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Once you’ve decided on what Hawaiian island to visit, the next question is where should you stay? If you’re coming to Maui, there’s an overwhelming number of options. How do you know where to stay on Maui?
There are four distinct areas where people generally stay on Maui:
- West Maui: Kaanapali, Lahaina, Napili, and Kapalua
- South Maui: Wailea and Kihei
- East Maui: Hana
- North Maui and Upcountry: Paia, Kula, and Makawao
We’ll give you information on all four of these areas including our favorite hotel and vacation rental picks. Ready to plan your trip to Maui? This article makes it easy for you to decide where to stay.
Where to Stay on West Maui
West Maui was developed in the ’60s as the prime tourist destination on Maui. And when you visit, it’s easy to see why. The West Maui Mountains offer a beautiful view from the white-sand beaches. The water is crystal blue and there are plenty of easy places to swim for people of every ability.
West Maui is on the leeward side of the island, meaning you’ll get less rain, but things will also look a little drier. There are four main areas to stay on West Maui:
- Ka’anapali: A master-planned resort community, Ka’anapali first opened in the 1960s. Hotels, condos, and resorts are built along the white sand beach with shopping and restaurants in the center in Whalers Village.
- Lahaina: An old historic whaling village, Lahaina is now a bustling center with lively stores and restaurants lining Front Street. It’s also a launching pad for many of the ocean excursions like snorkeling and whale watching. There are few hotels, no large resorts, and a handful of vacation rentals.
- Napili: Picturesque Napili Bay offers a laid-back vibe, with low-rise condo buildings and small beachside resorts. Napili itself is a small community centered around a beautiful bay, great for snorkeling and swimming.
- Kapalua: A luxury resort area in Northwest Maui, there’s the main resort (the Ritz Carlton) and vacation rentals that line the bluffs and the world-class golf courses. Kapalua gets a little more rain and wind, but it’s also more lush and green.
West Maui Highlights
There is a laundry list of reasons that we love West Maui:
- Price: While west Maui isn’t cheap by any means, you’ll find that accommodations are slightly less expensive than what you’ll find on South Maui. According to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the average hotel rate in West Maui in January 2020 was $396 compared to the average hotel rate in South Maui of $717.
- Ka’anapali Beach and Black Rock: If you’re looking for a huge beach that stretches as far as you can see, Ka’anapali beach is the spot for you. White sand beach and turquoise waters make this beach so popular. Plus at the north end of the beach, you’ll find Black Rock, a spot for excellent snorkeling and cliff jumping.
- Historic Lahaina: The most nightlife you’ll find on Maui is centered in Lahaina. While things do close up early, there are a number of restaurants and bars that are lively in the evening. Take a stroll down historic front street, eat ice cream under the banyan tree, and stop in a museum or art gallery. Lahaina offers a break from the beach and a little bit of history.
- Easy snorkeling spots: Four out of our five favorite snorkeling spots on Maui are on the west side of Maui. Why? They offer easy access, plenty of fish, and we almost always have a turtle sighting!
- Easy surfing: Want to hit the waves for an easy surf lesson? Lahaina offers plenty of surf lesson options and beaches where you can catch an easy wave.
- Access to boat trips: Plenty of boat trips leave from Lahaina so if you want to catch a snorkel ride, a sunset cruise, or take a day trip to Lanai, you have all the trips you need right from the center of town.
- Great weather: The west side of Maui is located on the leeward side of the island, which gets a lot of sunshine and a little rain. If you’re looking for a sunny beach vacation, the leeward side is the best option.
West Maui Considerations
Because West Maui was the first part of the island developed for tourists, you may find that things feel a bit more crowded. You’ll also find great hotels and resorts on this part of the island, but if you’re looking for five-star luxury resorts, there are more to choose from on South Maui.
Our favorite hotels on West Maui
There are so many great hotels on the west side, but we wanted to share our favorite three, ranging from budget to luxury.
- Montage Kapalua: Located in Kapalua, the Montage is the best luxury hotel on the west side. It offers a secluded location, world class golf courses, easy walking trails, and is minutes from beautiful Kapalua Bay. You also have some of the best restaurants on Maui within a short drive. The luxurious hotel has 56 one to four-bedroom villas spread over 24 acres. Book a stay at the Montage Kapalua Bay here.
- Westin Kaanapali: Located right near Whalers Village in Kaanapali, the Westin offers easy access to a lot of amenities on the west side. Aside from being on one of the best beaches (and within a quick walk to Black Rock), it also has the best pool in Kaanapali, and is a quick walk to the restaurants and shops in Whalers village. Book a stay at the Westin Kaanapali here.
- Kaanapali Beach Hotel: This is probably our favorite budget hotel on the whole island. When you step onto the grounds, it feels like you’ve been transported back in time. Everyone is friendly and the grounds are simple but beautiful. Located right on Kaanapali Beach, the resort offers everything you need in a great location and for a great price. Bonus! They underwent a beautiful new renovation to their rooms in 2020. Click here to book the Kaanapali Beach Hotel.
Our favorite vacation rentals on West Maui
Are vacation rentals more your style? Here are three on West Maui that we love:
- Napili Gardens: We can’t hide that we love Napili and we fell more in love with it during our weekend stay at a condo in Napili Gardens (watch the video here!). Napili Gardens is a small community directly across the street from Napili Bay. It offers three-bedroom condos and townhomes. There’s no pool, but you hardly miss it with Napili Bay so close. Book vacation rentals at Napili Gardens here.
- Puamana: This condo community feels like a hidden gem. Located at the south end of Front Street in Lahaina, this condo community is from the 60s and has plenty of space and sprawling green lawns. The historic ocean-front clubhouse adds to the charm, as does the ocean-front pool. Watch our video tour of Puamana and search for rentals on VRBO.
- The Whaler: In the heart of Kaanapali you’ll find this luxury high-rise condo complex. In a prime location, you’ll get the amenities of a hotel with the convenience of a vacation rental (we love a good kitchen!). Book vacation rentals in The Whaler here.
Where to Stay on South Maui
When people mention staying in South Maui, they’re likely staying in one of two places: Wailea or Kihei. South Maui is the second most popular location for vacationers to stay and it’s easy to see why. The beaches in South Maui are just as spectacular as you’ll find on West Maui — the Kamehameha beaches (Kam I, II, and III) in Kihei offer long stretches of beach with calm water. And the luxury resorts in Wailea are perfect for people looking for an upscale vacation.
Also located on the leeward side, South Maui offers even less rain than you’ll find on West Maui. But you may have to contend with the Makena Cloud — a low cloud that rolls into the area some afternoons (though to be honest, we’ve never had an issue with it).
The two main areas to stay on South Maui are:
- Wailea: Wailea was developed in the 70s and is home to the best luxury resorts on the island. Staying in Wailea is definitely an upscale experience, though it’s also a little quieter with a little less to do.
- Kihei: In Kihei, you’ll find more condos and no large resorts. While Wailea is luxury, Kihei can offer a price break that many travelers welcome. Kihei is often livelier than Wailea, and offers a hub of activities similar to Lahaina, though without the quaint historic downtown.
South Maui Highlights
- Weather: Like West Maui, South Maui is located on the leeward side of the island, making it dry and sunny. While both areas have little rain and a lot of sun, you’ll find that South Maui is even dryer than the West.
- Range of dining options: From upscale restaurants to a great food truck park in Kihei, South Maui has a range of food options that offers something everyone will love.
- Easy swimming and snorkeling: The waves are often calm on South Maui (especially in the morning) and you’ll find a number of excellent snorkeling spots up and down the coast. Swimmers of all ability can find a spot they feel comfortable with here.
- Luxury: Wailea features the most luxury hotels plus the only adults-only hotel on the island. If you want luxury options, this is the place to go.
South Maui Considerations
- Fewer shopping and dining options: Compared to West Maui, you’ll find less shopping and dining options available.
- Price: Unless you’re staying in a budget-friendly rental in Kihei, prepare to spend a little more for your stay. The average hotel room price in South Maui was $717 per night and the average vacation rental price per night is $306. (Data from January 2020 Hawaii Tourism Authority report).
- Ocean activities: Many of the boat rides and ocean activities that you may want to do will require a 20-minute drive to Maalaea Harbor. Not a deal-breaker, but it will add extra time to your trip.
Our favorite hotels on South Maui
- Four Seasons Wailea: It’s hard to choose THE luxury hotel in South Maui, but if I have to name one, this is it. The service (amazing), the grounds (impeccable), the pool (and popsicles). Everything here is top-notch. Book the Four Seasons Wailea here.
- Hotel Wailea: Ok we had to choose one more luxury hotel because this is the only adults-only resort in all of Hawaii. And this resort is luxurious. While you’re not staying directly on the beach in Wailea, you’re set on a bluff overlooking the ocean. And when you want to head to the beach? Just hop in a hotel car — a Tesla — to shuttle you down the hill. Book Hotel Wailea here.
- Residence Inn by Marriott: A solid mid-price hotel, the Residence Inn offers suites (with kitchens!), and an area shuttle so you can get around easily. The rooms are spacious and they even have grills on the property so you can pick up food — like freshly caught fish. Book the Residence Inn by Marriott here.
- Maui Coast Hotel: Located in Kihei, this hotel is across the street from the beach and is walking distance to restaurants and shopping. The rooms are large and the hotel offers free bike rentals to explore the area. Plus, free parking and laundry is always a plus in Hawaii! Book the Maui Coast Hotel here.
Our favorite vacation rentals on South Maui
It’s hard to pick our favorite vacation rentals on South Maui, but as a rule, remember that vacation rentals in Kihei are going to be significantly cheaper than rentals in Wailea.
- Ho’olei: This is a luxury vacation rental resort owned by the Grand Wailea. Here you’ll find villas with multiple bedrooms and stunning ocean views. While it’s owned by the Grand Wailea Hotel you don’t get access to the hotel amenities. But you may not even notice because the amenities at Hoolei are top of the line. Book a villa at Ho’olei here.
- Ekahi Village: This family-friendly resort features spread-out low-rise condo buildings. While it’s not on the beach, the condos are walking distance to the beach and to restaurants. Technically, these rentals are in Kihei, though they are so far south that they’re on the border with Wailea. So you get Kihei prices with close access to Wailea amenities. Book a condo at Ekahi Village here.
- Kihei Kai Nani: Across from Kamaole Beach Park II (Kam II), these vacation rentals have everything you need. While they are all individually owned, the reviews are stellar. These one-bedroom condos have everything you need. The location is perfect, within walking distance to a beautiful beach and plenty of restaurants, this spot delivers exceptional value for the price. Book a stay at the Kihei Kai Nani.
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Where to Stay on East Maui
When people talk about staying in East Maui, they’re really talking about staying in one area: Hana. While many visitors take the Road to Hana and don’t spend the night, Hana is the right place to stay for a few visitors.
If you’re looking for a remote experience and you want the feeling of staying off the beaten path in a lush environment, Hana is your spot. It’s quiet (very quiet), has few accommodation options, and offers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors. You can hike to waterfalls, swim on black sand beaches, and have a vacation truly away from it all.
But be prepared for rain. East Maui is on the windward side of the island. It’s green and lush but rains often.
While there aren’t many places to stay, there are a few options that stand out:
- Hana Maui Resort by Hyatt: Formerly the Travaasa Hana, this is the only luxury resort you’ll find on this side of the island. Stay in a private bungalow and enjoy this beautiful resort that offers beachfront accommodation. Book a stay at the Hana Maui Resort here.
- Hana Kai: A community of vacation rentals that range from studios to two-bedroom units, all with fully equipped kitchens. The community is on the beach and centrally located in Hana. Book a rental at the Hana Kai here.
- Waiʻānapanapa State Park Cabins: Looking for an adventure, budget accommodations, and cabins near a black sand beach? Look no further. While there are no-frill cabins and you will need to bring your own linens and towels, they come with a kitchen and have plenty of space for 6 people to sleep. Book a stay at the Waiʻānapanapa cabins here.
Looking to stay just one night in Hana? Read more about picking the right Hana accommodations.
Where to Stay on North Maui and Upcountry
We really believe a trip to Maui isn’t complete without a trip to Upcountry and North Maui. Away from the more tourist-popular zones, you’ll get a completely different vibe when you explore these areas.
On North Maui, you can hit up the most famous restaurant on Maui, Mama’s Fish House. You can take windsurfing lessons. And you can stroll the charming town of Paia.
Upcountry you’ll find the scenery changes. You start driving up the mountain towards Haleakala and the scenery begins to get green and lush. In Upcountry you can visit the Kula Farmers market for fresh fish and tropical produce, stroll through historic Makawao, or visit Surfing Goat Dairy, The Kula Lavender Farm, or stop in for a tasting at Maui Wine.
You’ll find North Shore and Upcountry to be a little more residential and you won’t find large resorts. Your options here include smaller, boutique hotels and vacation rentals.
- Paia Inn: A hip spot that earns a place in the (also hip) town of Paia. The Paia Inn is a small boutique hotel with rooms and suites along the ocean. Walk to everything that you need to in town or enjoy a retreat at the hotel. But warning: this hotel will raise your expectations when it comes to design and aesthetics. It’s hard to find other hotels that compare. Book a stay at the Paia Inn here.
- Kula Lodge: Just down the road from Haleakala is the Kula Lodge. Here’s you’re far from the ocean but you’ll enjoy a peaceful stay at 32,000 feet at one of the vacation lodges. Relax in front of the fire and tax in spectacular views from their restaurant. The Kula Lodge is a rustic upcountry gem. Book a vacation lodge at the Kula Lodge here.
Still not sure where to stay on Maui?
To be honest, you probably can’t make a bad decision. But we have two videos to help you make the decision.
But before we get to those, don’t forget to grab a free itinerary to help guide you through your stay on Maui. View our full guide to Maui.
Hotel or Vacation Rental in Hawaii?
We answer that question in this video:
Kaanapali or Wailea?
We give you the pros and cons of both Kaanapali and Wailea in this article and in this video:
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