Maui may be a paradise in many respects, but it’s not Disneyland: For optimum enjoyment and safety, you do need to plan ahead and take reasonable precautions once you’re on the island. While travelers from the U.S. mainland should have no problems navigating their way around the Valley Isle, all visitors should take note of local customs, such as removing one’s shoes before entering a residence, and be aware that the forces of nature, especially the ocean, demand special respect.
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.
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; 800/367-5320), Alaska Airlines (www.alaskaair.com; 800/252/7522), United Airlines (www.united.com; 800/241-6522), Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com; 800/221-1212), American Airlines (www.aa.com; 800/882-8880), and Virgin America (www.virginamerica.com; 877/359-8474). The only international flights to Maui originate in Canada, via Air Canada (www.aircanada.com; 888/247-2262) and West Jet (www.westjet.com; 888/937-8538), both fly from Vancouver.
Other major carriers stop in Honolulu, where you’ll catch an interisland flight to Maui on Hawaiian. A small commuter service, Mokulele Airlines (www.mokuleleairlines.com; 866/260-7070), flies from Honolulu to Kahului Airport and 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.
Mokulele also flies between Maui, Molokai, the Big Island, and by charter to Lanai. 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. For tips on insurance and driving rules in Hawaii, see “Getting Around Hawaii”.
If you’re not renting a car, the cheapest way to exit the airport is the Maui Bus (www.mauicounty.gov/bus; 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. Unfortunately, bus stops are far and few between, so you’ll end up lugging your suitcase a long way to your destination. A much more convenient option is Roberts Hawaii Express Shuttle (www.airportshuttlehawaii.com/shuttles/maui; 866/898-2523 or 808/439-8800), which offers curb-to-curb service in a shared van or small bus and easy online booking. Plan to pay $24 (one-way) to Wailea and $34 to Kaanapali. Prices drop if you book round-trip. SpeediShuttle Maui (www.speedishuttle.com; 877/242-5777). Prices (one-way, from the airport, for a shared van) range from $18 to Wailea to $31 to Kaanapali. You must book 24 hours in advance. Bonus: You can request a fresh flower lei greeting for an added fee.
Taxis usually cost 30% more than the shuttles—except when you’re traveling with a large party, in which case they’re a deal. West Maui Taxi (www.westmauitaxi.com; 888/661-4545), for example, will drive up to six people from Kahului Airport to Kaanapali for $80.
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.