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6 tips for traveling to Maui

I live on Oahu and head over to Maui a few times a year, which is pretty easy given that it’s only a 30-minute flight away.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live that close to make the trip, as getting to Maui isn’t overly complicated. However, like visiting the rest of the state, there’s really only one mode of transportation: air travel. 

Once there, the island itself is rather easy to navigate. Here’s all you need to know about getting to the Valley Isle.

Getting to Maui

Kahului Airport is Maui’s main hub for travel. EQ Roy/Shutterstock

Kahului Airport 

As the second-busiest airport in the state of Hawaii, Maui’s main airport is Kahului Airport, offering overseas and interisland flights from 10 different airlines.

It’s likely you’ll be arriving via connecting flight from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, the state’s flight hub that sees nonstop flights from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and a few other cities, though some destinations fly direct to Maui as well.

From the airport to your final destination, you can get a rental car (more on that below), or book an airport shuttle like SpeediShuttle, which travels to Lahaina, Wailea, and Napili and costs less than $50 per person.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you can take bus route 35 (Haiku Islander) or 40 (Upcountry Islander) from the airport; however, if you’re staying on the west or south parts of Maui, you’ll probably need to make a connection. To figure out your bus route, check here.

Tourism has picked up again on Maui, so beware of long TSA lines at Kahului Airport. On a normal weekend in mid-July, I was on Maui heading back to Oahu when I saw people waiting in the hot sun for over an hour. If your flight is around midday on Saturday or Sunday, I recommend arriving as early as three hours ahead of time if you don’t have TSA PreCheck, or use the MyTSA mobile app to get the estimated wait times in real-time. 

Kapalua Airport

Serving West Maui is Kapalua Airport, a small commuter airport with a single runway used by Mokulele Airlines with flights to Honolulu. This no-frills airport is located about seven miles north of Lahaina, making it an option if you’re planning on staying on the west side of Maui. You can reach Kapalua Airport by car or airport shuttle. 

Hana Airport 

Located three miles northwest of Hana, Hana Airport is a small, simple airport offering flights to and from Honolulu on Mokulele Airlines. Hana Airport is accessible by car, but unfortunately, there is no taxi service or public transportation. A prearranged shuttle, such as one provided by your hotel, can be scheduled. You would only fly into Hana Airport if you don’t want to stray from the east side of Maui during your trip, or won’t make it to Kahului in time for your flight. 

To best explore Maui’s beaches and hikes, you’re going to want your own rental car. Mia A’i Shimabuku for Insider

Getting around Maui 

Maui is the second-largest island in the Hawaiian island chain, and because it’s more rural and less developed, relying on walking is impracticable. If you really want to explore less crowded beaches and hikes, trust me when I say that you’re going to want your own rental car. 

That being said, it is possible to see a good portion of Maui by bus, which is the only public transit option. You could also try a rideshare, but venturing into rural areas, like Hana, means it could take a while to get a car if you even get one at all. Here are your best transit options when it comes to exploring the island.

Rental car

With a rental car, you’ll have the freedom to go to almost any hike, restaurant, beach, and, of course, Haleakala, on your own time. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shortage of car rentals in Hawaii, so expect to pay higher rates for well-known companies like AlamoHertz, and Enterprise, which are all located conveniently by the airport. 

For the best rates, check local companies like Go Rent a Car Maui or Kahului Auto Rentals, both of which offer airport pickup and drop-off services. You could also try Turo, which is like Airbnb for cars.

Driving in Hawaii is more relaxed than on the mainland, so no one really honks, but be sure to throw a shaka if someone lets you into their lane.

Car service

Finding an Uber or Lyft ride on Maui is definitely possible but could take some time as there aren’t as many drivers as in urban centers like Honolulu. You may also not want to hail a car service if you’re muddy or sandy. However, for a ride to dinner in a major area, a car service can be an easy way to go.

Public buses

The only form of public transportation on Maui is the bus, which has routes all around the island. It costs $2 for a one-way ride, but you can also get monthly or daily passes, depending on your stay. The bus is a great way to get around on a budget but won’t get you as close to specific locations as a car. You can track live locations of the buses here.

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