When you choose to make a neighbor island your Hawaii destination, you’re already making the decision to avoid the “big city” of Honolulu and enjoy a more rural experience. But, what if you went a step further and REALLY explored some of the small towns that make our neighbor islands so charming?
Even though Maui is a bit more populated than years ago, you can still find an abundance of small towns that ooze charm. For visitors, day trips to these quaint communities can be an experience like no other. So, here’s a look at our top 5 small towns on Maui:
1. Wailuku: Wailuku has so much “going for it” at the present time — it’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence, if you will! Just ten minutes from the Kahului Airport, the town sits at the foot of the dramatic West Maui Mountains. Visiting this pleasant town, you’ll think you may have wandered into a town that hasn’t changed much since the 1960’s. But, then again it HAS. To really appreciate the dichotomy of the “old” and “new,” you’ll need to see for yourself. For example, you’ll see mom-and-pop shops from generations ago sitting right next to a strip of more contemporary boutiques, chilled-out coffee shops, and stylish cafés.
2. Paia: According to Fodors, Paia was once a plantation town that’s now divided into Lower Paia and Paia, which are both worth exploring. “Now that Maui’s sugarcane industry is no longer booming, Paia has transformed into an art town filled with colorful storefronts and galleries in addition to one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants.” Fodors recommends popping by the Paia Fishmarket for a quick bite and visiting Hookipa Beach, known as the windsurfing capital of the world.
3. Lahaina: For the outdoor enthusiast and the history buff, there’s no better place on Maui than Lahaina. Here, you can book a Sport Fishing Charter, a Sunset Dinner Sail, or a Whale Watching Tour all in just a few days! But, you’ll want to leave yourselves a bit of time to stroll through some of the small shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Lahaina is also home to the Lahaina Heritage Museum, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, and the Wo Hing Temple Museum.
4. Makawao: What’s so charming about Makawao is its ties to the island’s paniolo past. According to Fodors, the town is located on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, Makawao is the largest of the little towns in the region known as Upcountry Maui. “The area’s cowboys, or paniolo, as locals refer to them, have been wrangling cattle in the wide-open upland fields since the late 19th century, and for more than 50 years the Makawao Rodeo has been Hawaii’s largest paniolo competition.” The rodeo is held over Fourth of July weekend. Fodors also recommends indulging in a famous cream puff from T. Komoda Store, which was established in 1916 and typically has long lines in the morning. Makawao is also a thriving art community, so visitors can roam the streets and watch wood sculptors, glassblowers, and painters working on their craft.
5. Hana: Of course, we couldn’t write a blog about Maui’s best small towns without mentioning Hana! Because it’s so isolated, even its fame doesn’t attract TOO many visitors. To get there, you’ll need to take the 52-mile Road to Hana, but the drive is worth it for those who really want to experience breathtaking beauty. Hana is considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers. In town, you’ll find a general store, a few shops, street food vendors, and such. Fodors says the real attractions are the beaches, such as Hana Beach Park and Hamoa Beach. Also, make sure you check out Waianapanapa State Park. Hale Piilani, the largest Hawaiian temple, is also a must-see, as is Kanahu Gardens, one of five National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hawaii.
These small towns on Maui offer way more than just a day of exploration — they give visitors a peek into what life was like before the tourism rush began. So, make sure you make room on your schedule for a visit!
Posted by: Bruce Fisher