Planning / What to Do

12 Charming Maui Towns You Shouldn’t Miss When You’re in Hawaii (2023)

Shop buildings on Front Street in Lahaina, Maui

Wondering where you should stop first when you step foot on Maui? As the second-largest island in Hawaii and with five distinct regions, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So we curated this list of the 12 Maui towns and communities that you won’t want to miss — each with their own unique charm. We explore what makes each town special: what to do while you’re there, where to eat, and where you can stay. Keep reading to discover the spots that keep people (including us!) coming back to Maui for more.

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In this post:

Map of the best towns in Maui to visit

Map of Maui illustrating the location of each town detailed in this article.
Click on the image of the map to enlarge.

1. Historic Lahaina town

Shop buildings on Front Street in Lahaina, Maui

At first glance, this bustling West Maui town screams kitschy tourist vibe. Sidewalk vendors hawk t-shirts, wooden carvings, and photo ops with parrots. From rooftop bars, sunhat-clad travelers sip Mai Tais while scanning the ocean horizon for whale spurts or flukes.  

But before the historic whaling village morphed into the modern day tourist town, Lahaina (formerly known as Lele, or “relentless sun” in Hawaiian according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority) was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.  

Today, the bustling district is a must-stop for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. The town boasts activities for all ages: amble past historic sights, shop for the perfect souvenir, or indulge in shave ice.

Things to do in Lahaina

Exterior of Lahaina's Wo Hing Museum building
The Wo Hing Museum is just one stop along Lahaina’s historic walking trail.

Stroll Lahaina’s historic walking trail for a history lesson on the downtown area, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.  The tour includes the famous 150 year-old Lahaina Banyan Tree and the Wo Hing Museum, which was once a social meeting hall for Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s.

A sprawling banyan tree in downtown Lahaina, Maui

While in town, stop at the art galleries and shops, or duck into an eatery for refreshment — and respite from the sun.  

At Lahaina harbor, opportunities abound for water tours such as whale watching, sunset cruises, and snorkeling adventures. Or catch a luau with the setting sun, such as the Old Lahaina Luau or Feast at Lele

Silhouette of a tree and a person reclining in a chair, overlooking the ocean with sailboats in the distance at Lahaina, Maui
A weary visitor finds respite from the unrelenting Lahaina sun.

If a slower, more rural pace is more your speed, venture away from busy Front Street for a peek at Maui’s modern-day agricultural trade. Take a farm and factory tour at Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate, or crack open a coconut at Punakea Palms

Where to eat in Lahaina

Plated entree with a view of the ocean at Mala Ocean Tavern, Lahaina Maui

Places to stay in Lahaina

Exterior street view of Hotel Lahaina

2. Makawao

Makawao, a rustic town tucked away in the heart of Maui’s Upcountry, is a hidden gem for those seeking a unique island experience. The town embraces its distinct paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) heritage through its retained architectural style — a marriage of Old West and sugar plantation influence — and by maintaining traditions such as the annual Makawao Rodeo.  

Exterior view of shops in plantation era buildings at Makawao, Maui with cars parked on the street

Today, the town is lauded for its local art scene, boutique shops, and charming restaurants. With its laid-back atmosphere, historic Makawao town is a perfect destination for those looking to experience a different side of Maui’s tropical identity — its pastoral Upcountry roots

Things to do in Makawao

Enjoy at day at Makawao by strolling past the historical shops and eateries along Baldwin Avenue. Duck into The Maui Cookie Lady’s fairytale-like storefront for a hefty palm-sized cookie (Da Half Baked is a favorite). If it’s early enough in the day, step into T. Komoda Store & Bakery for fresh guava malasadas and stick donuts. The family-owned business has served the Maui community for more than one hundred years. 

Pick up a pineapple and tour the Maui Gold plantation off of Hali’imaile Road, or marvel at glass blowing artists at Makai Glass. If you’re seeking down time, relax with a treatment at Ho’omana Spa Maui.

Where to eat in Makawao

  • Hali’imaile General Store – farm-to-table dishes
  • Casanova – wood-fired pizzas and pasta in generous portions, try the lobster risotto
  • Makawao Garden Cafe – salads and sandwiches in a casual atmosphere
  • Ohana Island Grindz – local comfort food and ice cream treats

3. Hana

Hana town, of the famed Road to Hana, lies along Maui’s rugged northeast shoreline. Despite its renown, sleepy Hana retains a relaxed and charming pace — along with its rich Hawaiian culture and history.  Like other towns in Maui, Hana was originally a sugarcane plantation town. Today, it’s considered the “most isolated and traditional town in the State of Hawai’i” (according to the Hana Cultural Center & Museum).

A woman stands in a lava cave at Waianapanapa State Park on Maui, Hawaii

Hana draws visitors who seek a refreshing break from the typical tourist hotspots. Unlike more populated areas on Maui, there are no trendy art boutiques or lively rooftop bars in Hana. Instead, visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture. According to a wooden road sign on the town’s outskirts, Hana is “the HEART of old Hawaii.”

View from Koki Beach along the Road to Hana, Maui.

Thing to do in Hana

Unfortunately, the Hana Cultural Center remains closed as of 2023, and a reopening date remains unknown. Still, there’s plenty to explore in this sleepy town. Head underground and explore a lava tube, or get your feet wet at Waiʻānapanapa State Park’s Black Sand Beach

Huli huli chicken tent at Koki Beach on Maui

Where to eat in Hana

Top down view of huli huli chicken plates with rice and mac salad

Places to stay in Hana

4. Kāʻanapali

A few miles north of historic Lahaina town lies Kaanapali, West Maui’s posh resort district. Developed in the 1960s, Kaanapali boasts sunny days, ocean views, and easy access to restaurants and shops. And while the swanky resorts draw visitors from near and far, Kaanapali is arguably best known for its sandy shoreline. The three-mile stretch of Kaanapali Beach was lauded as America’s Best Beach in 2003, according to a ranking by coastal scientist Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach).

Things to do in Kāʻanapali

Shop ‘til you drop at Whaler’s Village, or yell “fore!” at the Kaanapali Golf Course. Wade into Honolua Bay for a snorkeling adventure, or venture out to Black Rock Beach. At the Hyatt Regency, admire the penguins before attending the Drums of the Pacific Luau.  

Where to eat in Kāʻanapali

Places to stay in Kāʻanapali

5. Wailuku

A green building at an intersection in Wailuku, Maui

Ensconced behind the lush West Maui mountains, just ten minutes from Maui’s Kahului Airport, Wailuku’s authentic island vibe sets the town apart from other destinations on the island. Its generations-old shops, restaurants, and bakeries are favorites among locals. As one of Maui’s oldest towns, Wailuku serves as the county seat for the County of Maui. The town also acts as a gateway to the sacred Iao Valley, home to the iconic Iao Needle — a geological formation with a height that nearly matches the Empire State Building in New York City.   

Things to do in Wailuku

Explore Market Street shops and eateries such as Native Intelligence, a boutique that showcases items that promote Hawaiian culture and craftsmanship. Download a free walking tour app to explore the cultural, historial, and artistic sides of Wailuku. Finally, head to ʻIao Valley State Monument, which was ranked as one of THRILLIST’s top 25 best State Park’s in the nation.

A man walking across the street near a mural of a sea turtle and swimmer on the side of a building in Wailuku, Maui

Where to eat in Wailuku

  • Sam Sato’s – counter service noodles
  • 808 on Main – sandwiches and salads
  • Wailuku Coffee Company – grassroots community coffee shop “where the hip come to sip”
  • Stillwell’s Bakery & Cafe – home of the famous cream horn
  • Tiffany’s – local favorite recently acquired by Top Chef personality and Hawaii local Sheldon Simeon
  • SixtyTwo MarcKet – farm-fresh cuisine, we highly recommend their breakfast menu
  • Home Maid Bakery – known best for their Japanese-inspired crispy manju
  • Four Sisters Bakery & Catering – tiny Filipino bakery known for their manapua and butter rolls
  • Maui Coffee Attic – 1950s-style neighborhood cafe, try their ube haupia scone or lilikoi bar
  • Kalei’s Lunchbox – food-truck-turned restaurant serving plate lunches
Exterior of Stillwell's Bakery & Cafe building in Wailuku, Maui

Places to stay in Wailuku

6. Kahului

The street view of the Kahului Airport's green rental car tram with palm trees in the foreground

More of a city rather than a town, Kahului greets most Maui visitors one way or another — it’s where the island’s main airport lies. Located at the heart of the island, Kahului’s central location draws locals and businesses. As such, Kahului tops the list as Maui county’s largest community. Nearly 30,000 people, or 17% of Maui County’s population, call Kahului home (according to the U.S. Census Bureau).  

Along with its reputation as a transportation and shipping hub (Kahului Harbor serves as the island’s major commercial port), Kahului boasts major shops and services that you won’t find on other parts of the island. The town provides necessities through its network of warehouses, strip malls, and big box stores — think Costco, Target, and Walmart — that both residents and visitors rely upon. 

But even with its commercial bent, Kahului maintains opportunities for cultural experiences, island life, and local restaurants that visitors enjoy.

Things to do in Kahului

After landing in Kahului, pick up groceries, sunscreen, boogie boards, and other vacation supplies from national brand stores such as Whole Foods, Target, and Costco. Or seek out local vendors at either Maui’s Sunday Market or the Maui Swap Meet. Take in local history with a visit to the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, or tour the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.

Exterior view of Tin Roof eatery at Kahului, Maui.

Where to eat in Kahului

Places to stay in Kahului

7. Kula

Saddle seating in front of a wooden bar at Bullys Burgers in Kula, Maui

Once referred to as Nu Kaleponi (or New California) — the area’s in-demand potato crop brought wealth to local farmers at the height of the California Gold Rush — Kula continues to retain its agricultural roots today. Located on the slopes of Haleakala, visitors escape to slow-paced Kula where striking ocean views impress from the road while passing the region’s sprawling country homes. Goats and cattle lazily munch on grass in open fields not far from a local U-pick strawberry farm. And for those who seek an immersive look at rural Upcountry life, there are plenty of farm tours to choose from.

Things to do in Kula

A green wooden sign with the words "Hawaii Sea Spirits organic farm & distillery" with open lawn space, picnic tables, and palm trees in the background

Most visitors to the Kula area head directly to Haleakala National Park for a sunrise (reservation required) or sunset view, but don’t forget to stop at the local farms while you’re in Upcountry. Have your pick of farm tours: Surfing Goat Dairy, Haleakala Creamery, Ocean Vodka, Maui Tea Farm, Ali’i Kula Lavender, Maui Chocolate Coffee Tour

Enjoy slow-paced refreshments at Maui Wine, or pick strawberries (February through May) for the drive home at fourth generation Kula Country Farms.

Three goats standing on a metal gate, heads reaching toward a woman holding a paper bag of treats

Where to eat in Kula

  • Ulupalakua Ranch and Store – burger joint with an outdoor grill and paniolo-themed (Hawaiian cowboy) gift shop 
  • Kula Bistro – casual cafe 
  • Grandma’s Coffee House – coffee beans are grown and roasted in-house on Maui
  • Kula Lodge Restaurant – fine dining Maui style with an epic dining room view and a lush garden 
  • Bully’s Burgers – beef burgers from grass-fed cattle raised on Maui

Places to stay in Kula

8. Wailea

Waterfall water feature out side of the Hotel Wailea, Maui

Along the South Maui shoreline lies Wailea, Kihei’s high-end resort district and community. Just minutes south of laid back Kihei town, the area that was once a World War II training ground for the military in the Pacific Theater has transformed into a haven for the well-heeled Maui crowd. Wailea counts luxury names such as The Four Seasons and The Fairmont in its repertoire of resort establishments — not to mention Gucci and Louis Vuitton at the local shopping mecca, The Shops at Wailea. And while the restaurant options aren’t as extensive in Wailea as its West Maui counterparts Kaanapali and Lahaina, there are still plenty of high quality spots to choose from. 

Things to do in Wailea

Silhouette of a palm tree against the sky next to the ocean water.

Snorkel at the world-famous Molokini reef (this is a can’t-miss catamaran tour), or stroll by the resorts along Wailea’s Beach Path if you prefer to remain on land. Wailea visitors can also set up a tee time at Wailea Golf Club, or experience a farm-to-table luau show at the Andaz resort

Cloudy skies and at sunset with the silhouette of trees and torch lights.

Where to eat in Wailea

A green rectangular plate topped with a gourmet dish: half a lemon, carrots, asparagus, and fish at Ko in Wailea, Maui

Places to stay in Wailea

Stone pillar with a plaque reading "Relais & Chateaux" at Hotel Wailea, Maui

9. Kihei town

Known for its perpetual blue skies and walkable beachfront, Kihei offers a unique blend of local flavor and vacation vibes. This laid-back town boasts a wealth of locally owned shops and restaurants. And you’re more likely to score a budget friendly stay at one of the many vacation condo rentals on this part of the island. Plus, its proximity to other parts of the island makes it an ideal base for exploring all that Maui has to offer.

Things to do in Kihei

While in Kihei, take advantage of the seemingly endless beach. On the north end of town, adventurous types can take advantage of outrigger canoeing, kitesurfing, and surfing. Or rent a paddleboard for a more leisurely glide over the water.

At the Kihei Harbor, catch a morning snorkeling or whale watching tour. Or simply walk the South Kihei strip to check out the local shops and eateries. Be sure to stop at the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to learn about marine life on the island — and possibly spot a few turtles on the beach.

Where to eat in Kihei

Top down view of fish tacos and sandwich at Coconuts Cafe

Places to stay in Kihei

Pond, palm trees, and building view of Kamaole Sands Resort in Kihei, Maui

10. Paia

On Maui’s North Shore, bustling Paia is known for epic swells that attract both surfers and spectators from beyond the island. Lining the streets are local art galleries, chic boutiques, laid-back restaurants — along with a celebrated health food store and yoga centers that cement the town’s reputation as a bohemian and hip enclave.

Things to do in Paia

Head to the sand at Hoʻokipa Beach Park for a peek at the sea turtles that sun themselves on shore. Then head to Paia town’s shopping area at Hana Highway and Baldwin Ave. Duck into the art galleries and boutiques that line the street before grabbing an ice cream cone to beat the island heat.

Read more: 12 Best Things to Do in Maui’s Boho Surfer Town of Paia

Where to eat in Paia

Places to stay in Paia

Paia Inn

11. Haiku

The gateway to the Road to Hana, it’s easy to miss the unassuming community of Haiku. This north shore town maintains a casual country vibe while nestled in the lush island greenery. Similar to neighboring Paia, Haiku is known for its active ocean swells that attract the surfing community. For those who’d rather spend the day on solid ground, hikes and ziplining are a few of the popular activities available in Haiku.

Things to do in Haiku

Slather on the bug protectant and head to Twin Falls for an easy waterfall walk. Animal lovers should look into a tour at the Leilani Farm Sanctuary, where you can get some snuggle time with the resident donkey, deer, goats, and more — and tickets are tax deductible. Thrill seekers won’t want to miss a zipline tour through a eucalyptus tree forest, located at an old WWII base. 

When the waves are high, scope out a spot at Pe’ahi to watch the surfers tame the famous Jaws swells — but beware of snarling traffic when conditions are optimal for epic surf breaks.

Where to eat in Haiku

Lunch wrap from Colleen's at the Cannery in Haiku, Maui

12. Kapalua

Woman walks in Makaluapuna point (Dragon's teeth) Labyrinth
Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Max Wanger

Poised on the northwest tip of Maui lies Kapalua, a luxurious resort community not far from competing resort district Kaanapali. This West Maui location is somewhat remote — driving to Haleakala takes more than two hours — but there’s plenty to keep guests busy on this part of the island. Golfers, casual coastal explorers, spa goers, and foodies will delight in Kapalua’s offerings.  

Things to do in Kapalua

While many flock to East Hana’s rugged coastline to admire Maui’s untamed nature, most visitors don’t realize that West Maui boasts its own section of tempestuous and stunning shoreline. Take in the scenery from the paved Kapalua Coastal Trail. Near the north end of the trail, find the Kapalua Tidepools, but watch out for sharp rocks and sudden waves. 

Head toward Fleming Beach and explore the nearby Dragon’s Teeth, an otherworldly geological outcropping. Nearby, Kapalua Labyrinth offers a place of contemplation with the soundtrack of crashing surf.

Where to eat in Kapalua

Places to stay in Kapalua

About Author

Hi, I’m Gina — managing editor, Maui enthusiast, and human behind the keyboard here at Maui Trip Guide. When I’m not on the island at my Kihei condo, you can find me planning my next travel adventure from my home in the Pacific Northwest.

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