Maui has so many places to explore, things to do, sights to see -- it can be bewildering to plan your trip with so much vying for your attention. Where to start? I strongly advise you to fly directly into Maui; doing so can save you a 2-hour layover in Honolulu and another plane ride.
For many, Maui inhabits the sweet spot. It’s a tangle of lovely contradictions, with a Gucci heel on one foot and a puka-shell anklet on the other. Culturally, it’s a mix of farmers, paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys), aspiring chefs, artists, New Age healers, and big wave riders. The landscape runs the gamut from sun-kissed golden beaches and fragrant rainforests to the frigid, wind-swept summit of Haleakala. Sure, more traffic lights sprout up around the island every year and spurts of development have turned cherished landmarks into mere memories. But even as Maui transforms, its allure remains.
By Plane--If you think of the island of Maui as the shape of a person’s head and shoulders, you’ll probably arrive near its neck, at Kahului Airport (OGG).Many airlines offer direct flights to Maui from the mainland U.S., including Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianair.com; tel. 800/367-5320), Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com; tel. 800/252/7522), United Airlines (www.united.com; tel. 800/241-6522), American Airlines (www.aa.com; tel. 800/433-7300), Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com; tel. 800/221-1212), and U.S. Airways (www.usairways.com; tel. 800/428-4322). The only international flights to Maui originate in Canada, via Air Canada (www.aircanada.com; tel. 888/247-2262) and West Jet (www.westjet.com; tel. 888/937-8538), which both fly from Vancouver.
Other major carriers stop in Honolulu, where you’ll catch an interisland flight to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines. (At present it’s the only airline offering inter-island flights on jet aircraft.)
A small commuter service, Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com; tel. 866/260-7070), recently expanded its routes to include flights from Honolulu to Kahului Airport and to Maui’s two other airstrips. If you’re staying in Lahaina or Kaanapali, you might consider flying in or out of Kapalua–West Maui Airport (JHM). From this tiny, one-pony airfield, it’s only a 10- to 15-minute drive to most hotels in West Maui, as opposed to an hour or more from Kahului.Same story with Hana Airport (HNM): Flying directly here will save you a 3-hour drive.
Mokulelealso flies between Maui and Lanai, Molokai, and the Big Island. Check-in is a breeze: no security lines (unless leaving from Honolulu). You’ll be weighed, ushered onto the tarmac, and welcomed aboard a nine-seat Cessna. The plane flies low, and the views between the islands are outstanding.
Landing at Kahului--If you’re renting a car, proceed to the car-rental desks just beyond baggage claim. All of the major rental companies have branches at Kahului. Each rental agency has a shuttle that will deliver you to the car lot a half-mile away.
If you’re not renting a car, the cheapest way to exit the airport is the Maui Bus (www.mauicounty.gov/bus; tel. 808/871-4838). For $2 it will deposit you at any one of the island’s major towns. Simply cross the street at baggage claim and wait under the awning. The next cheapest option is Roberts Hawaii Maui Airport Shuttle (www.airportmauishuttle.com; tel. 808/877-0907), which operates an on-demand airport shuttle. You can call upon arrival, but you’ll get better rates and a written confirmation if you book online. Plan to pay $18 (one-way) to Kahului, $38 to Wailea, $53 to Kaanapali, and $73 to Kapalua—but know that prices drop significantly if you share the shuttle with other riders. SpeediShuttle (www.speedishuttle.com; tel. 877/242-5777) also services Kahului Airport, between 6am and 11pm daily. Rates are $39 (one-way) to Wailea, $54 to Kaanapali, and $74 to Kapalua. You’ll need to book in advance.
By Car--The simplest way to see Maui is by rental car; public transit is still in its infancy here. All of the major car-rental firms—including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty—have agencies on Maui. If you’re on a budget or traveling with sports gear, you can rent an older vehicle by the week from Kimo’s Rent-a-Car (www.kimosrentacar.com; tel. 808/280-6327, ext. 5
Maui has only a handful of major roads, and you can expect a traffic jam or two heading into Kihei, Lahaina, or Paia. In general, the roads hug the coastlines; one zigzags up to Haleakala’s summit. When asking locals for directions, don’t bother using highway numbers; residents know the routes by name only.
Traffic advisory: Be alert on the Honoapiilani Highway (Hwy. 30) en route to Lahaina. Drivers ogling whales in the channel between Maui and Lanai often slam on the brakes and cause major tie-ups and accidents. Because this is the only main road connecting the west side to the rest of the island, if there is an accident, flooding, a rock slide, or any other road hazard, traffic can back up for 1 to 8 hours (no joke). So before you set off, check with Maui County for road closure advisories (www.co.maui.hi.us; tel. 808/986-1200). The most up-to-date info can be found on its Twitter feed (@CountyofMaui) or that of a local news agency (@MauiNow).
By Motorcycle--Feel the wind on your face and smell the salt air as you tour the island on a Harley, available for rent from Cycle City Maui, 150 Dairy Rd., Kahului (www.cyclecitymaui.com; tel. 808/831-2698). Rentals start at $99 a day.
By Taxi--Because Maui’s various destinations are so spread out, taxi service can be quite expensive and should be limited to travel within a neighborhood. Alii Taxi (tel. 808/661-3688) offers 24-hour service island-wide. Call Kihei Wailea Taxi (tel. 808/879-3000) if you need a ride in South Maui. Metered rate is $3 per mile.
By Bus--The Maui Bus (www.mauicounty.gov/bus; tel. 808/871-4838) is a public/private partnership that provides convenient and affordable public transit to various communities across the island. Air-conditioned buses service 13 routes, including several that stop at the airport. All routes operate daily, including holidays. Fares are $2. Suitcases (one per passenger) and bikes are allowed; surfboards and sandboards are not.
The website of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (www.gohawaii.com/maui) is chock-full of helpful facts and tips. Visit the state-run Visitor Information Center at the Kahului Airport baggage claim for brochures and the latest issue of “This Week Maui,” which features great regional maps.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.