What to Do in Maui
The range in activities is what keeps me coming back to Maui over and over again. Unlike other Hawaiian islands, Maui has diverse options for types of things to do. Whether you're into the outdoors or relaxing luxury, there's something for everyone.
Go on a Hike
There are so many beautiful hikes that you can do in Maui, of varying skill levels and lengths. One of my favorites is the Twin Falls hike. If you’re even relatively familiar with the island you can easily get to these falls on your own, and there are actually several pretty cool pools and falls along the way. The starting point for the Twin Falls hike is 6300 Hana Highway in Haiku. It’s perfect for beginners and kids, as it’s short and very easy.
For first timers to Maui, I would recommend going with a guide like Dynamic Hawaii. I haven’t used this company but we used a company a while back whose name I can’t remember. Do a private or small group guided tour if you can—trust me when I say it will be a lot more enjoyable if you are not apart of a cattle wagon. The only good thing about having a guide is you learn a lot about the landscape, the fruits along the path that are edible, and you know they'll take you to all the good spots.
Hike Up Haleakala
I've never hiked Haleakala but everyone always says to do it. The sunrise at the top is supposed to be life changing. But I've never done it cause you have to start hiking at like 3 am to do it. Not my bag, but maybe someday. Maui for me means lots of mai tais and usually a few hangovers, so the hike at 3 am never sounds all that appealing to me. Not saying not to go though--I haven't heard a single person who has done it say they didn't like it. One piece of advice though if you do go: bring warm clothes. I hear it can be super cold at the top.
There are many tour group options that will take you up to the top before sunrise. Keep in mind when planning that as I mentioned these typically pick up at 3 am and then drop off back at the hotel around noon or so, so it’s a long day. In addition to going to the crater and the volcano though, tours like Haleakala Eco Tours will also stop in Haiku, Makawao or Paia too. There are also other tours that include sunrise bike rides down he volcano for a more athletic and adventurous traveler.
Drive the Road to Hana
Okay, so I almost feel like a sell-out putting this one on the list. I’ve chosen to add it because I do think everyone should do it at least once. I’ve done it a couple times now, and I think that’s plenty. The drive does offer spectacular views, and it allows you to see more diverse flora and fauna, but it can also be a pain. It takes several hours to complete and the traffic is always horrific. It seriously shocks me how many horrible drivers there are out there (a turn, gasp!). But if you are very patient (which I am not) and have a ton of time to kill, you should at least do this once.
It's not anything incredible, but it's a nice drive where you get to see more rural parts of the island. The bummer is that the tourists cannot fucking drive (growing up in Murphys I swear makes us all better drivers on windy roads) and the traffic is HORRIBLE because of it. But if you have plenty of time (pretty much need the whole day), it's worth it. Do keep in mind though that there's not much in Hana though so you might be better off bringing food and beers and doing a picnic. We ate at one of the few restaurants there (I can't remember the name) and it was pretty terrible. You'd be better off getting food at one of the shacks along the road, which I totally wish we had done.
Here’s how to do it in style: rent a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster Convertible from Maui Roadsters and cruise those windy roads in a beautiful car.
And a note to first-timers and tourists: be respectful. Please, PLEASE pull over at the turnoffs if you have a line of cars behind you. The locals will appreciate it. It's not just polite but pretty mandatory to abide by the unspoken rules of the road when driving to Hana.
Anything that Involves Water
The obvious things: paddle boarding/kayaking, snorkeling, etc. One of my favorite things is to take either the kayaks or paddle boards out with snorkel gear to get to some of the better snorkeling spots that you wouldn't necessarily want to swim to. In Wailea, there are great spots like Makena Landing where there are caves that the turtles like to hang out in. We've even done a number of private, guided kayak tours (sounds expensive but it's not) where they take you out and bring you out to the perfect spots. Or you just fill the kayaks with beer and chill.
If you're into diving, do some diving. I did some scuba diving with sharks and then also did a night into a bubble cave where the sea turtles hang out. It was like a top 5 life experience kind of thing.
Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. That’s one of the reasons there are dive shops set up all over the island. But if scuba diving is not for you, try free diving or even just snorkeling. Just being in the water and seeing the giant turtles, starfish, octopi, urchins and a colorful array of interesting fish is such a magical experience.
Hit the Links
Maui has some really top-notch golf courses. Arguably the most famous on the island is Kapalua, located on the northern side of the island at the Ritz Carlton property, because it holds a PGA event there every January (next year is the Sentry Tournament of Champions). Though Kapalua--particularly the Plantation Course--is quite the stunner, one of my favorite courses to play is the less expensive Wailea Golf Club. They have two courses: the Emerald course and the Gold course--both of which are wonderful but if I had to pick I would say the Emerald is my favorite.
Spend a Day at the Spa
The spas at the hotels on Maui are some of the best, but you pay the price for them. They're usually pretty spendy. One option would be to book a massage or a facial at one of the nice resorts (Ritz Kapalua, Four Seasons, Andaz, etc.) and then use the facilities (and the pool!!!) like all day. Then it's money well spent and you get a change in scenery from where you're staying.
Shop Swimwear and Bohemian Boutiques in Paia
Paia is one of my favorite places to visit when I am in Maui. It is such a cute, quaint and funky little town. It has the BEST bikini shops and boutiques. If need to get unique and non-touristy souvenirs for friends and loved ones back home, this is the place to go. And if you want to do any shopping for clothing, artwork, bikinis or jewelry, Paia is way better than over-touristy Lahaina or high-end but non-unique Wailea. The bars are pretty good too and it's just up the street from Mama's Fish House, so that's a plus too.
You will absolutely LOVE Paia! I promise. It's a super cute, quaint little hippie town full of boutiques and bikini shops. They've got everything from high end bikini stores like San Lorenzo to inexpensive options like Pakaloha. I usually pick up a Pakaloha bikini and trucker hat every time I'm there--they're so cute! Also lots of good bohemian-like jewelry. And fun, chill bars/restaurants. It's all good.
Get a photo with the parrots in Lahaina
Okay, this recommendation might also fly in the face of all that I stand for. I am not usually one to recommend doing anything as stereotypical/touristy as this, but I have to admit, its worth the good laugh. A good thing to do with the kids.
Take a Surf Lesson
My husband is going to hate me for adding this to the list but I do think it’s a good thing to do for people visiting the Hawaiian islands. What’s more Hawaiian than surfing? Well, a lot actually, but that’s not the point. Learning to surf in a place like Hawaii is a one of a kind experience. You not only get to enjoy the ocean and get a bit of a workout in, but if you are actually able to get a wave it’s pretty awesome.
Charter a Sailboat
It's a major splurge, but if you can charter a boat for a half day or a full day, you will not regret it. Some of the best experiences I have had seeing Maui, lounging and snorkeling have been on chartered sailboats. There is nothing better than having a boat to yourself for the day to do whatever you want. But it can be expensive.
This is definitely my highest recommendation, though it is also the most expensive. Private charters can run anywhere from $800 for a half day to as much as $5,000. I think our last charter (for 2 people, but you still have to pay for the whole boat) was about $1200. That’s very reasonable. Though it’s a splurge, chartering a boat is so worth it.
Take a boat out to Molokini Crater
Less expensive options for boat trips are the catamarans that go to Molokini crater. I think the company we did it with was Trilogy. But keep in mind you're stuck on a boat with other tourists and kids for a full day. Usually it includes booze and food and is only like $100 pp for the day, but then you have to deal with fanny pack wearing people from Hawaii and possibly annoying kids. There are numerous providers that offer a morning of snorkeling, some options include Bride of Maui, Snorkel Molokini, Four Winds Maui or Trilogy.
Watch the Fire Dancers at Little Beach (or is it big beach?)
Go to Little Beach on a weekend night and catch the fire dancers. I am not sure if this is an everyday thing, and it’s very much a locals thing, which makes it super cool but hard to find. We were lucky enough to befriend our dive instructor a few years back, who was the person that took us out there. You bring beers (and apparently lots of drugs if you want to fit in) and just mingle and sit by the fire. Kinda makes me think of my HS parties now that I think of it…
Ocean Vodka Tour & Tasting
Only a 30 minute drive from Wailea, the tour and tasting offered at Ocean Vodka offers a unique experience for spirit connoisseurs. Make a reservation to ensure you have a spot though, as they can be busy during peak seasons. After getting a little vodka buzz on, you have only a 20 minute drive (well, maybe don’t drive…) to the Lavender Farm or to the Kula Lodge, which has a restaurant with food that’s nothing to write home about but arguably one of the best views on the island. You’re also only about 20 minutes away from Makawao, which is the old cowboy town. Here you’ll find cute shops, including art and sculpture galleries, a blown glass store and delightful little boutiques.
Enjoy Maui’s Beautiful Beaches
Maui really has some incredible beaches. And there’s so many that you shouldn’t have a hard time finding one that’s not crowded. In Wailea, the easiest and most convenient beaches are the ones outside of the Elua Villas (between the Marriott and the Andaz), and the big beach out in front of The Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons. They’re crowded in the high season though, so keep that in mind. If you’re looking for a quieter beach in Wailea, take a short drive further south to Makena Landing. That’s more of a locals spot, so you probably won’t have to share the beach with too many tourists.
The beaches on the way out by Kapalua are great too, and generally only shared by guests of the Ritz Carlton. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, some of these beaches are your best bet. Along the drive out there too, between Lahaina and Kapalua, there is about 10 miles of coastline that is either completely empty or just has a few locals barbecuing or fishing. The water here is clear, the surf is calm and perfect for beginners (there are several well-known beginner surf spots), and the water is shallow for a long time, so it’s perfect for the kiddos.
There are some beautiful, yet rocky, black sand beaches on the road to Hana. They’re stunningly beautiful, but not an option if you’re looking to lay out on the sand, bring the kids to make sand castles, or swim in the ocean.
I would avoid Kaanapali beach if you can just because it's usually so crowded. If you have a car, drive somewhere away from all the resorts. I usually tend to only go to Lahaina/Kaanapali once or twice because to me it just sort of feels like Disneyland (and not in a good way). Again, think people from Ohio with fanny packs. Just a bit too touristy for me, but still worth going at least once.
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