Lahaina is one of Hawaii's most historic towns and offers a superb self-guided walking tour that takes you to over thirty places, each of which played an important role in it's history as Hawaii’s first capital and the whaling center of the Pacific.
For a history buff, Lahaina can be a wonderful experience - except when there are two cruise ships in the harbor. When it’s crowded with tourists, Lahaina can be as crazy as Macy's on Christmas Eve. On the other hand, if you like to shop, then almost every day is a great day to visit Lahaina. You'll find something to buy for everyone on your gift list and yourself ranging from expensive jewelry, paintings and rare scrimshaw art to t-shirts, Aloha wear and inexpensive souvenirs.
Once again, a lot is in the timing. Lahaina in the early morning is a great place to explore. The shops mostly do not open until 10:00 am and you'll find easy parking and very few pedestrians. By noon, however, tourists looking to eat at one of Lahaina's fine restaurants and shoppers often fill the town to capacity and parking is next to impossible.
Maui has some of Hawaii's finest restaurants ranging from inexpensive local gems and take-out places to exquisite and expensive restaurants featuring some of the world's top chefs. Maui is famous for its excellent seafood and large selection of locally grown produce such as the Maui onion. For most visitors this means that Maui will offer numerous and varied dining experiences, but what if you're a strict vegetarian? Vegetarians who will eat fish are ensured of numerous choices in dining. For strict vegetarians dining on Maui can be a challenge as my new friend Lauren discovered.
While most restaurants offer one or two vegetarian entrees, there are very few totally vegetarian restaurants on the island. Most of those that exist are located Upcountry on the North Shore. West Maui and South Maui have relatively few choices. Many of the restaurants have vegetarian offerings on their menu but give them little attention and show even less imagination.
So, if you're a strict vegetarian does this mean that you should skip Maui? Not at all. The easy answer is to consider a condominium or timeshare where you can prepare you own meals using fresh Maui produce much of which you won't find on the mainland. If you're considering staying at a resort, then find out before your book your reservation what the resort's restaurants are prepared to do in order to offer you a varied selection of meals. If they want your business, they will work with you.
An excellent resource to dining on Maui and all of the Hawaiian islands is the Hawaiian Restaurant Guide which is updated annually, Read our review of this highly useful and informative book.
For first time visitors and even those who have visited Hawaii previously, nothing beats local expertise. No matter how well you plan your trip and your itinerary, things change and you'll have questions. Don't be afraid to talk to the staff at your hotel or resort. This not only includes the knowledgeable concierges but also the front desk, bell staff and any of the other numerous hotel employees who are usually more than willing to offer you their suggestions.
As you explore the island, you'll meet many locals, shop owners and their employees or other visitors who know the island well. Talk to these people. You'll find that most are more than willing and eager to help you enjoy Maui, the island which has been chosen for eleven straight years as the Best Island in the World by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.
When All is Said and Done
In the end, I believe that everyone in the group took away many pleasant memories of their first Maui experience. Hopefully most will use this brief visit as a launching point for a future, more extended visit to Maui. It's impossible to see and do everything on Maui in a dozen visits, much less one brief four or five day Maui experience.
You're likely to share some, if not many, of these same challenges on your first visit and I hope that some of the lessons learned by our group of first time visitors will help you make the most of your first visit to the Valley Isle of Maui.