Maui is an island formed by two volcanoes, one extinct and one dormant. There is a central isthmus between. You will fly into Kahului on the Northeast side of central Maui. Due to normal weather patterns, the South and West facing shores are the sunniest. These are also the most popular visitor destinations, with many resorts lining each coast. With two great areas (plus a few other interesting options in between) how do choose which part of the island to make your home base? This guide will give you information to make the decision of where to stay on your Maui Vacation choice a little easier.
The first town you will come to in West Maui is the charming sea port of Lahaina. The harbor, historically a hub of whaling and merchant schooners, is now a launching spot for a snorkel, diving and fishing charters. Hop a ferry to another island, browse ocean front stores or have a delicious open-air meal.
Further up the coast, from Kaanapali to Kapalua, is a mix of high-end resorts and Maui vacation condominiums. These areas are dotted with large, sunny swaths of golden sand beaches, great for people watching. Take in amazing sunsets while viewing distant islands of Molokai, Kahoolawe and Lanai.
Right in the middle of the sunny west side is Kuleana Resort. A 2019 TripAdvisor 5-Star Certificate of Excellence winner, oceanfront Kuleana Resort provides the perfect combination of recreation and relaxation opportunities for a Maui vacation. Away from the crowds, Kuleana is still close to shopping, dining, golf and activities, as well as the amenities of Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kapalua.
Kihei is beach-combing territory on Maui’s sunny southwest shore. It is the driest end of the island, with nearly consistent good weather. Once a regular destination for sojourning Hawaiian royalty, Kihei features miles of beaches views of the islands of Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai and West Maui.
Kihei is also home to many island residents, creating a cultural mix with visitors and affordable “local” places to eat and shop.
Destination Maui vacations has several resorts in Kihei.
On one of Maui’s most spectacular white-sand beaches, oceanfront Kealia resort is a peaceful retreat in sunny south Maui. Kealia Resort is on the northern most point of Kihei, making it less crowded and also convenient for accessing activities island-wide.
Base your vacation in an updated vacation condo right on 6-mile long Sugar Beach at Kihei Beach Resort. These resort condominium’s oceanfront location boast a panoramic view of Maalaea Bay and the islands of Kahoolawe and Molokini.
Also overlooking Sugar Beach is Nani Kai Hale Resort. The 6-story Nani Kai Hale Resort condominium’s oceanfront location has a panoramic view and plenty of space for lounging. This locale features one of our largest one bedroom condominiums. Are you thinking romantic getaway?
We have one unit at Koa Resort, our only “inland” property, across the street from the beach. The reason why we offer this unit is because it is great for extended families. It is a large 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo featuring a large kitchen with granite and island, and dining for 6 both inside and out.
Ocean view Shores of Maui is in the perfect location in the middle of the amenities of sunny Kihei. Directly across from Cove Beach Park, take in sunsets or watch beginners try surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. Enjoy close proximity to beaches shopping and restaurants.
Further South is the high-end resort destination of Wailea. A line-up of top hotels, with equally grand prices, create a playground for the wealthy.
Journey toward the end of the Southern part of the island and you will find the famed Big Beach (and its more secluded and clothing optional neighbor Little Beach). A bit farther are great snorkeling options and areas where you can view the last lava flow.
Wildcard option- Stay between South and West Maui at Maalaea Bay
Centrally located between Maui’s sunny south and west shores, Maalaea condos are on the ocean within walking distance to the island’s longest beach. Nestled along a bay, Maalaea accommodations overlook the quaint small boat harbor, where you can walk to a snorkel, diving or fishing charter. Adjacent are shops and restaurants, plus family friendly, world class Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, and the Maui (mini) Golf and Sports Park. When the trade winds kick up in the afternoon, Maalaea can get more breezy than other areas, naturally cooling things down.
We manage seven properties in Maalaea, including our most affordable units on the island.
“Should I stay in more than one area?”
In a word, no. Unless you are doing an extended stay on Maui, we recommend you pick South, West or Central Maui at Maalaea as your base of vacation operations. The main reason is anything you want to see or do on a different part of the island is easily accessible by car from each of these areas. For example, it takes approximately a half an hour to get from Lahaina town on the West side to Kihei in the South.
It is a hassle to land, unpack, start your vacation, then pack up and move a short distance away.
One idea is to alternate areas on separate trips.
“Condo or Hotel”
This choice often comes down to lifestyle and budget. A big resort hotel gives you a nice room and bath, with most other amenities outside. This can be good choice if you like to take advantage of scheduled activities or are seeking mega-size pools. These accommodations, and their on-site dining options, usually come at a premium.
We offer oceanfront condo resorts, which provides a good compromise: Affordable condos with beautiful grounds and views. With a full kitchen, you will save money on breakfast, and likely end up having lunch or dinner on your own condo lanai or poolside barbecue area half of the time, which also saves money. Guests also love having a washer & dryer- pack less clothes and save on airline luggage fees! Condominium resorts are more low-key, meaning you can usually have a relaxing dip in the pool without the throngs of guests or reserving a lounge chair in advance. Plus, condominiums are not just a room- they are larger than the average hotel room, with a living and dining area and your own outdoor space. So spread out and enjoy your va-ca!
“Do I need to rent a car?”
Yes, you need a car to get around Maui. There is limited public transportation. Taxis, Uber and Lyft are expensive and can be difficult to schedule. You can pick up a rental car right at the airport, or see more rental car options here.
Wherever you decide to stay, you are certain to love all that the special island of Maui has to offer.