Wailea vs Lahaina: What Is the Difference?

First-time visitors to Maui are often unsure of where to go. That’s because there are so many great places to explore! Two of the island’s most popular towns, Wailea and Lahaina, are just 30 minutes from our inn. Read on to discover the pros & cons of each town and start mapping out your visit! After you’ve chosen the winner of Wailea vs Lahaina, use our complimentary Travel Guide to plan the rest of your trip. You’ll get the inside scoop on the best things to see and do on Maui!

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Wailea vs Lahaina

Explore Wailea

Pros: Quiet and serene
Cons: Requires driving
Fun Fact: Originally a fishing settlement, Wailea’s name translates to “water of Lea”, the goddess of canoe builders.

If your main goal on vacation is to relax, look no further than Wailea. This peaceful town on Maui’s southern coast is laidback yet upscale. Pack your bathing suit and spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or sunbathing at Wailea Beach. When you’ve gotten enough sun, enjoy a little retail therapy at the shops at Wailea. Do you have a golfer in your group? Wailea Golf Club is known for its championship courses and epic ocean views.

Wailea is also home to excellent restaurants. However, you’ll need a car to get to them. Some of our favorites places to eat include:

  • Ka’Ana Kitchen (Family-style Hawaiian fare)
  • The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea (Romantic ambiance, global menu)
  • Matteo’s Osteria (Modern Italian)

Visit Lahaina

Pros: Lively and upbeat
Cons: Crowded with tourists
Fun Fact: Lahaina means “cruel sun”, referencing the area’s sunny, dry climate. The historic district averages only 13 inches of rain per year.

With its rich history and countless things to do, Lahaina attracts more than two million visitors each year. The town’s main hub is Front Street, which dates back to the 1820s and is lined with shops and restaurants. Across the way, you’ll find the historic courthouse, Lahaina Harbor, and the largest banyan tree in the United States. The town is also a popular place for whale watching from January to March.

Because Lahaina is more like a city, visitors can park their cars and walk to nearly every attraction. Top activities include:

  • Shopping & dining at Wharf Cinema Center
  • Attending local events like Friday Night Art Night
  • Boat rides, kayak tours, and sunset sails
  • Visiting the Maui Dragon Fruit Farm

Why You Should Stay in Wailuku, Maui

King bed in the Plumeria Room at The Old Wailuku InnAs you can see, there are a few key differences between Wailea and Lahaina. One thing they have in common is that they’re both close to our property! The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono is the best choice for lodging on Maui. You’ll enjoy comfortable accommodations, luxury amenities, and easy access to the island’s small towns. Plus, our innkeepers were born and raised in Hawaii. We can provide you with a map of Maui and help you navigate the island like a local!

Check our availability and book your stay today. We look forward to hosting you!