Aloha! Are you trying to decide where to stay on Maui?
You’ve certainly picked one of our favorite Hawaiian islands – great for a first-time trip to Hawaii or a repeat visit! Dubbed “the Valley Isle,” Maui is much loved for its beautiful beaches (more than 80!), whale watching, waterfalls, snorkeling with sea turtles – and gorgeous resorts.
We’ve visited the island of Maui more than a dozen times over the years, staying in all the main areas of the island. And we’ve just returned from another delightful Maui trip.
When planning your Hawaii vacation, it’s important to choose your holiday base wisely to minimize driving.
If you don’t have a car, you’ll want to be in an area where you’re walking distance to beaches, restaurants and activities.
As for the best part of Maui for your stay, that will depend on your interests and budget.
Here’s our definitive guide to the best places to stay in Maui – together with recommendations for the best Maui hotels, condos and resorts in each area (34 resorts in total).
We’ve personally bedded down at many of these resorts and Maui vacation rentals.
Best places to stay in Maui
Because of its diverse terrain, different parts of the island offer different vacation experiences.
One of the interesting facts about Hawaii that might surprise you is that while Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island, it isn’t huge (48 miles long and 27 miles wide).
But its landscape is so varied with different micro-climates – from the dry beachcombing territory of Kihei to lush Hana – that it feels bigger than it is.
Families gravitate to Kihei, golfers like Wailea and Kapalua, and nature lovers prefer to get away from it all in Hana.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Most visitors to Maui stay in the following four main regions:
- West Maui
- South Maui
- North Shore
- East Maui/Hana
Within these four main regions in Maui, there are eight major resort areas to choose from when deciding the best place to stay on Maui for you:
- Ka’anapali (or Kaanapali)
If you look at the map of Maui below, you’ll see these eight resort areas.
(Wailuku, which is Maui’s capital town, was once a tourist center, but Ka’anapali and Wailea are now more popular.)
If you’re looking for the most posh and developed part of the island, West Maui is by far one of the best areas in Maui to stay.
World-famous Ka’anapali Beach, Lahaina, Kapalua and the stunning West Maui mountains are some of the area’s major highlights.
West Maui is also the most touristy and crowded part of the island. Visitors flock here to vacation at some of the best Maui hotels, enjoy fine dining and indulge in high-end shopping.
After West Maui, South Maui is the most popular part of the island.
Kihei and Wailea are the two largest towns here. They offer the best range of condo vacation rentals in Maui, making it a favorite area if you prefer a private condo rather than a resort-style vacation.
Wailea is more glam than Kihei. Along with Kapalua in West Maui, it’s the swankiest area of Maui to stay.
Wailea is also where honeymooners and couples can find many of Maui’s most romantic hotels.
There’s plenty of shopping in South Maui too. The Shops at Wailea, for example, are home to 70 luxury and lifestyle stores (Tommy Bahama, Gucci, Maui Jim Sunglasses, etc.), as well as several restaurants.
The south is also hotter and less rainy than other parts of Maui, which usually translates into more beach weather days.
Rugged and less developed, Maui’s North Shore is where visitors go to experience the more raw and natural side of Maui. The small beach town of Paia offers a cool hippy vibe that’s hard not to love.
There aren’t many hotels and resorts in the north. In fact, there are fewer amenities overall, so that means you’ll find some of Maui’s most pristine and isolated beaches in this area.
If laid-back and off-the-tourist-path is your style, the North Shore is the best location in Maui for you.
There’s really only one reason to go to East Maui – the Hana Highway. Not that this makes it any less worthwhile. As one of the most scenic drives in the world, it’s a must-do!
Indeed, all that lush scenery makes driving to Hana one of the most romantic activities on Maui. (Imagine driving in a convertible or Jeep, your hair flying free, your spirits soaring as you pass waterfall after waterfall…)
Since it’s so remote, you’ll need to rent a car to get to East Maui and enjoy the popular Road to Hana excursion. Doing the Hana drive and experiencing the best waterfalls in Maui easily takes up a full day, so an early start is advised.
Several tour companies (e.g., Hike Maui) offer tours in East Maui if you prefer not to drive.
If you choose to stay on the east coast of Maui, there aren’t many accommodation options, so you’ll have to plan in advance.
Here now are the eight popular Maui resort areas (and best accommodations with each area):
Where to stay in Maui for honeymoon, romance and buzz
On the west shore of Maui (about a 40-minute drive from Kahului Airport), Ka’anapali was Hawaii’s first planned resort area.
A strip of first-class hotels and condominium villages line a beautiful three-mile-long stretch of gold sand beach – Ka’anapali Beach.
It’s won all sorts of awards over the years for being the best beach in America. In fact, we think it’s one of the top beaches in the world!
Ka’anapali is also home to Whalers Village.
This attractive open-air shopping and dining complex features more than 90 different shops and restaurants.
Aloha shirts? Island-inspired pearl jewelry? Macadamia nut gelato? Hawaiian carvings and other authentic Hawaiian souvenirs? Bring out your wallet!
A beach boardwalk (about 2¼ miles long) stretches in front of the Ka’anapali hotels and restaurants – we love it for a walk at sunset or in the morning before the sun gets too strong.
It’s easy to get around without a car if you stay in Ka’anapali. Apart from using the boardwalk, the free open-air Ka’anapali Trolley trundles back and forth between the hotels, Ka’anapali Golf Courses and Whalers Village.
While the Ka’anapali area is family-friendly, it’s also a favorite honeymoon destination.
It’s not uncommon for couples to get stuck choosing between Ka’anapali and Wailea – never fear, both are excellent picks.
Wailea is better known for being glitzier and more expensive, but the reality is that Ka’anapali has plenty of romantic hotels too.
With everything it offers, Ka’anapali is also a great location to base yourself if this is your first time visiting Maui. It’s got lots of buzz, and there’s lots going on.
Read our post on the best places to stay in Kaanapali for an in-depth look at the following specific accommodations:
- Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa: One of the best luxury hotels in Maui
- Aston at The Whaler: Classy condominium units with full kitchens
- Ho’oilo House: Romantic and upscale B&B for adults
- Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali: Recently renovated luxury resort with tons of family-friendly frills
- Royal Lahaina Resort: Solid mid-range resort right on the beach
- Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali: Expansive resort close to Black Rock (great turtle swimming!)
- Ka’anapali Beach Hotel: Unpretentious hotel considered Hawaii’s “most Hawaiian hotel”
- Honua Kai Resort: One of the best Maui resorts combining large villa-style units (with gourmet kitchens) and hotel amenities (e.g., poolside service)
- Westin Nanea Ocean Villas: Beautiful 4-star resort that’s one of the best places to stay in Maui for families
- Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club: Upscale resort with condo-style accommodations with kitchens (at the newer Lahaina and Napili Towers)
Best place to stay in Maui for couples seeking a serene deluxe escape
Kapalua is one of Maui’s most deluxe resort areas (rivaling Wailea, #6 below). It has an idyllic shoreline, lined with some of Hawaii’s most spectacular beaches, and five picture-perfect bays.
Kapalua was once known as the Honolua Ranch back in the 1800’s. Today, it’s where the 23,000-acre Kapalua Resort area is located.
This master-planned area is home to one of Maui’s best award-winning restaurant (Merriman’s), 20+ boutique shops, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua (discussed next), luxury mansions and two prestigious, world-renowned golf courses – the Plantation Course and Bay Course at Kapalua Golf.
If having luxury hotels and resort options is high on your travel priority list, places like Kapalua could seal the deal in favor of Maui when comparing Maui vs Kauai – you’ll find many more super deluxe resorts in Maui than in Kauai.
Kapalua tends to be windier than other parts of Maui though. It’s surprising what a difference a few miles can make! It can be calm in Ka’anapali but windy in Kapalua.
Kapalua also gets more rain than South Maui.
But Kapalua is also greener, lusher and arguably more beautiful.
There are several walking and hiking trails in Kapalua.
Less built-up than other areas, Kapalua is also the best area in Maui to stay on the west or south coasts for peace and serenity.
If you want a respite from the tourists in Maui, Kapalua is your happy place.
You can always count on the Ritz-Carlton to deliver 5-star luxury, and the Ritz in Kapalua is no exception. Situated on 54 tropical acres within the Kapalua Resort area, this 466-room Kapalua resort is its own corner of bliss.
The property boasts a magnificent three-level pool with cascading waterfalls (plus a nearby kids’ pool), along with several top-notch restaurants – like the AAA Four Diamond Banyan Tree – that use locally-sourced ingredients.
You’ll find only elegant contemporary rooms, with rich dark wood floors, furnished balconies, marble bathrooms and 65-inch Smart TVs.
Housekeeping drops by twice a day to spruce up your space.
Stay in a club-level room or suite for access to an exclusive lounge with free breakfast, hors d’oeuvres and drinks.
For an ocean dip, walk down the lawns to D.T. Fleming Beach. And if the waves are too big for swimming, watch the surfers carve the waves.
With very fond memories of our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, we have no hesitation in recommending it highly.
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: Check rates and availability
Montage Kapalua Bay:
One- to four-bedroom deluxe villa residences with their own gourmet kitchens and private lanais, 24 acres of luxurious oceanfront property, a multi-level outdoor pool complex, a five-acre world-class spa with hydrotherapy treatment rooms and infinity pool, three top restaurants and two bars – what’s not to love about the Montage Kapalua Bay?
Formerly the Ritz-Carlton Residences before they were taken over by Montage and rebranded, these vacation residences are clustered in several buildings on the grounds.
Ranging from 1,250 to a whopping 4,055 sq. ft. in size, they feature polished hardwood flooring, along with washers and dryers. The kitchens are fully kitted out with everything you need to cook, including wine fridges.
Twice-daily housekeeping is de rigueur.
Besides the top-notch facilities, Montage guests can take advantage of a picture-perfect, crescent-shaped beach – Kapalua Bay Beach – located down the hill.
Golfers will be keen to tee off on the Kapalua Golf Club Bay Course, a short seven-minute walk away.
So how does it compare to the Ritz?
The Montage Kapalua Bay is on par with the Ritz-Carlton in terms of luxury.
But the Montage’s super spacious accommodations, where you can spread out and feel at home, are an added indulgence. For this reason, you might prefer the Montage.
It’s top-rated and considered one of the finest of luxury Maui resorts.
Just be prepared for sticker shock.
Rates start at well over $1,000 USD night for a one-bedroom unit (not to mention taxes). And more bedrooms equate to many more dollars.
You pay an additional resort fee of $65 a day as well.
Montage Kapalua Bay: Check rates and availability
Best area to stay in Maui for an affordable and chilled condo vacation
For a quieter, less crowded option in West Maui – compared to the upscale Ka’anapali resorts – look no further than Napili. Think low-rise condos with a more low-key rural feel.
The vibe is less glitzy than both Ka’anapali and Kapalua. The condos are less fancy and less expensive.
But there’s nothing generic about the nature and gorgeous beaches in Napili. This part of the west side is greener and lusher than Ka’anapali, with small scattered beaches separated by dramatic cliffs, making for a striking coastline.
You’ll want a car if staying in Napili.
Napili Kai Beach Resort is a mellow resort situated on pristine Napili Bay. It’s comprised entirely of ocean-view, two-story condos.
It exudes an authentic Hawaiian holiday vibe that you won’t get at any of Maui’s luxury mega-resorts. And you won’t be nickle-and-dimed with any extra resort fees.
The décor and furnishings are a bit dated though. And you might find a friendly gecko wandering into your unit.
Mind you, the repeat guests who are loyal to Napili Kai don’t mind. Many couples and families have been coming here for years and years, so there’s a strong Ohana (family) feel.
The amenities aren’t grandiose, but they’re just fine for a casual beachside vacation. There are four small pools, two hot tubs, two putting greens (one for kids) and two shuffleboard courts.
For us, the real star is Napili Bay Beach – simply one of the absolute best beaches in Maui. The sand is incredibly soft, and the water is often glassy calm and ideal for swimming. Sea turtles are often seen when snorkeling.
Another plus is the resort’s Sea House restaurant, which is really close to the water. (Go for the crab-crusted monchong with lobster cognac sauce.)
Just be sure you’re seated in the open-air, front dining area with the ocean view; the back area is not that inviting.
Napili Kai also offers several family-friendly perks like a “Keiki Eat Free” program for kids under 10, a seasonal kids’ club and a weekly golf putting party.
Napili Kai Beach Resort: Check rates and availability
Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger:
On the south end of Napili Bay Beach, Napili Shores Maui by Outrigger is another laid-back condo property, made up of 152 individually owned condos.
Its informal and unassuming atmosphere attracts families looking for an easy-going holiday with the comforts of home (i.e., a full kitchen and patio).
If you’re checking out affordable places to stay in Maui – that have a kitchen and are right on a beach – the Napili Shores Maui is a good option. It’s one of the least expensive in this category.
Some one-bedroom units have parking lot noise (as the bedrooms are at the back), so ask for a good location.
The property features two small oceanview outdoor pools, and the beach is a short 50-yard stroll away.
A friendly game of giant checkers, croquet or shuffleboard are other fun ways to spend a sunny afternoon outdoors with the family.
The only crowds you may encounter are at the onsite Gazebo Restaurant, where even locals line up for their famous macadamia nut pancakes!
Napili Shores Maui: Check rates and availability
Best part of Maui to stay for good value and great restaurants
Formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the early 19th century, Lahaina is a quaint historic town that’s been revamped into a top Maui tourist destination.
The town’s main highlight is strolling along Front Street.
Check out historic attractions like the Baldwin Home Museum, fun shops, art galleries, many of Maui’s best restaurants and the wonder of the town – Maui’s oldest living banyan tree.
Lahaina is not a resort area like, say, Ka’anapali (above) or Wailea (#6 below). It’s a town where local Maui residents live. So accommodations tend to be more affordable than those in the resort areas.
Read our post on where to stay in Lahaina for detailed reviews of the following five Lahaina hotels and condo resorts:
- Plantation Inn: One of the most charming places in Maui to stay for couples who want a great value bed-and-breakfast (and who don’t mind not being on the beach)
- Lahaina Shores Beach Resort: Unpretentious, Hyatt-managed condo-hotel on the beach that’s walking distance to downtown Lahaina
- Best Western Pioneer Inn: Quaint historic hotel in the center of town, with a pool and rocking chairs on the room balconies
- Makai Sunset Inn: Quiet and cheerful adults-only oceanfront hotel with 18 suites, each with a full kitchen
- Puamana: One- to four-bedroom vacation rental townhomes and condos in a low-rise gated community on the beach
Best place to stay in Maui with family
Kihei is a laid-back tourist hotspot mixed in with a residential town where many locals live and work.
It lays claim to some six miles of coastline, with about a dozen beautiful beaches offering great swimming and boogie boarding.
It lays claim to some six miles of coastline, with about a dozen golden sand beaches. Framed by swaying palm trees, they offer great swimming and boogie boarding.
Located in the sunny and dry pocket of southwest Maui, it’s one of the best areas to stay in Maui for good weather. In winter, the rain can dampen your hopes of getting a tan up north in Kapalua – but the sun can be shining in Kihei.
It also has more wallet-friendly accommodations – making Kihei a top choice for budget-conscious families wondering where to stay in Maui with kids.
Kamaole Sands on the south side of Kihei offers a comfortable stay with one- to three-bedroom condo rentals (privately owned), each with a full kitchen.
Guests may use the outdoor swimming pool, kids’ pool and tennis courts. You can also join the weekly Mai Tai party.
Across the road is Kihei’s popular Kamaole Beach Park III.
Mana Kai Maui:
What makes Mana Kai one of the best places to stay in Kihei is that you get a choice of condo or hotel accommodations.
Either way – whether you stay in a spacious one- or two-bedroom condo with a full kitchen, or a comfortable hotel room – you get amazing ocean views.
And the property has a good location at the north end of Keawakapu Beach.
Mana Kai: Check rates and availability
One of the best places to stay in Maui for luxury
We love Wailea.
When it comes to having an upscale, immaculate, grand experience in paradise, there’s nothing like it.
Wailea is renowned for its luxurious mega-resorts, cool South Maui hotels, first-class condos and celebrity homes. (Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler has a multimillion-dollar mansion in Wailea.)
And the Instagram-perfect ocean views in Wailea are some of the most breathtaking in the world.
It has five crescent-shaped beaches, each one as seductive as the next.
Walk the roughly two-mile-long Wailea Beach Path that winds along the beaches and lava rock shoreline – and you’ll catch sight of snorkelers, outrigger canoes and maybe even a turtle or two.
And if you’re in the mood for retail therapy, The Shops at Wailea will happily clean out your credit card. (Lineage, by the way, serves up some tasty Asian-American cuisine there. And its handcrafted cocktails definitely hit the mark!)
Wailea is island luxury at its finest.
For in-depth reviews of the following 10 recommended accommodations, read our post on the best condos and resorts in Wailea:
- Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort: One of the top luxury resorts in Maui (though it’s huge!); family-friendly with great pools and tons of amenities
- Wailea Ekahi Village: Low-rise, one- and two-bedroom condos (good value), with a low-key vibe, on lovely Keawakapu Beach
- Andaz Maui: Trendy 5-star beachfront hotel that appeals to couples
- Hotel Wailea: One of the best hotels in Maui for couples (it’s an elegant adults-only boutique property)
- Four Seasons Resort Maui: One of the top luxury hotels in Maui on the beach (with exceptional service)
- Fairmont Kea Lani: Luxurious all-suite and villa resort with a gracious feel
- Polo Beach Club: Classy two-bedroom/two-bath condos right on Polo Beach
- Wailea Beach Resort, Marriott Maui: 4-star Maui hotel that attracts families and couples
- Wailea Beach Villas: Elegant villas ranging in size from two to four bedrooms (some with private pools), right on Wailea Beach
- Ho’olei at the Grand Wailea: Some of the largest condo vacation rentals in Maui – and you get all the Grand Wailea hotel services too
Best area to stay on Maui for cool-hunters and surfer types
Ahhh, there’s so much to love about Paia!
We think this small surf town in central Maui on the North Shore is one of the best areas in Maui – to visit and to stay.
Paia itself has a hippy vibe, warm earth-friendly community, funky boutique shops and excellent restaurants.
Don’t miss waiting in line for freshly-caught fish at the Paia Fish Market. And, sorry, there’s no getting around it – you will have to wait in line, as it’s really popular.
Paia is also the place to hit for high-quality organic and vegan food.
Shop at Mana Foods for organic groceries, deli items and snacks (Jalapeno seaweed chips, anyone?).
Order acai bowls and green smoothies made with water from hand-cracked coconuts at Choice Health Bar.
And chow down on house-made burgers (from grass-fed Maui cows), all-day Eggs Benedict and banana bread French Toast (whipped up from local bananas and served with organic maple syrup) at the charmingly rustic Island Fresh Café, housed in Paia’s former train depot.
And then there’s Ho’okipa Beach Park, which is epic!
Watch the surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers ride wicked waves.
And see all the turtles, many three feet long, that rest in the sunshine at the right side of the beach (as you’re facing the water).
No doubt about it, Paia is well worth considering for where to stay in Maui! A car is essential to get you there and around.
(Next visit, we’d like to tack on a few days in Paia to place us closer to all the things to do on the Road to Hana, covered below under #8.)
With private access to three miles of white sand beach, the Paia Inn’s shabby-chic Bali-inspired rooms and suites beckon you to unwind.
Playtime in the water is easy too with the snorkel gear and boogie boards provided to you.
An added bonus is the hotel’s Japanese-inspired VANA Paia restaurant. It serves up tempting dishes made with locally grown ingredients, locally sourced sushi and delicious cocktails.
Just don’t book a smaller room. The standard room is teensy at 143 sq. ft.
You need a suite to get 400 sq. ft. of room space plus a patio. The One-Bedroom Partial Oceanview Suite gives you 900 sq. ft., a travertine bathroom, private covered outdoor patio plus a kitchen.
Also, don’t expect the same kind of luxury that cocoons you in Wailea or Ka’anapali, or you’ll be disappointed.
The Paia Inn has a boho aesthetic that’s completely different from most of the West and South Maui resorts.
Paia Inn: Check rates and availability
Inn at Mama’s Fish House:
Mama’s Fish House is a household name in Maui – a fine dining establishment famous for its oh-so-fresh seafood. It’s so popular, it’s booked months in advance!
The restaurant also has a few private cottages and suites on their property. And the experience you get at the Inn at Mama’s Fish House is just as exceptional.
The sweet cottages welcome you with fresh flowers, traditional Polynesian décor and kitchens or kitchenettes. Beach chairs and towels are provided.
From the oceanfront cottages, just step out on the lawn – and the beach (where sea turtles rest) and blue Pacific is right in front.
Inn at Mama’s Fish House: Check rates and availability
Best location to stay in Maui to escape the crowds
East Maui is synonymous with Hana and the famous Road to Hana drive – which is high on the list of top things to do in Hawaii.
Hana is lush, picturesque and remote, with very little in the way of accommodations. It’s hands down the best location to stay in Maui for escaping the tourist crowds and immersing yourself in nature.
Be sure to hike the Pipiwai Trail (about four miles roundtrip). Probably the most jaw-droppingly beautiful hike in Maui, it winds through a bamboo forest to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.
And don’t miss dozing on the velvety soft, salt-and-pepper sands of Hamoa Beach, backed by a thick grove of Hala trees – it’s our favorite beach in Maui.
The end of the Hana Highway is about as private as you can get. And surrounded by 70 acres of stunning tropical gardens, the Hana-Maui Resort is a private tropical Eden.
If you want to unplug and unwind, the Hana-Maui Resort fits the bill. (There are no TVs.)
The resort offers 75 rooms, suites and family residences with private lanais and full or partial ocean views. A lovely pool and restaurant round out the amenities.
While well-maintained and very clean, some accommodations aren’t modern in décor, and you might feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the 80s. But that kind of adds to the away-from-it-all atmosphere.
We like the cottages best, some with hot tubs on the balconies.
They don’t have A/C, but fans and cool ocean breezes this side of the island keep the temperature pleasant.
When you open the sliding glass walls to your porch, you’ll be struck by the most stupendous ocean views.
The resort will also shuttle you (free) to Hamoa Beach.
Be sure to book for at least two nights (three is better).
The tropical forests, waterfalls, beaches, rock pools and idyllic natural environment around Hana are magical – and you’ll want to explore it all.
Hana-Maui Resort: Check rates and availability
Final words on where to stay on Maui
As you can see, there’s no shortage of great places to stay on Maui.
When you ask “Where should I stay in Maui?” we know there’s no easy answer. We’ve seen it all and still have a hard time narrowing down our choices every time we plan a trip!
If you’re staying for more than a week in Maui, you might want to split your time between two different parts of the island.
Adding two or three nights in Hana to a stay in Wailea is a good mix. So is a combination of Ka’anapali and Wailea. (This last trip, we split our time between Ka’anapali and Wailea.)
The good news is that no matter where you decide to stay, Maui will wow you.
Every time we’ve gone, this Hawaiian island has always been worth every penny we spend. (And you’ll spend many a pretty penny in Maui – it’s an expensive island!)
We’d go back tomorrow in a heartbeat if we could…
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Photo credits: 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 23 to 27, 34 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase