10 Tips for Visiting Maui That Noone Else Will Tell You

1. Bring your Costco card

If you are like me, you clean out your wallet of cards that you won’t need on your trip. Why carry the extra weight a[and more things to misplace. Not that that ever happens. In your purge, don’t leave your Costco card at home. Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands, is very condo/b-n-b-centric. To service this market, there is a huge Costco very close to the airport (OGG) in Kahului, not to mention a Wal-Mart and a K-mart.

A quick stop at the start of your trip can save you a ton of money on staples like bottled water, Diet Coke and breakfast foods. OK, OK… I take it back. Everyone will tell you this! We also bought a boogie board and an awesome snorkel mask and fins. The later can be rented, but we found buying convenient and relatively cost effective even though we left the board behind.

Related tip: If you plan to snorkel do it!, drop in to Maui dive shop and get a bottle of anti-fog for your mask. Well worth the $5.

2. You’ll need a play list… oh, yah and a car.

If you don’t already live in the tropics, it is likely that you don’t have a summer playlist created for your phone. And even more unlikely that your playlist includes “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” by Hawaii’s Israel Kamakawiwoʻole [aka IZ]. There is joy in finishing your surfing lessons, cranking the summery tunes, and driving with the sun shining on your face.

And trust me, you want a rental car. There is so much to see on the island that is so close to wherever you stay that it would be a shame not to have a vehicle.

Related tip: Bring a USB cable and/or a line-in cable for your music player. Bluetooth is a bear in some rental cars. Plus you’ll want to charger you device.

3. Take advantage of the jet lag

One of the Maui things to do once is see the sunrise at the Haleakala volcano crater. You drive there or take a tour. It is at least an hour drive to the top from even the closest hotels and the parking lot fills quickly, so most people start their trip between 4 and 5am. That may sound brutal, but for most visitors from the North American mainland, that is just a regular wake up time when your body is still on “home time.” Plan Haleakala and other early morning events in the first days after you arrive and use the time change to your advantage

Related tips:

  • It is COLD at 11,000 feet! Pants and a jacket are a must. A blanket isn’t a bad idea either but you’ll look wimpy.
  • A Google Maps search for Haleakala actually gives you the entrance to the park. There is about another 20 minutes of driving past that point to get to the look out.

4. Bring more plastic bags than seems reasonable

Zip locks, garbage bags… they will all get used.

Maui is the damp and tropical. You will be rained on. You will swim. Not only will you get wet; you will get sandy. At some point you will have to store or move those cloths. Bring garbage bags for that.

We used zip-lock bags for storing food. Again, this is the tropics and anything you leave out will be covered in 6 legged creatures by morning. We were on the top story of a fairly high-end hotel and the tinee-tiny ants that seem to be all over Maui still found my cinnamon buns by morning.

Related tip: Our room had a clothesline in the bathtub but because of the humidity drying clothes took forever there. Anything we could tie down we put on the balcony, we wished we’d brought our own line and some wind-battling clothes pegs.

5. If you don’t like the weather, drive

Maui is an island of micro-climates. If you hear someone say “it rained our whole vacation” you can almost guarantee they didn’t get out and look for sun. Set up your weather app with all the major cities on the island.

Related tip: During early spring, the area around Kihei is a good place to look for sun.

6. Shave ice is not the same as a snow cone

If you’ve never had shave ice, you are in for a treat. Look for a shop that sells the real deal. Some of the best are on/near Front Street in Lahaina. You will know when you see the operator using a drill press type device to shave ice off a block of ice. What you get should not be crushed ice. So refreshing.

Related Tip: We also tried “snow.” I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as refreshing as shave ice. Interesting though.

7. You are allowed to be on that beach. Really.

On Maui, at least as I write this no one owns the beachfront. So if you can get there, you can swim there. Our hotel shared a beachfront walkway with several other properties. Apparently, other hotels simply allow people to walk through. There are also many other public access points and parks to get onto the beach.

Each beach is very different, so try a few out during your stay.

Related tips:

  • I loved Big Beach in Makena for boogie boarding and Kaanapali beach for snorkeling, but there are many beaches we didn’t get a chance to see.
  • One way they seem to limit the number of people on a specific beach is to limit the number of public parking spots. Get there early to get onto the beach you want to try.

8. Bring Drugs

Trust me – for a trip to Maui you need drugs: Not those kind! ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Aleve) for the day after your surfing lesson, dimenhydrinate (Dramamine, Gravol) for a your whale watching tour, acetaminophen (Tylenol) for your jet-lag headache, ant-acids for when you try Death in a Bowl loco moco. If you are more armchair athlete than true health nut, your trip will likely kick your butt. Be ready for that.

9. Get outside your comfort zone

Whether it is the heights of Haleakala, taking surfing lessons over coral, traveling the winding road to Hana, or visiting 130 feet below the sea in the Atlantis submarine, try something that makes you a little nervous. You will be glad you did.

10. Nothing happens after 9

Maui is an outdoor activity based island, so once the sun goes down there really isn’t much to do besides eat. I have never been to a place more “early to bed, early to rise.” Plan for that. Visit with other travellers, watch movies your downloaded to your tablet before you left home, or bring a card/board game. Use the down to recharge and connect.

Related Tip: Don’t count on your hotel for wi-fi. In fact, the better your hotel the more likely you will have to pay for each day you use wi-fi. In our case, it would have cost us over $150 on our trip, had we gone that route. Fortunately, besides Starbucks and McDonalds free wi-fi, we also had a Roam Mobility SIM card for my iPhone that provided us with the internet access we needed. It cost us less than a third of the hotel access price and gave us internet access over most of the island.

Question: Frequent Maui visitors, what is your number one piece of advice for first-timers? I’d love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment below.


Greg Tjosvold is a teacher, writer, and innovator. One of the first to crowdsource his biography, he is apparently 12 ft tall, has no body fat, is always polite, and is the only living recipient of an Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Stanley Cup, Pulitzer, and two Nobel prizes (Economics and Break Dancing). He is currently reevaluating the merits of crowdsourcing.

He is the father of two amazing children and currently lives with his wonderful wife in the wilds of suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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