One Week Itinerary: Maui and the Road to Hana

Lounging beside the pool or napping on a sandy beach may fulfill your initial fantasy of a tropical Hawaiian vacation, but Maui has much more to offer: underwater encounters with rainbow-colored fish, an icy dip in a jungle waterfall, or a trek across the moonlike landscape of a dormant volcano.  

DAY 1: GET SETTLED 

On your way out of Kahului Airport, stop at Costco, Target, or Walmart to pick up beach gear, sunscreen, food, and drink. Once ensconced at your hotel or condo, unwind from your long flight by exploring the grounds, dozing by the pool, or splashing in the ocean—it’s why you came to Maui, isn’t it? 

Logistics: Road signs will point you to the two main resort areas: Highway 311 (Maui Veterans Highway) to 31 (Piilani) south to Kihei and Wailea, and Highway 380 (Kuihelani) to 30 (Honoapiilani) west to Lahaina and Kapalua.  

DAY 2: SURF AND SAND 

Head to the nearest beach for snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing, or surfing in the gentle waves of Cove Park in Kihei or Launiupoko in West Maui. If golf’s more your game, hit the tournament-quality golf links in the resort areas; cheaper rates can be found at the scenic Waiehu, Waikapu, and Maui Lani courses in Central Maui. Spend the evening (it’ll be cooler) visiting Lahaina town, which is packed with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. 

Logistics: Many hotels and condos offer free shuttle service to golfing, shopping, and dining. Driving to Lahaina from South Maui, take Highway 310 (North Kihei Road) and turn left on Highway 30 (Honoapiilani). 

DAY 3: ADVENTURE ON LAND AND SEA 

Get a different view of the island—and discover what’s beneath the surface—on a full- or half-day boat excursion to Molokini, a crescent-shaped islet that sits 3 miles off South Maui; or take snorkeling, scuba diving, or dolphin- and whale-watching trip.

If you prefer dry land, head to Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu, which offers tram tours and a country store; it’s also the home base for Flyin Hawaiian Zipline and Maui Zipline’s introductory course. Plan to be back early enough for a sunset luau at your resort or at Old Lahaina Luau. 

Logistics: Boat tours leave from Maalaea Harbor in South Maui and Lahaina Harbor in West Maui. To get to the Maui Tropical Plantation from West Maui, follow Highway 30 (Honoapiilani) south to Waikapu; from South Maui, take Highway 310 (North Kihei Road) and turn right onto Highway 30.  

DAY 4: HALEAKALA AND UPCOUNTRY 

Sunrise at the 10,000-foot summit of this dormant volcano is so popular that the National Park Service now requires reservations (make yours as early as possible, up to 60 days in advance of your visit). To avoid the crush, consider planning your day in reverse. Start with some great body surfing at Baldwin Beach Park on the North Shore, followed by lunch in the former plantation town of Paia, home to charming boutiques and cafés.

Once Upcountry, tour Surfing Goat Dairy, Ali‘i Kula Lavender farm, or MauiWine, before heading to the Haleakala summit in the afternoon when the park is uncrowded. It’s not sunrise, but the spectacular sunset vista encompasses at least three islands and the broad expanse separating Maui’s two mountains. 

Logistics: To reach Haleakala from South Maui, take Highway 311 (Maui Veterans Highway) out of Kihei to connect with Highway 36 (Hana) and then Highway 37 (Haleakala). From West Maui, follow Highway 30 (Honoapiilani) to 380 (Kuihelani), which connects with 36. 

DAY 5: ROAD TO HANA 

Today’s the day to tackle the 600 curves of the Road to Hana (Highway 36/360). There aren’t a lot of dining options in Hana, but many hotels offer picnic baskets for the road, or fill your cooler and gas tank in Paia, the last chance for provisions.

Pause to stretch your legs at the Keanae Arboretum, picturesque Keanae Landing, or any of the roadside waterfalls. Approaching Hana town, turn into Waianapanapa State Park, with its rugged lava outcroppings, black-sand beach, trails, and caves with freshwater pools. 

There isn’t much reason to stop in Hana town, except for lunch at the food trucks if you didn’t bring your own, so continue on to the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park, site of the Pools of Oheo (nicknamed Seven Sacred Pools) and 400-foot Waimoku Falls. (Check for updates on closures due to flash flooding and landslides.) 

Don’t leave Kipahulu without visiting the grave site of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who is buried at 19th-century Palapala Hoomau Church. 

Logistics: Follow directions to Haleakala, but stay on Highway 36/360 (Hana). 

DAY 6: BEACH DAY 

A full day is needed to recover from a trek to Hana, so take it easy with a visit to the Maui Ocean Center, where you’ll be mesmerized by the sharks, rays, and tuna circling the 750,000-gallon open-ocean tank. Then spend the rest of the day relaxing in the water or at the spa with lunch beside the pool. 

Logistics: From South Maui, take Highway 31 (Piilani) to 310 (North Kihei Road), then head a short distance left on Highway 30 (Honoapiilani). From West Maui, head south on Highway 30 to Maalaea/Maui Ocean Center. 

DAY 7: CENTRAL MAUI 

Squeeze in a final session at the beach or pool before checking out of your hotel and heading to Central Maui to be closer to the airport. If you like history, Hale Hoikeike at the Bailey House features the island’s largest collection of Hawaiian artifacts.

Just five minutes up the road is Iao Valley State Park and one of the most photographed landmarks in Hawaii: Iao Needle. Eat like a local with lunch or an early dinner at Umi, Miko’s, or A Saigon Cafe in Wailuku or Da Kitchen, Ichiban, or Tin Roof in Kahului. If there’s still time, visit Kanaha Beach Park by Kahului Airport to watch world-class wind- and kite surfers or shop for gifts and souvenirs at the many malls. 

Logistics: From South Maui, take Highway 311 (Maui Veterans Highway) all the way to 32 (Kaahumanu) in Kahului, then turn left toward Wailuku; from West Maui, Highway 30 (Honoapiilani) leads right into Wailuku town. Kahului Airport is a 10-minute drive from here.

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