Flying into Maui from the Big Island on a ten seater, single engine Mokulele Airlines plane was a little bumpy and scary at times. However, the views were magnificent and blissfully distracting as we flew low and closely hugged the coast, leaving behind the Big Island with its turquoise waters and rugged black volcanic landscapes. As we neared the island of Maui the lush, emerald green, mountainous terrain appeared rimmed with small tourist towns clinging to its radiant coastline.
Safely on land again, we organised our rental car, a necessity on this island. We drove 20 minutes along the Moukulele Highway to the Kihei/Wailea area, which is one of the largest tourist centres on the island. This is possibly the best location for gay men to stay, due to its proximity to Little Beach (the gay beach), availability of ample accommodation options, streets of shopping and restaurants and, of course, gay friendly Ambrosia Bar.
We chose to stay at the Aston Maui Banyan Apartments right on Kihei beach which is easily accessible, a safe place to swim, relax and catch a stunning Maui sunset. A few kilometres south from Kihei is Wailea with a string of five star luxury hotels with their manicured gardens and a stunning high end village shopping centre.
People come from all over the world to explore Maui’s famous beaches, snorkel in pristine waters, to be amazed at breaching humpback whales and take stunning drives along the Hana Coast with its 600 switchbacks and 56 bridges. If you are an early morning person, seeing the sun rise over Haleakala Volcano is also a very special treat.
Lahaina, the old port town with its Banyan Tree in the square and the weekend markets and shops, is always a must do for visitors. Nearby to Lahaina is Kaanapali Beach, known as one of the best beaches in Maui but, on our visits, we have been a little disappointed due to strong winds and its quite narrow strip of sand.
Oneloa and Pu’u Ola’i Beaches are better known as Big Beach and Little Beach. To get there take the turn off to Makena State Park and when you see the Fish Taco truck you know you have arrived. Find a spot in the car park and head down the short track to Big Beach which is a wide open stretch of sand and crystal clear waters where swimmers need to watch the strong undertow. A few hundred metres north and a short scramble through a narrow crevice of volcanic rock is Little Beach, renowned as Hawaii’s most popular nudist beach.
Nude bathing is not legal anywhere in Hawaii but here authorities turn a blind eye. Bring plenty of supplies as there are no shops and an umbrella will also make your day more comfortable. Little Beach is the place to really chill out and perhaps you might even catch a nude surfboard rider.
On Sunday afternoons the beach becomes a party with locals performing fire dancing and drum circles. Check out the north side of the beach, this is where most gay men will be ‘hanging out’. Little beach is about a 15 minute leisurely drive from Kihei.
Eating, Drinking, Shopping
ABC shops are excellent for buying snacks , sandwiches and salads for the beach. 808 Deli in Kihei makes an awesome spicy turkey ruben sandwich and lots of other incredibly delicious and healthy food. Next door Fred’s Mexican Café serves authentic Mexican food that is definitely worth a try (it was so good we ate here twice). Coconut’s Fish Café also comes highly recommended as an island favourite.
There are so many other restaurants to choose from in Kihei but we had an apartment with a self catering kitchen so it was sometimes fun to shop like a kama’aina (local) for seasonal produce and eat in. We made several visits to Foodland a short distance up the road. This actually proved quite wise because after dark a lot of places close early in Maui. Last orders in restaurants are around 9pm.
We found Ambrosia Martini Lounge in Kihei, a gay friendly place for a drink and perhaps one of the few places where people dance and party until late.
If you have a spare afternoon and want to hit the shops for some serious retail therapy don’t miss The Shops At Wailea. You’ll find everything from souvenirs to high end resort wear and even local artworks.
This was our first trip to Maui in over 25 years so we had a lot of fun discovering new attractions and marvelling at the progress on the island. However, nothing changes about Hawaiian hospitality and this is an island where you can easily mix casual relaxation with high end dining, shopping and recreation if you so desire. Or just simply relax on a scenic drive or a beautiful beach with a good book. Aloha!
Know Before You Go
- Book a hire car
- Stay in the Kihei/Wailea area to be close to the best beaches
- We stayed at the Aston Maui Banyan but check Agoda for more accommodation options.
- Either side of June-August is better weather and cheaper
- Maui is more expensive than mainland USA