might necessitate Dramamine if you’re prone to motion sickness. Oh, and sunscreen is always essential in Hawaii, but doubly so if you’re going to be on the water for an extended period of time.
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All that adrenaline necessitates a bit of the complete opposite: a bit of luxury by the pool. Cabana culture is very real in Maui, with numerous bougie options at beachside resorts all over the island, but fortunately the Westin has some of the best. There’s an upper adults-only pool deck for optimal serenity, where spacious shaded cabanas come equipped with refrigerators, waiter service, lounge chairs and over-sized TVs so you can binge Netflix while bingeing poké bowls. If you time it right, staffers occasionally make the rounds with cute little cups of free ice cream.
In case you didn’t overdo it on poké by the pool, you can meet your quota at dinner. Waicoco is the Westin’s premiere restaurant, helmed by celebrity chefs Chris Kajioka and Mourad Lahlou, where contemporary Hawaiian cuisine puts on quite a show — almost as much as the nightly fire-dancing ceremonies that take place right along the terrace. The chic and breezy restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, starting with the likes of bananas Foster French toast and gravy-slathered loco moco in the morning, followed by beef lumpia, teriyaki salmon, kimchi fried rice and volcanic spice-seared tuna at night. There’s also golden beet poké, for a vegetal riff on island tradition, while standout cocktails include the Basil-Coco with a downright restorative blend of gin, aloe, basil, coconut and lime.
Do: Gallery-Hop on Front Street
There are a lot of iconic sights and flavors that come to mind when one envisions Maui. Whales, beaches, pineapples and palm trees might all come to mind, for instance. But art from Sir Anthony Hopkins is…less expected. At Maui’s Harte International Galleries, one of numerous galleries sprawled along Front Street in Lahaina, you’ll find the one and only space on Earth to permanently exhibit paintings from the actor who was so good at convincing everyone he was a cannibal that he won an Oscar for it. Along with other heavyweights like Picasso, Dalí and Rembrandt, Hopkins has his own little room in the gallery, filled with vibrant imagery and pieces with titles like “Through The Looking Glass” and “Fly Me To The Moon.” Elsewhere on the bustling thoroughfare, numerous other galleries include Kingswell Island Art, Evo Art Maui and Daryl Millard Gallery.
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Slurp: Star Noodle
When it comes to iconic island foods in Hawaii, noodles are as requisite as poké. Conveniently, one of the buzziest noodle nooks in Maui is just down Front Street, so you can go slurp up some spicy ramen once you’ve had your gallery fill. Open since 2010, Star Noodle is a rightful mainstay for its effortlessly hip, oceanside vibe and its smattering of hearty Polynesian, Japanese and Hawaiian flavors. All noodles — including ramen, udon and saimin — are house-made, with brothy options like the Hot N Sour ramen with chili lime dashi, smoked prosciutto, shrimp, cilantro, Thai basil, bean sprouts and fried garlic, or the Local Saimin with wafu-dashi broth, spam, soft-boiled egg and scallions. Other tasty tidbits include rice noodle rolls with scallops and shrimp in black bean sauce, adobo ribs and char-broiled miso salmon.
Bask: Kāʻanapali Beach
You can’t come to Maui and not spend hours — if not days — basking on the beach. Especially when you have such elite sands as Kāʻanapali Beach, the most popular oceanfront alcove on the west side of the island and one of the best in the entire country. As postcard-perfect as they come, this is a three-mile beach lined with resorts, cabanas, water sports and, most importantly, the silkiest white sands juxtaposed by Maui’s cobalt-blue waters. Great for sun-bathing, swimming and snorkeling, the widest stretch of the beach is towards the northern tip, where Black Rock looms over the ocean and serves as a natural diving board for anyone brave enough to try cliff-jumping — the water is warm and plenty deep enough for it, just be careful scampering up the slippery rocks.
Snack: Black Rock Shave Ice
After leaping off Black Rock, treat yourself to an idyllic afternoon snack, Hawaii-style. Black Rock Shave Ice is a counter-service spot at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, offering more than 30 flavors of traditional Hawaiian shave ice, wherein huge blocks of crystalline ice are shaved to-order into fluffy heaps and drowned in tropical syrups like guava, mango and lilikoi. The sleeper hit here, though, is the Dole Whip, a pineapple-flavored soft-serve ice cream only found at Disney World, Disneyland and Hawaii.
Dive In: Teralani Sailing Charters
In Maui, there’s no better way to rise and shine than by leaping off a catamaran into a lagoon filled with sea turtles — as long as you remember not to touch said turtles, lest you incur a hefty fine. For such an experience, book a snorkel tour with Teralani Sailing Charters, which operates off Kāʻanapali Beach and takes large groups to secluded grottos where the water is calmer and the turtles are as cute as seafaring Beanie Babies. Each outing includes breakfast (usually croissant sandwiches and surprisingly superlative cinnamon rolls, by catamaran standards), wholesome lunch, and after your first snorkel stop, an open bar. While swimming, be on the lookout for swarms of tropical fish and the occasional elusive octopus.
Pro Tip: While out on the water, keep your eyes peeled for larger marine animals. Maui is a frequent stopover for migrating whales, especially from mid-November through May, when the gentle giants commonly pass through. Peak season is January through March, when the whales are so prolific that locals refer to the bays as “whale soup.” Whether you’re on a boat or on the shore, you won’t have any trouble spotting them. Humpback whales are the headliners, but other whales known to traverse the Maui waters include pilot whales, dwarf sperm whales, killer whales, false killer whales (imposters!) and the almost mythically large — and rarely seen — blue whale.
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Learn: Whalers Village Museum
If simply looking at whales in slack-jawed awe wasn’t enough, there’s a full-blown museum dedicated to the mammoth creatures right off Kāʻanapali Beach. An immersive way to learn more about Maui’s most famed species (and not to mention the largest animals on Earth), Whalers Village Museum features exhibits and displays that dive deep into the world of whales, from their bone structure and feeding habits to their migration paths and the harrowing history of whaling off Maui — brace for Moby Dick vibes. Scattered all around the shopping complex that is Whalers Village, you’ll find additional displays detailing Maui’s whales and all the nuances that make each one unique.
Imbibe: Monkeypod Kitchen
If there’s one thing Maui is known for, it might be whales. But if there’s a second thing, a close runner-up is the mighty mai tai. While the tropical rum drink technically wasn’t invented in Hawaii, there’s no doubt it was perfected here — and then refined even further at the mai tai mecca that is Monkeypod Kitchen. With two Maui locations, including one in Whalers Village, the popular restaurant and bar is the rare breed that is equally beloved by tourists and locals alike, who can all surely agree that the signature mai tai is the real deal. As beautiful as it is tasty, it’s made with two different rums, lime juice, orange curaçao and housemade macadamia nut orgeat, just to double down on the Hawaii-ness of it all. It’s all topped off with an airy plume of honey-lilikoi foam.
Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than the kind you’ll find in Maui. Case in point: the absolute kaleidoscope of lustrous maki and nigiri served at Japengo. A stunner of a restaurant, overlooking an infinity pool and reliably mesmerizing sunsets from its oceanfront corner of the Hyatt Regency Resort, the modern Polynesian restaurant does both surf and turf extremely well, but it’s the ladder that you’re gonna want to prioritize. Sushi is presented as quite the spectacle, with larger orders arriving on wooden vessels that look like Noah’s Ark shrunk down to dollhouse size. There’s also curry-dusted calamari, seafood yaki udon and a prawn and mango salad. Just make sure you don’t miss the malasadas with lilikoi butter and vanilla-macadamia sauce.
Stargaze: Rooftop Astronomy
As luck would have it, the same hotel that houses Japengo also houses the only recreational telescope on the island! In fact, the Hyatt Regency Resort employs a full rooftop astronomy program on the ninth floor, where guests are able to book nighttime astronomy lessons with on-site astronomer — and NASA Solar System Ambassador, no big deal — Edward J. Mahoney. Thanks to Maui’s dark night skies, free of most light pollution found on some other islands (cough cough, Oahu), it’s a prime place to drink it all in, while looking through a NASA-quality telescope and learning from an astro-pro.
Shop: Living Earth Systems Farm Stand
Only in Maui will your morning farmers’ market routine come with giant tortoises. As you embark away from the resort-filled west side of the island, stop off at the farm stand from Living Earth Systems, just outside of Lahaina. Provisions are 100% farm-grown and regenerative, and run the gamut from coconuts and bananas to taro, breadfruit, Tahitian limes and star fruit. You can also pick up some fresh-squeezed juice and mingle with giant tortoises, who have been known to waddle around the market munching on papaya. The farm stand is open Wednesday-Friday, as well as Sunday.
Hike: Waihe’e Ridge
Drive up across the central valley to reach the north shore of Maui and embark on one of the most staggeringly scenic hikes on the island. The Waihe’e Ridge trail is a 4.2-mile out-and-back trek that features steep ascents, soaring forests and sweeping, lush valleys that look straight out of Jurassic Park. Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen, and take it slow, not only to moderate your breathing at these high elevations, but to savor the panoramic views of the volcanic mountains and ocean vistas.
Eat: Tin Roof
After burning off 50,000 calories, you’ve earned yourself a boatload of macaroni salad. Fortunately, a Hawaiian comfort food mecca is a stone’s throw away. Tin Roof is a love letter to his home state from celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon, who cooks up authentic island eats like lunch plates, garlic noodles, saimin and chocolate mochi cake with peanut butter and sprinkles. Whatever you do, don’t skip the mac salad, a melange of potato, macaroni and eggs that puts mac & cheese to absolute shame.
Go Thrifting: Vintage Shops
The north-central part of Maui also happens to be a thrifting epicenter, with numerous vintage shops scattered throughout the area. A bargain-lover’s paradise, the region is like a veritable scavenger hunt for antiques, housewares, accessories and one-of-a-kind apparel. Examples include Antique Freak, where far-flung items range from throne-like chairs and voodoo dolls to wooden totems and bedazzled machetes. Nearby, Bird of Paradise Unique Antiques sells exactly that, including singular provisions like cigar humidors, blown glass, Hawaiian records and mid-century furniture. Then there’s C.U.T. Market, a self-described “preloved clothing boutique” in Wailuku, slinging affordable fashion, shoes, bags and apparel for both men and women.
Stay: Kula Lodge
As you embark towards the east side of the island, where the volcanoes rise over the ocean like molten skyscrapers, it’s time to immerse yourself in nature. The most idyllic home base for this next phase is the historic Kula Lodge, a hilly property that first served as a private residence in 1948, before growing and morphing into five guest lodges with two restaurants, gardens and a market. The cute cottages look like total fairy tales, nestled in the trees and gardens, with cozy wooden confines and vast views of the ocean, the mountains and nearby islands like Molokai. Each cottage is unique, but all feature private lanais and most come with stairs or ladders leading up to lofted bedrooms.
Hike: Haleakalā National Park
The show-stopping attraction on the east side of Maui is Haleakalā National Park, a place of epic hikes, volcanic craters and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Spanning more than 30,000 acres, and rising above 10,000 feet in elevation at the apex of Haleakalā volcano, this place is a hiker’s heaven. The most visited portion of the park is the Summit District, home to the namesake volcano Haleakalā, a shield volcano so massive that it comprises more than 75% of all of Maui. There are numerous trails that zig and zag in and out of the colossal crater, each with varying lengths and difficulty levels. A favorite is the Halemau’u Haleakalā Overlook Trail, a nearly eight-mile out-and-back that includes a meandering descent into the enormous crater, before culminating near Hōlua Campground amidst a sea of gnarly volcanic rock. Along the way, look out for nēnēs, a rare goose — and the state bird — that is only found on the Hawaiian islands. Almost always seen in pairs, they’re not shy about hissing at passersby who come too close.
Pro Tip: Be prepared for significant changes due to elevation at the national park. Located atop a high mountain road that rises above the rest of the island, don’t be surprised if the temperature up here is 20 degrees cooler than the rest of Maui. Dress accordingly, be mindful of your breathing, take your time on the trails, drink more water than you think you need, and overdo it on sunscreen.
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Drink: Mahalo Ale Works
Since trail beers at such oxygen-thin elevations probably aren’t a great idea, you’re better off paying a visit to a local brewery after you’ve left the park. Fortunately, Mahalo Ale Works is just down the mountain, in the upcountry hamlet of Makawao. Lofty and rustic-chic, the bi-level taproom serves a bevy of rotating beers on tap, from pineapple sours and mango-infused gose to farmhouse saisons and black IPAs. There’s also periodic live music and Upcountry Sausage Co. parked on the lanai for all your sausage and smash burger needs.
Right next door to Mahalo Ale Works, Marlow is the perfect place to carbo-load for any volcanic crater adventures. The handiwork of chef Jeff Scheer, who presides over a mighty 900-degree wood-burning oven like a pizza wizard, the sleek restaurant is famed for its blistered sourdough pies, farm-fresh ingredients and delicate seafood dishes. Plates and pizzas change seasonally and frequently, but examples might include a white pie strewn with local zucchini, Parmesan cream sauce and garlic confit, or a spicy red arrabbiata version sweetened with lilikoi butter. Round it all out with some wood-fired Kauai prawns, cioppino and gelato made from local Kula strawberries.
Rise and Shine: Haleakalā National Park
You haven’t seen a sunrise until you’ve preempted the crack of dawn at Haleakalā National Park. In fact, the national park is so popular for sunrise that it literally requires reservations, which become available 60 days in advance. You’d have an easier time snagging tickets to a Taylor Swift concert, but it’s worth the hassle — and the bright-and-early alarm — to see sunrise from one of four viewing locations: Pu`u Ula ula at 10,023-feet, the Haleakalā Visitor Center, the Kalahaku Overlook, and the Leleiwi Overlook, the latter of which entails a 10-minute hike from the parking lot. No matter where you choose, rest assured that the views will be mind-blowing, and you’ll be ruined on all other sunrises forever.
Drive: Road to Hana
Since you’ve already been awake since 3 a.m. and you’re running on pure sunrise-fueled adrenaline, it’s an apt time to explore the rest of the national park via the iconic Road to Hana. Otherwise known as the Hana Highway, this is a 64-mile scenic drive that hugs the north and eastern coasts of Maui, linking Kahului to Hana. Despite the abbreviated mileage, it’s a trek that can take several hours due to numerous winding roads, narrow one-lane bridges and likely tourist traffic, driving slowly though dense rainforests to drink in the views. You’re welcome to do the drive on your own, or book a guided tour, which includes a ton more local insight and allows you to ogle the scenery without having to white-knuckle the steering wheel.
Explore: Kīpahulu District
At the end of the Hana Highway, which is the only route to reach it, the remote wilderness of Maui’s Kīpahulu District provides sanctuary and serenity in the form of waterfalls, bamboo forests, babbling brooks and frequent rainbows. Hotter and more humid than the rest of the island, with an atmosphere that hews more like a tropical rainforest, the most popular trek out here is the four-mile Pīpīwai Trail, through a bamboo forest and past Makahiku Falls and Waimoku Falls.
Snack: Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread
What Boston cream pie is to Boston and beignets are to New Orleans, banana bread is to Maui. Fresh-baked loaves are found across the island, from farmers’ markets and chef-driven restaurants to roadside stands and cafes. The cream of the crop, though, is Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread, a pivotal pitstop along the Road to Hana that’s been slinging sweet slices since 2003. Utilizing the same familial recipes from Aunt Sandy Hueu, the adorable cafe is beloved for its warm, fluffy banana bread sold in small loaves just begging to be slathered in passion fruit butter — which the shop conveniently sells in jars.
Feast: Maui’s Finest Luau
You can’t come to Maui and not partake in a luau, a cultural feast for all the senses. These nighttime, torch-lit traditions can be found all over the island, exemplified by popular fixtures like the aptly dubbed Maui’s Finest Luau on the northern coast. The oceanfront dinner show features ritualistic Hawaiian fire dancing, music, hula dancing and an all-you-can-eat feast of traditional Hawaiian food, like roasted Kalua pig, barbecue chicken, short ribs, chow mein, macaroni salad, rice, sweet rolls, mochi doughnuts and banana cake. The venue is BYOB, so bring your tipple of choice to pair with provided fruit juices and seltzers.
Stay: Four Seasons Resort at Wailea
The best way to stage your own grand finale experience in Maui is by staying at The White Lotus — or rather, the hotel where the HBO show was filmed. It’s really the best of both worlds at the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea: all the magical, jaw-dropping beauty of The White Lotus, minus the murder. The sprawling oceanfront retreat comes fully loaded with all the decadent Hawaiian fanfare, including an adults-only infinity pool, luxe suites, private cabanas, open-air massages under thatched treatment huts, a mountainside golf course and even its own private airport, complete with a fleet of private planes that look fit for Jennifer Coolidge.
Swim: Mākena State Park
A seashell’s toss from your private cabana at the Four Seasons, Mākena State Park is a haven of all-natural awe on Maui’s southern tip. Particularly renowned for its beaches, the park protects one of the longest stretches of undeveloped beachfront in Maui, free of traffic, shops and hotels that typically flank the island’s shores. Ideal for a quieter escape and a dip in the ocean, the park contains both Big Beach and Little Beach, connected via a short seaside trail. Some key differences between the two are that Big Beach is more prized for its surfing and boogie boarding, and swimming and snorkeling when the waters are calm enough. Little Beach has reliably calmer waters that are ideal for swimming and wading, but it’s also an unofficial nude beach, so do with that what you will.
Eat: South Maui Fish Company
Poké is so prolific in Maui that it can be found anywhere, from farmers’ markets to fancied restaurants. Food trucks are also a common sight, and one of the best on the island is the South Maui Fish Company. As the website proclaims, “our fish comes in with the tides,” signaling the serious locality and sustainability of the truck, which sells out on a daily basis. Poké is sold by the bowl, the bento and the pound, with customizable fixins and flavors like shoyu marinade, sweet onions, tobiko and wasabi seeds. There are also fish tacos, grilled fish bento boxes and sides like pineapple-coconut slaw, macaroni salad and pickles.
Tour: Kona Coffee Helicopter Tour
If you’ve got $16,950 to burn, and/or five friends willing to split the bill, then book a helicopter tour with the Four Seasons. The epic outing includes a private charter flight to the neighboring Big Island, where up to six guests will enjoy a Kona coffee tour and tasting at Bolton Estate. All in all, it’s probably a wee bit pricier than your typical Starbucks spend, but the opportunity to take a private flight to the nexus of American coffee is a pretty once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Cheers: Lehua Lounge
For a final nightcap in Maui, drink in the sunset views — and the tropical cocktails — at Lehua Lounge at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. The majestic open-air bar, so named for a native lustrous Hawaiian flower, boasts scenic ocean views, outdoor fire pits, trickling waterfalls and live music. It’s also got some of the best and brightest cocktails in Maui, like the Kona Squall with aged rum, bourbon, macadamia nut and mole bitters, and masterful Boulevardiers kissed with orange oil. Plates, meanwhile, include pork belly bao buns, ahi tuna poké, Wagyu burgers and Hawaiian-style hot chicken with papaya slaw and pickled pineapple.
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