13 excellent tips if you are visiting Maui

In Maui, Travel on 2010/12/11 at 8:58 pm

I was vacationing on Maui for 3 weeks in November 2010 and I thought I’d record, with pictures, some great tips for people visiting Maui, particularly the Wailea/Kihei/Makena area.  I am fortunate to have a time share on Maui at Maui Hill Resort on Kihei Road in a November timeslot.  We’ve owned it for 14 years and we’ve used it most years and I visited often with my family before that.  I think its safe to say I’ve been to Maui about 27 times!

I have not been paid for any of these recommendations.  In fact many of the places I recommend won’t know I’ve done this till they receive a copy of the blog.  All opinions are strictly my own and not exclusive.  What I mean is that if I am recommending a certain restaurant, that’s not to say there aren’t equal others out there.

It seems the first group of suggestions/tips are female-oriented but hang in there, guys.  I have some eating tips, places to go for the best snorkeling, happy hour times, and so on as we progress.

Everyone’s vacation is different according to tastes, financial situations, time available, etc. etc.  Here, without further ado, are some of my favourite things on Maui:

View out our unit window at the pool at Maui Hill

In no particular order…………….

1.  The best pedicure in the world is in Maui.  I have been fortunate to have had thousands of pedicures around the world and the ones available from Stranz by either Michelle or her boss are entirely the best.  They have huge, fancy chairs with massage elements, each pedicure includes a mask, a scrub, a massage, hot stones, and first class, careful pedicure treatment from these personable ladies.  If you wish, see below, you can have a flower (mine’s a Hibiscus) or not, you can choose from every paint colour under the sun, and your feet – after all that sand, sun, sandals, and barefoot walking, feel like heaven.  The price is ridiculously reasonable at $45 for basic and $60 for the ‘deluxe’.  Stranz is in the Rainbow Mall, 2439 S. Kihei Road and reservations are really, really recommended.  Oh yes, they do excellent hair as well.

ChiChi toes, eh?

2.  The lights at the Grand Wailea Hotel. I am definitely going to have include a few pictures here because even the finest writer can’t describe this beautiful spectacle in words.  The Grand Wailea is a grand hotel.  Everything is large scale and beautiful and designed for the well heeled.  They have several pools, one with sand for the kids, a glorious spa, several restaurants, and a water feature area that I always wanted to sneak into so I could go whizzing down the slides.  On Thanksgiving or Black Friday they turn on the lights!  Their driveway is graced with huge and glorious Monkey Pod trees and a waterfall. They wind lights around the branches and trunk of each tree and hit the switch.  The result, in the black, black evening that occurs every evening on Maui is beyond magical.  Its mystical and worth a drive from Napili or Kapalua just to drive around those lights!  Its sort of like a romantic Lord of the Rings look.

The lights at the Grand Wailea

Sorry, words and pictures just don't capture it

3.  Hawaii’s Kukui Moisturizing Cream by Oils of Aloha – This isn’t a brand new revelation, in fact I was told this years ago by a friend who discovered it years earlier through her friend…..and so on.  I wish I could win the lotto for the simple reason of being able to finance bringing this cream into Canada for distribution.  Every Hawaiian women uses it and its the only thing effective to relieve sun burning, prevent sun burning, heal skin burnt by fire, keep skin smooth and supple and prolonging a tan.  They make a cream and a lotion but in my opinion the cream is far superior.  I have only ever found it at Long’s Drugs, and for years it has been $11.99 per 4 fl oz jar.  It comes in two fragrances and one fragrance-free version – all are just spectacular.  They bill it as a mixture of Kukui oil (from the Kukui nut), Macadamian oil, and Vitamin E and apparently its also good for Eczema and Psoriasis.  Every year I buy 12 jars and bring them home for the year.  If you have a spare million or so, could you give it to me so I can hook up with the Oils of Aloha people and start importing this stuff  into Canada?

4.  The Face Place – If you ever indulge in either facials or massage, this is the only place to go on Maui.  There are several excellent and expansive and lush spas at all the high end hotels, and that’s where Jeannie Pereira, Owner/Esthetician got her training and experience.  She opened The Face Place in 2000 and still is filled with enthusiasm for providing the best facial on the planet.  An hour (or better yet, and hour and a half) with Jeannie is face heaven.  She is hugely knowledgeable, personable, humourous and right up to date on the latest in products, treatments, etc.  She also breeds chocolate labs so she and I talk our heads off about woman-owned businesses, labs, and her marvelous technique.  She works with some of the best Licensed Massage Therapists (I always ask for Robin) and both the facial and massage services are more economical than the big hotels.  Did I mention the Face Place rooms are glorious and relaxing? Or that her receptionist,  is about the best customer service gal I’ve ever encountered?  Check out their website at Maui Face Place.  Call 808 875 1000 or email to for a reservation.  This place is always busy.

5.  Ever heard of Jams World clothes?  Below is a picture of me in my Jams World capris.  You can see all their offerings at Jams World.  What’s really spectacular about these clothes is the fabulous fabrics.  They are just the most amazing and unique colours and designs.

Mom and I rockin' the Teralani cruise

This tip isn’t really about Jams World clothes, though.  Full price Jams World clothing is fairly pricey.  No complaint, its unique and lovely.  But, if you want off-price Jams World, the only place I’ve discovered is the Outlet Centre for the Maui Clothing Company at the intersection of the Piilani Highway (takes you from Sugar Beach out to far Makena) and Ohukai Street.

Maui Clothing Company is throughout Maui and their stores have a fabulous selection of bathing suits and beachwear, etc. and the outlet store has some great bargains.  The stores may be the only place to buy Jam’s World, but certainly the outlet certain is the only place to find off-price Jam’s World.  The main floor has full-price, this year’s styles and fashions.  Go upstairs against the wall away from the POS machine and voila! last year’s but gorgeous Jam’s World stuff is many sizes for some pretty nice reductions.  You heard it here first!

6.  I spent much of my childhood and teens riding horses.  I owned the illustrious Donahue and Cherry Royal.   I jumped, did Pony Club, was a polo hotwalker, and loved every minute.  But that was um, well over 30 years ago.  I’ve ridden a few times in between and you never totally forget, but let’s just say I’m not the junior jump champion any more.  So, when a friend said let’s go riding in Makawao, I was lukewarm.

But I’ll go back again and again after an hour ride at the Piiholo Ranch.  Its easy to find close to downtown Makawao, but after navigating the long and winding driveway to the ranch, its a different world.

They view horse riding rentals in a different way than most establishments.  The horses are well fed, well handled and trained, and everything is professionally arranged.  When you book they need to know your height and weight and they have a pretty extensive discussion with you regarding your horseriding abilities.  I must have overemphasized that I hadn’t ridden consistently for decades because I got Blackjack.

Heeeeere's Blackjack! The calmest horse on the planet

They give BlackJack to bigger people (sheesh!) because he’s part Clydesdale and I imagine they also give him to people who have never ridden before.  He is dead calm – bomb-proof we used to call them when I was a kid.  I was a little chagrined that I couldn’t convince Blackjack to leave the group, trot a little or veer off into the sunset, but I guess that’s a good thing as many customers to Piiholo are beginners.

But the ride was glorious.  We were escorted by a fabulous gal who kept a very close eye on all of us.  The vistas are panoramic, you actually ride through huge fields and eucalyptus forests and we even saw Hawaii’s state bird, the Nene Goose (who is shy and elusive) having a great bath in one of the ponds in the field.  One of my fellow riders was a gal with my dream job (she’s a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s) and between great retail conversation, the absolutely obedient horses and the scenery, it was a wonderful time.   The Piiholo Ranch is a section of the gigantic Baldwin Ranch that has been sectioned off and there are cattle on the land and roping cows.  You can safely go if you’ve never ridden a horse but have a hidden John Wayne gene.


Nordstrom’s best personal shopper from their highest grossing store. Its in California

7.  Buy an exfoliating bar of soap to use while you are in Maui and one to take home to use for the month after you return. Island Bath & Body makes an excellent exfoliating bar and their products are available most places.  Maui residents will tell you that not only does an exfoliating bar get out any fine sand from ocean swimming and snorkelling, but it also helps to retain your tan by keeping the tanned skin clear of dead cells.

8.  There are hundreds AND HUNDREDS of sunset cruises, dinner cruises, snorkelling cruises, what watching cruises and more available on Maui and available from everything to the concierge at your hotel (if you’ve got one) to guys selling tickets on the street.  After 27 years, the best are the Teralani Sailing Adventures Their boats are big, comfortable, exciting catamarans, the crew is always hugely helpful and fun, and darned if they seem to be the first ones to know where the whales or the dolphins or both are.  We recently took a sunset cruise (in November) and not only saw a big school of spinner dolphins (see below), but also two whales!  Whales don’t usually show up until at least mid December.  The puupuus are great, drinks are great and responsibly served – I just love these guys.  You need to travel to Kaanapali and get on off the beach.

9.  Eating at golf clubs anywhere is often a good bet.  There are some spectacular, fancy PGA golf courses in Maui but to ensure that their dining room remains viable and busy during all seasons, often the happy hour and luncheon pricing can be fabulous.  Gannon’s at the 3rd course (next driveway past the blue course) which used to be SeaWatch, has the most outstanding views out over Molokini and Red Hill and happy hour specials that include beer, wine and other cocktails under $5.00 with the bar menu including ribs, hamburgers, and crab cakes at under $10.  Its from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Spinner dolphins near Lanaii off the Teralani II

The view from Gannon’s terrace

Way over below the Iao Valley north of Wailuku is the very famous King Kamehameha Golf Club.  There is one for the public and one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that is so exclusive it seems no one is ever there!  But the public course and clubhouse are uber nice themselves and the Friday night all-you-can-eat Prime Rib and Seafood for $29.99 is the best value for quality available inland.

The incomparable, mystic, unique mountains of the Iao Valley

10. Speaking of golf clubs, this tip represents the best night we had in Maui on our recent holiday.  Some of my family plays golf and favours the reasonable, public golf course at Pukalani which is right off the Haleakala Highway onto Pukalani Road and drive to the end.  The clubhouse at the Pukalani Golf Course burned down a few years ago and a bunch of nonesense and litigation (don’t know the story, don’t ask) have had the Club using a Trailer for their clubhouse ever since.  It’s a big trailer mind you.  On Tuesday nights, the local ukulele club come out to the trailer and play.  There isn’t much room, you HAVE to book in advance, but its the best authentic Hawaiian time you’ll have.  The players are all ages, sizes, and nationalities.  They are all superior ukulele players and singers and periodically one of the women gets up and demonstrates the very beautiful coconut dance.  The food is great, the music is just superior, and a very good time was had by all!  P.S. The Ukulele Players, which are called Honey Buns and the Coconuts, don’t play for tips – they much prefer a wine donation!

The coconut dancer with ukulele players behind her. You gotta go.

11.  I don’t know what it is about vacations, but I’m always up for a full breakfast.  At home I have a banana or maybe an apple and coffee, but on vacation you’d think I woke up starved every morning.  There are some fabulous breakfast spots on Maui, here are three – one for every price range:

The Breakfast Buffet at the Makena Beach and Golf Resort. (formerly The Prince Hotel). When this property was The Prince, it seemed way, way,WAY out from Wailea, but there has been so much development it doesn’t seem like that anymore.  It had some financial troubles, was in bank protection for awhile and apparently now has new owners, although I surely don’t know the details.  The bottom line is that there is much to recommend the place, particularly the breakfast brunch.  The setting is just fabulous, see the picture, and the food is fresh, extremely varied and the French waiter who has been there for years is just excellent.  There is an ingenious waffle making machine, eggs benny, every type of fruit, pastries, etc. etc. ETC.  Its $25.00 per person, but its worth it at least once.  (we went twice this time)

The downstairs 'dining room' for breakfast brunch at the Makena Resort and Golf Club.

PS – Upstairs at the gift shop, Lamont’s, there must live an aggressive retailer.  Serious markdowns on really nice island and holiday wear.

Next breakfast spot is  Ruby’s Diner at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center Mall in Kahului.

Except to attend the Swap Meet on Saturdays we don’t travel to Kahului too often during vacation.  Kahului is the ‘capital’ of Maui, its where the major retail and businesses are, the biggest mall, and the airport.  The only major hospital is there, just up the hill in Wailuku.  But, its a 45 minute drive from Kihei, more from Kaanapali and except for the cruise ship port, its oh so far from the ocean!

But, if you are in Kahului heading home or checking out the big Mall (Its anchored by Sears and Macy’s) or perhaps attending the excellent Swap Meet or a performance at the Maui Cultural Centre and its breakfast time, go to Ruby’s Diner. I think its a chain and the website link is above.  Without question, however, you have to order the following – cut and pasted from the menu:

We slice our jumbo cinnamon roll, dip it in a rich egg batter, then grill it to golden brown. Perfection! Picture below, enough said!

Can't you just taste them? And they serve them with macadamia nut syrup. Piggie Piggie

The last breakfast place is the

Kihei Cafe is on South Kihei Road, across from the big cement whale (very well known local tourist attraction) at Kalama Park about 1/2 way between Wailea and Sugar Beach.  Click on the link and you’ll see that this is neither elegant like the Makena Resort nor part of a chain like Ruby’s Diner. It’s 100% authentic and its own place.  You grab a table that looks right over the road and send one of your party in to order.  Often there’s a lineup.  The guy(s) who take your order have been there forever and they are so hilarious its worth the price of the breakfast before you eat it.  Once you’ve ordered and paid, they bring it out to you.  They have a breakfast selection like you’ll never see again – (see menu in the link above) and every single thing is delicious (with the possible exception of some of the Hawaiian food which is delicious to a Hawaiian, but not all of us. Fried eggs with rice and spam – yuck!)  The value is outstanding, the people watching is superb.  Again, you should go.

12.  The Swap Meet on Saturday Mornings in Kahului. The Swap Meet moved its location about 3 years ago and some returning visitors went to the old location and went crazy finding the new location.  To avoid causing further confusion, type in Swap Meet on Maui into Google and a very good map will come up that will show you that the new location is close to the port for Cruise Ships, and the mall.  Try this link:

Maui Swap Meet location

The great thing about the Maui Swap Meet is that you’ll find many of the same items that you will in the boutique and craft stores in Kihei, Lahaina and Wailea for a lot less money. If you’re looking for souvenirs of your visit to Maui you’ll find t-shirts, necklaces, leis, and handmade crafts often sold directly by the artist.

You’ll find lots of fresh Hawaiian flowers and wonderful fresh fruits, homemade baked goods and vegetables grown on Maui. It’s a perfect stop for folks staying in a condominium to stock up on fresh produce for their stay. You’ll also find lots of Hawaiian fabric at great prices.

If you’re lucky you may also find some Hawaiiana dating back to the 30’s and 40’s.  My sister patrols all the stalls every year trying to duplicate this cheesy little palm tree table centre that is in our timeshare unit.  Not successful so far………..

Most of the vendors accept major credit cards, but they also appreciate cash, so bring lots of dollar bills!

The fabulous Kahului Swap Meet

PS – very cool costume jewelry plus a nice 15 minute massage.  Everything well below store prices.

13.  Snorkelling locations – my family and I are avid snorkelers.   Every vacation includes a snorkel at least every second day and often every day.  We pay to go on snorkeling excursions and we go to snorkeling spots ourselves.  We are more advanced and OK with tougher entries, deep water, and some surge.  My sister and I, who both wear glasses, have snorkel masks custom made with our eyeglass prescription in them.  Did I tell you we are keen snorkelers?

This isn’t meant as an exhaustive overview of where to snorkel in Maui.  All of the Hawaiian Islands have incomparable snorkel conditions that include clear and warm water, often very little surge, reefs close to the surface, both sea turtles and tropical fish and usually easy entry.  But here are two spots in the Wailea/Makena area that are currently just wonderful.  I say currently because the tropical fish on these beautiful reefs are often hunted by the native Hawaiians for food, by people in the pet store trade who scoop them up to sell them to you in Michigan or Illinois or Texas or Alberta and varying weather conditions can affect how much fish are available for viewing.  Even at these two beautiful spots, there are far, far fewer fish than there used to be when I began coming to Maui 25 years ago.  And the reefs themselves are slowly returning, but they were nearly destroyed by divers and tourists ripping off coral to take home.  I was furious and disappointed to run into a man this trip with some coral and two cowrie shells who told me they were ‘dead’.  They absolutely weren’t and he stole them.

While I’m on this rant and before I reveal these two lovely, easy snorkeling spots, if nothing else happens from this blog, I hope I reach one or two more tourists to Maui and inform them of the rules regarding viewing the beautiful sea turtles that are all around the Islands.  It is totally illegal to get anywhere near a sea turtle should you be fortunate enough to see one while snorkeling.  They are elegant and lovely and seeing them swim through the water is a great experience.  But, they are disturbed if you hover over them, get too close to them (the law says stay at least 25 feet away from them) or touch them at all.  You can hire unscrupulous ‘guides’ who will take you too close to them so you can have a picture taken with a turtle.  Shame on the guide, and shame on you.  OK, end of diatribe.  Turtles are delighted to see you from a distance and they are truly lovely to watch, but leave them alone!

One of the least populated beaches close in on Wailea is the 7 Graves Beach.  Its unspoiled, picturesque and is bracketed with two shallow reefs.  On almost any day you can see turtles, lots of fish close in, more varieties a little further out and it seems the sea is always calm, warm and very clear.  You reach the 7 Graves Beach by driving along the main Wailea highway, past the Kea Lani Hotel, and turn right.  Head toward the water and turn left onto a road with glorious private homes that front on the road and back onto the beach.  At a point, the homes end and there is a small opening which is public (all beaches in Hawaii are public, irrespective of what house or hotel is situated on them).  The beach isn’t as ‘groomed’ as the sections in front of the big hotels, but its just lovely.  There isn’t a foot wash there or a public washroom, but so what?  The snorkelling is ideal.  Not sure of the history behind the ‘7 Graves’ name, but you can often visit the beach early in the morning and be the only one there.  I hope this little, modest post doesn’t turn the beach into a tsumani of tourists.

Me at 7 Graves. See the clear water and soft sand?

Beautiful 7 Graves Beach

Ok, the second good but easy and great place to snorkel is at the beach outside the Makena Beach Resort and Golf Club. (formerly The Prince Hotel).  You’ll remember we talked earlier of the great breakfast buffet there.  Well, after all those years of visiting Maui we had never been to the beach in front of the hotel.  To get there you need to drive past the hotel and then take the next right (its quite a ways, maybe nearly a mile) and then double back on a good road.  You’ll go by a lovely piece of land on the water that is selling lots for a mere $4.5 million dollars (that’s just the lot, you have to build the house after that), and you’ll see a public parking lot next to an unfinished building under construction.  That building will be the spectacular Golf Club House for the Makena Golf Course.  The construction was suspended until the new owner bought in but its underway now.  An easy walk to the beach shows you there are public washrooms, foot wash places, all the amenities.

Its yet another beautiful beach –  (so is Polo Beach, Keawakapu Beach, the beach in front of the Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea) – pretty much all beaches on Maui.  All have decent snorkeling, white sand, clear water, easy entry, etc.  But the Makena Hotel beach seems to have a real diversity of tropical fish types and twice we put on our masks and flippers went out about 10 feet heading further and saw two turtles right away!

One last suggestion – when visiting the Shops at Wailea (may as well go just to look. You’d have to put a second mortgage on your house to actually buy merchandise in some of the stores) check out the Tommy Bahamas Shop.  Tres chic and the prices reflect that, but every year I ‘splurge’ and buy one of their fabulous scented candles.  They come in scents like Coconut Mango and Pineapple Cilantro and are expensive.  But, they last and the glorious tropical scents give you at least a month’s worth of reminder, while sitting at the computer looking out at the snow coming down, of the lovely Island of Maui.

I guess I can finish as I began with a picture of our beloved Maui Hill Resort

Everyone has a special place in Maui, and ours is here.  Owners and timeshare owners are blessed with possibly the best General Manager on Maui in the person of Dennis Costa.  Dennis makes the difference.  The grounds are immaculate, the units are constantly upgraded and refreshed and we boast the biggest and more beautiful pool in the whole Kihei area.  Wherever your ‘home’ on Maui is, I hope these tips are helpful.  Please ‘comment’ on the blog with other questions, I’m happy to help.

Beautiful Maui Hill

  1. […] Tips for visitors to the Wailea, Kihei, and Makena area – by a newcomer […]

  2. Last year I used your blog and did and saw some of the things you suggested. Thank you Thank you Thank you…
    This year I will try to get around to the others…

  3. Hello!

    Just wanted to thank you for the Oils of Aloha recommendation. I found your blog just before leaving for Maui. The part about the cream caught my attention and I ended up going to Long’s and buying a jar. I can’t believe how quickly it heals up the eczema on my hands. I love this product!

    I had also been recommended by a friend to go to the Face Place and I really loved my facial and massage there! Jeannie and her team there were fabulous!

    Maui left quite an impression on me. I will certainly be back.

    Best wishes to you!

  4. Thanks for this blog post! I’m going for my first time next month.. I hate having to give in to all the tourist scams and am always looking for locals’ advice… love this and thanks so much for all the great tips!

    • I am also going next month, Josephine, for my 28th time! I think it’s time for an updated version. Most of the 2010 tips still apply, but a few don’t. Aloha

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