Moon Maui

Outdoor Adventures, Local Tips, Best Beaches


By Greg Archer

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Endless stretches of golden sand, legendary surf, and epic outdoor experiences: Discover the spirit of aloha with Moon Maui. Inside you'll find:
  • Flexible itineraries, from your best day in each region to a week-long Maui adventure, with coverage of neighboring islands Moloka'i and Lana'i
  • Strategic advice for backpackers, beach-lovers, adventurers, honeymooners, families, wellness-seekers, and more
  • Outdoor adventures like kayaking, hiking, and scuba-diving, plus the best beaches for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling
  • Top activities and unique experiences: Drive the famous 30-mile Road to Hana or bike through misty hidden valleys. Hike through thick bamboo forests to thundering waterfalls or to the top of a dormant volcano. Snorkel with giant green sea turtles, learn how to catch the perfect wave, or embark on a whale-watching tour. Soak up the electric energy of Front Street in Lahaina, unwind at a luxurious spa, or relax on the sand and watch the sunset with a mai tai in hand
  • The best local flavors: Chow down on fresh fish tacos from a food truck, savor Polynesian cuisine, or try handcrafted pineapple vodka at a local distillery
  • Expert insight from Maui local Greg Archer on how to experience the island like an insider, support local and sustainable businesses, avoid crowds, and respectfully engage with the culture
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on Maui's landscape, wildlife, history, festivals, and cultural customs
  • Handy tools including a Hawaiian phrasebook, packing suggestions, health and safety information, and travel tips for travelers with disabilities, LGBTQ travelers, travelers of color, and families with kids
With Moon's practical tips and local know-how, you can experience the best of Maui.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.

For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.


Maui Wine

a diver swims near a sea turtle



Planning Your Trip


Best of Maui

Best Beaches


Best Snorkeling and Diving

Best Surfing

Best Hikes


Best Historical and Cultural Sites


Best Family Outings


sunset on Napili Bay.

There is a prominent Hawaiian saying about Maui: Maui no ka oi, “Maui is the best.”

The countless stretches of golden sand are an obvious draw, but sand alone doesn’t entice millions of visitors to a dot in the middle of the Pacific. Perhaps it’s more than just the thought of relaxing in a lounge chair with a mai tai in hand. Maybe it’s also the way the trade winds blow across a beach of black sand. Or it’s the hope of a close encounter with a giant green sea turtle while snorkeling off the coast. Maybe it’s the way the setting sun reflects in the waters, both fiery and calm in the same fleeting moment.

Of course, Maui’s magic is also found in the endless adventures to be embraced on the island. Hike through a thick bamboo forest and find yourself at the base of a waterfall cascading down a rocky cliff. Ride your first wave and feel the thrill of the surf as you glide across a silky blue break. Or wake up at 3am and drive up a dark mountainside in the freezing cold to see the first rays of light illuminate Haleakala Crater.

No matter what drew you to the island, the secret to Maui’s allure lies in the many moments that stick with you long after you’ve left it behind.

the art of hula

whale tail


1 Snorkel and Dive: Encounter the island’s vibrant marinelife at offshore spots like Honolua Bay (pictured)—where you might see everything from a sea turtle to a spinner dolphin—and boat-accessible Molokini Crater, the crescent-shaped crater off Maui’s south shore where more than 250 species of fish live.

2 Drive the Road to Hana: A journey down this lush and winding road is a tropical dream filled with beaches, waterfalls, and forest trails.

3 Bask on the Most Beautiful Beaches: Offering abundant beauty and water activities, the world-renowned beaches of Maui beckon.

4 Catch the Views from Haleakala: The great heights of Maui’s majestic dormant volcano provide incomparable views of sunrise, sunset, and the star-studded night sky. Epic opportunities for hiking and biking also await.

5 Surf World-Class Waves: Celebrated for its surf, the island is ideal for everyone from beginners—who get the hang of it at Lahaina Breakwall—to big-wave adventurists, who flock to Ho‘okipa Beach Park and Pe‘ahi, also known as Jaws.

6 Journey to ‘Iao Valley State Monument: An atmospheric drive brings you to this historical park, where a short hike leads you to views of the much-photographed ‘Iao Needle. This spectacular landscape is so remote, it’s believed the bones of Hawaiian royalty are buried in the caves.

7 Hike: From volcanic landscapes to verdant rainforests, Maui’s varied terrain offers dramatic options for the trail-bound.

8 Go Whale-Watching: From December to May, these waters are home to the largest population of humpback whales in the world.

9 Taste Your Way through Upcountry: Sample the offerings of the island’s local producers, from a goat dairy farm to a winery and vodka distilleries.

10 Stargaze in Upcountry: The nighttime sky is so luminous, with the Milky Way so boldly on display, that you feel as if you’re in outer space. Nothing compares to stargazing here.

11 Island-Hop to Lana‘i or Moloka‘i: Other relaxing island getaways are just a short ferry or flight away.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
Lahaina and West Maui

West Maui pulses with a unique coastal vibe. The historic town of Lahaina was once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, and it retains a port town atmosphere. Warm weather and mostly dry conditions make this region a spectacular place for outdoor adventure. Snorkel near sea turtles at Napili Bay, lounge on the beach in Kapalua, ride the zip line above Ka‘anapali, or hike to Nakalele Blowhole.

Ka‘anapali Beach

Central Maui

Central Maui is the island’s population center and the seat of county government. Most visitors blow through town on the way to their beachfront resort, but Central Maui has its own set of sights off the regular trail. The twisting road into ‘Iao Valley is the region’s most popular attraction. Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens exhibits Maui’s multicultural heritage, and down on the shore at Kanaha Beach Park, windsurfers and kitesurfers take to the waves along the stretch of Maui’s North Shore.

Kihei and South Maui

From the celebrity-laden resorts of Wailea to the condo-dwelling snowbirds of Kihei, South Maui is all about worshipping the sun and enjoying the procession of beaches. Makena remains South Maui’s most adventurous area, with snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking trails, kayaking, and some of the island’s most photo-worthy beaches. Just offshore, Molokini Crater offers 100-foot (90-m) visibility and the chance to snorkel with up to 250 species of fish.

Haleakala and Upcountry

Rural, laid-back, and refreshingly cool, Upcountry is Maui’s most underrated zone. Agriculture and produce dominate Kula, and everything from vegetables to vineyards and vodka distilleries, coffee, and goat cheese can be found in this rural and relaxing enclave. Polipoli is the island’s little-known adventure zone, where mountain biking, paragliding, and hiking take place in a forest shrouded in mist. Watch the dramatic sunrise from the frosty peak of towering Haleakala, the sacred volcano from which the demigod Maui famously snared the sun.

East Maui: The Road to Hana

The bohemian town of Pa‘ia is as trendy as it is jovial. Surfers ride waves along undeveloped beaches, patrons shop in locally owned boutiques, and the town is home to some the island’s best restaurants. Along the famous, twisting Road to Hana, tumbling waterfalls and rugged hiking trails await. The Pools of ‘Ohe‘o spill down cliffs to the sea. The hike through a bamboo forest to the base of Waimoku Falls is considered the island’s best trek.


Home to 3,500 residents and one large resort, this island is a playground of outdoor adventure. Learn about the island’s history at the Lana‘i Culture and Heritage Center, and make the journey down to Kaunolu to see an ancient village settlement frozen in time.


Taking time to explore this island offers a chance to experience the roots of native Hawaiian culture. Take a guided tour into historic Halawa Valley, one of the oldest settlements in Hawaii, or enjoy paddling off the sublime southern coast of East Moloka‘i. Watch the sunset from Papohaku Beach, one of the state’s longest and most deserted stretches of sand, or climb your way high into the mists of the Moloka‘i Forest Reserve.

When to Go

Maui isn’t postcard-perfect every day of the year. It might not have four distinct seasons, but it definitely has two—summer and winter. During the summer (May-October), areas such as Kapalua, Kahului, North Kihei, and Ka‘anapali are prone to trade winds that blow most afternoons. While Hana and Kapalua can see rain during summer, Lahaina and Kihei can go six months without a single drop.

During the winter (November-April), there can be plenty of rain. A winter day on Maui can mean light breezes, sunny skies, and a high of 78°F (26°C), but it can also mean cloudy skies and rain. Experienced surfers will have the best chance of finding big surf in winter.

The best, most affordable times to travel to Maui are January 15-30, April 15-June 5, and September 15-December 15. Airfare is cheaper, occupancy rates tend to be lower, and many activities are discounted. The two busiest weeks of the year are over Christmas and New Year’s, and the two slowest weeks are the first two weeks of December. Whale season runs December 15-May 15, with peak whale-watching January 15-March 31. Visiting Maui during May and September gives you the benefit of summer weather with lower prices and fewer crowds.


All flights from the continental United States arrive at Kahului Airport (OGG). Numerous car-rental options are available, and to save money when renting a car, consider renting from an off-site operator rather than a corporate chain. The rates are often much more affordable, and you get the benefit of a local-looking car. During the peak winter season and around Christmas holidays, reserve a rental car well in advance to ensure you get the best price.

The island is most easily explored by car, but if you only plan to stay in the resort areas, consider using taxis instead. With resort parking fees and fuel for the car, it can sometimes be cheaper to take taxis than rent a car. If there’s a specific place you want to visit that requires a car, you can rent one for 24 hours and drop it off when you’re done.

If your schedule is flexible and you aren’t in a rush, the most affordable way to travel around the island is the Maui Bus. You can buy a day pass for only $4, and routes service much of the island.

If you’re staying in West Maui, the small Kapalua Airport (JHM) has daily flights to O‘ahu, which can be convenient if you’re hopping between islands and have a connection in Honolulu. The Hana Airport (HNM) has an afternoon flight that’s just 20 minutes back to Kahului.

Best of Maui

Day 1

Given Hawaii’s time zone, you may wake up before dawn. Take advantage by catching sunrise at Haleakala. Allow two hours of travel from Ka‘anapali or Wailea and plan to arrive 30 minutes before sunrise. Spend an hour hiking into the crater. (Reservations are required for sunrise and can be made online up to 60 days in advance; visitors are allowed to only purchase one sunrise reservation per three-day period.) On your way down, have breakfast at Kula Lodge or La Provence. Spend the rest of the day relaxing poolside. Conversely, spend the day relaxing at poolside, and catch sunset at Haleakala, for a less crowded and similarly beautiful experience, possibly lingering for stargazing. (No reservations are required for sunset.)

Day 2

Tackle another early morning activity such as a snorkeling tour. Tours to Molokini Crater depart from Ma‘alaea Harbor, while boats leave Ka‘anapali Beach for Olowalu or Honolua Bay. Finish by 2pm and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach.

Kula Lodge

Molokini Crater

Day 3

Enjoy Lahaina, ancient capital of the Hawaiian kingdom. Schedule a surf lesson or explore the town’s historic sites. Grab lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise or Cool Cat Café. Then head north to world-famous Ka‘anapali Beach, where you can snorkel, cliff-jump, play in the surf, or rent a cabana. Explore the shops in Whalers Village and dine at Monkeypod Kitchen.

Day 4

Catch the 6:45am ferry to the island of Lana‘i. Book a Jeep about two months prior to your stay and spend the morning exploring. Pick a remote beach such as Polihua, Lopa, or Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach). Then head back to Lana‘i City for a plate lunch at Blue Ginger Cafe.

If you’d rather be hiking, call Rabaca’s for a taxi up into town and the trailhead for the Koloiki Ridge Trail. Explore Lana‘i City before catching a taxi down to Hulopo‘e Beach Park. Snorkel along the reef or relax in the shade with a book. Hike around the corner to the Pu‘u Pehe Overlook, keeping an eye out for the spinner dolphins. Rinse off at the beach shower, grab a drink at the Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i, and get back to the harbor to catch the 5:30pm ferry back to Maui.

Day 5

Sleep in before grabbing a late breakfast. Those staying in West Maui should dine at The Gazebo, followed by a stroll along the Kapalua Coastal Trail. Drive to Kahakuloa, stopping on the way at the Nakalele Blowhole or the beach at Mokulei‘a Bay. If the conditions are calm and you can’t get enough snorkeling, head to Honolua Bay. End the day with happy hour at The Sea House restaurant.

If you’re staying in South Maui, brunch at Kihei Caffe before making the drive to Makena. Spend the day at Maluaka Beach, exploring to the end of the road, and walking the length of Big Beach just before sunset.

Day 6

Drive to Pa‘ia and begin the day with a stroll down Baldwin Beach, followed by breakfast at Café des Amis. Enjoy the Road to Hana at a leisurely pace, taking time to hike to Twin Falls and explore the Ke‘anae Peninsula. Check into your accommodations in Hana and enjoy sunset from Hamoa Beach.

Day 7

Spend the day in rural Upcountry. Enjoy breakfast on the lanai at Grandma’s Coffee House, followed by a stroll down Thompson Road. Drive to Ulupalakua for a midday wine-tasting, and then double back the way you came to the town of Kula and visit Ali‘i Kula Lavender, a sprawling haven filled with 45 varieties of lavender and a gift shop. Or, head to Surfing Goat Dairy for an afternoon with the goats and sampling goat cheese. Since you’re close, stop next door at Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery, Maui’s famous vodka distillery. Finish the day shopping in Makawao and then dinner at Casanova.

residents of Surfing Goat Dairy

Day 8

Gradually make your way toward Kahului Airport. Stop in at the Maui Ocean Center for one last glimpse of marinelife. Continuing on to Wailuku, make the short drive into ‘Iao Valley State Monument to see the famous needle. At Kanaha Beach Park, watch the windsurfers. Think about how you’ll miss Maui—and plan your next visit.

Best Beaches

D. T. Fleming Beach Park

Fleming’s offers some of the island’s best bodysurfing, beachcombing, and coastal hiking. Public restrooms, showers, lifeguards, and parking make this a family-friendly beach. Surfers flock here in winter to tackle the large swells.

Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay

These two northwestern beaches offer protected snorkeling during summer. Swim with sea turtles at Napili and watch the sun go down from the deck of the Sea House restaurant with a drink in your hand.

Mokulei‘a Bay

During summer, there are few better ways to start the day than by snorkeling at Mokulei‘a. Tucked away at the base of the cliffs and hidden from the road, this is also a scenic and sandy spot for watching the large winter surf.

Ka‘anapali Beach

Whether you’re looking for snorkeling, stand-up paddling, cliff-jumping, or scuba diving, you’ll find it at Ka‘anapali Beach. This resort district is the see-and-be-seen shore for the island’s West Side.

Keawakapu Beach

Enjoy a sunset stroll down Kihei’s nicest beach, or spend your days snorkeling, stand-up paddling, or basking in the sun. Keawakapu has facilities on both ends of the beach, but despite the beach’s popularity, there is always room to find your own section of shore.

Maluaka Beach

Maluaka is the most happening beach in Makena, where everything from kayaking to snorkeling and stand-up paddling is available. Public restrooms and showers make this a convenient spot for families, and you can walk down the road to historic Keawala‘i Church.

Makena State Park

Wide, long, and completely undeveloped, aptly named Big Beach is a local favorite that comes alive at sunset. This legendary shore has a lengthy hippie history: countercultural visitors and nudists should visit neighboring Little Beach for Sunday night drum circles.

Big Beach at Makena State Park

Baldwin Beach, Secret Beach, and Baby Beach

These neighboring beaches are a North Shore classic, with Baldwin Beach a local favorite for bodysurfing and scenic jogs or strolls. It’s flanked by Baby Beach, which families with small children will love for its protected cove, and Secret Beach, which draws hippies and nudists.

Hamoa Beach

If your vision of paradise involves a book, a palm tree, and the sound of waves at your feet, you’ll find it at Hamoa Beach, the nicest beach in Hana. Travelers from James A. Michener to Mark Twain have written of the beauty of its sandy shore.

Hulopo‘e Beach Park

This marine reserve on the island of Lana‘i has a sandy cove, a vibrant reef, and a palm-fringed shore. Summer months bring good surfing and bodysurfing and easy access to coastal hiking trails. Public restrooms, showers, and picnic tables make this a family-friendly outing.

Papohaku Beach

On most days your footprints will be the only set in the sand at Papohaku, one of the longest beaches in Hawaii. This westward-facing shore offers Moloka‘i’s best sunsets. It’s perfect for anyone wanting to escape for a little while.

Sandy Beach

Considered one of the best swimming beaches on Moloka‘i, Sandy Beach has a protective reef offshore—perfect for snorkeling—which deflects the crashing surf. After several rocky steps on entering, the shoreline drops off and you’re bathed in clear water.

Best Snorkeling and Diving

Honolua Bay

A world-renowned surf spot during winter, Honolua Bay has the island’s best snorkeling during the calm, warm summer. Hawaiian green sea turtles are a common sight, as are parrotfish, octopuses, and the rare spinner dolphin.

Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay

Within walking distance of each other on the island’s northwestern coast, these two bays offer a sandy entry and shallow, protected conditions. Napili has more turtles, while Kapalua has more fish. Summer is the best time of year for calm and flat conditions.

Pu‘u Keka‘a

The island’s most famous snorkeling spot, also known as Black Rock,


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On Sale
Nov 22, 2022
Page Count
408 pages
Moon Travel

Greg Archer

About the Author

Greg Archer is a freelance writer who has lived on Maui since 2015. He's had the privilege of getting to know his adopted home inside and out; he loves that in just a 20- or 30-minute drive, he can go from a small-town hub to a lush rainforest or the top of a dormant volcano overlooking the entire island. On any given day, you can find him enjoying the island's kaleidoscope of adventures, from kayaking and snorkeling to ziplining and paddle boarding, or seeking out the next best sunset view. The way he sees it, there's something unmistakably magical in the air, the water, the land, and (perhaps especially) the people that trickles down to every experience on the island.

He has written about Maui in a number of media outlets, including the Huffington Post and Jetset Extra, and was an editor for luxury travel magazines such as GuestLife Monterey Bay and Canada South Magazine. His travel writing can be found in AAA's Via Magazine and DRIFT, among others.

Learn more about this author