Now’s the Time to Visit Maui: Tips for Your South Maui Vacation

Since wildfires ravaged Lāhainā nearly two months ago, life on Maui has been out of the ordinary, to say the least! Tourism initially came to a major standstill island-wide, with many would-be visitors (understandably) choosing to postpone their plans out of respect for impacted residents.

But the fact is that Maui is highly dependent on tourism, and we have many, many local businesses (the huge majority of which are in areas of the island that haven’t been impacted by fire) that need vacationers’ support to survive. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a series of blog posts about things travelers can do in other parts of Maui while Lāhainā is healing.

Here’s the first post in that series, focusing on the sunny south side of the Valley Isle (including the communities of Kīhei, Wailea, and Mākena).

South Maui Beaches

Mākena Beach State Park (usually just referred to as Big Beach) is one of Maui’s longest stretches of soft, golden sand. It boasts dramatic scenery, with black lava rock outcroppings on each end, along with views of the Molokini crater and the island of Kahoʻolawe. Take a quick hike over the rocks from the right/north side of Big Beach to find a stunning cove known as Little Beach, which is ideal for swimming. Fair warning, though: it’s clothing-optional!

Chang’s Beach isn’t as well-known as Big Beach – but it should be, because it’s gorgeous! To get there, take Mākena Alanui Road south until you see the sign for Poʻolenalena Beach, and take a right into the parking lot. As you walk makai (toward the ocean), instead of heading left to access Poʻolenalena, follow the path to the right. You’ll find a smaller, uncrowded cove that’s not only picturesque but perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

South Maui Hiking

For a breathtaking hike along lava-rock sea cliffs, head south on Mākena Alanui Road until it ends at La Perouse Bay. Get there early in the morning, because once you pass through a grove of kiawe (mesquite) trees at the start of the hike, you’ll have nothing but sunshine! This hike features everything from archaeological ruins, to salt ponds, to views of the majestic Haleakalā volcano. Also keep an eye out for wild black goats when you first set out – and watch for spinner dolphins as you travel what was once part of the King’s Highway (a route established by Chief Piʻilani that circled Maui’s entire coastline).

If you’re looking for a scenic stroll rather than a hike, look no further than the Wailea Beach Path. Stretching from the Andaz Resort (at the north end) to the Fairmont Kea Lani (at the south end), this paved walkway winds its way along Maui’s south coast, giving constantly spectacular ocean views. Insider tip: use the free public parking at The Shops at Wailea and access the path through the Wailea Beach Resort Marriott. Along the way, you’ll find many resort restaurants and pool bars where you can enjoy fabulous drinks and pupus (appetizers).

kayaks in kihei maui

Kayaking in Kihei

South Maui Water Activities

Every Monday through Friday morning, Aloha Kayaks Maui offers guided kayaking tours that leave from Mākena Landing. In the winter months, you’ll be likely to see and hear our visiting humpback whales from your kayak! Even if it isn’t whale season, though, you can enjoy a beautiful couple of hours on the water, dropping anchor here and there to snorkel with honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles).

As another option, take a stand-up paddling or surfing lesson at Surf Shack Maui’s location near The Cove, Kīhei’s best-known surf break (which almost always has beginner-friendly waves). If you’d rather just rent stand-up paddleboards, you can also head to Surf Shack’s other location, in the Mana Kai Maui Resort building on Keawakapu Beach. By the way, Keawakapu is also one of the island’s best spots for a nice, long beach walk!

Maui Sunset

Magical Kihei Sunsets

South Maui Sunsets

The Mana Kai area also happens to be a prime location for seeing a dazzling sunset! Bring your beach chairs or a blanket and a picnic, and relax on the grassy lawn while you watch the sky put on its nightly show. If you’d rather put your feet in the sand, though, Charley Young Beach is just a little farther north and provides parking, easy access, and a picture-perfect sunset view (especially at the north end).

Bonus idea: head a little bit mauka (up the mountain) to The Birdcage bar at the Hotel Wailea. If you arrive before sunset, you’ll see the colorful colony of lovebirds that have made it their home! This tucked-away spot has an upscale open-air lounge vibe, a panoramic ocean view, craft cocktails, and sophisticated small plates to enjoy.

And speaking of great places to eat and drink …

South Maui Dining

Nalu’s South Shore Grill features live music every night, and more often than not, someone in the (mostly local) crowd will accompany the music with hula. Nalu’s offers an excellent selection for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with lots of local options, including loco moco, island-style ribs, and fresh fish.

Three’s Bar & Grill has actually made two appearances on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. From mouth-watering sushi and fish dishes, to noodles, to the famous beer can chicken – you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. And from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, you can sample lots of tasty small plates during their happy hour.

Make a reservation and go a little farther south to try the Wailea location of Monkeypod Kitchen. They’re famous for their mai tai, for good reason! But they also have extensive wine and beer lists, along with an inventive and delicious menu that changes seasonally but always includes lots of locally sourced ingredients.

Now Is the Perfect Time to Visit

We know (and appreciate!) that many travelers wanted to give Maui residents some space in the days immediately following the wildfires. But with the exception of Lāhainā, Maui is now open and ready to welcome vacationers – and with smaller crowds than usual, you may just enjoy it more than ever!

If you have questions about visiting or finding real estate on Maui, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Pamela Reader, Realtor Broker

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Tracy S Stice

September 29, 2023

Pam, thanks for writing this. People need to hear that Maui is still open for business.

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