Favorite Things To Do In Maui
I was 18 years old the first time I went to Maui. And pretty much every year since then, I’ve been lucky enough to go back and visit two or three times a year. The warm weather, clear turquoise waters, lush forests, and relaxing atmosphere make the island of Maui the ideal vacation destination. Knicknamed the Valley Isle, Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island. A nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Maui is about 5 hours and 40 minutes, which also makes it an ideal choice for a long weekend getaway. Something to keep in mind if you decide to visit is that rental cars are a must if you want to explore beyond your resort or vacation rental. If you need help packing, read What To Pack For A Maui Vacation.
My Favorite Things To Do While Visiting Maui
If you enjoy exploring nature while traveling, Maui is the perfect destination for you! The West Maui Mountains are home to Iao Valley. If you’re more in the mood for a nature walk, then take the paved walking trail in Iao Needle. Because it’s an easy hike, as well as short in length, the Iao Needle Lookout Trail is one of the most popular hikes on Maui. If chasing waterfalls is more your speed, head to the bamboo forest. Haleakala National Park also has many hiking trails. From waterfalls to desert landscapes, there’s something for all skill levels.
Drive To Hana
The road to Hana is renowned for the natural beauty of its untouched landscape and follows the northeast coastline of the island. This is a slow, scenic drive full of one-way bridges, twists, turns, and tourists stopping for pictures. It’s a full day’s adventure that takes at least three hours each way, longer if you stop often for snacks or to swim. Or, instead of coming back the way you came, you can continue onward and circle the island. Bring plenty of cash for the small stands selling tropical fruit and fresh-baked banana bread.
Watching The Water Sports
Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing, but there are many other popular watersports that are fun to sit and watch.
Hoʻokipa, located on Maui’s north shore is a beautiful white sand beach with some of the best waves on Maui. You can watch from the beach or above on the bluffs as dozens of surfers and kitesurfers catch waves.
Other popular watersports on the island are parasailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking/canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, and bodyboarding.
Maui has several farmers’ markets throughout the week. Here you can shop for the most delicious locally grown garden-fresh fruits. My favorites are dragonfruit, starfruit, guava, lilikoi, lychee, and rambutans. This is also a great place to shop for hand-crafted souvenirs you won’t find in the stores. There are usually food trucks or vendors selling fresh baked goods, and hot food, so you can fill up on lunch before heading to the beach. The best part about shopping at the farmer’s markets is that you are giving back to the beautiful local community. My favorite Maui Farmers Markets are:
- Upcountry Farmer’s Market
- Lipoa Street Farmer’s Market
- Kihei Farmers Market (61 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753)
Spending The Afternoon In Paia
Paia is a small historic town on Maui’s north shore. and is a good idea of what Maui life has to offer. This small bohemian town is full of beautiful boutiques, gift shops, surf shops, and restaurants. Although small, the town is busy and filled with tourists and locals alike. After walking up and down the streets, and stopping for lunch, pop into the ice cream store for a gelato or shaved ice. Then you can continue walking for another 5 minutes to the local beach. Click here for my list of Beach Day Essentials
Visiting The Aquarium
Going to the Maui Ocean Center is something I enjoy, but I only go when I have the kids with me. There are both indoor and outdoor exhibits, and a walk-through tunnel, The Maui aquarium is also the home to one of the world’s largest displays of live Pacific corals. All the marine life on exhibit is native to Hawaii and includes plenty of tropical fish, sea turtles, jellyfish, octopuses, sharks, and stingrays.
Spotting Sea Turtles
Green sea turtles are the most common species in Maui. You can find them swimming offshore, or sunbathing on the beach. A few sea turtle hotspots are:
- Turtle Town
- Black Rock Beach
- Turtle Lagoon
Remember to admire these gentle creatures from a distance and absolutely never touch them! Hawaiian green sea turtles are a federally protected species. Not only is it illegal to touch or harass them, but the bacteria on our hands is actually harmful to them.
Driving To The Top Of Haleakala
Haleakala National Park is also known as the House Of The Sun. At 10,023 feet above sea level, this dormant volcanic crater towers over the island and can be seen from just about anywhere on Maui.
if you have the chance to make it to the top of Haleakala for a sunrise I suggest you don’t pass it up! The park now requires a reservation to enter the park at sunrise. So like most good things in life, it may require a little planning in advance. Because of long lines and delays entering the park arrive 60-90 minutes before sunrise to ensure you don’t miss it. You can purchase your tickets up to 60 days in advance here.
If the early wake-up call doesn’t sound appealing, the sunsets atop the summit are equally amazing. You can take your time driving to the top of the volcano, where you will drive through 5 distinct climate zones. The park is also home to a number of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.
One last thing to keep in mind is that although the weather on the summit is unpredictable, you can always count on it to be cold! So prepare yourself with some warm clothes or maybe even a blanket and snacks. This way you can snuggle up and enjoy the sunset.
If whale watching is on your bucket list, the timing of your trip is very important. The whale watching season in Hawaii is November-May, Every winter thousands of North Pacific Humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters. You can kick back at the beach and enjoy the show, or book a whale-watching tour if you enjoy being out on boats.
Watching The Sunset
Spending the afternoon swimming and staying out long enough to watch the sunset is my favorite way to spend the day on Maui. In fact, some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen have been on Maui. Some of the best beaches for enjoying the sunset are:
- Makena Cove (Wailea/Makena)
- Papalaua Beach Park (West Maui)
- Polo Beach Park (Wailea)
- Mokapu Beach (Wailea)
- Mama’s Fish House Beach (North Shore)
- Honolua Bay Overlook (West Maui)
- Lahania (West Maui)
Some of the best snorkeling in Maui can be found at Honolua Bay. If you’re able to swim out from the beach a little, you’re almost always guaranteed to see fish, coral, and sea turtles. The left side of the beach is best for snorkeling, and the right side is for diving. Honolua Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District. So fishing and the removal of any natural resources, including marine life and rocks, is strictly prohibited. The beach here is made of rocks, so water shoes are recommended. And whereas this is one of the best beaches for snorkeling, it isn’t that great for laying out and relaxing.
For even more snorkeling take a boat tour to Molokini. The Molokini crater is a crescent-shaped, volcanic crater. This partially submerged island is just a few miles off of Maui’s coast and can be seen from the beach. Formed around 150 thousand years ago, it is Hawaii’s only island marine sanctuary. Divers and snorkelers travel to this special place for its clear waters and incredible marine life.
The Shops at Wailea is a small high-end shopping center in the luxury Maui resorts area. Because Hawaii’s tax rates are so much lower than they are in California, you can end up saving hundreds of dollars on large purchases. But even with zero intentions to shop, it’s still a nice area to walk around.
Whalers Village in Lahaina is an open-air mall on the Ka’anapali beachfront. With over 90 different shops with everything from casual island wear to luxury designer goods.
If you’re looking for something more unique, the Maui Swap Meet might be the place for you. Located on the University of Hawaii Maui Campus, and has over 200 stalls. Here you can find original artwork, handmade souvenirs, and local delicacies, like the famous Hawaiian shave ice.