For the Openhearted (& Frugal) Traveler
You travel with an open mind and open heart.
You are willing to experience a place as it is.
You think all inclusive travel packages are for wussies.
You are annoyed by hordes of tourists demanding to have a good time while tromping over local culture.
You prefer the side roads and local foods to tourist traps.
You aren’t made of money and small budget / high experience is your ideal travel plan.
You have respect for the people and places you visit.
This guide is written for you.
Aloha! Maui is called The Valley Isle and it’s verdant beauty and relaxed atmosphere make it a wonderful place for both respite and adventure. Maui has plenty of beach, jungle and volcanoes so be ready to spend most of your time outside. People are generally, warm and friendly – we live in paradise after all and community is at the center of life on the islands. If you are invited by a local to their home or an event, consider this a great compliment and go! Embrace aloha (love/connection) and you will enjoy your stay for sure.
If you are used to low prices you could be in for some sticker shock. This guide is for those who spend money on their travels but don’t go crazy with over-priced tourist stuff. That said, the islands thrive on tourist dollars so plan on being a good consumer and dropping some scrill for good stuff on your visit. Tip well and feel good about your local purchases.
There is a Costco right by the airport so if you have a condo stop there for the basics. They also have beach gear, aloha shirts and souvenirs year round. Fill up your rental car there too, gas prices are much higher than the mainland and Costco gas prices are generally 50 cents to a dollar per gallon cheaper than most gas stations.
What To Pack
You don’t need much.
Take the basics and keep in mind that you’ll want room in your luggage for goodies to take home with you. Before I moved here I came to stay for a couple months and swear I only used a third of what I packed. Unless you’ll be at a high end resort, Maui is very casual. If you have a tendency to over-pack , then take out half of what you packed, then take out a little bit more and you will be fine. Maui is super chill, not fancy.
Besides shorts, t-shirts & swimwear consider bringing these:
- Hiking sandals
- Closed-toed sneakers/trainers – if you plan on long hikes in the lava fields or going zip-lining
- Reef friendly biodegradable sunscreen. I list a few on my post about snorkeling and for the love of all that is good, please don’t get the spray-on sunscreen! I was shocked and saddened to learn that these sprays are the worst because people shellac themselves with the stuff at the beach and most of it ends up in the air and water – killing the coral and making sea creatures sad (or dead).
- You might need a light long sleeved shirt (for hiking amongst the jungle areas), and lightweight long pants (again for the hiking). Non-toxic bug repellent is a good idea if you plan on spending time on the windward side of the island (Paia, Haiku, Hana etc.) Badger and Burt’s Bees make great non-toxic bug spray.
- Sun hat, beach towel, rash guard (esp if you plan to do a lot of snorkeling.
Everything else you might need – boogie board, chair etc. can easily be rented, purchased or borrowed on the island. Most rental condos have beach gear like chairs, towels etc.
I’ve flown Alaska/Virgin America & Hawaiian Air into Kahului, Maui and all were great. If you go off season you can get very reasonable airfares. If you are flexible on dates I highly recommend visiting off season, it will be cheaper and less crowded. September through Mid-November as well as April / May are decent low seasons. I use airfare alerts from AirfareWatchDog.com to get notices for the cheapest flights. Southwest started flying to Maui in 2019.
I DO NOT recommend getting a package deal through an airline or outlet like Orbitz. There are so many restrictions and fine print that it’s just not worth it. If you need to change anything after purchase you either can’t or you pay a crazy fee. Not cool. Also you’ll get stuck with giant corporate behemoths and will miss the cool local places.
You will need a car on Maui.
Maui has a bus system but it’s fairly limited and it could easily take you a half day to make what would be a 30 minute drive. Gas prices are high but it’s a pretty small island so you will probably spend less than you thought on gas. Go local and rent from Maui Car Rentals in Kahului. They are locally owned, family operated and have a range of cars and great prices. Car break-ins and theft are a reality on Maui so skip the fancy convertible Mustang and get a cruiser that doesn’t scream “tourist”. Don’t leave stuff visible in your car or lock anything in the trunk that you can’t replace easily. A car with working AC that will get you from point A to point B is just perfect. Tell the folks at Maui Car Rental that Jules sent you 🙂 1-800-567-4659.
The pace is slow on Maui and the highway speed limit is 45 mph in most places. (For real!) It’s an island – what’s the hurry? Drive the speed limit and enjoy the view. Pull to the side of the road when there is an ambulance or other emergency vehicle with lights & sirens going in either direction. It’s just what’s done (and the law). Pay attention to pedestrians esp on the beach roads and DO yield for folks crossing the street or trying to turn. It’s the Aloha way.
The Google Maps app does quite well getting around and surprisingly does ok pronouncing the street names (which are nearly all Hawaiian).
If you want to hop to another island I recommend Mokulele if you can. These are small prop planes so be prepared for no frills and a bit of turbulence. But also – no TSA! You can’t beat the views though as you fly lower and get to see more of the islands from the skies. TIP: If you follow Mokulele on Twitter they announce super good deals on flights for the next day.
Where to Eat
I plan to write a post on my favorite places to eat on Maui but for now, here’s a link to my list of faves on Yelp.
Where to Stay
There are tons of options and most are *not* large hotels. I live in Kihei so my recommendations are mostly for the south side of Maui.
I recommend renting a condo or maybe an Air B&B. Read the reviews carefully before booking.
My personal recommendations:
1 bdr Oceanview Condo South Kihei: If you want a condo near the beach with all of the modern conveniences, my friend Robin has a sweet one bedroom with an ocean view in Kihei. More info and booking here.
2 bdr Condo North Kihei: My friends stayed here when they came for a wedding and the place was great. Well appointed and comfy. The beach near it is not that great but the view was perfect. http://www.mauibliss.com/content/
I hope to post about my favorite places to eat and hike but for now check out my list of food places on Yelp.