Although Maui is known for its natural gifts and wonders, it does not fall short of good offerings for the urban city-dwellers’ like me. During our short stay, Al and I were able to visit and enjoy some of the beautiful small towns in Maui. Like any other trips, the best part is really visiting the local towns and neighborhoods. It’s a great way to truly experience the island. Do not be afraid to wander around, go to a store, and try a local delicacy. These moments are the ones you will miss the most in hindsight.
Coming from the more upscale and grander Waikiki area in Oahu, it was refreshing to stay in a more intimate and relaxed island that was so easy to fall in love with. It felt like an adventure retreat. Part 1 of my photo diary was about the amazing memorable adventures. This post talks about some of the small towns that we were able to visit, as well as a few memorable food places we stopped over in Maui.
The Lahaina area is a sprawling small beach town that is chill and charming AF. It is also about a 10 to 15-minute drive from our hotel. It’s a pretty busy area but nowhere close to Waikiki as the area is pretty small. But I think it fits perfectly into picturesque Maui. The famed Front Street stretches to house charming shops with colorful trimmings selling eye-catching goodies for locals and tourists alike. I don’t mind how touristy these places can get. I absolutely loved going and coming back to this area.
And so we did. If you read my part 1 diary, most of our major activities were set very early in the morning. This gives us enough time to spend our afternoons visiting Maui’s small towns such as Lahaina. Front Street is the main road lined with those colorful shops you see below and more. It is also by the water and the shops or restaurants along that side look out to the ocean with fantastic sunset views in the late afternoon. Looking back at this post and all the photos here, I think I miss the strolls here the most.
The other side of Front Street is similarly lined with the same unique and charming shops. You will chance upon the Outlets of Maui which fronts the ocean as well. Al and I would almost always park in this area (can easily be validated by purchasing something worth USD 25) and would spend some time shopping or just be looking around. We love that there are only a few stores and way fewer people than the outlets in Oahu. It is also A LOT cheaper!
The town of Lahaina is a great place to spend a good amount of time in. It does not feel overly touristy. Despite the numerous ABC stores that sell so many souvenirs and Hawaii goodies, it feels authentic and lively. The shops are a mix of specialty and name brands, with several local entrepreneurs selling goods and colorful art that are perfectly in tune with the Aloha lifestyle. The temptation to go in each store and buy something is strong. IMHO, Hawaii is like a big lifestyle brand that is effortlessly millennial.
While researching for places to visit in Maui, Lahaina is always at the top of any list, not only for the awesome shopping and dining area but also for its rich historical significance. It is actually a historic town that used to be a well-known whaling village. This is evident when you realize that a huge part of the town and right smack in the middle of the lively shops is an area well-preserved and devoted to historic areas.
The town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking around, there are several historic stops that are worthy of a second look. For obvious reasons, my personal favorite was visiting the Old Lahaina Courthouse by the famed Banyan Tree. You can even do a self-guided walking historical trail that stops in the U.S. Seamen’s Hospital, the Lahaina Prison, the Pioneer Inn, the old library, several interesting old houses, etc. These are all in walking proximity and good for leisure walks. Maybe try to schedule it when the sun is not that hot.
On our last day in Maui, Al and I soaked up a lot of sun during noon time to casually take a stroll in the historic area. It was incredibly warm but it felt like such a beautiful day. We were absolutely enamored by the oldest living banyan tree shown above. It was planted on 1873 and that single tree has now taken over an entire park. Imagine the stories and rich history this tree has witnessed in its lifetime.
Located at the North West of Maui and quite close to Lahaina is Maui’s famous beach, Kaanapali. This is about a five-minute drive from our hotel in Noelani and another busy tourist spot fronted by several high-rise hotels and condos. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the white sands are fine, the waters are clear, the north winds keep it cool, and there are so many great shops and dining options.
The true food gem is The Fish Market Maui located in the upper Kaanapali area (shown below). Hawaii is generally an expensive state to dine in. It is easy to get sucked into the insanely overpriced beautiful restaurants by the sea. I would say that the most memorable meals are the ones where Al and I would casually grab something to-go and enjoy by the ocean at our hotel. This is a casual joint without the bells and whistles but gives that bang for your buck and more. Delightfully fresh fish tacos and awesome fries await. We highly recommend this place.
If you fancy some shopping, fronting Kaanapali is the open air Whalers Village. It’s one of the most beautiful malls I’ve been in mostly because of the atmosphere that it creates. It’s not that big, but everything you would probably need to buy is all here. They have a great selection of brands. This even has a museum and nightly cultural Hawaiian entertainment if you simply just want to chill and soak up some culture. One night there was even a hula show from adorable little girls. I actually stopped and watched for a bit. It just feels so organic. This is a great place to stay in and stroll around right after hanging out at the beach. For parking, a small free beach parking is on the side of the mall that easily gets filled up.
Paia is technically the first official stop on the Road to Hana adventure. It’s a very hippie/chilled-out surf town that is a lot less touristy but still very vibrant. It is also near the beach and a popular area for wind/surfing in Maui. Since it is the gateway to the Hana Highway, the town gets a lot of passersby and tourists daily.
Unlike the more picture-perfect Front Street Lahaina, the town of Paia has a more rustic old-century charm. You’ll find an array of surf and antique shops, fine art galleries, and plenty of healthy eateries. The unique houses and buildings are brightly colored and inviting.
Since this town is near the airport, Al and I had lunch here in Paia on our last day in Maui. We chanced upon this semi-open air restaurant, Cafe Mambo (photo above) that looked great outside and had a good brunch menu. Fortunately, we were not disappointed as this turned out to be a memorable meal. We ordered the Kalua pork and garlic shrimp, which were both incredible. They offer so many good options that I really wish we were able to try more.
Paia town is quite picturesque and wildly known for the windsurfing beach of Ho’okipa (featured above). This was actually our final stop after the Road to Hana, since we wanted to stay by the beach. Little did we know that this was more of a windsurfing beach as the waves are strong and the waters take a huge break along the rocks. There were a lot of windsurfers ahead (you can see from the photo above) and even saw some sea turtles swimming to the shore just behind those rocks.
Kahului is more like an industrial/commercial town at the center of everything. The main airport of Maui can be found here, as well as the helicopter hangars. Upon arrival from the airport, I suggest making a stopover at the many commercial stores in Kahului to do a bit of grocery shopping. There’s a Costco, Walmart, and Whole Foods. I was dead set and mostly very excited to go back to Whole Foods to do our groceries and buy some food. We were so satisfied with our grocery shopping experience here that we just went back every time we pass by this area. Al and I spent a lot of time in Whole Foods.
One of the more memorable moments in Kahului, apart from our epic helicopter ride, was visiting Tin Roof Maui. If you’re a big Top Chef fan like I am, then you would know Chef Sheldon Simeon, who also happens to be Filipino. I was super excited to meet him and try his food. The place is small, so it’s best to take it out. We ordered the Mochiko Chicken and the Garlic Shrimp. Both very tasty and affordable for Hawaii standards. It was exactly how Sheldon would make his food: authentic Hawaiian flare with Asian fusion, great flavor, and with lots of comfort and soul.
Wailea & Kihei
After our snorkeling cruise trip, we wanted to go to a different side of town, particularly in the Southwest of Maui. Thus, we first headed to Wailea, which was also the same area where we went swimming with turtles. Wailea is another great town to stay in as the beaches are supposedly fantastic and the accommodations in the area are just as beautiful. It also feels a lot more private and serene than the busier Northwest area where we stayed in.
We stopped by the Shops at Wailea to hang out and get some good Hawaiian coffee. This turned into a last-minute splurge as this is the time I discovered that some luxury goods are 25 percent cheaper here in Hawaii than the mainland US. I really wish I had a photo of the mall, but by this time, we were mostly exhausted and caught up in the shopping! Haha!
Close to Wailea is another great beach town called Kihei, where the famed Maalaea Bay beach is situated and worthy of a dip or two. Our main agenda for traveling to Kihei is to try the best shaved-ice spot at Ululani’s. Trying out shaved ice here in Hawaii has been a total treat. At that time, the sun was strong and we were practically melting; all I wanted was to dig into some coconut shaved ice.
There are so many flavors that it feels impossible to choose a combination. I eventually decided on their best-seller, Haleakala — coconut and leche flavor topped with sweetened condensed cream mix and some mochi at the top (shown above). Writing that down has given me some serious cravings now. I was sent to shaved ice heaven at first try! Way better than the Matsumoto one I tried in North Shore, Oahu. If you ever visit Hawaii, try Ululani’s and you won’t be disappointed.
Since we would visit these towns in the afternoon, we almost always would go back before nightfall to our lovely hotel to take a dip into the pool and watch the glorious sunset (photo above) every single day. We would have an early night after trying to pack for our next adventure in the morning. All days felt like perfect days when in Maui.
I still have to write a post on Oahu as that is one incredible but totally different experience as well. It’s just so much stuff to tackle in that I will need to figure out the best way to sort it out. For now, I am sharing a video of this epic Hawaii trip created by me.