Having been to four of the Hawaiian Islands, the island I always find myself returning to is Maui. Each of the others has its charms, but Maui, simply put, is something special. It has green and lush areas like Kauai, volcano and desert areas like Kona and it has some excellent surfing like Oahu. What separates this island from the others is it has ALL these features and more.
From secret waterfalls and lots of snorkel sites off the shore to pulse-pounding ziplining, delicious craft beers and mouth-watering fresh fish tacos, Maui has something for everyone.
Invariably, the next question is, "Where do I stay?"
The most popular areas to stay in Maui are the northern or southern towns on the west side of the island. Each has its own "vibe" and features its own special flavor of Hawaiian adventure. The northern towns feature world-class golf, huge resorts, zipline adventures and world-class fishing. There are a few great beaches, but the northern towns are known more for their rugged cliffside beauty.
The southern towns are sunnier, drier and offer more beach options. The southern town of Kihei has a laid-back feel and features lots of condos where you will find a good mix of locals and visitors. To go full luxury, simply venture five miles down the road from Kihei to Wailea where everything is manicured. You'll find Epicurean delights and high-end shopping. Personally, I stay in Kihei at the Royal Mauian condo complex. It's flanked by two gorgeous beaches for swimming, paddle boarding and kayaking. It fronts a rocky outcropping that houses coral, fish and a whole crew of friendly turtles. I rent a condo instead of a hotel room because having my own kitchen saves money by cooking my meals instead of eating out three times a day. So choose your best fit and book your spot. Don't worry about picking one locale over another, because a quick hour drive and you are at either area.You can easily Google the top 10 things to do in Maui and hope they are everything the search says it is, but having been there multiple times, I've done most of the highlights. Here are my top picks as well as insider tips for making these visits easier and more enjoyable.
Best snorkeling: Honolua bay. Tips — get there early, like 7 a.m., due to limited parking and bring $5 to cross the local Hawaiian's front yard. On a calm day, there is no clearer or calmer water for snorkeling and the variety of coral and fish is unparalleled. It's worth the drive.
Coolest Vibe: Paia. Tips — Spend a half-day at this surfer's delight of a town. Paia features lots of local artists, small boutique shops and uncrowded beaches. Very organic, natural and chill. There will be dreadlocks! Watch the surfers and/or kiteboarders tackle the waves at Ho'okipa Beach Park.
Sunrise over Haleakala. Tips — Make a reservation (its required now), and take layers of clothes as it is cold up there! You will feel like you are on top of the world, and watching a sunrise here is truly awe-inspiring. You can also bike down the volcano if so desired. www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm.
Ziplining: Ka'anapali. Tips — I have gone several times and always with Skyline 'Eco-Adventures Ziplining out of Ka'anapali. They are a first-rate company that makes you feel safe while also having an exhilarating blast! The views of the ocean as you fly between the mountain peaks is something you will not forget. www.zipline.com/kaanapali.
Food: Favorites are lunch of fresh fish tacos at the Taco Truck on Alanui Ke'ali'i Drive in Kihei and breakfast at the iconic Kihei Café.
Beaches: For adventure and huge swaths of open sand, head south to Big Beach at Makena, but beware of the waves and undertow in the afternoon. Bring shade as you won't find much here. Families love the Kamaole beaches in Kihei with picnic areas and grills for gathering big groups. Napili Beach up north features a crescent shaped bay and calm, clear and swimmable waters.
Shopping: For the biggest variety of cool shops, visit Lahaina. While there, you must see the 144-year-old Banyan tree that takes up an entire block and then, walk down the boardwalk with ice cream from Banyon Treats. For truly upscale shopping, head to Wailea shopping center. Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada are just a few of the choices here.
Adult beverages: It's worth a visit to the Maui Brewing Co., tasting room in Kihei. There's a huge selection of craft beer to try, and the view overlooking the hills and ocean just makes the beer tasting better!
There are so many more things to do on Maui. This is why it truly is an island for everyone of every income and activity preference. So, when in doubt, choose Maui! Aloha.
Lila Reed has traveled to 30 US states and nine countries. She is also a resort secret shopper and has 30 years of experience as a business owner. Follow her travels at www.magicmomenttravel.com.