Maui - A trip to “Valley Isle”

Harshita Kasera
Digital Global Traveler
12 min readSep 12, 2022

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Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It sits in a large valley between two dormant volcanoes - Haleakalā in the east and Mauna Kahalawai in the west, hence it is often referred to as the Valley Isle.

Maui Illustrative Map (Photo Credit : Created by Author via Adobe Express)

This year we went to Maui for a week in September and I am excited to share our itinerary with you. If you’re looking for a travel guide to Maui, feel free to take it as is or parts of this and plan your own trip!

When to travel

Choosing the time to travel depends on what you want to do in Maui. If you want to do some whale watching, you must come in winter.

Winters (December - March) and Summers ( June - August ) are the peak season for traveling to Maui and the trip gets really expensive during that time. Spring or Fall are considered low seasons in Maui. To avoid the tourist rush and for affordable travel rates, we chose to visit Maui in September.

Accommodation & Getting Around

There are five main areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Maui:

  • South Maui - Quick access to incredible beaches.
  • West Maui - Plenty of luxury resorts.
  • Along the Road to Hana (or in Hana) - Least crowded, epic views.
  • Central Maui - Close to the airport with easy access everywhere. Best for budget travelers who want convenience.
  • Upcountry - You’ll meet more locals than tourists and enjoy easy access everywhere.
Maui Regions (Photo Credit : Created by Author via Adobe Express)

We stayed in Central Maui at Wailuku Guesthouse.

Day 0: Arrive at Maui

We took a direct flight from San Francisco to Maui and the flight time was roughly 5 hours, and 20 minutes. We landed in the evening, collected our rental car, and rested the night as the next day we had to get up really early in the morning.

Remember that Hawaii observes Hawaii Standard Time all year.

Day 1 : Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park is the home to Mount Haleakalā — a mountain peak so tall that you can see it from anywhere on the island. Mount Haleakalā is a long-dormant volcano that serves as the centerpiece of Maui.

Haleakalā National Park is divided into two distinct sections:

  • Summit area and
  • Coastal Kipahulu area

To reach the summit area, you need to drive on the Haleakala Highway. It holds the world record for climbing to the highest elevation (10,023 feet) in the shortest distance of 35 miles.

The Kipahulu area includes the coastal region of the Haleakalā National Park which can be accessed by driving 12 miles past the town of Hāna, on the famous Hāna Highway that circumscribes the northeast coast of the island of Maui.

🌅 Sunrise @ Haleakalā

When the sun rises above the clouds in Haleakalā, the view is spectacular. Watching this sunrise is truly one of the best experiences in Maui. Trust me getting up early to see this would be worth it!!

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

💡 Did you know - Haleakalā” means “House of the Sun” in Hawaiian.

Reservations — The Haleakalā sunrise has become so popular that reservations are required to watch the sunrise (between 3 am — 7 am). You may book a reservation up to 60 days in advance. If you missed the 60 days window (which we did), you can also book the tickets 2 days in advance of the reservation date at 7 am HST. For entering the National Park, you need to pay the entrance fees or the national park pass.

Where to watch the sunriseFor watching the sunrise, most people choose the Visitor Center and line up behind the railing. You can actually take the Pa Ka’oao Trail, a mini hike that starts at the visitor center and takes you to an overlook with a great view of the crater. The walk is just .5 miles, and it’s well worth it.

What to bring — It can be below freezing at the peak so definitely take extra layers. You can also bring breakfast and have a mini picnic after sunrise.

Come early — The parking lot gets full so get there early. We actually reached around 5 am in the parking lot, but still, the lot was full.

Shaka Guide — The Shaka Guide Sunrise Tour at Haleakalā gives you a lot of information about Haleakalā through engaging storytelling, history, and music. It is a great option to choose from and will make the trip to Haleakala early in the morning a fun one.

After sunrise, we explored the summit area for a while before heading out. A lot of people leave the park just after sunrise, but I would recommend staying a bit longer. The park has a lot of amazing viewpoints. Leleiwi Overlook is one of such incredible spots. With barely a hike, you can see this incredible panoramic view of the Haleakalā Crater.

Leleiwi Overlook in the Haleakala National Park
Leleiwi Overlook @ Haleakala National Park (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

We started driving towards the Kipahulu area to do the Pipiwai trail next.

🚶‍♀️ Pipiwai Trail

Pipiwai is a beautiful trail located on the Coastal Kipahulu area of Haleakalā National Park. The 4-mile round trip trail can be challenging at times due to its sometimes steep terrain but it is one of a kind. It is a very scenic trail with waterfalls, tropical greenery, and bamboo forests. It is quite touristy so plan to reach here before 10 in the morning.

Banyan Tree @ Pipiwai Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)
Bamboo Forest @ Pipiwai Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)
Waimoku Falls @ Pipiwai Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

In the same parking lot as the Pipiwai trail, there is another small yet popular trail that you should check out. Seven Sacred Pools is a half-mile loop to Oheo Gulch from the visitor's center parking. The waters from Waimoku Falls flow all the way down the mountain into the ocean here. Swimming is not allowed here so please respect the signs.

📍 Wai’anapanapa State Park

Wai’anapanapa boasts a black sand beach that’s simply unparalleled on the island of Maui.

Black Sand Beach @ Wai’anapanapa State Park
Black Sand Beach @ Wai’anapanapa State Park (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Reservations are needed to enter this park and may be made up to 30 days in advance.

Day 2: Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the most gorgeous drives along Hana Highway which passes dozens of waterfalls, lush beaches, tropical forests, a lava cave, and stunning scenic spots.

With the Shaka Guide Classic Road to Hana Audio tour, we learned about the historic moments and legendary tales that shape the islands while driving the Road to Hana.

🚶‍♀️ Waikamoi Ridge Trail

The Waikamoi Ridge Trail is on the eastern edge of the Waikamoi Preserve, which protects some of the oldest trees on Maui.

Waikamoi Ridge Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📍Garden of Eden Arboretum

The Garden of Eden Arboretum is a 26-acre tropical wonderland with 2.5 miles of trails and more than 700 botanical specimens! It’s the lifelong vision of a certified arborist and landscape designer who is dedicated to restoring natural ecosystems and promoting Hawaii’s native indigenous species. There is an entrance fee but it is definitely worth a trip if you have the time.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree @ Garden of Eden Arboretum (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)
Rock featured in the Jurassic Park Movie (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📍Ke’anae Arboretum

A six-acre arboretum and botanical garden with many unique specimens. It is free to visit.

Ke’anae Arboretum, Maui
Ke’anae Arboretum (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📍Ka’eleku Lava Tube Cave

Lava Tubes are hollow caves formed by lava. When molten lava flows through an area, the outer layer hardens as it cools and the interior lava drains away, leaving behind a hollow cave.

Ka’eleku Cave is the largest and most accessible lava tube in Maui, and also has many interesting features making it a must-see for those interested in caves and geology.

Lava Tube Cave @ Road to Hana (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🏖️ Relax @ Hamoa Beach

Hamoa Beach is a beautiful crescent beach far away enough from the masses that it rarely gets crowded. We relaxed at the beach, and enjoyed the water for a while before heading back.

Hamoa Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Day 3: Snorkel at Molokini Crater & Turtle Town

🌅 Sunrise @ Kamaole Beach Park

Our snorkel tour was pretty early in the morning so we decided to get up earlier and enjoy the sunrise. Kamaole Beach Park was pretty close to the snorkel tour location so we came here. There is nothing like watching the sunrise and enjoying the sound of waves crashing.

Sunrise @ Kamaole Beach Park (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🤿 Snorkel Tour

Molokini Island is entirely uninhabited. It’s a very small semi-circle of land that was once an old volcano vent for Maui’s main volcano. Molokini Crater snorkeling is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that simply cannot be missed!

We chose Redline Rafting to do a Five-Hour Molokini + South Maui Coast tour. Due to the popularity of this location, it gets pretty crowded during later times of the day. The tour took us to five different locations for 4 different snorkel experiences.

Redline Rafting — Five-Hour Molokini + South Maui Coast Tour (Photo Credit : Redline Rating)

The tour and the operators were amazing. I am pretty scared of the ocean water but these guys helped me feel so calm and relaxed. They gave me a Snorkeling 101 class and helped put my fear of ocean water aside. I am so grateful to them. The snorkeling experience was amazing and I made a new friend “Honu” (Hawaiian green sea turtle).

Snorkeling in Turtle Town (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🛍️ The Shops at Wailea

After the snorkeling tour, we explored the city of Wailea. You can spend some time here exploring the different Hawaiian retail shops. It is a good place to get some souvenirs.

The Shops at Wailea
The Shops at Wailea (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🚶‍♀️Hoapili Trail to Hanamanioa Point Lighthouse

The Hoapili Trail to the Hanomanioa Lighthouse is a scenic 3-mile out-and-back hike that ends at Hanamanioa Point lighthouse. While the lighthouse is not all that exciting, the trail is really beautiful as it passes through the southwest rift zone of the Haleakala crater and along the ocean.

As you hike along the trail, you’ll first pass a few small beach areas before the trail heads into a grove of trees. After the short walk through the grove, you’ll pass through open lava fields until you reach the Hanomanioa Lighthouse.

View point — Hoapili Trail to Hanamanioa Point Lighthouse
Hoapili Trail to Hanamanioa Point Lighthouse (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🌅 Sunset @ Makena Cove

Makena Cove Beach is a golden-sand beach that remains relatively quiet while providing breathtaking views that are worthy of a Hawaiian postcard. Often known as Secret Cove Beach (although it’s not a secret anymore, it was busy with tourists), it is the best place for sunset in all of Maui.

Sunset at Makena Cove
Sunset at Makena Cove (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Day 4: West Maui

☕ Breakfast @ Wailuku Coffee Company

We started our day by having breakfast @ Wailuku Coffee Company. It is a cute little cafe in Wailuku close to where we are staying. Their veggie bagel is delicious.

Wailuku Coffee Company (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🎧 Shaka Guide — West Maui Tour

We did the Shaka Guide — West Maui Tour which takes us to the scenic drive around the western coast of Maui.

Shaka Guide — West Maui Tour (Photo Credit : Shaka Guide)

📍Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center was a delightful experience. If you love marine life, this spot should be on your list. The center is designed to provide education and amusement for guests, interesting them in further learning about the ecosystem of underwater life in the region. The Humpbacks of Hawaiʻi Exhibit & Sphere is a 3D experience that provides knowledge about humpback whales in a unique way.

🚶‍♀Dragon’s Teeth Access Trail

Located near the Kapalua resort area, this half-mile hike follows the rocky shoreline and offers beautiful views of the bay. It is named dragon’s tooth trail after the jagged rocks near the shoreline that, from a distance, look like the teeth of a dragon. Near the end of the trail, there is also a prayer labyrinth that you can walk through.

Dragon’s Teeth Access Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📍Nakalele Blowhole

The Nakalele Blowhole can shoot water as high as 50 feet into the air. Here, you can take a mini hike down toward the blowhole. Be careful though, you don’t want to get too close. When you’re there you might feel the ground shake beneath your feet as the waves crash towards the blowhole, shooting water into the sky. This is definitely a must-see place.

Nakalele Blowhole (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📍Feast at Lele Luau

It’s a five-course dinner paired with live entertainment, coming one after the other to represent four regions of the Pacific Island. Cuisine comes from Maui, then from Aotearoa of New Zealand, then from Tahiti, then from Samoa, and finally, you’ll have a simple but thematic dessert of vanilla-lime-coconut mousse-cake, topped with caramelized pineapple.

Feast at Lele Luau (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

You can also view the sun going down while enjoying the amazing feast and the Luau.

Sunset — Feast @ Lele (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Day 5: Hiking & Sunset at Haleakala National Park

🚶‍♀️ Waihee Ridge Trail

This is a nice hike with spectacular views. The photos here don’t do the views full justice. In every direction you look, you’re treated with a different view.

Waihee Ridge Trail (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

There are no fees for entering or parking at the Waihee Ridge Trail. There are two parking lots. If you arrive early, you can park at the upper parking lot closer to the trail. If you arrive a bit late anytime after 9–9:30, you might have to park in the overflow parking which adds ~1.5 miles to the hike.

📍Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

The farm is at 4000 feet elevation on the slopes of the Haleakala creator, the air is crisp and there are spectacular views. It is serene, peaceful, and exceptionally designed. Depending on the time of the year, you might not find lavender, but the garden itself is so pretty that it is worth a visit.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🌅 Sunset @ Haleakala

Be sure to wear warm clothing and bring blankets and jackets to watch the sunset — even in the summer! The clouds dancing near the sun is a show worth watching. You might not see the traditional sunset as you would near a beach, but this one has a beauty of its own.

Sunset @ Haleakala (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Day 6: Turtles & Sunset

🐢 Turtles @ Ho’okipa Beach

Ho’okipa Beach is known as the “Turtle beach” in Maui beach. Turtles frequently come up onto the shore and lay on the beach. Going to the beach around sunset can increase your chances of seeing a lot of sea turtles.

Turtles @ Hoopika Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

🌅 Sunset @ Keawakapu Beach

The sunset views at Keawakapu Beach are divine. We came a little before sunset and watched the sun go down in this serene setting.

Sunset @ Keawakapu Beach (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

Day 7: Packup

☕ Cafe O’Lei at the Mill House

Set in the center of the Maui Tropical Plantation, this Wailuku favorite lets you kick back in a tropical paradise while enjoying brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert and drinks. While their grounds are gorgeous enough all on their own, the natural backdrops beyond take the view to the next level.

The Mill House, Maui (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

✈️ That’s a wrap

This was the last day of our trip and flew back to the Bay Area, saying bye to the pretty Hawaiian Island.

Flight View (Photo Credit : Shot by Author on Pixel 6 Pro)

📸 Check out more photos

  • Check out my Maui stories on Instagram here.
  • My husband Antriksh Saxena captures amazing photos from his DSLR. Check out some of the photos of our trip here.

Happy Travels!

Maui is a beautiful place to visit. It’s exciting to be in the sun and refreshing to soak yourself in nature. I hope this itinerary can help you in planning your trip better.

Thanks for reading this article! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or if there are any places that I missed visiting :)

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