Big Island Fans - will we like Maui?

Old Jul 21st, 2014, 10:09 AM
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Big Island Fans - will we like Maui?

Although I have researched in books and articles, I am having a hard time getting a sense of Maui versus the Big Island. Unfortunately I do not know anyone who has been to both so I am hoping the Fodorites can help. My husband and I are planning a trip for our family (us plus 4 and 8 year old daughters) in February from Boston. We have been the Big Island three times as a family (lucky kids, I know) and my husband and I went to Kauai and Oahu pre-kids.

We picked the Big Island for our trips with the kids because we like the relaxed vibe there and felt assured of great weather. It also never really seems to crowded and there are lots of places to go.

We stayed in a condo on both trips in the Kohala area and really liked being able to easily go to a grocery store and cook in the condo. We are not interested in shopping (can do that at home) or nightlife and might go out for a few nice lunches but we do a lot of eating out at home so don’t really care about that for the trip. We spent most of our time on the beach just relaxing on the beautiful Hapuna, Mauna Kea and A-Bay beaches mixed in with a few drives to north Kohala, Hilo, etc. Seeing whales in February and sea turtles at the beach was a real highlight for the girls. Just getting out of the New England winter is wonderful! The kids are a bit too young to go to Volcano (husband and I have been there before) or do too many active things like hiking or boating. We are not big resort people and like to get out and see the area. To give you a sense of our taste, we stayed at the Mauna Kea on our honeymoon and that might be favorite hotel ever. We took a quick look at the Hilton Waikoloa and ran out of there as fast as we could.

We thought we might try something new this year and were thinking of Maui since neither of us has been there. I have the impression, however, that Maui is very built up and crowded. I can’t get a sense for how Maui compares to the Big Island in that respect. Like I said, we are indifferent to restaurants and nightlife and really just want a low key beach trip. I have read that the Big Island beaches compare unfavorably to beaches on other islands but I find that bit hard to believe given how beautiful the beaches are in Kohala. We will be traveling during school vacation so it will be a busy time anywhere, I imagine, but would like to avoid situations requiring us to rush around and worry about parking at beaches and that type of thing. We also want to have the best chance of nice weather – traveling 12 hours each way with kids for a rainy vacation is no fun - which is why we ruled out Kauai (but correct me if you think that is not right).

Interested in input from people who have traveled to both islands. Should we give Maui a chance or stick with the Big Island? If Maui, where would you recommend we look to rent a house/condo? Any other ideas welcome too.
Sally30 is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 11:49 AM
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I've been to all the major islands that non-Hawaiians can go to (including Lanai) and I would always pick the Big Island over Maui. I know there are many people who love Maui, I'm not one. I can't really explain why I am not fond of Maui without offending those who love it, just say I find it to be the least Hawaiian of the islands.
SAB is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 12:12 PM
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I hope that ChiSue chimes in here as she is very familiar with both islands. I, too, am a huge fan of the Big Island and will always pick it over Maui. To me, Maui is much like Southern California....built up and crowded. Like SAB it is my least favorite island.

Unlike the Big Island where there are few, if any, beach front condos, Maui has a ton. So, if that is appealing to you, it could be an enjoyable departure from the Big Island. You will see whales in Maui as well and the Pacific Whale Foundation does a very educational whale watching cruise.

If you want low key over school break, I don't think Maui would be my first choice. Between the two, you will get a more relaxed vibe and less people on the Big Island.

Good luck with your decision. It is a fun dilemma to have.
taitai is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 01:00 PM
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Big Island is my favorite -- not having visited Lanai or Molokai. However, when we decided to buy a condo for our own use in winter and as a vacation rental, we wanted more access to 'the comforts of home'. (Groceries, maintenance resources, restaurants.)

We bought at Maui Kamaole in South Kihei on Maui. Had money been no object, we'd have bought at Makena Surf. If we came in summer, not winter, we'd have looked in Kapalua and Napili. MK is low-rise, low-density and built up the side of a rise so that even ground floor units can have ocean views. Two other nice South Maui properties are Wailea Elua and Ekahi, but they are older.

I wish you a lot of luck just FINDING something on Maui for this February. (People book a year in advance.) I would reserve a rental car TODAY. Maui is extremely popular with snowbirds and with whale watchers -- the Whale Day Celebration is mid-February, in Kihei.

Maui does have the advantage of *more* beaches, and more easy-access beaches than Big Island, and the sea life is good, if not AS good as Big Island. Road to Hana is a taste of Kauai, more 'jungle-y' and less agricultural than the Hamakua Coast. Haleakala is Maui's walk-in volcano. Upcountry, on the flank of Haleakala, is similar to the ranch area of Big Island.

We prefer South Kihei and Wailea to the whole Lahaina/Kaanapali vibe, and would enjoy Napili/Kapalua in another season. Hana is lovely, but just as apt as Hilo to be wet in winter.

We don't advertise here, but it's a well-vetted site for South Maui condos:

Ask away, but you may be back to the Kohala Coast this winter!
ChiSue is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 01:53 PM
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It's often said that a picture is worth a thousand words:

'Nuff said?

For us, it's an easy choice.
FaceInTheCrowd is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 02:00 PM
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Thanks for the quick responses. They are making me feel like my instincts are right but I do wonder why so many people rave about Maui. have they just not been to the Big Island? Or are we Big Island fans more vocal? We have stayed in the Waikoloa resort on BI so it is hard to argue that is not developed. At any rate, what nice problems to consider.

I'll wait to let the Maui fans have their say.

ChiSue, thanks for your post. If you don't mind my asking, what was it about Maui that convinced you to buy there rather than Big Island? Big Island seemed to have all the comforts of home like groceries and that kind of thing.
Sally30 is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 03:09 PM
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Sally -- We are on Maui for two-three months. Our needs are more 'home away from home', and as owners, we need services. We need more 'town' than we'd find on Big Island (without being near some less lovely parts of the island).

While our condo is modern and quiet, with easy access to several uncrowded snorkeling beaches, I can also be in Kahului in 20 minutes and Lahaina Town in 40. I can be looking at the desolate last lava flow on Maui in 15 minutes or go in the opposite direction to buy a new frying pan at Ace Hardware in the real (not touristy) beach town that is Central Kihei. There are dozens of restaurants ranging from fine dining to carry-out in easy reach. It's a great combination of tropical resort living and 'home'.

We enjoy three seasons on Chicago's north shore and get a break from winter on Maui. For about twenty years we spent two to four weeks at Poipu and on Big Island -- once had a nice house above Keauhou for a month at a fantastic rate, but mostly stayed Kohala area. We've also taken breaks on Caribbean cruises and on islands there.

I think you and your girls would enjoy parts of Maui, but you may be too late to find a sweet spot there for this winter. You also might want to combine Maui and Lanai. Just as Oahu isn't only Waikiki, Maui isn't only Kaanapali.
ChiSue is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 03:11 PM
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The condo I own is pictured in the second photo posted by Face. We've owned and rented it for twelve years.
Here are some of the reasons people visit Maui.

1.Having an ocean front condo with 180 degree ocean vista and the comforts of home is damn nice.
2.Walking across the street to sit at a great sushi bar or one of the many other restaurants is a pleasure,especially after a few Mai-Tais on the lanai.
3.World class snorkeling a few minutes walk from the condo, and freshwater showers feel SO good.
Didn't see any facilities in the Big Island photo.
5.Twenty minute drive to the airport.
logandog is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 04:06 PM
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One great thing about Maui with young kids is that it's a smaller island and there's less driving than there is on the Big Island.

The Big Island is my favorite island, but you can spend a lot of time in the car on the Big Island. We like to stay in Kohala for the beaches but we also like snorkeling at 2 Step and Captain Cook, so there's a lot of driving!

We took our daughter to Maui when she was four years old, and we stayed in a condo in Kaanapali. We could walk to great snorkeling at Black Rock. I think the Kihei area would be great for even less driving.

Maui is also more tropical looking than the Big Island. I don't mind the lava/desert look in Kohala, but it's certainly not as pretty as green and tropical.
kureiff is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 04:13 PM
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We really liked Maui - we stayed in the Wailea area and it was gorgeous, and we could snorkel right off the beach. We liked the Big Island too. Kauai is my personal favorite.
volcanogirl is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2014, 04:53 PM
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They're not clearly shown in the photo, logandog, but there are nice facilities at Manini'owali Beach. And in my experience, you have a tough case in arguing that snorkeling off south Maui beaches is better than snorkeling off Kohala Coast beaches.
FaceInTheCrowd is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 07:57 AM
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FITC -- Sea life is better off Big Island, but...good beaches there are almost entirely Kohala. Only a few hotels or condos have close ocean view -- or are on beaches. We'll all be long gone before Big Island is old enough to have as much leeward vegetation or as many beaches as the older islands.

Maui has less good sea life, but many easy-access beaches with decent sea life -- and a wide choice of lodgings on or thisclose to beaches. It has more man-made 'options'. Everything's a trade-off!
ChiSue is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 08:03 AM
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The Kohala snorkeling is better, but we also enjoy the snorkeling on Maui, particularly Ulua Beach in Wailea(usually fine in winter). Overall I still prefer Maui because things are less far apart, more local restaurants to choose from, larger selection of view and other condos, longer beaches for walking, more green and I prefer Lahaina and Kahului to Kona and Hilo. There are plenty of things to see and do on Maui, and although it is busier than the Big Island, most of the development is nice, and if you don't want high-rise, stay somewhere other than Kaanapali.

We did enjoy our last trip to the Big Island, and I would go there again, but in general, I would chose Maui.
voyager61 is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 09:37 AM
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<have the impression, however, that Maui is very built up and crowded.>

That depends where you are on the island, where you choose to stay, how you spend your time. Certainly the entire island is not "crowded" but there are tourist pockets that are built up with resorts.

To me the biggest "problem" with Maui is you don't really seem to want to go there

Personally my favorite is Oahu. aloha, suze
suze is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 10:30 AM
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Thanks for the responses. I am getting a good sense of the difference between the islands. It sounds like Maui is more accessible, things closer together, less driving but perhaps a little more "mainland" in feeling.

I am curious to try something new although I do really like the Big Island. Any suggestions, given the criteria above, other than Maui?
Sally30 is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 11:09 AM
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Maui feels *nothing* like the "mainland" to me.

Other suggestions... north shore of Oahu?
suze is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 12:31 PM
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I don't think any place in Hawaii is very like the mainland. There's the mild air, the flowers, the dark nights with velvet skies and stars you can SEE, the warmer ocean, "Island Time" and Aloha...where to stop?

Sally and I face the same problem: We visit Hawaii in winter. This is not a great time to stay north on Kauai, Oahu -- or even Napili or Kapalua on Maui. (IMO Kapalua is not as 'west' as it is 'north', and it is built high on breezy bluffs, as the leaning pines bear witness.)

Other than Kohala Coast and South Maui, this leaves...Poipu?...Kailua? (Central America? The Caribbean?)
ChiSue is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 12:46 PM
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Costa Rica ;-)
suze is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 12:48 PM
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Not at all. I've been to and would return to all the major islands. A visit to Haleakala alone is worth a trip to Maui.
wtm003 is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 02:49 PM
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We liked a condo we rented many years ago, at Napili Point on Maui.. It sits at a little cove, I think it's called Hanakeana Cove.

Really great snorkeling there. Tons of colorful fish and turtles. Very protected by a reef, and easy for beginners and kids. It's a very rocky beach, so entering the water can be a challenge. DH would piggyback our kids into the water.

You can walk next door, to Napili Shores condo complex for a gorgeous sand beach. Also has gentle water for kids.

We've gone to the Big Island several times. Maui once, on our first Hawaii vacation. I was a bit disappointed, as it seemed so much like SoCal to me. I was looking for exotic. I think Kauai fits that bill best.
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