Maui with a Baby or Toddler


Maui with a baby

After visiting Maui twice with our daughter, at 3 months old and again at 20 months old, we have learned a lot about visiting Maui with a baby or toddler.  We’ve learned the most baby-friendly and toddler-friendly activities on the island to explore. We also have recommendations on what to avoid and how to optimize activities while visiting Maui with a baby or toddler.  From the beautiful beaches to the exotic rainforests to the endless beautiful waterfalls to the world’s largest dormant volcano, the adventures you can have on Maui with your baby or toddler are countless.  Here is a breakdown of our baby friendly/toddler friendly activity recommendations, where to eat, where to stay and general Maui with baby or toddler tips.   

Maui with a baby

For tips on traveling with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


Maui Baby-Friendly & Toddler Friendly Activities


Highlights of our trips to Maui with our baby, and then toddler, included watching sunrise over the summit at Haleakala National Park, hiking through a bamboo forest, seeing countless awe-inspiring waterfalls, hiking along the coastlines, exploring the mountains of Maui, driving the insanely windy Road to Hana, seeing sea turtles and relaxing/playing on the many of the perfectly picturesque white sand beaches. Continue reading below for more information on all the above. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Visit Baby Beach in Lahaina 

Maui with a baby

Did you know there is a ‘Baby Beach’ in Lahaina perfect for your baby or toddler to explore?  ‘Baby Beach’ gets its name because it has much calmer waters than most other beaches on Maui.  This is due to offshore breakwater blocking and reefs that prevent many of the big waves from reaching the shore.  Our daughter loved playing here in the sand and splashing in the calm water.  Not only was the water calm here but there were also a lot of other babies and toddlers for her to see exploring the water, making her more curious about getting wet and less afraid of the water. Further, it was fun to have her play with some other babies and toddlers on the beach.  And as parents, it was nice to connect with other parents with kids of a similar age. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Visit Other Baby Friendly Beaches

Maui with a baby

Some of our favorite days on Maui were spent at the beach playing in the sand and splashing in the waves with our daughter.  Here is a list of other beaches we found to have calmer water or natural reefs so that the waves broke before reaching our baby or toddler on the sand:

  • Maluaka Beach in Wailea area
  • Airport Beach in Lahaina 
  • Kaanapali Beach in Lahaina 

Further, we would recommend avoiding most of the beaches on the north side of the island with your baby or toddler as the waves tend to be notoriously more intense. Great for surfing, not great for a baby or toddler. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Hike and Explore Iao Valley State Monument

Maui with a baby

Iao Valley State Monument is a great place to spend a morning exploring the rainforest with your baby or toddler while visiting Maui.  This state park is among the rainforest-covered mountains in the heart of Central Maui. The climb up to the summit, where you can see the Iao Needle shaped monument (shoots 1,200 feet in the air from the valley floor), was not difficult and was much shorter than we expected. Through this area, there are approximately 0.6 miles worth of trails through the rainforest.  Our daughter loved looking up at all the local flora while exploring the paths.  This is an easy place to have your toddler try out some ‘hiking’ on the flat garden trails too. 

Cost: $5/person and $10 to park

Maui with a baby

Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Sunrise over Haleakala Summit 

Seeing the sunrise at the summit at Haleakala National Park is really a surreal experience. The sun rising over the dormant volcano among the clouds is really a sight everyone should see in-person in their lifetime.  Pictures and videos truly do not do this justice. The colors that illuminate the sky are out of this world. You really feel like you are in the clouds with the summit at 10,000 feet. This sunrise is a fun, and easy, event to do with your baby or toddler too as it requires no hiking but only driving up to the Haleakala Summit.  We liked doing this so much that we did it both times we visited Maui with our daughter when she was less than 2 years old. 

See Haleakela sunrise on your first day visiting Maui with your baby or toddler

Note, in order to reach the summit of Haleakla in time to see the sunrise, you will likely need to leave your place around 3:30/4:00 AM (check sunrise time at the time of your visit as it varies throughout the year).  If traveling east to west (like most people visiting from the US), try to do this on your first day before you are fully adjusted to the Hawaii time zone as it will make getting up so early easier on you as well as your baby or toddler.

Maui with a baby

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass (pays for itself if you plan to visit more than 2 National Parks in one year), $1 for sunrise tickets – bought ahead of time on recreation.gov as spots are limited for early entrance to the park for sunrise (can buy 60 days in advance).

For more information and for all the details on watching the sunrise at Haleakala, see our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Explore more of the West Side of Haleakala National Park

Also, while on the West side of Haleakala National Park, after watching sunrise, be sure to check out the Sliding Sands Trail and some of the other lookout points. This trail is over 11 miles long but you really do not need to hike all of that to get some amazing crater views.  Even hiking a mile or less each way will afford you stunning mars-like crater views.  Beware that this is a steep hike though and you have driven up to higher elevation. You need to be prepared to hike back up the steep crater while baby wearing.  Therefore, be mindful of your fitness level while descending into the crater as that is much easier than ascending up it. 

Maui with a baby

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass 

See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there, including seeing the East side of the park (the other side of the island) . 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Hike Waihee Ridge

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a 4.2 Miles round trip out & back hike with 1500 feet of elevation gain and affords some amazing, lush, mountainous valley views.  Although steep, this hike is doable while babywearing with a reasonable level of fitness.  Our daughter loved taking in the vast views on this hike as well as walking around at the flat summit of the hike.  Further, this hike was a tranquil forest escape from the crowds of beachgoers. 

Maui with a baby

On the Waihee Ridge trail, there is also a nice platform with some great views (arguably our favorite on the trail) about 1 mile into the hike.  If you do not want to hike the whole Waihee Ridge trail with your baby or toddler, hiking just to this spot would offer very rewarding views too for less effort.  

Important Maui with Baby or Toddler Tip: Have Sun Protection 

While hiking this trail with a baby or toddler, be mindful to have good sun protection for your baby or toddler as most of the hike has significant sun exposure.  The first half of the outbound hike is less rocky and a bit less steep with some sun cover.  The second half of the outbound hike is steeper, a bit more rocky and with virtually no sun protection

Important Maui with Baby or Toddler Tip: Arrive Early to Avoid Longer Hike, Crowds & Intense Sun

If you arrive at the Waihee Ridge trail after 9 AM, you will likely need to park in overflow parking that adds almost a mile each way of just walking on the paved inclined road that leads to the main parking lot. The trailhead is gated and open 7 AM – 7 PM daily.    We would highly recommend arriving earlier than 9 AM to avoid crowds, the direct/more intense sun and needing to park further away.  Also, hike on a weekday to avoid further crowds.

Other Miscellaneous Waihee Ridge Tips

Try to go on a clear day to avoid mountains being covered in clouds. Also, if it is raining or recent rain, the trail may be very slippery.  Moreover, do not have any belongings you can see in the car in the parking lot as breakins have been reported here. Bring everything with you or store any belongings in a covered trunk to reduce the break-in chance. 

Cost: Free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Kapalua Coastal Trail 

Maui with a baby

This 3 mile out & back round trip hike with 300 feet of elevation gain is a relatively easy coastal trail to complete with your baby or toddler.  It takes you along sand dunes and lava rock.  It is not stroller friendly but easy to complete while baby wearing.  Try to walk this trail early as it is completely exposed to the sun.  To access this trail, park at the public beach access lot.  

Cost: Free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Walk the Kaanapali Beach Walk

Maui with a baby

When visiting Maui with a baby or toddler, be sure to check out this lively 3 mile paved and stroller friendly path.  This path is along the beautiful resort lined Kaanapali Beach and is lined with many shops, restaurants and stands.  Our daughter loved being rolled along this path and waving to beachgoers on the way.  This beach is great for people watching but with that in mind, do not expect any seclusion here. Feel free to stop at any of the spots on Kaanapali beach along the way. 

Cost: Free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Walk the Wailea Beach Walk

If looking for another stroller friendly paved path, check out the 3.2 mile round-trip Wailea beach walk.  This hike takes you along the coastline past condos and resorts in this high-end area.  It makes for an easy walk.  It is less bustling than the Kaanapali Beach Walk and offers a level of serenity you will not find there.  Feel free to stop at any of the beaches along the way with your baby or toddler too. 

Cost: Free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

Ali’i Kula Lavender is a botanical garden-like farm you can walk around and look at very pretty flowers, including many lavender plants, and other local flora.  Our daughter loved walking around the gardens and particularly smelling the lavender.  Visit this on the same day you visit Haleakela for sunrise as it is on your descent down the mountain. 

Cost: $3/person, less than 12 years old free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Drive the Road to Hana

This was the most memorable activity we’ve done on Maui.  With over 620 turns and 59 one-lane bridges, driving the windy Road to Hana is really an experience not just a drive.  Along the way, you will see many picturesque waterfalls, lots of cute roadside fruit stands, gorgeous coastline views and lots of pretty unique rainforest flora. 

IMPORTANT Maui with a Baby and Toddler Tip: Drive Road to Hana in 2 Days

We drove the Road to Hana in one day with our 3 month old daughter and it was less than ideal.  It was A LOT of driving for one day.  We highly recommend breaking your trip up into 2 days instead, especially if visiting Maui with a baby or toddler.  

The Road to Hana takes, at minimum, 2.5 hours to drive one-way.  With all the stops you will make to take pictures and with time spent waiting at one way bridges, budget for at least 3 hours, if not more, each way.  In addition, you will likely make some longer stops to hike, explore state parks or eat at the roadside stands.  Driving 6 hours with a baby or toddler in one day while trying to squeeze in all the activities, is not ideal when visiting Maui with a baby or toddler (not to mention the drive may be longer if you are not staying at the start of the Road to Hana; most people’s accommodations are about an hour from the start as the nicest beaches are further away). 

Road to Hana with a Baby or Toddler: Build Your Own Experience

The Road to Hana is really a ‘build your own experience’ activity as the stops you choose to take along the way will really create a different experience for each person who drives it.  You can’t possibly stop at and enjoy everything along the way, especially when visiting Maui with a baby or toddler, even if you are driving it in two days.  See our 5 Top Stops on the Road to Hana post to see our recommendations on where to stop on your journey.   Our favorite stops were the Twin Falls Hike in Haiku and the Pipiwai Trail Hike on the East side of Haleakala National Park, both which are baby and toddler friendly when baby wearing. 

Cost: Free to drive, variable cost for activities along the way


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Hike Pipiwai Trail on the east side of Haleakala

This hike on the Pipiwai Trail (4.0 miles round trip, 650 feet of elevation gain) was our furthest away stop on the Road to Hana and well worth the drive. It is actually located after Hana so make sure to continue on to reach this trail in the east part of Haleakala National Park. 

This hike is super neat because you first hike through the rainforest and then through a bamboo forest before coming to the impressively tall Waimoku waterfall.  On the hike, you will also see a huge Banyan Tree.  The contrasting views keep your interest throughout the journey and is well worth the 4 mile round-trip hike. Our daughter loved looking at all the varying scenery around her while on this hike.  We would rate this hike as relatively easy as the elevation gain is well spread out. 

Important Maui with a baby or toddler tip: Arrive Early to the east Side of Haleakala National Park

We recommend arriving at this trailhead early.  When we arrived around 8am on a weekday, we were one of three cars, but by the time we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was completely full and cars were parking in an overflow lot. We are glad we got to enjoy this trail with our baby without the crowds.  

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass. See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there.  


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Hike Oheo Gulch on the East side of Haleakala

You can also hike the shorter Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools trail on the East side of Haleakala National Park that is 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation change.  The trailhead is at the same spot as the Pipiwai Trail.  We completed this hike after the Pipiwai trail and found it to be very easy and scenic. This would be another great spot for your toddler to try out ‘hiking’ and is an easy spot to hike baby carrying. 

Note: The east and west side of Haleakala National Park cannot be accessed from the same road. They have to be accessed completely separately and you will not be able to feasibly visit them both in one day. 

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass.  See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Hike Twin Falls

The Twin Falls trail (1.8 Mile round trip, 347 feet of elevation gain) is a fun hike that takes you to three different waterfalls through the rainforest.  The first two waterfalls you encounter on this hike look similar and are a very short hike, about 0.2 miles from the parking lot.  The third waterfall is a bit further of a hike from those two but, in our opinion, was the most scenic of the three. Be sure not to stop hiking after the first two waterfalls.  You can also go swimming at this third waterfall.   

We took our time with this hike, hiking down to each waterfall and exploring around them, and it took us about 1.5 hours total.  The hike was relaxing, as it was relatively easy, and you saw a lot in a short period.  The trail, especially down by the waterfalls, was very slippery, as it had just rained when we visited so make sure to wear good hiking shoes. 

Important Maui with a baby or toddler tip: Hike on different day than when you drive Road to Hana

This hike is another stop on the Road to Hana, at the very beginning near MM 2.  We actually hiked this trail a different day than when we drove the Road to Hana as it was only about 10 minutes from our Airbnb. We are glad we did it this way, especially with our baby, as we did not feel rushed hiking it at all then as the Road to Hana is already a very full day experience. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Take a family-friendly boat/snorkel excursion

While on Maui with our 20 month old, we booked a boat tour that took us out to go snorkeling at the pristine Molokini Crater.  On this boat tour, we were also fortunate enough to see whales on our way to Molokini Crater, unusual for the time of year we visited in April.  Although our baby could not participate in the snorkeling, she had the option to go swimming with us at Molokini Crater and had fun hanging out on the boat with us as we took turns snorkeling.  There also was a glass bottom room on the boat which was great for viewing into the water without snorkeling. 

Tip: If possible, bring another friend or family member on this excursion with you. We had a friend traveling with us at the time and it was nice to have an extra set of hands when taking turns between watching our daughter and snorkeling. 

For more on snorkeling on Maui and at Molokini Crater, see our Top 3 Maui Snorkeling Spots article.  

Cost: Varies based on company, approximately $150 per adult, $115 per ages 3-12 and children less than 3 are free with Fours Winds Maui (company we used) 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: See Sea Turtles at a Beach

Seeing sea turtles on the beach is so cool and your baby or toddler is sure to think so too.  Two places you will likely always see sea turtles include Makena Landing in the Wailea area on the southern side of the island and Hookipa Beach near Paia on the northern side of the island.   Check out both to see how many turtles you can see.

Cost: Free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Visit the Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center is open daily 9 AM -5 PM and is a great rainy day activity on Maui with your baby or toddler.  Here you can see plenty of different local marine wildlife.  If your baby or toddler is anything like ours, she loves with different animals and would love this.  We have not personally been here, as we had no full rain days during our visit, but keep this on the back burner if it does rain as an alternative to any of the above activities.  

Cost: Adult 13+ $39.95, ages 4-12 $26.95 and ages less than 4 free


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Eat


HuiHui

HuiHui was voted the best new restaurant of 2022, we couldn’t agree more.  We had a delicious Hawaiian Meal here (arguably the best food we had on Maui) AND our 20 month old daughter actually ate for free, making it our top recommendation on where to eat with a baby or toddler.  At the time of our visit, all kids under 5 ate for free which was an added perk to our delicious meal.  The waitstaff was also very kind and attentive to our daughter.  We both got food (Natalie fish, Sam Pork) cooked in a banana leaf and both dishes were perfect.  Our daughter got pizza and thought that was the bomb too.  


Monkeypod

This restaurant has two locations on Maui, one in Wailea on the south shore and one on Kaanapali beach on the west side of Maui. Everything in this restaurant is made from scratch. They are very well known for their Mai Tais (named best on Maui year after year). We really do not think you could go wrong with anything on the menu. We’ve eaten at both the locations in Wailea and Kaanapali.  We had really good meals at both! Our daughter was also given a lei at the location in Kaanapali making our dinner a little more special for her.


Food Trucks

Food trucks are literally EVERYWHERE on Maui.  There are parking lots filled with them in almost every town and ones along the road too.  Food trucks are a great option when visiting Maui with a baby or toddler for a less formal meal and everyone can get what they want at the meal.   


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: Where to Stay


We recommend staying in the Kaanapali Beach Area with your baby or toddler when visiting Maui.  This is a great area to stay with your little one because you are near the paved stroller friendly Kaanapali path and close to some of the best baby and toddler friendly restaurants and beaches on Maui.  However, if you are looking for more of a budget option and to be more centrally located/closer to the road to Hana and Haleakala Summit, we recommend staying in the Paia or Haiku area.   To find the perfect accommodations for you, we highly recommend booking through Maui Paradise Properties.  See out The Best Maui Vacation Rentals post to see a breakdown on why we found this to be the best platform for finding and booking a Maui vacation rental.  

Note, wherever you stay on the island, unless changing accommodations every couple nights, you will need to drive about an hour one way most days to get to your activities.  Unfortunately, things are spread out throughout Maui.  However, we found the driving manageable with our daughter as a baby and toddler.  Just be mindful not to pack too many activities into one day as everything takes longer with a baby or toddler than you would expect. 


Maui with a Baby or Toddler: General Tips


Visit for a week or longer

When visiting Maui with a baby or toddler, we recommend spending at least a week here, if not longer.  This will allow you plenty of time to see these highlights as well as to spend some time relaxing/playing on the beach. Honestly, most of our favorite days were beach days.  Make sure to leave time for plenty of beach days! 

Don’t overbook/plan your days

As mentioned above, everything takes longer with a baby or toddler and it is unrealistic to try to cram too much into one day.  Plan for less and do more depending on how things are going.  Setting realistic expectations for your trip is key to negating any disappointment. 

Remember, babies and toddlers live on Maui

If you forget something at home, there are plenty of stores (Costco, Target, Walmart, etc.) on the island where you will likely be able to get whatever you need. 


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Maui with a baby or toddler.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  For tips on traveling with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.

For more tips on Hawaii travel, see other Hawaii guides including:

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Top 3 Maui Snorkeling Spots 


top maui snorkeling

Maui has some of the best snorkeling in the world.  This Hawaiian island, known for its crystal clear blue water and pristine beaches, makes it the perfect spot to see some of the best fish, marine life and coral while snorkeling.  After numerous trips to Maui and snorkeling all over the island, here is our guide on the top 3 Maui snorkeling spots. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


#1 Top Maui Snorkeling Spot: Molokini Crater 

Molokini Crater is hands-down the best snorkeling spot on Maui.  This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater is an uninhabited islet located 3 miles off the west coast of Maui. The crater shape keeps the waters near it calm and great for snorkeling/visibility.  There are over 250 diverse marine species here, including many different colorful fish and over thirty types of coral. Further, the water in the crater is very clear and you often afforded 150 feet of visibility.   We saw so many variable bright and colorful fish as well as tons of different pretty coral during our time.  We snorkeled here longer than at any other spot because the fish, coral and viability was astounding. 

top maui snorkeling

To get to Molokini Crater, you need to take a boat. We highly recommend taking the Four Winds Maui Morning Snorkel to Molokini Crater tour.  We recommend the morning tour over the afternoon tour as the waters are the best for snorkeling in this area before the afternoon trade winds come in.  On this boat tour, on our way to/from Molokini Crater, we also got to see about 5 different whales (outside of whale season) and this was an added bonus to this trip.  


Looking for great yet affordable snorkel gear? This is the snorkeling gear we used snorkeling on our own in Hawaii.  


#2 Top Maui Snorkeling Spot: Makena Landing

top maui snorkeling

Makena Landing Beach Park is another great snorkeling spot on the southern coast of Maui near Wailea. The water is clear and relatively calm here in the small protected bay area making for awesome snorkeling through the coral not far off the shore.  Also, you will likely not only see fish here but there is a high likelihood you will see sea turtles while snorkeling at Makena Landing Park.  If not snorkeling, you will likely see them on a rocky beach in a roped off area just north of the main sandy beach.  We also were lucky enough to see an octopus snorkeling here.  Snorkel in the morning to avoid washing machine waters that can develop in the afternoon. 


Pro-tip to prevent goggle fogging: Smear a very light coat of baby shampoo on the inside of the goggles and do not put them in the water after that (put goggles directly on your face) to prevent fogging.  Inexpensive and works like a charm! 


#3 Top Maui Snorkeling Spot: Mile Marker 14

top maui snorkeling

Mile Marker 14, aka Olowalu beach, is a bit of a local hidden snorkeling gem. It is not far from the popular Kaanapali beach area, yet most people do not know to stop here for great snorkeling. The waters off shore here are shallow, relatively calm and clear which make it a great spot for beginners to start to snorkel. Here, we saw a lot of different pretty fish, colorful coral and even a sea turtle.  Snorkel here in the morning for the best experience as waters can get more choppy in the afternoon and the area becomes more busy. 


We hope this guide helps you plan where to go snorkeling on your trip to Maui.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

For more tips on Hawaii travel, see other Hawaii guides including:

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Top 5 Best Hikes on Maui


Top Maui Hikes

Maui is one of the best Hawaiian islands to go for a hike due its contrasting scenery on nearly every part of the island.  From bamboo forests to lush mountains to desert landscape to waterfall paradises to volcanic rock trails, you’ll be in hiking heaven (or Mars).  After visiting Maui several times and hiking as many trails as we could there, here is our guide on the Top 5 Hikes on Maui.  

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


#1 Top Hike on Maui: Pipiwai Trail


Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park, 4.0 Miles round trip, 650 feet of elevation gain, out & back

This hike on the Pipiwai Trail was our furthest away stop on the Road to Hana and well worth the drive. It is actually located after Hana so make sure to continue on to reach this trail in the east part of Haleakala National Park.  

Top Maui Hikes

Unique Rainforest and Bamboo Forest Flora

This hike is super neat because you first hike through the rainforest and then through a bamboo forest before coming to the impressively tall Waimoku waterfall. On the hike, you will also see a huge Banyan Tree.  The contrasting views keep your interest throughout and the effort is well worth the 4 mile round-trip hike.  We would rate this hike as relatively easy as the elevation gain is well spread out.  

Top Maui Hikes

Arrive Early

We recommend arriving at this trailhead early.  When we arrived around 8am, we were one of three cars, but by the time we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was completely full and cars were parking in an overflow lot. 

Bonus: Hike Oheo Gulch 

You can also hike the shorter Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools trail here that is 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation change.  The trailhead is at the same spot as the Pipiwai Trail.  This trail will take you past the coastline, past a waterfall and through some pretty local flora.  We completed this hike after the Pipiwai trail and found it to be very easy and scenic. 

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass (pays for itself if you plan to visit more than 2 National Parks in one year)

See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there, including seeing the west side of the park (the other side of the island).


#2 Top Hike Maui: Waihee Ridge


Waihee Ridge Trail, Wailuku, 4.2 Miles round trip, 1500 feet of elevation gain, out & back hike

The Waihee Ridge Trail affords some amazing lush mountainous valley views.  Although steep, this hike is doable with a reasonable level of fitness, even if babywearing.  Our daughter loved taking in the vast views on this hike as well as walking around at the flat summit.  Further, this hike is a tranquil forest escape from the crowds of Maui beachgoers. 

Top Maui Hikes

Astounding Mountain Views

On the Waihee Ridge trail, there is also a nice platform with some great views (arguably our favorite views on the trail) about 1 mile into the hike.  If you do not want to hike the whole Waihee Ridge trail, hiking just to this spot would offer very rewarding views for less effort.  

Have Sun Protection 

While hiking this trail, be mindful to have good sun protection as most of the hike has significant sun exposure.  The first half of the outbound hike is less rocky and a bit less steep with some sun cover.  The second half of the outbound hike is steeper, a bit more rocky and with virtually no sun protection

Arrive Early to Avoid Longer Hike, Crowds & Intense Sun

If you arrive at the Waihee Ridge trail after 9 AM, you will likely need to park in overflow parking that adds almost a mile each way of walking on the paved inclined road that leads to the main parking lot. The trailhead is gated and open 7 AM – 7 PM daily.    We would highly recommend arriving earlier than 9 AM to avoid crowds, direct/more intense sun and needing to park further away. 

Other Miscellaneous Waihee Ridge Tips

Try to go on a clear day to avoid the mountains being covered in clouds. Also, if it is raining or recently rained, the trail may be very slippery.  Moreover, do not leave any belongings you can see in the car as break-ins have been reported here. Bring everything with you or store any belongings in a covered trunk to reduce the break-in chance.

Cost: Free


Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 8+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


#3 Top Hike Maui: Twin Falls


1.8 Mile round trip (without offshoots to each waterfall), 347 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Twin Falls is a fun and short hike. It takes you to three different waterfalls through the rainforest.  The first two waterfalls you encounter on this hike look similar and are a very short hike, about 0.2 miles, from the parking lot.  The third waterfall is a bit further of a hike from those two but, in our opinion, was the most scenic of the three. Be sure not to stop hiking after the first two waterfalls.  You can also go swimming at this third waterfall.   

We took our time with this hike, hiking down to each waterfall and exploring around them, and it took us about 1.5 hours total.  The hike was relaxing, as it was relatively easy, and you saw a lot in a short period.  The trail, especially down by the waterfalls, was very slippery, as it had just rained when we visited so make sure to wear good hiking shoes. 

This hike is another stop on the Road to Hana, at the very beginning near MM 2.  We actually hiked this trail a different day than when we drove the Road to Hana as it was only about 10 minutes from our Airbnb. We are glad we did it this way as we did not feel rushed hiking it at all then as the Road to Hana is already a very full day experience. 

Twin Falls Tip: Arrive Early to Avoid Crowds

We almost did not hike this trail due to reviews we read saying it was too busy. However, we saw less than 10 total other people when we hiked this trail at around 7am. We honestly felt like we had most of this trail to ourselves. We likely would not have enjoyed this hike as much later in the day when it is more crowded.


#4 Top Hike Maui: Sliding Sands


Sliding Sand Trail, Haleakala National Park, 11.5 miles (do not have to hike entire trail), 2873 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Top Maui Hikes

The Sliding Sands trail is over 11 miles long but you really do not need to hike all of that to get some amazing crater views.  Even hiking a mile or less each way will afford you stunning Mars-like crater views.  Beware that this is a steep hike at elevation though and you need to be prepared to hike back up the steep crater.  Therefore, be mindful of your fitness level while descending into the crater as that is much easier than ascending up it. 

Cost: $30/car (valid 3 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass 

See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there, including seeing the east side of the park (the other side of the island).


#5 Top Hike Maui: Nakalele Blowhole 


Nakalele Blowhole Trail, Poelua Bay, 0.9 miles round trip, 250 feet of elevation, out & back

Top Maui Hikes

This rugged coastal hike to get to the Nakalele Blowhole is short but involves a lot of unsteady footing and descending down (then back up) the lava rock.  Watching the blowhole from up close is pretty neat and makes this hike different from all the other hikes on this list.  Be sure to have sturdy shoes for this hike with the easy but consistent scrambling on the rocks. Though there are traveled paths here, there is no set trail to follow.


Bonus Top Maui Hike: Kapalua Trail 


Kapalua Coastal Trail, Kapalua, 3.0 miles round trip, 300 feet of elevation gain, out & back

Top Maui Hikes

This coastal trail takes you along sand dunes and lava rock.  It is very pretty and relatively easy.  It makes for a nice morning stroll.  Try to walk this trail early in the day as it is completely exposed to the sun.  To access this trail, park at the public beach access lot.  


We hope this guide helps you plan your hiking on your trip to Maui.  Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  

For more tips on Hawaii travel, see other Hawaii guides including:

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The Best Maui Vacation Rentals 


Maui Vacation Rentals 

Planning a vacation to Hawaii and looking for a Maui vacation rental? Look no further!  When we were looking for the perfect Maui vacation rental for our most recent babymoon, we were so pleased when we found Maui Paradise Properties.  Their platform helped us find a vacation rental to fit all our needs during our trip.  Through their large inventory, easy to use platform, quick responsiveness, stellar in-unit amenities and concierge service, you are sure to find the vacation rental and experience you are looking for on Maui.  Here’s a run down on our experience.


Large Inventory with Variety of Properties 

Maui Paradise Properties has nearly 350 vacation rentals to choose from on Maui.  With one of the largest inventories of Maui vacation rentals, you can easily find the perfect place to stay.  Whether you are looking for a beachfront cabana, a quiet golf course condo or a unique home with ocean views, there are lots of options to choose from.

Maui Vacation Rentals 

When we were looking to book our babymoon #2 with our 20 month old daughter, we knew we wanted a place that was conveniently located yet quiet and tucked away from the crowds. There were several condos and homes we considered but ultimately opted for a golf course condo. It was less than a 10 minute walk to bustling Kaanapali beach/beach walk/shops yet tucked away from the busy and crowded Kaanapali resorts.  Our rental had stunning golf course views and a great patio for relaxing/enjoying meals.  This is a link to the exact condo we stayed at on Maui at the Kaanapali Royal. 


Best Maui Vacation Rentals: Easy to Use Platform

Similarly, using the Maui Paradise Properties website, you can easily search for the perfect Maui vacation rental for you with their easy to use search function.  Their online platform allows you to easily search by location on the island, size and availability to help narrow your search.  Then, you can easily book directly through the website.  We were able to find the perfect spot to fit our needs within 10 minutes of using this platform.   Keep in mind that booking direct will always get you the best rate (in comparison to using a third party platform such as Airbnb or VRBO which may incur additional fees). 


Quick Responses and Timely Assistance

During our stay, we needed assistance a couple times for miscellaneous needs that came up.  We got an immediate response via email or text and any issues we had were quickly addressed and solved.  It was so nice to have such great communication with our management service.  Also, unlike many other private vacation rentals/other third party booking platforms, Maui Paradise Properties has a team located right on the island ready to help you at any time.  This on-island management team provides great peace of mind and customer service.  


Best Maui Vacation Rentals: Stellar In-Unit Amenities

When staying at a vacation rental, unlike at an overpriced and crowded resort, you will have access to in-unit amenities that will allow you to save money while affording you more comfort during your stay as well.  

For example, our unit had a full kitchen and in-unit laundry.  Having a fully functional kitchen and a grill saved us hundreds of dollars on food during our stay.  Moreover, it made going out to eat a special treat and we did not get burnt out by eating out too much.  Likewise, in-unit laundry allowed us to pack less. Additionally, laundry came in clutch with having so many sandy beach days (where sand seems to end up everywhere, including parts of clothes, you didn’t think it would).  We also were able to come home with clean clothes in our suitcases rather than needing to rush to do laundry immediately upon arrival home. Having this option makes your transition back to reality a little less painful.   Further, most of the units offer a pool as well which is a nice option for enjoying the refreshing water without the saltwater or sand. 


Free Activity Booking Service 

Once we had our accommodations sorted, we started looking for fun activities to do. Our rental company referred us to Maui Locals Guide.  The best part?  This service is completely free to use with any property rented through Maui Paradise Properties.   While staying on the island, we were looking for the perfect surfing lessons for Sam.  Maui Locals Guide was able to help us find the most conveniently located lessons that were also less expensive than any other surfing lessons we found on our own.  The activity service will also take care of booking any activities you’d like to do while on the island, at no cost to you, and really makes planning your trip easier than ever.  


BONUS: Maui Paradise Properties can Manage your Property

If you happen to be one of the lucky souls that owns a Maui property, Maui Paradise Properties offers vacation rental or long-term leasing options to maximize your investment when you aren’t relaxing in paradise yourself.  They will take care of everything when it comes to managing your rental.  Inquire on their website to learn more!


We hope this post helps you book your Maui vacation rental.   We can’t wait to book our next trip to Maui! If you want to check out the company we stayed with, email reservations@mpphawaii.com, call 1-808-214-1011 or visit the Maui Paradise Properties website for the best prices and most up to date availability of all properties in their inventory.  We know you will find the perfect Maui vacation rental to fit all your needs. 


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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea and Muaona Loa). If you are fortunate enough to see a volcano actively erupting while at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you will never forget it. Further, there are a lot of other interesting sites at this park. You can hike through lava tubes, across volcano craters and along sulfur banks. You can also visit the impressive coastline made up of unique volcanic rock structures.  Driving the Chain of Craters road out to the coastline affords you some really great views of the black lava rocks too.  We recommend spending a full day at this park. Read on for our concise quick guide on visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 


FYI: This post is based on a trip taken in early November. This adventure was also our first major trip away from the Midwest with our three month old daughter. We loved exploring the park with her! For tips on traveling with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to Do in Hawaii Volcanos National Park


If there is a volcano actively erupting , go see it!

This was hands-down the coolest experience we had at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and on the Big Island. It really made for an unforgettable adventure.  Make sure to get to the park early in the morning, at least two hours before sunrise, so you have ample time to hike out to the volcano and view it in the dark. Viewing it in the dark creates a surreal experience witnessing the red/orange glow before the sunrises. 

Kilauea Actively Erupting, pictures do not do it justice

To find out the best viewing spot for the current eruption, call the park between 9 AM and 5 PM Hawaii time and speak with a staff member. Had we not called the park the day before to find out where to go to see the eruption, we would’ve had no idea where to park our car or where to hike in the park.  Also, a volcano can stop or start to erupt at any time so if the volcano is actively eruptIng, try to go as soon as possible to see it. The Kilauea volcano was actively erupting in the Halemaumau crater during our visit. 

Note: Double Check Your Location 

Since we arrived at the park so early in the morning, and were a bit sleep deprived, we weren’t the most oriented.  We accidentally went down the wrong trail for over a mile before realizing that we were not on the right path to view the eruption. We could see the smoke and glow from where we were on the wrong path but realized we couldn’t see it up close from the trail we were on. Thankfully, we hiked quite quickly and were still able to get back to the best viewing spot about an hour before sunrise.  Just be mindful that navigating the park at night is difficult. 

As you will be arriving at the park very early in the morning, in the pitch darkness, be sure to bring your headlamp. These are the headlamps we use and recommend. 

Also, for hiking on Lava Rock, you need a solid pair of hiking boots. Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Thurston Lava Tubes

These lava tubes are super neat to see. There is a lot of cool flora growing around where you enter them. We visited several lava tubes while in Hawaii (one on the road to Hana and another one in Hilo) and this one was the most accessible. It was the easiest/largest to walk through and required no crouching/crawling. The hike into and through these tubes is quite short. You will need less than 30 minutes to complete it. 

Thurston Lava Tubes

To access, park at the Thurston Lava Tubes Parking Lot. If the Thurston Lot is full, park in the Kilauea Iki Overlook Parking Lot (0.5 miles away, can walk on Kilauea Iki Rim Trail to access), On Crater Rim Drive


Hike Part of the Kilauea Iki Trail

This trail goes through the rainforest, around part of the rim Kilauea Iki Crater, before descending down into the crater floor itself.  This trail is 4 miles round trip and you can hike as much or as little of it as you please.  We hiked part of the trail along the rim of the crater.  The rainforest and crater views were pretty from here.  After hiking 4 miles to see the erupting volcano that morning and waking up so early, we weren’t feeling overly ambitious to hike down into a crater to see a dormant volcano.  Had the volcano not been erupting, we would have hiked this whole trail as it is rated as one of the best. 

Kilauea Iki Trail

To access, park at the Kilauea Iki Overlook Parking Lot, On Crater Rim Drive 


Drive Chain of Craters Road and Visit the Holei Arch

This road takes you from the higher elevations of the park down to the coastline. The temperature varied by 15°F between the two locations when we visited. The coastline here is very pretty. It is very impressive to see the large waves crashing against the lava rocks that descend into the ocean. When you see the rocky coast, it is even more impressive to imagine the orignal polynesian explorers landing in the area with their canoes. The Holei Arch is an interesting formation of the lava rocks to see at the coastline as well. Eventually, this rock formation will erode and be washed away.  

Holei Arch

Driving the Chain of Craters road will take you about 35 minutes one-way and it is definitely worth your time. There are several other craters you can stop and look at but none are as impressive as the Kilauea Iki Crater. Also, not much could compare after seeing an actively erupting volcano so keep that in mind if you are lucky enough to see that. 

Chain of Craters Road

Hike the Sulfur Banks

0.7 Miles loop trail, minimal elevation

Here you hike on a paved path through the rainforest before coming to a boardwalk that takes you through a volcanic thermal area and mineral deposits.  You can literally feel the heat and smell the sulfur from these thermal areas.

Sulfur Banks Trail

To access, park at the main visitors center 


Tip: Bring Food to the Park

There is really nowhere to eat in the park so it is very important that you bring food. We packed picnic lunches.


Where to Stay to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you plan to spend more than a day or go to the park multiple days, stay in Volcano Village or in Hilo. We chose to stay in Kona, which is about a 2 hour drive from the park. This made most sense for us as it was more centrally located by other things we wanted to do on the Big Island.  See our Big Island, Hawaii Quick Guide for all our Big Island tips.  If you are looking for an Airbnb in Kona, we highly recommend the one we stayed at. 

Our Kailua-Kona Airbnb was perfect for us.  We had sunset views every night from the kitchen window and it had everything we needed (including lots of baby items which was a HUGE plus with a three month old). It was very spacious, updated and clean. Also, the host was super kind and helpful! If you looking to stay in Kona, definitely stay here!


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

For more Hawaii trip tips, please see:

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned


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Top 5 Stops on The Road to Hana


Driving the Road to Hana was our favorite and most memorable activity we did on Maui.  With over 620 turns and 59 bridges, driving the windy Road to Hana is really an experience and not just a drive.  Along the way, you will see many picturesque waterfalls, lots of cute roadside fruit stands, gorgeous coastline views and lots of pretty unique rainforest flora.  

Best Road to Hana Stops
Road to Hana Sunrise Views

Build Your Own Experience on the Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is really a ‘build your own experience’ activity as the stops you choose to take along the way will really create a different experience for each person who drives it.  You can’t possibly stop at everything along the way, especially if you are driving the road back and forth in one day.  Given this conundrum , we narrowed the stops down to our 5 most recommended to help you plan your day. 

Unlike most blogs, we recommend stopping at places along the Road to Hana backwards. By this we mean drive to the furthest away location first and then make your stops on the way back.  This allows you to get an early start on this drive and drive a lot of the Road before most attractions are open. It also sets you up to get to our first stop, the Pipiwai Trail, early in the morning before the crowds arrive. 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


Note: The mile markers on the Road to Hana are confusing

The mile markers start earlier on the Hana Highway than when the actual Road to Hana starts and then after you reach Hana, the mile markers start going down again.  Be sure to download offline maps so you can navigate the Road to Hana with your GPS.  We typically unplug (see Why you Should Unplug While Traveling) while on vacation but always use offline maps.  Even if you were not unplugged, it is likely your data will not work on this side of the island so download the offline maps regardless. 

FYI: This post is based on a trip taken in late October


#1 Top Stop on the Road to Hana: Pipiwai Trail and Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools in Haleakala National Park

Pipiwai Trail, East Side of Haleakala National Park, 4.0 Miles Round Trip, 650 Feet of Elevation Gain

Mile Marker 42

Best Road to Hana Stops
Pipiwai Trail

This hike on the Pipiwai Trail was our furthest away stop on the Road to Hana and well worth the drive. It is actually located after Hana so make sure to not stop there and continue on to this trail in the Eastern part of Haleakala National Park.  

Unique Rainforest and Bamboo Forest Flora

Best Road to Hana Stops
Hike through a Bamboo Forest

This hike is super neat because you first hike through the rainforest and then through a bamboo forest before coming to the impressive Waimoku waterfall. On this hike, you will also see a huge Banyan Tree.  The contrasting views on this hike are well worth the effort.  We would rate this hike as relatively easy as the elevation gain is well spread out.  

Best Road to Hana Stops
Pipiwai Trail

Hike Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools

Oheo Gulch Trail, East side of Haleakala National Park, 0.6 Miles Round Trip, 100 Feet of Elevation Gain  

You can also hike the shorter Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools trail here that is 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation change.  This hike takes you through the rainforest, along the coast line and to a waterfall.  We completed this hike after the Pipiwai trail and found it to be very easy and scenic. The trailhead is at the same spot as the Pipiwai trailhead. 

Best Road to Hana Stops
Oheo Gulch

Arrive Early

We recommend arriving at this hike early.  When we arrived around 8am, we were one of three cars, but by the time we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was full and cars were parking in an overflow lot. Crowds can often take away from the experience so we are glad we got to the trail earlier than most. 

For more information and details on visiting Haleakala National Park, please see our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide.


Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


#2 Top Stop on the Road to Hana: Hana Farms

Mile Marker 31

Best Road to Hana Stops
Hana Farms

This cute farm stand is located right off the Road to Hana and easy to find. The chocolate chip banana bread here is absolutely delicious. There’s also a restaurant where you can sit down and eat a meal here. The restaurant was not open when we visited but the outdoor seating area was a really pretty spot to enjoy some fresh banana bread. 

Best Road to Hana Stops
Hana Farms

#3 Top Stop on the Road to Hana: Ka’eleku Cave

Mile Marker 23

This is a really neat lava tube right off the side of the road. Lava tubes form when the outside of lava hardens but the lava flowing inside continues to stay warm and fluid. The cave is short, approximately 1/3 mile, and leads to a large banyan tree. This cave felt like a real hidden gem!

Best Road to Hana Stops
Ka’eleku Cave

The floor inside the cave is quite slippery so wear footwear with a good grip. Both of us were wearing sandals and would not recommend that. Ideally, wear hiking boots (we recommend Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots). We also both went through the cave separately too as you have to crouch down quite a bit to get in there and with the floor being quite slippery, it was not safe for us to go through carrying our three-month-old daughter. However, it is very short so both of us were able to do it separately relatively quickly. 

Best Road to Hana Stops
Ka’eleku Cave

Note: This is VERY easy to miss.  It is not marked and you need to know just to look for it. Use our picture above so you know what you are looking for. Drive very slow around mile marker 23.  Had one other car not been parked across from where the entrance to this lava tube was, we would have likely missed it.   There is a pull off where you can park (on the side of the road closer to the coast line) that has two or three spots

Shout out to Heidi from Ordinary Sherpa for telling us about this free hidden roadside adventure!  Check out her podcast, Ordinary Sherpa, for more family adventure inspiration. We also are guests on Episode 026 of this podcast that you can listen to here.


#4 Top Stop on the Road to Hana: Upper Waikani Falls

Mile Marker 19

These waterfalls are located right off the side of the road across from a one-way bridge and are truly stunning. In our opinion, these are the prettiest set of waterfalls we saw while driving  the Road to Hana (Waimoku Falls in Haleakala at the end is more impressive but these are the best waterfalls on the journey there). To access these falls, you need to park up the road a bit and walk back to them as it is not safe to park directly by the one-way bridge.

Best Road to Hana Stops
Upper Waikani Falls

#5 Top Stop on the Road to Hana: Twin Falls Hike and Fruit Stand 

Mile Marker 2

1.8 Mile Round Trip (without offshoots to each waterfall), 347 feet of Elevation Gain

Twin Falls hike is fun as it takes you to three different waterfalls through the rainforest.  The first two waterfalls you encounter on this hike look very similar and are a very short hike, about 0.2 miles from the parking lot.  The third waterfall is a bit further from the first two  but, in our opinion, the most scenic one so be sure not to stop hiking after the first two waterfalls.  You can also go swimming at this third waterfall.   

Best Road to Hana Stops
Last waterfall on the Twin Falls Hike

We took our time with this hike, hiking down to each waterfall and exploring around them, and it took us about 1.5 hours total.  The hike was relaxing, as it was relatively easy, and you saw a lot in a short period.  The trail, especially down by the waterfalls, was pretty slippery, as it had just rained so make sure to wear good hiking shoes. 

We actually hiked this trail a different day than when we drove the Road to Hana as it was only about 10 minutes from our Airbnb. We are glad we did it this way as we did not feel rushed hiking it at all. The Road to Hana is already a very full day experience.  

Arrive Around 7 AM

Prior to completing this hike, we read a lot of reviews online and the reviews were quite mixed.  A lot of people said they did not like the hike because it was too crowded.  To our delight, we enjoyed this hike a lot more than we expected as we nearly had it to ourselves. When we hiked this trail at about 7 AM, right around when it opened, we saw only about 10 other people total.  We found it to be really peaceful and pretty so arrive early if you don’t want any crowds to dampen your experience. 

Best Road to Hana Stops
First waterfall on the Twin Falls Hike

Bonus: Fruit Stand in the parking lot

The fruit stand in the parking lot at Twin Falls has some delicious banana bread.  Our loaf we got was still warm from coming out of the oven that morning. 

Best Road to Hana Stops
Twin Falls Fruitstand

Twin Falls Hike

Cost: This trail and these waterfalls are on private property so it costs $10/car to park here. This is very reasonable as the trail is very well maintained. 


We liked all these stops on the Road to Hana but if we had to choose two favorites, they were the Twin Falls Hike in Haiku and the Pipiwai Trail Hike in Haleakala National Park.

Other stops on the Road to Hana

Some other stops you may want to consider making on the Road to Hana:

Wailua Falls, Mile Marker 45 (after Hana), waterfall where you can swim, right off the road

Waianapanapa State Park, Mile Marker 32 (before Hana), Black Sand Beach and lava tubes 

We opted not to stop at this state park because we were visiting 3 other black sand beaches (on the Big Island) and 3 other lava tubes (on Maui and the Big Island combined) on this trip . 

If you do decide to stop at the state park, make sure you check ahead and reserve tickets online if necessary. When we were visiting in November 2021, they were requiring timed entry reservations that had to be made prior to arriving at the park. We did not have any cell phone service in this area so even if you wanted to go to the park, you wouldn’t be able to if you had not made previous reservations (even if they were reservations available which seems, in our opinion, a bit irrationally restrictive).

Garden of Eden Arboretum, Mile Marker 10.5, Botanical Gardens


Other Road to Hana Tips

All-Day Event

The Road to Hana takes, at minimum, 2.5 hours to drive one-way.  With all the stops you will likely make to take pictures and with time spent waiting at one way bridges, budget for at least 3, if not more, hours each way.  In addition, you will likely make some longer stops to hike, explore state parks or eat at the roadside stands.  Budget at least a full day to drive this road both ways.  You may want to consider staying overnight in Hana if you really want to take your time driving on the road and be able to stop at all the stops you’d please along the way.  

Windy Road Cautions 

Note, as mentioned above, this road is VERY windy.  Anyone prone to motion sickness, like Natalie, beware.  For tips on preventing this, see our post, How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying. In addition, with the windy nature of this road, drive very cautiously.  Do not pass people and even though you will see some locals drive this road very aggressively, just don’t. Your safety and life is more important than saving a couple minutes.  Enjoy the journey! 

Best Road to Hana Stops
Windy Narrow Road to Hana Drive

Where to Stay on the Road to Hana

We recommend staying on the North side of the Island, in/around Paia or Haiku, near the start of the Road to Hana.  Most people stay in West Maui but if you are looking to explore more than the beach, this central location is great.  It allows you an early start for the Road to Hana, a good starting point for seeing sunrise at the Summit in Haleakala National Park and an easy drive to make a day trip to the West side or the South shore of the island. You alternatively could stay overnight in Hana itself if you want to spend more time on the Road to Hana. 

The Haiku Airbnb we stayed at was in a really nice quiet location.  It had all the amenities we needed and the host was very responsive and helpful. The landscape at the property was very pretty too. 

For more Hawaii trip tips, please see:

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to drive the Road to Hana.  Anything you’d add to our Top 5 Stops on the Road to Hana guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Big Island Hawaii on a Budget Guide


Although Hawaii may have a reputation for being an expensive place to visit, you really can visit Big Island, Hawaii on a Budget. Most of our favorite activities–the coastline valley hikes, the black sand beaches, the lava tubes, the secluded shorelines and the rainforest hikes–on the Big Island are free or cost you very little. Your most expensive costs will be your flights, accommodations and rental car (you need a rental car to visit the Big Island) here. See our posts How to Book Accommodations on a Budget, 5 Ways to Save on Flights and How to Save on a Rental Car for more tips on how to save money on these. For our best budget Big Island activities and tips, see our ‘Big Island Hawaii on a Budget’ guide below.

FYI: This post is based on a trip taken in early November

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!

Note: We recommend spending about a week, if not longer, on the Big Island.  Everything is quite spread apart and to see the whole island, even a week, may be quite challenging.  However, if you are short on time, see this well-planned adventurous 3 Day Big Island Adventure Itinerary.


What to Do on the Big Island on a Budget


Pololu Valley Lookout and Hike Pololu/Awini Trail

This trail was our favorite hike that we did on the Big Island. Also, it’s one of our favorite Big Island on a budget activities as it is completely free. This hike figuratively and literally gives you the most bang for your buck. On this trail, you see a lot of beautiful scenery without an excessive amount of hiking.

big Island on a budget

This hike starts at the Pololu Valley Lookout point. You are afforded stunning views even just from the lookout point you can drive up to easily. It is worth seeing the lookout point from the beginning of the trail even if you are not able to complete the hike itself. 

Big Island on a Budget

Pololu/Awini Trail Hike

From the lookout point, you descend down on the Pololu trail about a half mile on a rocky path into a rainforest valley before coming to the black sand beach. From here, you can continue on up the other side of the valley into the mountainous rainforest on the Awini trail. You really can hike as far as you want on this trail or as little as you want on this trail. In our opinion, the best views are from the valley floor after the initial descent before the beach or from the lookout point at the beginning of the trail. 

big Island on a budget

Arrive Here Early

When we got here at approximately 9 AM, there were only a couple cars in the parking lot but when we left, there were cars parked up the entire street. It was nice to have the valley almost completely to ourselves in the morning.

Cost: Free


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Although this is the most ‘expensive’ activity on this Big Island on a budget guide, visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is well worth the still rather minimal cost. This park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. While we were visiting this park, we were lucky enough to see one of those volcanoes actively eruptIng and it was a once in a lifetime experience! There are also a lot of different hiking to do at this park. Y ou can hike through lava tubes, across a volcano crater and along Sulfur Banks (or sulphur if you are British). For all the details on visiting this park, see our Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Guide.

big Island on a budget

Cost: $35/car or no charge with America the Beautiful Pass

Budget Tip: If you plan to visit more than 2 National Parks in one year, the America the Beautiful Pass pays for itself and will save you money   


Kaunaoa Beach

This white sand beach located on the Northwest side of the island was our favorite beach on the island and makes our top Big Island, Hawaii budget activities as it is completely free.

We loved Kaunaoa Beach for many reasons. One, it has a good amount natural of shade, something very important to us especially with our three month old daughter on the trip. Although we have a stellar sun tent (which we highly recommend), the additional natural shade helps keep all of us cooler and more comfortable. This beach also had extremely soft sand and clear water. Further, due to the limited public parking to access this beach and the fact that it is located behind a private residence/ resort, it did not feel overcrowded. Moreover, there are also very clean bathrooms and a shower area not far from the beach. We liked this beach so much, we visited it twice (something we do not often do).

Parking at Kaunaoa Beach

The parking situation at Kaunaoa Beach is a bit tricky. If you want to almost guarantee you are going to get parking, arrive before 9 AM or after 4 PM. There are only 40 spots in the parking lot. You have to get a ticket from the front gate attendant at the Mauna Kea private residence/resort.  The public parking is gated so the attendant at the front always knows if there is a spot available.  The first day we visited this beach, we had no problem getting parking right away but the second time we had to circle around for about 10 minutes before a spot became available and we could drive back to the parking area. Try going around lunchtime (if not going early morning or late afternoon) to get a spot when a lot of people tend to leave. 

Kaunaoa Beach

Cost: Free


Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Our next Big Island, Hawaii budget tip is to visit Punaluu Black Sand Beach. We visited three black sand beaches on the Big Island (also at Waipio Valley and Pololu Valley) and this was our favorite of the three. The sand is much darker than any other black sand beach we have seen (including the one in Santorini, Greece). The sand here is also much more fine and soft than the others we visited. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at this park. Be sure to bring food with you as there is none available here and nothing in the close surrounding areas.

Tip: If you are visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this beach  is only about 20 minutes Southwest from the main park entrance. We recommend visiting both on the same day to decrease driving (unless you are staying on the East side of the island). 

Cost: Free


Waipio Valley Lookout and Hike

Our next Big Island budget activity recommendation is the Waipio Valley lookout and hike. This stop is a cool lookout point over a mountainous valley that leads out to a black sand beach on the coastline. Here, you can also hike down into the valley and onto the black sand beach. This hike involves a very steep descent on a paved road (about 1,000 feet of elevation) and then a hike through the rainforest on a flat dirt (more like mud) road before coming out to the black sand beach. This hike was extra special because we saw some wild horses on the beach and crossing through the river in the valley. Definitely not something you see every day! The hike in total is about 3 miles or so roundtrip, depending on how far you go out onto/across the black sand beach. 

You can alternatively hire someone to drive you down into the valley but we found the hike to be rewarding and not overly strenuous as it was mainly in the shade. We recommend completing this hike before noon though to avoid full sun as that would have made this hike feel a lot more difficult. 

We completed this hike with our infant daughter so Natalie had approximately 15 extra pounds strapped to her. If she can do this hike with the extra weight, have confidence you can do it too if you are physically active. For all of our tips on hiking with your baby, see our How to Hike with a Baby post.

Cost: Free

Note: Check to make sure the hike down to Waipio Valley is open to visitors during your visit. Last we heard in March 2022 after our visit, the hike was closed to only locals. However, this may change so just be sure to check before deciding to hike. Regardless of the hike being closed, you can still view Waipio Valley from the elevated viewpoint and this is still very pretty (and little physical exertion required).

Hike to the Secluded Makalawena Beach

Another one of our favorite Big Island, Hawaii on a budget outings is visiting the secluded Makalawena Beach. This beach is really neat because it can only be accessed by hiking out to it.  Consequently, this seclusion keeps the crowds down as people in general like easier beach access. It is about 1 mile to 1.5 miles one-way hike out to the beach and with little to no elevation change. 

For hiking to the beach, you have to drive on a very bumpy and rough road to get to the trailhead. This road is so rough that we ended up parking on it about a half a mile further away from the trailhead because we thought it would be much easier to walk on it then drive on it in our sedan rental car (and we were right). There are several spots along this road that you can park on before getting to the actual trailhead and we would recommend doing that even if you have a 4WD vehicle. You have to drive so slowly that it is quite frustrating and you can almost move faster walking. 

Makalawena Beach

This beach is pristine and well worth the effort to get to it. It is rated as one of the best on the Big Island. It has classic white sandy beaches and clear blue water. We enjoyed setting up our sun tent and playing in the sand with our daughter. We love our sun tent, especially for beaches like this where shade is super limited as it allows us to create our own. 

Cost: Free


Sunset in Kona

Another great budget activity on the Big Island is to watch the sunset in downtown Kona by the waterfront. There are several restaurants you can eat at and watch the sunset but if you plan to get a sunset spot, you will need to get their hours in advance. There are plenty of areas where you can watch the sunset for free though on the waterfront. Just walk around and you’ll find them.

We could see the sunset from our Airbnb (which was awesome too) but seeing it from the waterfront really is magical.  We have seen a lot of sunsets in cool locations and this definitely is in the top five.

Cost: Free


Rainforest Hike on the Makaula Ooma Trails

Our next Big Island Hawaii budget activity recommendation is hiking on the Makaula Ooma Trails. If you are looking for a hike that mainly only locals do and where you will not see many other people, this is the hike for you. This rain forest hike was really pretty. It took us through a lot of different rainforest flora and the best part, we only saw three other people the entire hike. This also is located very close to the Airbnb we recommend in Kona. This hike does not take you to a specific lookout point but really makes for a peaceful hike through the rainforest.

This hike can vary in length. It can be as short as a mile with minimal elevation gain or as long as 4 miles with approximately 700 feet of elevation gain if you hike the whole path.

Shout out to our Airbnb host for recommending this to us!

Makaula Ooma Hike

Cost: Free


Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Explore Hilo

Spending a day exploring Hilo is our next Big Island, Hawaii on a budget recommendation. Hilo is the biggest city on the east side of the island yet it feels very local and not touristy. It felt like ‘Old Hawaii’ to us and much different than the more glamorous and built up Kona side of the island. There are a lot of different things you can see in this city. We just spent a brief afternoon here and recommend seeing the below, particularly the Kaumana Caves. 

Given the untourist nature of this area, don’t expect a lot catering to non-locals. We arrived in Hilo around 2 PM and found most restaurants were actually closed for lunch. If you are looking for a lunch spot, we would recommend arriving sooner than that.

Also, since there is so much driving and so much to see on the Big Island, you could consider flying into Hilo and out of Kona or vice versa to break up your time on the island as there is an airport (less popular so less flights to it) in Hilo as well. This logistically did not work for us but definitely something to consider.

Kaumana Caves

Kaumana Caves

These lava tubes are located a short drive outside the city center. They are super cool and definitely our favorite thing we saw in Hilo. These caves felt much more untouched than the Thurston Lava Tubes at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Given this, there is a lot more skill and care that is required to explore them. Make sure you are wearing proper hard-soled shoes and that you have a headlamp with you otherwise you won’t make it very far in these caves. 

As far as hiking boots, we recommend Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots which we have been using for over 7 years.  These are great in the cave and the rainforest. And these are the headlamps we use. 

Kaumana Caves

These caves also do get quite narrow eventually and require quite a bit of crouching down and crawling.  We were limited in how far we could go as we had our three month old daughter with us in the Ergobaby. Regardless, even going a short distance in these caves is worth seeing. 

Cost: Free

Rainbow Falls

This waterfall gets its name from the rainbow that tends to form within the waterfall midday. When we visited, we did not see a rainbow at this waterfall but think it is worth checking out if you are in Hilo. For your best chance of seeing the rainbow, try to go around noon when the sun is most full. This waterfall is very accessible too. We were able to roll our stroller up to it which is always a huge plus. Sometimes you just need a break from baby carrying! Likewise, it is wheelchair accessible. 

It also feels a bit strange because you literally are right in the city center and all of a sudden bam, there’s a big waterfall.  Don’t expect to be by yourself at this waterfall though. Since it is so accessible and near the city center, a lot of people are usually there. This is a brief stop.

Tip: If you are in Hilo, go see Rainbow Falls. However, we would not recommend driving across the entire island just to see this. We recommend doing a big loop to see/hike Waipio Valley, visit Akaka Falls State Park and then visit the stops in Hilo. This itinerary will save you some driving and allow you to see more sites. 

Cost: Free 

Boiling Pots

This destination is another natural phenomenon that you drive up to right from the city center. Like Rainbow Falls, this is a brief stop. It is also stroller and wheelchair accessible. If you are in Hilo, definitely make the stop here. However, like Rainbow Falls, do not drive across the whole island just to see this.

Cost: Free

Liliuokalani Park and Gardens

These Japanese gardens located along the oceanfront have a lot of different pretty and unique flora. Our favorite site here was the huge Banyan tree. There are additionally some nice paths to walk on around the gardens and most are stroller/wheelchair accessible. We also enjoyed eating some takeout in the park overlooking the waterfront.  Like Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots, stop here if you are in the area but do not drive across the island to see it. This is not a must do but a good spot to relax. 

Cost: Free


Akaka Falls State Park

Our last Big Island budget activity recommendation is visiting Akaka Falls State Park. This state park is located on the Northeast side of the island, in between Waipio Valley and Hilo. It is home to one of the biggest waterfalls in Hawaii. It really is quite impressive! There is about a half mile loop path that you can walk on. It is a paved path but does have some stairs. This is another brief stop. Combine this with visiting Waipio Valley.

Cost $5/person, $10 to park (if you park in the lot but the lot was full so we parked on the road for free)


Where to Eat on Big Island, Hawaii on a Budget

On the Big Island, things are really spread apart. Many of the places you will visit here will not have a lot or any restaurants around them. Given this, we packed lunches most days or ate at our Airbnb (which had a full kitchen), both which are very budget friendly. Definitely be sure to pack a lunch for the beaches and the National Park as you will not really have any other food options.

As far as eating out, the restaurants with the best views and the most variety on their menus are in Kona. However, they come at a price. There are really some hidden gems where you can get a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch while traveling around the island in some of the small towns that are also more budget friendly. We would recommend just stopping at any of those that are convenient for you. 

Also, the roadside fruit stands are really tasty and affordable! Our favorite one was south of Kona, South Kona Fruitstand.  Natalie had a pineapple passionfruit smoothie here that was out of this world. We also got some unique pineapple carrot cake here.  Can we fly back to the Big Island just to get these? That’s how good it was! 

South Kona Fruitstand


Visiting Big Island, Hawaii Budget Tip: Go grocery shopping at Costco

In Hawaii, food is significantly more expensive than the continental US, particularly in the Midwest where we live.  It makes sense given that almost everything needs to be shipped to islands.  However, at Costco, some products are still the same price as they are in the midwest.  We were surprised that we could get large bags of spinach, rotisserie chicken and some other produce for the same price we could at home.  Other things are still more expensive than they would be at home but significantly less expensive than they are at other grocery stores in Hawaii.  

Definitely buy pineapple when you are at Costco as you will not find it for less anywhere else! And with anyone familiar with Costco, the produce is always great quality.  If you have a Costco membership and are going to be staying more than a couple days, it makes complete sense to go shopping here. We did most of our grocery shopping at Costco and then some things that we just really did not need large quantities of, we bought at the local Safeway. 

Costco on the Big Island is located about 10 minutes south of the airport. It was quite close to our accommodations but depending on where you’re staying, it will probably make most sense to stop there after you land if you fly into Kona.


Where to Stay on Big Island Hawaii on a Budget

The Big Island of Hawaii is very BIG.  Unlike the other Hawaiian islands, if you want to see the whole island, you have to do a lot more driving.  In our opinion, there is no perfect central homebase spot to stay because everything is pretty spread apart.  Ideally, you would see this island by hopping around from different accommodations every night or so.  However, packing up and moving every day or so can be stressful and may not actually save you as much time as you think.  

We wanted a consistent homebase for our whole time on the Big Island and we chose to stay just outside of Kona.  If we were to visit again, we would stay here or on the more Northern end of the island.  The activities we enjoyed most, other than visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, were located in these areas (Pololu Valley, Waipio Valley, Makalawena Beach and Kaunaoa Beach). If you want to spend more time exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you will probably prefer to stay in Hilo or Volcano Village. 

Our Kailua-Kona Airbnb was perfect for us. We had sunset views every night from the kitchen window and it had everything we needed (including lots of baby items which was a HUGE plus with a three month old). It was very spacious, updated and clean.  Also, the host was super kind and helpful! And as always, this accommodation was budget friendly. If you are looking to stay in Kona, definitely stay here!


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to the Big Island on a budget.  Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Big Island, Hawaii on a Budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

For more Hawaii trip tips, please see:

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And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Haleakala National Park Quick Guide


West side Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park is a very unique park. It offers a lot of contrasting scenery and this guide on visiting Haleakala National Park will help you see all the highlights. There are actually two sides to the park, the West and the East side. On the West side, you can watch the sunrise over the Haleakala summit, the world’s largest dormant volcano, and hike through a volcanic crater. Whereas on the East side of the park, lush greenery awaits! Here, you can hike through the rainforest and a bamboo forest to several waterfalls. We recommend visiting both sides of the park for the full experience.

East side of Haleakala National Park

Note: The East and West side of Haleakala National Park cannot be accessed from the same road. They have to be accessed completely separately and you would not be able to visit them both feasibly in one day. To be centrally located to visit both sides of the park, we recommend staying on the north side of the island, somewhere near Haiku or Paia. 

FYI: This post is based on a trip taken in late October. This adventure was also our first major trip away from the Midwest with our three month old daughter. We loved exploring the park with her! For tips on traveling with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to Do at Haleakala National Park


West Side ofHaleakala National Park

The West side of the park is where you can partake in the ritual of watching the sunrise at the Haleakala (means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian) Summit.  This is also where you can hike into the crater of the largest dormant volcano in the world.  


Sunrise at the Haleakala Summit

The sunrise at the summit at Haleakala National Park is a surreal experience.  The sun rising over the dormant volcano among the clouds is really a sight everyone should see in-person in their lifetime. The colors that illuminate the sky are out of this world. You feel like you are in the clouds at 10,000 feet. Pictures and videos of this sunrise simply do not do it justice. 

Get Tickets in Advance

To attend sunrise at the Haleakala Summit, you must reserve advance tickets at recreation.gov.  The tickets are available to buy 30 days in advance. These tickets sell out fast so set an alarm for the day and time for when the tickets you want go on sale. Keep in mind, they go on sale at 7 AM Hawaii time so figure out what time that will be in your time zone so you are not SOL.

These tickets are $1 and you need to either also buy entrance to the park (do not have to buy in advance) or an America the Beautiful pass (must buy in advance).  We buy an America the Beautiful pass every year because it pays for itself when you visit more than 2 parks in one year and allows you unlimited access to all the parks for one price.  One year, we visited 12 National Parks with this one pass so we definitely got our money’s worth. 

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

Arrive at least an hour before Sunrise

Once you have a ticket, you can enter the park between 3 AM and 7 AM on the day of your ticket. You will want to arrive about an hour prior to sunrise to see the whole sunrise.  Make sure to check what time the sunrises when you are visiting as it changes throughout the year.

If you want to have the best view at the summit, plan to arrive earlier than an hour in advance. We arrived about an hour in advance and were able to get our own spot but we did not have the most prime spot on the summit to watch the sunrise. It was a fine spot for us to watch the sunrise but with how the viewing platform was set up, it was hard not to get other people in some of our pictures. However, it is not all about the picture as pictures really do not do the IRL experience justice anyways. 

Dress Warm

The summit at Haleakala is approximately 30° cooler than at the lower elevations where most people are staying. We were well prepared for the 40° weather we encountered that morning but most people we saw there were not. Some people were wearing flip-flops and we can only imagine their feet felt frozen.

Windy Road Leading to Summit

The road you drive on to get to the Haleakala Summit is quite windy (as in curvy).  Nothing in comparison to the Road to Hana but anyone prone to motion sickness, beware. Like the Road to Hana, you must drive this road quite slowly at points. Be sure to budget enough time to drive up this windy road before sunrise. 


Hike the Sliding Sands Trail

Sliding Sands Trail

This hike contrasts other trails you may hike on Maui as it takes you into the dormant volcano landscape.  Variable colors of this landscape are quite neat to behold. The best views, in our opinion, are actually near the beginning of the trail.

Choose your own length

Sliding Sands Trail

You can hike all 11 miles of this trail or you can hike just part of it.  We hiked 3 miles of this trail round-trip. We had planned to hike to the bottom of the crater, which is 2.5 miles one-way, but with how we were feeling with the elevation, we opted to only hike 1.5 miles one-way. Like we said, the best views of this crator are from the beginning of the trail anyways. The view at approximately 1 mile into the crater is worth walking at least this far.. For someone who just wants to get a short taste of the trail, we would recommend just hiking the 1st mile in. The extra half mile we completed did not add much from a view standpoint. 

Tip: Hike the Sliding Sands Trail during Sunrise

If you plan to hike this trail on a day other than the day you watch the sunrise at the summit, try to start this hike before sunrise. That way, you can watch the sunrise while hiking on the trail.  You will still be at the high elevation (nearly 10,000 feet still) so you will be able to watch the sunrise over the clouds and will likely have the trail completely to yourself, unlike the Summit.  Just be sure to bring your headlamp so you can watch where you are hiking! The trail is well maintained and fairly smooth but trip hazards are always present. These are the headlamps we use and recommend. 

Sliding Sands Trail

Also, remember, if you plan to enter the park between 3 AM- 7 AM, you need a sunrise reservation so be sure to get another ticket for sunrise entrance.  These tickets only cost $1 so make an extra reservation even if you are not 100% committed to doing this hike on a different day.  

Beware of the Elevation

Sliding Sands Trail

At nearly 10,000 feet of elevation, this trail feels a lot harder than it would at a lower elevation. We are both in  good shape and really felt the elevation doing this trail.  We were certainly not acclimated at all to the elevation.  Remember, the climb up will be much more difficult than the descent down. Be mindful of how you are feeling. We ended up hiking 2 miles less than we initially planned because of how we were feeling.


Looking for great hiking boots?  Here are links to the ones we’ve used for 7+ years and highly recommend: Men’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots & Women’s Keen Waterproof Hiking Boots


Lookout Points

Haleakala Crater

Along the road that leads to the summit of Haleakala, there are a lot of different spots that you can pull off onto and soak in the views with minimal effort. Make sure to check these out. The view from the Haleakala Visitors Center is worth checking out as well. 

There is also one other trail on the West side of this park, the Halemauu Trail, you can hike. However, based on everything we have read and pictures we have seen, the Sliding Sands Trail views are more impressive than this trail’s views.  Also, if you are looking for a full day hike, you can hike from the Sliding Sands Trailhead to the Halemauu Trailhead (parking lot at MM 14) which is an 11.2 mile hike.  To do this, you would need either 2 cars or to hitchhike a ride back to the Sliding Sands Trailhead (Haleakela visitors center parking lot) or be overly ambitious and hike 22.4 miles.


East Side of the Haleakala National Park

Waimoku Waterfall on the East side of Haleakala National Park

The East side of Haleakala National Park is located south of the town of Hana and, presumably, would be your last stop while driving the Road to Hana.  At this part of the park, there are two different trails that you can hike–the Pipiwai trail and Oheo Gulch trail.  We recommend hiking both.


Pipiwai Trail 

4.0 Miles Round Trip, 650 Feet of Elevation Gain

Banyan Tree on the Pipiwai Trail

Unique Rainforest and Bamboo Forest Flora

This hike is super neat because first, you hike through the rainforest and then, you hike through a bamboo forest before coming to the impressively tall Waimoku waterfall.  On the hike, you will also see a huge Banyan Tree.  The contrasting views are well worth the 4 mile round-trip hike.  We would rate this hike as relatively easy as the elevation gain is well spread out.  

Bamboo Forest on the East Side of Haleakala National Park

Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools 

0.6 Miles RoundTrip, 100 Feet of Elevation Change 

Oheo Gulch

You can also hike the shorter Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools trail here that is 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation change.  This trail takes you along the coastline, through the rainforest and past a waterfall.  We completed this hike after the Pipiwai trail and found it to be very easy and scenic. The trailhead is at the same spot as the Pipiwai Trailhead. 

Arrive Early

We recommend arriving to hike on the East side of the park early.  When we arrived around 8 AM, we were one of three cars in the parking lot, but by the time we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was full and cars were parking in an overflow lot. 

Bring Food

There is nowhere to eat at either part of the park so make sure to bring some snacks.  On the East side of the park, take advantage of some of the roadside fruit stands on the way to/from the park.  We highly recommend Hana Farms at MM 31.  

For more information on driving the Road to Hana and Maui, see our5 Stops on the Road to Hana and Maui, Hawaii Quick Guide post.  


Where to Stay when visiting Haleakala National Park

As noted above, the East and West side of Haleakala National Park cannot be accessed from the same road. They have to be accessed from completely separate routes and you cannot feasibly visit both sides in one day. To be centrally located to visit both sides of the park, we recommend staying on the North side of the island, somewhere near Haiku or Paia 

The Haiku Airbnb we stayed at was in a nice quiet location.  It had all the amenities we needed and the host was very responsive and helpful. The landscape at the property was very pretty too and the price was much more budget friendly than other accommodations in the area.  

Use this link to get up to $65 off your first Airbnb


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Haleakala National Park.  Anything you’d add to our guide to visiting Haleakala National Park? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

For more Hawaii trip tips, please see

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Maui on a Budget


Maui is the most popular of the Hawaiian islands and for good reason.  After our visit, we understood why so many people love it and visit there again and again.  From the beautiful beaches to the exotic rainforests to the endless beautiful waterfalls to the world’s largest dormant volcano, the adventures on this island are countless.  And although Hawaii, particularly Maui, has a reputation for being an expensive place to visit, you really can visit Maui on a budget. Most of our favorite activities on Maui are free or cost very little. Read on for our complete guide to visiting Maui on a budget.

Important note: Your most expensive costs will be your flight, accommodations and rental car (you need a rental car to explore the island adequately). See our posts 5 Ways to Save on Flights, How to Book Accommodations on a Budget and How to Save on a Rental Car for more tips on how to save money on these.

Maui on a Budget

Also, this was our first major trip away from the Midwest with our three month old and we visited again when she was 20 months old. We loved exploring the island with her! See our Maui with a Baby or Toddler guide for all our baby/toddler Maui tips. For tips on traveling with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if you purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!


What to Do on Maui on a Budget


Highlights of our time on Maui, while on a budget, included watching sunrise over the summit at Haleakala National Park, hiking through a bamboo forest, seeing countless awe-inspiring waterfalls, driving the insanely windy Road to Hana, visiting cute roadside fruit stands, seeing sea turtles and relaxing on the perfectly picturesque white sand beaches. 

Drive the Road to Hana

Maui on a Budget

This was our favorite and most memorable activity we did on Maui.  And very budget friendly as it costs nothing to drive the road itself. With over 620 turns and 59 one-lane bridges, driving the windy Road to Hana is really an experience and not just a drive.  Along the way, you will see many picturesque waterfalls, lots of cute roadside fruit stands, gorgeous coastline views and lots of pretty unique rainforest flora.  

Build Your Own Experience

The Road to Hana is really a ‘build your own experience’ activity as the stops you choose to take along the way will really create a different experience for each person who drives it.  You can’t possibly stop at everything along the way if you are driving the road back and forth in one day.  See 5 Stops on the Road to Hana post to see our recommendations on where to stop on your journey.   Our favorite stops were the Twin Falls Hike in Haiku and the Pipiwai Trail Hike in Haleakala National Park.  

All-Day Event

Maui on a Budget

The Road to Hana takes, at minimum, 2.5 hours to drive one-way (unless you drive like a local which you will understand if you travel the road).  With all the stops you will make to take pictures and with time spent waiting at one way bridges, budget for at least 3 hours, if not more, each way.  In addition, you will likely make some longer stops to hike, explore state parks or eat at the roadside stands.  Plan at least a full day to drive this road both ways.  You may want to consider staying overnight in Hana if you really want to take your time driving on the road and be able to stop at all the stops you’d please along the way.  

Windy Road Cautions 

Note, as mentioned above, this road is VERY windy.  Anyone prone to motion sickness, like Natalie, beware.  For tips on preventing this, see our post on How to Prevent Motion Sickness While Traveling and Flying.  In addition, with the windy nature of this road, drive very cautiously.  Do not pass people and even though you will see some locals drive this road very aggressively, don’t contribute to the chaos. Your safety and life is more important than saving a couple minutes.  Enjoy the journey! 

Cost: Free but bring cash to buy items at fruit stands and for stops along the way (hikes, food trucks, botanical gardens, etc.). You will need a rental car to explore the island appropriately. See our How to Save on a Rental Car post for how to save on this.


Sunrise at the Summit at Haleakala National Park

Maui on a Budget

Our next Maui on a Budget what to do recommendation is to see the Haleakala sunrise. Seeing the sunrise at the summit at Haleakala National Park is really a surreal experience. The sun rising over the dormant volcano among the clouds is really a sight everyone should see in-person in their lifetime. Pictures and videos truly do not do this justice. The colors that illuminate the sky are out of this world. You really feel like you are in the clouds with the summit at 10,000 feet.

For more information and for all the details on watching the sunrise at Haleakala, see our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide.

Explore more of the West Side of Haleakala National Park

Sliding Sands Trail Views Haleakala National Park

Also, while on the West side of Haleakala National Park, be sure to check out the Sliding Sands Trail and some of the other lookout points after you watch the sunrise. See our Haleakala National Park Quick Guide for other tips on what to do there, including seeing the East side of the park. 

Note: The East and West side of Haleakala National Park cannot be accessed from the same road. They have to be accessed completely separately and you will not be able to feasibly visit them both in one day. To be centrally located to visit both sides of the park, we recommend staying on the north side of the island, somewhere near Haiku or Paia. 

Cost: $30/car (valid 7 days throughout the entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass (pays for itself if you plan to visit more than 2 National Parks in one year), $1 for sunrise tickets – bought ahead of time.


Hike through a Bamboo Forest in Haleakala National Park

Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park, 4.0 Miles Round Trip, 650 Feet of Elevation Gain

Our next Maui on a Budget activity recommendation is to hike the Pipiwai trail. This hike on the Pipiwai Trail was our furthest away stop on the Road to Hana and well worth the drive. It is actually located after Hana so make sure to not stop there and continue onto this trail in the East part of Haleakala National Park.  

Unique Rainforest and Bamboo Forest Flora

This hike is super neat because you first hike through the rainforest and then through a bamboo forest before coming to the impressively tall Waimoku waterfall. On the hike, you will also see a huge Banyan Tree.  The contrasting views keep your interest throughout and well worth the 4 mile round-trip hike.  We would rate this hike as relatively easy as the elevation gain is well spread out.  

Hike Oheo Gulch  

Maui on a Budget

You can also hike the shorter Oheo Gulch/Seven Sacred Pools trail from the same parking lot that is 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation change.  We completed this hike after the Pipiwai trail and found it to be very easy and scenic. The trailhead is at the same spot as the Pipiwai Trail. 

Arrive Early

We recommend arriving at the Pipiwai trailhead early.  When we arrived around 8am, we were one of three cars, but by the time we left after completing the hike, the parking lot was completely full and cars were parking in an overflow lot. 

Cost: $30/car (valid 7 days throughout entire park) or free with America the Beautiful Pass (pays for itself if you plan to visit more than 2 National Parks in one year)


Hike Twin Falls

Maui on a Budget

1.8 Mile Round Trip (without offshoots to each waterfall), 347 feet of Elevation Gain

Another Maui on a budget activity is to hike Twin Falls. Twin Falls is a fun, short hike as it takes you to three different waterfalls through the rainforest.  The first two waterfalls you encounter on this hike look similar and are a very short hike, about 0.2 miles from the parking lot.  The third waterfall is a bit further of a hike from those two but, in our opinion, the most scenic of the three so be sure not to stop hiking after the first two waterfalls.  You can also go swimming at this third waterfall.   

Maui on a Budget

We took our time with this hike, hiking down to each waterfall and exploring around them, and it took us about 1.5 hours total.  The hike was relaxing, as it was relatively easy, and you saw a lot in a short period.  The trail, especially down by the waterfalls, was very slippery, as it had just rained so make sure to wear good hiking shoes. 

This hike is another stop on the Road to Hana, at the very beginning at MM 2.  We actually hiked this a different day than when we drove the Road to Hana as it was only about 10 minutes from our Airbnb. We are glad we did this as we did not feel rushed hiking it at all then as the Road to Hana is already a very full day experience. 

Arrive Around 7 AM

Prior to completing this hike, we read a lot of reviews online which were quite mixed.  A lot of people said they did not like the hike because it was too crowded.  To our delight, we enjoyed this hike a lot more than we expected as we nearly had it to ourselves. When we hiked this trail at about 7 AM, right around when it opened, we saw only about 10 other people.  We found it to be really peaceful and pretty so arrive early if you don’t want any crowds to dampen your experience. On and off rain the day we hiked also kept the less adventurous away.

Bonus: Fruit Stand in the parking lot

The fruit stand in the parking lot at Twin Falls has some delicious banana bread.  Our loaf we got was still warm from coming out of the oven that morning. 

Cost: This trail and these waterfalls are on private property so it costs $10/car to park but this is very reasonable as the trail is very well maintained. It may be closed if rainfall has been excessive recently.


Day Trip to West Maui

Kaanapali Beach

Another Maui on a budget activity is to take a day trip to West Maui. West Maui is the most popular area to stay on the island.  This is where many of the classically white sand beaches and big resorts are located.  We spent our day on the West side of Maui exploring Kaanapali Beach.  Along this 3 mile stretch of beach, there is a paved path that stretches its length.  Parent bonus, this path is stroller friendly (because sometimes taking a break from baby carrying/wearing is needed).  There are many shops, restaurants and stands located along this path.  This beach is great for people watching but with that, do not expect any seclusion here.  Do not go here if you don’t want to see other people. 

Maui on a Budget

How to Access Beach for Free

Although this beach has resorts all along it, all shoreline beaches in Hawaii are open to the public for FREE. To access this path and beach (for free while not staying at one of the resorts along Kaanapali Beach), look for the blue Shoreline Access signs.  These signs point you to where you can find parking and where you can take a public paved path back to the beach.  Try to arrive earlier in the day as these free public parking areas fill up fast.

Cost: Free


Day Trip to the South Shore of Maui

Similarly, a day trip to the South Shore of Maui is another great Maui on a budget outing. The South Shore of Maui, around Wailea, has many nice white sandy beaches like the West side of Maui but with less hustle and bustle.  The beaches in this area are great for snorkeling and seeing sea turtles.  We recommend exploring the Makena Landing beach/reef as we saw sea turtles here. This area feels more high end and residential than West Maui. Fittingly, the high-end designer Shops of Wailea are located in this area.  

Near Wailea Beach and Polo Beach on the South Shore, like on Kaanapali Beach on the West Shore, there is a 1.5 mile paved path along the South shoreline.  However, this path mainly goes past condos and resorts and not as many shops or restaurants.  It is more peaceful than the path in West Maui and makes for a relaxing afternoon stroll.  Again, to access this path/beaches and parking for free, look for the blue Shoreline Access signs on the road.  

Cost: Free


Explore Iao Valley State Monument

Another one of our favorite Maui on a budget activities is visitng Iao Valley State Monument. Iao Valley State Monument is a great place to spend a morning exploring the rainforest. This state park is among the rainforest-covered mountains in the heart of Central Maui. The climb up to the summit where you can see the Iao Needle shaped monument (shoots 1,200 feet in the air from the valley floor) was not difficult and was much shorter than we expected. Through this area, there are approximately 0.6 miles worth of trails through the rainforest. There are also some other trails that go further into the rainforest, created by locals going to swim in the river, but these are not maintained by the state park. 

Cost: $5/person and $10 to park


Baldwin Beach

Another completely free activity on Maui is to visit the beach. We recommend visiting whatever beach is closest to your accommodations. Baldwin beach was located near our Airbnb and we enjoyed relaxing at it.  It has white sandy beach and clear blue water.  Since the beach is located on the North side of the island, it has some pretty rough waves so it is not the best for swimming but good for relaxing on the beach and watching surfers. 

Cost: Free


Where to Eat on Maui


Tin Roof

Tin Roof Maui is really a hidden gem.  It is located in an unassuming strip mall in the heart of Kahului. Although very unassuming, this is a popular place for lunch as the owner was a Top Chef winner.  We had the garlic shrimp and the pork belly and would highly recommend both. Order ahead to get takeout otherwise, expect to wait in a line for a good 30 minutes or so. This restaurant also does not have much seating inside so getting takeout is your best bet anyways.


Food Trucks

Maui on a Budget

The food truck scene on Maui is really on-point and a great option for eating out on a budget in Maui. To us, it seemed like there were different food trucks set-up everywhere we visited. Our favorite food truck spot was located in downtown Kahului, right across the street from Costco. There are many options of what to eat at this food truck spot but we recommend Earth Aloha Eats. We both enjoyed some really good plant based food here. 


Hana Farms

Hana Farms farmstand and restaurant is located along the road to Hana at approximately mile marker 31. The chocolate chip banana bread here is absolutely delicious. There is also a restaurant where you can sit down and eat a meal here. The restaurant was not open when we visited but the outdoor seating area was really pretty spot to enjoy some fresh banana bread. 


Monkeypod

Monkeypod Kitchen has two locations on Maui, one in Wailea on the South shore and one on Kaanapali beach on the West side of Maui. Everything in this restaurant is made from scratch. They are very well known for their Mai Tais (named best on Maui year after year). We really do not think you could go wrong with anything on the menu. We ate at the location in Wailea and had a peaceful lunch on the garden surrounded patio.  Although not the most budget friendly restaurant, we think it is worth the cost (about $25/person).


Maui Budget Tip: Go grocery shopping at Costco

In Hawaii, food is significantly more expensive than the continental US, particularly in the Midwest where we live.  It makes sense given that almost everything needs to be shipped to islands.  However, at Costco, some products are still the same price as they are in the midwest.  We were surprised that we could get large bags of spinach, rotisserie chicken and some other produce for the same price we could at home.  Other things are still more expensive than they would be at home but significantly less expensive than they are at other grocery stores in Hawaii.  

Definitely buy pineapple when you are at Costco as you will not find it for less anywhere else! And with anyone familiar with Costco, the produce is always great quality.  If you have a Costco membership and are going to be staying more than a couple days, it makes complete sense to go shopping here. We did most of our grocery shopping at Costco and then some things that we just really did not need large quantities of, we bought at the local Safeway. 

Costco on Maui is located about five minutes from the airport. Most likely, it will make the most sense for you to stop at Costco after you land in Kahului. 


Where to Stay on Maui on a Budget

We recommend staying on the North side of the Island, in/around Paia or Haiku, near the start of the Road to Hana.  Most people stay in West Maui but if you are looking to explore more than just the beach, this central location is great.  It allows you an early start for the Road to Hana, a good starting point for seeing sunrise at the Summit in Haleakala National Park and an easy drive to make a day trip to the West side or the South shore of the island. 

The Haiku Airbnb we stayed at was in a really nice quiet location.  It had all the amenities we needed and the host was very responsive and helpful. The landscape at the property was very pretty too. This place more budget friendly and better bang for your buck than other options.


We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Maui on a Budget.  Anything you’d add to our guide to visiting Maui, Hawaii on a Budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

For more Hawaii trip tips, please see:

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


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Oahu, Hawaii Quick Guide


The island of Oahu is home to the bustling capital city, Honolulu, and is the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands.  This island has a wide variety of attractions including the historic Pearl Harbor Memorial and the iconic Waikki beach.  We recommend spending about 2 days before heading to another, less populated and less touristy island.  We went to Kauai and were glad we spent the majority of our time on that island.  Here is our quick guide on Oahu, Hawaii.  

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid-August


What to do in Oahu


Polynesian Cultural Center

Polynesian Cultural Center

If you only do one thing on Oahu, do this.  The best description of the Polynesian Cultural Center is that it is the Epcot for the Polynesian Islands.  Here you can explore the culture of the different Polynesian islands through traditional music, crafts, dances and food.  We were not expecting to like this place as much as we did, especially considering it was raining when we went.  We spent a full afternoon here and felt that was the appropriate amount of time, though it can easily be a full day event. 

Polynesian Cultural Center


Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Memorial

Visiting this national memorial is a very humbling experience.  Our favorite part of the experience at Pearl Harbor was being able to meet and connect with a veteran who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. 

Pearl Harbor Memorial


Dole Plantation

Dole Plantation, Oahu

If you love Pineapples, you will love visiting the Dole Plantation.  We enjoyed sampling many different pineapple flavored things here. There are also several different tours you can take here including a Plantation Garden Tour, Pineapple Garden Maze and The Pineapple Express Train.  We did not have time for any of these tours but we think the Plantation Garden Tour would be worth your time. 

Dole Plantation


What/Where to Eat on Oahu


Duke’s Waikiki

Hula Pie, Duke’s in Waikiki

This small Hawaiian chain restaurant named for the olympian and father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, is located right on Waikiki beach. Here, we enjoyed the most delicious fruit smoothies, seafood and hula pie (decadent dessert). 

Duke’s Waikiki


Where to Stay in Oahu


Near Waikiki Beach

Hyatt Waikiki Beach Views

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach. The rooms here were extravagant and the views of the ocean and island were unbeatable.  A bit of a splurge but we thought it was worth the price for the balcony views. 

Hyatt Waikiki


Tip: We were only in Oahu one full day before we continued onto Kauai (see Kauai, Hawaii Quick Guide).  If you want to spend several days on Oahu, you may want to split your stay between the south and north side of the island. 

For more information on visiting Hawaii, please see:


We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Oahu, Hawaii.  Anything else you’d add to our guide on visiting Oahu, Hawaii?  We’d love to hear your feedback and questions.  Please leave us a comment!

And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!


Did you find this post helpful? If so, please share it with a friend, like our Always Have a Trip Planned Facebook Page, follow our Always Have A Trip Planned Instagram and subscribe to our emails below.

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