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What to Know Before You Visit Maui

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It’s Maui Monday! This week I’ve pulled together my top tips for beautiful Maui, Hawaii. Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your trip and enjoy it to the fullest! Be on the lookout for an upcoming post about what to know about Hawaii in general, including a guide to the best of each island!

General Information

There are a few things to be aware of before you jet off to paradise. Be on the lookout for a post all about What to Know Before You Visit the Hawaiian Islands (coming soon!), but for now, here are some specifics for Maui!

  • All beaches are public. Much to the chagrin of fancy-pants resorts, all beaches are 100% public. And there are usually places to park for free along the sides of the road.
  • You can see four other islands from Maui. Those islands are Molokai to the west, Lanai to the southwest, and Kahoolawe to the southeast. Molokini Crater is also visible to the southeast! And on a clear day, you can see the Big Island to the east.
  • There may be unexploded bombs. The U.S. Navy used small island of Kahoolawe for target practice during World War II. While that is no longer the case, there are some stray, unexploded bombs in the water, some of which could be too close for comfort to Maui. If you see something on that southeast side that looks suspicious, contact the police immediately and walk away!
  • Pay attention to the rules of your rental car agreement. I was kind of bummed to learn that there were some sections of Maui where we were not allowed to drive, even with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Luckily, we were able to drive the whole road to Hana but absolutely no farther.
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The sections within the red lines are a no-go!
Sign Up Early

I am a big advocate for flexibility and an overall general plan instead of a strict schedule, but Maui is the second most visited Hawaiian Island, and there are some popular things that should be booked well in advance.

  • Mama’s Fish House. We booked this more than two months in advance, and it’s a good thing we did! Mama’s Fish House is one of the nicest restaurants in Hawaii, and it is definitely a special occasion restaurant. If this is on your list of things to do, book well in advance for the date you want. It’s near the airport, so its a good place for dinner before a late flight, which is what we did! For more on our experience, check out What I Ate: Mama’s Fish House!
  • Sunrise at Haleakala. We chose not to do this one, but it is extremely popular. And since you’ll be up super early thanks to the positive side of jet lag your first couple of days in Hawaii, why not make use and watch the sunrise, right? But you do need to reserve your place to watch the sunrise at the Haleakala summit two months in advance. There are some next-day tickets available the day before you want to watch the sunrise, but they go quickly. You will need a reservation to get into the park between 3:00am and 7:00am any day of the week.
    • Important! It’s cold up at the 10,000-foot summit, so bring long pants and a jacket if you plan to watch the sunrise on Haleakala, and maybe some gloves and ear warmers as well!
  • Tours. It’s always a good idea to get a feel for the tours you want before you get to the island. You can always call (just remember the time difference!) the companies you’re interested in and ask them what their availability is like, and whether or not they recommend booking in advance, and how far in advance. Helicopter tours, snorkeling tours, Road to Hana tours, and more all have different availability, so do a little legwork a couple of months in advance so you won’t be disappointed later!
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Sweet photo op before dinner at Mama’s Fish House!
Money Matters

Maui seemed like it was a bit more expensive than the other islands, but there are some things you can do help with that if you’re concerned about the cost and are traveling with a tight budget.

  • Shop at the grocery store. Instead of spending money on going out to eat three times a day, spend a fraction of that amount and check out the grocery store! You can easily find Hawaiian fruits, vegetable, breads, and even desserts with ingredients like lilikoi, taro, and lychee! Even if you only make your own meal just once each day, that’s some serious savings when you add it all up–especially if the meal you make instead of go out for is supper!
  • Get souvenirs at grocery stores, Target, Costco, etc. Instead of paying three times as much for Maui coffee at a gift shop, get it for a fraction of the cost at the grocery store. The same goes for t-shirts, leis, candles, and more!
  • Rent a car for a week. It was much less expensive to rent our car for a week instead of 8 days. We decided to make our own way to our hotel that first night, and get the rental car the next morning before driving the Road to Hana. The cost of a cab or an Uber was less than renting the car for that extra day!
  • Get your Passport to the Past. Interested in museums? You’ll pay $7 each ($28 total) for all four museums, or you can get the Passport to the Past at any of the museums for just $10! There are also discounts for students and seniors. The museums are:
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Old Sugar Factory as seen from the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum
Environmentally Speaking

Hawaiians are more serious than most about environmental responsibility. Here are some of the measures they take and which you will be subject to on-island as well.

  • Plastic bags are banned. You can bring your own for laundry and wet clothes, but be very careful not to leave it behind. It’s also a good idea to bring a reusable grocery bag or two for takeout, groceries, souvenirs, etc.
  • Conserving water. Our vacation rental in Hana was on a water catchment system, which means that the only water they have comes from rain! While that’s not too hard to come by in the rain forest, it was important to be aware of that so we didn’t use too much and run out–or leave too little for the people coming after us. You won’t have to worry about water catchment in hotels and condos, but if you get a vacation rental a little off the beaten path, know that water catchment may be something to look for as a heads-up!
  • You should use Reef Safe sunscreen. When we visited in late April and early May, there was much hustle and bustle around banning two specific chemicals in sunscreen that have been known to bleach coral reefs. Luckily, there is such a thing as Reef Safe sunscreen! Click the image for yours:

The Most Dangerous Island

It is definitely no laughing matter, but it was bizarre just how many warnings of death there were everywhere on Maui. Check out a few of the signs, and be safe out there!

…and these are just the signs I took photos of! The fact is, I understand that accidents happen, but all the signs about death were a little too much. It’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself when you’re worried about your travel partner or yourself falling to their death at every turn. Use caution, be smart, don’t try dumb tricks.

Are you ready for your own Maui adventure? I hope this post helps you feel as prepared as possible!

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