🏝 Best Areas to Stay on Maui in 2023: A Complete Breakdown

Where to stay on Maui blog cover image.  Text overlaying an image of Kaanapali beach with resorts lining the shore.

This guide will simplify your decision on where to stay on Maui for the perfect Hawaii vacation by discussing what makes each area unique.

Trying to balance budget, climate, and preferred amenities is a lot to think about, especially when you are unfamiliar with the island!

We have broken down your decision making steps into manageable parts such as average costs, micro-climate (there are many throughout the island), beach quality, and so on.

In addition to learning about the best areas to stay in Maui, we will also give suggested on the most popular hotels, resorts, and accommodation options in those areas. This is not a one-size-fits all situation, so we have provided the pros and cons to each!

Before you begin, you may also want to load some of our other popular Maui travel guides to help with planning the rest of your Hawaiian vacation:

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🌴 Where to Stay on Maui: Overview of Each Area

A drone photo of Ka'anapali, home to the best beach and the top choice for where to stay on Maui.

At a glance, the best areas to stay on Maui, in order from best to worst, are:

  1. Kihei
  2. Wailea
  3. Ka’anapali
  4. Lahaina
  5. Paia
  6. Hana

Read ahead for explanations on why these specific places come so highly recommended, with beaches and climate being the most important differentiating factors.

This guide will explain how the island of Maui is broken down region by region, then go into the pros and cons to staying in each area.

Once you have learned that, you will find recommendations on the best hotels, resorts, and other places to stay in Maui for each region based on accumulated reviews throughout numerous sources.

πŸ– The Best Areas To Stay On Maui

What is the best area to stay on Maui?

Short Answer: The most popular and best place to stay on Maui for the majority of visitors will be in Kihei or Wailea in the region known as South Maui. Ka’anapali in the West Maui region is the second most-popular choice.

Better Answer:

There are 6 distinct regions on the island of Maui. Understanding the geography and characteristics is important to choosing the best place to stay for your personal preferences.

  • South Maui: The sunniest and most popular region, with beautiful gold sand beaches and incredible snorkeling, as well as excellent shopping and dining options.
  • West Maui: The second-most popular region, also typically sunny and offers beautiful beaches and resorts, though subject to cloud formed by the West Maui Mountains.
  • Central Maui: Not a popular area for tourists as it is more residential, but a good central option as a home base for exploring and potentially less expensive.
  • East Maui: The wet side of the island, a night or two is only recommended for those driving the Road to Hana and interested in nature.
  • North Shore: An underrated destination with stunning beaches and more budget-friendly options, but far more limited and frequently subject to high winds.
  • Upcountry: The least recommended place to stay due to its distance from most things, especially beaches, but popular instead for day trips to Haleakala.
Map of Maui showing the 6 districts in different colors

🍍 Top 5 Best Places to Stay on Maui

These areas are the best places to stay on Maui for the majority of visitors of all varieties. This assessment is based on climate, budget, availability, and proximity to shops, restaurants, and beaches.

β›± 1. Kihei (South Maui)

πŸ“ Kihei Overview

  • Climate: Kihei is one of the driest & sunniest areas to stay in Maui. The average yearly rainfall is only 15 inches (the lowest on Maui.)
  • Beaches: There are 15 beautiful Kihei beaches, some of which are considered the best on the island.
  • Best For: Self-contained resort vacations. Especially good for families.
  • Pros: Amazing climate and beaches, the heart of Maui.
  • Cons: It can be expensive (most of Hawaii is) and is the most crowded part of the island.

About Kihei

Without question, Kihei is the most popular area to stay in Maui. It is located on the west coast in the region known as South Maui and was voted one of the Top 10 Maui towns to visit.

South Maui is where you will find the best weather as well as the most golden-sand beaches, tropical palm trees, and beautiful snorkeling. It is also where most of the restaurants and shopping is. Additionally, is reasonably centrally located for exploring the rest of the island.

Kihei tends to have the most options available for varying budgets. However, there are few hotels in Kihei, instead, you’ll find mostly condos available. Conversely, Wailea (next on this list) is home to more high-end resorts and shops.

Best Hotels, Resorts, & Places to Stay in Kihei

Condos line Kamaole Beach Park in Kihei - the most popular choice when deciding where to stay in Maui
Condos line Kamaole Beach Park in Kihei.

Below are the best places to stay in Kihei based on guest reviews:

πŸŒ… 2. Wailea (South Maui)

πŸ“ Wailea Overview

  • Climate: Wailea has more sunshine and less wind than anywhere else on Maui. The average yearly rainfall is only 15 inches (the lowest on Maui.)
  • Beaches: Some of the best shoreline in Maui, including multiple beaches on the Best Secret Beaches of Maui Top 10 list.
  • Best For: Honeymooners, higher-end vacation travelers.
  • Pros: The best climate and beaches on the island and smaller crowds than Kihei.
  • Cons: Fewer restaurants and facilities, and less budget-friendly.

About Wailea

The second-best area to stay in Maui is in the Wailea-Makena region, just south of Kihei. Both climate and beach quality are similar, but get a little better as you venture further south.

The beaches boast the softest sand on the island, the snorkeling is incredible, the crowds slightly thinner, and there is even less chance of overcast days in Wailea than anywhere else on Maui. Of course, this tends to come with a heftier price tag.

If you’re looking for luxury, 5-star resorts, Wailea is arguably THE best place to stay in Maui. With many renowned high-end hotel brands, luxury shopping at The Shops at Wailea, and golf courses, Wailea is designed for those with a larger budget.

Additionally, for those on a romantic getaway, Wailea boasts the highest density of honeymoon hotels in Maui.

Best Hotels, Resorts, & Places to Stay in Wailea

Swimming pool and cabanas at the five-star, luxury Fairmont Kea Lani hotel in Wailea, Maui
Relax in style at one of Wailea’s many luxury hotels.

Below are the best places to stay in Wailea based on guest reviews:

β˜€οΈ 3. Ka’anapali (West Maui)

πŸ“ Ka’anapali Overview

  • Climate: West Maui receives 24 inches of rain each year (9 inches more than Kihei & Wailea.) It’s still typically sunny, but less consistently than South Maui.
  • Beaches: South Maui inarguably has more soft-sand beaches and striking tropical water than West Maui, but Ka’anapali is the exception! This is, arguably, the best beach on Maui.
  • Best For: Anyone looking to stay in one place for their entire trip to Maui, rather than exploring the island, and honeymooners.
  • Pros: Stunning beach, excellent resorts, very good weather.
  • Cons: Expensive, distant from most Maui highlights, more rain and clouds than South Maui.

About Ka’anapali

Ka’anapali is the best place to stay in West Maui. In fact, Ka’anapali Beach is consistently on the list of the “Best Beaches in America” and has even won the award in years past.

Many people think of it as the “Wailea of West Maui” and compare the two most directly when choosing where to stay in Maui. Much like Wailea, Ka’anapali has the nicest beaches and resorts in the region, along with luxury shops and two championship golf courses.

We would most highly recommend it to those who want a self-contained destination, prefer to spend their entire vacation on one beautiful beach, and don’t plan to venture too far beyond the resort. It is a particularly good place to stay for honeymoon hotels in Maui.

There are plenty of people who insist West Maui is the best area to stay on Maui, preferring it even to South Maui. It is near one of the best snorkeling spots in all of Hawaii at Honolua Bay, the beautiful historic town of Lahaina, and is set against the majestic West Maui Mountains.

Be aware that these mountains, beautiful as they are, create their own microclimate which means a bit more rain and overcast.

Best Hotels, Resorts, & Places to Stay in Ka’anapali

A bus serves Hawaiian shave ice poolside at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is one of the most family-friendly places to stay in Ka’anapali.

Below are the best places to stay in Ka’anapali based on guest reviews:

πŸ„β€β™€οΈ 4. Paia (North Shore)

πŸ“ Paia Overview

  • Climate: Windy but mostly dry with 24 inches of rain annually (same as Ka’anapali and West Maui.)
  • Beaches: Plentiful, beautiful and quiet, but the wind is a problem at times.
  • Best For: People who dislike crowds and/or want to experience something less touristy.
  • Pros: Unique and beautiful with independent shops and hotels, free from high-rises, malls, and typical tourist-traps.
  • Cons: Fewer restaurants, shops, and options for accommodation. Can be windy.

About Paia

The Maui North Shore is one of the great overlooked areas on the island. When we were deciding where to stay on Maui for our second visit, we ended up booking a week near Paia and fell in love with the beaches and vibes.

Most visitors who experience Paia and the north shore beaches only do so as they drive past them on their way to the Road to Hana scenic drive. However, this shoreline is home to some of the most beautiful and least-crowded beaches on the island. Kaulahao Beach and Ho’okipa Beach in particular are the best places to see Hawaiian sea turtles in Maui!

The Maui North Shore is also famous for its windsurfing and kitesurfing, which is the optimistic way of saying it can be very windy.

As it is not as popular a vacation destination as West Maui and South Maui, options are far more limited. That said, though there are few hotel options, there are many vacation rentals on VRBO. Additionally, the spaces tend to be larger and more private and there are no high-rise hotels littering the skyline or beaches.

Best Places to Stay in Paia & Maui North Shore

Boat with "Mama's Fish House" painted on the side provides a sign from the road for the hotel and restaurant.

Below are the best places to stay in Paia and nearby North Shore locations based on guest reviews:

🌺 5. Hana (East Maui)

πŸ“ Hana Overview

  • Climate: The wettest place to stay in Maui with 55 inches of rainfall annually.
  • Beaches: Very limited and probably the worst on the island, with the exception of two incredible miracles of nature known as Red Sand Beach and Black Sand Beach.
  • Best For: 1-2 nights while seeing the many stops on the Road to Hana.
  • Pros: Hana is a very remote and incredibly beautiful area to stay in Maui and provides an experience most will never have.
  • Cons: Extremely limited options for places to stay as well as beaches, and a very wet climate.

About Hana

East Maui is the wet side of the island, receiving 55 inches of rain annually (almost double West Maui and 3.5 times more than South Maui.) This lush rainforest has a unique beauty from that of the rest of the island that is nothing like people imagine when they daydream of Hawaii.

Hana is the only “large” town in the East Maui region, but is still small and offers limited facilities or places to stay.

In general, we would not recommend anyone choose to stay in Hana or East Maui for more than 1-2 nights while exploring the famous Road to Hana.

Those with an adventurous spirit and love for nature, however, should consider at least one night to allow you enough time to see the many waterfalls, beaches, and other marvels in the region.

On that note, Black Sand Beach was a very popular place for camping in East Maui but now requires a permit. If you are interested in camping, be sure to read up on the new requirements for reservations at Waianapanapa State Park.

Best Places to Stay in Hana & East Maui

Landscape photography of Upper Waikani Falls, one of the top stops on the Road to Hana.

Below are the best places to stay in Hana and other East Maui destinations based on guest reviews:

🍍 Other Areas to Stay in Maui

The vast majority of travelers to the Valley Isle will go with one of the options in the list above for where to stay in Maui. However, there are a few other towns and regions worth discussing if for no other reason than to explain why they are not on that list.

🌊 Lahaina

The town of Lahaina in West Maui as seen from the harbor.

The historic town of Lahaina is a charming port-village in the West Maui region. It is absolutely a place worth visiting and is a fine area to stay in Maui, but does not offer any beach access directly and gets very crowded.

Primarily for these reasons, Ka’anapali is just a better choice for vacation travel in West Maui.

🌈 Kapalua Bay

The Kapalua Bay Beach cove as seen from the beach resort in West Maui.

Kapalua Bay is a fancy, self-contained resort town at the northernmost point of West Maui. It is popular for older travelers who want to explore only by golf cart and who prefer the peace and quiet and isolation to the far busier options in West & South Maui.

However, this isolation and expense is the same reason it is not typically considered one of the best places to stay in Maui.

β›° Central Maui

The town of Waikpu Village tucked into the West Maui Mountains on a moody day.

Most locals and residents occupy the inland regions as the coastal areas are simply too expensive. Of the 6 regions, the largest resident Maui population is in the Central Maui region. Accordingly, there are very few hotels and resorts available here but you may be able to score a good deal on someone renting out their extra space on VRBO or something similar.

The benefit to Central Maui is that it is a good home base for exploring the entire island. However, the downside is that pretty much everything worth seeing is a drive.

πŸŒ„ Maui Upcountry

Rain clouds seen over West Maui Mountains at sunset from Upcountry Maui

Much like Central Maui, the Upcountry region is basically residents-only with the exception of guest rooms and guest houses.

The region is entirely landlocked and comprises the areas of elevation near Haleakala. Because of its proximity to the mountain, it is often cloudy and receives more rainfall.

It is potentially the worst area to stay on Maui as everything will be a substantial drive away and the weather is unreliable.

β˜€οΈ How Many Days to Stay on Maui

If you have not yet booked flights and are wondering how many days to stay in Maui, 5-7 days is typically recommended.

Five days is enough time to see all of the highlights of Maui. However, one week is the perfect amount of time for allowing downtime and beach days as well.

As it is a rather small island, most people choose to stay at the same accommodation for the duration of their stay. This increases overall driving distances, but is still better than time lost re-packing and checking into multiple rooms. This is especially true for vacationers who plan on spending all of their time at the resort.

For the adventurous readers determined to see it all, you may want to consider dividing your time between 2-3 different locations. This will help to reduce commutes and allow you to experience more.

🍹 Best Things to Do During your Stay in Maui

Performers at a sunset luau in Maui
Attending a traditional luau, such as the Feast at Mokapu, is one of the best things to do in Maui.

The essential areas to explore outside of the resort areas are the historical town of Lahaina, the Road to Hana, the North Shore, and Haleakala National Park. Additionally, you may want to consider a sunset sail or Luau in Maui. During the winter months, keep an eye out for whales off the coast or go on a whale watching tour to see these majestic sea creatures.

Maui is a small island and even with a short stay, you can see most of the main attractions. Browse our Maui itinerary to discover all the incredible things you can do in Maui and how to plan your vacation so you don’t miss anything!

πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ FAQs About Where to Stay on Maui

The following are answers to the most frequently asked questions when choosing where to stay on Maui. Click the dropdown arrows to the questions below to reveal their answers.

πŸ– Where is the best place to stay in Maui?

The Kihei and Wailea areas of South Maui are the best places to stay in Maui. This region has the best beaches, shopping, & restaurants, the least rainfall & cloud cover, and the most accommodation options on Maui.

West Maui is also popular, particularly the resorts near Lahaina, Ka’anapali, and Kapalua Bay.

πŸŒ… What side of Maui is the best to stay on?

The west coast of Maui, specifically Kihei & Wailea in the region known as “South Maui”, is the best area to stay on Maui. This is the leeward side (dry side) of Maui and where where you will find the best beaches, climate, and options for accommodation.

Which side of Maui has better beaches?

The South Maui region (Kihei and Wailea-Makena) is known for having the best beaches in Maui, though Ka’anapali in the West Maui region is the only one to win the award for “America’s Best Beach.”

🏝 Which part of Maui is the most beautiful?

Each region of Maui offers a different type of beauty, all equally impressive in their own way:

  • South Maui: Quintessential tropical beauty – gold sand, turquoise water, & swaying palm trees.
  • West Maui: Less tropical than South Maui but similar and is set against the majestic West Maui Mountains.
  • North Shore: Fewer palm trees & whiter sand, but more beautiful ocean, lots more turtles, and fewer people.
  • East Maui: A tropical rainforest with dozens of waterfalls and otherworldly beaches, including one of the only Red Sand Beaches in the world.
  • Upcountry: Up in the mountains with amazing views and near the impressive Haleakala volcano.

🌈 Which is better: West Maui or South Maui?

Most people agree that South Maui is the best place to stay in Maui. It gets nearly half the annual rainfall, has a more tropical shoreline, and has more shops, restaurants, and hotels and resorts to choose from.

β˜€οΈ How many days do you need in Maui?

Five days is enough time to see all of the highlights of Maui, but one week is the perfect amount of time to allow downtime and beach days as well.

🏨 Where should you not stay in Maui?

Avoid more than 1-2 nights in East Maui (Hana region) and Maui Upcountry as these are the wettest and most-remote regions. Central Maui is also a poor choice as it is a drive to any of the best beaches and attractions.

πŸ’¨ Which side of Maui is windy?

The eastern side of Maui is the windward side. In particular, the Maui North Shore region is known for being the windiest part of the island, which makes for world-class kiteboarding and windsurfing conditions, but can ruin a day on the beach.

πŸ– Which is better: Wailea or Kaanapali?

Wailea has the best climate with nearly half the annual rainfall and far fewer cloudy days than anywhere else in Maui. However, Kaanapali Beach has been voted the “Best Beach in America” and is the better choice for vacationers who do not want to leave their resort.

🐠 More Maui Travel Guides

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

Planning the perfect Maui vacation requires a lot of effort. Luckily, we have done all the hard work for you!

Before you go, you may want to skim some of the titles for other relevant Maui guides below to ensure you do not miss any epic beaches, sunset destinations, or noteworthy things to do during your visit to the Valley Isle!

A young female swimmer waits on the shore of Red Sand Beach in Maui.
Discover the best Secret Beaches of Maui, including the incredible Red Sand Beach seen above.

🏠 Where to Stay on Maui Final Thoughts

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below πŸ™‚

We hope this travel guide has helped you choose where to stay in Maui for the ultimate Hawaiian vacation you deserve.

As it is such a personal and important decision, we truly hope this helped you understand the pros and cons of each region and make the right choice for you.

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments below. Likewise, we truly appreciate any corrections or opportunities for improvement that you notice while reading. Finally, our inbox is always open if you have any questions you need more help answering: simply email us!

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