Out of the three Hawaiian islands I have visited, Maui is my favourite. I do like to think that I know the island quite well having stayed in Lahaina, Kihei, Hana, and Wailea. I love to snorkel and Maui may not be the best in the world for snorkelling, but it serves me well.
Maui is a quiet island. I'm sure if you are looking for some rocking beach parties, you will find, but from my experience once the sun goes down, you have a nice dinner and you head to bed. We aren't huge drinkers but there are lots of pubs and places were you can spend your evenings.
I have stayed in Kihei a few times in condos. These are perfect for families who need the space and is much more affordable than the resorts. Kihei has a bunch of great restaurants include Sansei (Japanese), some great BBQ places and small local restaurants. I do find that in the condo complexes the pools are pretty basic. You do have a beach across or down the street, but sometimes you just want a nice pool where you aren't going to get all salty. Plus I have been spoiled at the resorts a little further down the island in Wailea.
Even if you stay in Wailea, you will probably find yourself heading to Kihei to do shopping and dining. It isn't far.
Personally, Wailea is my preference when I'm in Maui. There are huge resorts, golf courses and some amazing beaches. Just past Wailea is Big Beach in Makena and of course Little Beach which is the nude beach. Big beach is beautiful. I do have memories when we were younger fighting the big waves and not having the greatest experience. But now that I'm grown, Big Beach is one of my favourite beaches on Maui. I think you can snorkel there I think, but there is a better place down the road.
If you drive past Wailea to Makena there is an awesome little spot where the road curves around an inlet that is perfect for snorkelling. It isn't sandy, it is all coral and lava rock but you go a few metres out and the fish are plentiful. I have even seen a few sea turtles there. Drive the road slowly, lots of blind spots, but a very easy drive.
We stayed at this hotel back in 2010. We had a partial ocean view suite with 1 bedroom. The hotel is really beautiful and has some beautiful grounds. They have multiple pools, but when we were they they were renovating one of them. We did find the food options were a little limited. So we did end up venturing off the resort to get dinner most of the time. The Four Seasons is in walking distance and so is the Grand Wailea by Waldorf Astoria.
We walked around this resort years ago when I was younger and I dreamed of returning. In 2012 I was able to return and fully experience this hotel. The pool area is amazing. Multi level pools connected by waterslides, some rapids, lazy rivers and tunnels. The pool is so much fun to explore and play around in. There is also a water elevator that was built by the original owner who had a child that was in a wheelchair. The water elevator raises you up to the top pool where you can begin your adventure.
This resort also has a training pool for scuba diving so I took advantage and went out with a guide. I had scuba dived with a guide before in Australia so I knew I would love it. There isn't a bunch of coral at this beach but we still a very fun experience.
Lahaina feels more of a touristy town. Lot's of touristy stores and restaurants and a lot of the boat tours leave from Lahaina. I like a quick visit to Lahaina, but I don't really need to hang out there for more than a couple of hours. Ka'anapali is right next to Lahaina and most of the resorts on this side of the island are there.
After we did a trip to Hana we stayed a few nights at the Westin Ka'anapali. We had decided to stay out at the Westin after an overnight trip to Hana right before going home.
The Westin is a nice hotel, like most Westin's are. The pool area is great with various pools to play in. The beach on this side of the island isn't to great though. It isn't a sandy beach and it isn't the type of beach that you would lay on, the water comes up pretty close to the shore. I much prefer the beaches on the Kihei / Wailea / Makena side of the island.
I also visited the spa, it wasn't too memorable... from what I can remember. The hotel is conveniently located next to the Whaler's Village where you can shop.
Lahaina does have the Old Lahaina Luau which I have done multiple times. If you haven't been it is always fun, not to mention the food is delicious and the drinks are included!
The road to Hana deserves it's own post. Something that people say you only need to do once, but I can't wait to go back again. Stay tuned.
You need a car when you go to Maui, there is no questioning that.
We took advantage of jet lag one trip and headed up to the top of the volcano. We packed into the car at 4am for the drive up to the top to see the sunrise. Or so we thought. As it turns out the weather is unpredictable and like us, you could be surrounded by clouds and rain. It even snows up at the peak. So as it turns out, after all that effort, we didn't get to see the sunrise, and it was freezing.
We normally rent snorkelling gear for the week, but many resorts will provide it to you, at least the big resorts in Wailea.
There is a Costco right near the airport. You can pick up some big bottle of booze!