Updated on January 22, 2021 by Asher Fergusson
Since my wife and I (pictured) lived there for two years, we often get asked what to wear in Maui, what to pack and what NOT to bring, so we’ve made this page to help you out! We also have a section answering common FAQs at the bottom.
As always, no matter where you’re headed, it’s important to travel with an open mind and a sense of humor and always respect the local Hawaiians.
What to Pack for Maui – 17 Essentials
These shoes are great for activities that take me into and out of the water or on trails and areas that may be a bit wet and slick. They’re quick-drying and lightweight, and the fact that they can be used both on land and in the water means I don’t have to carry around an extra pair of shoes when I’m out and about for the day!
Rash guards are popular in Hawaii among both locals and tourists, and for good reason. They protect the wearer from UV exposure and from any friction or contact pain that may occur when using a body board, a surfboard, or a host of other water sport accessories. Most rash guards add a UPF of 50+ and are quite comfortable to wear! These are our favorites for men and women.
I highly recommend bring at least one nice outfit on your Maui trip. Inevitably you will want to grab a cocktail or a nice dinner somewhere and a sundress won’t quite cut it. My wife loves this dress, and personally owns it. It doesn’t wrinkle, it’s easy to throw on after a long day at the beach, its super sexy on all body types, and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also very inexpensive but doesn’t look it when you put it on.
When my wife and I go to the beach on Maui, we always find that the parking areas are pretty far away from where the best beach spots are located. We’ve also found that it’s easiest to bring our own food and drinks (especially when going to remote beaches), as it can be quite a hike to the nearest snack area or restaurant. This mesh beach bag is fun because it has a cooler built into it, and since it’s made for travel it’s built to be nice and compact. This means it can fold up easily for packing, but when I take it out to use it for a beach day it’s still big enough to carry everything I need.
A swimsuit cover-up is an absolute must-have for any part of Hawaii. You’ll want something cute and stylish to throw on over your swimsuit so that you don’t have to completely change before going to a local eatery or store. My wife wears this one and loves it – she says it’s comfortable and dries quickly, and that it seems to be universally flattering!
I always want to have my phone with me while exploring and during beach days, so it needs to be protected from sand, dirt, water, and sun. This universal waterproof phone case is awesome. It protects from all of those elements while still allowing me to use my touchscreen and camera, and it’s incredibly inexpensive!
Quality pictures both in and out of the water are the best way to create lasting memories of your vacation. We take a waterproof camera with us any time there’s even the slightest chance we’ll get our other camera wet – there’s just no point in risking ruining a non-waterproof camera. This camera will allow you to take pictures in and out of water, and can even capture underwater video with sound!
Flotation Strap for Electronics – Your devices DO NOT float. So what happens if your camera or phone falls into the water, even if it’s waterproof? That’s where these flotation wrist-straps can be a real life-saver. They’re made to be comfortable to wear around your wrist and to attach securely to your device so that if it drops into the water it will float and will be easy to retrieve. I recommend bringing one for each device you plan on taking near water, just in case.
No matter what kinds of water activities you get up to while on Maui, you’ll need to have your items close at hand. An Earth Pak dry bag can be used to ensure that your most precious items – wallet, phone, non-waterproof camera, etc. – don’t get wet at all. We’ve found that they’re very easy to use and light to carry!
Mosquitoes are a tough opponent on Maui (especially on the rainy side of the island), and trust me – they’re huge. If you’re looking to avoid chemical sprays, these deet-free wristbands are ideal! They can also safely be used in conjunction with a spray to reinforce your protection from a variety of biting insects.
Having my own water bottle really helps me cut down on having to pay for bottled drinks while I’m out and about. This filtered bottle by Brita improves the taste and clarity of drinking water, which is a big bonus when I’m drinking water from a source I’m not used to.
VPNs are simply awesome – I won’t use any public WiFi without it, whether I’m in my hometown or traveling to Maui. A VPN adds a secure layer of encryption between you and any potential hackers to prevent the theft of your private and financial information. I learned my lesson in Paris recently – a hacker stole my credit card information and if I’d had a VPN activated it would have prevented it!
This guidebook is the secret to exploring all Maui has to offer. It will help you understand local culture and language (yes, Maui has some unique customs and culture), provide maps to hidden gems that are a must see, and give you hints and ideas for activities to enjoy while you’re there.
Long days spent doing activities can really drain the battery life on my devices, and I don’t want to have to go back to my accommodations every time I need a device recharge. This small travel charger is roughly the size of a tube of lipstick, and can hold multiple charges. It is compatible with standard USB charger cables, and can recharge my items even while it’s tucked safely away in a daypack or dry bag!
Hawaiian sun and surf can really take a toll on your hair. I never want to damage my hair while I’m on vacation, so I’ve found that it’s important to use a leave-in conditioner to protect it. This particular one smells nice and is very easy to use. It doesn’t add too much residue to my hair, either, so my hair never feels heavy, sticky, or lifeless.
16. Travel Beach Mat
This beach mat by WildHorn is fantastic. It’s much larger than other beach blankets (63 sqft!), and it’s made of sturdy parachute material so it’s compact and lightweight when packed. The pouches coming off the sides are sand-anchors to keep it weighed down so it won’t go flying away or fold up on you every time the breeze blows! It even has pockets to keep your items tucked away when you’re strolling on the beach.
Travel insurance is an absolute must-have for traveling. Frequent travelers like me swear by it, and for good reason. If something happens, they have your back! Everything from reservations getting canceled on you to emergency medical expenses can cause you a world of hurt if you’re not covered. World Nomads travel insurance is incredibly affordable – I highly recommend their services, as do many other professional travelers.
Other packing list items for Maui
Steripod toothbrush cover
Stain remover wipes
Reusable cloth bag
What should I wear in Maui?
In general, the most comfortable clothes in Maui will be breathable and fairly casual. The tropical climate makes lightweight fabrics like linen, rayon, merino wool, and cotton blends ideal. Most people dress casually in Maui, and many visitors live in shorts, tank tops, and sandals, which are usually acceptable.
For going out in the evening, packing a couple of nicer outfits is a good idea, but you don’t need to bring anything overly formal. Of course, for any hiking, you’ll want long pants and sturdy shoes, as well as a jacket if you’re going to higher elevations. And whether or not you’re hiking there, you’ll definitely need warmer clothes for visits to the summit of Haleakala as it can get freezing up there!!
What NOT to take to Maui
2) DON’T BRING heavy books – You’ll probably want to take the chance to catch up on some reading during the flight or while you’re relaxing on the beach in Maui. However, you’ll save a ton of space (and weight) in your luggage by leaving the physical books at home and packing a Kindle instead.
3) DON’T TAKE unnecessary valuables – While there’s not an especially high risk of crime in Maui, there’s always some chance that things could get stolen, damaged, or lost on the road. Unless you know you’re going to truly need certain valuable items, there’s no reason to bring things you’d be upset to lose.
5) DON’T PACK dressy eveningwear – Similarly, most visitors to Maui have no need for formal eveningwear. Depending on your travel style and exact plans on the island, maxi dresses for ladies and polo shirts or button-downs for guys are usually dressy enough.
6) DON’T TAKE lots of cold-weather clothes – Unless you plan to spend all of your time at the summit of Haleakala and none of it at the beach, you won’t have much use for warm clothes. Make sure you do bring a rain jacket, but you probably won’t need any more than that.
FAQs for traveling to Maui
1) What’s the best way to get around on Maui?
The easiest and most common way to get around on Maui is by renting a car. Not only will that give you the most flexibility, but Maui boasts some legendary drives you won’t want to miss. If renting a car isn’t an option, Uber and Lyft are both available on the island and make getting around convenient.
Maui has a small public bus system and most hotels also have shuttles, though relying on them as your sole source of transportation isn’t recommended since the routes and timetables of both tend to be limited. If cycling appeals to you, rental bikes are widely available and quite affordable.
2) How can I get to Maui?
Maui has three airports, located in Kahului, Kapalua, and Hana. The airport in Kahului is by far the largest, and is the only one of the three with flights beyond Hawaii. If a direct flight is your priority, over a half-dozen airlines operate flights from the western U.S. and Canada to Kahului. Just know the airport is a 45-minute drive from the western side of the island where most of the resorts are located.
Another option is to fly into Kapalua, which means a layover on Oahu or the Big Island and then a 30-minute inter-island flight to Maui. If you’re coming from outside North America, that will be your only choice, as only Oahu and the Big Island serve flights from other countries. Arriving at Kapalua will put you much closer to the island’s main resort area. Flying into the even tinier Hana airport would only make sense if you’re visiting the eastern edge of the island, which very few tourists do.
3) How can I get from Maui to other islands in Hawaii?
Inter-island flights are the main way to get from Maui to other parts of Hawaii. Multiple airlines operate flights between Maui and the other islands, sometimes with a stop in Honolulu. All of these flights are under an hour, and many are much shorter. If you’re interested in seeing Hawaii’s lesser-explored islands, there’s also the option of taking the ferries that connect Maui with Molokai and Lanai.
4) What are the best beaches on Maui?
Maui is fringed with stunning beaches, especially on its western coast, and it would be hard to pick the best one. One near the top of any list is Makena Beach, which also holds the title of “most photographed beach in Hawaii”. Alternatively, Kapalua Beach is not only one of the most popular beaches in Hawaii, it’s also regularly listed as one of the best in the U.S.
Baldwin Beach on the North Shore is one of Maui’s most-visited beaches, and it even has a protected salt-water pool for kids. Ka’anapali Beach is another popular one, known for its abundance of available ocean activities, including top-notch snorkeling. For something completely different, Wai’anapanapa Beach near Hana is a black-sand beach, and much less crowded than the beaches on the western side of the island.
5) What is there to do on Maui other than the beach?
While the very mention of the word Maui conjures up images of lazy days spent on the beach, this island has a ton more to offer. Hiking is easily one of the top dry-land things to do on Maui. The most popular hiking destination for visitors is Haleakala National Park, with over 30 miles of trails in the summit area and options ranging from leisurely 10-minute strolls to strenuous treks. ‘Iao Valley State Park also has numerous hiking options, including a short walk to its most famous viewpoint. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, both parks have plenty of other attractions, and seeing the sunrise at Haleakala belongs on any visitor’s itinerary.
Maui is also known for its scenic drives, especially the 52-mile Road to Hana, which passes numerous beaches and waterfalls and offers stunning views. Kahekili Highway is another top route, passing by the Nakalele blowhole and other attractions before giving you a peek into “old Hawaii” in Kahakuloa.
If it’s in your budget, there’s no better way to see Maui than from the air. A helicopter tour will not only showcase jaw-dropping scenery, it’ll also show you parts of the island you’d never be able to see otherwise. Lastly, of course, you can’t visit Maui without attending a luau!
6) What is the weather like on Maui?
Maui’s climate is tropical, with warm and fairly stable temperatures throughout the year. While highs are typically in the mid 80°F range (27°C) year-round, the temperatures do rise a bit from June to October. These are also the driest months on the island.
7) When is the best time of year to visit Maui?
The winter and early spring months bring slightly cooler weather and are high-season for tourism on Maui. During these months, as well as during the second-busiest season from June to August, the island is more crowded and prices are higher. Late spring still offers relatively cooler temperatures, but far fewer crowds, which is especially important if you’re planning to visit the more popular attractions. It’s also worth keeping in mind that surfing conditions are best during the winter, but the waters are calmest and best for swimming – especially for children – in the summer.
8) What are the accommodation options on Maui?
Accommodations available on Maui truly run the gamut from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts, and from quirky guesthouses to corporate chains. The majority of hotels are located on the island’s more developed western side, and most are on or near one of the beaches.
9) Is Maui an expensive place to travel?
Yes, in many ways it is. The fact that the Hawaiian islands are geographically isolated means that many goods have to be brought in from other places, and at considerable cost. You’ll find that many foods (other than those which can be grown locally) are more expensive than on the US mainland. Goods, too, can cost more in Hawaii. Don’t worry, there are certainly ways to save money while traveling to Maui! Below are some Maui budget travel tips.
10) How can I travel on a budget on Maui?
Visiting in low- or shoulder-season will cut down substantially on both airfares and costs on the island. There are a number of budget-friendly hostels on Maui, as well as plenty of home sharing options for less than $80 (although don’t expect these cheaper options to be located on the best beaches). You can also save money on food by forgoing the fine dining options and eating at local diners instead, or just picking up some groceries at the store. While there are plenty of activities to spend money on in Maui, don’t forget that hanging out at the beach or the pool is free.
11) What are the top things to do in Maui?
While the interior of Maui has lots to see and do (see #5), it’s no secret that most people plan their trips around the water. Like other parts of Hawaii, Maui is famous for its surfing. Head to Honolua Bay, Ho’okipa Beach, or Peahi to enjoy watching the pros catch a wave. If you want to try it yourself for the first time, choose a less-intimidating spot like Ka’anapali, Lahaina, or Kihei for a lesson. Maui also offers plenty of options for scuba diving, paddleboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, and more.
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