6 Days in Maui | Kihei to Ka'anapali

26 November 2017

To make the most of our Maui explorations, we split our time between Kihei in East Maui and Ka'anapali in West Maui. Given it's proximity to eastern sites, like Haleakala and Hana, Kihei was the perfect place to begin our day trips on the island.  In West Maui, Ka'anapali and the town of Lahaina also couldn't be missed. They're two quintessential hot spots for Maui visitors, and both feature coastlines that are raved about by travelers from all over the world. Although it's much more commercialized on this side of the island, the views of the West Maui mountains from here are incredible, and the West Maui fare is oh-so tasty.

Here, we take you through our six-day Maui itinerary from Kihei to Ka'anapali, including one site we didn't quite reach. Take a peek at how we more or less circumvented the island in just under a week's time.  

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DAY 1 | Kihei and Makena Beach
Priority No. 1: Go get our Mustang. Yes, we rented a convertible. Why? Because when we were in Kauai a few years back, we passed convertible after convertible as we drove across the island. We knew we couldn't return to Hawaii without renting one for ourselves. That said, we are budget travelers and couldn't justify a full six-day rental. We stuck to three days, and it was totally worth it. We also snagged a helluva deal from CarRentalHawaii, a discount rental company and we'd highly recommend it. One of the greatest perks was their full refund clause, which gave us peace of mind in the days leading up to our trip when we weren't quite sure it'd be worth the cost (it was, trust me).

We checked in to our Kihei VRBO and hit up the nearby The Cinnamon Roll Place for the best. damn. cinnamon roll we've ever eaten. It was, however, at least two days worth of calories. Again, totally worth it. (Note: icing is extra.)

While our trip was off to a great start, we were really just awaiting the moment we would reach Makena Beach (also known as Big Beach), set up our beach chairs, and bask in the sun with our feet in the sand. A few Aloha Beer Co. brews and a homemade picnic lunch in tow, we parked it at the beach where we knew we belonged. Makena Beach has been voted one of the world's most beautiful beaches. It's that good. But, truth be told, the entire Wailea area is full of spectacular beaches--from Makena Beach to Secret Cove. You can't go wrong. Oh, but you can go nude! Little Beach, just over the rockpile at Makena, is a tiny little beach where you can truly bare it all.

Bask, people. Bask until your heart's content.

Or until you start to see tan lines.

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DAY 2 | Haleakala Sunrise, Upcountry Maui, and downtown Paia
Have you ever read through our posts and wondered if we sleep when we travel? Well, since you may be asking now, the short answer is "no." The long answer is: how can we justify hours staring at the backs of our eyelids for hours and hours when there are things like a sunrise over a massive volcano crater that we could be staring at instead?

Given the newly implemented National Park policy, we reserved two permits (for, like, $1.50) to see the sunrise at Haleakala on our second day. Book online at least 60 days in advance. Permits fill up fast, and we passed many travelers who had to do a U-ey and head back down the mountain (mind you, after they woke up at like 3 a.m. and drove up a winding mountainous road in the dark). Originally, we weren't too sure about the reservation policy; it seemed so restrictive--especially when you consider that your itinerary might change based on weather, etc. But in the end, it was great being among only about 60 other travelers at the top. Unlike the online articles and forums we'd read about being among a crowd of 300+ people and getting parked in three cars deep, we had a reserved parking stall and barely any company at all (considering the viewing area of the place).

Following our early morning trip to Haleakala, we drove through Upcountry Maui and treated ourselves to a loco moco breakfast at Kula Bistro. We took our time before eventually making our way to the edge of Kula valley where a free tour and tasting at MauiWine awaited us.

6 Days in Maui | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com

MauiWine boasts a rich history and a variety of wines that transform the prized Maui Gold pineapple into refreshing adult beverages. The company, which sits on an estate that dates back to 1841 and was once leased as a sugar mill by King Kamehameha III, grows its own fruit, processes and ferments its own unique varietals, and bottles it all on site. It's a pretty impressive operation. But for me, hearing the history and exploring the Rose Ranch was a sweeter treat than the wine itself.

We continued our afternoon with a stroll through the downtown area of Paia, which is quite touristy in comparison to Kihei and Upcountry Maui. But before we browsed the shops, stopped for Shave Ice and, admittedly, gelato and filled our tank before returning to Kihei. We grilled up a few steaks and some veggies back at our VRBO and relaxed on the lanai while we got to know our Canadian neighbors and mapping out the next day's trip to Hana.

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DAY 3 | Road to Hana
Again we awoke early to hit the road and be on our way before the masses. We'd filled up our tank the night before and were past Ho'okipa no later than 7 a.m. With the top down and our R2H guide playing, were cruised the highway in search of some of the Road to Hana hot spots. To see where we stopped and to gather a few tips for your planning, check out two road to Hana posts.

Despite our early-morning, day-long road trip, we squeezed out the last sunshine of the day with a sunset beer flight at Maui Brewing Co. With live music, a few board games and the company of new friends, it was an evening well spent.

6 Days in Maui | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
DAY 4 | Front Street, Lahaina
Two of our favorite things to try in new cities are local coffee roasters and beer companies. This morning, we fueled up at Akamai Coffee Co., which pours 100% Maui grown coffee--locally grown and locally roasted. I'm not gonna lie, I was into this place. I got my typical two shots of espresso, followed by an ice chai latte. So good!

Back in Kahului, we traded in our Mustang for a compact (it was a sad day, let me tell you) in the morning and hit the road for our next VRBO in Kaanapali.

On the flight to Maui, we discovered my former colleague was en route to Maui, too. We coordinated on the plane and decided to meet up for drinks in Lahaina before they departed for Part II of their island honeymoon. West Maui is full of great Happy Hour hot spots, but we landed on Lahaina Fish Co. for an oceanside drink on their patio.

And this is when the rain storms hit. Like, a lot of rain storms. Terrifying, island rainstorms with massive, crashing waves and flash flooding. I'm talking power-out rain storms.

Needless to say, I was maybe a tiny bit afraid.

We'd later learned that the Hana highway was hit hardest that night, and the road was unsurpassable--meaning everyone who'd planned to travel to or from Hana could no longer go then or for the next few days. That is, until the trees could be cleared from the roadways and the muddy cliffside could be evaluated for safety (you know, to avoid total landslides and other treacherous things of that nature). Storms or not, we recommend checking for Hana road closure updates before you head out. Stay safe!

6 Days in Maui | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
DAY 5 | Ka'anapali Beach, Kapalua Coastal Trail, and the Nakalele Blowhole
If you're a Yelper and you're headed to Maui, you've definitely heard about the beloved Baya Bowls. Tucked away in a parking lot in Lahaina, there's a mini food truck that makes some tasty, tasty acai bowls. Take your pick of toppings (coconut flakes, kiwi, banana, strawberries, honey...) and be on your way with the perfect breakfast to-go. My only regret was not making time to go back again.

Baya Bowls in hand, we headed north and opted to soak up some of the coastal views from the Kapalua trail. But where do you park? We found two places: 1. If you turn left after the Napili Kai Resort, you'll reach a small lot, which we understood to be the public lot for the trail. 2. Alternatively, start the trail from the middle by parking just outside the Ironwoods gated community. Follow the path down to the beach and you'll be able to get to the boardwalk from there. It started raining shortly after we started our leisure walk, so we picked up the pace to make sure we could also squeeze in a quick visit to the Nakalele Blowhole, north of the trail, before the downpour starts.

Back on the road, we followed the winding highway through some of the most beautiful, lush green rolling hills of West Maui until we reached the famous Nakalele Blowhole! You'll have to pull off to the side of the road to head down by the blowhole and, on the way, you'll pass a number of signs warning you not to get too close. Read them, people! The week before we went to Maui, three people got swept out to sea because they attempted to get down to the same level as the blowhole. Yikes! Call me Debbie Downer but, to me, once you've seen one blowhole, you've seen 'em all. We watched the water burst, then fall, from high above the hill but there was no break from the rain, so we headed back toward the town center and took shelter at Kohola Brewery in Lahaina, making peace with our evening of microbrews, card games and Girl Scout cookies. 

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DAY 6 | Wai'hee Ridge Trail and Olivine Tide Pools
But before heading to the trailhead, we went out of our way for a quick stop at the much-loved Home Maid Bakery, where we made our best trip decision yet: a half dozen freshly baked malasadas. They're these delicious little, fluffy pastries (think: donut hole meets beignet), and you can even order them creme-filled. They're made like two seconds after you order them and they're arguably one of the best treats I've ever eaten. I ate one and was both delighted and instantly upset I hadn't found these earlier in my life.

With Iao Valley closed due to flooding and land erosion, we searched all over the web for a hike with a view (our favorite kind of hike). After browsing through site after site, we stumbled upon Waihee Ridge Trail. If there's one thing I urge you to do in Maui, it's this. Waihee Ridge Trail is truly magnificent. For a two-hour, five mile (ish) hike, you really can't go wrong. The views are just unreal. But before you set out, check out our Waihee Ridge Trail post for a few quick recommendations.

A bit of honesty here: We waited to snorkel until our final day, but because of the big storm the night before, the beaches were murky and less than ideal for snorkeling. However, we learned enough from our trial in the waters to give you the scoop. Snorkel Bob's locations can be found all over the island, and the best part is that you can pick up your rentals from one and drop off at any of the others. Consider a multi-day rental option if you're road tripping around the island. From the West Maui area, we'd recommend Black Rock, Honolua Bay (so pretty), and Coral Gardens.

Last, but not least, we truly wish we'd have planned better and reserved a morning Molokini tour to Molokai Crater. Try to tell me you're not into these photos (and video). Just book it, people! 

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