Enjoy this one again or for the very first time. Originally published October 2021
Most people come to Maui for the beach. And yes the beach is pretty incredible. I should say the beaches are incredible, because there are so very many to choose from. And I get it – the lure of the tropical ocean breeze and the lapping waves in the golden sand. It’s a perfect way to shed your stress and just relax. Ahhh…but you are missing Maui hidden gems.
Maui has so much more than just the beach in front of your hotel or condo. And I want to convince you to get out and see the magic of this diverse tropical paradise and find Maui hidden gems.
So come with me on a around-the-island-tour of my favorite hidden places, businesses and vistas – Maui Hidden Gems.
Our tour begins in Upcountry, away from the beaches. This interior area of the island offers a slower pace, a cooler climate and some of the island’s lushest and most diverse flora. Here’s our upcountry hidden gems;
Kula Lodge – Recently purchased by long time Maui restaurateurs, Kula Lodge will be reopening the 5 Palms Restaurant previously located in Kihei. This is a fun development. The view here is amazing. I sure hope they keep the pizza oven.
Kula Botanical Gardens – privately owned and beautifully presented, this hidden gem showcases tropical plants of all kinds, tucked into the mountain terrain.
Maui Veteran’s Cemetery – located in Makawao, a brief stop here provides the visitor a peek into the reverence and respect Hawaii has for it’s veterans of all wars.
Ocean Vodka – enjoy a tour and tasting, take some vodka or gin home, and marvel at the view from this mountain top distillery in Kula.
Kahului and Wailuku
Most visitors don’t see more than the airport in these two island cities. Both cities are home to much of the islands full-time residents, government seat and industry. But hidden here are some of our favorite shops and one of our favorite Maui hidden gems restaurants.
Sam Satos – low key and no website, this local noodle shop is rarely frequented by visitors. But it has become one of my favorite places to eat in Maui.
Fabric Mart – I love picking up Aloha fabrics when in Hawaii. There are several fabric and quilting stores around the island, and the Kahului location of Fabric Mart is one of my favorites.
Maui Specialty Chocolates and Mochi – most visitors go home with Hawaiian Host chocolates. You’ll never buy Hawaiian Host again once you visit Maui Specialty Chocolates in Kahului. Try the Mochi too.
Kahekili Highway (The North/West Tip Road) – Everyone has heard of the road to Hana, but Maui has another twisty, winding road with spectacular views – the hidden gem Kahekili Highway. Start this road in Waihee just outside of Wailuku and drive the lesser traveled route to Kapalui.
Napili, Kapalua and Kaanapali make up the area known as West Maui and your drive around the tip of the West Maui Mountain on the Kahekili Highway will land you in Kapalua.
Pineapple Hill – home to luxury homes with incredible views, Pineapple Hill can be walked on foot for an exhilarating hike. Watch for historic markers that explain the Maui hidden gems history of the Kapalua area, the Baldwin family and Pineapple Hill.
Kapalua Coastal Trail Labyrinth – Also called the Dragons Teeth Labyrinth this beautiful prayer labyrinth was built and is maintained by locals and is a true Maui hidden gem on the rugged Kapalua Coastal Trail. Walking the Coastal Trail is also a highly recommended activity.
Historic Churches of Maui – throughout the island you will find many historic, often century-old structures. Some still in use today as places of worship, while others have been converted to other uses. West Maui has it’s share of this hidden gems.
Although it is one of the oldest Hawaiian settlements and was home to Hawaiian royalty, I am continuously disappointed in Lahaina. Over the past several decades Lahaina seems to have fallen from grace and needs someone to resuscitate it. Years ago it was home to shop after shop of local artisans including jewelry, sculpture and one of kind paintings. Today there are many boarded up windows and lots of tacky tourist tschotskis, alongside a handful of restaurants. Sidewalks are poor, paint is chipped and peeling and the town is a sad reminder of its former self. Lahaina does have some good restaurants worth a visit that keep this town alive. We really recommend Mala Ocean Tavern, Star Noodle and Down the Hatch.
Additionally the Hawaiian government has lacked the initiative to preserve some of this island’s most sacred sites, that lie in ruin often behind chain link fences in Lahaina. These places are truly part of Maui hidden gems.
Maui Ghost Tours – take a walking tour of Lahaina and learn about the hidden gems of sacred sights, royal sights and lost sights important to the local Hawaiian people. It’s a fascinating tour.
The Old Pali Road – as you drive from Lahaina south towards Kihei on today’s two lane highway called the Honoapiilani Highway, watch for remnants of the Old Pali Road built around the turn of the century. This old road remains in bits and pieces, a reminder of a simpler time on this beautiful island. You can walk parts of the Old Pali Road too.
Kohola Brewing – hidden in a back parking lot of an industrial area of Lahaina, Kohola Brewing is a definite hidden gem of Maui. Maui is home to several outstanding breweries, but we loved Kohola’s industrial vibe and unpretentious operation. Go in search of good beer here.
Kihei, Wailea and Makena make up the area known as south Maui and include some of the best beaches and hidden coves on the island. This desert area sits in the shadow of Haleakala and until the early 1980’s the road stopped at South Kihei where today the 5 Palms Restaurant is. Everything south of there has developed since then. It used to be a two day trip to get to the far end of the island. Today it takes about 30 minutes.
Historic Around the island path – built in the 16th century the path used to circumnavigate the entire island, giving kings the power to control the island. Today remnants of the path can be found and accessed in many places.
Hoopili Kings Highway – sometimes called the La Perouse Trail, this part of the old King’s Highway is the best maintained. Follow South Kihei Road until it ends, and you will be at the Hoopili path. Wear close-toed shoes and bring lots of water for this hot and barren landscape that crosses a 300 year old lava bed.
Secret Beaches – as you drive in South Kihei and Makena keep your eyes open for the many (often unmarked) beach access trails. Here you can find the secret beaches of Maui, often tiny coves and sometimes broad golden beaches.
Wailea Path – if you aren’t staying at one of the fancy ocean front resorts in Wailea you may not know about the beautiful public boardwalk that runs the entire length of Wailea, about a mile and a half. A great place for a morning run, evening stroll and whale watching. Parking is available at several locations. It’s also a great way to get a glimpse at the beautiful resorts.
Additional Hidden Gems
Jolica Jewels – if you are looking for a perfect memento of your time on Maui, or maybe a special gift for that special someone, check out Maui based Jolica Jewels. Beautiful one of kind pieces of jewelry to fit any budget, all with a special Hawaiian flair, lovingly designed and created by local Jolica.
Fresh Fish Maui – get the daily fresh catch report and order online with Fresh Fish Maui for the catch of the day delivered direct to your condo door. It’s the freshest and most delicious fish you can get on the island.
And Those Are Our Favorite Maui Hidden Gems
There you have it, some of our hidden gems of Maui. There is so much to see on this beautiful island, you can never see it all. So you’ll always need to come back for more. Maui no ka oi.
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See last week’s post about hiking in Mount Saint Helens.
Check back next Friday for Six Great Hikes on the Island of Maui.
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