We spent 7 days on the island of Maui, for the first part of our honeymoon, and it was an absolute dream! As soon as you step off the plane into the open air airport, you are greeted with green mountaintops, palm trees swaying, and a lovely breeze that seems to follow you with every step. The islands natural beauty and warm aloha spirit is something that I will never forget. As far as tropical destinations go, Hawaii is at the top of my favorites list!
In the months leading up to our trip, I was so busy with wedding planning that I really didn’t plan our honeymoon as much as I typically would for other trips. I am normally a HUGE planner, but Nathan really took over for this trip and I was super grateful. That leads me to my first recommendation: don’t overbook yourself! Especially if you are going on a honeymoon right after your wedding, trust me, you’re going to want a break and time to just rest. To start the planning process, we each made a Top 3 list of things we definitely wanted to see/do while in Maui and went from there. We actually only ended up pre-booking 2 activities, and filled in the remaining days with pool and ocean days as well as room for self-guided exploration. After all, exploring on your own is half the adventure when visiting a new place, right?!
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Andaz Maui and it was truly amazing. The entire resort has a peaceful and soothing feeling to it with its neutral color palette and simple design elements. The open air concept of the main lobby and guest hallways really made me feel connected to the outdoor elements at all times. I know it sounds strange, but it never really felt like you were indoors, which I loved. The guests suit also elicited the same calming effect with its natural design, and one of the coolest aspects about the room (besides the daily stocking of Macadamia Nut cookies, Maui style chips, and an assortment of yummy Hawaiin drinks) was the sliding door that opened fully to allow the warm ocean breeze to sweep into the room. Some of our favorite things to do was watch the sunset and sunrise, whether from our lanai or the lounge chairs overlooking the beach, you can never beat the view of the sun over the vastness of the ocean. We both just felt at home during our stay at the Andaz, and both said multiple times that we didn’t want to leave because it was so peaceful.
One of our favorite aspects of traveling is trying new places to eat, and even though we were staying at a resort with some amazing restaurants, we made it a point to get out and try some local spots in Maui. Here are some of the places we loved!
COCONUTS FISH CAFE: Coconuts made the list because they boasted to have the “best fish tacos in Maui”…and in my opinion, THEY DID! Trust me, I had my fair share during our trip! The tacos are made with 17 different ingredients including coconut cole slaw and a fresh mango salsa. The restaurant is super low key, you order at the counter and seating is community style both indoors and outdoors. We had all intentions of grabbing a handmade lemonade at Wow Wow Lemonade next door but unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there. I’d totally recommend grabbing one to wash down the yummiest fish taco on the island!
CAFE O’LEI: this is a fresh, local, family-owned restaurant that came recommended by a few different people. I noticed there were locals and visitors alike enjoying meals here, so typically that is a good sign that the food is great! They offered a really great selection of flatbreads, sushi, seafood and meat dishes. Before our meal, I enjoyed a yummy coconut mojito and Nathan tried a local craft beer. We were both impressed with our entree’s as well. I had a seafood special of shrimp tempura and ahi tuna, and Nathan had a seafood bouillabaisse. I would definitely suggest checking this place out for some local flare if you are staying in Wailea.
MONKEYPOD: I’m going to be honest, this place lured me in because of their Mai Tai’s …I saw a picture of one while doing some research and I was SOLD! This spot serves up an upscale bar menu of flatbreads, burgers, sandwiches and daily specials. Nathan and I both started with the Mai Tai which is topped with passionfruit foam and made with homemade macadamia nut syrup. Its basically Hawaii in a cup, and probably my favorite I had while in Maui. For dinner I had the fish tacos (shocker) and Nathan had a burger, both were delicious! They even make homemade pie daily, so we took a piece of banana cream home with us!
KIHEI CAFFE: Nathan and I ate breakfast here on our last morning in Maui and my only wish is that we would have went here sooner! Its a total hole in the wall, but I always find these to be the best places! This is another community style restaurant, right off South Kihei and across from Kalama Beach Park, making the location great too. You order at the counter, find a seat, and the food is brought out to you. We both ordered the huevos rancheros with chorizo and split an order of the banana macadamia nut French toast. Both were awesome! Go early (we were there by 8:30) or be prepared to wait in line.
KA’ANA KITCHEN: like I stated previously, Nathan and I typically avoid eating at resort restaurants because we like to experience local dining options however we enjoyed one of our favorite meals of the entire trip right at the Andaz. This fresh restaurant serves farm-to-table local cuisine prepared to stimulate your sense of adventure, and they offer both breakfast and dinner daily. We decided to have dinner here one evening and it was delicious! We started with a pork belly appetizer that was perfectly prepared. As our main entrees, Nathan had the short rib adobo and I had the scallop risotto and both dishes were incredible. And you better believe we even indulged in dessert too! Whether you are staying at the Andaz or not, I think Ka’ana Kitchen is worth adding to your dinner list.
MORIMOTTO MAUI: this Japanese restaurant, also located at the Andaz, offered a lunch and dinner menu in a laidback, beachfront setting. Nathan and I enjoyed lunch here on one of our pool days. They have a curated menu of hand rolled sushi and sashimi from fresh, local fish as well as a variety of other dishes that blends Western and Japanese traditions. We enjoyed a maki roll as well as chirashi, a rice bowl topped with 10-12 different styles of fish and vegetables. Both were very tasty!
ULULANI’S: oh Ululani’s….where do I even begin?! Hawaii is synonymous with their famous Shave Ice (not SHAVED ice) and I can officially say I now know what all the fuss is about. Its a good thing for my waistline that we didn’t try this until later in our Maui trip, or else I’m pretty sure we would have had it every single day. Now, let me start by saying I am NOT a snow cone fan, never have been. So foolishly thinking Shave Ice was the same thing, I wasn’t all that excited to try it. Boy oh boy am I glad Nathan convinced me otherwise. It was LIFE-CHANGING! First of all, they serve it over ice cream, your choice of Vanilla or Macadamia Nut (go with the Mac Nut). Next, the ice. It’s the perfect consistency and just melts in your mouth. Next comes the flavors! They have every tropical flavor you can imagine, we went with some of the local favorites! Last, but certainly not least, is the snow cap (sweetened condensed milk) and toasted coconut. Viola! You have yourself a tropical treat perfect for those hot Hawaii nights. If you go to Hawaii, Ululani’s is a MUST!
A MORNING AT THE HOUSE OF SUN | SUNRISE AT HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
Nathan and I started off our Maui trip by watching the sunrise over Haleakala “the House of Sun”. Haleakala’s summit hits 10,000 feet and there’s a reason its continually one of Maui’s biggest attractions: the views are otherworldly. I actually said to Nathan multiple times that I felt like I was on Mars! Anyways, this adventure is not for the faint of heart because the summit is a good 2-hour drive from most Maui resorts, and you need to be at the lookout before the sunrise to stake out a good spot. So we left SUPER early in the morning (like 3 AM early) to get to the summit on-time. However, the pro of this for all my east coast people, is that you will likely be up anyway because of the time difference. We actually did this activity the morning after we initially flew in, and I would recommend you to do the same. And hey, by the time you get back to your resort after watching the sunrise, you still have your ENTIRE day left and can totally take a nap on the beach! Here are some recommendations if the sunrise at Haleakala sounds like something you’d like to experience on your Maui adventure:
you need to make a reservation for the sunrise 60 days in advance though the National Park. Seriously, create an account and get logged in before spots become available or you may miss out. They also release a hand full of last minute tickets at 4PM (HST) two days in advance.
There is a “card only” entrance fee of $25/vehicle at the gates so come prepared. Also, if you plan on doing the road to Hana, keep your receipt because you can use it within 3 days to get into the Seven Sacred Pools….on of the last “must see” sights on the Road to Hana. If not, you’ll have to pay again…unfortunately, we learned this the hard way.
Dress WARM. And bring blankets! I know your on the tropical vacation of your dreams, but it gets COLD on the summit so dress accordingly
You can do some exploring/hiking around afterwards, so you may want to pack some snacks and drinks. Even if you don’t hike around, the views on the way back down the mountain are just as noteworthy!
SNORKELING AT MOLOKINI CRATER | A SOUTH SHORE MAUI ACTIVITY
Believe it or not, Nathan had never been snorkeling before so you better believe this was at the top of his activity list. This is one of the activities we pre-planned, and we booked through Kai Kanani, a catamaran charter that offers a sunrise excursion to Molokini. Molokini Crater is the top snorkeling destination for visitors to Maui, with some of the clearest water in Hawaii and over 250 species of fish. We chose this company for a couple different reasons but the most important was that they leave from Makena Beach, which was not only super close to our resort but is the closest point to Molokini. That meant we got to our snorkel spot super fast, and we were the first boat out there in the morning. We had an awesome time, and getting to experience all the sea-life and vastness of the ocean first thing in the morning was amazing! If you’re not up for a charted tour, you can also snorkel at many of the beaches in Maui. After going for the first time, Nathan was HOOKED, so we actually snorkeled a few times at the beach right in front of the Andaz. Not only did we see a bunch of exotic fish and coral reefs, but we also got to swim with green sea turtles!
MAUI’S NORTH SHORE + EAST SIDE | THE ROAD TO HANA
I could easily write an entirely separate blog post about this one activity alone because it truly was an incredible experience! I think Nathan and I could both agree, if you do ONE adventure while in Maui, make it the Road to Hana! If you’re not familiar with the Road to Hana, its basically like a driving highlight reel of the raw beauty that encompasses Hawaii. Think lush rainforest canopies, sweeping ocean vistas, rugged cliffs, and so many waterfalls that you actually lose count. The Road to Hana is over 50 miles along Maui’s rugged north shore and east side with 600+ tight turns and about 50 one-lane bridges. Sound terrifying?! It kind of is, but it is also the most exhilarating drive you will ever take. TRUST ME!
The Road to Hana is definelty a FULL day trip, I’m talking sun up to sun down, so you will want to carve out a specific day for this adventure alone. Side note: I would even suggest staying a night or two in Hana so you can explore even more. We rented a Jeep for our full trip, and it was the perfect way to get around. I’d recommend renting a Jeep, and packing a cooler full of water and plenty of snacks. You’ll want to dress more for hiking, then swimming ( I wore a sport bikini under my shorts and tank top). I’d also suggest wearing shoes with good traction that you aren’t afraid to get dirty or wet, and bringing sunscreen and bug spray. A change of dry clothes might also be a good idea for the drive home.
Not to sound cliche, but the Road to Hana is more about the journey than the final destination. However, with that being said, I would definitely suggest mapping out the specific sights you want to see ahead of time. This will help keep you on track, plus you really don’t want to be making the drive back in the dark. Thankfully, our resort had a copy of “Maui Revealed” that we were able to use to help us plan our drive. This book is a great resource for all things Maui, especially the Road to Hana, and I would 100% recommend getting before your trip!
Some of our favorite stops were Keanae Peninsula (plus Aunt Sandys’: hello best banana bread EVER!), Red Sand Beach, and Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears Falls). We also decided to drive home via the backside of the Road to Hana, which was a magical experience in itself! Going home this way, we were able to see the “upcountry” portion of Maui including cattle farms as well as the backside of Haleakala. At one point, Nathan and I just stopped the Jeep, go out and stared in pure awe of the vastness around us. The Road to Hana was purely magic! I will forever cherish the memories of that day: riding around in an open top Jeep with nature at every corner, swimming under a fresh waterfall, hiking up a boulder path that opens to a fresh water pool. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
THE WEST SIDE OF MAUI | OLD LAHAINA LUAU
Since Lahaina was kind of out of the way from where we were staying in Wailea, we decided to make a whole “day” of it. Unfortunately there was a huge traffic jam on our way so we got really delayed, but we were still able to make a few stops in this old historic whaling town before the Luau. One of the stops I loved in Lahaina was the Mauigrown Coffee Company! It was such a cute little shop with its plantation design and they had a great selection of Maui grown coffee. Of course we picked up a bag to bring home with us, as well as getting delicious macadamia nut latte’s to go! We also walked along the famous Front Street in Lahaina Town. We were short on time, so we didn’t get to walk the entire street but they had a great variety of restaurants and shops all along the waterfront…very reminiscent of Savanah’s Riverfront. It was a little touristy for our taste, but may be a fun “day trip” activity if you wanted to explore different areas while in Maui.
Anyways…back to the OLD LAHAINA LUAU!
I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to that had previously traveled to Maui who asked if we would be attending the Old Lahaina Luau on our honeymoon. There’s a reason this is widely known as the best luau in Maui, and because it was our first time in Hawaii, we both wanted to attend the most authentic luau we could find. And this was it!
Upon arriving, we were greeted with fresh flower Lei’s and yummy Mai Tai’s garnished with sweet pineapple and a beautiful orchid. After we were shown our table, we enjoyed walking around to visit all the local artisans that were set up with the beautiful ocean vista as a background. A few things that stood out at the Old Lahaina Luau was the exceptional service, the authentic Hawaiian dishes, and the historic luau dance that provided so much background to Hawaii’s rich history. I wouldn’t necessarily say you have to attend a luau while in Maui, but we really enjoyed our evening!
This is another activity that we pre-booked before our trip. Well, actually when we originally went to book our tickets they were all sold out for the entire week, and I was SO upset. But we were put on the waitlist and they actually ended up calling us the night of our rehearsal dinner to say that availability had opened up! Nathan and I joked that it was an early wedding gift! Anyway…don’t be like us! Tickets sell out months in advance (specifically during the busy season) so if you want to go, plan ahead.
Maui was pure magic. We created so many special memories that will last a lifetime and we couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate our first week of marriage together! Stay tuned for Part II of our honeymoon trip where we share about our 5 days on the gorgeous Garden Isle of Kaua’i!
So when are you planning on going to Maui? Do you have any favorite spots or suggestions that we missed? Share them in the comments below!