The average U.S. employee takes a mere two weeks off per year (if that), a fact that’s bemoaned by work-weary Americans—and serves as a source of curiosity for holiday-happy Euros.

But whether you’re from France or Fairbanks, the same holds true: time is a precious commodity that ought to be spent wisely.

13 days on Maui

What also holds true? Should you come to Maui during that spell, you’re bound to make memories that will last a lifetime.

With that in mind, here’s the ideal 13-day Maui itinerary—leaving off a day for travel—complete with where to eat, what to see, and where to play. (In other words, 13 reasons why you should spend your hard-earned vacation exploring the Valley Isle.)

 

Day 1: Unwind + Pamper + Dine

Spending forty-plus hours stooped over your desk? You’ve arrived at just right the place. With the impossibly-blue skies and plumeria-scented air, a sense of unloosening will occur the minute you touch down on the island.


Embrace that sensation by starting off your stay on the right foot. Or, rather, feet: Plunge them into the powder-soft sand at Ulua Beach. Located in the heart of Wailea, this gorgeous cove presents excellent views of Pu’u Ola’i and the outlying islands. Its water, meanwhile—translucent and oh-so-warm—beckons you in and entices you to stay for hours. Sneak a snorkel mask into your tote and take a self-guided tour of Maui’s marine gems.

ulua beach

When you’ve tired of the sand and sun—if such a thing is conceivable—head to Sarento’s on the Beach, a bright and airy venue that offers a stellar brunch. Go light with Rhonda’s Gluten-Free Granola—which is accented with local honey, Greek yogurt, and island berries—or nom nom away with a crab cake benedict.

Post-bite, reward yourself for all those hours you’ve worked by booking a lomilomi treatment at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Their Willow Stream Spa—which was named one of the World’s Best Spas by Travel + Leisure—boasts 9,000 square feet, the latest in spa technologies, and a staff dedicated to making you feel marvelous.

Once you’ve got your bliss on, prep for the remainder of your trip by hitting up The Shops at Wailea. Much-coveted stores—Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany’s—are equalized by fresh boutiques found nowhere else but in the islands. Stroll into Mahina for a sundress you can wear to a luau—see Day #3—or try the tasty samples at Honolulu Cookie Company. Box up a few of their pineapple-shaped shortbreads for your friends back home, or grab a handful for yourself.

Shops at Wailea

Eager to imbibe? Saunter into Longhi’s for one of their signature cocktails. The palm-filled bar is posh and inviting, while strings of courtyard music tinkle in with just the right amount of romance. Dip into their Garden Terrace Mai Tai—a fresh twist on the traditional cocktail that, with orgeat and fresh pineapple, tastes just like Hawaii.

Then stroll down the Wailea Coastal Walk to the Four Seasons, where Duo plates up some of the finest steaks on the island and Ferraro’s serves everything from Hawaiian Snapper to poached lobster. Linger in the resort’s lobby once you’re sated: their lavish lounge features live music nightly.

Four Seasons Maui

 

Day 2: Hike + Browse + Swing

Maui’s rugged north coast is a far cry from the country-club vibe found in Wailea. This is surfer and paniolo country, where waterfalls are discovered in remote jungles, sugarcane stalks leap towards the sky, and waves, wind, and rain make for dramatic environs.

Experience its enchantment with Maui Waterfall and Rainforest Hike, wherein Maui locals take you deep into the wilds to climb volcanic shelves and dive into the water. Each hike comes equipped with a lesson on the island’s cultural and botanical rarities—and includes vistas you’d otherwise not be privy to.

waterfall hike

After your trek, take advantage of the North Shore’s charm by spending what’s left of your day in Paia. This former plantation town now enjoys one of the most arresting ambiences on the island, from the fashionable stores on Baldwin Avenue to Maui Dharma Center’s impressive stupa. Browse through the galleries that line the village—Daniel Sullivan’s photographs at Indigo are particularly beguiling—and discover a jewel or two to pack into your suitcase.

Whether you like to rock or roll—or both—savor a fun, memorable meal at Rock & Brews on Hana Highway. Founded in part by KISS front-men Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, this lively venue offers terrific food and some of the choicest craft beers on the island. Go for one of their Front Row Pizzas—such as their dynamite Spicy Maui Wowie—and pair it with some hops brewed here in Hawaii. And should you have a second wind, swing into the saloon next door at Charley’s. Who knows? Maui resident (and huge fan) Willie Nelson might be serenading the crowd with an impromptu performance.

Charleys Paia

 

Day 3: Idle + Ramble + Feast

Honokahua Bay—otherwise known as D.T. Fleming Beach Park—rests in front of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua like a mirage: A nearly half-mile crescent of whitewashed sand that gives way to glossy water and views of neighboring Molokai. With its wonderful sunbathing and body surfing opps, is there any wonder why this place was named America’s Best Beach for years on end?

Flemings VBeach

When you’re pau lounging, head to Makaluapuna Point just beyond the Ritz’s chapel, where Dragon’s Teeth—a collection of jagged trachyte rock—provides evidence of lava’s power. Keep your eyes out for turtles and whales: This is honu and Humpback terrain.

whale tail

Top off your west side day with one of the grandest performances on Maui. The Feast at Lele—a combination of dancing, music, and dining—is the brainchild of acclaimed chef James McDonald (Pacific’O, I’O), who took the traditional concept of a buffet-style luau and turned it into a more intimate affair. Private tables are armed with exceptional waiters, who ferry out an extravagant, five-course dinner inspired by Pacific island nations.

Feast at Lele

 

Day 4: Ride + Sigh + Imbibe

The Mendes family first came to Maui from Azores over a century and a half ago; today, they own over 3,000 acres of unspoiled land in Maui’s northwest country. Lucky for us, they share their panoramic views with visitors eager to get on a horse. Morning and afternoon trail tours take riders into the hallowed depths of Waihe’e Valley—and along the splendid shoreline—before concluding with a BBQ lunch and plenty of talking story. Happen to have loads of experience under your belt? The family-manned staff might let you open the horse up and glide.

horseback riding in Maui

Revitalize post-trot at Maui Coffee Attic, a hip new spot in the county seat of Wailuku. Brick walls and spindly plants give this space tons of charm, while their creations—from fruity scones to Hapa Mochas with dark and white chocolate—please and restore the soul and palate. Check their event calendar prior to visiting—this local-favorite features everything from live music to magic shows.

Once you’re refreshed, slip into your rental and slide down to Kahului, where another local-fave—Bistro Casanova—puts ono into their Happy Hour specials. $5 mojitos and margaritas are served besides both sweet and savory tapas, while their extended menu includes offerings like ahi Ibiza with creole seasoning and crepes bursting with Kula strawberries. Keen on trying what gets the kama’aina going? Try their Local Mule—a Hawaiian spin on the Moscow darling that includes Maui-distilled Pau vodka, ginger beer, and lilikoi.

 

Day 5: Raft + Beachcomb + Indulge

Visiting Lana’i can be done in a few ways.  Aerial tour by helicopter or plane, taking the ferry for the day, or jetting over in a high speed raft to explore the coastline with Hawaii Ocean Rafting.  Their experienced captain will take you away from any crowd to snorkel in peace among abundant ocean life.  

rafting to Lanai

Expeditions Maui—a ferry that departs out of Lahaina Harbor—transports guests to the neighboring island of Lana’i, where the sun-drenched shores and empty spaces take your much-deserved holiday to a whole new level.

Lahaina

Start your day with a thumping, rustic ride to Kaiolohia. Otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, this eight-mile stretch of sand presents riveting views of what remains of Liberty Ship, a World War II vessel that was placed in the sea to rest.

After combing the beach for seashells—it has a bevy of them—head to the Pineapple Island’s upper climes, where The Lodge at Koele carries travelers into a different realm. The 20-acre Four Seasons property features lawn bowling and croquet, the Great Hall exhibits a roaring fire, and the pine trees give the resort a mystical aura. Come for afternoon tea—served, naturally, with scones, preserves, and cream—and you’re bound to feel like royalty.

lanai island

Prior to heading back to Maui, stroll along Hulopoe Beach, where banks of lava break into dolphin-frequented waters and a blowhole presents shoots of whitewash. Then? Head into Nobu for the kind of meal you’ll be talking about for decades.

spinner dolphins

 

Day 6: Reap + Wander + Sip

Maui’s agricultural scene has seen a resurrection in recent years, particularly in niche farms that yield some of the greatest teas, coffees, cheeses, and produce in Hawaii.

A welcome addition to the Maui tour scene, Maui Craft Tours offers guests 21 and over the opportunity to experience behind-the-scenes guided tours and tastings at several Maui crafters, including distilleries, wine producers, brewers, coffee roasters, and more. Each tour includes farm-to-table cuisine inspired by the authentic flavors of Hawaii, in addition to fascinating information about past, present and future of Maui craft entrepreneurs. To see, taste and appreciate the best of Maui’s highly acclaimed craft cocktails and cuisine, call 808.644.1801 or reserve your spot online.

Maui Craft Tours

Surfing Goat Dairy, a family-run ranch in the center of an arid savannah, is worth visiting. Here, you’ll have a ball feeding alfalfa to some of the farm’s 200-plus goats, while those looking for a culinary lesson will be engrossed with watching chèvre being processed.

Maui Goat Dairy

As well as indulging in a goat cheese truffle (their Tahitian lime is especially delightful), drive up the mountain to Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm—an orchard brimming with the purple herb and tons of tropical wonders. Sign up for a guided-tour—the staff here is mad-knowledgeable about Maui’s flora and fauna—and then get lost in their labyrinth of fragrant flowers. Need a pick me up? Cozy on up to a table at their café. The views are glorious, the mood is serene, and the lavender cappuccino is, well, to drive for.

Should the sun still be shining, journey deeper into Kula until you come upon Keokea—a tiny outpost that features a verdant park, a quirky gallery, a homey coffee shop, and two 19th century churches. Snap a few shots for posterity—the views here are fantastic.

Then, make your way past the jacarandas and scrubland to Tedeschi Winery. Complimentary tastings begin each morning at 10:30 am in their storied cottage (where Hawaii’s last king once entertained the local noblesse and gambled).

Maui Wine

As for dinner? Search no further than Makawao Steak House. This old-school venue, located in Maui’s artsiest town, has been delivering comfort food for over four decades—thus earning it a reputation as one of the most beloved institutions on the island. While the restaurant switched hands in 2012, its draw remains the same, with prime rib, French onion soup, and fried oysters being just three of its stars.

Day 7: Sink + Bolt + Treasure

Savor the splendor that is Lahaina—think: toothpaste-blue water, bobbing sailboats, cellophane skies—by starting your day with a breakfast that’ll keep you going for hours. Betty’s Beach Café sits so close to the water you can practically feel the ocean spray, while the casual menu—like corn beef hash and French Toast—matches the town’s laidback character.

Satiated, walk down to Lahaina Harbor, where Maui Submarine Tours allow you to explore marine life from a subterranean perspective. The affable staff provides engrossing facts about Maui’s culture, history, and aquatic curiosities, while the hundred-foot plunge will take you into close proximity of a sunken ship and its rusty relics.  Book tickets by calling (808) 892-3177.

Maui submarine

Post-plummet, amble through Banyan Tree Park—where Hawaii’s oldest and largest banyan tree spans more than a city block—before meandering down Front Street for a chat and photo with Lahaina’s famed (and loquacious) parrots.

banyan tree

Getting hungry? Splurge on lunch at Mala Ocean Tavern, where acclaimed chef Mark Ellman pairs Hawaiian goods with Indonesian and Mediterranean flavors. Taste the sea with their Ocean Ala Plancha—a pita brimming with fresh caught fish, purple potatoes, and Romesco—or sample the land with a veggie-rich Maui Taro Burger swimming in tangy sauces.

Use the evening to escape—only in an entirely different way than your vacation is already providing. Maui Escape Rooms is the island’s newest nighttime adventure, where groups must race against the clock to pull off a bank heist or break out of jail. With clever clues and witty touches, this is a winsome way to bond with your fam, partner—or complete strangers.

Conclude your first week with late night eats at Lahaina Fish Company. Having catered to the island for over 25 years, this swank but sweet bistro lives by the creed of eating local and organic. Standard faves like ahi and mahi mahi are doled out next to rarer catches like monchong and opah, while their “Living Well” menu offers succulent choices for vegans and vegetarians. (Their truffle-aioli Wok Fried Brussel Sprouts are a must try.) Drink up the views of the starlit village before cruising over to Down the Hatch for nightcaps—their Adult Shave Ice acts as a boozy nod to childhood pleasures.

lahaina harbor

 

Day 8: Hover + Saunter + Carouse

Riding in a helicopter to see Maui’s beauty may seem like a superfluous endeavor. After all, the marvels to be seen on sand, land, sea, and sky are already overwhelming to the senses. But certain parts—read: the most stunning— can only be viewed from the deck of a chopper.

Maui Helicopter Tours takes visitors to see these phenomena, from sea cliffs riven with waterfalls on Molokai’s eastern coast to the craggy shorelines and vast taro patches of Ke’anae. The skilled staff offers gripping facts on Maui’s creation, and the comfort of these flights is straight-up luxurious.

Maui helicopters

Once you’ve touched down on land, gear up on provisions at Hawaiian Moons Natural Foods—which features a hot and cold deli, a salad bar, and custom-made juices—before slinking over to the epic stretch of sand that comprises Sugar Beach. With sublime views of Pu’u Ola’i in the distance and Maalaea nearby, this often-quiet beach is perfect for decompressing.

Consider yourself blessed if your eighth day on Maui falls on a Wednesday: Hump Days are brought to a rollicking and proper close at Mulligans on the Blue, where Grammy Award winner and slack key master Willie K puts on an intimate, hilarious, and melodious show. Covers of Irish ballads are set against songs about the islands and impersonations of our most notable rockers. For a wholly memorable experience, book the dinner and show combo. With fetching views and sophisticated pub fare (like traditional Irish stew with braised New Zealand lamb), Mulligans—and Willie—bring a touch of welcome rowdiness to this sedate slice of the island.

 

Day 9: Swim + Spy + Marvel

Snorkeling and diving just off Maui’s shores is a terrific treat all by itself. But cruising across the Pacific to see aquatic creatures? That’s an outstanding opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered.

Molokini—a partially submerged volcanic crater—offers a titanic amount of marine life, from reef fish and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles to Moray eels and sand sharks. Excursions are offered daily from Maalaea, Kihei, and Lahaina; to make yours all the more amazing, book an intimate trip with Redline Rafting.

molokini snorkeling trip

With space for a maximum of 24 guests, the tours on Redline Rafting are ultra-personal—and uber-entertaining. Customized rafts bounce across the water, jovial guides provide details about the island, and coffee, breakfast, and lunch are served with heaps of aloha. On the way back to land, you’ll be taken to Maui’s Forbidden Coast, where caves, grottos, and lava flows confirm the island’s uniqueness.

Sustain that connection with nature by doing some birding in North Kihei before your evening festivities start. Just short of Maalaea on Mokulele Highway, both avid chasers and casual observers can find joy and awe at Kealia Pond. The 700-acre National Wildlife Refuge operates as a haven for seabirds, giving guests views of Hawaiian stilts, coots, and black-haloed herons. Then pop into Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop for a cup of joe (and a slice of Olowalu Lime for later) before continuing west to Lahaina for Na Lio.

leodas pie shop

The newest performance to debut on the island, Na Lio tells, through hula and singing, the vital role horses played in Hawaii’s history. Set at the base of Mauna Kahalawai at the Kahalawai Farms & Stables, the dinner show includes a scrumptious meal prepped by Iron Imu Catering, where guests are given enormous plates of pulled pork and BBQ brisket before the live equestrian artistry commences. Complete with stories of the earliest paniolo to arrive in the islands (and costumes galore), Na Lio is enlightening, absorbing, and dazzling—much like Hawaii itself.  Call (808) 892-3177 for information and tickets.

 

Day 10: Soar + Worship + Swoon

With more than 200 ziplines across North America, rocketing through the air has become one of the country’s most popular past times.

Maui holds its own with several stand-out rides offered across the island. But one of its top spots? Piiholo Zipline on the lush eastern side, where adrenaline seekers can get their thrills with single and double rides across green, jungly country.

zipline piiholo

Drink up the fragrance of eucalyptus before stretching your Mauified muscles at Pukalani’s Wisdom Flow Yoga. The bamboo floors in this Zen-filled space give way to views of Makawao’s bucolic hills and the North Shore’s white-capped waves. With classes that range from vinyasa to iyengar, you’re sure to find a course that’ll both relax and revive you.

With permission, head down the mountain before the sun sinks beyond the horizon for a drive/walk out to Peahi. Otherwise known as Jaws, this fearsome break made international headlines when Maui resident Dave Kalama (and his coterie of friends) began getting towed in for swells that exceeded the fifty-foot mark. While the waves here are fiercest between December and March, its remoteness alone is well worth the drive.

peahi surfing

Make the most of your time in the region by heading to Hali’imaile General Store for a not-to-be-missed-meal. A destination in itself, this plantation-inspired venue has been delighting diners with its Hawaiian Regional cuisine for close to thirty years. Start with master chef Bev’s crab pizza, follow it with a Portuguese sausage-stuffed pork chop, and wash it all down with a citrus-thick paniolo Manhattan.

haliimaile general store

 

Day 11: Jump + Trek + Surrender

Black sand beaches, rainbow eucalyptuses, and bamboo forests are just a few of the treasures you’ll find in Hana.

Black Sand beach Maui

Its allure is well-documented—with “I Survived the Road to Hana” being one of the most oft-seen tourist shirts in the 1990s—but its sparkle has remained entirely unblemished.  Take your rental car or sign up for a group tour, where you can leave those hairpin turns to consummate drivers.

pipiwai trail in hana Maui

Whichever way you get there, know what not to miss. Pipiwai Trail is one of the most breathtaking hikes on the island, weaving walkers through four miles teeming with tall shoots of bamboo to views of waterfalls, freshwater streams, and dense forests. Meanwhile, Charles Lindbergh’s grave is situated mere miles away at one of the most beautiful and transcendent churches in Hawaii. This exquisite area also features Laulima Farm—a 13-acre family-owned plot of land dedicated to sustainable agriculture. Stop in for a strawberry papaya or a jar of pickled mangos—or pop some corn and sit in their copse of trees to relish the quiet. Before you head back to your base, watch the sunset from Koki Beach—where the dark red sand was named after the bones of Pele—before slowing in Haiku for Nuka’s super-pristine sushi.

charles lindbergh's grave

 

Day 12: Bask + Steer + Cherish

With your time on the beach reaching its reluctant end, plan for a morning of chilling on the sand. While nearly all of the beaches on the leeward sides of Maui flaunt unforgettable views and radiant shores, there’s something extraordinary about Kapalua’s Ironwoods. Just north of the golf-mecca’s legendary bay, this bewitching beach ups the ante on tropical drama: a wooden boardwalk, fringed with greenery, leads to golden sand and glistening water, while lava-sharp cliffs and views of Lana’i compete with the place’s luminosity. Come early with eats from the nearby Gazebo restaurant (get their pancakes and fried rice as take out), sop up the sun’s warmth, and swim happily before the wind kicks up.

ironwoods beach

When it does, make your way towards one of the most far-flung and striking parts of the island. Kahakuloa Bay—a lovely village encircled by verdant forests and indigo water—offers a taste of Old Hawaii, with two humble churches, a small gallery, and roadside stands that tout just-baked banana bread.

But it’s the drive that gets you there that’s truly wondrous—narrow roads and tight turns give way to heart-stopping vistas of Maui’s coastline. Pause at the lookouts to soak up the magnificence—and hike down to Honolua Bay to watch the surfers (and get your toes in the ocean).  If the waves look mellow and fun, you can rent a surfboard from Island Surfboard Rentals.  They have a wide selection from which you can order online and have free delivery to your door.

Surfing Honolua Bay

When evening sets in, head to Ka’anapali Beach, where your penultimate night’s activities will start with the Maui Nui Luau at Black Rock. Presented on the grounds of the Sheraton, this lighthearted, entertaining performance features authentic luau grinds, Hawaiian and Polynesian songs, and a traditional imu ceremony. But it’s the fire dancing that really gets the pulse flying—particularly when such an exhibit is silhouetted against moonlit water. Enjoy it longer with dessert at Leilani’s, a vibrant spot that brings the beach into the restaurant.

kaanapali

 

Day 13: Climb + Taste + Revel

It’s hovered above you for nearly two weeks; now, it’s time to pay it homage.

Haleakala soars 10,023 feet above sea level, rendering its crater one of the most staggering sights on the planet. Here, the Mars-esque crater—capacious enough to hold Manhattan Island—is sensationalized with cuts of astounding color, while endangered species (including Hawaii’s state bird, the nene goose) dart through the windswept park. Sunrises are an especially popular time—with a reported 2.5 million annual visitors to the mountain’s top—so if you’re an early riser, book a reservation in advance and witness the sun striating the sky; those looking for a more tranquil experience can head up midday, when the views are no less spectacular. Or? Summon the athlete inside you and book a bike to tour the area on two wheels.

Haleakala

After a brief stop at La Provence for a pastry and latte, head down Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery. Comprising 80 acres on the volcano’s slopes, this eco-conscious outfit offers daily tours of their immaculate—and fascinating—facility; here, guests can get an inside peek of the distillery process (and Hawaii’s sugar-farming practices). Mad for martinis? You’re in luck: the orchard features a martini garden replete with cocktails that highlight local flavors. Go for a passion fruit-infused nip: it’s sweet without being cloying—and feels just like the islands.

Lilting Hawaiian music—and the profound chants that are part of its repertoire—are best heard at a performance that takes audiences deep into Hawaii’s antiquity. ‘Ulalena—arguably the most heartrending show on the island—offers two evening performances at Lahaina’s Maui Theatre, where guests can revel in the affecting story of Hawaii’s earliest days and its consequent transformation after the influx of missionaries. With dancing, singing, and live percussionists, ‘Ulalena gives you one last chance—at least this time around—to appreciate Hawaii’s countless beauties. Because while you might not want to leave Maui, you’ll have this magic to sustain you. 

Ulalena