Welcome to Maui! By now you probably are aware of some COVID related travel advisories for Hawaii. But we also realize some people are too close to their departure to change plans, or are planning for a future visit at a beautiful Destination Maui Vacations beach condo. So, we’ve put together an itinerary that is fun filled, with enhanced COVID safety in mind, including open air dining and outdoor activities. Do these island adventures on any day you like!
Maui hasn’t had to make much of an adjustment when it comes to mask wearing—we’ve had an indoor mask mandate for quite some time. This makes it more comfortable to stop at the store for essential supplies. When leaving the airport, you might want to make a quick stop for some groceries. You’ll be in the shopping hub and can just to get this out of the way. There is a new Safeway near the airport, just Google Safeway Kahului for directions.
Then check in and relax—you’re on Maui now. Note most Destination Maui Vacations condominiums use touchless check-in with keycodes!
If you don’t feel like cooking or waiting for a table on your first night, consider getting some take out to enjoy on your lanai or in one of the nearby beach parks.
You’ll find that we get up early and go to bed early on the island- there is little to stay up late for, unless it is gazing at the starry sky over the ocean. So get up, get out and start to explore the island!
Use the time change to your advantage and go for an early morning beach walk. FYI- masks are not required outside unless you are in a crowd or on a sidewalk where social distancing is not possible. In South Maui, I’d suggest heading to the boardwalk at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge- a nice nature walk with a coastal salt marsh and bird refuge and interpretive signs on one side, and a 6-mile long golden sand beach on the other. The ideal time is before 10am, otherwise it gets quite windy.
After that, head west towards Lahaina, but stop in Maalaea Harbor Village. This is where you will depart from if you decide to take a snorkel boat charter to Molokini (on another day). Today, go to Maui Ocean Center Aquarium (advance reservations required during Covid). Make sure and book the add on 3D whale movie- it’s terrific! Maui Ocean Center is really great to do early in the trip because you will experience so much about Hawaii marine life and culture (plus there is a truly amazing gift store). The aquarium also has a harbor front Seascape restaurant. Don’t let the wind deter you—there is a very large covered open air seating area, with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy great views and food. Reservations are required for the Seascape. If you can’t get in, the more affordable Reef Café is also available with no reservations and is also open air.
After touring the aquarium, head up to Lahaina. This former whaling capital is now home to a lot of shops, galleries, museums and restaurants, plus just a really cool vibe. Park in the public lot near the harbor and walk up and down front street. Masks are a good idea here, as the sidewalks get crowded, and it is so much easier to duck into a store without constantly putting on and taking off your mask. On the harbor end of town there is the Banyan tree which takes up a whole block. The tree, which was just 8 feet tall when it was brought to Maui from India, now stands more than 60 feet tall. On the same grounds, you’ll find the Lahaina Arts Society gallery, exclusively representing works of Maui artists.
The adjacent harbor is Instagram worthy and worth a stroll.
The west side is also a great place to take a surf lesson! This article has a list of the island’s best surf schools (make advance reservations).
If you want to grab a happy hour drink and pupu, check out Betty’s Beach Café and Captain Jack’s Maui. These two places are near where you will have parked and have covered open air spaces. But best of all, they have happy hour 2-5pm!
If you decide not to surf or nosh, you could continue your journey farther west and go to Nakalele Blowhole which is a really cool ocean shoreline feature, shooting ocean water high in the air on a regular basis.
Note: At the blowhole and other areas around Maui, including, jettys or cliffs, if the rocks, ground or sand is wet you are too close. Rogue waves pop up and can be very dangerous.
Restaurant hours can differ from their published schedule during this weird time. It’s a good idea to make reservations when you can, but some places don’t take reservations. Try shifting meal time early or late to avoid the wait. With limited seating to allow for social distancing, space is at a premium. Please be pono (do what’s right). Don’t make multiple reservations at different places for the same time. Do cancel any unused reservations in advance. During Covid, it’s healthier to get take out and eat outdoors, or grill some fresh fish or barbeque chicken at your condo.
Unless the weather is super rainy (hey it happens!), get up early and take the long and curvy road to Hana. Purchase the Shaka app before leaving your accommodations, then load the app on your phone while still on WiFi. If you do both these steps, you should be able to listen to this fun narrated tour through your bluetooth car radio. Take along some nonalcoholic beverages and snacks for the journey.
The road to Hana has gotten very popular and will be a crowded by mid-morning- not pleasant on a narrow, winding road. If you leave your condo by 6am you can a more pleasant drive without crazy traffic. Trust me- it will be worth it. Then, remember it is the journey that makes the road to Hana special. Take your time, and always safely pull over for anyone behind you that wants to pass. Locals use this narrow two-lane road daily and have little patience for sightseers. Also, please don’t illegally park along the road. It is hazardous and the county is cracking down with big fines and towing.
Stop for ono (delicious) coffee and baked goods at Jaws Country Store (opens at 7am)- The official start of the road to Hana at mile marker 14.5. After this stop, you will see the mile markers reset to zero and go up, and the highway number changes from 36 to 360.
One way to approach the road to Hana is to go all the way to the most popular final destination- the Pools of Oheo and Pipiwai Trail in Kipahulu (more on that in a moment) without stopping other than maybe to snap some pics. OR stop only at Wainapanapa State park (reservations required within 2 weeks of visiting; $10 to park, $5 entry per person), then go on to the Pipiwai Trail.
Wainapanapa has a black sand beach, and when you walk down to it you can see a cave to the right which is generally accessible to walk into.
The Pipiwai trail is a beautiful, moderate hike on the rainforest side of Haleakala National Park ($30 entrance fee per vehicle, good for 3 days), through different types of foliage, across a creek, through a bamboo forest, ending in pools with a very tall waterfall. Note: it is NOT safe to do this hike if it is raining or there is any flash flood warnings. Heed any warnings when paying for park admission and use common sense.
Across the street (where you will park) you can explore the “Seven Sacred Pools” area of Oheo gulch (not really 7 or sacred, but definitely worth checking out), with an easy trail and good photo ops.
Save your Park admission receipt- you can use it again to get into Haleakala crater for free if you visit within 3 days.
Then, take your time working your way back home. Stop for some roadside huli huli chicken or banana bread. During COVID, it is best to limit your time in Hana town. This small Hawaiian community has limited access to health care and we want to do everything we can to keep the community safe. You can, however drive down to beautiful Hana bay, another other scenic spot.
A favorite stop on the way back is Keanae peninsula. It’s a sleepy Hawaiian village with taro farms and a cool old church (and flush potties). Go toward where the paved road ends and there is a nice spot to stop and see the waves crash along rocks with great photo op through the palm trees.
This is probably a good time to mention a couple of safety precautions. Don’t leave anything in the car unattended (except maybe your cooler in the trunk). Car break ins are frequent along the road to Hana and elsewhere on the island. Probably best to take a day pack and just keep everything with you, ie, wallet, camera, phone, etc. Whatever you, do not leave luggage in your car, even in a locked trunk!
A commonly asked question from visitors is about what time to plan dinner reservations after a trip to Hana. The answer is: don’t. You will be tired from the journey, and this is a good time to plan on eating in when you get home.
If you want some more beach time, you might want to check out one or more South Maui spots.
To get to the South coast’s most famous beach, you are actually going to bypass Kihei town by staying on the upper highway, and go all the way to Makena State Park, or as locals call it, Big Beach ($10 park, $5 admission per person. Don’t park along the road and risk being towed). This is a huge swath of beach, and often has big crashing waves. A close up view of Molokini islet can be seen off shore, as well as Kahoolawe in the distance (when it’s clear you can see the shadow of the Big Island of Hawaii to the left). If you look to the right (when facing the ocean) you’ll see a large hill. A short hike over the hill is “Little Beach” which is clothing optional! Bring your beach accessories and reef safe sunscreen to spend the morning in this special spot.
Note: The surf can be unpredictable and dangerous. On the beach or entering the ocean, don’t turn your back on the water. If you get surprised by a big wave on your way in to swim or snorkel, dive under the wave, not over it. If in doubt, don’t go out.
There are many more nice beaches in South Maui, which you can explore here. In between Makena and Kihei there is a little high-end mall in the Wailea resort area, called Shops at Wailea. If you are into browsing trendy shops and having signature cocktails, this is your spot!
Head back to Kihei town, but this time head toward the lower road once you pass Wailea. If you want to stick to outdoor dining, you could order take out. The best Hawaiian style plate lunch is at Piko Cafe, which merged with local island fav Da Kitchen. Order Teri Chicken for sure! Plate comes with rice and mac salad or you can substitute green salad. There are plenty of places along the South and West shore to enjoy a picnic lunch!
From Kihei, you can head to Maui Tropical Planation or Iao Valley State Park. If you don’t want to pay to enter/park at Iao Valley, there is a pretty cool heritage park just before it (where the Nature Center is). Make note of the closing time of parks and activities when customizing your own plan.
Haleakala Crater + Upcountry day! Don’t forget your receipt from visiting Kipahulu/Hana for free park admission!
Another car adventure is going up to the top of 10,000ft volcano to Haleakala Crater. Many go for the sunrise, which needs a difficult to get reservation. However, about half the time the sunrise is clouded over, so arriving at a leisurely 9am would be just fine for this adventure. You can just enjoy the amazing views and explore the visitors center, or walk into the crater a bit. Note- it is harder than you think walking back out of the crater, so don’t venture too far unprepared!
After the crater, go a little bit back down the mountain for a late breakfast or lunch at the café outside Kula Lodge, or the indoor restaurant if it is raining. Outside there are covered cement tables on a garden, a big pizza oven, and great bi-coastal views.
If you have to wait long for a table, you can walk next door to the Kula Marketplace. This is another favorite place to shop for Hawaii gifts. Make sure and go in the loft and see the beautiful quilts.
Then head to Ulupalakua and Maui Winery. Whether you want to do a wine tasting or not, do not miss this drive! There area few pull outs as you get closer to Ulupalakua to stop and take in the view. The winey grounds are beautiful. If you want to do wine tasting, it is recommended you make a reservation. You could do this from Kula Lodge. Allow 45 min past the time you leave the Lodge before your reservation time. You can try walking in, but may have to wait. Note the winery is currently closed Monday and Tuesday
Boat Charter Day! Focusing on fresh air activities, you don’t want to miss the boat by not trying snorkeling or going scuba diving!
For snorkeling, the best place to explore is only accessible by boat. Molokini is a partially submerged volcanic cinder cone turned marine preserve a few miles from Maui. Trilogy has a really top notch operation with awesome food and beverages. For families, we recommend Four Winds II. With a glass bottom boat, waterslide and bbq lunch, you can’t go wrong. If you are prone to seasickness, take Dramamine Non-drowsy an hour before the charter (consult your doctor before taking any medication). Hint: make sure whichever charter you choose leaves out of Maalaea Harbor for the quickest route to Molokini.
For scuba divers, Maui’s premier diving operation hands down is Lahaina Divers on the west side of the island. This PADI 5-star facility has been around over 40 years, goes to more sites than any other operation, and provides a range of charter operations from beginner to thrilling advanced dives.
You might be kind of tired and salty after a boat charter, so head home, rest up and shower, then have an outdoor bbq feast at your condo.
Here are some random thoughts on things you may have missed or want to alternate into your schedule.
You may want to revisit shops around the island for anything you want to take home. If it is Saturday, there is a very large outdoor swap meet in Kahului from 7am – 1pm that has a lot of Maui made crafts that’s fun to walk around, or go to anything on the list you might have missed or want to do again.
Another fun outdoor activity upcountry is ziplining. Skyline Hawaii combines a 5-line tour with a waterfall hike that is amazing (they also operate on the west side). Or you can go for an easy morning walk in the woods upcountry on Waihou Spring trail.
The funky surfer vibe of Paia town is an experience in itself. Start off watching surfers and windsurfers at Hookipa Beach Park. Make sure to walk down to the lower parking lot and check out the sea turtle viewing area to the far right as you face the ocean. Note: respect the barrier and do not approach turtles—they are protected by state and federal law. Browse around Paia’s shops, then get fresh fish burgers to go from Paia Fish Market, and have a picnic at nearby Baldwin beach.
Covid-19 has many of us on edge, visitor and resident alike. Fortunately, there is plenty to explore outdoors and stay safe. That said, the pandemic has left many businesses (especially restaurants) short staffed. Please be kind, patient and understanding. Also, we take our mask mandate and other safety protocols seriously. You don’t have to agree, but we do ask your cooperation. Also, there are benefits for those fully vaccinated, both in streamlined travel and helping to keep our island community safe. If you come to Maui with your heart full of gratitude for the opportunity to experience this magical island, and respect for it’s many gifts, you will be rewarded with warm aloha.