Our Guide to the Best Towns in Maui

Wailuku town
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Want to see some of the best towns in Maui? These charming places are worth slowing down for. 

When you choose to visit Maui, you’re deciding 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 the valley isle so charming?

For visitors, day trips to Maui’s little communities can be an experience like no other. So, here’s a look at our top 4 best towns in Maui. 

1. Wailuku 

Just ten minutes from the Kahului Airport, Wailuku town sits at the foot of the dramatic West Maui Mountains. As you first drive into this pleasant place, it feels like you’re entering somewhere that hasn’t changed since the 1960s. There’s an old theater, a few local stores (including a dive shop and a record store), and lines of plantation-era cottages in an array of colors.  

But Wailuku has changed since the last century. Look closer, and you’ll see that some of the decades-old buildings now hold coffee shops, art galleries, vegan restaurants, and theater schools – all of which honor Wailuku’s rich history.

This is likely the only place on Maui where you’ll see professionally dressed residents hurrying around, as Wailuku is home to the county offices and courts.  

Wailuku is located in central Maui and serves as the gateway to Iao Valley. Because of its unique scenery, old-world charm, and local restaurants, Wailuku earns its spot as the best small town in Maui. 

2. Paia

Paia is a colorful North Shore art town filled with vibrant shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and local restaurants. While many local families live in Paia, this is also home to hippie surfer culture, since it’s so close to big wave surfing and great windsurfing. 

The best restaurant to visit in Paia is probably Paia Fish Market, which serves fresh seafood in a casual atmosphere. Lines are usually out the door to get a bite of their delicious creations (it’s got the quality of fine dining with the price-point of a hole-in-the-wall eatery).

While in Paia, head over to Hoʻokipa to see surfers and sea turtles. This town is a great first stop as you head out onto the Road to Hana. 

Located along Maui’s northshore, Paia offers visitors the best the island has to offer.

3. Makawao

What’s so charming about Makawao is its ties to the island’s paniolo culture. The town is located on the slopes of Haleakala Volcano, in the Upcountry region of Maui. 

Paniolo are Hawaiian cowboys (and cowgirls), and they’ve been wrangling cattle in Maui’s mountainslope pastures for over a hundred years. 

Today, paniolo are celebrated at the Makawao rodeo and during its Fourth of July Parade. But no matter when you visit, you can feel the magic of this wild and dedicated community. 

There are many shops throughout downtown Makawao, including smoothie shops, art galleries, and upscale boutiques. 

Don’t leave Makawao without getting a malasada (a Portuguese doughnut) or a cream puff from Komoda Store and Bakery. This Makawao staple was established in 1916 and typically has long lines in the morning. 

Makawao is a great place to visit after watching the sunrise on Haleakala or before driving through the winding roads of upcountry. 

Makawao in upcountry Maui is lined with small town shops, making it a favorite.

4. 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. You’ll need to take the 52-mile Road to Hana to get there, but the drive is worth it for those who 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 a slow-paced vibe. 

But the real attractions are the beaches, such as Hana Beach Park and Hamoa Beach. Also, make sure you check out Waianapanapa State Park just before you reach town. 

Pi’ilanihale Heiau, the island’s largest Hawaiian temple, is also a must-see. It’s located within Kanahu Gardens, one of five National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hawaii.

Tips for Visiting the Best Towns on Maui

If you spend some time in these Maui small towns, you need to be prepared for the relaxed lifestyle and respect the residents’ daily lives. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip to the best towns on Maui:

  • Be ready to take it slow. These are local restaurants and shops with limited employees. Many also serve fresh, local ingredients that take longer to prepare. Waiting for lunch or to check out your souvenirs is a great chance to really take in your surroundings. 
  • Follow all parking signs. Don’t block anyone’s driveways or entrances, and don’t block traffic while you wait for a spot. And watch out for pedestrians crossing the road at any point. Paia probably has the most challenging parking of all these best towns in Maui. 
  • Support local! These towns are a great place to buy a souvenir, a snack, or even a work of art. 

Discovering the Best Towns in Maui

While there are great places to visit throughout Maui, these small towns have a special charm. The ability to walk through historic streets and experience a taste of local life is invaluable. So make sure you include these great places in your Hawaii vacation itinerary – you won’t regret it.