One of Hawaii’s most visited islands, Maui might be known for its surf and beaches but it offers so much more for those who can roll themselves off the soft sand. Though you’ll have to share the stunning nature with others, filling your day with memorable activities should be no hard task on the “Valley Isle”. Here are the absolute top things to in Maui, with an emphasis mostly on DIY independent activities which require no organized tours.
Visiting other Hawaiian islands? Sample itineraries, guides to the best beaches and the must-see highlights are all waiting for you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!
10. Watching surfers and meeting sea turtles
Not too far from the surf and hipster capital of Maui – the town of Paia – Hookipa Beach is kind of the place to be on the north shore in late afternoons. Unless you’ve got some mad surfing skills, head first to the clifftop lookout to watch the pros ride some serious waves and the windsurfers breaking speed limits as they glide out to sea. When you feel jealous for not being able to join in on the wet action, head down to the beach and meet Hawaii’s cutest residents. Huddled on the golden sand, dozens of green sea turtles are catching the last rays of sunshine before heading back to the water for some dinner.
9. Chasing Rainbows in West Maui
No visit to a tropical island is ever complete without spotting at least one rainbow. The good news is that on Maui, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fulfill this wish along West Maui’s coastal road. Almost like clockwork, brief showers creep in from the Iao Valley in late afternoons and seed the sunny south coast with a series of magnificent rainbows. Can you ever reach their source? That’s for you to try!
8. Catching a glimpse of “The Needle”
Though Maui’s central valley is the reason behind the island’s nickname – the “Valley Isle” – it is the Iao Valley in East Maui that is the most impressive. Carved over the course of millennia by the eroding forces of water, the home of one of the wettest spots on Earth is where you’ll find “The Needle” – the crown jewel of Iao Valley State Park. Rising to a height of 2250 ft (696m), this pinnacle is the unofficial icon of Maui and the subject of millions of photos.
7. Snorkeling and Diving in Molokini Crater
Halfway between East Maui’s south coast and the former bombing range island of Kaho’olawe, all that remains of the Molokini Crater is a thin sliver of land reminiscent of a week-old moon. But it’s not what’s above the waterline that’s interesting, it’s what lies beneath the waves. Molokini is one of the best (if not the best) dive sites in the main islands of Hawaii. Divers are treated to exceptionally clear waters and to close encounters with sharks, giant lobsters, sea turtles and tropical fish galore. Snorkelers get to enjoy all this beauty while hovering above, but be warned: Molokini cannot keep up with the tourist demand so unless you don’t mind it when snorkelers outnumber the fish – catch an early departure!
6. Hanging out at Big Beach
Without a doubt Maui’s most famous beach, Big Beach is stunning even in the absence of palm trees. Perhaps it’s due to the mile-long stretch of golden sand that shines brightly in the south shore sun, or maybe it’s the blinding blue color of the water that wins your heart. Whatever the case may be, finding a spot and parking it for the day is kind of a no-brainer. At times, the high surf makes it risky for simmers but that’s when the bodyboards come out! For even more privacy, scramble over the western cliff to secluded “Little Beach” and maybe you’ll bump into Steven Tyler leading a drum circle.
5. Driving the scenic road to Hana
One of the most famous scenic drives in the U.S, the road which snakes its way along the sea cliffs of East Maui’s tropical and wet north shore connects the island’s most remote settlements with “civilization”. The Hana Highway is part of a 16th-century trail that encircled Maui, but with a paved road, came the tourists and to call this scenic drive merely “popular” would be a huge understatement. The 44-mile (70 km) journey is beautifully slow going, crossing 54 one-lane bridges and nearly as many waterfalls. It’s one of those drives with no particular destination, just small roadside stops here and there to enjoy the views, short hikes, and sandy beaches in all colors of the rainbow.
4. Discovering the Red Sand Beach
Ranking high on the list of best beaches in Hawaii, Kaihalulu Beach is the pride of Hana and a stop not to be missed on the legendary scenic drive. You can see how this dream beach got its nickname – Red Sand Beach – thanks to the red-soiled cliffs which shelter it from the outside world.
3. Going off the grid on West Maui’s north shore
The scenic road to Hana might get all the glory but if you want to have Maui’s awesome coastal scenery all to yourself, hit the road and drive (very slowly) along the scenic Kahekili Highway. There’s barely any cell phone reception out here or residents for that matter, just pristine beauty and… strong winds! To call this road a “highway” is to give highways a bad name but seeing as you want to take things slow when the view is this nice, who cares about doing 5-10 mph and sharing the road with oncoming traffic for a few miles? En route, visit exceptional sights such as the Olivine Pools, Nakalele Blowhole, and Kahakuloa Head, before wrapping the day with some snorkeling in Honolua Bay.
2. Feeling extra tiny in the Bamboo Forest
Part of the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park, the Pipiwai Trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in Hawaii, a hike which has so many tricks up its sleeve. After a brief climb amidst guava and banyan trees, enter the magic of the bamboo forest as you walk along a wooden boardwalk to the tune of thousands of giant bamboo trees cracking in the gentle wind. It’s a powerful experience that reaches a climax when you leave the giants behind and reach the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.
1. Visiting Mars in the Haleakala Crater
The crown jewel of Haleakala National Park, it is hard to imagine that such a place can exist on a tropical island. Haleakala is the volcano that created East Maui, so immense that it is roughly the size of Manhattan! Known as “the world’s largest dormant volcano”, Haleakala reaches a height of 10,023 ft (3,055m) and is responsible for much of the bizarre weather on the island. Its accessible summit is a magnet for early risers, space scientists, and ferocious winds, while its crater is a heaven for hikers. The best way to experience Haleakala is by hiking part of the Sliding Sands Trail. The challenging hike leads you down to the crater floor and offers a unique look at Haleakala’s magnificent red shades, unique flora, and bizarre cinder cones.
There you have it, the top things to do in Maui! Visiting other Hawaiian islands? Sample itineraries, guides to the best beaches and the must-see highlights are all waiting for you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!
Looking for more information on Maui?
Pin These Images To Your Favorite Boards!