I’m sorry to say traveling to Hawaii is getting more and more expensive as time goes by. What makes the situation difficult for travelers dreaming of this Polynesian paradise is that you can’t cut back on seemingly anything. Accommodations are eye-popping, and you can’t sleep on the beach, can you? Plus, a rental car is usually considered essential. It makes you wonder if having a rental car in Maui is truly necessary. After all, you could rely on local public transport. We’ve all been there, and not much can be found online about the experience. Here is an in-detail summary of getting around with the Maui bus.
How easy is it to get around Maui by bus?
Maui has 14 bus routes connecting the Hawaiian island’s different communities. Central, South, and West Maui, as well as the Upcountry all have bus lines interconnected by specific transfer points. Generally, getting from one place to another usually takes 1 to 2 hours. All routes are open seven days a week. Moreover, the network does not close during the holidays, which means you could even ride the bus on Christmas Day!
You’ve guessed it. The bus is the only means of public transport; Maui doesn’t have a tram or a water taxi going around the island. Besides, the bus network is relatively small as it caters to the local population rather than tourists. As a result, Haleakala National Park and the Road to Hana, two major tourist spots, are inaccessible by bus. (Neither are they equipped with a shuttle service.)
VMaui is the perfect size to be explored by car; it’s what people like about it. In fact, driving places is half the fun of your time in the Aloha State. Your Hawaiian vacation will undoubtedly be different from if you were to have a car. You will need to plan well in advance the places you want to visit and be prepared that each visit is the last time you’ll most likely visit that place on that trip.
Towns in Maui accessible by bus
As said before, the Maui bus is mainly meant for the locals and only goes to some places. For instance, no bus passes on the Backside of Haleakala (the south side of East Maui), far from it! Here is the complete list of cities served by local public transport, classified by « touristic importance. »
The towns of Ka’anapali, Kapalua, Kihei, Lahaina, and Wailea are tourist spots serviced by the Maui bus system. Other cities part of the network might be of interest for a particular attraction they have : Hali’imaile (which is the headquarters of the Maui Pineapple Tour), Ma’ alaea (which contains the popular Maui Ocean Center) and Paia. In addition, Kahului (and its airport) are also part of Maui’s bus network.
The towns of Ka’anapali, Kapalua, Kihei, Lahaina, and Wailea are tourist spots serviced by the Maui bus system. Other cities part of the network might be of interest for a particular attraction they have: Hali’imaile(where the Maui Pineapple Tour is), Ma’alaea (Maui Ocean Center), and Paia (Paia Fish Market and Baldwin Beach). In addition, Kahului (and its airport) are also part of the Maui bus network.
The bus network serves other cities. I would be amazed if you went to these off-the-beaten-path towns but still included them for information purposes only: Ha’iku, Makawao, Pukalani, Waihe’e, and Wailuku. I added the last two cities to this section for reasons we’ll discuss later.
|Kahului Loop / Kahului Reverse Loop||Kahului only|
|Wailuku Loop / Wailuku Reverse Loop||Kahului-Wailuku|
|Lahaina Villager||Lahaina Only|
|West Maui Islander||Lahaina-Ka’anapali-Kahana-Napili-Kapalua|
Where to stay on Maui without a car?
Kihei is the place for you if you wish to endeavor the Maui by bus adventure. You will be close to the fantastic beaches of South Maui and, all in all, this very central area is well-connected through the transport network.
Lahaina is, strictly speaking, the place requiring the fewest transfers and, therefore, the simplest to explore Maui by bus. Ironically, it’s also one of the most expensive places on the island after Wailea and Kaanapali. If you plan on staying in the historic town, consider lodging elsewhere and investing that money in a rental.
Attractions you can visit traveling only by bus
So I decided to thoroughly analyze the most popular attractions in Maui and see if they were realistically accessible by bus. All times given below are for one way only. Also, since we decided Kihei was the best base to get around Maui without a car, the starting point for these estimates is Kihei. Just know that the round trip usually takes the same time. Therefore, take that into account when planning your trip.
Less than 1 hour by bus from Kihei
You’ll only need to take one bus to either the Maui Ocean Center or the Keawakapu Beach, both about 30 minutes from Kihei. On the other hand, Wailea Beach requires you to ride the bus for 50 min. to get there.
The Maui Historical Society, meanwhile, is 2 buses away. The trip takes 50 min. Finally, getting to the Kahului Airport (OGG) also necessitates 2 buses and about 50 min. of transport.
More than 1 hour by bus from Kihei
From now on, getting to any of these places will require a transfer; that means two buses unless indicated otherwise.
If you feel patient enough, a few other places can easily be explored by bus. Bring your book and enjoy the scenic drive. The historic village of Lahaina, on the west coast of Maui, is 1 hour away by public transport. Kaanapali Beach, further North, takes 1h20 min (and 3 different buses!) to reach.
To go to Paia and enjoy the two best attractions of the North Shore, Baldwin Beach and the Paia Fish Market, expect about 1h30min to get there!
More than 2 hours by bus from Kihei
I don’t believe you will endure more than one bus trip over 2 hours during your time on the island. Nonetheless, here are your options: The Maui Pineapple Tour in Hali’imaile, a fantastic agritourism destination in Maui’s Upcountry, is a 2-hour drive away. A comparable length of time is needed to get to the North Shore and reach Ho’okipa Beach Park.
Finally, two remote tourist destinations, Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm and Kapalua Bay Beach, are technically accessible by bus. While it is possible to get to the farm in 2h 15 min (please note this includes a 1.2-mile walk), a total of 3 buses and 2 hours will bring you to the Beach in Kapalua.
Things you’ll miss if you only travel Maui by bus
Haleakala National Park
Unless your trip is dedicated to a pilgrimage to the old volcano, you will never get to Maui’s only National Park, relying on the bus system solely. The Red Hill Overlook is an hour’s drive from the nearest bus station in Kula. If you don’t have a car, consider Haleakala Ecotours for tours of the dormant volcano
Road to Hana
If you don’t have a car, forget about all the wonders on the Road to Hana: the Seven Sacred Pools of Ohe’o and its majestic heights, the awe-inspiring Three Bears Falls, the authentic Kahanu Garden, the exotic Bamboo Forest in the Pipiwai Trail. Surely you wouldn’t want to miss the black sands of the Waiʻanapanapa State Park! Road To Hana Tours offers several tours to Hana.
Iao Valley State Monument
The Iao Valley State Monument is a part of every must-see list of Maui. Whether it’s to hike its unique Iao Needle Lookout Trail or to admire the valley and its 1200 feet tall needle from the belvedere, this conservation area is exciting. Located in Central Maui just west of Wailuku, the park is entirely inaccessible by bus. Although Wailuku is a 47-minute bus ride from Kihei, you would have to walk another 2.6 miles from the bus station to the state monument entrance. Unless you are ready to hitchhike, your best bet would be to consider taking a tour.
Waihee Ridge Trail
The Waihee Ridge Trail is much more impressive than the Iao Valley. This trail allows you to climb Maui’s lush, green mountains and see them from above without the luxury of a helicopter ride. Perfect for people who are afraid of heights! Unfortunately, Waihee Ridge is in the same position as the Iao Valley: the bus does not go close enough to the path’s entrance. The end of the Waihe’e Villager bus line takes you 4 miles down the trail.
Mākena Beach State Park (also called Big Beach) is one of the most expansive beaches on the island and is blessed with very soft sand. Alas, the last bus stop in Wailea is 5 miles from this beautiful beach.
This marine conservation area in West Maui is only one of the best waves in the Hawaiian archipelago. Honolua Bay, usually accessed from a short walk through the lush chicken-roamed forest, is a great place to snorkel. It is, in any case, 3.8 miles away from the last bus stop in that direction.
How do you buy the bus ticket?
Taking the bus is quite simple. The ticket costs $2, and you have to buy one every time you enter a bus; The bus fare from the first ride won’t carry over to the second. Taking two buses means you have to pay 2 x $2. (Children 5 and under can ride the bus for free if accompanied by an adult.) Day passes are also available and cost only $4. It would be best if you always bought a day pass. Considering everything above, you probably know by now getting somewhere by bus on Maui almost always involves a transfer.
Buying a single ticket on the Maui bus: You’ll pay the bus fare immediately upon getting on the bus. It is cash only, and you only need to put the money in the fare box next to the bus driver. Try to have the exact amount; it will be easier for everyone. You won’t receive a ticket or receipt as this is a one-time ticket.
If you want a day pass: Simply tell the bus driver, who will give you a day pass you can use when you transfer or take another bus later the same day. You’ll only have to show your pass when getting on the bus. It is, as for a single fare, payable by cash only.
Finding the Maui Bus stops
The easiest way to know where is the bus stop is to look it up on Google Maps. There might be a sheltered area or a bench at the bus stop, but it may also only be indicated by a sign on the side of the road.
How often do the buses run?
The Maui bus usually runs once an hour. However, if you need to make a transfer and you see that you will miss it, tell the driver. This will allow your connecting bus to wait for you.
What Maui bus goes to Kahului airport?
Both the Upcountry and Haiku Islander routes stop at the Kahului Airport.
In conclusion: Do you need a car to get around Maui?
While the bus can get you to some places, you might miss some of the best things on Maui if you only rely on it. Public transit is not good enough to get you around the island unless you only want to visit a few select places. Trailheads and most of the beaches are only accessible by car. Nevertheless, traveling to Maui without a car is fine if you only want to hang out by your resort. If not, consider having a car for 2 or 3 days to explore this extraordinary destination with all the freedom you need.