west maui vs south maui

Planning a trip to our lovely Maui? If you’re thinking of vacationing on the Valley Isle, one of the first things you’ll want to plan is where to stay in Maui. There are two main areas or “sections” of the island where most vacationers stay – West Maui and South Maui. Both areas have a number of great hotels and condominiums to stay at, so which area you choose may depend mostly on what you want to do while you’re in Maui and the atmosphere you favor. So we did a little comparison of West Maui vs South Maui to give you an idea of what to look for.

Staying In West Maui

The west side of Maui comprises areas like Ka’anapali, Lahaina, Napili, and Kapalua. It is more developed but can also be more crowded. This area of the island is very green and picturesque with lush mountains and tropical scenery wherever you look.


Ka’anapali is the main resort area of West Maui with a number of luxury resort hotels and luxury vacation rentals located along its beautiful beach. Along Ka’anapali Beach, there is a paved walking path that connects all of the major hotels along with various restaurants, golf courses, the Whaler’s Village shopping mall, and a number of Maui beach activities like snorkeling.


A short shuttle ride from Ka’anapali is the historic whaling town of Lahaina. This charming town boasts the famous shopping and dining area known as Front Street, full of restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and souvenir stores. There are also numerous historic sites and buildings to visit in this old whaling village. Here, you can catch a boat to go whale watching, have a dinner cruise, go snorkeling, or experience numerous other boat tours from the Lahaina Harbor. Lahaina has a small number of older, restored hotels as well as bed and breakfasts and condos.

Napili and Kapalua

Up the coast a little, just north of Ka’anapali is Napili and Kapalua. These areas offer a number of less expensive condominium vacation rentals, many right on the beach. This residential area may be a little quieter than the hustle and bustle of the Ka’anapali resorts and offer some great bargain spots while still being close enough to all the action.

However, if you’re planning to spend a lot of time exploring Haleakalā National Park, taking a Haleakalā sunrise bike tour, or traveling the famous Road to Hana, staying in West Maui will make the drive to Haleakalā and Hana much farther.

Staying in South Maui


The southern coast of Maui features the communities of Wailea and Kihei. With its luxury resorts and vacation rentals, Wailea offers what Frommer’s called a “Beverly Hills by the sea” resort experience with great shopping and dining amid the picture perfect tropical area. This Maui resort area is a little quieter than the Ka’anapali resorts because the hotels are a little further apart, but Ka’anapali offers the convenience of easy walkability to area shopping and dining.

South Maui will be a little drier and sunnier than the western coast, so if you’re primary activity is sunbathing, South Maui may be the place for you. But almost everywhere you go in Maui will have plenty of sunshine and warm weather.


North of Wailea is the little community of Kihei. This area has been called “Maui’s best kept secret for budget/affordable accommodations.” Here you’ll find a plethora of nice and often more reasonable vacation condo rentals, but some may not have air conditioning or a daily maid service, so be sure to check. Most of these condos are also across the street from the beach, but there is less traffic in this part of Maui than in the resort areas. Because of its great beaches, the numerous Maui ocean sports available, abundant sunshine, and affordability, Kihei is a favorite spot for vacationers on a budget who still want a great Maui paradise experience.

Staying at South Maui’s Wailea or Kihei will also put you a little closer to Haleakalā, our Haleakalā volcano bike tours, and the Road to Hana.

West Maui vs South Maui: Don’t Forget to Visit Maui’s Upcountry

Wherever you stay on the beautiful island of Maui will give you a memorable Hawaiian experience. Everywhere you go will be a fun and exciting tropical adventure. Whether you stay in West Maui or South Maui, be sure to visit Maui’s Upcountry and the wonders that surround you in beautiful Haleakalā. Take a Maui bike ride down this amazing volcano and explore all that Maui has to offer.