While some will argue that Maui has enough charm to fill a whole week-long vacation or more, others choose to make it a stop on and island-hopping itinerary or a lazy long weekend getaway. This guide will take you through some of Maui’s must-sees like the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park, but also makes time for amazing beaches, ocean activities, a little bit of adventure, and some fantastic dining. Feel free to do as much (or as little) from this guide as you like while you enjoy the island of Maui.
With three days in Maui, you will have enough time to find activities that will suit any taste or budget. Spending three days here also may give you enough time to visit another island or two if you’ve got a longer trip planned.
Day 1 in Maui – Haleakala Sunrise & Upcountry Maui
For your first full day in Maui, especially if you are coming from the Continental US, you will likely be up much earlier than you realize due to the time difference. This is the perfect time for one of my favorite things to do on Maui – to drive up to watch the sunrise at Haleakala. You’ll need to get an early start, especially if you want to get there while the stars are still out, which I’d highly recommend. The stargazing here is world-class. Be aware that the summit is at 10,000 ft. elevation so it will be COLD – Haleakala’s summit even gets snow in the winter! So pack on the layers and warm clothing and be prepared to huddle together for a sunrise like you’ve never seen.
>> Details, including sunrise & sunset times as well as current fees can be found on the Haleakala National Park’s official website.
On the way back down from the mountain, stop for an early breakfast at Kula Lodge for an amazing view as the sun creeps over the rest of the island. Kula is just one of the charming towns in Upcountry Maui. Spend the rest of the morning and/or afternoon driving around at your leisure as there is lots to do in Upcountry. Foodies will want to stop for a tour at the Alii Kula Lavender Farm and sample goat cheeses (and feed the baby goats!) at Surfing Goat Dairy.
If you like adventure, you may want to stop for the zipline at Piioholo Ranch, where up to four people are able to experience the zipline side by side. For those less adventurous, drive through “paniolo country” in Makawao town and fuel up with Komoda Bakery’s famous stick doughnuts while you browse the eclectic boutiques in Makawao town. Continuing down Baldwin Avenue, you’ll reach the old sugar cane town of Paia. If you’re visiting in the winter, you’ll definitely want to detour to view the huge waves and the expert surfers that ride them at spots like Hookipa Bay and Peahi, also known as Jaws.
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Spend the afternoon resting up at your hotel or at one of Maui’s beautiful beaches. If you’ve based yourself in Lahaina or Kaanapali, you may want to spend the afternoon at some of the great beaches down on the south shore such as Big Beach in Makena or Kamaole III in Kihei.
The best way to get over jet lag is to try to stay up and get to bed as close to local time as possible. This would be a great night to enjoy fine dining at one of Maui’s premier fine dining options, such as Peter Merriman’s new Monkeypod Kitchen.
Day 2 in Maui – The Road to Hana
Driving the long, windy Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do on Maui, and although it can take as few as three hours, this is really a case where the journey is more amazing than the destination, so it’s best not to rush. Start as early as possible (no later than 7am or so) and allow lots of time for stops. Along the way you will find lots of scenic lookouts and waterfalls, especially if it’s been rainy. Be sure to have your camera ready for the beautiful Keanae lookout as well as a stop at the Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park for a short hike to the waterfall and swimming area.
Once you arrive in Hana, stop at the famous Hasegawa General Store for some snacks before heading out to see the black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park. Many turn around and head back to town at this point, but I prefer to drive the “long way” back around Haleakala in order to get back. As you continue to the Kipahulu side of Haleakala National Park, you can visit Oheo Gulch (known for it’s “Seven Sacred Pools“) and stretch your legs with a hike or swim. (Bonus tip: If you’ve already paid your admission fee for the sunrise at Haleakala on Day 1, you will not need to pay the fee again for entry.)
Continuing past Kipahulu, you’ll see the scenery change dramatically as this side of the island is arid and dry compared with the lush, rainy Hana coast. About a mile past Oheo Gulch you can stop at Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, where aviator Charles Lindberg is laid to rest. I usually will make a quick stop at the Kaupo Store if it’s open, or try to time my visit to reach Tedeschi Vineyards before they close at 5pm. It’s mostly just for the novelty of tasting Pineapple Wine, but it does make a nice little stop.
By this time of the day, the views driving back on Kula Highway will be spectacular as the sun begins to set over west Maui. The perfect stop for dinner is Chef Beverly Gannon’s award winning Haliimaile General Store. For a more casual option, try Tokyo Tei in Wailuku, a hole-in-the-wall local favorite famous for their crispy shrimp tempura.
Day 3 in Maui – Ocean Fun, Sun, and the Great Outdoors
The first two days were based mostly on “must sees” like Haleakala and the Road to Hana, so for your third and final full day on Maui, tailor it to your mood and interests. Hopefully, you’ve also made lots of new friends in your travels and have gotten some personal tips and recommendations along the way which you can try out for your last day, or to place on your itinerary for your next trip! (It’s never too early to start planning, after all!)
If you are visiting in the winter, you may want to look into a morning whale watch cruise. If you’re visiting outside of whale season (December – April) you can look into a snorkel cruise instead, such as one to Molokini crater. And if you’d rather stay on land, you also have the option of playing one of Maui’s world-class golf courses or indulging in a lomi lomi massage at the spa.
In the afternoon, take some time to visit the old whaling capital of the world, the town of Lahaina. Stroll down the shops and restaurants on Front Street, which runs right along the ocean and stop for shade under the huge banyan tree near historic Pioneer Inn. For your last evening in Maui, visit the Old Lahaina Luau, one of the best in the state. Enjoy traditional Hawaiian food and beautiful hula dances as the sun sets on your final day.
Planning Your Trip to Maui
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hana photo by GanMed64