Hawai’i is an incredibly magical place. And the island of Maui is no exception. Most people that you hear of visiting Maui, all agree on one thing: That this place seems, unlike anything they have ever imagined. From lush, tropical roads to harsh landscapes that seem otherworldly, Maui is a place with hotspots as diverse as its people.
Here are 10 unforgettable things to do in Maui that will bring cherished memories that last a lifetime.
1. Road to Hana
The road to Hana, a 56-mile road that hugs the Northeastern coast of Maui from Paia to Hana, is one of the most highly recommended activities when visiting Maui. Jokingly referred to as “The Divorce Highway”, the Road to Hana has 59 bridges, 46 of which have only a single lane. So that goes without saying, that you should make sure you’re well prepared, a seasoned driver, have a full gas tank and are prepared to go no more than 25 MPH the whole 2.5-hour journey. After you finally arrive, you are rewarded for your efforts and patience with scenery out of a Lost World movie.
Soak in all the views along the road to Hana in Maui. If you see a car behind you flash their high-beams, pull over to the side and give a nice wave. You’re on Island time. Take your time and DO NOT honk. In Hawaii, it’s seen as rude.
2. Big Beach and Little Beach
Big Beach is a wide, long sandy beach surrounded by beautiful lush forests. Big shore-break and strong under-toe mean that the activities here are a little more advanced. Large waves that tower overhead and crash down right on the shoreline make this beach somewhat hazardous. As long as you’re a strong swimmer, and don’t mind getting tossed around like a toy doll in a washing machine from time to time, you’ll do just fine.
Cross a small hill to the West and you’re on Little beach, which is a completely different vibe. The waves are slightly smaller, and hippie drum circles, cannabis smoking, and nudity are a common sight on Little Beach, so do keep that in mind if you’re traveling with a group of nuns or your conservative grandparents.
Watch out for waves that break close to shore on the big beach in Maui. They are very fun but can also be hazardous.
3. Pineapple Plantation Tour
Curious what a pineapple plantation looks like? Did you expect them to grow on trees? Go for a tour in upcountry Maui and learn about the pineapple’s historical impact on shaping the Hawaiian economy. Learn how the locals grow this prized fruit, and best of all, score a free pineapple!
4. Go Whale Watching
What better way to learn about these remarkable creatures than to get up close and personal with a living, breathing whale! During the late winter months is the best time to go whale watching. Pregnant humpback whales make the annual migration to the warm tropical waters near Maui every winter to give birth and care for their young. Safe from any large natural predators, the mother’s selfless strategy of giving birth in this area, means that she will go hungry as there isn’t any food that she normally eats in this area.
Once the whale calf has been reared on mother’s milk, the pair will begin their migration Northward, towards the rich feeding grounds off Alaska. Several whale watching companies offer whale-watching excursions, and you may just be lucky enough to witness these highly intelligent and majestic creatures up close if you decide on a tour.
5. Witness a Haleakala Sunrise
Waking up at 2:30 am may not be your idea of a restful and relaxing vacation, but it’s definitely worth it. Standing a whopping 10,023 feet above sea level, Haleakala crater is an extinct volcano that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and for good reason. Soaring high above the clouds, you’ll feel like you’ve found heaven on Earth. Wait patiently for the sun to rise and illuminate an awe-inspiring sky. Dress warm, as it’s rather cold up there, and often times the mountaintop can have snow during the winter months! Yes, Snow…on Hawai’i, Weird right?
Haleakala is also the site of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, slated for completion in 2020, it will be the largest solar telescope on earth, with a whopping 4 meter aperture. You don’t have to travel all the way to outer space to feel like you’re above it all!
6. Find The Best Snorkeling Spots
There are dozens of amazing spots in Maui to witness gorgeous undersea beauty. Tropical corals and exotic tropical fish are abundant in these areas, and it’s sure to be a highlight of anyone’s trip to Maui. Witness the official state fish: a Hawaiian trigger fish, or humuhumunukunukuapua’a as it’s known in Hawai’ian. (Yes, that’s a mouthful), while snorkeling, you’ll witness a plethora of corals in all colors, and if you’re lucky, a green sea turtle or some dolphins! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, book a day trip to Molokini crater, a half submerged crescent shaped ring of an ancient volcanic crater.
The undersea flora and fauna in this area are off the charts! When visiting these places, make sure you are respectful and don’t damage any of the local corals. It can take 2 seconds of mindless thrashing to destroy thousands of years of coral growth.
Make sure to lather on plenty of sunscreen, as the sun’s rays can still penetrate deep into the water and burn your skin, and long exposure to water and sweat means that the sunscreen comes off quicker. So apply that SPF generously, especially if you have a lighter complexion. Equally as important, make sure to get some sunblock that is marketed as coral safe sunblock. Many sunblocks on the market contain ingredients that can actually harm the coral. So make sure it has the words “Coral Safe” right on the label!
7. ʻIao Valley State Park
If you’re a nature lover in Maui, ʻIao Valley State Park is the place to be. Take a trek on the ʻIao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop to learn about the plants that the Hawaiians brought from other Islands many generations ago. ʻIao Valley is actually a place of historical relevance. It was the site of the 1790 battle of Kepaniwai where Kamehameha I defeated the Maui army.
Many thousands of soldiers perished from the bitter battle, resulting in the “damming of the waters” by the corpses floating in the river. It was said that the river “ran red with the blood of the dead.” Legend has it that the spirits of the fallen soldiers still haunt this area to this day. The tall, sharp mountain jutting towards the heavens in the middle of the valley is also known as “Needle” and is a very popular tourist attraction and the subject of many photographer’s works!
8. Maui Swap Meet
Everyone who visits Maui should go to the Swap Meet at least once. They are held every Saturday at the University of Hawaii Maui College in Kahului from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. It’s the best way to get the most authentic souvenirs while supporting the local economy at the same time. Often times you can buy the crafts directly from the artists themselves. Don’t be that schlub who buys gifts from the airport gift shop last minute! Locally made crafts, apparel, homemade baked goods, and local island produce are not in short supply here. It’s the perfect place for those who are staying in the condominiums who want to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables to fuel their adventure-packed week ahead!
9. Maui Ocean Center
Positioned in the small seaside port town of Maalaea, the Maui Ocean Center is a fantastic aquatic facility that inspires the Jacques Cousteau‘s of tomorrow. The aquarium boasts one of the largest and most diverse arrays of living Pacific corals in the world. The one-of-a-kind virtual whale encounter in the Humpbacks of Hawai‘i Exhibit & Sphere was launched in February 2019 and marks a new era in the convergence of technology and marine observation.
In addition to 20 daily presentations and outdoor tide pools, the Maui Ocean Center has a 750,000-gallon open-ocean exhibit with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel. If you’re traveling with young ones or even those with the slightest sense of wonder, then the Maui Ocean Center is an absolute must-see!
10. Black Sand Beach
Black sand beaches in Maui are second to none. You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a living postcard as soon as you lay eyes on these volcanic marvels. The beach pictured above is Wai’anapanapa State Park and is located along the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii.
11. BONUS! Hole In The Wall Eatery: Tasty Crust
Tasty Crust is a cozy, no-frills diner in the middle of Wailuku. It’s is a must-visit if you’ve got a hankering for some local homestyle flavor. Katsu, Egg Ramen (known in Hawaii as Saimin), and PLENTY of SPAM and eggs are some of the “local kine grindz” you’ll find here.
Read More: Top 15 Restaurants in Maui >
They have the familiar hamburger and pancakes as well, but you might as well stay on the mainland if you’re coming to Maui and eating a hamburger.
Anything I missed? Mention it in the comments section below!
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