Maui Family Photographer Recommends Maui’s Top Activities, Places to Stay & Cheapest Rental Cars

by | Jun 27, 2022 | Maui, Maui Family Photography, Maui Travel Guide, Maui Travel Tips, Travel

Are you starting to plan your trip to Maui?

Maui is a popular destination for many obvious reasons! Because it is so popular, it is important that you do as much of the planning ahead of time as possible, so you don’t miss out. Rental car, hotel/air bnb/condo, some of your restaurant reservations, all of your activities & maui family photography services.

First Things First: Get Familiar with the General Areas of Maui

Below is a basic map of Maui

  • Kahului is where the airport is
  • West Side consists of Lahaina/Ka’anapali/Napili/Kapalua
  • South Side is Kihei/Wailea
  • North Shore is Paia/Kuau/Haiku
  • Also shown below is Haleakala and the Road to Hana (RTH)

(There’s no road that goes all the way around the outside of the island but it almost does.)

    Maui’s Top Activities

    maui family photos on the beach in Wailea family is looking out towards the ocean

    Free or Nearly Free Maui Worthwhile Activities

    • Iao Valley- Non residents are charged a small parking fee. (Goto the first parking lot to see the heritage gardens and then drive up to the main parking lot at the top) Iao Valley is closed as of August 2022.
    • Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm– $3 per person. Or support the Maui Food Bank, and bring a donation of a non-perishable food item- per person- for admission to be waived.
    • Haleakala- For sunrise (between 3-7am) it is required that you get reservations in advance. If you can’t manage to get one, then go to Sunset. It also very beautiful! You can also do a paid sunrise tour to get around having to get a reservation. (Linked under Maui’s Top Activities).
    • Shaved Ice- Don’t forget to get shaved ice! Ululani’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice has several locations around Maui.
    • Road to Hana (RTH)- Remember it is the experience and not the destination. Enjoy the ride and plan to stop all along the way. I also recommend going all the way around so you’re not coming back the way you came. The backside of Maui is very beautiful. If you’re out for the day, plan to be on the backside for sunset. Don’t forget to stop at famous Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread Stand in Keanae on the way there!
    • Olinda Forest Easy Beautiful Walking Hike
    • Makawao Forest Hike or Bike Ride- There is a beginner, intermediate & advanced biking pump track.
    • Beach!
    • Ho’okipa- to see the Hawaiian Sea Turtles
    • Jaws/Peahi to see the big waves during the winter months- 4×4 is a must
    • Kula Country Farms– depending on time of year- strawberry picking or pumpkin patch & year round they have a farm stand.
    • Nakalele Blowhole
    • Snorkeling (directly off shore)- Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve (see video below) & Honolulu Bay

    Resort/Condo Accommodations

    Resorts have the highest price tag. If you can afford them, great! If not, don’t worry! Hotels and condos are also a great option.

    Resorts have stricter rules for the amount of people in each room. Most only allow 4-5 people maximum.

    Meaning, if you’re a family of 6+ you will need to purchase 2 rooms! Even if your 6th is a baby! In this case, a hotel or condo might be a better choice.

    Condo Accommodations:

    Check out Tropical Bound Condo Rentals for the best prices on condos. They service areas all over South Maui, West Maui, Big Island & Kauai.

    West Maui (Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Napili, Kapalua)

    • Hyatt Ka’anapali Resort
    • Westin Ka’anapali Resort
    • Honua Kai- Great choice for a condo!
    • Ka’anapali Beach Hotel- Lower priced hotel with great quality and excellent walking location!

    South Maui (Kihei, Wailea)

    • Grand Wailea Resort- The ultimate hotel for the kids. Their hotel pool is the BEST one on Maui. It is the largest and has the most slides.
    • Andaz Resort
    • Fairmont Kealani Resort
    • Four Seasons Resort
    • Maui Coast Hotel- Lower priced hotel with great quality and excellent walking location!
    • Kamaole Sands- Great choice for a condo
    Maui family photos with the beautiful mountains and sunrise in the background

    Places to Eat

    Not all dining takes advanced reservations but I highly recommend making reservations well in advance for Mamas Fish House, Fleetwood’s, Lahaina Grill, Merriman’s & Star Noodle at sunset. If you didn’t make reservations try showing up before or after the typical lunch or dinner rush. Most places you won’t have a problem getting a table without much of a wait. Mama’s Fish house, Merriman’s & Star Noodle most likely will be unavailable without a reservation.


    • My Thai– Very possibly the best Thai Food I have EVER had! It will even convert someone who doesn’t like Thai Food.
    • Las Pinatas of Maui– Close to the airport and super easy. Yummy Mexican food with a friendly atmosphere.
    • 62 Market- Excellent burgers & service is great!
    • Cafe O’lei @ The Mill House & Maui Tropical Plantation- Beautiful scenery while you enjoy lunch or dinner. Buy duck feed in the gift shop and feed the ducks or plan to go on their zipline BEFORE eating lol..

    North Shore

    • Paia Fish Market- Well known and a great but busy option for lunch.
    • Mamas Fish House- By far the most popular and hard to get into restaurants on Maui.
    • Cafe Des Ami- Known for their crepes
    • Flatbread- Pizzeria with the very best and most creative pizzas!
    • Nuka- My personal favorite sushi restaurant. Very fresh fish!


    • Haili’imaile General Store- Don’t be fooled by the name. This is a beautiful fine dining restaurant. Open for lunch & dinner.
    • Casanovas- Delicious Italian food.
    • Freshies- Ultimate breakfast spot! Traditional American breakfast with healthy options also available.
    • Grandmas Coffee House- Another amazing upcountry breakfast spot.
    • Kula Lodge- Beautiful views and fireplace lodge vibes

    West Maui

    • Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop– Known for their amazing pies! This is on your way to the westside. Located in Oluwalu.
    • Star Noodle- If you want a prime sunset dinner reservation with an ocean view you must pre book months in advance.
    • Moku Roots– Waste-free plant-based vegan restaurant! So yummy!
    • Slappy Cakes– Super fun breakfast spot for kids. Each table has a skillet to make your own pancakes. Very busy- get there before they open to assure yourself a skillet table.
    • Prison Street Pizza
    • Lahaina Grill
    • Kimo’s Maui
    • Hula Grill Ka’anapali
    • Duke’s Beach House
    • Leilani’s on the Beach
    • Monkeypod– Excellent food and Happy Hour
    • Choice Bar- Acai bowls, smoothies, avocado toast! Great breakfast or lunch spot.
    • Fleetwood’s on Front St.- Get a rooftop reservation for sunset
    • Merriman’s- Sunset dinner spot with an ocean view! Be sure to get reservations.

    South Maui

    • Piko Cafe- Super cute and easy going breakfast spot in Kihei
    • Kihei Caffe- Busy, busy, busy for a good reason. Affordable and delicious! Go early or later than the breakfast crowd.
    • Nalus South Shore Grill- Crowded and popular for a good reason- another excellent breakfast spot in Kihei.
    • Paia Fish Market South Side
    • Kinaole Grill Food Truck– Excellent Seafood
    • Sprout Vegan Cafe- My new favorite vegan cafe on Maui!
    • Da Kitchen- To get “local kind grindz” this would be the place.
    • Three’s Bar and Grill
    • Coconut’s Fish Cafe- Best known for their fish tacos!
    • Monkeypod– VERY BUSY location in Wailea but worth it- especially for Happy Hour- try their famous Mai Tai.
    • Fabiani’s Bakery and Pizzeria– Fine Italian food & baked goods.
    • Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar– Another excellent choice for sushi.
    • Maui Brewing Company- Great food and locally made beer.
    • Manoli’s Pizza Company- Upscale pizza restaurant.
    • Nutcharee’s Authentic Thai Food- My favorite Thai food in Kihei. They also have a food truck in Hana.
    • Lineage- World famous Chef Sheldon created a fine dining version of all our favorite local dishes.
    • Cafe O’lei Kihei
    • Spago @ The Four Seasons Resort
    • Ferraro’s @ The Four Seasons Resort
    • Morimoto Maui @ The Andaz
    • Kaana Kitchen @ The Andaz
    Baby Beach Maui family Photographer captures a large family

    Rental Car Accommodations

    This can be tricky… Renting a car on Maui can be very expensive depending on the time of year you choose to come. Besides the obvious google search to find the mainstream rental agencies, here are some other options:

    • Kihei Rental Car- Is a budget friendly option. They have great weekly rate options.
    • Turo- Local residents rent out their vehicles on an app called Turo.
    • Facebook- You can check Facebook Marketplace for locals renting out their own cars. You can also check Maui Facebook visitor groups.
    • Craigslist- Check Craigslist for rental car listings.
    weddings in Maui - Maui Wedding Photographer

    Local Shopping

    Wailers Village (Ka’anapali)

    • High end shopping mall and restaurants.
    • Easy food court.
    • Kids climbing area and splash pad

    Front Street (Lahaina)

    • Check out all the local Maui family photographer and Artist’s galleries, the surf shops, boutiques & restaurants.
    • Outlets of Maui- Lahaina

    Shops at Wailea (Wailea)

    • High end shopping mall and restaurants.

    Saturday Swap Meet (Kahului in the University of Hawaii Parking Lot)

    • Fun and affordable place to shop. They have everything from jewelry & local souvenirs/crafts to food and produce.

    Saturday Farmers Market (Near Longs in Pukalani)

    • Similar to the Saturday swap meet but focused more on food and produce rather than fun things to buy. It would be worth going to both.
    Maui Wedding Photographer

    Affordable Grocery Shopping (if that is even a thing in Maui)

    General Food

    • Safeway(Kahului/Lahaina/Kihei)

    Bulk Food

    • Costco (Kahului)

    Health Food

    • Mana Foods (North Shore/Paia)
    • Whole Foods (Kahului)
    two girls who are sisters hugging on the beach in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

    Don’t Forget to Pack…

    • Bathing Suit & Cover Up
    • A light waterproof rain jacket. Just in case! It usually isn’t “cold” but you may want a way to keep dry in case of rain.
    • Warm clothes if you plan on going to Haleakala for sunrise.
    • Rubber slippers that can get wet. High end supportive slippers Olukai. Less supportive but still super cute Havaianas.
    • Reef Safe Sunscreen- ThinkBaby for your body and Raw Elements for your face. Both rub in surprisingly well for being reef safe.
    • Lightweight Hat for Sun Protection
    • Maui Jim Sunglasses
    • Tennis Shoes
    • Reusable YETI water bottle
    • Super Long Phone Charger Cord for Hotel and Car
    Dressed in White - Maui Family Photography on the beach in maui

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    Aloha, I'm Shayla Tiare Ko'omoa and I'm so glad you're here.

    A true local Maui girl, born and raised on this beautiful island!

    I’m honored to be trusted Maui family photographer for over 10 years and counting.

    My photographic style combines clean looking portraits with soulful, moment-driven candids—resulting in photos that truly stand the test of time.