Things to Do in Maui
When was the last time you had a snorkel adventure inside of a sunken Hawaiian volcano, or enjoyed a freshly cooked BBQ lunch on the deck of a sailing catamaran? Thanks to its calm, crystal clear waters, bright coral reef, and 250-plus species of tropical fish, Molokini Crater is the most popular spot for snorkeling tours on Maui. Spend a day on a snorkeling tour as you explore the protected marine preserve and come face to face with some of Hawaii's most colorful marine life.
Tropical foliage, black sand beaches, rushing waterfalls and incredible views are the calling cards of the legendary, winding Road to Hana. The famous roadway along Maui’s North Shore (also called the Hana Highway) includes 600 hairpin turns and more than 50 bridges and is known as one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
Dubbed “House of the Sun” by native Hawaiians, Haleakala Crater is the world’s largest dormant volcano and the highest peak in Maui. Set in Haleakala National Park, here you can see a lunar landscape, admire cinder cones and endangered silversword plants, and trek wild hiking trails.
A pleasant stop on the road to Hana, the Puaʻa Kaʻa State Wayside Park offers the chance to take a scenic break from the long drive. Stretch your legs on its dirt path to nearby waterfalls and natural pools. The farther you're willing to walk, the taller the waterfalls become and many people bring a picnic to enjoy as a part of this diversion.
Totaling five acres the area here is lush with tropical plants which, with the sound of the waterfalls, create a distinct rain forest feel. Picnic tables are set against scenic backdrops, and fish and tadpoles are visible in the shallower pools. Watch for wild birds and mongoose. The walking paths here are not rigorous, but a refreshing dip in one of the pools is a highlight for many on a hot day.
Most Maui visitors will spend some time at Maalaea Harbor, the launching point for many of the Island’s best sunset and dinner cruises, fishing charters, snorkeling adventures to the Molokini Crater—a submerged volcanic crater atoll—and more. The 89-slip harbor is the focal point of a quiet bay in the southern nook between the West Maui Mountains and towering Haleakala.
Between late November and early April, head to the scenic lookout between mile markers 8 and 9 to the west of the harbor for sweeping vistas of leaping humpback whales, or any time of the year to spot the dolphins that sometimes ride waves alongside harbor-departing cruises. The Pacific Whale Foundation, organizers of the annual World Whale Day celebrations, have their headquarters in Maalaea Harbor for a reason. Have some time to kill while waiting for your boating adventure? Set back from the sea is the popular Maui Ocean Center, an aquarium highlighting Hawaiian sea life from sharks to sea turtles, corals and more in over 60 indoor-outdoor exhibits. Or, grab some award-winning barbecue from the Beach Bum's Bar & Grill then explore the strips of adjacent Harbor Shops.
Once the Royal capital of Hawaii, Lahaina is a charming coastal town with a laid back feel. Close to some of Maui’s best beaches, it has plenty to offer, from shops, restaurants, and hotels to beautiful beaches, snorkeling, and whale-watching excursions.
Paia is a small town in the heart of Maui’s famous North Shore. The town is primarily populated by surfers and hippies, and the spot has a laid-back, bohemian vibe. Visit to relax by the beach and do some world-class surfing, and enjoy the town’s surf shops, healthy restaurants, music venues, and other low-key attractions.
The legendary “Road to Hana” drive seems to indicate that the town of Hana itself is the goal, but you'd be crazy to miss a visit to Wai'anapanapa State Park.
Spending some time in Wai'anapanapa State Park is reason enough to stay overnight in Hana. It's a lush and gorgeous park just outside of Hana, and one of its most well-known features is the small black sand beach of Pa'iloa. It's a beautiful beach, to be sure, lovely for swimming or simply sunbathing, but there's more to this park than just a beach.
Wai'anapanapa has two underwater caves you can visit that are filled with a combination of fresh and salt water. You can go swimming in these pools, too. This area also has historical significance, too, as you'll see when you visit the ancient burial sites. There is also a trail that winds three miles along the coast, from the park all the way into Hana Town itself.
Immerse yourself in the best of Maui’s rain forest, as you hike through bamboo along a tranquil stream. Set in Haleakala National Park, the Pipiwai Trail takes you about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) round-trip to the base of the stunning Waimoku Falls.
Honolua Bay sits peacefully with its vibrant turquoise and deep blue, warm waters off the northwestern coast of Maui. Preserved as a Marine Life Conservation District, fishing is strictly prohibited here, making the diversity and amount of marine life particularly strong. With its rocky volcanic cliffs sheltering from winds, the bay remains calm and the water clear and excellent for snorkeling. Colorful tropical fish such as parrotfish, damselfish, Moorish Idols, snapper, and wrasse, as well as tuna, sea turtles, and eels are commonly sighted. The rock formations and abundant corals make this a scenic place to explore underwater. It is also a popular surfing spot, particularly in the winter months, due to the long waves that crash at its coast. There is a small black sand beach, but most of the coastline is jagged rock. Visibility in the water tends to improve the farther you swim from the coast.
More Things to Do in Maui
One of Maui’s first resort towns, Kaʻanapali consists of high-rise resorts lining idyllic white-sand beaches. While the world-famous Kaʻanapali Beach is the draw of this West Maui tourist hub, you can also stay busy with pursuits such as shopping, golfing, whale watching, and ziplining.
The Oheo Gulch is a vibrantly green valley that has been naturally created by centuries of rain forest streams. Also called the Kipahulu Area, these lush lands became part of the Haleakala National Park in the 1940s. The main draw for visitors is the many tall waterfalls that feed into groups of large, tiered natural pools, sometimes called the Seven Sacred Pools of Oheo. Swimming in the fresh water is popular when water levels are safe.
Two streams, the the Palikea and Pipiwai, are the source of all of the water in this area. Visitors can hike the two-mile Pipiwai Trail (3-5 hours roundtrip) along the streams with view of the pools. Along the trail, there is one tranquil natural pool that can be less crowded than the Seven Sacred Pools area. The path ends at the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls, and you can always cool off in the pools after finishing the hike.
Haleakala’s summit stretches 10,023 feet (3,055 meters) above Maui’s world-renowned beaches. Vast swaths of its slopes—33,000 acres (13.4 hectares) from summit to sea level along the Hawaiian island’s southeastern coast—are protected within Haleakala National Park, where visitors hike, bike, camp, and catch sunsets (and sunrises) of a lifetime. Now considered a dormant volcano, Haleakala last erupted sometime between the 15th and 17th centuries.
For most, traveling to Hana is about the journey, not the destination. A quiet town nestled on the Maui’s eastern shores, Hana would not be on the tourist map if not for the Road to Hana—known as one of the world’s most scenic drives. That said, the town of Hana is a tranquil escape and an excellent base for exploring the region.
Many of South Maui's indigenous people originated from Makena, and it is heavily steeped in ancient history and culture. It’s a dry, volcanic stretch of rocky shore where travelers can still catch glimpses of the island’s past, and its proximity to some of the island’s best beaches makes Makena a base for outdoor adventure.
This 7.8-acre park is a popular stop along the Road to Hana, with several hiking trails, covered picnic facilities and scenic views of the coast. There are dozens of native Hawaiian plants and birds to see as you walk through the forested area, so take a break from the drive and get some perspective from an overlook of the Ke’anae Peninsula and the nearby village.
There are several scenic spots to catch views of the bright blue sea and the winding coastline. Trails lead down to the ocean and loop back around, so there’s space to stretch your legs while enjoying the tropical environment here. Bring your walking shoes, your camera or binoculars and a picnic to enjoy some time at this park on your way up to Hana.
Molokai, Hawaii’s fifth largest island, is only 10 miles (16 kilometers) across at its widest point. The small island packs a big punch in terms of natural beauty—it’s home to the world’s highest sea cliffs and longest continuous fringing reef. It’s often considered the most Hawaiian of islands, thanks to its largely Native Hawaiian population.
Set amid 500 acres (202 hectares) of farmland in Waikapu Valley, Maui Tropical Plantation is a working plantation and agricultural theme park where more than 40 different crops and native plants are grown and harvested. Located on the grounds of a former sugarcane plantation, the park offers a glimpse into Maui’s agricultural past.
When most people think of lavender farms, they don’t think of Hawaii. But this farm’s fragrant seaside breezes and sweeping ocean vistas might make you forget all about France and merge the colorful purple blooms forever in your mind with memories of Maui. The (relatively) tiny Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm welcomes visitors for daily tours of its 13.5-acre cliff-side plot sporting 45 different varieties of the calming herb. It’s location in Kula, 4,000 feet above sea level in the Island’s elevated central region, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and also grows olive trees, hydrangea, South African protea and succulents.
Explore the farm on your own via their lavender treasure hunt or take a guided walking or golf-cart property tour departing several times each day (additional costs apply). In case you needed another way to relax on Maui, the farm house’s large lanai (porch) overlooking its gardens, white gazebo and the sea provides the perfect spot to indulge in lavender tea, a pre-packed gourmet picnic lunch featuring a special lavender-infused dessert or other organic botanical products from the onsite gift shop.
On an island surrounded by snorkeling opportunities and vibrant sea life, the Maui Ocean Center offers a deeper look into local marine ecosystems. Surround yourself with colorful fish, stingrays, and sharks in an aquarium tunnel, discover Hawaii’s past in cultural exhibits, and get up-close with creatures you may not spot in the wild.
La Perouse Bay is a stretch of coastline bordering the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve on Maui’s south shore. It was named for the French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse, the first European to set foot on Maui in the 18th century. The bay is the site of Maui’s most recent volcanic activity, and the landscape is covered in jagged, black lava rock intermixed with pieces of white coral. Though there isn’t much of a beach visitors can hike this area using the King’s Trail, which winds past several small coves.
As its waters are protected from fishing by state law, aquatic life is abundant and excellent snorkeling spots can be found off its rocky coast. Spinner dolphins sightings are frequent in the bay. When waters are calm, it can be a great spot for swimming and kayaking.
An expanse of white sand complete with beach cabanas and flanked by towering resorts, Wailea Beach is a postcard-worthy image of Maui. The idyllic beach, which holds the claim to fame that it was once rated the number one beach in American, draws in everyone from locals who come to play in the surf to sunbathers basking in beach chairs.
Iao Valley State Monument park, in West Maui, is popular with hikers and sightseers. The valley was the site of the famous Battle of Kepaniwai, which took place between Kamehameha—founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom—and Maui’s warriors in the late 18th century. Today, the rainforest-filled valley is a popular spot to enjoy local flora.
Situated on Maui’s northern tip past the sweltering shores of Lahaina, Kapalua is a luxurious enclave of beaches, golf, tennis and resorts. The signature beach—Kapalua Bay—has been voted America’s best, and the Plantation Golf Course regularly hosts the best in professional golf. Snorkel with sea turtles and colorful reef fish at hidden Namalu Bay, or hike the Village Walking Trails that climb their way up the ridge. Wherever you stand in Kapalua, the island of Moloka’i dramatically sits on the not-too-distant horizon, and whitecaps fleck the Pailolo Channel that separates the two islands. In winter, locals flock to Fleming Beach Park for the bodysurfing and waves, and secret, white sand Oneloa Bay is a sanctuary of footprints and silence. And, even though tony Kapalua is only 20 minutes from Lahaina, its exposure to the trade winds means it’s always cooler just a few minutes up the road.