The Best Things to Do in Maui

Hawaii’s playground offers abundant adventures on land and sea. The most classic is a sunrise bike ride down the dormant volcano Haleakala, but Maui also wows with golf, horseback riding, mermaid lessons, outrigger paddling, rappelling tours, whale-watching, waterfall hikes, and trips to Molokini Crater to snorkel or scuba dive. Want to hang ten? Turn to Rivers to the Sea surf school, where identical twins Tide and Kiva Rivers share their love for riding the island’s stellar waves.

Hawaii, USA
Haleakala, a huge and dormant shield volcano, forms more than 75 percent of Maui’s landmass. As such, it pretty much demands you ascend its slopes and peer into its crater—the island’s very soul. Legend claims the demigod Maui snared the sun here, freeing it only after it swore to inch more slowly across the sky.

The 38-mile, two-and-a-half-hour drive up Haleakala climbs from sea level to 10,023 feet through several different ecological zones. One of the most popular ways to experience the volcano remains cycling down from the summit at sunrise. Do it yourself if you’re confident, or join a guided tour (Skyline Eco-Adventures offers one that includes a zip-line ride). Once you’ve mastered the motion—and the 21 switchbacks along the road—effortless downhill freewheeling rewards you with unsurpassed views of the island. If you’d rather savor the vistas from a lofty perch, drive to the top for the sunset or book an overnight at one of the park’s wilderness cabins, accessible only by hiking trail.
Hāmoa Beach, Hawaii 96713, USA
Mark Twain and James A. Michener both sang the praises of Hamoa Beach and its isolated beauty. Sandy, sheltered, and lined with palm trees, this remote stretch of shoreline on Maui’s eastern tip is arguably the island’s best beach. Nevertheless, Hamoa is often more empty than full thanks to tourists mistakenly rushing through the 64-mile Road to Hana. A better plan is to book a night in Hana so you can take your time on the highway, snacking on banana bread, bathing beneath waterfalls, and not having to bypass places like Hamoa, where you can lounge in the shade of sea cliffs and bodysurf on gentle waves.
Hana Hwy, Hawaii, USA
One of the world’s most epic drives, the Hana Highway connects Kahului with Hana in eastern Maui. The scenic stretch is just 64 miles long but can take up to three hours to drive, thanks to 62 twists in the road as it winds through rain forests and past waterfalls, natural pools, and seascapes. Plan at least a half day to properly experience the drive, or slow it way down and spend a night in Hana so you can linger at places like Twin Falls, the Keanae Peninsula, the Garden of Eden arboretum, and the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Sun worshippers should also budget plenty of time for stops at Hamoa Beach and Ho’okipa Beach Park Beach Park.
Bay Drive, Lahaina, HI 96761, USA
A marine sanctuary in northwest Maui, Honolua Bay delights snorkelers and surfers alike. The right side of the bay boasts dense, showstopping coral that attracts vibrant fish, while the shallower left-hand side features lava caves, archways, and sea turtles in the summer months. Come winter, some of Hawaii’s most beautiful barrel waves start peeling around the point, drawing only the most experienced daredevils. Note that fishing here is forbidden and parking can be tricky—visitors often have to park along the cliffs and hike down through a magical, Robinson Crusoe–type forest to the rocky shoreline. When approaching the bay, watch for mile marker 32. Just past it, you’ll find stairs down to Mokuleia Beach.
179 Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779, USA
Located at mile marker 9 on the Hana Highway, Ho‘okipa Beach Park is one of Maui’s top spots for ocean sports. Here, visitors will find a breathtaking sweep of sugar-white sand and epic waves perfect for both surfing and windsurfing. Take caution when hitting the water, however, as the park is notorious for strong rip currents, a shallow reef, and winds that pick up quickly in the afternoon. For something safer, head to the tide pools or go searching for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), which can often be found lazing on the shore under the lookout cliff. From the top of the cliff, you can also watch surfers tackling the farthest east break known as Pavilions.
Keanae Rd, Hawaii 96708, USA
The world-famous Road to Hana hugs a jagged black lava shore. Just past mile marker 16 lies the Keanae Peninsula, where visitors can explore a traditional village, a stone church from 1856, and vast taro fields. The peninsula itself was formed by a massive lava flow from Haleakala, then softened by native Hawaiians, who carried soil down basket by basket to blanket the young rock. Today, the area is covered in lush greenery, which makes for an impressive sight against the turquoise sea and Maui’s famous North Shore waves. Before getting back on the road, be sure to stop at Aunty Sandy’s, one of the best banana bread stands along the Hana Highway, for a slice, a shaved ice, or a pork sandwich if you’re hungrier.
Maui, HI 96708, USA
An ancient atoll, Molokini lies 2.5 miles off Maui’s south coast, where the water is calm, clear, and teeming with marine life. Here, snorkelers and scuba divers can expect up to 150 feet of visibility, allowing for perfect views of yellow tang, parrot fish, black triggerfish, bluefin trevally, and even moray eels. To explore it for yourself, book a tour with Maui Classic Charters, which sails to Molokini in a 55-foot catamaran with a glass-bottomed viewing room. Choose one of the early-morning trips for a better chance of calm seas and bigger sea creatures like octopus and eagle rays, and bring along snacks, sunscreen, and, for those who run cold, perhaps a rash guard or thin wet suit, especially in the winter months.
Makena Landing Park, 5083 Makena Rd, Kihei, HI 96753, USA
A marine biologist, Lila Jones founded Mermaid Dream Retreats to further the message of ocean conservation. In the large shallow bay off Wailea’s Makena Landing, she holds private and group mermaid lessons that teach students to embrace their creativity, connect to the ocean, and protect the earth. During the 90-minute classes, guests don shimmery, scaled nylon monofins and swim alongside colorful fish and green sea turtles near Maui’s best reefs. Those who want to practice the basics of mermaid swimming in a safer, more controlled environment can opt for pool lessons, while students seeking something more involved can book the mermaid certification course, which includes mermaid swimming techniques, safe breath holding, underwater modeling, and ocean conservation.
Poelua Bay HI 96793, Wailuku, HI 96793, USA
Located on Maui’s northern tip, the Nakalele Blowhole is known for its watery explosions, which often shoot nearly 100 feet in the air. To reach the blowhole, you need to hike up a long incline from the road, so wear sensible shoes and go at high tide for the best show. Be sure to also watch the action from a safe distance—Nakalele creates a mean undertow when it empties. As you head back to the road, keep an eye out for Maui’s heart-shaped rock, which frames the sea and tropical mountain slopes. It’s visible from the base of the scree slope trail when the blowhole is to your right.
300 Maalaea Rd Suite 211, Wailuku, HI 96793, USA
Some of the world’s best humpback whale viewing takes place in the shallow waters off Lahaina between late December and May. See it for yourself with help from PacWhale Eco-Adventures, which offers cruises led by certified marine naturalists. On the two-hour trips, guests get to observe the mammals in their natural environment, playfully spouting, surfacing, and even breaching high above the waves. For something extra, book a whale-watching sail on the outfitter’s eco-friendly catamaran or a photo safari with a professional wildlife photographer. PacWhale has a 97 percent sighting success rate and donates all proceeds to the Pacific Whale Foundation to help protect the ocean, helping you feel good about your day on the water.
Hawaii, USA
One of Maui’s best hikes, this trail climbs 800 feet through the lush Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. Half a mile from the visitor center, an overlook provides sweeping views of the gorge and the almost-200-foot-long “horsetail” of Makahiku Falls. Continue on past a sprawling banyan, stopping to marvel at the sunlight trickling through the dense bamboo forest. Here, you’ll also find the even more dramatic cascade of Waimoku Falls, which plunges 400 feet down a sheer-walled lava amphitheater. If you’re wary of tackling the four-mile round-trip hike by yourself, know that park rangers offer guided tours every Sunday at 10 a.m. Reservations are available at 9 a.m. a week ahead of time.
30 HI-310, Kihei, HI 96753, USA
With Maui’s only rappelling outfitter, you can descend waterfalls and jungle walls into a secluded, privately owned rain-forest canyon featured in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park. The Classic Tour tackles 30- and 50-foot waterfalls with short swims at the bottom, while the eight-hour Extended Tour kicks things up a notch with rappelling off cliffs, zipping through free space, and rock climbing up the face of waterfalls. Both experiences include gear, a picnic lunch, and—crucially—transport to the rain forest reserve, so you don’t have to worry about navigating the winding Hana Highway by yourself.
5083 Makena Rd, Kihei, HI 96753, USA
This family-owned and -operated outfitter runs kayak and snorkeling tours, whale-watching excursions, and surf lessons in the calm, turquoise bays of South Maui. In addition to helping visitors enjoy the water, the staff here teach them how to protect it, sharing info about ocean conservation as well as Maui’s unique culture and language. Tropical Outfitters keeps groups small in order to ensure a personal, relaxing experience, but also offers private tours so guests can customize their day exactly to their liking. Book the signature kayak tour to paddle around Turtle Town, explore coral reefs, and swim with Hawaiian green sea turtles, or kick things up a notch with the eight-mile Molokini adventure, during which you’ll get to snorkel inside a volcanic crater.
Waianapanapa State Park, Hana, HI 96713, USA
This lovely state park stretches along the rugged volcanic shoreline of western Maui, three miles from Hana. It’s best explored on the 2.2-mile hike that starts at the black-sand beach and follows the dramatic coast, passing lava tubes, rock arches, blowholes, and Polynesia’s largest heiau (an ancient Hawaiian temple) along the way. Avoid standing too close to the geysers as well as the lava benches near the ocean, which can crumble easily, and watch out for high surf. If you’re looking to cool down after your trek, take the loop trail to the park’s freshwater caves, where you can explore two separate chambers (the first tends to be clearer and more inviting).
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