Get the most out of your Hawaii vacation with the best things to do in Maui.
From atop sky-scraping Haleakala to the depths of Molokini Crater, Hawaii’s second-largest isle bedazzles. Dubbed the Valley Isle, this is the place you come for ultra-soft sandy beaches, monster waves for surfing, bohemian beach towns, migrating humpback whales, traditional luaus, and some of the Pacific’s best food. Whether you’re hanging your (sun) hat at a beach bungalow on the North Shore or being catered to at a trendy luxury resort on the South Shore, there is no shortage of things to do. Here are the top experiences in this bewitching, trade wind-blown, tropical realm.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MAUI?Shoulder seasons are perfection, summer is incredible (smaller swells and fewer storms), and winter is excellent (albeit slightly cooler).
Top Picks for You
Take a Pineapple Tour
The quintessence of sun-blessed tropical flavor, pineapples exude Hawaiian happiness. It just so happens Maui boasts the only tour of a working pineapple plantation in the U.S. courtesy of Maui Pineapple Tours. You’ll join a worker on a stroll through the sunny fields of the Hali‘imaile Pineapple Plantation and learn all about the especially sweet Maui Gold pineapples (and sample its various stages of maturity along the way). The best part? Everyone gets a free pineapple, boxed and ready to fly, at the end!
INSIDER TIPMaui Pineapple Tours has recently partnered with Hali’imaile Distilling Company, inviting guests after the plantation tour to visit the distillery and taste such island treats as Pau Maui Vodka, the world’s only pineapple vodka.
Snorkel Molokini Crater, a Marine Life Conservation District and Bird Sanctuary
A veritable Nemo world of tropical fish thrives at Molokini Crater, a partially submerged caldera about 3 miles off of Maui’s southern coast that serves as a fortress against the waves. We’re talking some 250 different varieties of fish darting about, including Moorish idols, Threadfin Butterflies, Yellow Tangs, and White-spotted puffers, along with Moray eels and even sharks. In season, you might even get lucky and spot a whale! And don’t forget to look at the coral – big, beautiful colorful bunches of it, waving gently in the sea current. Most tours depart from Ma‘alaea and Lahaina Harbor; Lahaina Divers is a reputable outfitter. Kai Kanani is the only excursion that leaves from the South Shore, and its early morning snorkel is the first to arrive at the crater. On the way back, most tours stop at Turtle Town, where you can swim with sea turtles.
Make the Pilgrimage to the ‘Īao Needle
You can’t leave the Island without visiting the ‘Īao Needle in central Maui–the iconic, green-mantled natural spire rising 1,200 feet above a verdant valley. There are several paths, the most popular of which is the ‘Īao Needle Lookout Trail; climb 133 steps to the top of the needle for fab views over tropical flora. Or learn about the luscious plants along the Ethnobotanical Loop. It’s hard to fathom that in this peaceful setting, the ferocious Battle of Kepaniwai exploded in 1790, when Kamehameha I’s troops conquered the Maui army, thereby uniting the Hawaiian Islands.
INSIDER TIP Go early in the day before clouds obscure the views.
Hike a Lunar Landscape
Maui in general is a hiker’s paradise, and one of the best hikes is the Sliding Sands Trail inside Haleakala’s crater (also called Keonehe‘ehe‘e), the world’s largest dormant volcano. It’s not the easiest hike around – you can expect high elevation and a lack of tree coverage beneath a searing sun–but for anyone up to a challenge alongside their magnificent views, this is it. The 11.2-mile out-and-back starts at the second Haleakala Visitor Center (near the summit). Along the way, you’re submerged in a stark, Mars-like landscape dotted with huge cinder cones, boulders, and silvery-green Silversword. It’s no wonder NASA-trained Apollo astronauts came here in the 1960s to prepare them for the Moon’s desolation. Everywhere you look, dramatic views sweep off into the distance, sometimes swept with clouds–it’s about as otherworldly as you can get.
INSIDER TIPBe prepared for cold and unpredictable weather. And be sure to bring sufficient water; the high altitude causes dehydration.
Explore the Road to Hana
One of the world’s most famous drives, the precarious road to the tiny town of Hana follows more than 600 curves and crosses some 50 gulch-straddling bridges in just 52 coastline miles. Along the way, you’ll be privy to the stuff Hawaiian melodies are made of: clifftop lookouts, playful breezes, plunging waterfalls, fragrant yellow ginger blossoms, water-logged taro patches, and the ever-changing blues of the Pacific. It’s a road that forces you to slow down and take your time. You have no other choice. And that’s a good thing.
INSIDER TIPRemember that people live in these communities and aren’t driving to sightsee; pull over and let them by when you can, and observe the new No Parking signs in high-risk areas.
Swim Under a Waterfall at Seven Sacred Pools
Sometimes nature creates a scene so stunning that it feels like a stage set. Seven Sacred Pools, known locally as Oheo Gulch, is one such place. A crystal-clear, basalt-lined stream gurgles through a serene valley, dropping here and there as sparkling water falls into natural plunge pools, one after the next ,until the stream finally falls into the sapphire sea along the rugged Kipahulu coastline. These pools are idyllic for swimming—and cliff jumping (which signs prohibit, by the way, though you wouldn’t know it given the number of people doing it).
Check first! The Seven Sacred Pools were recently closed due to safety concerns with rockslides. Check the NPS website for updates.
INSIDER TIPIt gets crowded here, so come early if you want some peace.
Enjoy Beauty of Waterfalls at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch
Sometimes nature creates a scene so stunning that it feels like a stage set. ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, also known as Seven Sacred Pools (though they aren’t actually sacred) or the Pools of ‘Ohe‘o, in east Maui, is one such place. A crystal-clear, basalt-lined stream gurgles through a serene valley, dropping here and there as sparkling water falls into natural plunge pools, one after the next, until the stream finally falls into the sapphire sea along the rugged Kipahulu coastline. While these pools are idyllic for swimming, the National Park Service prohibits it. The pools should be viewed from the Kūloa Point Trail.