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26 Ultimate Things to Do in Maui

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).

Check out Covid-19 guidelines for updates on traveling to Maui.

1 OF 26

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.

2 OF 26

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.

3 OF 26

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.

4 OF 26

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.

5 OF 26

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.

 

6 OF 26

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.

 

7 OF 26

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.

8 OF 26

Watch the Big-Wave Surfers (and Windsurfers)

“Monster waves” is Maui’s middle name, and the world’s best surfers (and windsurfers) know it. To watch the big kahunas, head to the North Shore’s world-renowned Ho‘okipa Beach in winter. The best perch is the Ho’okipa Lookout, a clifftop parking lot overlooking “Pavilions” (the beach’s surfing end). There, amped-up surfers undertake an “epic day brah!” as they charge, carve, and perform aerials.

Beginners, or “Barneys,” are in luck—Maui boasts more beginner surf breaks than any other Hawaiian island. The Cove at Kalama Beach Park in Kihei and Launiupoko Beach Park are good choices, and both offer surf schools.

9 OF 26

Enjoy Some of the World’s Best Golfing

The perfect storm of golf occurs on Maui, where stunning weather, gorgeous views, and amazing course layouts converge. You have a tough task ahead of you, choosing the best place to hit the irons—what a problem to have, right? For starters, favorites include the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf (played by PGA Tour pros), the Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course (a British links-style course), and the Royal Ka‘anapali Course at Ka‘anapali Golf Courses (designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.). For an extra challenge, cross the channel to Lana‘i to visit the Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole course at Manele Golf Course at Four Seasons Lana‘i where the 12th hole sees golfers tee off from a cliff 150 feet above the ocean. 

10 OF 26

Dive the Cathedrals of Lanai

As you drop down into the dark watery chamber, a lacy, lava-rock ceiling gives the sense of stained-glass windows and a big boulder resembles an altar. You are in First Cathedral—a lava tube that comprises one of Maui’s primo diving spots (though technically it’s off Lana‘i). Nearby Second Cathedral has a 6-foot albino coral tree hanging from the ceiling, resembling a chandelier. Both boast a variety of multicolored fish, eels, even turtles, dolphins, and octopi. Obviously, scuba diving doesn’t get much better than this. Lahaina Divers is a reputable outfitter, with tours leaving from West Maui Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

11 OF 26

Take a Time out on a Beach

No doubt about it, one of Maui’s greatest appeals is its beaches. You really can’t go wrong anywhere you go, but, if you need some direction, try one of the following: Keawakapu, which features critter-filled tide pools and golden sand; Hamoa Bay, which was voted one of the world’s best beaches; or Kapalua Bay, a popular choice among snorkelers. Ho‘okipa also makes a great choice if you’re looking to be entertained by board and kite surfers. You’ll find soft sands, sunny skies, clacking palm leaves, and refreshing blue waters are all around you; it’s the quintessence of paradise.

12 OF 26

Find Your Aloha at a Hawaiian Luau

Luaus are a time for Hawaiians to come together to feast and tell stories and remember their past through music and dance. While some of the more touristy versions can be cheesy, Old Lahaina Luau gets high marks for authenticity. You’ll enjoy good food (including Kalua pig, cooked in a traditional underground oven), music, arts and crafts, and a spectacular sunset. But, most of all, you’ll partake in the age-old tradition of hula, accompanied by the sweet strains of the ‘ukulele. You may even be invited to come up on stage and dance.

INSIDER TIPThis is a popular luau and it sells out. Be sure to reserve in advance of your trip.

 

13 OF 26

See Maui’s Hidden Places with a Helicopter Tour

You can’t penetrate much of Maui’s breathtaking landscape; it’s too remote and rugged. That’s where the helicopter comes in, allowing you to zip into Haleakala’s Martian landscape, down Hawaii’s tallest waterfall, and over the secluded Wailau Valley. You’ll see circular rainbows, mist-swirling rainforests, and black and red sand beaches–all of nature’s glory from high above. During whale season you might even be able to catch a peek at a pod from overhead. Blue Hawaiian is a reputable company, with state-of-the-art equipment.

14 OF 26

Listen to the ‘Ukulele

It’s said that the ‘ukulele (in Hawaiian, pronounced oo-koo-leh-leh), the diminutive little instrument with four plastic strings, is experiencing a revival. The ‘ukulele has always been at the heart and soul of Hawaiian music, and while you’re visiting, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear the pleasant pluck of strings wafting on a Maui breeze. Many different restaurants and bars offer live music while you dine; try Kimo’s or Hula Grill Ka‘anapali. Better yet, attend the Maui ‘Ukulele Festival in October (keep an eye on Covid protocols and cancellations), where a free ‘ukulele workshop is offered, or attend a show. Most larger resorts, shopping centers, and cultural centers offer free or low-cost lessons for guests; some hotels even make them available for guests, like Wailea Beach Resort with its ‘ukulele lounge in the lobby.

15 OF 26

Spouts, Flukes, and Breaches: Watch for Whales along the Coastline

Humpback whales, koholā in Hawaiian, hang out every winter in the ‘Au‘Au Channel off Maui. Boats leaving from Lahaina (once a booming whaling capital) can be in the midst of these gentle giants within 15 minutes, watching them cavort, spout, dive, showing off their flukes. Ultimate Whale Watch offers intimate tours with no more than 12 passengers. You can also stake out an onshore spot; Ka‘anapali Beach, just north of Lahaina, and the bluffs near the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, are divine perches, as is the stretch of Highway 30 between Ma‘alaea and Lahaina. The South Shore is also no stranger to the gentle cetaceans, with great vantage points from beach parks and resort balconies. Whale-watching season runs roughly from November through May.

16 OF 26

Sip on Cocktails at a Ritzy Wailea Hotel

Don your best pareo (sarong), stick a plumeria in your ear, and saunter up to the bar at the laid-back upscale lobby lounges in Wailea. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea as a good place to start; you’ll know you’ve found a piece of paradise when you feel the breeze through your hair and the sounds of the surf crashing nearby. Cocktails are handcrafted and evening live music includes a sunset hula show and sunset torch lighting. Another standout bar is Botero Lounge at Grand Wailea–part outdoor art gallery, part cocktail and live sushi lounge, the newly revitalized space is the perfect gathering place to enjoy a specially crafted drink from a menu inspired by both Japan and the classic resort, itself.

17 OF 26

Walk on a Black Sand Beach

When molten lava meets the ocean (and its glistening waters, which the park is named for), it shatters into tiny pieces of basalt—voilà, black sand! Wai‘ānapanapa State Park near Hana is such a beach, formed after one of Haleakala’s many eruptions. The thing about black sand, though, is that while it’s beautiful it’s sharp and heat-saturated. You may be better served to avoid sunbathing and explore the beach’s sea caves, rock arch, and the remains of the Old King’s Highway—the first road to encircle Maui. Millions of tiny shrimp occasionally occupy the sea cave here, turning the waters blood red. Non-residents must make reservations in advance and there are entry and parking fees.

INSIDER TIPYou’ll find a black sand beach at Oneuli, in South Maui, as well.

18 OF 26

Explore A Vibrant Bamboo Forest

The breeze gently rustles through the forest, the clacking of wooden chimes all around. You’re in the heart of an immense bamboo forest, where the tall, willowy stalks rhythmically sway to and fro. Close your eyes—it’s mystical and meditative, purely zen. But that’s not all that you find along the 4-mile round-trip Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park, which many consider to be the Island’s best hike. It’s a dramatic realm of plunging waterfalls and infinite pools, archaic ferns, and a singular, massive banyan tree.

INSIDER TIPBe sure to pay attention to warning signs. Dangers include rock falls and flash flooding.

 

19 OF 26

Catch Your Dinner – Go Fishing!

Maui may not be known as Hawaii’s primo sportfishing spot—there’s no near-shore, deep-water trench to lure the big fish. But if you’re willing to cruise for 30-60 minutes, you’ll find unsuspecting places to successfully troll your line. Of course, the best thing to do is to leave it to the captain of one of the Island’s many fishing charters. Try Start Me Up Sportfishing or Hinatea Sportfishing, both out of Lahaina. With luck (and depending on the season), you’ll be targeting Striped Marlin, Pacific Blue Marlin, perhaps a shortbill spearfish or sailfish; and there’s always a good chance of Yellowfin and Bigeye tuna, as well as Mahi-mahi and Ono. All catches are typically divided among anglers and the boat. Don’t have a place to prepare the fish? Bring it to Down the Hatch in Lahaina–they’ll cook it for you.

20 OF 26

Enjoy Small Town Charm on Maui's North Shore

Pa‘ia once reigned as a sugarcane town, until the cane went away. An influx of hippies fell in love with the place in the seventies and never looked back; it continues to be a hip and happening place. The rustic plantation storefronts are filled with art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, yoga studios, eateries, antique stores, and, of course, surf shops. Pa‘ia also happens to be the hub of the North Shore’s famous surfing. Be sure to stop by Pa‘ia Fish Market for a fish burger and fries, note the Pa‘ia Peace Stupa—blessed by the Dalai Lama in 2007—and buy a cool aloha shirt at Moonbow Tropics.

21 OF 26

Enjoy the Pacific’s Abundance of Seafood--With a View

Many Maui restaurants serve delicious seafood, including the most iconic, Old Hawaii experience found at Mama’s Fish House, a casual, open-window, beachside eatery in a North Shore coconut grove that dates back to 1973. Other options abound across the Island: On the South Shore Nick’s Fishmarket is one of the only restaurants to regularly serve Opakapaka, Hawaiian pink snapper, thanks to its great relationship with local fisherman. The imported oysters with lilikoi (passion fruit) mignonette are standouts for those who like a variety of seafood. Nearby Morimoto shows off what the famed chef can do with Hawaiian ingredients like ahi (on a pizza!) and black cod served with a beautiful sake menu. On the west side, Japengo offers decadent sushi selections along with adventurous fish options; the Hamachi Kama (collar) is one of the Chef’s specialties, with a limit of four to five available per night.

INSIDER TIPMama’s Fish House is likely the most difficult restaurant to get reservations for; try dining for lunch, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting in.

 

22 OF 26

Wander Through Upcountry with a Stop in Makawao

Upcountry Maui is booming with awesome agricultural projects, many of which visitors can check out on a tour. In addition to the Maui Pineapple Tour, Surfing Goat Dairy has tours of its award-winning goat cheese operation, Kula Lavender offers self-guided walks through their trails, and Ocean Vodka hosts tours and tastings. And that’s just a sampling–really, if you open Google Maps and look around in the Upcountry area, you’ll find plenty of options. While you’re there, be sure to stop in the small town of Makawao, becoming a bit of a destination of its own. Standouts are brunch at Casanova Italian Restaurant, a visit to the charming hobbit hole at Maui Cookie Lady, and shopping at Pink by Nature boutique.

23 OF 26

Participate in the Mālama Hawai‘i Voluntourism Program

A new program awaits visitors who want to mālama (“take care” or “give back”) the Islands during their vacation. Malama Hawaii gives visitors the chance to “Take a trip that gives back” with the help of participating partners. On Maui there are 16 hotels and businesses that, in exchange for participation in a volunteer program, offer perks that include free nights, resort credits, discounts, daily breakfasts, and more. Opportunities vary from self-directed beach cleanups to making Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elderly) and really give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the ‘āina (land) and the people of Hawaii.

24 OF 26

Take a Day (or Overnight) Trip to Lana‘i

Nearby Islands Molokai and Lanai are both part of Maui County, and though Molokai is only accessible by plane, Lanai can be reached four times daily on Expeditions Ferry. The ferry is a nice ride across the Auau Channel and leaves from Lahaina Harbor. Once you arrive on Lanai (book a tour or rent a vehicle well in advance), visit standouts like the Lanai Cat Sanctuary, charming Lanai City (way more of a village than an actual city), and the astounding Hulopoe Marine Life Conservation District including Manele and Hulopoe Bays. If you want to stay overnight, treat yourself to an incredible experience at Four Seasons Lanai for decadent dining at Nobu (the only one in the state), astronomy programs, and world-class golf.

25 OF 26

Enjoy Maui-Style Shaved Ice

Shave ice is a quintessential part of the Hawaii experience, and each Island has its own styles and popular purveyors. Ululani’s is the go-to in Maui, with six locations across the Island, including one in the Hyatt Regency Maui. They’ve been making gourmet shave ice in Maui since 2008, and their syrups and toppings can’t be beat; be sure to check out their seasonal specials to try something a little different. With its vibrant colors, shave ice may seem like a treat just for kids, but at Breakwall Shave Ice in Lahaina, they’re not afraid to add a little booze to those cones, from mai tais to mango margaritas.

26 OF 26

Taste Your Way Through Maui’s Coffee Scene

Hawaii Island may have one of the most famous coffee scenes in the world thanks to Kona, but Maui has its own growers and roaster creating some mighty fine cups of joe. Step right off the plane and into Maui Coffee Roasters in Kahului that features Maui, Kona, and Ka‘u coffees at their bright, lively cafe. Grandma’s Coffee House has been growing and roasting coffee since 1918; visitors can get a taste of their organic coffee, grown on the slopes of Halwakala, and “talk story” with locals at their shop in Kula. Kupa‘a Farms offers private coffee and chocolate adventure tours on their working farm in Kula.

Editor’s Note: Per the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Fodor’s recognizes “the proper use of the Hawaiian language, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i,’ which includes the ‘okina [‘], a consonant, and the kahakō [ō] or macron.” The Hawai‘i Board on Geographic Names was created to “assure uniformity and standardize spelling of geographic names to communicate unambiguously about places, reducing the potential for confusion.” In order to ensure our readers the best experience reading our Hawaii travel guides, we follow the standardized spelling, but hope to expose readers to the importance and cultural significance of the written Ōlelo Hawai‘i language

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