An insider’s guide to Maui, Hawaii

Theresa Christine


The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands and arguably one of the most beautiful. It is also called the "Valley Isle" for the large isthmus separating its Northwestern and Southeastern volcanic masses. Let's explore the island from an insider's perspective.

Say Aloha to Luxury

During the construction of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, workers discovered ancient burial ground. They then adjusted their plans and left the Honokahua Preservation Site intact, making this one of the island’s most unique hotels by mixing tourism, luxury, and Hawaiian history. The service is impeccable and the views will have you pulling out your camera at every turn, additionally, having nature nearby makes it an incredibly special stay. 

Take a stroll out to Makaluapuna Point for a fiery sunset over the Pacific or indulge in a relaxing Hawaiian Lomilomi massage at the spa. Dine at their newly renovated Banyan Tree restaurant or explore the pristine beach resting in the Kapalua Bay. You’ll find that the best of the island rests right at your fingertips.

Sunset on Kapalua Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Be the ultimate beach bum

If you dream of beaches with smooth, fine sand and completely transparent waters, then you’ve come to the right place. Even while driving the perimeter of Maui, you’ll likely feel tempted to stop and join those who have begun sunbathing on the shores (an urge you definitely shouldn’t ignore). A couple of tucked-away spots stand out as some of the island’s best, though. 

For a local’s experience, head to Makena Beach, also called Big Beach. As one of the island’s longest, undeveloped beaches, mountains enveloped in lush greenery surround it. Head west to Mokule'ia Beach, known as Slaughterhouse Beach, to dip your toes into a protected marine reserve with outstanding snorkelling. While this spot lacks bathroom facilities on-site (drive to the nearby DT Fleming Beach Park when needed), it means you have far fewer people in this little slice of paradise.

Mokule'ia Beach, Maui

Stay cool

Nothing beats a cold, sweet treat after an afternoon of sunbathing. Try shave ice (as the locals call it), which is a cup full-to-the-brim with delicate, snow-like ice and drenched in all-natural flavours like fresh strawberry, tropical coconut, or decadent chocolate. You’ll find shave ice stands practically everywhere you go, but Ululani’s stands out as the favourite amongst tourists and locals alike. 

While you almost-always will find a line here, the wait is worth it—opt for a scoop of creamy ice cream at the bottom and mix and match the fresh flavours to your heart’s desire. For a truly Hawaiian experience, grab the shaker of Li hing mui powder at the counter and sprinkle a little on your creation for a salty-and-sweet effect.

Hawaiian shave ice

The view from above

Maui has a jagged, rocky west coast and a jungle-like east coast—a contrast most can only experience on a road trip around the island. But what better way to witness Maui’s magnificent valleys, dense rainforests, and cascading waterfalls all in one day, than from the sky? Blue Hawaiian Helicopters give tours of some of the island’s top sights, like the rich, verdant Hana Rainforest or the serene Oheo Gulch. The breathtaking panoramic views on this scenic flight make for the ultimate Maui memories and photographs.

Hana Rainforest, Maui, Hawaii

A call for culture

Hawaii offers more than gorgeous beaches and outstanding food—respecting and experiencing the vibrant culture there can be part of your trip, too. Taking part in a Hi’uwai and E ala E will give your trip a deeper meaning. During the ceremonies, you gather with a small group by the ocean shortly before dawn. Quietly, you walk towards the Pacific, the water washing over your toes, up to your shins, and finally just over your shoulders. You bob up and down with the rhythmic flow of the waters until, one by one, the group meets again in the sand to face the direction of sunrise and chant for the sun to come up.

These rejuvenating ceremonies are done in traditional Hawaiian culture and signify a rebirth, but to line one up you’ll want to inquire with your hotel’s concierge. Clifford J. Nae‘ole, a practitioner and the Hawaiian Cultural Advisor at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, is happy to arrange it for guests—while the ceremonies aren’t advertised as bookable activities online, the team can make it happen and they firmly believe that the people who ask about it, are meant to do it. 

Maui, Hawaii

Maui’s unmissable sight

It’s nearly impossible to escape Mt. Haleakalā—making up three-quarters of Maui. It towers in the distance from nearly any spot. It’s no wonder, then, that at over 10 000 feet above sea level this makes a prime viewing spot for either a sunrise or sunset. A morning visit (which requires a reservation) displays the magical transformation over the land, from complete darkness to a glowing sky, complete with a massive crater and the Pacific off in the distance. 

The sunsets cast glorious hues overhead, and time almost feels like it stands still once the stars have come out to play. Adventure-seekers will also appreciate the variety of trails along the summit, ranging from 30-minutes to multi-day expeditions.

Mt. Haleakalā, Maui

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