Top 10 Things To Do In Maui

One of Hawaii’s most visited islands, Maui might be known for surfing and beaches but it offers so much more for visitors 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 top things to in Maui, with an emphasis on DIY activities that do not require organized tours.

Visiting other Hawaiian islands? Sample itineraries, guides to the best beaches, and must-see highlights await you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!

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10. Watch Surfers and Meeting Sea Turtles

Not far from Paia, the surf and hipster capital of Maui, Hookipa Beach is the place to be on the north shore in late afternoons. Unless you’ve got some mad surfing skills, first head to the clifftop lookout to watch the pros ride serious waves and the windsurfers breaking speed limits as they glide out to sea. Then, when you’ve had enough, head to the beach and meet Hawaii’s cutest residents. Huddled on the golden sand, dozens of green sea turtles catch the last rays of sunshine before returning to the water for dinner.

Wave surfing in Ho’okipa Beach - Maui - Hawaii
Sea turtles in Ho’okipa Beach - Maui Hawaii

9. Chase Rainbows in West Maui

No visit to a tropical island is complete without spotting at least one rainbow. The good news is that on Maui, you’re 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 magnificent rainbows.

Rainbow in West Maui Hawaii

8. Catch a Glimpse of “The Needle”

Though Maui’s central valley is the reason behind the island’s nickname – the “Valley Isle” – the Iao Valley in East Maui is the most impressive. Carved for 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 (advanced reservations required). Rising to a height of 2250 ft (696m), this pinnacle is the unofficial icon of Maui and the subject of millions of photos.

The Needle Iao Valley - Maui - Hawaii - by Forest and Kim Starr

7. Snorkel and Dive 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 dive sites in Hawaii. Divers are treated to exceptionally clear and close encounters with sharks, giant lobsters, sea turtles, and tropical fish galore. Snorkelers enjoy 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!

Molokini Crater - Maui - Hawaii by Farid Askerov

6. Hang 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 the blinding blue color of the water wins your heart. Whatever the case, finding a spot and parking it for the day is kind of a no-brainer. The high surf sometimes makes it risky for swimmers, 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.

Body surfing in Big Beach Maui Hawaii

5. Drive the Scenic Road to Hana

One of the best scenic drives in Hawaii, the road to Hana snakes along the sea cliffs of East Maui’s tropical and wet north shore. It connects the island’s most remote settlements with “civilization”. The Hana Highway is part of a 16th-century trail that encircled Maui. 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 enjoyably slow, 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.

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Kaumahina State Wayside - Driving scenic road to Hana - Maui - Hawaii
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4. Discover 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 that shelter it from the outside world.

Red Sand Beach - Maui - Hawaii
Holding soil in Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach - road to Hana - Maui Hawaii

3. Get 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 superb coastal scenery to yourself, hit the road and slowly drive on 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?

Valley in West Maui mountains
Nakalele Blowhole - Maui Hawaii

2. Feel Extra Tiny in the Bamboo Forest

Part of the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park, the Pipiwai Trail is one of Hawaii’s most rewarding hikes. After a brief climb amidst guava and banyan trees, enter the magic of the bamboo forest along a wooden boardwalk to the tune of thousands of giant bamboo cracking in the gentle wind. It’s a powerful experience that climaxes when you leave the giants behind and reach the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.

Pipiwai Trail Hike Bamboo Forest - Road to Hana - Maui Hawaii
Pipiwai Trail Hike Waimoku Falls - Road to Hana - Maui Hawaii

1. Visit 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. It is 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.

Haleakala Volcano summit - Maui Hawaii

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 a section of the Sliding Sands Trail. The challenging hike leads to the crater floor and offers a unique look at Haleakala’s magnificent red shades, unique flora, and bizarre cinder cones.

Sliding Sands Hike - Haleakala Crater - Maui Hawaii 2

What’s Next?

I hope you’ve found this Maui itinerary useful for planning your holiday! Visiting other Hawaiian islands? Sample itineraries, guides to the best beaches, and must-see highlights await you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!

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