Vacationing on Maui is a dream destination for most who travel here. And for good reason as there are many things to do in Maui! 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, begin packing and start planning your Maui vacation!
*I have sprinkled some affiliate links in this post including Amazon that gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decided to make a purchase. All proceeds go to keep Jess traveling, coffee ☕️ and let's be real...probably wine 🍷. I thank you in advance.
- 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
- On a Budget? – How to Travel Maui on a Budget
– Where to Stay in Maui on a Budget
- Find out the best time to visit Maui
- The Ultimate Maui Packing List
- Buy your Reef Safe Sunscreen before you land
Top Things to do in Maui
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 Hana Highway.
Plan on this being an all day excursion. If you’d rather enjoy the road to Hana with a hands free approach, opt for a road to Hana guided tour. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
If you have more time on Maui I recommend carving out a few days to explore Hana town and the surrounding area. Also to drive the back road from Hana on your way back to South or West Maui.
TRAVEL TIP: If you would prefer to follow along to an audio tour I recommend the Shaka Guide! The Shaka guide tours are great for independent explorers who want the freedom to explore on their own terms, but like to learn about the spots they’re visiting.
The tours use GPS to offer turn-by-turn directions and audio narration with stories and music. This will leave you with a deeper understanding and connection to Hawaii.
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 rainforest, see the dramatic coastlines that stretch 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
The Olivine Pools are natural tide pools and 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 on 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 around the enterance.
TRAVEL TIP: 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.
6. Get your Nature Fix on & Go on a Hike
- 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 South Maui. 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, locate on the backside of the West Maui Mountains. 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.
- The Ohai Trail – The Ohai Trail is an easy, family friendly hike that takes offers great coastal views along the West Maui coast.
- Lahaina Pali Trail – A difficult hike up to the windmills on West Maui. The Lahaina Pali Trail takes about 4 hours to complete.
7. Eat your Way Through Lahaina
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, traveling to Maui is during whale season which runs December 15- May 15 that way you can enjoy your gourmet meal 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.
9. Explore Red, Black & Golden Sand Beaches
Maui is full of stunning, exotic beaches, I’m pretty certain there’s a beach that suits everyones 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 above was taken for sunrise and the beach was empty.
TRAVEL TIP: As of March 2021 reservations in advance are now required to enter Wai’anapanapa State Park. Book a few weeks prior to visiting. Same day reservations are not permitted. You can reserve your spot here.
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, biking down Haleakala, taking a distillery tour, or at the Kula lavender farm.
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.
This is worth the splurge on your budget. Your best bet will be to book one with you hotel/resort to ensure the quality. Sit back, relax, and get your zen on. If you’re on a budget.
12. Cliff Jump at Venus Pools
Make sure you dedicate a full afternoon at Venus Pool where you can play like a child again. 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 Maui itinerary. 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 accomplish this dream is at Twin Falls. This is a popular stop when driving the road to Hana, located about 15 minutes past Paia town. 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.