Let’s face it, wedding planning is STRESSFUL. When you find your person and your special day finally comes, you’ll dance and eat and dance some more and let go of all that stress, but you’ll still probably need a relaxing honeymoon to recover. The amazing thing about a honeymoon in Maui (or any Hawaiian island, for that matter) is that you can have it all – relaxing days at the beach, all the unique food you can eat, delicious cocktails by the pool, adventures in nature, plenty of shopping and sightseeing, and even wild animal encounters. So how do you choose how to spend your days?
I might be a little biased, but I think our October Maui honeymoon itinerary was perfect, so I’m going to share it with you in detail here.
Where to Stay for a Secluded Honeymoon in Maui – Hotel Wailea
Since Maui is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world, it can be hard to find a secluded resort or hotel – but we found the perfect one. Inside the town of Wailea (a wealthy town in beautiful south Maui) is Hotel Wailea, Relais & Châteaux, a 5-star adults-only oasis.
Pros of Staying at Hotel Wailea
Hotel Wailea has repeatedly been rated as one of the most romantic hotels in the world and has been featured in several articles. I can’t imagine a better place to stay for a honeymoon in Maui. They’re also locally owned and take pride in their native landscaping, which means you’ll be traveling more sustainably and supporting local businesses. Plus, they have one of the highest-rated restaurants on the island (we’ll cover that later).
You’ll love the gorgeous, romantic rooms where you can pre-order a bottle of wine and some sweet treats to be waiting for you when you arrive. We told them we were there for our honeymoon and we also found a bottle of champagne waiting! A few activities are offered throughout the week, such as mixology classes and yoga, and there is also a gym and a valet on site. Every time you walk to the pool, the lobby, or anywhere else, you’ll be surrounded by native bright green trees, vibrant flowers, and perfectly landscaped shrubbery.
Cons of Staying at Hotel Wailea
The only downfalls we found to Hotel Wailea were the lack of self-parking options and the distance to everything we wanted to do. If you’re ok with having to drive all over the island (it’s a beautiful drive no matter where you go), it’s worth it to stay far out at Hotel Wailea. Additionally, parking technically was never a problem due to there always being a valet available, but it would have been nice to be able to self-park more easily when we were in a rush or didn’t have cash to tip. The self-parking lot is tiny and it’s a bit of a walk (or at least it was from our room).
Alternatives to Hotel Wailea
If you’re ok with a bit of noise and are looking for more of a party scene, consider staying in the city of Lahaina. The Best Western Pioneer Inn on Wharf Street is right by the ferry that can take you to Lanai for the day and is a very short walk from bustling shops and restaurants. For a more luxurious beachfront stay, consider Honua Kai Resort.
Pro Tip: Maui is by no means a quiet island. If you want complete silence and have no plans to explore more than beaches and rainforests, you might want to look at one of the smaller islands, like Kauai.
Getting Around Maui
Unless you plan on flying all the way to Hawaii just to stay at your resort, we recommend renting a car. You’ll notice that jeeps and convertibles are wildly popular among Maui tourists, and for good reason – you won’t want to miss the views (especially if you dare to try Road to Hana, but more on that later). We rented a Chevy Camaro that we were able to pick up and drop off easily from the Maui airport.
If you stay on the south side, you’ll probably find yourself driving north and east quite a bit. If you stay in Lahaina, you’ll be a close drive to everything but will lack that seclusion that is nice to have on your honeymoon in Maui.
Best Time to Visit Maui
Late spring and early fall are generally the best times to visit Maui because the crowds tend to be heavier in mid-summer and winter. Mid-November through March tends to be quite rainy in Maui as well, but temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the calendar year (at ground level, at least – high elevation points like Haleakalā may see snow in the winter).
How Long to Stay in Maui
While there’s no right amount of time to stay in Maui, it’s best to spend at least one full week there. It can be a challenge to get to Maui, depending on where you’re coming from, so you might “lose” two full days just to travel there and back. A honeymoon in Maui is certainly not a quick getaway, so plan accordingly.
Best Restaurants in Maui
Hawaii is one of the greatest states for foodies, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a big seafood fan to love it. I’m personally not a seafood fan and never had a problem finding something amazing everywhere we went. Granted, seafood fans will probably have an even greater appreciation for it. If you do love seafood, be sure to make a reservation in advance for Mama’s Fish House, the famous, upscale seafood restaurant in Paia. Regardless, these are the places we tried and loved.
*Keep in mind that many Maui restaurants are requiring reservations and/or vaccine cards. This may or may not still be the case on your travel date.
The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea
Rather than grabbing a quick breakfast on your way out the door, Hotel Wailea is a place where you’ll want to take your time in the morning. Wake up slowly and enjoy your espresso on the lanai, then stroll down to the restaurant, where your chances of having to wait for a table are very small (the hotel only has 72 rooms and is rather secluded, especially in the mornings). You’ll be seated against the balcony where you can look out and see the shoreline as well as the 15 acres of landscaped grounds with native Hawaiian flora. There, you can enjoy what must be the best, freshest avocado toast that has ever been served and share a large bowl of Hawaiian fruit, or go all-in on the sugar and order the divine french toast. If you’re up for a heavier meal, the “Loco Moco” is served with a Wagyu beef patty, sautéed vegetables, rice, and a sunny-side-up egg.
Breakfast is only the beginning. Be sure to make a reservation at least a month in advance for dinner at the hotel, where you’ll sit again overlooking the lush landscaping, this time by candlelight, and enjoy a high-quality meal. You can also enjoy lunch by the pool with a fresh ahi poke bowl or chips and dip while you sip on any one of the many cocktails available. Lastly, the Birdcage bar within the lobby of the hotel is a wonderful place to grab a glass of wine after a day of exploring.
Cool Cat Cafe – Lahaina
While there are at least 100 unique restaurants in the Lahaina area, Cool Cat Cafe stands out as one of the most casual, easy places to grab a bite and enjoy the views of the bustling main strip after a day spent at the beach, the shops, or even after coming back on the ferry after a day trip to the island of Lanai. Just a short walk from the pier, you’ll sit on the 1950’s style veranda and enjoy a burger or a sandwich (vegetarian options are available) and a fresh cocktail. I recommend a margarita flavored with jalapeños and the “famous” Don Ho burger (pineapple, bacon, jack cheese, Hawaiian sauce).
Aloha ‘Aina BBQ – Haiku (near Road to Hana)
Whether or not you plan on venturing down the Road to Hana, Aloha ‘Aina BBQ is an absolute must during your honeymoon in Maui. It’s a bit out away from everything, but it’s close to Ho’opika beach, the town of Paia, and the famous seafood restaurant, Mama’s Fish House. It’s also conveniently located near the entrance to Road to Hana, which doesn’t have many food options and can be a long trek, so it’s a great place to grab a bite before you begin that journey (or after).
It’s easy to miss because the food is served out of a truck parked on farmland off the side of the road, but you’ll know you’re there when you pull in from the bright colors. There are several picnic tables set up that you can eat at and many of them are covered, so don’t worry about rain. I recommend getting a BBQ plate, which allows you to sample more than one delicious meat. I tried the Huli-Huli chicken and the Kiawe pork belly. Both were incredible. The coconut sticky rice that is served the meats is also incredible, and then you’ll also get fresh cornbread and a fern salad. It’s a lot of food and it’s incredible.
Monkeypod Kitchen – Wailea
Monkeypod Kitchen is a fun restaurant in Wailea where you can enjoy upscale bar food and cocktails (best place for a Mai Tai) after a long day of hiking, exploring, or roasting in the sun. I wish I had taken photos of the restaurant itself, but being that we were on our honeymoon, I wasn’t super focused on photographing every moment as much as I was focused on enjoying every moment! We actually sat at the bar, but you’ll feel right at home anywhere in this cozy eatery.
Maui Brewing Co. – Kihei
While we didn’t end up making it to Maui Brewing Co., their Kihei location was at the top of our wish list and I still recommend it. Their casual “brewery to table” dining experience might just be the casual break you need from your romantic restaurant hopping. Sit out on the lawn and enjoy a fresh brew with a burger and some crispy fries and chat about your adventures!
Cafe @ La Plage – Kihei
I normally don’t visit the same eatery twice on vacation, especially in a place like Maui where there are so many places to try. – but I enjoyed breakfast from Cafe @ La Plage twice, so you know it’s good. To be honest, the main reason we went there twice is that it was one of the most convenient locations to grab a quick bagel and coffee to go before heading out for a long day of fun. The coffee was fresh and tasty and the “Big Beach” on a sesame bagel was incredible. It had a sauce on it that I wasn’t expecting that gave it just the right flavor to make me want to come back a few days later.
The cafe is within a strip in Kihei that sort of reminds me of Miami or Tampa, Florida, in the sense that it’s a long row of budget-friendly and family-friendly hotels. It’s a fun, vibrant little neighborhood and although I’m glad we stayed in the more secluded, romantic town of Wailea, I can see the appeal of staying in Kihei.
Maui Gelato and Waffles
For a unique sweet treat, stop by Maui Gelato and Waffles on the Kihei strip! The gelato is delicious on its own, and they have plenty of fun flavors available, but the fresh Belgian waffles really put the icing on the cake (no pun intended). Check out their Facebook page for photos of their creations and updates on their hours.
Surfing Monkey Shaved Ice
Most travel blogs will tell you to go to Ululani’s for shaved ice, but I’m not a fan of spending half my vacations waiting in line. Hawaii is full of shaved ice places, and we found a good one in Surfing Monkey. The Wailea location is inside an outdoor mall full of upscale clothing stores, and the Kihei location is right in the hustle and bustle of the south Maui tourist district. Both are small stands that offer big servings. You can order one flavor, mix a few together, or order one of the specials (a suggested flavor mixture).
Star Noodle – Lahaina
Easily our favorite meal from our whole trip (maybe tied with Aloha ‘Aina BBQ), Star Noodle does not disappoint. The restaurant is in Lahaina, slightly outside the busy tourist area and right along the rocky shore. This was actually the place where we were finally able to see sea turtles out in the wild! We were able to spend some time looking over the rocks before our table was ready and found these huge turtles swimming no more than a foot below the surface, with one or two peeking out above the water every few minutes. We were then lucky enough to get a table close to the water and we watched the sunset while we enjoyed our dinner.
Make sure you get a reservation; Star Noodle is definitely a Lahaina favorite. Everything was served family-style and we greatly enjoyed the teriyaki chicken and adobo ribs with our heaping plate of garlic noodles.
Kula Lodge Restaurant & Bar – Kula (near Haleakala)
Our experience at Kula Lodge was a happy accident that turned into a truly unique and memorable dining experience. We stumbled upon this place on our way back down from the top of Haleakala. While the food is certainly not anything fancy, it’s worth checking it out for the views alone. Whether you sit inside at the Kula Lodge Restaurant or outside on the garden terrace, you won’t be able to stop looking out at the island. We shared a pizza that was pretty decent (I’m a picky New Yorker) and relaxed after our adventure above the clouds.
As the name suggests, Kula Lodge is also…a lodge. They have five romantic “upcountry” lodges that I would gladly consider staying in on our next Maui adventure, whenever that may be. They also have a day spa and a marketplace on site where you can find all sorts of local goods ranging from fresh jam and honey to local wines and home decor.
Ocean Distillery Cafe
Ocean Distillery Cafe is another one that we technically never made it to but will be at the top of my list for our next trip to Maui, so I thought it was worth a mention. The cafe is…you guessed it…within Ocean Organic Vodka Distillery. It’s a great place to stop in for lunch and a cocktail, and while you’re there you can take a guided tour and vodka tasting.
Seascape Restaurant – Wailuku (inside Maui Ocean Center)
We didn’t plan on visiting the aquarium in Maui; we’d much prefer to see wildlife in their natural habitats when we travel, but this was another happy accident that ended our trip nicely. On our last day on the island, we had some time to kill before going to the airport and didn’t want to get all sweaty on the beach before flying for close to 24 hours with two connections. We’d read that the aquarium was small and well managed, so we gave it a try. We originally planned on going to Maui Brewing Co. afterward, but neither of us was in the mood for a beer and we just wanted a good healthy lunch. Normally my opinion of zoo and aquarium food is fairly low, but this looked promising.
Seascape Restaurant is available to the public even if you don’t visit the aquarium, and if you choose to, you can buy aquarium tickets from there. Wild chickens will be at the ready to catch your scraps just like your dog back home, but they won’t bother you. The covered, open-air restaurant menu will surprise you. Award-winning Executive Chef Enrique “Henry” Tariga and his staff prepare true Hawaiian cuisine including fresh poke, I’a Palai (fish and chips), and more – gourmet style. The fish and chips are made with different fish depending on what’s available, and my husband was served Mahi-mahi. Avoiding seafood, I went with the Pua’a pork belly bowl with soy-glazed pork belly, a free-range egg, white rice, and edamame bean salad. The macaroni salad that came with it was delicious too, and I don’t normally love macaroni salad. All of this with a view of the Mā‘alaea Harbor made for a perfect final meal.
Best Things to Do in Maui (Other Than Visit the Beach)
Chances are, you only have a week or less to spend in Maui. Maybe ten days, if you’re lucky. When in Hawaii, you’re probably going to want to spend a good portion of your time on the beach. Whether that’s laying on the sand all day or participating in water sports is up to you, but the fact is, you’ll have some long days on the beach. As a result, you probably won’t have time to do too much else – so these are my top three recommendations for those extra non-beach days that you may have.
Day Trip to Lanai Cat Sanctuary
Our day trip to Lanai was probably our favorite day of our whole trip. Even if you’re not a cat person, you can take a day trip to the beautiful, secluded island of Lanai and have a great memorable day. If you are a cat person, boy are you in for a treat!
Lanai has a population of just over 3,000 people, making it the smallest inhabited island of Hawaii. As a result, this is something that is true of everywhere but you should pay special attention in places like Lanai: treat it like you’re stepping into somebody’s home. Native Hawaiians are justified in their concerns about the harmful effects of tourism, and that holds especially true for smaller communities like Lanai. While the tourism dollars do create jobs and are much appreciated, we have to be extra careful about protecting their environment and wildlife and treating their people well.
To get to Lanai, you’ll take a ferry from Lahaina, which is about a 60-minute ride and costs $30 each way. Once you get there, you can either rent a jeep from Lanai Cheap Jeeps for the day (which is a bit pricey and they sell out fast), or you can use a shuttle service. The shuttles always hang around the harbor whenever a ferry rolls in, so you won’t have a big problem finding one. You might have to wait 20-30 minutes if it’s really busy and you’re the last passenger off the boat.
At the harbor, there is a small convenience store with some snacks, water, and souvenirs available as well as a public restroom. The Four Seasons Lanai is also not far – it’s the only major hotel on the island and also has one of the few restaurants, but it has been closed to the public during COVID so you could only eat there as a hotel guest or Lanai resident. We chose to go back to Lahaina for dinner, but Blue Ginger Cafe is the most highly recommended restaurant on Lanai.
You can take the shuttles into town to eat and wander around the Lana’i Culture Center, you can ask to go to the beach, or you can follow our lead and take the shuttle straight to the Lanai Cat Sanctuary. The sanctuary is only open from 10 to 3, so make sure you grab an early enough ferry because you’ll want to spend at least 90 minutes there. We took the 9:45 AM ferry from Lahaina. Our boat left a few minutes late, so we arrived in Lana’i close to 11. By the time we got to the sanctuary, it was close to noon. We spent about two hours there and then made it back in time for the 2:30 ferry back.
The sanctuary doesn’t charge admission, but donations are highly appreciated. They have more than 600 cats on the property at any given time, and the costs can add up!
The cats roam free within three large habitats (the seniors and the younger cats are kept separate). You have the opportunity to wander around and pet the cats that want to be pet (if you’re a cat person, you know it’s a big risk to pet a cat that doesn’t want to be pet). You’ll be given a small ziplock bag of cat treats to hand out, but you can also bring your own to donate. We were immediately greeted by a few cats in particular when we walked in and learned that they are the most social “welcome committee” there ever was.
The cats were all brought in as strays, mostly from Lanai but some from other parts of Hawaii, as an effort to reduce the feral cat population while also increasing the native bird population. All the cats are adoptable, but given their remote location, they tend to live at the sanctuary for a long time.
Dare to Drive the Road to Hana
When you look up things to do while on your honeymoon in Maui, the Road to Hana is bound to come up. I’m here to tell you two things: it is an incredible, unforgettable experience, and it can also be terrifying. Granted, it ended up raining while we were there, but it rains there fairly often.
The Road to Hana is why most travel bloggers (myself included) recommend renting a convertible or a jeep. Imagine the curviest mountain roads you’ve ever driven on and then double it and add in a bunch of one-way blind corners on an otherwise two-way road. However, also imagine driving through lush rainforests with several lookout points that will make you feel like you’re watching a cartoon because you can’t believe our planet actually looks like that.
There are over 15 waterfalls on the Road to Hana. I would list out all the places to stop here, but the truth is that it can be hard to see the mile markers and know where the pull-offs are until you’ve already passed them. The best and safest thing to do is to look for where other cars are parked and pull off when it seems like a good time (don’t be the person that tries to park where there is no room and creates a traffic jam).
The one place I recommend stopping above all the others is the Garden of Eden. This is one that you won’t miss because it has a pretty generous clearing and an obvious entrance sign. At the Garden of Eden, you can park and hike around for an hour or two. They do charge an entrance fee of $20 per person, which allows them to care for their incredible landscaping, which consists of a 100-year-old mango tree, a bamboo alley, an incredible waterfall overlook, wild peacocks, and so much more.
I also recommend pulling off when you come across Coconut Glen’s ice cream truck, which allows plenty of room to pull off on park. They also have two cats that live on the property and will greet you while you rest and enjoy your ice cream.
Other travel blogs will tell you to make a whole day out of the Road to Hana and make it all the way to Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach. We did drive all the way there just to find out they started requiring reservations a few months prior to when we were there, mostly to help limit the number of tourists driving through the area and to help preserve the beach. If you have the energy for it and a full stomach, go ahead, but there is no shame in only driving for a few hours and turning around. The road only gets harder to drive the further you go.
Final Recommendations for Road to Hana: Stop whenever you see a bathroom because they are far and few in-between, and eat beforehand. There are few opportunities for food, the main ones being Hanna Farms (which is pretty big, you won’t miss it), and the Halfway to Hana stand, which is, you guessed it, halfway between the start of the road and the town of Hana (at about mile marker 17).
Hike Haleakala Above the Clouds
A trip to Haleakalā National Park is a must for your honeymoon in Maui. It’s different from every other national park you will ever visit. The highest point is more than 10,000 feet above sea level, and before you even get to the top you’ll see clouds to the left, right, and below you. That feeling of being above the clouds (without being in a plane) is like nothing else. Haleakalā is also home to six native bird species, many of which are endangered and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Most notable is the nēnē, which you’ll see many signs for and will be instructed to watch out for on the road.
You will need to pay $30 per vehicle (2022) unless you have the annual national park pass. There is a welcome center about halfway up the mountain where you can stop and use the bathroom and purchase souvenirs, but it has been closed for COVID-19. The second welcome center at the top of the mountain is open and has souvenirs and restrooms as well. There are a few different hiking trails that you can take. You’ll also have a distant view of the observatory, but it is not open to the public.
If you want to see the sunrise from Haleakalā, you’ll need to make a reservation. While I imagine it’s one of the most romantic and incredible experiences on Earth, Haleakalā is just as amazing during the day. Unlike Road to Hana, the road up to the top of Haleakalā is not scary unless you’re afraid of heights. The road is wide enough and there aren’t many blind curves.
Best Beaches in Maui
With 120 miles of coastline and over 80 accessible beaches, how can you choose where to lay on the sand during your limited time on your honeymoon in Maui? Our photographer that we chose to take honeymoon photos with took us to Po’olenalena Beach, which is an incredible, serene spot to take photos early in the morning, but parts of it attract nudists as the sun rises. If you’re into that, great, this is the beach for you. If not, these are the top three beaches that we enjoyed on our Honeymoon in Maui.
Ho’okipa Beach (Paia)
Along the shore of the small town of Paia, Ho’okipa Beach Park is a narrow beach known for its rocky coastline, excellent waves for water sports, and sea turtle spotting. The best time to see sea turtles at Ho’okipa is around sunset when they come up on the sand. We didn’t get lucky with sea turtles during our visit, though we did see them when we went to dinner at Star Noodle in Lahaina. There are public restrooms, but you’re not going to find concessions here. There are plenty of good restaurants in shops in the town of Paia, which you will drive through to get here. It’s also close to our favorite food spot in all of Maui, Aloha ‘Aina BBQ.
The best part about Ho’okipa, and the reason it makes our list, is the views. There are two parking areas – one long parking lot along the shore, and one at the top of the hill at the park entrance. I recommend parking at the top and wandering around up there for a while. The park borders a local farm, so you can get some up-close photos of the cows and then walk down to the fence line for incredible views of the beach and the ocean. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can hike down to the beach from there, but it’s quite steep – make sure you have good shoes on.
Kaanapali Beach (Lahaina)
Kannapali Beach, also seen as Kā‘anapali Beach, has been rated as one of the top beaches in America, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a great place to go snorkeling, there are several resorts that spill onto it, and there are several boat tours that leave nearby. Plus, it’s in Lahaina, so it’s not far from some of the best restaurants and shopping that Maui has to offer. The downside to Kaanapali is that with all of the resorts and all of the nearby activities, it tends to be a bit more crowded, and you’ll see more families. It was not our beach of choice for our honeymoon, but we couldn’t leave it off this list if you’re looking for the top beaches in Maui. Notable resorts are Kaanapali Beach resort and The Westin Maui Resort.
Wailea Beach (Wailea)
If you want seclusion on your honeymoon in Maui, like we did, Wailea Beach is one of the best beaches for you. Granted, with the Wailea Beach Resort spilling onto the beach, it’s not completely private – but it’s one of the least crowded beaches on Maui. We had no problem finding a spot to lay down our towels in a shady spot in the middle of the day. Even with a few families hanging out nearby, it was relatively quiet. Laying in the sun and listening to the waves crash down on Wailea Beach is now one of my favorite memories.
Enjoy Your Honeymoon in Maui
My final piece of advice is to soak up every moment of your honeymoon in Maui. It doesn’t matter how you choose to spend your days – you’re going to love it. From the random stray chickens you’ll see wandering around (supposedly the result of decades of storms breaking farm fences), to the incredible dishes you’ll try, it’s no surprise why Maui is consistently rated as one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world.
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