Travel tips for your Maui golf vacation

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Few destinations do resort golf better than Maui.

Kahili Golf Club on Maui - No. 10
Kahili Golf Club is one of the affordable courses both Maui locals and visitors will enjoy.
Kahili Golf Club on Maui - No. 10Old Blue Course at Wailea Golf Club - clubhouseMaui sunset
If you go

The island has become such a favorite because it packs such a punch with golf courses, beaches and off-course activities, all within easy reach of one another.

You'll want to make the best of your precious time in paradise. Here are a few travel tips to consider if you're a first-timer heading to Maui.

Discover the different parts of the island

Maui isn't very large. From south Maui's Makena Golf Course to Kapalua Resort, it's about an hour's drive. That's about as long a distance between two courses as you'll find here.

One of the reasons it's such a vacation favorite is because of how different the topography is depending where you are on the island. The West Maui Mountains dominate the western side. To the northwest, wetter and junglier terrain is on display in Kapalua.

Yet, just 15 minutes to the south is drier Lahaina, once used for sugar and pineapple plantations. Some beaches have calm waters, while others have spectacularly high waves. The views, the grass and the weather are always changing, even just a few miles away.

Do the Mount Haleakala sunrise tour early in your trip

Between the long flight (about six hours from the West Coast) and the time difference (minus five hours from EST), your first night's sleep on Maui might be a little rough.

The Mount Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour is one of the most popular tours on Maui, and it starts early. You'll need to be at base camp around 4 a.m. So you may as well do it the first morning you're on Maui, before you're acclimated too much to the time zone.

And for the sunrise bike ride, bring what you'd wear on a ski trip: layers, wool hat, gloves and even a face warmer if you have one. It's that cold up there.

Decide if the Road to Hana is right for you

The most out-of-the-way attraction on Maui is the drive to the village of Hana, located on the eastern side of the island and accessible by a scenic -- but hardly an A-to-B -- winding road.

Of the handful of people I've spoken to who have visited Maui and have done the Road to Hana, some called it the highlight of their trip. Others said it was a tedious journey.

So you'll want to make sure everyone in your group is on board for the ride. And if you do, set aside a whole day. Don't feel rushed to get back to your hotel for dinner reservations.

Maui nightlife is limiting

There is a little more action on Maui compared to Kauai, but it's still no Waikiki on Oahu.

Locals like to refer to 10 p.m. as "Maui Midnight" here. Kihei does have some bars near the beach that are open later than most restaurants. And one of the more lively spots on the island is either of the two Sansei Sushi Bars, which host late-night karaoke and happy hour.

Those who stay in Ka'anapali make their way to the Whaler's Village, where there are a few beachside bar spots that stay open until about 11 p.m. In Wailea, night owls head to Wailea Old Blue's Irish Pub, Mulligans on the Blue.

Ditch the trade winds in south Maui

The trade winds can be a staple of golf in Hawaii, so you'll want to bring your low ball. While few days on the islands are ever dead calm, south Maui has earned a reputation for having some of the calmest spots anywhere on the islands.

That's no coincidence. It's because of 10,000-foot-high Mount Haleakala towering above this part of the island, shielding it from a lot of the bad weather that comes through.

For this reason, Wailea's three golf courses, Makena and Elleair Golf Club have earned reputations for being the most calm spot for golf anywhere in the islands.

Afternoon golf course discounts abound

If you're not sure you can afford the peak morning tee times at Maui's best resort golf courses, wait until after lunch.

Ka'anapali's two golf courses have two of the more outside-the-box specials for casual golfers. You can join the afternoon "Fit Club," which allows you to play six holes at Royal Ka'anapali after 4 p.m. all month for $50. Their "Golf My Way" initiative also means you can book one tee time and spread out the 18 holes over multiple days during your stay.

Great value can be found outside the resorts

At the resort courses, it'll be tough to find a prime time green fee for less than $100, but that doesn't mean golfers on a budget are shut out here. The Dunes at Maui Lani and Kahili Golf Club are two island favorites, and they can be played on the cheap even if you don't have a Hawaii driver's license.

Find a spot for sunset

What's the worst mistake you could make on Maui? Being indoors at sunset.

Everyone on the island finds a spot at dusk. The Sheraton Ka'anapali performs a ceremonial cliff dive at sunset worth soaking in with a Mai Tai.

But you don't need to be at a resort to catch the view. The many beaches of Kihei and south Maui also offer their own postcard views at sunset, or enjoy it over dinner from high up at the King Kamehameha Golf Club's famous Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse alongside the West Maui Mountains.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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