Maui No Ka Oi

By Kate Riley April 2, 2013

Oh, just editing these pictures makes me miss Maui so much. *sigh* After our three days in Oahu on spring break we island hopped to Maui for another four days of bliss. “Maui No Ka Oi” in Hawaiian means “Maui is the best” and it’s a phrase tossed around by Maui residents a lot – they take pride in the beauty and community of their island.

I love Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island too, each has its own unique beauty, yet I find we return to Maui the most because for us it offers everything we want to do, see, and taste when in Hawaii.

beach in maui

Here’s a glimpse of our four days in Maui and some of the favorite places we’ve come to love over the years in this beautiful destination.

I say the same thing each time we arrive in Kahului in Maui: “this is my favorite airport in the entire world!”  There are two main places the tourists stay, and where most of the hotels are: the Ka’anapali/Lahaina area on the west side or down south in Kihei/Wailea (however there are plenty of accommodations all over the island). We prefer Kihei the most because it’s a kick-back super casual community and we enjoy hanging out on those beaches best.

maui map


We always take a day trip up to the Ka’anapali area for shopping and a great lunch on the beach – there is some great shopping at Whaler’s Village – an open air mall with boutiques specializing in local apparel and accessories.

whalers village shop

mens hawaiian shirts

blue ginger

map shop


The beach in Ka’anapali is so beautiful, and you can find a lot of water activities and sport fishing in the area, we’ve gone fishing and parasailing here before (but not this trip).

kaanapali beach boats

kaanapali beach

kaanapali surf


There are two great places to eat on the beach, Leilani’s and Hula Grill where you can sit with your toes in the sand, they’re right next to each other and both serve great island style food and mai tais, and the Hula Pie at Leilani’s is died-an-gone-to-Maui divine!

leilanis and hula grill kaanapali


In the evenings we like to head to Lahaina, the old fishing town that’s packed with shops, restaurants, and people – be sure visit the gigantic 135+ year old Banyan tree in the heart of town too.

lahaina maui

lahaina shop necklaces

lahaina bicycles

pioneer inn lahaina

waterfront lahaina


Lahaina stays awake and filled with nightlife as afternoon turns to evening which is fun – the torches come out and the lanterns are lit – it’s great to explore for a few hours, especially if you’re an art lover since there are so many galleries here in town.

lahaina dining

lahaina shops at night


Any first time visitor to Hawaii must attend a traditional luau for a feast and entertainment and the Old Lahaina Luau is one of the very best. We experienced it years ago, but I popped in to see the setup once again on this most recent visit, before all the attendees arrived.

old lahaina luau

old lahaina luau seating

orchid leis

canoe in shack


One misty afternoon, we took a whale watching trip from the Maalaea Harbor – the humpback whales come to Maui to have their babies and you can see them in the waters December through April – it’s unbelieveable to see them popping up around the boat, oh hello massive ocean creature!

whale 2

whale tail

The Maui Ocean Center and aquarium is also in Maalaea – we skipped it this time, but it’s another place worthy of a few hours, especially with kids.

On our last day, we took a drive north to a favorite little windsurfer town of Paia. We always stop at the Paia Fish Market for the freshest fish sandwiches. It’s a cool little hippie style town you have to pass through on the road to Hana, with cute shops and art galleries, and it’s worth strolling around to walk off lunch.

paia fish market on corner

 paia fish market

 fish sandwich

paia shops


Mama’s Fish House is a famous restaurant and island hot spot just past Paia, they serve amazing (but pricey) appetizers and dishes, and you can’t beat the view of the coastline and the windsurfers.

mamas fishhouse

windsurfers at sea

mamas fishouse maui


About twenty minutes past Paia town (about ten minutes past Mama’s on the road to Hana) is a really great stop: Twin Falls. This is an easy but adventurous hike to several waterfalls and you’ll pass plenty of island foliage along the way.

twin falls hike

foliage in hawaii

hike through twin falls

hike to twin falls

twin falls maui

Take a swim here, it’s so much fun !

There’s a little fruit stand at the entrance/exit to Twin Falls where you can grab a pineapple smoothie and coconut candy for when you get back on the road, highly recommended!

pineapple smoothie

The last day is always the saddest!  Here are some other favorite Maui experiences from previous trips:

1) Driving up to the Haleakala volcano, hiking into the crater at the National Park, and watching the sunset in the freezing cold – bring jackets and blankets! (There are also “bike the Volcano” sunrise excursions too.)

2) Driving the road to Hana and visiting all the waterfalls, beaches, bamboo forest, and then swimming in the “sacred pools”.  We stayed out in Hana for a night on a previous trip which broke up the journey and made the long drive more enjoyable for us. (The locals say make the trip around the other side of the island but the rental car companies don’t like it so they don’t tell you about it!)

3) Parasailing at Ka’anapali Beach – I did with my stepdaughter when she was 12, we have such great pictures of that.

4) Visiting the upcountry and the small towns where many locals live, also shopping the stores and specialty shops.

5) Snorkeling in Makena among the rocky coastline and in other little hidden beaches on the island.

6) Taking a boat trip to Molokini for supreme snorkeling – there are tons of tropical fish to see out there in the deep blue waters.

7) Strolling the grounds of the fancy resort hotels in Wailea – also browsing the shops there too!

Favorite places to eat: Sansei in Kihei (also Kapalua) for unique and super tasty sushi (we went twice) and the Lahaina Grill for a splurge (totally amazing food) – also Ululani’s in Lahaina for shave ice! The Coconut’s Fish Cafe in Kihei has excellent fish tacos and sandwiches, and the best mai tais are at MonkeyPod in Wailea -but watch out, they’re strong!

dining in kihei

lahaina grill

monkeypod mai tais


Mostly, we really enjoyed simply taking beach chairs and towels across the street from  where we stayed in Kihei to play for an hour or two in the morning or late afternoon.

You could spend a month in Maui and not do or see it all, but the thing you don’t want to miss each night is the sunset, no matter where you are. Crowds of residents and tourists pause and gather to witness the sun disappear over the horizon – even the sand on the beach reflects the color of the sky as the day ends.

maui sunset

Fellow Maui lovers and residents, what are your favorite not-to-miss spots on the island?.


  1. Kate you brought back great memories of our honeymoon in Maui. All your pictures are gorgeous as usual. We were there a little over 6 yrs ago and we want to go back one day soon. Such a great place to visit and unwind….but you never want to leave. We also went to Kauai. A week on each island was amazing, but we really did love Maui. Now I have some new places to explore the next time we go. :)

  2. We love Maui and are excited to go back in just 2 short weeks. We’re staying near Lahaina this time as we were at Kihei on our last trip. If you haven’t tried the Kihei Cafe, it’s a must. Very casual patio seating just across from the large beach park. Their pancakes are massive and I’ve been craving their Moko Loko since I left the island a year ago. We also loved the wood fired pizza place in Paia.

  3. Boy do I wish you went to Maui this time last year! My hubby and I went there this past October for our long-awaited honeymoon and I am glad we waited. It was glorious! We stay in Lahaina and didn’t really explore too much which I’m sad about but we loved where we stayed. The flights from the east coast are very long but again, worth it.

    We went the Feast at Lele for the luau and it was terrific. We also took the north route to the airport and talk about adventure. It goes down to 1 lane total and all the road guards are gone. It was scary at times but such fun in our convertable. It has been decided that we will retire there someday and I can’t wait!

  4. Never been there so I really enjoyed all your great pics. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Grandma’s Coffee House for amazing baked goods!
    The feast at Lele was amazing…
    This Canadian definitely would love to live on Maui, even part-time!
    It really is magical.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your trip. We go to Kauai every 3 years with extended family and started 22 years ago. So many wonderful memories and each trip we discover new things and delight in the old ones!

  7. Thanks for sharing. We went back in 2009 and just fell in love with Maui. We did a lot of what you listed. We are headed back at the end of June and can’t wait to do new things and some old things. Our kids absolutely loved swimming at the black sand beach on the road to Hanna so we will be doing that again. We also continued on past Hanna and that was a sight to see. Such extreme difference. Well worth it. June can’t get here fast enough!

  8. Your pictures are absolutely amazing! What a fantastic time. I’ve only been to Hawaii once (Oahu and the Big Island) and I’m *dying* to get to Maui. This makes me want to move it to the top of our travel list!!!

  9. I LOVE Maui! We rented a condo near Lahaina (I think it was called Kanapali) and it was absolutely beautiful. We’d highly recommend it. Maui has been one of my favorite Hawaiian islands that we’ve visited.

  10. My parents have a place there and I can’t wait to go for ten days in June!!! I started getting hungry as soon as you mentioned Hula Pie and then I got thirsty when I saw the pics of the Terralani! It’s our favorite sunset booze cruise!

    Our absolute favorite find is up the mountain on the way to Haleakala. The Kula Lodge has the world’s best prime rib. They cook it in an outdoor oven all day long and if you get up there right before sunset, you have a 180 degree view of the island. Gorgeous and delicious!!!

    • JJ, I’ve heard of that place too! Wasn’t Haleakala incredible? We hiked into the crater and it felt like we were on Mars, it was like a science fiction set… crazy cool. But COLD! Unexpected for Hawaii, but true. :)

  11. My husband and I are headed to Hawaii this summer for the first time. We will visit Oahu and Maui. I love all of your suggestions and will certainly visit some of these places! Thanks for the ideas :o)

  12. You have almost all of my favorites listed!! Love the Paia Fish Market and Mamas too. There are so many neat little carts along the road to Hana that we loved too. One had fresh banana bread, one was weaving hats or bowls out of palm fawns. Such a great vacation there! I am jealous! We haven’t been back since I was pregnant with my oldest who is now turning 8! Must get in another trip soon.

  13. We have so many similar pics from Maui! We stayed at the Westin next door to the shops at kanapaali. Loved it! We ate at Leilani’s almost every night. I like casual food so we tended to live off the burgers and nachos they serve downstairs. The Westin had the most awesome pool ever! My favorite part was the road to Hana because that’s just not something you see where I’m from (TX).

    • You’re totally right Jennifer, we stayed there when I ran the Maui Half Marathon six years ago, the Westin’s pools are divine!

  14. Your pictures look divine! We’re actually moving to the beach soon, and this is making me very excited! Not only do we get to redecorate, but I’m now thinking of sea greens, light blues and the palest pinks. We’ve lived in California for many many years without having been to Hawaii. Will go soon after your gorgeous trip!

  15. My husband is in the Air Force and was passing back through Hawaii from a deployment. He was able to pre-arrange for him to be “left behind” so we could meet up on Oahu for 7 days then continued our vacation with 5 days in Maui and 6 days on the Big Island. Maui was by far our favorite part of the vacation. We stayed in the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea (for free since he had saved up enough Hilton points from traveling so much with the AF). We loved waking up early to see the sunrise on Haleakala above the clouds. We were also able to kayak near the humpback whales (too close for comfort) and snorkeling with sea turtles. We can not wait to go back. I’m so glad to see you had a wonderful time, too!

    • Oh my the Waldorf in Wailea for free Janice? Wow!!! Must have been amazing!

  16. Married on Maui and went back last year with our family. Loved eating at the Aloha Plate (right next to the luau grounds) in Lahaina– watching the boats while stuffing our faces! Coconuts was amazing as well. And the whale watching was breathtaking. We could see them from the balcony at the Westin. Also shaved ice with the scoop of ice cream in the bottom – pretty much the most delicious thing ever. Planning another trip soon and thinking about one of the other islands, can’t wait to hear more about the Aulani resort.

    • Thanks for the reminder Sharon, the Aulani was really great, I’ll share more about it soon.

  17. What a wonderful walk down memory lane…we were married on maui 10 years ago.
    We keep telling our now 7 year old daughter that when she learns to swim we will go. We are talking about a 9 hour flight from Chicago:) Thanks for sharing your gorgeous pictures!

    • Yep, it’s a long flight Londen, but so worth it! It’s five hours for us which isn’t too bad, but harder for those who live in the midwest and east coast for sure.

  18. Agree! No trip to Maui is complete without multiple trips to Sansei or Paia Fish Market!!! We love them both and go to Maui annually just for Sansei :)
    We stay in Honokowai so also love the Sea House on Napili and Gazebo for B’fast.

  19. Love Hawaii !! We did Oahu , Maui & Kauai have never done the big island which is on our bucket list, we did the road to Hana, hubby drove. Scared the life out of me ha!!!

    Beautiful pics Kate, where did you stay ??

    • Hi Kathy, in Hana we stayed in a little vacation rental – that was 10 years ago, in Kihei most recently we stayed at the Maui Coast Hotel on a fourth night free deal, such a great location!

  20. Oh my. Gorgeous pictures! I live over on the East Coast and it’s quite the trip from here but I would love to go. It looks exciting, adventurous, exotic, and relaxing – my kind of vaca. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures!

  21. Like Sharon said, Aloha Mixed Plate (next to the luau in Lahaina – on the main road) is amazing! You get a tremendous amount of delicious food for a family-friendly budget price. The seats are all outside and the atmosphere is super fun. Lots of delicious daily drinks to try! Get there early. The wait for a table is the only challenging part.

    • I have heard such great things about Aloha Mixed Plate Tammy, thanks for the reminder to visit next time!

  22. Beautiful photos. J-E-A-L-O-U-S! How nice to have had a break. Curious, were you truly able to relax without the blogging brain going constantly?

  23. We just returned from 2 weeks in Maui. Our favorite restaurant is Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina–tiny place with a deck on the water. Great place to watch the sunset & sea turtles. And Duke’s is now open–another favorite. Black Rock at Sheraton is also great for snorkeling, & listening to the humpbacks underwater. The Iao Needle is worth the drive–not too far from the airport. It’s a beautiful rainforest so different from the beaches.

  24. Now I want to go back to Maui! We haven’t been in eight years (wow, time flies!), but we love it there. Our favorite activity was going out on the Teralani, for both a snorkeling cruise and a sunset cruise. I noticed your photo of one of their boats, did you use them too? We loved the stafff and it made me wish I’d had a fun job like that after college, instead of starting my career right away…

  25. So glad you included Coconut’s! We were just there in early December for the first time and we LOVED their fish tacos. So so so good.

  26. We love Maui, loved everything: Momma’s Fish House, Biking down Haleakala, parasailing, but one of the most memorable events was by far, Warren and Annabelle’s in Lahaina! Amazing!

  27. I love Maui! We have been 4 times and love it- your pics of k’aanapali were like a walk down memory lane! Hope that “maui time” will stick with you for awile- it’s a slower pace than crazy bay area!

  28. I L-O-V-E Maui! My hubby and I got married there and went back for our 1 year wedding anniversary. Maui holds a special place in our heart! Reading this takes me back and makes me miss Maui even more. I agree with you, Maui is my favorite island! I was able to relax just by reading this post. Breath of fresh air. {sigh}. Aloha, Maui no ka oi!

    ~ Ferly

  29. We love staying south of Waleia and staying in Makena. We have a friend who has the most glorious house there. When we arrived we had grand plans of doing lots of activities. Biking down the volcano, taking the road to Hana, but instead… we snorkeled one day and spent the rest of the days lounging on the beach. We were totally struck with the mellow Hawaiian way of taking it easy. It was the best vacation.

  30. We’ve been to Maui twice, most recently last May. Seeing all the photos from your trip and recognizing most of the places makes me miss it so much! I’m ready to go back!

  31. We went to Maui, Oahu and Big Island on our Honeymoon, and loved all three islands. Your pictures are amazing and bring back such wonderful memories! We stayed Ho’olio House B&B just south of Lahaina and had a beautiful view of Lanai. We tried to get to Haleakala for the sunrise, but it was a white out all 3 days we were there. We also did the Old Lahaina Luau, and loved Aloha Mixed Plate! I think we actually ate there a couple of times. Loved the road to Hana and all the waterfalls. We stopped at Aunt Sandys for some of the best banana bread I have ever had. We did defy the rental car company and drove from Hana all the way around the island. The roads are not as bad as they say. Maybe only a mile or 2 at most unpaved. What is scary is that there are several areas of the road that are barely big enough for 1 car, much less 2! It was a beautiful drive! Especially to see the crater from the other side.

  32. Hi Kate,
    Loved this post & LOVE MAUI! We are fortunate to go each year. We stay at the Westin Villas North on Ka’annapali beach. You should stroll in there…a short walk on the path toward Kapaula from Whaler’s. Dukes on the Beach is just past us. That is a great dining spot with great sunsets & not as much hustle & bustle as Hula Grill in Whaler’s. I’ll post on our trip this summer & let u know if we come up with anything new. Oh & we did do the road to Hana the other way last year & it was a white knuckler to say the least. The views were probably spectacular, but I couldn’t look most of the time as we were literary almost dangling off the edge of the earth!

  33. You make me yearn to return….. I loved Maui. But your photography is gorgeous!! Especially the outrigger on the beach. Maybe in a future post, you can show us how to put the watermark on your photo (so people have to give you credit, because credit is certainly due!)

  34. Loved reading about your Hawaiian vacay! Haven’t been to Maui in 3 yrs but have since been to Kauai once, and The Big Island twice where I am right now! It’s our get away place from our Canadian weather even in early Spring so we absolutely love it. Your beautiful pictures brought back a lot of wonderful Maui memories. Maybe next time we’ll Island hop between Maui and The Big Island’s Kohala Coast. Aloha!

  35. Looks like you had a fabulous vacation. Your pictures are gorgeous. However, the one I lingered over the longest was the one of those beautiful necklaces. Please tell me you bought one. I would have had a hard time choosing. I wanted to jump inside the picture and try all of them on.

  36. Sometime when you are on the east coast, try to spend a couple of days in Annapolis, MD – many of your pictures remind me of that area. It is a very quaint little town with a bustling waterfront, loads of cute shops and restaurants…… would love it!

  37. i 100% love maui. to me, it is what everyone envision’s hawaii to be. unlike kauai, you can see the water from everywhere. the smell of pineapples as we approached our condo in kahana was intoxicating. i felt like we discovered kapalua bay beach, where we snorkelled and watched the sun set without a lot of people. you mentioned upcountry, so i’m sure you have been to the maui winery. thankfully my pineapple wine and my onion dressing made it home intact.

    we hope to go to the big island next year…this year, we are heading to alaska.

    your pictures are gorgeous, and thanks for waking those memories!

  38. Great recommendations Centsational girl! I’m a local from Maui and a concierge at one of the Wailea hotels. You are right on!! Glad you enjoyed Maui as much as we do. Your blog is one of my favorites. I get tons of inspiration for my home decor. As you know Maui does not have many big stores but I do what I can with what we have. Come visit soon! :)

  39. Ahh…Maui…hale sweet hale! :)
    My hubby & I moved here last year & love it. Paia Town is one of my favorite spots, especially Ho’okipa where the windsurfers gather by the hundreds it seems on especially perfect days. I think one the most amazing things about Maui is the community – people from all over the world, coming together in one tiny, yet extra-ordinary place.

  40. I was married in Maui! At Makena Cove, and we had our wedding reception at Old Lahaina Luau :)We snorkeled at Molokini and did the road to Hana and I really enjoyed visiting Haleakala.

  41. You have some truly amazing pictures of Maui. You have a good eye for capturing everyday life and making it look glamorous.
    Although, after I say that, is anything in Maui just everyday life?

    We spent our honeymoon in Wailea. I long to go back. The Kea Lani was an a fantastic resort.
    I’ve also had the pleasure of staying in Ka’anapali. There’s no place like Maui.
    Indeed, Maui No Ka Oi

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