Vacationing on Maui is a dream destination for most who travel here. And for good reason! You will spend your days hiking to hidden waterfalls, snorkeling with the fish, sampling local cuisine and getting rid of those pesky tan lines. Whatever it is that tantalizes your senses, Maui has something to offer everyone. Having lived on Maui for 10 years I put together a list of the top things to do in Maui. Get ready to buy your ticket!
15 Epic Things to do in Maui
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Before You Go
- Book your hotel and find out the best places to stay and what part of the island to base yourself out of.
- Read 10 Maui Insider Tips to Know Before you Go
- Don’t leave home without these essentials – What to Pack for Hawaii
- Sign up and to receive the Ultimate Maui bucket list straight to your inbox!
1. Drive the Road to Hana
A trip to Maui is not complete without braving the Road to Hana. The 52 mile road that connects Kahului to Hana is made up of several hair pin turns and one lane bridges. You’ll enjoy panoramic seascape views, lush rainforests and waterfalls as you traverse the road to Hana. Plan on this being an all day excursion. If you have more time on Maui I recommend carving out a few days to explore Hana town and the surrounding area.
2. Take it in from Above in a Helicopter
Viewing the Hawaiian Islands from above is a dream. You’ll spot waterfalls hidden deep in the lush rainforest, see the dramatic coastlines that stretches for miles and if it’s whale season you may even get lucky enough to see some whale breaches from above. Although this activity is on the expensive side it is worth the splurge.
3. Surf like a Local
Hawaii is the surf Mecca of the world. There are breaks for all levels of surfers. If you’re a beginner to the sport hire a surf instructor and take a lesson or two. It’s not safe for you or for others if you’re out in the water and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you do know how to surf 🏄♀️ ROCK ON 🤘!
4. Explore the Olivine Pools
These natural tide pools can be found on West Maui about 20 miles north of Lahaina in Kahakuloa. Rough waves crash against the lava rock coastline and soak the lower lying rocks. The water thrusted over the rocks gather in small natural tide pools that you’re able to swim in and calm days. Getting down to the tide pools can be tricky as you have to scramble down a rocky trail. There are no signs pointing you to the tide pools, just a patch of dirt on the side of the road but it’s easy to spot as there will be loads of cars parked along the side of the road.
#JESSATRAVELTIP It is pertinent to check the surf and not to venture down on a rough day. People have been swept away by the waves which resulted in death. Always be aware of your surroundings and do your research!
5. Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Did you know that the green sea turtle is the most common species on Maui?! Needless to say going for a snorkel and expecting to swim with a sea turtle is highly probable. Black rock at the north end of Ka’anapali beach always has sea turtles swimming around and its an easy area to get in and out of the water.
At Ho’okipa beach park during sunset and see turtles will make their way to the beach to sleep for the night. Not a good place to snorkel but a great place to see these magnificent creatures huddle on the beach.
6. Get your Nature Fix on & Go on a Hike
Hiking is one of my favorite ways to explore an area and one of my favorite things to do in Maui. It feels great to be outdoors and get a different perspective. There are several great hiking trails on Maui. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Sliding Sands Trail – This strenuous hike takes you down into Haleakala crater to explore the foreign lands.
- Pipiwai Trail– Probably the most famous Maui hike is the Pipiwai Trail located past Hana. This hike takes you through bamboo forests and ends up at a 400 foot waterfall.
- The Kings Trail – This trail is located on the southern part of the island. It takes you along the southern coast across lava fields. Its beautiful and there’s an obvious trail the whole way.
- Waihee Ridge– This was the first hike I ever did on Maui. The 4 mile round trip trail takes you up the Waihee Ridge and gives you amazing views of the valley isle below. Start early to get the best views.
7. Eat your Way Through Lahaina
After all that hiking you probably worked up an appetite. Head to Lahaina which is located on the west part of Maui. Lahaina is a picture perfect Hawaiian town and is home to several MUST EAT restaurants.
Then go all out of Fleetwood’s on Front Street and treat yourself to a beautiful dinner and drinks on the rooftop during sunset. There will be plenty of shops along Front Street to find dessert, like Hula Pie and Hawaiian Shaved Ice.
8. Dine on a Sunset Cruise
Going on a dinner cruise for the evening is a perfect way to “do” something without having to exert too much effort. There are several tour companies that offer a dinner, a sunset and if its whale season, a whale watch. We chose to go on a captain’s dinner cruise with Pacific Whale Foundation and everything about it was fabulous.
The cruise was 2 and a half hours and left out of Lahaina harbor (which happens to be my backyard so I was already stoked on not having to drive!). The dinner consisted of an appetizer, starter salad, surf and turf entree, dessert and did I mention open bar. Although there’s never a “bad” time to visit Hawaii I always recommend that you visit here during whale season which runs December 15- May 15 that way you can enjoy your gourmet while you watch whales frolic in the Pacific Ocean.
The whales put on a show when I did this cruise and it only amplifies the experience. A sunset on the water, tasty and plentiful food and wine all while watching whales play in the ocean sounds like a perfect evening to me. If dinner on a boat isn’t your speed there are plenty of sunset “booze” cruises to choose from that will give you what you want.
Check Out Tours Below ↓
9. Explore Red, Black & Golden Sand Beaches
Maui is full of stunning, exotic beaches, I’m pretty certain there’s a beach that suits every ones needs. If you want a beach that you can snorkel at, ✔️ Maui has it. A beach to surf, ✔️ Maui has it. A beach to tan topless, ✔️ Maui has it. If you’re looking for a beach that has unique sand and can only find certain places in the world, well look no further because you guessed it ✔️ Maui has it.
One of the most beautiful beaches in my opinion is the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park. When people drive the road to Hana Wai’anapanapa State Park is often one of the last stops therefore it gets very crowded in the afternoons. I recommend staying for at least a night in Hana to experience all of her beauty. Staying the night in Hana would give you opportunity to visit this black sand beach for sunrise and have the beach all to yourself. The picture below was taken for sunrise and the beach was empty.
Ever heard of a red sand beach?!?! Hana is also home to an infamous red sand beach and getting there is an adventure in itself. Located right next to the Travasaa, the most luxurious hotel on Eastern Maui is the trail that leads to red sand beach. Follow the rooty path covered in pine needles and cinders down to the edge of the lava rocks. The path soon takes you up and around the corner where you start to see the crescent red sand bay reveal herself. It’s about a 10 minute “hike” to get to this beach and an experience that you won’t get anywhere else.
* Sand flies were annoying and there were lots of them. Wear bug spray and bring something to sit on.
Along with black and red sand beaches, on Maui you’ll also find white and golden sand beaches that go for days. My favorite beach on Maui is Big Beach or Makena Beach. The warm, golden sand stretches for over a half mile and the sand bar makes it appealing to go for a swim. Pay attention to the sign postings on the beach. When surfs up, the waves get large and unsafe for swimming. I’ve seen more often that not tourists get taken out by the waves. Not a way to enjoy your vacation.
10. Spend a Day Upcountry
Upcountry on Maui is a term that describes the towns of Kula, Makawao, Pukalani, and Ulupalakua which are nestled on the slopes of Haleakala. Exploring the farm lands of upcountry is a great way to spend a day and get a different perspective of Maui. There are many ways to tour this area, like going for a hike, taking a distillery tour, or wandering through the towns.
11. Get a Lomilomi Hawaiian Massage
Lomi lomi is a traditional Hawaiian massage that uses a combination of massage techniques, nut oils like macadamia, breathing and dance. The massage is meant to restore energy and soothe the body. A traditional lomi lomi massage costs around $120-200 at a quality massage parlor. Your best bet will be to book one with you hotel/resort to ensure the quality. Sit back, relax, and get your zen on.
12. Cliff Jump at Venus Pools
Make sure you dedicate a full afternoon to Venus Pool where you can play like a child again. Like out of a Hawaiian fairy tale you must hop a fence, cross through a field, pass through a wooden area and pop out at a natural made pool perfect for swimming and cliff jumping!
There are several different spots you can jump off the cliffs ranging in scale from ‘Piece of Cake’ to ‘Holy shit!’ Pack a cooler, bring a towel and don’t forget your GoPro! And get ready to have an amazing day!
13. Swim Under a Waterfall
Swimming beneath a waterfall is probably on everyones Hawaiian agenda. You’re in luck because Maui has no shortage of waterfalls and there are several waterfalls that are waiting for you to take a dip under. One of the most accessible waterfalls to do accomplish this dream is at Twin Falls. This is a popular stop when driving the road to Hana. The first waterfall is a 5 minute walk from where you park your car. The second can be reached by walking 15 minutes farther down the trail. Your bucket list moment awaits you.
14. Watch Sunrise atop Haleakala
Seize the day and watch sunrise from on top of Haleakala Crater. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world when you witness the first ray of light that pops up from under the clouds. It’s an experience that you can’t do anywhere else. Give yourself ample time to drive to the summit, the road takes you on many switch backs as you carve up the volcano. Also dress appropriately as it gets cold at 10,023 feet.
15. Go on a Whale Watch
If you happen to be visiting Maui during whale season (December 15- May 15) then you MUST go on a whale watch…or 5. Whale season on Maui is my favorite time of the year, especially during February which is their peak month. You’ll see spouts, tail slaps and breaches everywhere as you gaze at the ocean. There are several tour companies that have knowledgeable naturalists that will take you on a whale watch to get up close and personal with the friendly giants. There are many tours that run out of Lahaina harbor if you’re staying on the west side of the island.