Whew that title was a mouthful! Last summer, I went on a trip out to Maui – it wasn’t my first time out to the islands, but it was my first time that this trip would be a dedicated photography trip, every sunrise and sunset planned for optimal shooting – pretty much my dream trip. I was lucky enough to travel with my partner, who suffered through many long days as I attempted to get the most out of my time there. But I treated him with lots of yummy food to keep him going, and we spent many afternoons between sunrises and sunsets just resting at the beach, which was so incredibly relaxing. I wanted to write up and share a guide to my trip so you can have your own island getaway, and what better time to dream of tropical vacations than in the middle of winter. It’s also the perfect time to book a trip! Nudge, nudge. Here are 15 photos that will break you out of your winter funk and inspire you to explore Maui:

What to Do in Maui: Photography Hotspots

Visit Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is a must-do on the island. Head up to the volcano top for a sunrise or a sunset, or hike one of the many trails in the area. Haleakala has a little bit of everything – Mars-like volcano views, forests, waterfalls, and colorful birds.

Spend an Afternoon at the Beach

Beaches need no explanation – surfing, tanning, swimming, snorkeling, beach volleyball, BBQ – go enjoy some Vitamin D! But make sure you sunscreen up AND make sure that you either buy sunscreen on the island or check that your sunscreen is reef safe as Hawaii has banned sunscreens with certain chemicals that could damage coral populations.

Go For a Hike

The hills of west Maui have a myriad of beautiful trails that take you up to high overlooks, pass by distant waterfalls, and surround you with the most amazing greenery. If you want a closer look at some of these waterfalls, there are many helicopter tours in the area that will give you spectacular views.

Drive the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is famous for its incredible waterfalls and stunning ocean cliff views around every bend. That being said, make sure you are careful with your rental car and drive cautiously. The roads are busy and narrow, with lots of small bridges where you must yield to oncoming traffic. Finally, make sure you gas up in Paia, your last place to do so before Hana itself.

Visit a State Park

Iao Valley State Park is a lush, gorgeous location that was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Fog often is trapped in the valley and creates a moody look to your photographs.

Go Snorkeling (or Visit the Aquarium)

The ocean sealife is truly spectacular on the islands. See the colorful fishes while snorkeling, or if getting in the water isn’t your cup of tea, visit the Maui Ocean Center, the island’s aquarium and oceanography center. One note on wildlife on the islands – if you see a turtle in the water and especially on land, PLEASE maintain a thirty foot distance at ALL TIMES. No going up and trying to take a selfie, no touching them – only take your photographs from a safe distance. Coming any closer to the turtle may cause it stress and can be harmful to its health and its life – i.e. not worth the selfie.

Catch a Sunrise in Paia

Or anywhere that faces east-ish – where the sun will rise!

Catch a Sunset in Kihei

OR ANY BEACH, really. Every sunset is amazing in Maui, it really defies physics. Head to the beach and catch all that beautiful glory.

Go Birding

The islands of Hawaii hosts many wondrously colorful endemic birds. Pictured here is the stunning ‘I’wi bird. Check out hotspots for birding here.

Head Uplands

Upcountry Maui refers to the area nestled in the hills of Haleakala. Scenic drives, wineries, lavender farms, farmers markets, and ranches all make this a unique area. I highly recommend the burgers at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store.

And for Three Bonus Photos! Go Tidepooling

There are so many fun tidepools to explore on Maui. Sea stars, hermit crabs, a variety of fish, and more await your discovery. Just remember to be respectful and cautious around ocean life, and always always double check the tides. Low tide is best for tidepooling, and be aware of when the tide is coming in so you don’t get stuck out on the rocks or get hit by an unexpected wave.

Other Things To Do in Maui

Some things that didn’t make the main list but are nevertheless worth mentioning are shopping, scuba diving on Molokini, and whale watching. Kihei and Lahaina are bursting with shopping opportunities, which is a great thing to do during one of Maui’s inevitable rain storms. Scuba diving around the island is fantastic, but it’s even better on Molokini with a boat tour. Finally, if you are there during the winter months, definitely take a boat out to see the whales. It is an experience that you won’t forget.

Where To Stay

There are many places to stay on the island – the main places being Kihei, Lahaina, and Hana. For our trip, we made our base in Kihei, so I just have recommendations for there. The hotels on the island can be expensive but are all phenomenal, but I always love staying in a condo so I can do my own cooking and feel a little more at home. We stayed at the condos at the Hale Kamaole Co-Op, and I recommend units 170, 174, and 176.

What to Eat

Kihei
Kihei Caffe – amazing fried rice
Da kitchen – Kahlua pork that is to die for
Wow Wow Lemonade – my favorite Açai bowls in the world
Kō – one of the many delicious upscale restaurants in Kihei, my favorite for a romantic night

Lahaina
Kimos – known for their famous hula pie
Aloha Mixed Plate – features a beachy patio and traditional Hawaiian fare
Pacific’O – a good romantic place for seafood and sunsets

Road to Hana
Mama’s fish house in Paia – start with seafood and ocean views before your drive
Halfway to Hana stand – midway to Hana, stop at this stand for banana bread that will make your life complete
Huli Huli Chicken – once in Hana, grab some delicious chicken to refuel on your adventure

Comment below if this guide inspired you to visit Maui, and let me know what destination you would like to discover next. And definitely don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future blog posts, upcoming workshops, shop sales, and more! Plus, get 5 free Lightroom presets and my free travel packing checklist when you sign up!

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