If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re planning a vacation to Maui—yippee for you! If you’re not planning a trip to Maui, you should be! Seriously though, get on it!
Anyways, if you’re even remotely considering a trip to Maui and wondering where to stay, this post is for you. If you’ve never been before, you might be overwhelmed…which part of the island should you stay on? Are some beaches better than others? Are those fancy resorts really worth the money? Will a condo save you big bucks? I’m going to let you in on everything you need to know!
Side note: After you read up on the lay of the is(land) and know which part you want to stay on, check out these posts for recommendations:
Lay of the Land, Maui Style
Maui is kind of a big island (we’re talking 10-12 hours of solid driving to go all the way around, which is just a point of reference because NOBODY drives around the entire island in a day) so don’t underestimate its size when you’re planning your trip. It’s divided into four main regions (West Maui, South Maui, East Maui, and the North Shore/Upcountry area) but only has two resort areas. You’ll fly into Kahului (the most sizable city/town) and this is where Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco are located but you likely won’t spend much time in Kahului once you pick up your rental car and groceries.
West Maui: West Maui was originally developed in the 1960s and remains the most popular place to stay and play on Maui. The old whaling village of Lahaina anchors this area and the Ka’anapali resort area is home to the majority of dining and accommodation options on this side of the island. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive from the airport (in Kahului) to the Ka’anapali/Lahaina area in West Maui.
South Maui: South Maui consists of Kihei (a decent sized beach town with plenty of condo options), Wailea (a more upscale, privately planned resort community), and Makena (the sleepy end of the road region in South Maui). The beaches in South Maui tend to get the most sunshine and are generally less crowded than the ones in West Maui. The resorts in Wailea (the Four Seasons, Grand Wailea, Marriot, etc) are only about a 15-20 minute drive from the airport.
East Maui: East Maui is the most remote side of the island (reached by the Road of Hana) and is usually reached as a day trip as accommodations are limited. While most visitors stay in West or South Maui, East Maui isn’t to be missed and the Road to Hana will likely be a highlight of your trip.
North Shore/Upcountry: The North Shore and Upcountry are the most authentic areas of Maui. This is where the locals live and while you likely won’t stay in this part of the island, you should plan plenty of time to explore this part of the island. Paia, Makawao, and a drive upcountry through Kula to Ulupalakua shouldn’t be missed.
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, you’ll need to decide which part of the island will suit you best. First off, I’ll lay out some pros and cons of the West side vs. the South side before mentioning some more “off-the-beaten-path” options on the North Shore and in Hana.