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6 Cities You Can't Miss on Your Maui Adventure: A Local's Guide

The reason Maui is known as the ‘Valley Isle’ is because it has some of the largest valleys on earth lying between two dormant volcanoes. Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii and there is so much to see and do around every corner, there are breathtaking opportunities. Travelers can drive the famous Road to Hana or visit the dormant Haleakala Crater on the island, which is available in each city.

Kahului

It is one of the most populated areas of Maui being the home to the island’s major airport and a hub for cruise ships. Kahului’s scenic view may not be as enchanting as the other locations in Valley Isle but it is the business and commercial center of Maui. If you go straight to the mainland, you can see verdant landscapes, including some of the most beautiful hikes on the island.

Also in Kahului, there is one more place that tourists should not miss – Kanaha Wildlife Sanctuary. Before leaving, you will see some native Hawaiian birds such as the black-crowned night heron, the snowy egret, and many others feeding from the wetlands that are characterized by marsh. If one is driving a rental car, then it is recommended to drive along the Haleakala Highway where one gets to see the peripheral views down to the west Maui mountains in case the weather clears up.

Lahaina

Get ready to dive into the historic past of Lahaina, the once-thriving whaling port town. Lahaina is situated in the quiet and scenic region of Maui’s west coast and exudes history and Hawaii spirit. It was even home to the famous whaling ships of the nineteenth century and its sailors were often seen in the streets in their off-duty time. At present, the structures have been well restored and art galleries, boutiques as well as gourmet restaurants are now found in Old Town Lahaina.

It is also recommended not to refuse to spend an afternoon in Lahaina Harbor sitting on one of the numerous catamarans or outrigger canoes. In addition, this is the best place to visit particularly during the winter season if you want to catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales. For culture and entertainment, remember to visit on the second or last Friday which is Lahaina’s Art Night, or Halloween in Lahaina.

Wailuku

Wailuku is located in the central region of Maui and is also considered the administrative capital of Maui County. It is located at the foothills of the spectacular West Maui Mountains where one can enjoy a rich variety of trails stretching for miles within the scenic ʻĪao Valley amid beautiful rainbows of eucalyptus trees. There are historical attractions here such as the Bailey House Museum and beautiful church buildings including the Iao Congregational Church which was constructed in 1875.

When it comes to the markets in and around Wailuku, the town's legend precedes them. Every Saturday morning people get up early to get a chance to visit the Maui Swap Meet in Kahului and buy local produce, Hawaiian food, souvenirs, and listen to music. On Vineyard Street of Happy Valley is situated the most famous fruit and flower stall in Maui – Tin Roof. Taste delicious tropical ice cream and see the variety of colorful flowers of the tropical zone.

Paia

Paia is my all-time favorite town in Maui, with a bohemian, laid-back energy, beautiful beaches, and top-notch windsurfing. As this town lies at the beginning of the famous Road to Hana, it is a place where tourists often stop for a bite before moving further east.

When in town the best places to watch and take pictures are the surfing venues such as Hookipa Beach Park or the Baldwin Beach Park where you can witness extreme aerial surfing maneuvers and sea turtles basking in the sun. If you get up early enough, just take a stroll down Baldwin Avenue pit early morning, stopping at a café for a cup of coffee, a cappuccino to be precise accompanied by banana bread muffins. At dusk, sit at the tiki tables outside Charley’s Restaurant and join other people listening to live music while drinking tough margaritas.

Haiku

Haiku is a small and overlooked Maui town and has been left on the periphery of travelers’ plans because it is off the main route on Maui. That is why for a risky traveler it is possible to meet ocean views, roadside stands with exotic fruits, and find dense rainforests and paths leading to hidden waterfalls. Recently, people had breakfast at Colleen’s, a traditional Haiku restaurant that offers delicious meals and pies.

Just a few doors down is tiny Ho’okipa Beach Park, which is considered one of the premier windsurfing spots in the world, due to strong afternoon trade winds. Maui has probably one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world and an ideal place to view this natural wonder is the Poomau Canyon Lookout on the Hana Highway. Here you stand in Maui’s geographic center gazing at Haleakala Crater views while immersed in the sweet scent of Plumeria trees.

Hana

The drive to Hana is a 64-mile winding road located in east Maui that opens to the delightful town of Hana. This area is particularly underdeveloped with emerald mountains that roll down to the crystal line Pacific and waterfalls at every angle you choose to turn to. The scene looks like a real location than the Hawaiian Islands, more like the setting of Jurassic Park.

Some of these are Hamoa Beach where you can swim and take a sun bath; Hana jungle tours where you can take a short hike to waterfalls surrounded by bamboo forests; and Luau class where you can learn the Hawaiian hula dance and get to taste traditional Hawaiian foods. There are folklore places surrounding the sleepy town of Hana such as the black sand beach, seven pools, and a small red sand beach. This Hana town is much slower and natural with a magical feel, so just stay awhile!

As I said, each town in Maui has its uniqueness and cannot be compared to the others. Whether it be exploring the rich maritime past of Lahaina to trekking through rainforest trails of upcountry Maui, Hawaii’s Valley Isle is full of surprises on every curve. I sincerely hope that you find this local guide helpful and consider traveling to different parts of Maui other than the typical traveler attractions on your next visit. But most of all, embrace the ‘Maui no ka oi’ – the best of Maui Island and allow this paradise to breathe life back into your spirit!

FAQ

Are these the most famous cities in Maui?

Probably not. This list likely prioritizes unique towns that offer a glimpse into local life and culture, rather than the usual tourist destinations.

What kind of experiences can I expect in these cities?

The experiences will vary depending on the town. You might find local art galleries, beaches off the beaten path, delicious regional cuisine, historical sites, or opportunities to try unique outdoor activities.

What if I want to relax on a luxurious beach resort?

This guide might not be the best fit. While some towns might have beaches, the focus is likely on cultural immersion and local experiences, not five-star resorts.

I'm interested in adventure activities like ziplining or surfing. Will this guide be helpful?

It might depend. While some towns could be hubs for specific activities, this list might be more geared towards exploring and soaking up the local atmosphere. Look for mentions of adventure options in the guide descriptions, but you might need to research further for specific activities.

How can I get around these cities?

Renting a car is likely recommended for exploring these lesser-known towns, as public transportation might be limited. The guide might mention if any of the cities are particularly walkable.