Can you get the full experience with just 3 days in Maui? Not really. But, it’s a great place to start if you are short on time and want to have an action-packed itinerary with a little down time. If you are able to stay longer, add rest days in between to get a taste of the island spirit.
Whether you are island hopping or devoting an entire week to Maui, this 3 day Maui itinerary will help you maximize your time on this Hawaiian island and show you some of the top Maui attractions, yummy places to eat, and where to stay.
What to Do in Maui in 3 Days – A Practical Itinerary
With the right planning, three days in Maui can be enough time to hit all the famous landmarks like Haleakala Crater and the Road to Hana, as well as experiencing Hawaiian culture and cuisine.
- Day 1—Haleakala
- Day 2—Road to Hana
- Day 3—Snorkeling and Luau
- Tips for Planning Your 3-Day Maui Itinerary
What to See in Maui in 3 Days
Day 1 in Maui: Haleakala Crater
Sunrise at Haleakala
If you are flying to Maui from the Mainland, you will most likely naturally wake up before the crack of dawn. Take advantage of the time difference and plan to drive up to Haleakala to see one of the best sunrises in Maui.
You have several options. You can drive up yourself (you’ll still need to make a reservation) or you can join a tour. There are a bunch of Haleakala sunrise tours and some even include biking down the mountain.
Regardless of what you choose, you’ll definitely want to bundle up. The weather is very cold up there and you’ll want to wear lots of layers (and even grab blankets from your hotel!)
If you are adventurous, plan on spending some time hiking at Haleakala. If you are less adventurous, continue to the next part of this Maui itinerary.
After getting up early and moving around, your stomach will probably be growling. This is a great opportunity to try a real Hawaiian breakfast. Some of the most popular dishes to try are Loco Moco (rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and then smothered in gravy) or Macadamia Nut Pancakes with Guava Syrup.
If you’re lucky, you can also find places that sell fresh malasadas (Portuguese-style doughnuts.) And be sure to get some Hawaiian coffee or freshly squeeze tropical juice.
There are so many amazing Maui beaches and the best one for you really depends on what you want to do. Some are great for surfing or swimming, while others are better for just laying out and soaking in the sunshine.
If you plan on being at the beach most of the day, find one with food trucks nearby. Or at least a shave ice stand to sustain you until the evening.
For your first night on Maui, you’ll probably be pretty tired with jet lag. So, instead of doing a full dinner, plan on enjoying Hawaiian cocktails and pupus (appetizers) at one of the many restaurants/lounges. Taste a real Hawaiian Mai Tai or Blue Hawaiian cocktail and nibble on Kalua Pork Sliders or Poke Nachos. By the end of Happy Hour, you’ll be ready to climb into bed and rest up for another day of adventure.
Day 2 in Maui: Road to Hana
Driving the Road to Hana
One of the most famous things to do in Maui is to drive the Road to Hana. It’s a super windy road full of scenic lookouts, beaches, hiking trails, and waterfalls. It really is an all-day Maui excursion and you’ll need to pick and choose the stops you want to make. Use the Shaka app to help you decide where you want to stop and what places to skip.
Some of the most popular Road to Hana stops include: The Garden of Eden, the Lava Tube, Halfway to Hana Stand, Wai’anapananapa State Park, the town of Hana, and Seven Sacred Pools (aka Oheo Gulch.) Plus, there are tons of fruit stands with all kinds of produce and treats that are worth a stop.
Because it’s an all-day affair, you’ll want to head out early with a full tank of gas. I suggest grabbing some food in Paia before you start the drive. It will probably be lunchtime by the time you hit the Halfway to Hana Stand. It’s a great spot to grab a quick lunch and their world-famous banana bread.
Try to make it all the way to Oheo Gulch to swim (check to make sure it’s open before you do the full drive.) Then, you can hit Hana town for dinner on your way back. Just be sure to get to Paia before sunset. The Road to Hana can get very dark and scary to drive at night.
If you aren’t up for a full-day adventure, you definitely can do the first half of the Road to Hana and then turn around. The first half is the most scenic (in my opinion) and then you have time to rest in your hotel or hit the beach.
Day 3 in Maui: Snorkeling and Luau
There are so many great Maui snorkeling spots, so you have a few options. A popular snorkeling tour on Maui is a boat trip to Molokini Crater. This is one of the best places to swim with sea turtles and see sea life that is hard to find anywhere else on the island.
You can also join a full-day or half-day Maui snorkeling tour where they will take you out on a boat to secret spots off the coast of Maui.
Or, you can drive to a beach and do your own snorkeling. Maluaka Beach (aka Turtle Town) is a popular Maui snorkeling beach. Another option is Black Rock Beach.
Lunch at Coconut’s Fish Cafe
If you like fish tacos, the best place in Hawaii to get them is Coconut’s Fish Café in Kihei. It’s nearby Maalaea Harbor (where a lot of snorkeling boat tours end), so it’s pretty convenient. Although it’s totally worth the drive from anywhere.
They have fish tacos that are layered with 17 ingredients and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in Hawaii. They are messy and you’ll need both hands to eat them.
And don’t worry, they also have other non-fish items.
Ululani’s Shave Ice
One of the best places to get shave ice on Maui is Ululani’s Shave Ice. They have locations all over Maui, but my favorite is the one in Kihei (just a few minutes from Coconut’s Fish Café.)
They offer fresh fruit syrups and a nice, shady spot to sit and enjoy before heading back to your hotel to get cleaned up for your luau.
One of my favorite things to do in Maui is to experience an authentic Hawaiian luau. While there are tons of luaus on Maui, the most popular are Old Lahaina Luau and the Feast at Lele. These are both located in Lahaina.
The Old Lahaina Luau is perfect for families. They offer hands-on experiences and the show is spectacular. It’s easy to find in Lahaina and it always gets rave reviews.
The Feast at Lele is run by the same company, but they offer a plated gourmet meal and incredible tropical cocktails. While you can bring your whole family, it’s geared more toward couples and honeymooners and is quite romantic.
Whatever luau you choose, it’s a great way to end your 3-day trip to Maui!
Planning Your 3-Day Maui Trip
Find the Perfect Hotel
There are tons of cool places to stay in Maui, but it can be hard to know which part of the island you should stay in without a planned itinerary. Many people choose to stay in Lahaina or Kaanapali, but that adds about 45 minutes of driving each day with this itinerary.
Instead, I recommend that you stay at a vacation rental Paia to take advantage of your closer proximity to Haleakala and the Road to Hana.
If you’d like to stay in a resort, try Wailea. While it’s more upscale than Lahaina and Kaanapali, you’ll save a lot of time driving.
For some budget options, look into condos in Kihei. It’s centrally located with easy access to grocery stores and casual restaurants.
Rent a Car
While Maui does have Uber/Lyft and a public bus, the best way to get around Maui is by renting a car. Reserve one prior to your trip and you can pick it up at the Kahului Airport.
Having a rental car will save you a lot of time and money. You won’t need to rely on tour buses or pay for individual transportation. And you’ll be able to spend as little or long in one destination as you like.
Know Where to Eat
Maui is full of incredible places to eat, especially if you know what to look for.
You’ll want to try an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch. This consists of an entrée (like kalbi ribs, mochiko chicken, or kalua pork) plus 2 scoops of rice and 1 scoop of macaroni salad. You can find these at sit-down restaurants or at food trucks on the island.
Another thing to try is Hawaiian poke. While the poke craze has made it all over the Mainland, it originated in Hawaii. It’s chopped up raw fish that is marinated. It can be eaten with chips, over rice, or by itself.
And you won’t want to leave Maui without trying shave ice. It’s finely shaven ice that is topped with fruit syrup. You can even add mochi and condensed milk on top and a scoop of ice cream on the bottom. It’s the most popular Hawaiian dessert and you’ll find shave ice stands all over Maui.
Bring Reef-Safe Sunscreen
By law, everyone needs to wear reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii. You can buy this ahead of time or wait and buy it when you get to Maui. All sunscreen sold in Maui is reef-safe, but the price can vary depending on where you go. If you are particular about sunscreen, you’ll want to get this ahead of time.
Learn a Few Hawaiian Words
While we’ve all heard the word “Aloha” when people talk about Hawaii (which means, hello, goodbye, and love), it’s helpful to know a few more words.
The garbage cans usually have the phrase “please kokua” on them. Kokua is the Hawaiian word for help. It’s a nice way to say you should throw all your trash away.
Another helpful word to know is “mahalo.” This means thank you and it’s a word you should say often. Finally, the Hawaiian term for bathroom is “lua.” That is different from “luau.” Don’t confuse them or tell anyone you had a fun time at the lua!
Author Bio: Marcie Cheung runs the Hawaii destination site Hawaii Travel with Kids. She provides detailed travel tips and highlights the best things to do, places to stay, and things to eat on your Hawaiian vacation.