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Travel Guide to Maui


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Travel Guide to Maui: Maui Has Something To Offer In Every Direction

Have a look at the shape of the island of Maui. Most people make the comment that it looks like a person hunched over looking thru the straight between the islands of Lanai and Kaho'olawe. Take a look at any map and you will start to see this shape.

The lower back is east Maui; the head is west Maui; from the back of the neck down to the chest is the Central Valley and the lower chest is South Maui. It's shoreline runs north-south and gets incredible sunsets.

The upper back with a bit of a hump represents North shore of the island. The center of the body represents Maui's Upcountry. It's where Haleakala, the mountain dominates ascending up to 10,000'.

Lets take a tour of the island's main regions and find the region that suits you best for activities and has the right accommodations for your budget. Finding the area where you, your family or friends will want to visit brings the trip that much closer to becoming a reality!

West Maui

The west Maui mountains dominate the landscape, casting a rain shadow over most of West Maui. Because of the rain shadow, the area is one of the driest on the island, which means it's always sporting plenty of sun - a dream come true for those wanting to do nothing but relax on the beach. The mountains also provide protection from the trade winds that blow across the islands almost everyday, so the waters tend to be calmer. The lack of major winds also causes the local temperatures to rise quite a bit in the afternoons.

Major hotels, vacation timeshares and resorts dot the shoreline making this area one of the most developed for tourism on the island.

Along this stretch of coast you will find some of Hawaii's best golf courses, beachside luaus and the historical town of Lahaina, (once home to Hawaiian royalty), now full of interesting shops, restaurants, museums and historical places. You will definitely want to go check out all the art galleries too. Driving further up the coast, moving northwest, brings you to the lush and the beautiful area around Kapalua and Honolua Bay. Here the landscape becomes more lush and natural while the roads becomes worse and less maintained. Many visitors really enjoy making the trip to Honolua Bay to watch surfers off the bluff or to snorkel with sea turtles in the marine sanctuary.

Central & North Maui

The central valley stretches the width of the island, in between the West Maui Mountains and the intense, towering Haleakala. Maalaea Harbor, to the south, is home to most of the snorkel boat tours that go out to Molokini and Turtle Town or other places along the southern coastline.

On the island's north shore sits Wailuku, Maui county's capital, and of course Kahului, which is the island's largest town and home to the international airport. Every visitor to Maui will come thru that airport but very few visitors will spend any time in these towns. Almost all hotels and accommodations for tourists are located in South or West Maui along the beaches.

Another notable town which is definitely worth visiting while on a trip to Maui is Paia. A quaint, bohemian, sleepy surfer town located on the North shore, Paia is fun place for young people to hang out. Within a stone's throw of Paia are world class windsurfing, kiteboarding and surf locations which draw pros from around the globe. World famous for windsurfing and kite surfing, Ho'okipa Beach, is a popular place to hang out for the day to watch these pros practice and compete.

South Maui

The three areas that make up South Maui have their own unique style and offerings, depending on your tastes and budget. South Maui is dry, like West Maui, but it's sitting in Mount Haleakala's rain shadow, which is much larger in this part of the island. It still offers plenty of sunshine and the opportunity to enjoy the beaches that line the coast, but it's not as protected from the tradewinds or incoming south swells. The absence of protection from the elements creates a lot of opportunities for bigger waves to surf and stronger winds for kiteboarding or windsurfing in the afternoons.

Kihei is a major town on the island, filled with small hotels and vacation condos. There is a sizeable local population in North Kihei but it's primarily tourists in South Maui. The main commercial street follows the shoreline and you can also find shops a block or two inland in many spots for the entire length of the town. There is also a highway to bypass all of it, allowing you to get out of the town, so you can make your way out to other areas of the island efficiently. Molokini Crater is also accessible from tours leaving the Kihei Small Boat Ramp, which is a welcome alternative to driving out to Maalaea Harbor.

Wailea, located to the south, is known for being an upscale area hosting major resorts, world class shopping, PGA golf courses and multi-million dollar homes. The shops at Wailea feature all the luxury boutiques that you would expect in a major city and some of top restaurants on Maui can be found in the hotels across Wailea.

South of Wailea is Makena - where private homes and undeveloped beaches make this area seem almost rural. Some of the best kayaking and snorkeling as well as the biggest beaches on the island can be found in this area. Who knows? You might even get a pretty big stretch of beach all to yourself! It's stunning views and lack of population make it a popular spot for people to get married or renew their vows.

East Maui

Most people don't know anything about East Maui until you mention the Road to Hana. The Hana Highway (AKA: "Road to Hana") is an iconic adventure that everyone visiting the island should take. The town of Hana itself is at the most remote part of the island. All it takes is spending just an hour there and you can easily imagine what Hawaii was like 50 years ago. The isolation has allowed the culture to continue to thrive and has kept development to an absolute minimum. For most visitors, the pace of everything is a bit too slow to enjoy it fully. But for those of us who live on Maui, getting away for the weekend to Hana is one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating things to do in Hawaii.

Upcountry and Haleakala

There is nothing like upcountry Maui. High on the slopes of Haleakala, the weather is different, the people are different and the pace of life is different. There are no major hotels or resorts, barely any vacation rentals either. There are a few unique, boutique accommodations that you won't find on the major hotel booking systems. Activities in upcountry are varied from visiting farms, riding zip lines, getting on horseback and even paragliding. For those who love land adventures, upcountry is the place for you.

Finding Crater Road is pretty easy. There are plenty of signs to direct you up into Haleakala National Park, which is probably another "must do", especially if you live in an area without mountains. The beauty of the views from the top and into the crater will stick in your memory forever. Driving up to catch the sunrise or going stargazing are two very popular things to do at the summit. Be sure to take a hike into the crater for a surreal experience, especially on a full moon.

Now that you have had a quick tour of Maui, where would you stay and play?

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