Destinations / North America / Hawaii / Maui

5 Things You NEED To Do Before You Visit Maui

This post contains affiliate links, for which I may earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase.

Sharing is caring!

A trip to Maui can be as busy or as low-key as you want it to be, but there are a few ways you can lay the groundwork in advance for a successful vacation. Read through these Maui travel tips to find out what you should do before you get on the plane – or even get too deep into planning your epic Maui vacation.

Buy a Shaka Gold Card

Let’s face it: visiting Hawaii is expensive! Maui is no exception on that front, and there are tons of fun things to try out while you’re there.

One great way to save money is with the Shaka Gold card. It’s offered by the trade association for local tour operators, so it’s completely legitimate. While the Shaka Gold card has offerings across the islands, it’s particularly compelling on Maui. The card costs just $37 for four people (you can add more people for $7.50 each) it offers big discounts on top tours like Trilogy Excursions, Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui Trail Rides, Valley Isle Excursions (Hana and Haleakala). Even if you just book one of those tour, you’re basically guaranteed to save money.

I actually didn’t know about the card until we returned and I was in touch with one of the tour operators… and I’m totally kicking myself for overpaying!

Want more money-saving tips? Read my in-depth guide to visiting Hawaii on a budget.

Write out your itinerary

After visiting all four main islands of Hawaii, I firmly believe that Maui requires more schedule coordination than the others if you want to experience some of the island’s unique offerings. There are tons of things to do, and quite a few of them require either early mornings or late nights (or both!). It’s important that you sketch out your plans in advance to make sure you don’t run yourself ragged!

In addition, if you’re coming from the mainland you’ll likely be up early the first few days and may have trouble doing late nights then. Plan those early activities for the first half of your trip and the late activities for the second half to make everything more enjoyable.

Some activities can really take it out of you too! I recommend that you look through the activities below (you can read more about them in our guide to things to do on Maui) and choose which ones you want to do, then figure out a sensible arrangement that gives you some beach or pool time as a bookend.

Early mornings:
-Haleakala sunrise (reserve tickets in advance or book a tour)
Molokini snorkeling (conditions are better than in the afternoon)
-Road to Hana (use GuideAlong app!)

Late nights:
-Haleakala sunset/stargazing
-Road to Hana (yep, it’s both an early morning and a late night)

I don’t recommend planning an early morning after a late night. After all, you’re supposed to be on vacation.

Make dinner reservations

This one is a “maybe”. You don’t absolutely have to make dinner reservations on Maui and you can certainly eat well without them. However, if you have a certain bucket list restaurant on your radar you should arrange it as soon as you know your travel dates.

In particular, if you want to dine at Mama’s Fish House on the north shore of Maui, book early and be flexible with the time of day. How early? For a 6pm dinner for 4, things look pretty sparse 8 months out. There’s more availability for earlier times and much later times but that gives you a sense for how popular it is. You can reserve up to 18 months in advance.

Another popular Maui restaurant – and with a much more reasonable price tag – is Monkeypod Kitchen (pictured above). This great spot has locations in both Wailea and Ka’anapali. If you have a specific time in mind to dine, you’ll want to make a reservation to secure it. We were late to the game and could only snag an 8pm slot a few weeks before, but thankfully Monkeypod keeps plenty of spots open for walk-ins as well.

Download the GuideAlong App

Even though I’ve been to Hawaii many times, our recent trip was the first time I tried out a GPS-based audio tour app. It was awesome and I’m kicking it for not using it last time we visited Oahu and Big Island!

The GuideAlong app was like having our own personal tour guide narrating as we drove around Maui (and subsequently Kauai). The guide gave us directions, shared information about places we were visiting, taught us history and culture and even suggested extra stops along the way. We used it everywhere including Haleakala, ‘Iao Valley, driving on random roads through the middle of the island and more.

For just $50 we purchased the tour bundle that includes all of Hawaii and we definitely got our money’s worth! I love that it’s a one-time purchase and we can use it (with tour that seem to be getting updates every week) for subsequent trips.

There are a few different competing GPS tour apps for Hawaii but we chose GuideAlong for its flexibility. If you purchase the all-Maui or all-Hawaii bundle, you can turn it on wherever you are and it will start talking to you. The other popular option is Shaka Guide, but that requires you to specify your route so it’s less flexible if you’re just driving around. But Shaka Guide has a distinctly Hawaiian flair, which many visitors appreciate.

Research the right beaches

Maui’s 120 miles of coastline include dozens of beaches, each with their own strengths and challenges. All beaches in the state of Hawaii are public and must be publicly accessible, so you’re truly spoiled for choice. Choosing the right one for your preferences is key to having a great day! Thankfully if you make a mistake (as we did one morning) you can always hop to a different beach to change course.

I’ve been to a lot of the best beaches on Maui but I won’t lie and pretend that I’ve been to every single one. Thankfully this page offers a great summary! There are a few standouts I want to call your attention to. You can also cross-check the areas with the best cheap places to stay on Maui if you’re early in planning and haven’t decided where to stay.

Best Maui beaches for toddlers and babies:
-Baby Beach in Lahaina
-Kapalua Bay in west Maui
-Kamaole I and II in Kihei

Best Maui beaches for older kids (in addition to those above):
-Napili Bay in west Maui
-Ka’anapali Beach in west Maui
-Keawakapu Beach in Wailea – pictured above and totally empty during a perfect Maui sunset

Best Maui beaches for snorkeling*:
-Olowalu Beach in Lahaina
-Between Kam I and II in Kihei
-Ulua & Mokapu Beaches in Wailea
-Ahihi-Kinau Reserve in south Maui

*Always check the snorkel report in the morning when planning your day! They’ll tell you exactly where to go (and if it’s not worth going at all).

No matter what type of beach activities you’re planning to do, come prepared. Be kind to the ocean by only using reef-safe sunscreen and covering up with a rash guard – your skin will thank you now and in 20 years. Be sure to check our Hawaii packing list for kids and our Hawaii packing list for women to make sure you have everything you need!

Want to plan the ultimate Maui vacation? Click here for step-by-step Maui travel planning help!

Planning your trip to Maui

As you plan your perfect Maui vacation, be sure to check out these helpful articles:

See all of our Hawaii travel planning resources in one place

Travel planning resources:
Compare rental car prices for Hawaii
Buy a top-rated travel insurance policy
5 simple money-saving tips for

General Hawaii resources:
How to visit Hawaii on a budget
Renting a car in Hawaii: 10 things you NEED to know
What to pack for Hawaii
Is a cheap GoPro knock-off worth it?

Hawaii with kids:
What’s the best Hawaiian island for families?
Is it worth visiting Hawaii with a baby?
Ultimate packing list for Hawaii with kids
Top 10 things to do with kids on Oahu
The best snorkel gear for kids of all ages

Oahu resources:
Best Oahu travel guide book
Perfect 7 day Oahu itinerary
Where to stay on Oahu
Family-friendly Oahu vacation rentals
Cheap Places To Stay On Oahu
10 Fun Things to do on Oahu for $10 or less
Getting the most bang for your buck on your Go Oahu discount card
Insider tips for visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center
The best beaches on Oahu (and why to visit them)
Where to find the best shave ice on Oahu
The best easy hikes on Oahu
North Shore Oahu complete visitors guide
Kayaking to the Mokes with Twogood Kayaks
Family-friendly kayaking with Holokai Adventures
Visiting Pearl Harbor

Maui resources:
Best Maui travel guide book
Family Activities in Maui We Absolutely Love
Perfect 3 day Maui itinerary
5 Things You NEED To Do Before You Visit Maui
Cheap Places To Stay On Maui

Big Island resources:
Best Big Island travel guide book
Perfect 5 day Big Island itinerary
Cheap Places To Stay On the Big Island

Kauai resources:
Best Kauai travel guide book
Best Things to Do with Kids on Kauai
Perfect 3 day Kauai itinerary
Cheap Places To Stay On Kauai

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.