With so many things to do in Maui and little holiday time, it can be challenging to decide where to allocate your precious time. Maui is the exclusive honeymoon island of Hawaii. It has some of the state’s best beaches, great snorkeling spots, national parks, and an epic road trip route.
Having just spent a whirlwind tour around the Hawaiian islands, we were able to narrow down a few of our favorite things to do in Maui. Hopefully, it will help you in preparing and planning for your Hawaiian adventures. Get ready to add these things to do in Maui to your bucket list.
Best Things to Do in Maui
Get Your Lei On
The lei is an iconic part of tourism in Hawaii as it has become a part of Hawaiian culture to present leis as a sign of affection upon arrival or departure. It’s an idea that is now associated with tourism, but the origin of the lei extends far beyond the appearance of Western influences. When the Polynesian people arrived on the islands, they brought lei making with them.
They are a status symbol or ranking in society and a form of honoring their religion. That’s why you commonly see leis worn in traditional ceremonies and the hula. You can find leis all over the island of Maui. It’s common to receive one by many tour operators and resorts. If you want to learn more about the beautiful garlands you can take a class on lei making.
Walk Through A Bamboo Forest
The bamboo forest is an iconic photo these days on the island of Maui. However, many miss the sight since it’s a hike off of the Road to Hana. The one-mile walk along the Pipiwai Trail is mostly uphill and takes a bit of an effort.
Along the way, you pass Makahiku Falls, a stunning 200-foot Maui waterfall. However, that’s not the only waterfall. At the end of the trail and past the bamboo forest, you’ll find the Waimoku Falls a fantastic 400-foot waterfall. The path is easily one of our favorite hikes on the island of Maui and a great way to stretch the legs. It’s best to pack a useful daypack and carry a travel water bottle to help cope with the humid heat.
Go Whale Watching
If you come to Maui during the winter migration you should try your best to get out on the water and witness humpback whales in their natural habitat. It’s one of the most famous experiences to be had in Maui.
Since whales gained there protected status in the 1950s the population has only increased many times over meaning that every year more whales are added to the population. Their winter migration takes place from around November until May, during that time you can hop on a day tour in search of humpback whales and be mesmerized by them.
Swim With Sea Turtles
If you’ve come to Maui in search of sea turtles it’s easier to find our marine friends than you may have originally thought. The waters that surround Hawaii are full of our sea friends! We found sea turtles while snorkeling at several snorkel spots around the island. Maluaka Beach, Makena Beach, Five Caves, and Kapalua Beach are the sports we personally found them, but that’s not to say they aren’t elsewhere.
Ho’okipa Beach Park is also famous for having a plethora of sea turtles on the beach, but the water is too rough for most swimmers and it’s a famous spot for Hawaiian surf. The most common sea turtle you’ll find is called a “honu” or green sea turtle as they like to feed in shallow waters.
Please keep in mind that Hawaii state laws protect sea turtles and that US Endangered Species Act protects the species as well. Tourists should not interact with sea turtles. It’s against the law to touch a sea turtle and you should do your best to keep a safe distance.
Enjoy a Luau
Despite being the most touristic thing you can do in Hawaii it’s also a blast and shares a piece of old Hawaiian culture. The Luau originates from “ahaaina,” a special feast that used to commemorate important events in Hawaiian culture. Over time the word changed to luau referring to the taro leaf commonly served at the feasts.
Now it’s a fun evening of dance, hula, and a spread of Hawaiian specialties like a roast pig, poi, laulau, poke, and haupia. It’s all pretty meat-heavy as is much of Hawaiian staples so as vegetarians, Natasha and I gave the luau a skip on our last trip. But even the Hawaiians recommended tourists try it!
See ‘Ohe’o Gulch or The Seven Sacred Pools
This is a stunning lush valley with a stream that cascades down in a series of waterfalls. The seven waterfalls make for a great hike along the Kipahulu coastline. After working up a sweat you can go for a dip in the more accessible pools at the bottom.
Not only are they suited for swimming, but the more daring can even go cliff jumping. It’s a super popular spot on the island and well worth the journey.
Please be warned that the falls are closed for now due to rockslides in the area. It is best to consult the National Park Service website for up to date information regarding the falls.
Lounge on a Black Sand Beach
There are black sand beaches all around the world, but for many, it’s a sight rarely seen. Black sand is a unique natural phenomenon that occurs from fine volcanic rock washed ashore.
Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach off of mile marker 32 is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches on Maui. It’s a short trail down to the beach, but mind your step as it is steep and loose soil.
Stroll Through Historic Lahaina
Head to Hawaii’s most famous historic town of Lahaina for a step back into time. It’s the former capital of the Kingdom of Maui and arguably one of the most beautiful historic towns in the United States. When strolling down the main street you have to stop at the main square occupied by what is speculated to be the world’s largest and oldest Banyan tree.
The tree was planted in 1831 to commemorate the 5o year anniversary arrival of the Protestant missionaries. Lahaina is great for art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and shops.
Visit a Pineapple Farm
It might surprise you to learn, but pineapples do not originate from Hawaii. The bromeliad plant originated in South America and brought to the islands by the Spanish in the 1500s. However, it wasn’t until several American entrepreneurs, most notably James Dole, came to the islands and developed the pineapple industry did the fruit become popular.
Now, Pineapple’s take on the nickname “Maui Gold,” and it’s even a special variety that you can find on the island. While the pineapple industry doesn’t hold the power that it once did in Hawaii you’ll still find the spikey fruit all over the islands. That includes a tour of a pineapple farm in which you get to learn about the sweet tropical fruit and its cultivation.
Stop at the Sacred Garden
We spent our time in Maui in a quiet neighborhood on the North side of the island. On our way to explore the island we passed by The Secret Garden and made the stop. What a wonderful stop that was you won’t find this listed on any guidebooks or lists of things to do in Maui, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor in the area.
The Sacred Garden is a non-profit nursery that serves as a restorative home for anyone look to unwind. It has shrines to Buddha for meditation, free coffee or tea, and indoor and outdoor labyrinths.
Shop at a Farmer’s Markets
There’s no escaping farm-fresh produce and a plethora of flowers when you’re on the islands of Hawaii. Maui is no exception as there are numerous roadside stands, fruit carts, and farmers’ markets to fill you up. You’ll find all varieties of fresh fruits on offer and products like small-batch coffee, roasted nuts, banana bread, homemade jam, and even kombucha on offer throughout the island.
The State tourism board has a great list of farmers markets with more up to date information then we’ll be able to provide, check it out here. Be forewarned the prices are likely going to much higher than what you are used to paying on the mainland.
Snorkel Along the Coast
You can book a tour through many of the numerous providers on the island or rent your own snorkel gear. We made the investment and bought our own free dive gear that is a great use for snorkeling. If you’re on a budget or don’t feel like investing too much into something you may not love there are is plenty of places to rent snorkel gear. Our favorite spots we went snorkeling include Kapalua Beach, Five Caves, Mala Boat Ramp, and Ka’anapali Beach.
If you’re not a confident swimmer it’s a good idea to pick up a life jacket, as the best visibility is a good swim away from the shore. We prefer to swim out with as little buoyancy as possible sometimes wearing a weight belt that allows us to dive in the water.
Snorkel/Dive Molokini Crater
If you want to take your snorkeling to the next level you can book a tour out to the Molokini Crater. The volcanic caldera serves as a natural harbor teeming with clear waters abundant in fish and megafauna.
Here you can find manta rays and sea turtles. Tours are all-day affairs that often include a trip along the coastline before heading out to the island where you can snorkel and dive, followed by a barbecue on the boat. It’s an excellent day and well worth one of your days on Maui.
Learn to Hula
Hula originates from the Hawaiian Islands. The form of dance is a form of storytelling that goes along with the words of the Oli. Since Hawaiians had no form of written language they used chants Oli to pass down legacies from generation to generation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the graceful art form and Hawaiian heritage a lesson in hula is the perfect experience. It’s a great experience for families as anyone can participate.
Surf at Ho’okipa Beach
We stayed on the quiet North Shore of Maui and were a few minutes away from Ho’okipa Beach Park. The beach has a number of surf breaks and it draws a crowd of advanced surfers looking to catch some big waves.
The waves are combined with high tradewinds so on the right day wind and kite surfers come out and put on a show for spectators on the beach. The beach is surrounded by cliffs that make for the perfect spot to watch it all unfold. You can often also find a healthy population of sea turtles chilling on the beaches around here.
Drive the Road to Hana
This is the quintessential thing to do in Maui and it’s very likely you’ve already heard of the famed road. This is one of the best road trips in the USA with a countless number of switchbacks and hairpin turns that takes you past dozens of waterfalls, cliffs, beaches, and valleys. Rain falls in plentiful amounts along the steeps slopes of Maui and has created a verdant wonderland for everyone visiting the island to enjoy.
It’s easily one of the most beautiful drives in the world; however, be warned the Road to Hana is no secret. If you want to have a good day it’s best to tackle the drive early in the morning to beat the madding crowd, tourists buses, and traffic.
Take a Helicopter Tour
If you are still thinking about what to do in Maui consider a heli tour! It may not be a cheap experience, but helicopter tours around the Hawaiian islands are easily one of the most popular things to do. Maui’s stunning coastline, high mountains, deep valleys, and inaccessible waterfalls make it the perfect place to explore from the air.
Helicopters on the Hawaiian islands allow for exploration that is otherwise impossible due to the terrain. Don’t forget the camera!
Hit Up a Food Truck!
You can find food trucks throughout the Hawaiian Islands. They make for the perfect lunch spot after a morning in the sun and surf. If you’re in search of some of these “cheap” eats you can head to Kahului Harbor where many food trucks gather.
Personally, although these are supposed to be considered a budget food option we still didn’t find food trucks all that cheap, the best budget meal on Maui remains a poke bowl from the market.
Zipline Through the Jungle
This is the craze that has caught on around the world. We’ve seen it just about everywhere, but it’s most popular in locations with great views and lush landscapes. You can find zip lining in many of the Hawaiian Islands, so in case you miss it in Maui don’t worry!
Live the Island Life
On my first trip to Maui my family and hit the resort scene staying the at Four Seasons Maui. It was a wonderful introduction, but it fell short of that at island vibe that makes Hawaii so loved. Short-term rentals are a controversial subject, but it’s tough to argue with the appeal of a little slice of paradise all to yourself.
We found a cute cottage that was well constructed entirely of bamboo with open screen windows, full kitchen, and deck with a hot tub. We picked up our rental on Glamping Hub, but you can also find plenty on Airbnb.
Relax at Kapalua Beach
Still wondering what to do in Maui? This was hands down our favorite beach on Maui. It’s a small cove that is line with soft sand and calm blue waters The sheltered bay remains calm so it’s perfect to go for a swim or snorkel. We swam out along the rocky outcrop to the North of the bay and found some coral reefs in good shape with nice visibility and plenty of marine life.
It’s real glory also could be a negative as it is surrounded by two resorts with a very small parking lot open to the public. This all means that the beach is quiet and never crowded unless you’re talking about weddings.
Its beautiful location attracted four separate weddings in the one afternoon we spent there. As we watched the sunset over the beautiful bay, we were flanked by two other couples as they said their vows. The scene was business as usual for Maui, the Honeymoon Island.
Be Blown Away by Nakalele Blowhole
Nakalelel Blowhole is a natural formation that can be a thrill to witness. The natural geyser happens when waves crash into the coast filling a lava tube that forces the water high into the air.
Water comes out at such a strong force it can reach a height of 100 feet in the air. Keep your eye out for a heart-shaped rock while visiting the blowhole as there is a natural hole in a nearby resembling a heart.
Hike at Iao Valley
Iao Valley is one of the most gorgeous spots in Maui. The verdant valley offers fantastic hiking and views of Maui’s signature landmark of the Iao Needle. It’s a massive green-mantled rock pillar that stands high over the Iao stream.
Short on time, we gave the Iao Valley a skip to do the Road to Hana and wish we hadn’t. While the Road to Hana is wonderful it’s also chock full of slow moving cars.
One of our favorite tour activities around the world is to take a horseback ride. With Hawaii’s stunning landscapes we couldn’t think of a better place to take a tour on horseback.
Catch Sunrise at Haleakalā
To watch the sunrise on Haleakalā is the most humbling experience on the island of Maui. It’s a spiritual moment and deeply tied to Hawaiian culture and myths. Pack warm clothes because the higher altitude makes for some chilly mornings.
Keep in mind that incredible sight draws a crowd and the park issues permits in advance if you want to witness the spectacle. You can get your permits for sunrise here for $1.50. If you’re not in the mood to drive your own vehicle they also offer tours.
Bike Down a Volcano
Head up Haleakala early in the morning to witness sunrise over the island before taking to the road on a bike tour. This tour combines sunrise along with a bike descent of the famed shield volcano.
After sunrise, you head back down the mountain to around 6000′ feet in altitude before finishing the descent via bike. It’s a wonderful experience and considered the most adventurous things to do on Maui.
Indulge in a Poke Bowl
You can not come to Maui and leave without having a poke bowl. It’s our favorite Hawaiian staple and one that can now be found all around the world. We’ve had poke bowls as far away as Milan and Cape Town!
Poke means to cut or slice in Hawaiian and refers to large chunks of chopped raw marinated tuna or fish. Poke bowls filled with sushi rice, and then the poke with toppings comes next. Toppings can include anything, but the most common are scallions, sesame seeds, and sea salt.
You’ll see poke bowls on menus all over the island and even poke specific shops. It has become ubiquitous on Instagram along with pretty pink smoothie bowls; however, the real stuff isn’t pretty. It’s been a cheap staple on the Hawaiian islands for decades and some of the best poke can be found in markets where they scope tubs of raw marinated fish and sell by weight.
Almost every grocery store on the island sells poke bowls you just have to ask, it also happens to be the cheapest meal you can have at about $6-8. At restaurants expect to pay $15-$20.
Check out Pa’ia Town
While not as famed or charming as Lahaina, Pa’ia operates as the hub of the North Shore. It has a collection of great restaurants, shops, and health food stores.
With an old-school charm and interesting mix of locals, surfers, and tourists it’s well worth an afternoon stop. Don’t just skip over this wonderful town on your way to drive the Road to Hana.
Let Your Jaw Drop Along The Coast
The Northeast coast of Maui is easily one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. It’s easy to understand why the road to Hana is so appealing as it snakes along the cliffs and valleys of the coast.
It’s filled with dozens of tiny beaches and waterfalls, many of them hidden away from sight. We caught views of this beach down below after sending a drone out from the road as it’s entirely hidden away from motorists.
Lick Some Shave Ice
Everyone has heard of Hawaiian shaved ice. So it’s no surprise that grabbing some of the cold delicious desserts is a wonderful thing to do on Maui. We can’t think of a tastier or better way to beat the heat.
Learn to Surf
One of the best things to do in Maui is learn to surf! There is no better place on earth to learn about surfing than its birthplace. Surfing is an important part of Hawaiian culture and you can find board shops and surf schools all over the islands. If you’ve ever wanted to give surfing a try why not try Maui?
Paddle Out On A Outrigger Canoe
The outrigger canoe is a significant facet of traditional Hawaiian culture. We got lucky enough to try our hand paddling an outrigger canoe with a champion team and local legend on Oahu at Waikiki.
It’s a lot tougher than it looks, and to properly work as a team on an outrigger canoe is a blast. One of the many things to do in Maui is to book a tour that teaches the history of outrigger canoes before you get a chance to try it yourself.
Play a Round of Golf
Drawing golfers to picturesque courses that most only ever see in magazines, Maui’s courses aren’t the exclusive domain of the rich and famous. There are courses where the greens fees are reasonable, though they vary depending on the season, day of the week and time you want to play. Discounts are often included in package tours at the area’s hotels and if you’re playing with a group.
Rental clubs are available at most courses, but for the best experience, bring your own. There is a mix of 18 public and private resort golf courses on the island. To find more information you can visit the tourism board’s website here.
Plan your Trip to Hawaii
Tips For Maui & Hawaii
- Wondering what to wear in Hawaii? Check out our ultimate women’s packing list or our Hawaii packing list.
- Rent a car: If you plan to explore on your own then you definitely need a set of wheels. Book your rental car here!
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads is ideal for flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found the tap water all around Hawaii delicious to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Grayl Water Bottle.
- Adapter: Power sockets in Hawaii are the same as the rest of North America and are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.
- Currency: Hawaii uses the US Dollar. ATM’s are located all over and credit cards are widely accepted.
- Read: The Descendants.