Most cruises seem to spend two days visiting Maui, and that’s great since there is so much to see and do. I was also lucky enough to spend a week on Maui a few years ago so I’ve included some of those experiences too.
It depends on the cruiseline where you will port. Norwegian’s Pride of America docks in Kahului, which is really just an industrial area. From Kahului we took the free bus to Hilo Hattie’s which is great for buying Aloha-wear and souvenirs. We found a gorgeous matching dress and shirt (on sale!) to wear to the luau. Several years on and we still wear them whenever we get the opportunity. Great place to get your dancing hula dolls for your dashboard, male or female!
On the second day we rented a car for with two destinations in mind. The first was lunch at Alexander’s Fish and Chips in Kihei (which I understand has since closed, very disappointed about that). The second was to take my mother-in-law to visit beautiful Lahaina, which I will talk about more below. The car rental was very reasonable and had a shuttle service to the port, although we walked back rather than wait because it wasn’t very far. The drive from Kahului to Lahaina is between 30-40 minutes, but is very scenic once you hit the coast. Royal Caribbean, and possibly other lines, drops anchor in Lahaina and you will tender to shore where you will find plenty to do.
There is so much to see in Lahaina, you really don’t need to pay for an excursion. Once off the ship you can explore the picturesque town, visit the marina and the banyan tree, take surfing lessons, or lay on the beach.
We rented a paddleboard for $35 for three hours from Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy and walked about 100 yards to the beach. The water was very shallow, so perfect for a calm paddle, but not quite deep enough to swim. It’s a beautiful beach, not crowded, and within walking distance from the port.
For a walking tour, the link below will guide you around the town and restaurants.
Or if you want to visit the historic sites, you could follow the map on this link. There are two versions available, one for a 30-minute walk, another for a 90-minute walk.
Road to Hana
Everyone will tell you to drive the road to Hana to see the fabulous views, waterfalls and black sand beaches. I would recommend you don’t drive it yourself but take a tour – the benefits far outweigh the additional cost. If you drive yourself, you will spend all your time concentrating on the winding roads and miss out on the sights, not to mention get very frustrated with the other drivers on the road. We took a tour with Temptation Tours which included a very comfortable drive in a mini-van to Hana, then a helicopter ride back.
The driver was very knowledgeable and narrated along the way. Before setting off, he handed out ginger to alleviate any car sickness we might get from the twists and turns. We stopped several times for photos, a swim in the waterfall, and to visit a flower farm where the ladies were given a bouquet of Hawaiian flowers. The drive lasted two to three hours.
Once we reached Hana, the driver laid out a picnic at the black sand beach. We had plenty of time to explore the area and he answered any questions we had.
Then he took us to meet the helicopter for our ride home. This lasted about 40 minutes and took us above over the Haleakala volcano and past many waterfalls. The pilot was also very informative about what to look for and some of the history. There are no roads on this south side of the island so these are views that can only be seen from the air. Unfortunately there was fog over the volcano so we didn’t get a clear view inside but that will be the luck of the draw. It was still a fantastic ride back to Kahului. Of course, a dvd was available to purchase so you can relive it whenever you’re feeling nostalgic for Hawaii.
We took a snorkel tour from Lahaina which took us out on a huge dingy towards Molokini for some snorkeling around the crater. Since this was in December, we were lucky enough to spot some whales breaching and they stopped the boat so we could take photos. We stopped in two different locations to snorkel but I didn’t see as many fish as I would expect, but I think this would depend on the day. We had a buffet lunch before heading back to Lahaina. On the journey back, spinner dolphins were swimming and jumping alongside the boat – very entertaining! All in all, not the best snorkel excursion I have done but the whales and dolphins made for a great day out.
Just north of Lahaina are all the resort hotels with their gorgeous beaches. If you take a beach excursion with the ship, this is probably where you will go. We wanted to try paddling an Outrigger Canoe as we’d never done this before. Surprisingly in Hawaii, this sport is more popular than surfing! We found Maui Paddle Sports online and booked a 90 minute paddle with them. They also do surf and paddleboard lessons. From Lahaina, you need to take a cab and make sure you get dropped at the correct Westin hotel. We ended up walking two miles to find Westin Ocean Villas after being dropped at Westin Maui Resort. There is a beautiful walkway along the coast, so we decided to walk all the way back to Lahaina after the canoe trip. It took a couple of hours but it was worth it.
Everyone needs to go to a luau at least once just to get the full Aloha experience. There are many available and, with an overnight stay on a cruise ship, you have that opportunity. Check out this Luau Guide to find the best one for you.