Coastal Vote: a Beach-Lover’s Guide to Maui, Hawaii

Ho‘okipa Beach Park is a famous windsurfing destination on Maui
Ho‘okipa Beach Park is a famous windsurfing destination on Maui | © Arkanto / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Doug ONeill
17 November 2021
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Set off on surf safaris, spoil yourself at a spa, then feast on local seafood and shaved-ice desserts on this sand-blessed island.

The biggest decision you’ll have to make on Maui is which beach to visit and why. The second-largest Hawaiian island has a cool 30mi (48km) of beaches – some great for swimming, others for surfing and a few that don’t require any activity at all. Plus, there are volcanoes, sprawling national parks such as Haleakalā, waterfalls and stretches of lush tropical forest, not to mention the sacred Iao Valley. And that’s just on land. Offshore, there’s whale-watching, surfing, kayaking and more. With average year-round temperatures of 68F-88F (20C-31C), Maui is the place for sun, whatever the season.

Maui Yoga Path

Yoga Studio
A young woman meditating in a lotus position on a beach during a beautiful sunset
© Soft_light69 / Depositphotos.com

You’ve just arrived for your long-awaited winter getaway and are perhaps exhausted after the flight. Time for a gentle reboot before your holiday begins. Maui Yoga Path hosts gentle beach yoga, during which participants are encouraged to quiet the mind and connect with nature as they work on stretching, strengthening and relaxing. The studio is at the oceanside Mana Kai Maui Resort.

Hotel Wailea

An outdoor pool and hot tub surrounded by loungers, cabanas and lush vegetation at Hotel Wailea
Courtesy of Hotel Wailea / Expedia

The adults-only Hotel Wailea sits on 15 acres (6ha) of tropical gardens, waterfalls and winding pathways, with 180-degree views of the ocean. Food also focuses on the sea, with a menu of mahi-mahi, kona kanpachi and manila clams and scallops, served with the specialty vanilla jasmine rice. There’s a valet service at Wailea Beach – setting you up with loungers, parasols, water and towels – and water-sports gear for rent. The private surf instructor at the hotel can take you on a coastal safari, or you can explore via an outrigger canoe.

Ho’omana Spa Maui

Spa
A woman soaking a bath strewn with flowers and facing a window overlooking a garden
© mjth / Depositphotos.com

Ho’omana Spa is off the beaten path on Piiholo Road in Makawao. The in-house wellness pros specialize in traditional Hawaiian lomi lomi – where therapists use their forearms and hands in flowing motions over different parts of the body simultaneously. It’s just the ticket if you’ve traveled a long way to be here and will soon be bound for the beach. In addition to the four treatment rooms, there’s also a bathhouse and native botanical gardens.

Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel

An overhead view of the sprawling Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, with the ocean in the foreground and lush land and buildings in the background
Courtesy of Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel / Expedia
With almost 3mi (5km) of white sand and clear water, it shocks no one to learn that Kaanapali has been named the best beach in America. If you want to soak up the setting while tapping into Hawaiian culture, Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel has daily hula lessons, ukulele classes and local-language instruction. Hawaiian dishes with modern twists make up the menu at the on-site restaurant, Huihui, and there’s nightly theater, too. Snorkel tours and stand-up paddleboarding sessions are there to help you master the coast.

Maui Ocean Center

Aquarium
Children enjoying an a water tunnel aquarium
© waldru / Depositphotos.com

The expansive aquarium and oceanography center in Maalaea is the largest living tropical reef aquarium in the western hemisphere. Observe reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles and other marine life, in addition to learning from the 60 exhibits dedicated to underwater animals, including seahorses and octopuses, as well as conservation.

Hāna-Maui Resort

An aerial view of several buildings at the Hāna-Maui Resort set among a rolling green landscape with ocean views
Courtesy of Hāna-Maui Resort / Expedia
On the famous 64mi (103km) Road to Hana (Hana Highway) that winds along the north coast of Maui, Hāna-Maui Resort offers winter-weary travelers the chance to revitalize in one of 75 rooms, each with a private lanai. Views from the Restaurant at Hāna-Maui Resort, which overlooks Hana Bay and Kauiki Hill, compete with the food – all locally sourced fruit, island-grown vegetables and fresh fish. The views from the infinity pool are equally distracting.

Down the Hatch

Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
A bowl of shrimp in a creamy broth
© Chuttersnap / Unsplash

Delicious seafood and innovative drinks attract repeat visitors to Down the Hatch, founded in 2015 by three childhood friends from Georgia. Menus include macadamia-nut-crusted mahi-mahi, spicy lava lava shrimp, ahi samurai, whole lobster, fish tacos and the ever-popular lobster-and-crab grilled cheese. Two popular cocktails are the lilikoi basil martini (vodka with lilikoi puree and fresh basil) and the Aztec Warrior (mezcal, house-made jalapeño honey and lemon) – now you know how the bar got its name.

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

Cafe, Ice Cream
A woman holding a fruity and colorful Hawaiian shave ice
© Maridav / Depositphotos.com

You’ve come to the island for heat, but we’re still going to insist you embrace shave ice while in Maui. Hawaiians take shave ice seriously. The dessert is made by shaving a block of ice and adding flavored syrups and other sweet ingredients. Ululani’s makes a seemingly endless list of flavors – vegan and unsweetened versions, too – including bubble gum, sour apple, root beer, cotton candy and piña colada (don’t mind if we do). There are seven locations throughout Maui, including one in Lahaina.

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