Mark Twain might be the most oft-quoted bard to ever visit the Valley Isle, having once said that he came to Maui for a week but stayed for five. But Twain’s take on his Hawaiian trip has become famous for a reason: For over twenty consecutive years, Maui has been voted the Best Island in the World. With 120 miles of majestic coastline, one of the deepest volcanic craters on Earth, and one of the wettest rainforests in the West, we wouldn’t be the first to insist that Maui deserves every one of its awards.
So what do you do if you have not five weeks to delight in its brilliance, but just three days? Here’s the ultimate guide to 72 hours on everyone’s favorite island:
Day 1: Soak Up the Sun
There’s no better cure for jetlag than a splash in the ocean—and no better way to start your trip than relishing a morning on a tranquil beach. Rise early and head to the south shore, which offers some of the best swimming on the island. While nearly every beach south of Kihei’s Cove Park is worthy of throwing down your towel, Wailea’s Keawakapu offers it all, from talcum-soft sand to crystalline waters. Fuel up on your way with a handcrafted coffee and a Kula strawberry crepe at Belle Surf—a charming café that’s small in size but huge on flavor. And rent some snorkel gear before slathering on that sunscreen: the north and south edges of Keawakapu are prime spots for watching aquatic life shimmy by.
Take your dip in the sea a step—or stroke—further: Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers ocean adventurers Stand Up Paddling lessons from Makena’s Maluaka Beach through Turtle Town, a stretch of sparkling water brimming with the Pacific’s sweetest creatures. Impress your friends: Mature turtles, known ashonusthroughout Polynesia, are veritable homebodies, often returning to the exact same beach from which they were hatched.
Paint the Town Red
Or blue, depending on which evening you happen to be in happy-go-lucky Kihei. This beach city’s Island Art Party is unlike any soiree you’ve ever attended, the place where creatives go for a lesson on portraying Maui’s magnificence with their own hands. Grab an apron, slop up a palette of pretty colors, order a glass of wine, and learn how to paint a Hawaiian sunset so sultry even your Art-majoring brother will say wow.
Day 2: Live Lush
One of the beauties of the Valley Isle is that you can drive twenty miles and experience a completely different vibe. Now that you’ve got a healthy dose of Vitamin D, head east towards a wildly dissimilar part of the island. The road to Hana isn’t just a route east: it’s an extraordinary journey that’s just as important as its destination. Leave those keys to your rental car in your pocket and let the aloha-spirited crew at Rappel Maui do the work. This fresh and super-fun outfit takes visitors hiking, climbing, swimming—and, yes, rappelling down waterfalls—at a verdant, secluded site just off Hawaii’s most heavenly highway. Floor your family and dive off a cliff—it’s bound to become your most liked profile pic.
Whether you decide to meander around the rest of the eastern side of the island or choose to head back towards civilization, prioritize a stop in Paia. This hippy-meets-Hawaiian-chic north shore jewel is one part Carmel, two parts old plantation town, and one hundred percent pure Maui: divey and refined, exotic and familiar, fun and fascinating. With an abundance of excellent (and equally eclectic) restaurants, bars, galleries, and boutiques, this is the go-to place for foodies, shoppers, and art-lovers alike. Don’t miss out on stepping foot in Indigo Paia, where local photographer Daniel Sullivan’s images will leave you astonished and stirred.
Feast on the Reap
Of the harvest, that is. All that wilderness and urban exploring will surely get your hunger going, so plan an exquisite night out at The Mill House—a farm-to-table restaurant that puts the fabulous into fresh. Helmed by ‘Ai Pono Chef of the Year award winner Jeff Scheer, The Mill House plates up plantation-inspired perfection. Their rotating menu parallels Maui Tropical Plantation's seasonal goods, with dishes ranging from fresh island fish served with local corn and curry oil to hand cut pasta marked by Ali’i mushrooms and macadamia nut pesto. With the breathtaking West Maui Mountains in the backdrop, The Mill House reminds us that food tastes best when served with a view.
Day Three: Bow Down
Rise with the Sun
Visitors and locals alike flock to Haleakala for its outrageously gorgeous sunrises, where, on the clearest mornings, you might happen a chance of the Big Island. At 10,023 feet above sea level, the beloved National Park reasserts Maui’s grandeur while providing spectacular vistas of the world below. Driven to do something more daring? Skyrocket down its slopes with Haleakala Bike Company, which offers cruisers the chance to take a more active approach to basking in Maui’s beauty.
Just Kick It
Don’t let all these adventures fool you: Maui’s beaches are meant to be savored too. Spend your last afternoon on the sugary sand of Ka’anapali Beach on the island’s west side. Restless souls, take note: Black Rock gives a good high when jumped off of at the right time. And once you’re beached out, chill out and take a drive to Kahakuloa, a lovely serpentine road that’ll take you past the world-famous Honolua Bay. Bonus tip: Dive into some of Maui’s moistest banana bread when you reach the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it former missionary town. "Auntie" Julia's pastries are a whole new kind of manna.
Get Your Culture On
Maui is home to a host of lavish luaus, but beyond the tiki torch-lit grounds of Hawaii’s happiest celebrations is 'Ulalena—an enchanted mix of dance, music, history, and homage in the center of Lahaina town. The acrobatic solo is worth the ticket alone, but the incredible acoustics and spellbinding stories of Hawaii’s history will keep you rapt and leave you touched—reaffirming that while you may have had only three days on the island, the memories you’ve made here will surely last a lifetime.
All photography was either taken by Mill House staff, from owners that have given us written permission, and/or purchased for use. We have all the rights necessary to use these images on our website.