Maui Attractions

  • 01 of 08

    West Maui Attractions

    ••• Best Western Pioneer Inn in Historic Lahaina, Maui. Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

    Choosing which of Hawaii's many visitor attractions to see is no easy task. There are surely more things to see than you'll ever be able to see in one trip, even if you stay entirely on one island. Such is the case on Maui, the Valley Isle and the second most visited of the Hawaiian Islands.

    We'll take a look at some of the most popular visitor attractions on Maui. Many of these attractions are free. Others charge a nominal entrance fee.

    We urge all of you to pick up the current editions of the various visitor publications when you arrive in Hawaii. Many of these publications offer discounts, and often even two-for-one admission savings for many of the most popular attractions. On Maui these publications are available at Kahului Airport, most resorts, as well as throughout the town of Lahaina.

    West Maui

    More than likely if you're staying on Maui, you're probably staying either in West Maui or in the resorts on the Kihei Coast.

    There are many attractions in West Maui to keep you busy, most...MORE of which are in the old whaling town of Lahaina.

    Lahaina is probably the second most famous town in Hawaii, second only to Honolulu. Lahaina served as capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom from the early 1820's until 1845. The 1840's saw Lahaina as the major whaling port of the Pacific. The whaling ships and whalers are long gone, and today's Lahaina is both a bustling shopping mecca as well as a city steeped in the culture of old Hawaii.

    Lahaina becomes very crowded with tourists and locals alike from noontime until late into the evening, because it is located close to the resort areas of Kaʻanapali and Honokowai. Due to this proximity, driving through and especially along the waterfront in Lahaina becomes increasingly difficult as the day wears on. Parking can, at times, be next to impossible.

    Aside from the many shops and galleries which you'll want to explore in Lahaina, you should allow yourself some time to explore the historic sites of the town including the Baldwin Home, the famous Banyan Tree and the Maria Lanakila Church. An excellent guide to the historic sites of Maui is the Lahaina Historical Guide, available at the visitors center in the Old Courthouse.

    Located on the northern edge of Lahaina at Puunoa Point is the Lahaina Jodo Mission, the home to the largest Great Buddha statue outside of Japan. There is also a beautiful temple and 90-foot-tall pagoda.

    Just a few miles north of Lahaina, the resort area of Kaʻanapali is home to Whalers Village, a wonderful open-air shopping center filled with great shops and restaurants, as well as the Whaler's Village Museum which celebrates the "Golden Era of Whaling" (1825-1860). Whalers Village also is located right at world famous Kaʻanapali Beach where you can watch the boogie boarders, parasailers and surfers frolic in the waves.

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  • 02 of 08

    West Maui's North Shore

    ••• Nakalele Blowhole. Photo Courtesy of Maui Eco-Adventures "Latatudes and Adatudes"

    Driving north from Kaʻanapali through Honokowai and Kapalua, you will embark upon one of the most rewarding adventures in Hawaii. While far less publicized than the drive to Hana and officially prohibited by car rental companies, the drive from Kapalua to Wailuku along West Maui's North Shore is breathtaking.

    You'll pass one of the most rugged coastlines in the world and some very lovely beaches and bays such as Mokuleia Bay and Honolua Bay which are not well known, but amazingly beautiful.

    Be sure to stop at Honokohauʻs rugged Boulder Beach and make the hike to Nakalele Point. Soon you will be able to catch a glimpse of the north shore's most famous landmark, Kahakuloa Head. The remote town of Kahakuloa has one of the loveliest churches on Maui.

    A must stop is the Kaukini Gallery and Gift Shop. You'll find excellent buys in Hawaiian art and crafts. As you near the end of your journey watch for the overlook for Makamakaʻole Falls.

    The drive itself can be done in a couple of hours without...MORE stops. In order to really appreciate the views, however, it will take you between four and five hours.

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  • 03 of 08

    Central Maui

    ••• ʻĪao Needle (Kukaʻemoku) in ʻĪao Valley State Monument on the Island of Maui - Hawaii State Parks. Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

    The Valley Isle is aptly named because of the two volcanoes which lie on either side of a lush interior valley.

    Bordered by the West Maui Mountains to the west and Haleakala to the east, Central Maui is home to Maui's largest town, Kahului and its neighboring town of Wailuku. It's also the home to Kahului Airport where most visitors arrive in Maui.

    Unfortunately, however, too many visitors simply gather their luggage and proceed to the resorts in West Maui or along the Kihei Coast, never returning to explore Central Maui.

    Kahului itself is primarily a commercial center with Maui's largest shopping mall, the Ka'ahumanu Shopping Center. Nearby, however, the lovely town of Wailuku is well worth a visit. Situated on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains, Wailuku is home to the Maui County government buildings as well as many historic churches, quaint restaurants and secluded antique stores.

    A must stop in Waikuku is the Bailey House Museum, filled with period furnishings, artifacts and art. It...MORE also has one of the better shops featuring local books.

    Wailuku is also the gateway to the ʻĪao Valley, one of Hawaii's most sacred and most beautiful places. In the center of the valley is a pillar of stone rising 1,200 feet into the air. Commonly called "The Needle", this pillar towers over the valley below.

    As you drive from the valley back to Wailuku, be sure to stop at Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens which features buildings and gardens representing the cultures of Hawaii's many immigrant groups.

    As you reach Wailuku, make a right on Route 30 and head south towards Maʻalaea. Along the way be sure to stop at Maui Tropical Plantation. While clearly designed for the tourist, the 40 minute tram tour is a fun experience in that you get some close up views of many of the types of flowers, plants, and fruit trees found in Hawaii.

    The prices for many items in the gift shop are actually quite reasonable. If you're looking for Mauna Kea macadamia nut products they have some good prices here.

    Located in Central Maui about six miles south of Wailuku, where the Honoapiʻilani Highway (Hwy 30) reaches the south coast, lies the Maʻalaea District of Maui. Here you'll find the Maui Ocean Center, Hawaii's newest and best marine aquarium. You'll also find Maʻalaea Harbor, home to many of the whale watching and snorkel cruise boats. There are also a couple of excellent restaurants.

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  • 04 of 08

    Kihei Coast

    ••• Wailea Beach at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa in Wailea, Maui. Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

    The coast of South Maui from Maʻalaea to the ʻAhihi-Kinaʻu Natural Area Preserve is often referred to as the Kihei Coast. In fact, however, the most interesting areas of this coast are located south of Kihei.

    From Maʻaleaea Harbor, traveling north on Highway 30, you need to bear right at the signs for Highway 31.

    The initial stretch of roadway will take you past Maʻalaea Bay and Beach on your right and the Kealia Pond Bird Sanctuary and ponds on your left. If you stick to the coast, you will pass through the town of Kihei. Aside from hotels, condos and a few stores there is little to see in Kihei. There are much better views and beaches further south.

    Leaving Kihei you enter the Wailea area which plays host to several outstanding resort hotels and spas including the world famous Grand Wailea Resort.

    The grounds are huge and magnificently landscaped and decorated in every direction. Wailea Beach, recipient of Dr. Beach's 1999 Award for Best Beach in America, is the main beach of the...MORE Grand Wailea Resort.

    Driving south from Wailea, you pass three excellent local beaches, Polo Beach - near the Kea Lani Resort, Palauea Beach and finally Poʻolenalena Beach which is located on the south side of Haloa Point. As you leave the Wailea area, heading south, you enter Makena. The Makena area of Maui offers an amazingly diverse geology.

    At the northern end of Makena you will find several wonderful beaches including Makena's Big Beach. As you travel south from Big Beach in Makena you will begin to notice the topography changing. You are approaching the area of Maui where Haleakala last erupted, in 1790. The highway takes you into and through most of the ʻAhihi-Kinaʻu Natural Area Reserve.

    You will see lava flows on both sides of the highway as well as along the slopes of Haleakalā on your left. When the paved roadway ends it is time to turn around and head back.

    The drive on the Kihei Coast will take about a half day, depending on how long you spend at the various stops along the way.

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  • 05 of 08

    Haleakalā

    ••• Cinder Cones within the Wilderness Area of Haleakala as Seen from the Haleakala Visitor Center Overlook. Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

    The journey to Haleakalā and Upcountry Maui begins in Kahului at the Haleakalā Highway. The drive to the top of Haleakalā takes about 2½ - 3 hours depending on the weather and the traffic. Your drive will take you through beautiful woodlands and pastures with cattle grazing on the mountainside. You're likely to pass several groups of cyclists biking down from the summit of the mountain.

    The winds on Haleakalā, especially the at 10,023 summit are often exceptionally strong. It's often difficult to hold a camera still to photograph into the crater. The hike to the top of nearby Pa Kaʻoao (White Hill) is strenuous but the views from the top are well worth the 15 minute hike.

    Often the best views into the crater are to be found from the Kalahaku Overlook located at the 9324 foot level.

    Haleakalā is a place of great importance to many people. To the Hawaiian people it is a place steeped in history, religion and culture. To the naturalist and geologist it is a place of great diversity and...MORE wonder.

    The drive down from Haleakalā is somewhat easier than the drive to the summit.

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  • 06 of 08

    Upcountry Maui

    ••• Owner Thomas Kafsack and Hansi, Surfing Goat Dairy. Photo by John Fischer

    Rather than return directly to west Maui once you descend from the summit of Haleakala, it's well worth the time to head further south on Route 37 to Ulupalakua, home of the Ulupalakua Ranch and the Tedeschi Winery where you can sample some of their excellent pineapple wine.

    The views of central Maui, Molokini Atol and Kahoʻolawe as you drive Route 37 are amazing, as are the wonderful views of the beautiful ranch country on either side of the highway.

    Upon arrival at Ulupalakua, you can eat lunch at the Ulupalakua General Store and Deli. If you go be sure to taste the chili which is made of fresh Hawaiian beef. It is served on a bed of rice and the portions are generous.

    There are lots of other great stops in Upcountry Maui including the Alii Kula Lavender Farm, the Enchanting Floral Gardens, the Kula Botanical Gardens and Surfing Goat Dairy to name just a few.

    From Ulupalakua it is a long ride back to the resorts in West Maui or Kihei, but you'll be glad you made the trip.

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  • 07 of 08

    Road to Hana

    ••• Pa'iloa Bay and Black Sand Beach at Wai'anapanapa State Wayside Park along the Road to Hana. Photo by John Fischer, licensed to About.com

    A visit to Maui would not be complete without a visit to Hana. The trip to Hana from the Kaʻanapali area is a time consuming one, more in terms of time than in mileage. Be sure to plan to leave early in the morning and assume that you won't be back until evening. Some of the time frame is due to the 500 plus sharp curves and 50 plus single lane bridges along the way, but more of it is due to the numerous stops that you'll want to make.

    Purchasing the "Driving to Hana and the Seven Pools" audio cassette/CD by Guide/Narrator Craig Henderson is a good choice. This is a very well done two-sided cassette/CD which plays right in your car radio cassette/CD player and which literally guides you on the way to Hana, instructing you on the best places to stop and educating you on many points of interest along the way. For $25.00 you will get the audio cassette/CD, a one hour video, an excellent map, as well as four bottles of water and the use of a cooler for the day. That was a real...MORE bargain and we get to keep the cassette, video and map!

    As I previously indicated, the road to Hana is filled with over 500 sharp curves many of which follow right upon each other. The road is in excellent condition, but by the time you are done you will feel that you are trained to race in the Monte Carlo Gran Prix, if you could only figure how to make these turns at about triple the speed!

    Along the way there are many wonderful sights. One of our favorites is the Keʻanae Peninsula. Be sure to travel down into the peninsula, and when you leave, catch the view of the taro fields from the lookout about the town.

    You'll also want to stop at Puaʻakaʻa State Wayside Park which has a wonderful waterfall, and the black sand beach at Waiʻanapanapa State Park.

    If you visit Waiʻanapanapa State Park be sure to duck down and walk into the lava tube to the right of the beach. You can really catch a wonderful view and nice photo from inside the lava tube looking out towards the ocean.

    You'll probably reach Hana by noon and you'll be ready for lunch. A excellent choice for a restful lunch in a lovely setting is the Hotel Hana-Maui. If you're in a hurry, however, just stop by the Hana Ranch Restaurant.

    While in Hana, be sure to stop by the Hana Coast Gallery, considered one of the top art galleries in Hawaii. If you're re-energized from lunch you might wish to consider the three mile round-trip hike to Fagan's Cross perched high on a hill above Hana. You'll get spectacular views of Hana Harbor and the nearby coast.

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  • 08 of 08

    Beyond Hana on the Hana Highway

    ••• Hamoa Beach along Haneo'o Road past Hana on the Road to Hana and Beyond. (c) Holger Leue, used with permission of Hotel Hana-Maui

    Proceeding south from Hana, be sure to take the side road to Hamoa Beach, one of Maui's loveliest beaches. Your next stop is likely to be Haleakalā National Park at Kipahulu and the Oheʻo Gulch Pools, ten miles past Hana. The pools can only be accessed by walking from the park's visitor center parking lot. The pools cascade over waterfalls from pool to pool. If the waters are flowing, you're likely to have quite a sight.

    Travel books, drive guides, and rental car maps will tell you not to drive south of Kipahulu. Don't accept that as the last word. These standard publications tell you that many miles of roadway beyond this point are unpaved and dangerous. In reality, you will find about five total miles of road that, while unpaved, is well graded, and a lot of the rest of the road is paved if a bit bumpy.

    The key is, if the posting on the board at the Ranger Station at ʻOheʻo Gulch tells you that the road is open to ALL vehicles, then go for it! You will be back at your resort near...MORE Lahaina, Kihei or Wailea in about 2-3 hours, well short of what it would take you to retrace your steps back along the Hana Highway. Furthermore, while a bit rough, the road has far fewer turns, bridges and curves than the road to Hana from Paʻia, and is a much easier drive.

    Before you reach the unpaved portion of the road and just a little past Kipahulu, be sure to stop at the Palapala Hoʻomau Congregational Church and the burial spot of Charles Lindbergh. This is a really hard to find left turn from the highway. Look for the sugar mill ruin to your right and then the turnoff straight ahead on the left.

    The total trip from West Maui to Hana and around the southern part of East Maui is about 180 miles. The trip is not easy, but it is an experience that you should not miss and one you'll never regret making.

    There is so much to see and do on Maui. We've tried to show you our favorites. You certainly can't see all of these attractions in one day or even on one trip. That's one of the reasons that so many tourists come back to Hawaii again and again.