best part of maui to stay on

Choosing which part of the island to stay on is an important factor when planning your Hawaiian vacation.  I’ve been on Maui for almost 10 years and have lived all over the island.  I wanted to write a post that gave you the pros and cons of each area making it easy for you to decide the best part of Maui to stay based on your personal preferences.

I have Maui divided into 6 areas:

  • West Maui (Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Napili, Kahana, Kapalua)
  • South Maui (Ma’alaea, Kihei, Wailea, Makena)
  • Upcountry Maui (Makawao, Pukalani, Kula)
  • Central Maui (Kahului, Wailuku, Waiehu, Waihee, Waikapu)
  • North Maui (Paia, Haiku)
  • East Maui (Hana, Kipahulu)

*I have sprinkled some affiliate links in this post that gives me commission at no extra cost to you if you decided to make a purchase. All proceeds go to keep Jess traveling. I only recommend products and places that I believe in.  I thank you in advance.

where to stay on maui

West Maui

Pros: If the main objective of your Maui vacation is to lounge on the beach, snorkel, try your luck at surfing or go on an epic sunset cruise then West Maui is where you’ll want to stay.  Ka’anapali has a row on top notch resorts situated on a beautiful long white sand beach.  At the end of Ka’anapali is black rock where you can shimmy up the rocks and dive off into the water below.  This is also a great place to snorkel and see sea turtles.  As you continue up West Maui towards Napili, Kahana, and Kapalua, Moloka’i becomes more dramatic and viewable.  There are several on the beach bungalows as well great snorkeling at the bays in this area.

Lahaina and Ka’anapali offer many whale watching, snorkeling, and sunset boat tours so its a great part of Maui to stay if you plan on doing lots of boat excursions.  Lahaina is a charming Maui Town and a great place to stay if you don’t rent your own wheels.

Cons:  Maui in general has expensive accommodation but West Maui has some higher prices.  In the areas of Kahana, Napili, and Kapalua expect more rain in the winter months.  Lahaina gets very hot in the summer!

West Maui is a farther drive when trying to explore other parts of the island.  For example it will take you a couple hours to drive to the top of Haleakala Crater compared to one hour from South Maui.

Where to Stay in West Maui

Stay in Lahaina if you want restaurants, bars, shops, art galleries, surf spots, and boat tours all with walking distance.  It’s almost always sunny too!

Old Lahaina House
Located a block away from the beach and walking distance to many bars, restaurants, and an easy beginners surf break.
The Plantation Inn
In the heart of Lahaina.  Walking distance to everything including surf spots, swimming beach, historic sights, the harbor, bars and restaurants.  Gerard’s is an excellent French restaurant that’s been around for over 30 years.
Stay in Ka’anapali for resorts, sea turtles, and family friendly beaches.
The Royal Lahaina
I love the stretch of beach that this resort sits on.  Has a small pool and bar on sight but you come here to lounge on the beach which is never busy.  This is one of the oldest resorts on Maui.
The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas
Located on a beautiful beach with excellent snorkeling and likely to spot sea turtles.  Some rooms have a kitchen so make sure you stock up on Costco before heading to this side.
Stay in Napili or Kahana for enclosed bays, great snorkeling and views of Moloka’i.
Napili Kai Beach Resort
Located on the beautiful Napili Bay which has world class snorkeling.  The Sea House Restaurant has one of the best happy hours on the island.
Napili Sunset Beach Front Resort
Condo style with kitchen, lanai (Hawaiian patio) and amenities for the beach.  Located on Napili Bay as well.
Stay in Kapalua for lava rock you can explore on and luxurious resorts.

Montage Kapalua Bay
Luxury, Luxury, Luxury.  Perched above Ironwoods beach you’ll find this picture perfect resort.  World class golfing located 5 minutes away.  You won’t be disappointed.

South Maui

Pros: South Maui has some my favorite beaches including Kam III, Big Beach, and Secrets.  In Wailea you’ll find a string of high end resorts that if you stay at you’ll never want to leave.  Kihei is full of restaurants and bars that will sooth your taste buds.  From South Maui you get views if the inhibited island Kahoolawe and the submerged volcanic crater Molokini.  The sun sets over the water on this part of the island compared to over Lana’i on West Maui.  Prices are slightly cheaper for beach accommodations compared to the west side.

Cons: Less of a small Hawaii town feel.  Kihei gets hot in the summer and is also very dry.

Where to Stay in South Maui

Stay in Ma’alaea for a central location to the west and central Maui.  The Maui Ocean Center is located here but it tends to get windy.

Stay in Kihei for cheaper airbnb’s and condos.  Close to great swimming beaches and restaurants.

Maui Coast Hotel
Renovated and great location in the middle of Kihei across from Kam Beach Park.  Outdoor pool and hot tubs on site.  Walkable to the beach. Great value.
Stay in Wailea for luxury resorts, award winning beaches and high end shopping near by.
Andaz Resort
If you want a beach front resort that you’ll never want to leave.  The Andaz has 4 outdoor infinity pools, a couple on-site bars and restaurants, and top notch service.  Spend your days relaxing pool side with a lava flow (a Pina colada with strawberry).  Close to the best beaches on Maui and high end shopping.
Hotel Wailea
On you’re honeymoon?  The Hotel Wailea, Relais & Châteaux is an adults only resort with the finest views, luxury and facilities.
Fairmont Kea Lani
Located on a perfect beach.  The Fairmont has several pools, hot tubs, restaurants and bars on sight.  Koa’s has a great happy hour and is located at the adult pool.  Walkable to the beach and a free shuttle to the shops at Wailea.
Stay in Makena for seclusion, lava rocks to explore on, and dolphins.

Upcountry Maui

Pros:  If spending as much time at the beach isn’t your main priority then Upcountry Maui would be a great option.  Upcountry are the small towns of Pukalani, Makawao, and Kula that are nestled on the slopes of Haleakala.  Spend your days taking unique tours like the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm and the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm.  This area is also in close proximity with Haleakala Crater making it easy to hike through the crater and catch an early sunrise.

Cheaper accomodations.

Cons: You must drive to spend the day at the beach.  Temperatures get cool especially in the winter, it snowed on Haleakala several days last winter.

Where to Stay Upcountry Maui

Stay in Pukalani, Makawao, or Kula if you enjoy hiking and for close proximity to the top of Haleakala Crater.

Kula Star Dome
Glamping to another level.  This luxury tent has lets you sleep under the stars with unobstructed views.  Comes with many amenities like breakfast and showers.  You won’t be able to get closer to the stars if you tried.
Kula Lodge
Rustic, lush lodging close to Haleakala.  If you are visiting in the winter it gets koola, get it?  The Kula Lodge has a great restaurant and comfortable bedding.
Lumeria Maui
A healthy oasis tucked in the heart of Paniolo country.  Yoga and meditation classes held daily.  Close to the summit of Haleakala and Pai’a town.

Central Maui

Pros: Kahului is the town that you fly into when you are arriving on island.  This is also where the inner island Norwegian Cruise Line docks.  I’ao Valley is in your back yard and there’s some great hiking trails nearby if you stay in this area.  Central Maui would be perfect if you won’t be on island for very long or if you’re ballin on a budget.

Wailuku town has cheaper accomodations and you’ll experience old Hawaii.

Cons: Industrial region filled with factories and warehouses.  You have to drive if you want to get to a nice beach.  Traffic.

Where to Stay Central Maui

Stay in Kahului if you have a layover or on Maui only for a couple days because its a central jumping off point to see all you can see.
Courtyard by Marriott Maui Kahului Airport
The name speaks for itself, perfect if you have an early morning flight or are here for only a few days.  This hotel is fairly new.
Stay in Wailuku for a walkable town with budget prices.  Close to I’ao Vally State Park.
The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono
Great bed and breakfast in Wailuku.  Close to the airport and a central location to exploring all of the island.
Stay in Waiehu or Waihee for some great hikes nearby.  The Waihee Ridge hike, 13 Crossings, Swinging Bridges just to name a few.

The Northshore

Pros: If you came for the extreme water sports like wind surfing, kite boarding, or just plain ol’ surfing then head to the north shore as soon as you land.  Experience small town life as you rove Pai’a and head to Ho’okipa to get your adrenalin fix.  As you head east on the Road to Hana the area will become more green and lush.  This is also a great jumping off point for day trips to Hana.  Stay on this side if disconnecting and taking life in the slow lane is what you’re after.

Cons: There’s less variety of beaches on the north shore compared to its counterparts on the west and south.  Since the north shore is smaller there are less restaurants to choose from.  But is this really a con?

Where to Stay on the North Shore

Stay in Pai’a for a town close to beaches, surfing, and necessities.
Paia Inn
Nestled right on the beach, this boutique property has an excellent location to shops and restaurants.  Relaxation without the hustle and bustle.
Stay in Haiku if you want to be surrounded by exotic plants, flowers and fruit.
Puu Koa Palms
Condo located in the safe, lush jungle of Haiku.  Unit has a wrap around lanai and kitchen.  This is a great place for a small family, friends or couple.

East Maui

Pros: The Eastern part of the island is filled with roaring waterfalls, exotic flora and plants tucked deep in the lush, wet rainforest.  If you’re looking for a Hawaiian vacation based on the film ‘Moana’ then carve out a few days to spend here.  Most people visit Hana on a day trip but to get a real feel firsthand plan on staying a few nights.  There are plenty of camping, airbnbs,  and jungle bungalows.  Beautiful, unique beaches are on this side and some jaw dropping hiking.

Cons: Far away from the rest of the island.  The Road to Hana is the only road that connects the eastern part of the island with the rest.  Restaurants are limited and there’s only a couple stores that sell basics.  Stock up and don’t forget anything as you won’t have many options once you’re there.

Where to Stay in East Maui

Stay in Hana if you’re looking for seclusion, exotic flora, black and red sand beaches, and waterfalls.  This is also a good area to camp and get your nature fix.

Aina Kupuna
Great location for this jungle oasis.  Equipped with amenities for the beach this one bedroom place has a kitchen and parking.  Perfect for a night or 2 while you explore the surrounding area.

Travaasa Hana
Luxury in the jungle.  The Travaasa (part of the Ritz Carlton) is one of Hana’s only luxury resorts.  Explore during your days and relax in the evenings on the beautiful grounds witch ocean views and an amazing hot tub,
Wai'napanapa State Park
On the iconic black sand beach has camp grounds and cabins.
Haleakala National Park
Where the famous Pipiwai Trail starts.
Now that you’ve choose which part of the island to stay on and where to stay, it is now time to start planning how you’ll be spending your days.

XX Jess

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