Kelly Golightly’s Guide To Maui


Two cheers for the unofficial start to summer, the season of endless sun, warm nights and making our wanderlust dreams come true. Do you have any trips you’d like to take this summer? My list is long to say the least. But before my wanderlusties get ahead of me, I’d love to share some of my wandermusts — travel photos and tips from recent jaunts I’ve been lucky enough to embark on recently – Maui, London, Rome, Amalfi and Capri — in hopes of helping you make the most of your adventures. Grab your bag & let’s head to Maui, shall we?

Here’s where to stay, play, sip and sup in Maui! 

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where to stay in maui

The Fairmont Kea Lani

We stayed at The Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea for the first part of our trip, which is ideal for a romantic or relaxing getaway. I loved the serene Moorish architecture that felt instantly calming, plus they had the best pina coladas on the island next to Mama’s. All of the rooms are suites and have balconies, perfect for indulging in breakfast on the balcony while overlooking the ocean and sparkling pools.

For the second half of our trip, we stayed at The Westin. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a romantic or serene getaway, it was very family-friendly and the location was closer to our favorite part of the island, Kapalua and Kaanapali, on the northwest side of Maui. Plus, they have flamingos and a black swan! If we went back we’d likely try The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua because we loved that side of the island the most…and possibly try a few nights at the Inn at Mama’s (Mama’s Fish House has bungalows!).

what to do in maui; what to see on maui

Rent a Jeep

Beep, beep, rent a Jeep! Maui is best explored by car and we wanted to either rent a convertible or a Jeep. I’m glad we ended up going with a Jeep because it allowed us to go on many an off-roading adventure. We love nothing more than getting lost on an empty dirt road (we even drove by Oprah’s Maui house!) and given that Maui is quite lush because it often rains on some parts of the island, a Jeep was the way to go. We went with a hard top, but would choose a soft top next time so it’s easier to take the top off and put it back on for sudden rainy skies.

Haleakala Crater 

While there were too many breathtaking sights on Maui to count, Haleakala Crater was the most jaw-dropping. It was like being on Mars! Tip: Call ahead to make sure the weather is clear and you’ll be able to see the crater, otherwise the windy drive is best for another time.

Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve

While staying at the Kea Lani, we headed out on a little drive. We basically made a right out of the hotel and just kept on driving…and got really lucky when we suddenly realized we were surrounded by lava fields. It’s amazing to be surrounded by fields of black lava rock and if you keep on driving until the road ends, you can hike and take a swim.

Sunset Sail

One evening, we took a sunset sail and it was so relaxing and refreshing to be out on the water and to see the island from a different perspective. Bonus: We spotted whales, giant sea turtles, and rainbows!

Nakalele Blowhole & Heart Rock

This is a memorable hike down to see a natural blowhole/geyser formed from waves crashing into the rocks  (just don’t get too close to the blowhole as you can get sucked in and out to sea — yipes!). Plus, if you look about 50 feet to the right of the blowhole (if you’re looking at the ocean), you’ll spot a heart formation in the rocks. The best part is standing among those rocks, where you once again feel like you’re on another planet.

Drive Kaanapali to Kahakuloa

One of our favorite daytime drives wasn’t in any guidebook and had no specific destination, likely due to the fact that they had just paved the road less than a month before we arrived. Drive from Kaanapali to Kahakula, around the northwest tip of the island (HWY 30 to HWY 340). Dramatic cliffs, lush landscape, awe-inspiring views… Stop at the green shack for yummy banana bread.

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Mama’s Fish House 

Everyone recommends this place and we almost didn’t go because of it, in fear that it might be a tourist trap. Luckily it wasn’t and we loved it so much we went twice. The secluded beach setting is magical and I still dream about the Polynesian beef bowl in papaya, the ceviche, and the pina coladas, oh the pina coladas. It’s close to the airport so makes a great first and last meal on the island. Make a reservation ahead of time.

Merriman’s Wine Bar 

We could never get a reservation, but the valet tipped us off to the wine bar just beyond the restaurant that literally sits overlooking the ocean (which most people don’t know about). You can get great appetizers and drinks for a steal, which was more than enough for dinner. We loved watching whales play in the waves as the sun set.

Sea House  

Right next to Merriman’s, this place had the best fish tacos for lunch.

Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop

This little gem from Top Chef Sheldon Simeon serves up farm-fresh casual food in a cute setting. We went twice to grab lunch for takeout and then had a roadside/beachside picnic. Fred Baby loved the rueben I loved the hotdog with pineapple chutney, the macnut chocolate praline mini pie, and the banana cream pie.

T. Komoda Store & Bakery 

You expect the best pina coladas and seafood when in Maui, but the best doughnuts? My friend Jenny tipped me off to Komoda Bakery in the cowboy town of Makawao and the stick donuts were SO good. Everything was good and I tried like 10 different doughnuts (in the name of research). Pick some up before driving up to Haleakala Crater.

Olowalu General Store 

Maui is known for shaved ice and it doesn’t disappoint. You can get it from many roadside stands but we indulged at Olowalu General Store (directly next door to Leoda’s) and got shaved ice that was as big as your face! Get it island style, with Roselani ice cream — and share!

Roman Holiday
Fun Pool Party Decor

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