When I began planning my trip to Hawaii, it was entirely based around the generous hospitality of family and friends who live there. Frankly, I didn’t know there was any other way — I pictured nothing but endless rows of high-end hotels, far out of reach of my teeny tiny budget.
And then, in my research, I stumbled upon The Banana Bungalow Hostel in Maui. A hostel, in Hawaii? I had to see this.
After leaving The Big Island, I was supposed to stay at the Banana Bungalow for five nights. By the fourth I had already changed my plane ticket to stay another five more. I might never have left, had I not had a non-refundable trip to Las Vegas on the horizons. Read on for what makes the Bungalow such a special place.
The Crowd / Atmosphere
For some reason — oh, perhaps that I was in America — I expected there to be plenty of Americans at this hostel. I couldn’t have been more wrong! My countrymen and women make up only a small percentage of the diverse and international crowd at Banana Bungalow.
At the Banana Bungalow, mornings are spent eating pancakes in the sunshine, days are spent exploring the stunning island of Maui, and evenings are spent sharing drinks and stories with new friends in the courtyard — surfers, backpackers on round-the-world-trips, and even athletes from the recent Hawaii Ironman. While I arrived at Banana Bungalow not knowing a soul, I left with friends from around the world — my friend Paola from Spain has already come to visit me in Florida, and I have plans to run into a few more Bungalow-ers in Thailand this month.
There is a young, fun staff at the Banana Bungalow that feels like a tight-knit family — one that welcomes newcomers with open arms. This, combined with the fairly long-term stays of many guests, means that there is a strong community vibe in the air, one that will tempt anyone who walks through the door to be a part of it.
While there is no hostel bar and quiet hours start at 10pm, the crowd here is primarily young and party-prone. That said, families and older guests are also happy customers of the Banana Bungalow.
Nestled in the Happy Valley town of Wailuku, the bungalow has a garden-like setting so inviting that some guests spend all day relaxing in the courtyard, swinging in the hammock, or soaking in the jacuzzi.
Within walking distance lies a grocery store, a few restaurants, a post office, and other vitals. For those that want to journey further afield (and who wouldn’t, on Maui?) car rental with free parking is available, and the bungalow is 100 feet from the Piihana Terrace bus stop on the Wailuku Route.
But for those that don’t want to hassle with rental cars or public transportation, the hostel offers daily free tours around the island. You read that correctly!
Without a doubt, Banana Bungalow’s greatest asset is its free tour program — a different trip each day of the week. Some tours go to different famous beach towns and snorkel spots around Maui, my favorite being the clothing-optional hippie drum circle parties on Sunday at Little Beach. More active days take you on the famous Road To Hana trip or hiking through the Ioa Valley. Saturday is the day of the Haleakala tour — my personal Maui highlight. The Bungalow tour guides are the only ones offering the full twelve-mile hike across Haleakala Crater, topped off by a sunset that could make Photoshop obsolete.
Hawaii is no bargain destination, and tours of this caliber offered by other operators on the island can run up to $100 a day, making staying at The Banana Bungalow an amazing value. Do note that all tour guides are working in exchange for accommodation only, so tipping is vital. A tip of $5-25 per tour (and a beer at the end of the day!) is appropriate.
Check back this week for reviews of the many tours I took with Banana Bungalow!
In addition to the usual hostel perks like a laundry room and large kitchen, Banana Bungalow really spoils its guests with bonuses like free internet and computer use, a free pancake breakfast each morning, and a free keg party every Friday. Plus, um, did I mention the free tours?
The common areas boast a jacuzzi — perfect for soaking in after a long day of hiking! — a pool table, an outdoor grill, and a massive TV with a billion channels for those mythical rainy days (I never had one while I was there).
Banana Bungalow offers both four and six bed dorms, with the option of women-only rooms. Private rooms are also available with one queen or two twin beds. The shared bathrooms vary in plushness — some are basic while the two most recently renovated were super modern and boasted some of the best water pressure I’ve ever had.
With bright colors and fabrics and thoughtful touches like original artwork on the walls, my private room at The Banana Bungalow resembled a boutique hotel more than a hostel room.
Room For Improvement
Being closed out of the common areas (including the kitchen) from 10pm to 8am was inconvenient at times, when late night hunger or early morning thirst hit hard. The internet connectivity was spotty at times and certain rooms had better signals than others.
I can’t help but smile when I think of the Banana Bungalow — I cherish the time I had there, and it really got me excited about traveling solo again. The winning combination of relaxed, bohemian atmosphere, the great value and insta-friendships created by the daily tours, and the unbeatable setting on the island of Maui will have me singing the Bungalow’s praises for years to come. I recommend staying at least a week, but two if you have the time — enough time to partake in each of the tours but also have free days to kitesurf in Kahana with new friends, or to sleep in after a late night kareakoing in Kihei.
With flights to Hawaii at an all time low (I’ve seen rates from $419 for New York City to Honolulu round trip!) and the free tours offered by the Bungalow, a week in Hawaii just went from fantasy to affordable reality. Go — you might find yourself unable to leave!
Location: 310 North Market Street, Wailuku 96793
Price: Dorms are $37, Privates start at $85. There are special monthly dorm rates and surfer’s rates available.
Amenities: Free daily tours, free internet and computer use, free pancake breakfast, free Friday keg parties
Book Here: The Banana Bungalow Hostel
Would you stay at a hostel in Hawaii? What’s the greatest hostel you’ve ever stayed in?
This post was made possible by Hostelworld and the generous hospitality of the Banana Bungalow. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.