Aloha and welcome to The Valley Isle! Maui earned this name for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the many large valleys carved into both mountains. Being Hawaii’s second-largest island means there’s absolutely no shortage of flora, fauna, and culture to experience here. Having trouble narrowing your list of activities down? Here are the top eight things you need to do in Maui.
Road to Hana
A Maui must-do list without the Road to Hana is no list at all. While it’s only 65 miles, you should definitely be devoting a full day to this drive. With restricted speeds around treacherous curves and blind corners and many breathtaking scenic lookouts and roadside attractions to experience along the way—like hikes and waterfalls (and hikes to waterfalls)—you’ll want to take your sweet time taking everything in. We highly recommend visiting Honokalani Beach to walk along the beautiful black volcanic sand and stopping by Coconut Glen’s groovy ice cream shack for some organic and tropical sweetness!
Wailea Beach is situated right in-between The Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea resorts so while this beach can get crowded, the good thing about it is that it’s very well maintained—truly one of the best in Maui. The sand is perfect, the ocean is inviting and when the water is calm, snorkeling along the rocky outcroppings that define both ends of the beach is pretty incredible. The beach also has access to water sports equipment rentals and clean bathrooms and showers. In the winter, you might even be able to see and hear some whales from the shoreline!
If Wailea is too crowded for you, try heading over to Napili Beach. This “resort” area is more reminiscent of an older mainland beach town so the less expensive and less commercialized lodging tends to attract families and European travelers. More low-key and laidback than Wailea, this is the perfect beach for kids and adults alike to rent a paddleboard or boogie board and have some fun in the water. We also definitely recommend bringing your snorkel gear here as Napili’s waves conceal a wide array of fish, not to mention a sizable sea turtle population.
This is not the beach you want to go to if you just want to relax and play in the sand but if you have a passion for snorkeling or SCUBA diving, make sure Honolua Bay is on your list. Because it’s part of the Marine Life Conservation District—which means fishing and taking of any natural resources is prohibited—you’re always guaranteed to see lots of fish, turtles and coral as long as you’re willing to swim out a bit from the beach. Additionally, in the winter, this is an excellent bay to surf in and when swells come in, surfers flock in here in droves. And if the water isn’t calling you, there is an overlook on the east cliff where you can watch all the action!
Haleakala Crater at Haleakala National Park
“Oh, also I lassoed the sun—you’re welcome—to stretch your days and bring you fun!” Maui sings this in the Disney film Moana. Welcome to the place where that godly feat happened. To see one of the most gorgeous sunrises the island has to offer, make a reservation and be prepared to wake up very early. Also, make sure to bundle up as the air at the top of the volcano (10,000 feet up) is thin and chilly. We promise you, though, it’s well worth it! After you’ve caught the show, feel free to trek down into the crater where you’ll find a desert-like landscape that is prime for unique and beautiful photo opportunities.
Maui Ocean Center
If you happen to be faced with a rainy day, this aquarium is our top pick. Explore living reefs, and see rare corals and a turtle lagoon without even getting wet! This small but charming attraction has a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit which houses more than 2,000 fish and features a glass tunnel that you can walk through to take in some incredible overhead views. The newest addition here, though, is an immersive marine life experience unlike any other. Humpbacks of Hawai’i uses 4k imagery, 3D active glasses and a 7.1 surround sound system to bring you eye-to-eye with Maui’s humpback whales in their realm beneath the waves.
Lahaina Historic Trail
Looking to take a break from all the adventure? Drive on over to Lahaina to experience its 500 years of history at sites like the Baldwin House Museum (the oldest surviving house in Maui) and the Old Lahaina Courthouse or check out some great shops and restaurants on Front Street but do not forget to stop by Banyan Tree Park. This tree—which was brought to the island from India in 1873—is one of the largest banyan trees in the country. It has grown 16 separate trunks and rises more than 60 feet in the air—truly a sight to behold. The park also hosts different events like Art in the Park on every 2nd and 4th weekend of the month.
Iao Valley State Park
This 4,000-acre, 10-mile long park is where Maui’s tribal army lost to the forces of King Kamehameha I during the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790—allowing him to unite the entire Hawaiian archipelago under his rule. It’s also the home of the Iao Needle, a 1,200 foot lava remnant that rises from the valley floor to a height higher than that of the Eiffel Tower…and is completely covered in the island’s lush and tropical foliage. Iao Valley has a dense rainforest canopy which makes it one of America’s most unique state parks. If you’re looking for something to admire other than the beach, we definitely recommend stopping here.
Le’ale’a (“have fun”)!