20 Best Things to Do in Maui

Maui landscape

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is a dream destination, so much so that it's consistently chosen as the best island in the United States by Conde Nast readers' polls. Maui is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, is frequented by humpback whales, and offers spectacular sunrises and sunsets. There are so many things to do here that you'll probably have to make more than one trip to experience them all. From hiking and shopping to whale-watching, here's how to make the most of your next trip to Hawaii's majestic Valley Isle.

01 of 20

Drive the Legendary Road to Hana

Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii

Wingmar / Getty Images

Address
Hana Hwy, Kula, HI 96790, USA

The most popular drive in Maui—if not all of Hawaii—is the Road to Hana, a 64.4-mile stretch of road that takes drivers through old plantation towns, past scenic waterfalls and miles of beaches, and through towering forests. Sporting 59 bridges, the Road to Hana takes about 10-12 hours to drive the loop there and back depending on how many stops you make, and is full of cliffside curves—those who are prone to carsickness or motion sickness may want to sit this one out. Otherwise, you can look forward to beautiful views of the ocean from the long and winding road.

Keep in mind that this is the only road into and out of Hana so you'll be sharing it with local residents. Be respectful of signs and speed limits—when in doubt, especially on busier one-lane sections, pull over and let local drivers pass.

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02 of 20

Get Outdoors at ʻĪao Valley State Monument

ʻĪao Valley State Monument in Maui, Hawaii

Peter Unger / Getty Images

Address
54 S High St, Wailuku, HI 96793, USA

One of the highlights of any trip to Maui is viewing the ʻĪao Needle, or Kuka‘emoku, at the ʻĪao Valley State Monument, a beautiful 4,000-acre scenic area located about 15 minutes from Kahului International Airport (OGG) or 45 minutes from Lahaina and Ka'anapali. It's just a short 0.6-mile hike up to the scenic viewing point, where you can see the 1,200-foot-tall ʻĪao Needle, a lava remnant, or basaltic core, that's now covered in lush vegetation. Fun fact: This beautiful place is also where King Kamehameha I, who later united the Hawaiian Islands, led his army to victory against Maui's forces in 1790 during the Battle of Kepaniwai.

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03 of 20

Visit the Black Sand Beach at Waiʻānapanapa State Park

Black Sand Beach, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui

Westend61 / Getty Images

Address
Waianapanapa, Hana, HI 96713, USA
Phone +1 808-248-4843

The Hawaiian Islands are full of black sand beaches, a reminder of their lively volcanic past and the power of Pele, the volcano goddess you'll likely hear about at some point during your travels. The most-visited black sand beach in Maui can be found in Waiʻānapanapa State Park, located about 10 minutes from Hana at mile marker 32 along the legendary Road to Hana (mentioned above). The park is also home to several seabird colonies, blowholes, lava tubes, a natural stone arch, and freshwater caves. Camping is a popular activity here, though you'll need a permit, as are hiking, fishing, swimming, and picnicking.

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04 of 20

Watch the Windsurfers Do Their Thing

Windsurfing in Maui

Joe McBride / Getty Images

Address
90 Amala Pl, Kahului, HI 96732-2111, USA
Phone +1 808-871-7883

Windsurfing is a popular pastime here, so much so that Maui has actually made a name for itself as the windsurfing capital of the world. Kiteboarding, kitesurfing, traditional surfing, and stand-up paddle boarding are also quite popular in these parts. Head to the beaches along the North Shore—Kanaha Beach Park, Spreckelsville Beach (aka. Sprecks), Lanes, Jaws (Pe'ahi), and Ho'okipa Beach Park—to see the windsurfers in their element, taking on all those legendary Hawaiian waves.

Note that the waters here can be particularly treacherous, especially if you're not an experienced windsurfer, so unless you're planning to take a class here, it's best to leave it to the professionals and enjoy the view safely from the shore. If you're feeling adventurous and do want to hit the waves, Action Sports Maui and Maui Sports Unlimited offer beginner windsurfing lessons, while nearby, Alan Cadiz's Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques also runs kitesurfing and stand-up paddle boarding classes in addition to windsurfing for beginners.

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05 of 20

Go to a Traditional Hawaiian Luau

Old Lahaina Luau
Greg Elms / Getty Images
Address
1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
Phone +1 808-667-1998

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without experiencing an authentic Hawaiian luau. It's an appropriate thing to do on the last night of your stay. Several hotels stage beachside luaus featuring Hawaiian foods such as kalua pig cooked in an earthen oven called an imu, poi, and haupia (coconut pudding), along with a buffet full of more familiar foods. Enjoy a ton of Hawaiian music, hula dancing, and fire dancing, among other theatrical feats, all meant to aid in telling Hawaiian stories and legends.

The Old Lahaina Luau takes place nightly at private luau grounds behind the Cannery Mall in Lahaina, West Maui, presenting an authentic Hawaiian luau experience full of traditional Hawaiian cuisine, music, cultural dances, and island crafts. Guests will get a genuine reflection of Hawaii's rich history, plus you'll have a gorgeous backdrop of an ocean view and sunset. 

What happens when you combine the Polynesian cuisine of Chef James McDonald (of Pacifico and Io Restaurant fame), the entertainment expertise of the folks who run the Old Lahaina Luau, and one of the best beachfront settings in Hawaii? The answer is the Feast at Lele in Lahaina, which is more like a fine dinner show than a traditional luau. Each table has a tablecloth, china with silverware, and cloth napkins, and guests get personal attention from at least two servers. The feast itself is the real star here, with a menu that consists of a five-course meal featuring cuisine from Hawaii, Tonga, Tahiti, and Samoa, plus dessert. Each course is followed by dramatic Polynesian entertainment from each island.

At the Wailele Polynesian Luau at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa's Aloha Pavilion, the chefs create a four-course dinner that is presented family-style, just like in the old days. Crafters with interactive arts and culture allow guests to participate and learn about the Polynesian way of life, while the show itself boasts the most extreme troupe of fire knife dancers in Maui. 

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06 of 20

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Flowers in the botanical garden

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo

Address
Maui, Hawaii, USA

Nowhere can Hawaii's floral splendor and variety of plant life be better witnessed than on the island of Maui. Hawaii's valley isle is a botanical paradise complete with tropical rainforests, cool upcountry slopes, and sunny western shores. Driving down any road and you'll see multi-colored bougainvilleas and hibiscus in almost everyone's garden. Maui is home to a wonderful assortment of botanical gardens, most of which are open for either guided or self-guided tours.

On Maui, tropical exotics from all over the world mingle freely with the 24 Polynesian plants that have sustained ancient Hawaiian cultures, such as maia (banana), niu (coconut), kalo (taro), kukui (candlenut), 'uala (sweet potato), and wauke (paper mulberry). These plants are commonly known as the "canoe plants."

At the same time, the steep mountains of Maui contain protected pockets of both endemic and indigenous native plants, many of which are endangered. Close to 1,000 species of these plants occur nowhere else on Earth, while about 100 of them are indigenous to Hawaii.

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07 of 20

Snorkel, Scuba Dive, and Sail

Sailboats off the coast of Maui

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
Honolua Bay, Hawaii 96761, USA

Since it's an island, it's little surprise that some of the best things to do in Maui take place on or under the ocean. If you're in for some water adventure, go beyond the beach and give snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing a try. Sheltered by the nearby islands of Lanai and Molokai, the breezy offshore waters of Maui are ideal for sailing. Try a sailboat charter, speedy catamaran, Hawaiian sailing canoe, or a sunset cruise. Family-run picnic excursions cross the channel regularly to Lanai and can get you back in time for sunset at your Maui hotel.

Maui is home to some of the finest dive spots in Hawaii, with dozens of reputable operators ready to show you around. There are two marine conservation areas, one at Honolua Bay in West Maui, the other at Molokini, a partially submerged volcanic crater located offshore near Wailea. The contours of the crater turn it into an aquarium without walls. Nearby, the award-winning Lanai Cathedrals is considered to be one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world. There is also a sunken U.S. submarine to explore.

Certification is available in PADI, NAUI, or NASDS. Boats at Ka'anapali, Lahaina, and Māʻalaea offer a number of dive and snorkel excursions. Glass-bottom boats and a pleasure submarine by the company Atlantis Adventures open up undersea wonders to non-divers.

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08 of 20

Dine at One of Maui's Great Restaurants

A sandwich shop in Maui

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
55 Kiopaa St, Makawao, HI 96768, USA

Maui is Hawaii's dining epicenter, and you'll find restaurants for virtually every taste and budget. Maui has also attracted heaps of enthusiastic chefs who make national headlines using fresh local produce from upcountry farmers. From lavish hotel dining rooms to lunch counters serving plate lunches, Maui's places to eat are pleasing and diverse.

Going out to dinner demands tough choices. Maui's chefs are world-renowned for their culinary creativity. Ask yourself: What type of restaurant? Seafood or sushi? Pasta or poi? Chinese or Japanese? Caribbean or Thai? Mexican, Italian, or Vietnamese? The pride of the island, Hawaii regional cuisine, is also served at many award-winning restaurants. Where should you eat? South shore or west? Central Maui or Upcountry? There are many romantic restaurants and casual family eateries to choose from and dishes to satisfy every palate. 

West Maui and South Maui have restaurants ranging from informal seaside fish houses to swank, candle-lit dining rooms with swans gliding by in a lagoon. Oceanfront dining is a Maui signature. In Wailea, innovative cuisine showcasing freshly caught seafood is graciously served by attentive staff in an open-air dining room perfumed by sea air and flowering trees, while somewhere nearby, live violin music accompanies excellent Italian fare in a romantic alfresco oceanfront setting. In Paia, excellent seafood from the hooks of local fishermen comes in exotic and savory preparations in a romantic Polynesian setting.

In Central Maui and Kihei, time-honored mom-and-pop restaurants and some of the best ethnic eateries in Hawaii offer top values for family-style dining. If an upscale Aloha shirt is the dress norm in Wailea, in Central Maui, it's diner counter casual. Noodle shops, Vietnamese pho, Mexican, Chinese, and American diner fare are among the main Central Maui offerings. 

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09 of 20

Pick Up Some Artsy Souvenirs

A shop in Lahaina

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
Lahaina, HI, USA

Maui is a shopper's paradise, with its numerous galleries, international shops, designer boutiques, and malls, not to mention its excellent farmers' markets and swap meets.

Many shops carry Maui specialty items and products unique to Hawaii, including hand-turned bowls and objects of beautiful native woods; oil paintings and sculptures, hats woven of lau hala; hand painted resort fashions; and one-of-a-kind jewelry, glasswork, and art.

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10 of 20

Watch the Sun Rise Over Haleakala

Sun rising over Haleakala

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
Hawaii, USA
Phone +1 808-572-4400

In ancient times, the summit of Haleakala was only for the kahuna (priests) and their haumana (students) and was where they lived and studied initiation rites and practices. Today, the summit is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Maui. While the best views into the crater (actually an erosional valley) happen in the afternoon when the sun is at your back, a trip to Haleakala for sunrise is an experience well worth the effort. Remember to bring a good jacket, as it's much colder at the summit and temperatures can hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the scenic meandering drive to the summit of Haleakala for sunrise is also on every other tourist's Hawaii bucket list. Due to the popularity of sunrise viewing at the summit and the limited parking, the park requires reservations for each vehicle entering the park before sunrise (3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.) so plan ahead to avoid disappointment. Note that if you're staying in West Maui, you'll need to get up by 3 a.m. to make it to the summit for sunrise.

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11 of 20

Hit the Beach

A beach in Maui

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
Kaanapali Beach, Kaanapali, HI 96761, USA

The number one thing people think of when they plan a trip to Hawaii is the beach, and for good reason. There are more than 80 beaches on Maui and 120 miles of coastline, which features sands of gold, black, green, red, and pure, shimmering white. While you're at it, grab a snorkel and mask and commune with the turtles and many species of fish.

The waters of Kapalua, located at the northern end of Ka'anapali Beach near Black Rock, and Makena are ideal for snorkeling, especially early in the morning. Many hotels rent out snorkel gear or you can try renting from one of the many dive shops around the island.

At some point during your trip, try out the ancient sport of kings: surfing. "Hot-dawg" surfers can test themselves at Slaughterhouse, Ho'okipa, and Sand Box. Novices can rent boards and sign up for surfing lessons at the hotels, where they can expert instructors get them up and riding the waves from the first time out.

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12 of 20

Watch the Humpback Whales

A person taking a photo of a whale on their phone

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Address
Maalaea Harbor, Maalaea, HI 96793, USA

Maui's southern and western coastlines provide abundant opportunities for watching the majestic humpback whales of Hawaii, who are wintertime visitors each year. Maui is one of the few places in the world where you can see the whales swimming and breaching from the shore.

The best sites offering vantage points along the shoreline are Pu'u Olai at Makena; the beachside hotels in Wailea, Ka'anapali, and Kapalua; Papawai Lookout, along the road to Lahaina near Māʻalaea Harbor; and waterfront restaurants in Lahaina.

Various companies offer whale-watching excursions aboard both power and sailboats. All ocean vessels are required to stay at least 100 yards away from the whales, but as visitors aboard whale-watching cruises will happily tell you, no restrictions exist to keep the whales from coming up to investigate the boats. Three popular companies for whale-watch cruises are run by the Pacific Whale Foundation, Teralani Sailing, and Trilogy Excursions.

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13 of 20

Go On a Zip Lining Adventure

Zip Line Hawaii

BeachTechPhotography / Twenty20

Address
180 Dickenson St #210, Lahaina, HI 96761-1215, USA
Phone +1 800-255-5376

As ecotourism or green tourism becomes a more sought-after way to spend vacations, zip lining has become one of the fastest growing eco-friendly activities throughout the world.

Several companies offer zip-line adventures on Maui. Founded in 2002, Skyline Hawaii was the first zip line company in Maui—and the United States. While its first zip lines were on Haleakala Ranch in upcountry Maui, Skyline recently opened a second ​zip line tour in Ka'anapali, West Maui. Nearby, Kapalua Ziplines is Maui's largest dual-line zip line course outfit, offering four zip line tours lasting from 2.5 to 3.75 hours each.

Another company, Piiholo Ranch Zipline, operates on the 800-acre historic Piiholo Ranch above Makawao, with horseback trail rides and lessons, as well as Hawaii's longest zip line eco-adventure. Situated on Piiholo Road near the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) town of Makawao, the ranch is at an elevation of 2,000 feet on Mount Haleakala, with beautiful bi-coastal Pacific Ocean views.

 

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14 of 20

See Ka'anapali From the Air

Parasail hawaii

SVETAN Photography / Getty Images

Address
2435 Kaanapali Pkwy, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
Phone +1 800-359-4836

If you've always wanted to feel what it's like to hang from a parachute but have no desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane or soar off a mountaintop, there's a way to experience all the thrills but feel totally safe: parasailing.

From mid-May to mid-December, UFO Parasail in Ka'anapali Beach helps guests to do just that. Parasailers are fitted into a comfortable harness, then, either alone or in tandem with someone else (the choice is yours), it's time to proceed to a platform at the back of the boat where you'll be hooked onto the parasail. Before you know it, you'll slowly lift off the boat for a 10-minute parasail on an 800-foot line.

As you are slowly winched off the boat, the parasail carries you high over the waters of Ka'anapali Beach, providing incredible views of the waterfront and ocean below.

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15 of 20

Go to a Museum

Lahaina Museum in Maui

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
648 Wharf St #101, Lahaina, HI 96761-1272, USA
Phone +1 808-661-3262

You might be saying, "What? A museum on an island vacation?" But learning about the history and culture of the place you are visiting lets you in on a whole new dimension of what you are seeing.

In Maui, you can view the living history of Hawaii from the time of its ancient ali'i (hereditary nobles) and the years of the Hawaiian monarchy to the point when the island was the whaling hub of the Pacific and the leading industry on the island was sugar, not tourism like it is today.

Stop by the Lahaina Heritage Museum in Old Lahaina Courthouse as well as some of the town's many historic sites, the island's historic missionary homes, and/or one of its cultural gardens or centers to learn more about Maui and its fascinating history.

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16 of 20

Take a Day Trip to the Island of Lanai

Garden of the Gods on Lanai
Nigel Hicks / Getty Images
Address
658 Front St #127, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
Phone +1 808-661-3756

The island of Maui is just one of four islands that make up Maui County—the other two islands are Lanai and Molokai, while the island of Kaho'olawe remains uninhabited after being used as target practice by the U.S. Navy during and after WWII.

While you can take a flight to Lanai, the most fun way to see a bit of the island is to take a day trip via the Expeditions Maui-Lanai Ferry, which makes several round-trip journeys daily from Lahaina Harbor. The trip to Lanai on the high-speed ferry takes just 45-minutes. In winter, you're sure to see humpback whales in the channel between the islands and you'll almost always see dolphins frolicking in the boat's wake.

After docking at the Manele Small Boat Harbor, you can easily walk to the nearby beach park at Hulopoe Bay and enjoy some snorkeling or have lunch at the adjacent Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.

If you'd like to see more of the island, book a rental vehicle or join a guided tour in a 4-by-4 vehicle. You can arrange a tour directly through Expeditions Ferry or with the Adventure Lanai Ecocentre.

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17 of 20

Do a Day Trip to Molokai

Our Lady Of Seven Sorrows Church
Michael Runkel / Getty Images
Address
8011 Kamehameha V Hwy, Kaunakakai, HI 96748, USA
Phone +1 808-553-5220

A day trip to the neighboring island of Molokai will take you to Hawaii's most Hawaiian place, where most of the residents are native Hawaiians. Travel to Molokai by ferry or by air on your own and rent a car, or visit as part of a day tour. Whatever way you choose, it is sure to be a highlight of your Hawaiian vacation.

Molokai Ferry offers affordable full-day trips that include ferry rides, a half-day guided tour of the island with stops at Pala'au State Park, the Kalaupapa Overlook, Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm, the Father Damien Church, Coffees of Hawaii, Kaunakakai Town, and lunch at Hotel Molokai. Another package includes round-trip ferry passage and a shuttle connection to the rental car office for a more DIY option.

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Learn About the Creatures of Hawaii's Waters

Exterior sign of the Maui Ocean Center

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Address
192 Maalaea Rd, Wailuku, HI 96793, USA
Phone +1 808-270-7000

The Hawaiian Islands are among the most isolated islands on Earth, which is why they offer one of the world's most unique ocean environments. And there's no better place to learn about the creatures who live in these magnificent waters than at the Maui Ocean Center.

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19 of 20

Reflect at the Lahaina Jodo Mission

Lahaina Jodo Mission

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
12 Ala Moana St, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
Phone +1 808-661-4304

The Lahaina Jodo Mission at Pu'unoa Point, one of the most serene and beautiful places on the island of Maui, is located on the outskirts of Lahaina. Many years ago, members of the Lahaina Jodo Mission conceived the idea of building an authentic Buddhist Temple, complemented with the symbolic surroundings that are typical of the great Buddhist temples in Japan.

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20 of 20

Visit Makena

Sunset over Makena

TripSavvy / Miguel Gallardo 

Address
Makena, Wailea-Makena, HI 96753, USA

Bordered on the north by the posh Wailea Resort area and on the south by the Ahihi Kinavu Natural Area Reserve, the Makena area of South Maui offers visitors a return to nature and much earlier days of Hawaii. It is the place where the paved road ends, the defiantly wild, rugged and magnificent place where the spirit can run free. Grand, seductive, and utterly irresistible, Makena is Maui untamed.

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20 Best Things to Do in Maui