"Maui no ka oi": that's Hawaiian for "Maui is the best", and this local motto reflects a common sentiment among natives and tourists alike. With its wide beaches, lush rain forests, expansive mountaintop vistas, and humpback whales in the winter, Maui certainly makes an impressive case for itself.
Maui is shaped something like a figure eight turned on its side. The massive volcanic bulk of Haleakala anchors the island in the east, giving way to a broad valley heavily cultivated in sugarcane and pineapples before rising again in the West Maui mountains.
Maui has a population of about 150,000 people, about the same as the Big Island but in a fraction of the area.
Towns on Maui
Kahului is the main gateway to Maui, and is the location of both the airport and the harbor. Kahului is also home to a vast array of shopping centers, strip malls, and big box stores pratically indistinguishable from anywhere on the US mainland. As a result, most tourists just pass through on their way from the airport to the resorts on the leeward coasts. There are however some excellent budget accomodations availalble at motels near the airport, for a good bit cheaper than the prevailing Maui rates.
Lahaina is an old whaling town on Maui's west coast, with a charming (though touristy) feel these days.
Kihei is a recent upstart on the south coast. Beyond the omnipresent beaches and resorts, Kihei is home to Maui's small but growing high-tech industries, including a supercomputing center.
Far Hana is located on Maui's eastern tip surrounded by dense rainforests. The Highway to Hana is a tourist attraction in its own right as it winds for hours through green valleys and past waterfalls.
Humpback whales breed of the coast of Maui from about December to March. Whalewatching cruises make frequent trips, though often the whales are easily visible from shore.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are popular. Many tour boats run out to the spectacular volcanic atoll Molokini a few miles offshore.
Haleakala National Park offers alpine wilderness and stunning views of Maui and beyond (from the summit you can see five of the eight main islands, more than are visible from anywhere else in Hawaii).