5 Things to Know Before Traveling to Maui, Hawaii

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Aloha! So you want to visit my home sweet home of Maui, Hawaii huh? No surprise there!


I’ve been traveling to Maui myself since I was just a baby, and have called the island home now for nearly 7 months. And while I may never truly be considered “local,” I’ve definitely got some insights to share that will be helpful when planning your own trip.

So, as you plan your Maui vacation, please keep these reminders handy and you are sure to have an absolutely amazing time once you’re here.

1. You’ll Need a Rental Car

Perhaps I’m stating something obvious here, but I feel like there are still a good number of people who don’t realize just how big the island of Maui actually is, and how necessary it is to have a car in order to get around.

Please plan accordingly!

You don’t want to get stuck with the most expensive car rental option at the last minute because you didn’t realize you needed one, or find that the rental companies are all booked up for your travel dates.

There are tons of car rental options on the island, but I’m ALWAYS going to advocate for locally-owned companies over big international chains.

So if you’re looking for a car rental from a sweet little Maui ‘ohana (that means family) that really understands what good customer service looks like, you can’t go wrong with Cruisin Maui Rent-a-Car.

These guys have a wide range of vehicles from basic sedans to super sporty convertibles, and they’ll give you all the best insider tips on where to take your rental exploring.

Plus, unlike some rental companies, they don’t have any restrictions on where you can take their vehicles.

If you really want to explore all that Maui has to offer, having your own car is a must.

However, if you’re located in the Kihei area and you, say, need a designated driver to get you from point A to bar B, check out Turtle Tracks, a company that shuttles visitors up and down South Kihei Rd in a cute little green electric car!

I would advise against using Uber on Maui as it gets expensive reallllly fast, but they are available (as are taxis, of course) if you need them.

2. Reef Safe Sunscreen Is a MUST

If you want to visit a place as magical and sacred as Hawaii, please respect the environment, both land and sea. This means it’s reef safe sunscreen or bust…unless you want to be one of those people.

It’s 2019, y’all. We can’t keep deferring responsibility for our planet to everyone else–we all have to do our part.

What is reef safe sunscreen, then?

It’s sunscreen made with active ingredients of either non-nano Zinc oxide or non-nano Titanium dioxide. That’s it. That’s all.

IF your sunscreen contains: Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Octisalate, or Homosalate, it is NOT REEF SAFE.

Hawaii recently became the first state to officially BAN the sale of chemical sunscreens. Heck yes!

However, the new legislation won’t go into effect until 2021, so it’s up to us to be conscious consumers and READ. THE. LABELS.

Mineral sunscreens are meant to act as a physical barrier to the sun’s UV rays, meaning you’ll look a little chalky at the beach, but hey–at least you’ll be wearing your environmentalism with pride.

Besides–those chemicals that are killing our reefs aren’t good for our bodies, either. So really, reef safe mineral sunscreens are a win for everyone involved.

Not sure where to buy this kind of sunscreen? I’ve got you covered!

Great reef safe brands available on Amazon:

  • Stream2Sea Biodegradeable Sunscreen
  • Amavara Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick
  • All Good Organic Sunscreen Butter
  • Ethical Zinc SPF 50
  • Raw Love All Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Red Gecko All Natural Sunscreen
  • Pacifica Mineral Body Butter SPF 50

If you’re already in Maui, one place you can always find reef safe sunscreen options is The Pacific Whale Foundation. Costco sells the All Good brand, and most local retailers will carry at least one mineral sunscreen.

Okay, I just have one last thing to say before I get off my soap box about reef safe sunscreen…

A lot of brands are jumping on the bandwagon by appearances only–in other words, they’ll use deceptive or misleading labeling that suggests they are reef safe when in reality, they are not.

So don’t be fooled by claims like “Surfer Approved!” (What. Does. That. Even. Mean.)

Brands that are NOT reef safe, despite whatever sticker they decided to slap on the bottle this month:

  • Banana Boat
  • Sun Bum
  • Hawaiian Tropic
  • Coppertone
  • Most other major sunscreen brands 🙁

Always, ALWAYS read the label to know what you’re buying. Mahalo nui loa!

3. There’s So Much More to Maui Than Beaches

Look, I get it–you’re coming to Hawaii to escape the cold and alllll you can think about prior to your arrival is kicking back by the beach, mai tai in hand. The sound of crashing waves lulls you into a restful state as the sweet scent of plumeria tickles your senses.

And that’s a lovely way to spend a day or two, don’t get me wrong–but you’d be remiss not to do some true adventuring while you’re at it!

There is WAY more to Maui than stunning beaches, my friend.

Did you know that Maui contains 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones? All on one little subtropical island! You can find desert, tropical rainforests, and so much more. It’s truly an adventurer’s dream.

So summit Haleakala Crater where alien landscapes blanketed with red dirt await you. Explore the sprawling bamboo forests along the Road to Hana. Get lost in the eucalyptus forests of upcountry Kula, or take a helicopter tour over the towering West Maui Mountains.

Yes, spend some time enjoying the beautiful beaches (white sand, red sand, black sand, we’ve got it all!) but don’t for a second believe that’s all there is to Maui.

4. It’s Only As Expensive As You Make It

Most believe that a trip to Hawaii is bound to break the bank, but I want to let you in on a little secret–there are plenty of ways to visit Maui affordably, if you know where to look.

Did you know Maui has a handful of hostels for budget travelers? Or that camping is a totally viable option in many parks? And let’s not forget good old Couchsurfing or even work exchange programs like WWOOF.

While these things may not be as affordable as other places (a hostel might cost you around $100 per night but when compared to most other Maui accommodation options, this is a steal!) they can still significantly reduce your costs.

And you might be shocked at our gas prices, but I’ve definitely made it through a week-long trip on just one tank–the island is big but if you’re not taking long road trips every day you probably won’t use as much gas as you’d think.

And of course, it’s one thing if you’re going out to restaurants for all your meals and quite another if you make a pit stop at Costco on arrival (conveniently located near the airport) to stock up on food for your stay.

Visiting the local farmers markets (I frequent the Upcountry Farmers Market, held in Kula every Saturday from 7-11 am) is also a good way to avoid tourist prices on produce (like what you’d pay at a roadside stand, for example) while supporting the local economy.

Now, I’m not one to advocate for scrimping on EVERYTHING when you’re on a trip like this, so definitely leave room in your budget for a few fun outings–maybe a kayak and snorkel trip, a whale watching tour, a SUP lesson, or even a chance to live out your Little Mermaid dreams.

Just know that you don’t have to shell out $8 for a loaf of bread–try a $5 organic loaf from Down to Earth or a $3 loaf baked locally by Home Maid Bakery–nor do you have to spend $500 per night on accommodation.

And you don’t have to throw down tons of cash on tours when exploring the treasures hidden along the Road to Hana is totally free (minus the gas).

Quick Tip: If you end up grocery shopping at Foodland (the local chain grocery store) be sure to join their Maika’i program to get the discounted prices (all you have to do is give them your phone number).

At the end of the day, Maui is only as expensive as you make it.

5. The Spirit of Aloha Is Real

Aloha is one of those beautiful words that has many deeply layered meanings–in fact, much of the Hawaiian language is like that. In my experience, the word aloha brings people together in love and is used to create connection and goodwill between people.

It’s used most commonly to say hello or goodbye, or as an expression of love.

More precisely, though, here’s what aloha really means:

For those who follow the path of Huna, or are fortunate enough to live in Hawai’i, it is common for us to use the word Aloha. We use it in greetings and farewells and in expressing love. But the word means even more, it is a way of life.

Besides these common meanings, the word Aloha holds within itself all one needs to know to interact rightfully in the natural world. These insights describe an attitude or way of life sometimes called “The Aloha Spirit” or “The Way of Aloha”.

The spirit of Aloha was an important lesson taught to the children of the past because it was about the world of which they were a part. One early teaching goes like this:

Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain–it is my pain. When there is joy–it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian–this is Aloha!

(Excerpt from The Deeper Meaning of Aloha)

You’ll hear the word aloha everywhere you go, and you’ll feel it, too. The people of Maui really do radiate the loveliness that is captured in this single powerful word.

Don’t be surprised when perfect strangers sing it to you while a big smile stretches across their face, when they let you into traffic while flashing you a shaka out their car window, or when they “talk story” with you while referring to you as brother, sister, auntie or uncle.

In Maui, everyone is ‘ohana and everyone shares in the aloha.

It’s a feeling that, once you experience it firsthand, will hold a place in your heart forever. Very much like the island of Maui itself!

Have you traveled to Maui? What other tips would be helpful for people to know before visiting?

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