Maui Itinerary: How to Cover the Island in 7 Days

If you’re looking for a Maui itinerary because you’ve already booked a flight there, trust that you’ve made an excellent decision. From winding roads surrounded by waterfalls to colorful beaches with red, black, and golden sand, Maui is a special place where going au natural is encouraged.

Before getting into the Maui itinerary, I’ll start with a few things you should know as you plan your trip. 

Arriving on Maui

Your flight will arrive in the biggest city on the island at Kahului Airport (OGG). There, you’ll find a Walmart, Safeway, and Foodland where you can stock up on groceries. Most of your trip will be spent on the road or outdoors, so having snacks handy is essential. It’s also a good idea to take out money for cash-only food and fruit stands you’ll see along the highways.

Getting around Maui

The best way to see the island is by car. There are incredible landscapes as you drive along the coast or into the depths of the hilly countryside. In general, Maui roads are well-marked and easy to navigate with the occasional hairpin turns. 

You can save rental car money by using the public bus system, Maui Bus. Its 14 routes reach the island’s most-visited areas. The downside to public transportation is being stuck to the bus timetable and destinations every day. 

Waves crashing into rocks below Ho'okipa Lookout on Maui island in Hawaii.

Where to stay on Maui

For a 7-day trip to Maui, I recommend choosing two to three stays in different areas of the island. This way, you can keep seeing new places without backtracking at the end of each day. I stayed in the Upcountry near northern Maui, Hana in the east, and Olowalu in the southwest. I’d recommend staying in any of these areas thanks to their convenient location and affordable options.

If you prefer to choose one home base or have less than a week to visit, Kahului is well-connected to major roads. From Kahului, you can easily head in any direction of the island for the day. 

Maui Itinerary

The Maui itinerary below covers the island in 7 days. It’s the perfect guide for first-time visitors to Maui, or those looking for more than just tourist-run spots. If you have more than 7 days, I recommend staying longer in East Maui and the Upcountry. Whatever you pick from my suggestions below, just make sure to budget time to drive back to Kahului Airport when it’s time to leave!

Day 1: The Upcountry

Acres of green hills and some of the island’s highest elevations make up the peaceful, often overlooked Upcountry. There’s a distinct community feel with most locals working off the land. The Upcountry’s activities center around touring farms and taking in the views as you drive.

Sunset view from Haleakala Crater in Maui, Hawaii.

Local farms

Driving the steep hills to farms like the 13-acre Ali’i Kula Lavender fields or Maui Gold Pineapples is a great way to see the Upcountry’s beauty while learning about local agriculture. Be sure to make a reservation in advance for either of these popular tours; I tried to show up at the lavender farm and it was closed.

I can personally recommend Maui Bees. They offered tours of their all-organic farm and had a health-conscience shop with jars of their seasonal honey, homemade kombucha, and gluten-free cookies. Everyone that worked there was so kind and knowledgeable!

Makawao

Cozy, historic Makawao is one of the biggest towns in the Upcountry. Along Makawao’s main road Baldwin Avenue, you can find local art galleries, patio cafes, and clothing boutiques, and it’s worth a quick stroll while you’re in the countryside.  

Haleakala Crater

You will be driving above the clouds to the peak of Haleakala Crater, set 10,000+ feet above sea level in Haleakala National Park. The winding drive takes more than two hours from most parts of the island, but if you leave from the Upcountry’s main areas like Makawao or Kula, it’s a shorter journey around 90 minutes.

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to catch the sun hovering above Haleakala’s ocean of clouds. It can get crowded at sunset, so if you want to go for a sunrise visit, you’ll have to make a reservation on the Haleakala National Park website

Day 2: the North Shore

Just a short drive north of the Upcountry, Maui’s North Shore is an ode to classic Hawaii – golden sand beaches, turquoise water, and surf-friendly. You can also splurge on fresh seafood or an extravagant shave ice here. (Yes, everywhere on Maui these fancy snow cones are called ‘shave ice’).

Beach goers look out toward the turquoise water at Paia Secret Beach in Maui, Hawaii.

Paia

Pastel-colored shopfronts offer a vintage surf town feel as you walk along the main street in downtown Paia. I recommend planning at least one big meal here. If you go all out for one meal during your trip, Mama’s Fish House is worth the price. Or, you can keep it simple and get shave ice and fresh poke at Tobi’s Shave Ice on your way to the beach. 

As far as which beach to visit in Paia, traveler sites recommend visiting Baldwin Beach Park. When I visited, I went to Paia Secret Beach instead. The beach was spacious and chill, and the water was so clear I could see everything underwater, even huge sea turtles swimming.

Ho’okipa Lookout

This lookout point has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and makes for a perfect overlook of Ho’okipa Beach, where dozens of surfers paddle out to ride the waves. If you’re like me and not used to seeing surfers, the locals here will impress you.

Day 3: Exploring the Road to Hana

Making stops to see nature along the Road to Hana, also known as the Hana Highway, is one of the main highlights of Maui. The highway itself is well paved and easy to navigate, alternating between bamboo trees and waterfalls to wooded pine forests. The highway runs for about 60 miles from Kahului to the town called Hana in East Maui.

You’ll pick up where you left off the day before, starting at the North Shore and making stops along the highway until you reach Hana. Below are a few of the scenic Road to Hana stops I recommend based on my experience.

Sweeping views of Maui's coast from the Garden of Eden Arboretum.

Garden of Eden Arboretum

The Garden of Eden Arboretum comes up early on the Road to Hana and makes for a relaxing morning activity as you walk through tropical flowers and under rainbow eucalyptus trees. The arboretum sits on a hilltop, offering bird-eye views of the coastline and epic waterfalls tucked in the island’s interior. 

*Keep in mind the car line to enter gets long, so try to get there close to opening time.

Ke’anae Lookout

A local recommended this stop located halfway to Hana. The Ke’anae Peninsula is a rugged corner of the island and the waves are so intense that the water shoots up high in the air as it slaps the rocks. Ke’anae Lookout is at the northern tip of the peninsula, and you can walk over black lava rocks to get closer to the waves coming in.

This corner of the island is also where you can find Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread. I had it on my itinerary but was too full to go. I’ve read raving reviews about it, so if you try it, leave a comment and let me know how it was!

Pua’a Ka’a Falls

I made an improvised stop on the Road to Hana that I later found out was Pua’a Ka’a Falls. It’s a refreshing pitstop after being on the road for a while; you can follow an easy rock path down to the waterfalls and go for a swim. The waterfall also has a few picnic tables around it if you don’t want to get in the water.

Days 4 and 5: East Maui

East Maui has a distinct rainforest feel, complete with daily rain showers and double rainbows. All of East Maui’s natural wonders are within a short drive of the town Hana, so it’s the ideal place to stay while you’re on this side of the island. Be sure to have your rugged hiking sandals and bathing suit on at all times around here.

Red cliffsides contrast against bright blue ocean water at Kaihalulu Beach, the Red Beach, in Maui, Hawaii.

Wai’anapanapa State Park

You can spend a half-day at Wai’anapanapa State Park starting with a walk down to the Black Sand Beach. It’s not a swim-friendly beach, but you can stick your feet in the water and watch the huge waves barrel in.

Walking to the furthest end of the Black Sand Beach, you will notice a path to start the park’s coastal hike. The vegetation covering the black rock here is so bright it looks neon green, and the crashing waves over the cliff sides make freshwater caves along the elevated path.

Kaihalulu Beach

One of the most unforgettable visits on this Maui itinerary is Kaihalulu Beach, also known as the Red Beach. The 10-minute walk to get there is a small feat. You’ll follow a narrow, worn-in path set about 20 feet above the shoreline. After a few minutes of stealthy maneuvering, you turn the corner and see the red clay cliffs and the sienna-colored shore of the Red Beach. Because of the tricky entrance to the beach, you’ll likely be one of only a few people there. 

Waioka Pond

You can visit Waioka Pond, also known as Venus Tide Pool, on the way out of Hana driving toward Maui’s southern coast. You’ll park on the side of the highway and take a steep, 5-minute descent to get to the tide pool. Both ocean water trickling in and freshwater flowing from the highlands create a perfect circular swimming hole.

Days 6 and 7: South and West Maui

The last leg of this Maui itinerary ends in South and West Maui. As you drive from the east side and head south, you’ll notice it’s much drier and sunnier than some of the areas you’ve visited up until now. The southwest areas of the island are some of the most touristy with resort properties and vacation condos lining the coast. Don’t be deterred by the tourists, though. This area still has quieter areas ideal for snorkeling, swimming, and sunsets. 

The grounds and views from Camp Olowalu in southwest Maui.

Snorkeling

With a basic snorkel set, you can see colorful fish and huge sea turtles swimming around Maui’s southwest coast. Some of the best areas for snorkeling are Olowalu Beach, Ahihi Bay, and Molokini Crater.

I stayed in a tentalow at Camp Olowalu while on this part of the island and snorkeled on their private beach, which was the healthiest reef I saw on Maui. Ahihi Bay had an impressive amount of colorful fish to see, and I highly recommend it as a free option where you’re guaranteed to see a lot of fish. I’ve heard great things about snorkeling at Molokini Crater, which sits a short boat ride away from Maui’s coast. You’ll need to book an excursion in advance to get there. 

Makena Beach State Park

Both Makena Beach’s Little Beach and Big Beach are busy, but you can still find an area to yourself to sprawl out. The turquoise water here was a refreshing break from the southern coast’s dry heat, and it was one of my favorite beaches to swim in.

Lahaina

This waterfront town served as the capital of Hawaii in the mid-1800s. You can explore Lahaina on foot, starting at Maui Brewery for a craft beer and heading down Front Street to local shops. Some of my favorites were a vintage poster shop and high-quality swimwear boutiques. 

Continuing on Front Street, you’ll reach the Lahaina Banyan Court, a plaza with park benches and the biggest Banyan tree in Hawaii as the centerpiece. During winter, the Banyan tree branches are covered in lights and make a glowing ceiling over the plaza.

Rainbow over palm trees near Hana in Maui, Hawaii.

Whether it’s your first time visiting Maui or not, I hope some of these suggestions inspired you to see something new and connect with Hawaii’s awe-inspiring nature. I experienced almost everything on the itinerary first-hand, so if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

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