The Best of Maui

If you’re lucky enough to visit one of the most beautiful places on Earth, don’t miss these must-sees in Maui, Hawaii.

by Rachael Crawley Sigsbee
The Best of Maui


Best spa: Spa Grande, Wailea

Located at the Grand Wailea, a five-star resort that is part of the Waldorf Astoria hotel collection, the Spa Grande is a must-do while on vacation. Pre-massage, spend an hour indulging in the treme hydrotherapy circuit, which includes soaking in five aromatic baths (each with different soothing aspects that includes moor mud, seaweed, aromatherapy, tropical enzyme and Hawaiian salt bath), taking a dip in the Roman hot tub, sitting under the cascading waterfall massage, being treated to a 5-minute honey mango loofah body polish and laying in the eucalyptus steam room (eyes covered with fresh cucumbers, of course). Your next hour is spent being pampered with treatments inspired by the Hawaiian islands themselves, such as the Volcanic Ash facial, the Island Flowers Body Masque or the Cocoa Body Massage. After, sit on the lanai sipping hot tea while soaking in the views of the ocean before coming back down to reality.

Travel Tip: The Hawaiian Islands Visitors’ Guide occasionally offers a special for a 60-minute treatment for $150 per person, which includes a $25 lunch voucher.

Best sushi for your buck: SANSEI, Kihei

Located off the main strip in Kihei, this local hot spot offers an eclectic mix of sushi, from your basic spicy tuna roll to the Kapalua “Butterfry” Roll (Smoked salmon, crab, fresh shiromi and veggies in crispy panko batter, served with tangy ponzu sauce).

Travel Tip: On Friday nights, enjoy half off all appetizers, sushi and cocktails/beers. At 10 p.m. on the dot, the restaurant clears out and a long line of locals who have waited outside for an hour will flood the restaurant. Warning: You must sit through mediocre karaoke while you dine.

Best Hawaiian ambiance: Joe’s Bar and Grill, Wailea

If you were to imagine a quiet dining spot that encompassed the epitome of the Hawaiian islands — the kind with an exposed straw roof, the warm ocean breeze blowing through the dining room and cocktails served in a porcelain tiki mug — Joe’s would be it. Offering an authentic dining experience overlooking the Wailea Tennis Club, the restaurant offers diners a grass hut-like atmosphere that glows with warm, dim lighting by night. Joe’s serves the freshest seafood (like almost all restaurants on the island) with a mix of down-home comfort food.

Best high-end shops: The Shops at Wailea, Wailea

Fendi, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton…need we say more?

Best discount shops: Kalama Villages, Kihei

This small, open-air market is your best bet for finding your inexpensive, Hawaiian souvenirs. From shell necklaces to sarongs, local vendors sell to visitors who stroll in looking for a refuge from the afternoon sun.

Best Mai Tai: Fairmont Kea Lani, Wailea

A quality Mai Tai — garnished with a fresh slice of pineapple, moschino cherry and that little pink umbrella — is hard to find in the States. But since Hawaii is the birthplace of this Polynesian-style cocktail, it’s difficult to find a bad one on the island. Each bar serves their own special blend of the drink, but the best can be found at the Fairmont Kea Lani. With the right blend of gold rum, dark rum, triple sec, lime juice and orgeat syrup, the bartenders at Kō, which also has a walk-up bar located toward the back of the adult pool, serve up some of the freshest ingredients, making this the top pick in Wailea for the Mai Tai.

Best pub: Mulligans On The Blue, Wailea

Mulligans On The Blue, the only Irish pub on the island, is great for watching your favorite sports team while sampling local brews. Happy hour, which is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. to midnight, offers $6 appetizers including fish and chips that are to die for, and $4 well drinks, $5 wine and $6 Mai Tais.

Best island-brewed lager: Bikini Blonde

This light beer, brewed on the island by Maui Brewing Co., is the go-to lager for locals. Maybe it’s the smooth taste or the girly branding on the front that makes this a popular choice for the ladies. Men tend to flock to the Longboard, which is also brewed by Maui Brewing Co.

Best beaches: Big and Little Beach, Makena

One of the most popular spots on the south shore that attracts locals and tourists alike is Big Beach. This 2/3-mile stretch of beach provides crystal clear water that’s ideal for sunbathing and snorkeling off shore. Located near the end of the east side of the island, this beach provides the perfect scene for a slow-paced day at the beach.

Little Beach is located to the west side of Big Beach, accessible only by hiking up a towering wall of volcanic rock. It’s no wonder this smaller beach is surrounded by high cliffs though — it’s clothing optional. If you can look past the older crowd of shameless beach-goer hippies who enjoy the sun and surf swimsuit-free, you can find some of the best waves for bodyboarding in the area.

Travel tip: On the small two-lane highway leading toward the two beaches, you’ll find several roadside stands selling some of the absolute best fare around. From true Hawaiian shaved ice to fresh fish tacos, the food trucks make it worth the drive alone.

Best whale watching: Wailea and Makena Beaches

It’s hard to miss the whales jumping off the southern coast of Maui during their breeding months of November through April. Pacific humpback whales migrate to the warm waters surrounding islands after making a 3,000 mile journey from Alaska to breed. Many whale-watching tours will take you out during peak spotting times for a front row seat to one of the nature’s most fascinating shows. But pull up a beach towel on any of the beaches in Wailea and Makena and spend hours watching the whales break the horizon.

Best snorkeling: Molokini Crater

If you’re looking to get up close and personal with Hawaii’s underwater residents, visit the island of Molokini. This crescent-shaped island accessible only by boat from Kihei can be seen off the south shore of Maui and is a hot spot for recreational snorkelers and divers. Many scuba outfitters in the area offer three-hour boat tours out to the island.

Best sunset: Kihei

After spending all day at the beach, head to the grassy lawn of Kamaole Beach III. At the end of the day, when the sun starts to fade into the horizon, flock to this spot to catch one of the best views of the setting sun on the island.

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