The island of Maui has so many activities and attractions that's it's hard to decide what to see and do. Aside from the many great activities that require advance reservations and some significant cost, there are plenty of things to see and do which cost absolutely nothing or, at least, very little.
You can go snorkeling, watch the surfers, take a hike, and drive along one of the most famous roads in the Hawaiian Islands. And, when the day is done, you can sit on your balcony and watch the sunset. It doesn't get any better than this.
One of the most popular day trips on Maui is a trip on the Road to Hana and Beyond on the Hana Highway. It's a trip that will take a full day, but it's one of the most scenic drives in the world. There are plenty of places to stop and explore along the way.
You'll be able to walk up to waterfalls, explore arboretums, and even visit Charles Lindberg's grave.
In fact, most people feel that it's not the destination that's so important, it's the journey along the way. Whether you make it all the way to Hana and then back around the eastern part of the island to Upcountry or whether you just drive part of the way, you won't regret it.
On the Road to Hana drive, with its 54 bridges in 56 winding miles, you'll see spectacular scenery, go through old plantation towns, and travel past miles of beaches. At the half-way point, you can stop for a slice of banana bread before you drive on. At the end of the main road (and you can continue past the paved road) you'll find a lava moonscape and open country.
About 1,000 years ago, Hawaiians gathered at `Iao Valley to celebrate and honor the bounty of Lono, god of agriculture, during the annual Makahiki festival (ancient Hawaiian New Year's). More than 100 years ago, visitors began coming to witness the natural beauty of this valley. Today the `Iao Valley is recognized as a very special place for both its spiritual value and spectacular scenery.
You can take a paved .6 mile walk to a scenic viewpoint of Kuka‘emoku (ʻIao Needle), which is a tall formation rising 1200 feet. You can also learn about local plants by taking a short path through the botanical garden.
There is a $5.00 cost to park per vehicle. Hawaii residents can park for free.
A drive to the summit of Haleakala is a must for all visitors to Maui. Whether you decide to get up in the middle of the night and make the trip to see the sunrise or wait until later in the day when the sun is overhead and you can appreciate the beauty of the cinder cones and lava formations in the crater, you won't regret making the drive.
For those witnessing the sunrise, remember that the summit is over 10,000 feet and, with the wind, it can get quite chilly. But looking down and seeing clouds shroud the mountain and watching the sun pop up above them is a fantastic experience and you'll end up with some stunning photographs.
Admission to the park is $25 per private passenger vehicle and is valid for three days. For pedestrians and bicyclists, the cost is $12.
The drive around West Maui's Rugged North Shore is absolutely breathtaking, in some ways more impressive than the Hana Highway, which gets much more publicity.
From Kapalua to Wailuku, you'll pass some of the most rugged coastline in the world and some very lovely beaches and bays which are not well known or frequented. There are sheltered bays where you can snorkel.
The drive itself can be done in a couple of hours without stops. In order to really appreciate the views, however, it will take you between four and five hours.
Watch the Windsurfers at Ho'okipa Beach Park
The best place in Hawaii to observe windsurfers is at Ho'okipa Beach Park on Maui's North Shore.
Located just a couple of miles each of Paia, on a windy day you'll see some of the best windsurfers in the world. Parking can often be difficult since most of the good spots are grabbed by the windsurfers early in the day, but it's well worth waiting for a spot to open.
You'll soon find that you've spent an hour watching the action and it hasn't cost you a penny.
For many visitors, Maui will always be known for its resorts, fine beaches, snorkeling and whale watching, Haleakala, and the Road to Hana.
Maui is much more, however, and a great way to see some of the other parts of the island is to drive through Upcountry. The drive starts at the North Shore town of Pa`ia, continues through the paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao, to Kula known for its flowers, vegetables, and ranches and ends at `Ulupalakua where you can enjoy eating fresh Maui beef for lunch while sipping a glass of Maui wine.
If you enjoy the water, you'll surely appreciate the warm, clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Great snorkeling can often be done right off the beach, especially at such favorite spots as at Black Rock on Ka'anapali Beach.
The D.T. Fleming Beach Park was chosen by the editors of TripSavvy as a 2018 Editor's Choice Award recipient. This beach is a favorite for sunning, swimming, and surfing and backs up to trees. It has all the amenities you'd need for a picnic and is the unofficial beach of the nearby Ritz Carlton.
Even if you never get into the water, people watching is always fun.
From December until April, there's no better place in Hawaii to see humpback whales than on Maui.
While many whale watch excursions are offered by companies such as the Pacific Whale Foundation (and we encourage everyone to take at least one), there are plenty of places across the island where you can see the whales from shore. You may even be able to see them from your own hotel.
If you're headed to Maui during whale season, bring a pair of binoculars and start searching the ocean for the spray from the blowhole that tells you that there are whales to be seen.
Lahaina today is a reflection of its colorful past. Approximately 55 acres of the town has been set aside as historic districts containing several sites designated as National Historic Landmarks.
This fun, historic town was once the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom and the seat of power for the Kamehameha dynasty in the early nineteenth century.
By the mid-1800s, sometimes up to 400 ships at a time docked in the harbor and the sailors crowded into the port. It was a wild place until the puritanical missionaries arrived from New England. The conflict between the sailors and the missionaries became legendary.
Maui’s only winery, MauiWine, is situated on the southern slopes of the Haleakala volcano. The grapes are grown on rich volcanic soil, producing three types of wine: pineapple wine, estate wine, and rose ranch.
MauiWine was founded in 1974. They offer free guided tours of their estate, production area, and wine cellar every day from the historic King’s Cottage. Just walk up at 10 a.m. or 5 p.m. It's an interesting place steeped in history.
Wine tasting will cost you $12 to $14 to taste a flight of five wines and is offered daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Free tours of the winery are offered twice daily, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
When you visit the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, you will find a different environment than in most areas of Maui. The refuge, located on the south central coast, is one of just a few natural wetlands in Hawaii. It's a coastal salt marsh where birders will love looking for the many endangered Hawaiian species. Migratory birds can be found there from August to April.
Stop at the Visitor’s Center and then walk the 2,200-foot boardwalk with its interpretive signs.
The Maui Tropical Plantation, with free entry, is a working plantation in Wailuku where over 40 crops are harvested. Plant lovers will find hundreds of tropical and native plants. You can walk through some of the gardens and grounds but a more extensive tram tour will cost you $20. Their Guidebook App will help you identify the plants as you explore the grounds.
The Plantation has a restaurant, a coffee cafe, retail shops, zip line, and more.
Sit Under a Maui Banyan Tree
The huge, multi-trunked Banyan tree is quite a sight. The oldest Banyan in Maui is a beloved tree and the center of a park by the historic courthouse in Lahaina.
You'll find a Banyan tree planted in 1873 as the centerpiece of Banyan Tree Park. This tree was imported from India to honor the 50th anniversary of the first American Protestant mission to Lahaina. The huge tree, which was only 9 feet high when planted, now takes up an entire city block. The root system covers almost an acre.
The Banyan tree is lit for the holidays the first weekend in December.
Check the wave action at the surfing beaches on Maui. One of the professional big wave beaches is Peahi (or "Jaws"). It will take a 4WD to get to the lookout point. Watch for 70-foot waves between October and April. During the winter big waves, surfers are towed into the waves by jet-skis in a new surfing sport called “tow-in surfing.”