We understand how overwhelming planning a Maui vacation can be — particularly for the first time. We feel we’ve created a very fun and practical seven-day itinerary to help you experience all the highlights while allowing you enough free time to explore your personal interests. This itinerary includes adventure, history, culture and plenty of of beautiful island scenery.
Note that each link provides additional information to help you further plan to see and do those attractions.
The long journey to Maui can be very tiring and with jet lag, you may not be able to stay up for much past sunset. For those reasons, we don’t recommend planning any tours or even making dinner reservations. Instead, we recommend settling into your accommodation, grabbing dinner and catching sunset.
Day 1 – Haleakala Sunrise + Upcountry or Free Time
A wonderful way to use jet lag to your advantage while kicking off your Maui vacation is by watching sunrise over a crater at 10,000 feet above sea level at Haleakala National Park. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that’s unforgettable. If conditions are right and you get up there early enough, you can do some amazing stargazing, prior to sunrise. See our Haleakala sunrise tips for planning details.[Note: If you do not want to go to Haleakala for sunrise, you could still visit in the daytime or take an sunset astronomy tour. We don’t advise taking the evening tours until you’ve had several days to adjust to the time change.]
After sunrise from the summit, stop in at the summit visitors center to learn more about this volcanic landscape and get a sweeping view into the crater. Spend more time at Haleakala, if you like. The helpful park rangers could offer suggestions.
Next, we like to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Head to the restaurant at Kula Lodge or to the paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao for good breakfast options.
The rest of the day can be spent as you decide. We’re usually anxious to get near a beach, so we head back down to sea level. However, if you have the energy and interest, it would be convenient for you to explore more of the upcountry since you’re already there. Some ideas are as follows:
- Walk around the small town of Makawao
- Go horseback riding
- Visit a botanical garden.
- Tour Surfing Goat Dairy Farm
- Take an organic farm-to-table tour with lunch
Day 2 – Snorkel Molokini + Free Time
Since you’ll still probably be jet lagged and waking up early, we recommend taking a morning snorkel tour out to the open crater of Molokini. This unique, open crater usually offers great visibility of a wonderful variety of tropical fish. Some snorkel tour operators offer a combination of Molokini plus “turtle town” where you may have the opportunity to swim with sea turtles.
After snorkeling or otherwise observing tropical fish, enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. When we go snorkeling, since we already have our swimsuits on, we typically go to the beach or pool.
Maui has some great spas, you might also want to consider enjoying some spa time for the afternoon.
Day 3 – Explore the road to Hana (and beyond to Kipahulu)
Maui’s famous road to Hana meanders through a thick rainforest with waterfalls and peek-a-boo views of the dramatic seascapes. We recommend an early start to avoid traffic and to make sure you get in as many adventures as you can in daylight hours. To drive all the way to Kipahulu and back will take the entire day including stops and side trips. See our tips for driving the road to Hana. If you can’t devote a full day to the road to Hana, see our mini-guide.
Please note that we recommend experiencing the road to Hana within three days of your trip to Haleakala summit because the entrance fee that you paid is still valid for entrance into the Kipahulu region of this national park.
Day 4 – Customizable Day
We are intentionally leaving this day as customizable as some people like to stay overnight in Hana to explore more of the waterfalls, hikes and scenery off the road to Hana.
If you aren’t spending an extra day in Hana, here are some suggestions for how to enjoy this day:
– Take this day to do some relaxed beach hoping and scenic driving. End the day with a sunset picnic on a beach.
– If you didn’t explore the upcountry on Day 1, you could take the time to do so today. See Day 1 for details. If you make a day of it, you might want to add on a Haleakala sunset and stargazing tour.
– Explore more of what’s under the sea. You might want to visit the Maui Ocean Center if you didn’t get to go on Day 2. If you’d like to do more snorkeling, Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach is a popular spot. One of our favorite places to snorkel is at Honolua Bay. Always make sure the ocean conditions are safe before swimming or snorkeling.
– Perhaps something adventurous like zipling, ATV riding or paragliding is of interest.
– Many first time visitors to Hawaii want to include a visit to Pearl Harbor. We have taken both packaged and independent day trips to Oahu to see Pearl Harbor and a lot more.
– Find more ideas in our post with over 50 things to do and see on Maui.
Day 5 – Iao Needle + Lahaina Town + Whale Watching (in season) + Luau
We advise going to Iao Needle first to avoid cloud cover and then go to Lahaina so that you can grab a tasty lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants.
NOTE: Iao Valley State Park is closed indefinitely after major flood damage in September 2016. Iao Valley State Park is a beautiful park with a towering, green needle-like mountain. The park is steeped in history and Hawaiian culture.
Heritage Gardens at Kepaniwai Park is just outside of Iao Needle. This county park celebrates the major cultures of the plantation era.
A walk around the historic whaling village of Lahaina town is a fun and interesting way to spend some time. Pick up a free Lahaina Historic Trail walking guide at the Lahaina Visitor Center at the Old Lahaina Courthouse. Pop into art and gift shops to pick up a souvenir.
From around mid-December to early-January through March and even into April, humpback whales come to Hawaii to give birth and mate. Maui offers some exceptional whale watching. You can watch from the shoreline or go out on one of the many boat tours that leave out of Lahaina or Maalaea harbors.
Day 6 – Customizable Day
We insert another day that you can plan to pursue your specific interests. See Day 4 for suggestions.
Day 7 – Final Maui Moments
The final day of your week-long visit to Maui can be one of the most challenging to plan. This is the day you’ll be packing, checking out and flying home.
We recommend starting the day with breakfast at an oceanfront restaurant. Savor hearty breakfast while soaking in ocean views.
Enjoy some last minute beach or pool time in the morning. Just relax and reflect on your week-long trip to Maui.
If your flight leaves later in the afternoon or evening and you want to enjoy some more attractions and/or pool/beach time, you’ll need to come up with a plan to deal with your luggage. See our suggestions for what to do with your luggage on your last day.
- This itinerary is easy to implement if you are staying in either of the major resort areas of West or South Maui and surrounding areas. It would require much more driving if you stayed in Hana. See our where to stay in Maui guide.
- You can switch days around to suit your schedules and weather forecasts. To avoid paying two entrance fees to Haleakala National Park, keep your visit to the summit the the Kipahulu region within three days of each other.
- Even if you have more or less than seven days, you can adapt this vacation itinerary to suit your available time and interests.