From its blissful beaches to its spectacular natural wonders, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Maui. This beautiful Hawaiian island rightly earns its reputation as a top spot for honeymooners, eco-tourists, scuba divers and everyone in between, thanks to a long list of recreation options, sightseeing and delectable cuisine. It's no wonder that Conde Nast Traveler readers have voted Maui as "Top Island in the United States" for 17 years.
Maui Water Adventures
The calm, clear waters off West Maui are a playground for humpback whales during prime winter whale watching season (December to May). Visitors can book a tour with an expert guide at one of the many whale watching kiosks in Lahaina Harbor. However, boarding a boat isn't essential. The beaches of Kaanapali, Kihei and Wailea are also great spots to see whales.
Snorkeling and Scuba
Brightly-hued tropical fish, sea turtles and coral abound off Maui's pristine beaches. One spot known for great snorkeling is the northernmost part of Ka'anapali Beach near Black Rock. The island of Molokini, accessible only by boat tour, is so richly populated with underwater treasures that it has been designated a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District. Tours are available from nearby Maalaea Harbor in Kihei and Lahaina Harbor.
Maui Ocean Center
Visitors can explore the island's marine life without getting wet at the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku. Here, you can see eye to eye with reef sharks, watch the antics of playful sea turtles and get acquainted with dolphins, whales and monk seals through interactive exhibits and hands-on activities.
Maui boasts more than 30 miles of beaches with sand in stunning shades of white, black and red. On the southwestern shore, Makena Beach, also known as "Big Beach," is one of Maui's best and largest. Nearby Little Beach, also known as Pu'u Ola'I, is one of two on Maui that are "clothing optional."
To watch pro surfers in action, head to Honolua Bay, Hookipa Beach and Maui's legendary Peahi, known among the surfboard set as "Jaws." Many of the resorts on the tamer waters of West Maui and South Maui offer surf lessons, so check with your hotel concierge. Finally, author James Michener called Hamoa Beach in Hana the most beautiful in the Pacific. This family-friendly beach also features great swimming and bodysurfing.
Maui Land Adventures
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park is home to Maui's highest peak, an active volcano that rises 10,000 feet above sea level and can be seen from any point on the island. One of Maui's most unforgettable experiences is watching the sunrise from the summit, near the Haleakala Visitor Center.
Horseback Riding on Maui
Hawaiian cowboys, known as paniolos, have been wrangling cattle in Upcountry Maui since the late 1800's. For a Western adventure with Maui flavor, try a horseback-riding excursion at Piiholo Ranch in Makawao.
Iao Valley State Park
This peaceful, 10-mile-long park is home to the 1,200-foot Iao Needle, a natural rock outcropping that is one of Maui's most iconic sights. Visitors can also learn about native Hawaiian plants by taking a short walk through the park's botanical garden.
Maui Zip Line Adventures
An unforgettable way to experience West Maui's native rainforest is on a zip line tour. There are numerous options to choose from, but popular Kapalua Adventures offers more than two miles of side-by-side zip lines.
Maui Plantations and Farms
Agriculturally rich and at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, Maui is heaven on earth for foodies. See how the island's golden pineapples are grown on a tour of a historic plantation town; inhale the aroma of sweet Maui onions growing in the volcanic soil of Upcountry Maui; or stroll through eight acres of fragrant lavender varieties at the Ali'I Kula Lavender Farm.
Where to Stay on Maui
If you're planning to visit Maui for a week or more, why not experience a few different lodging options throughout the island? From beachfront resorts to hip boutique hotels to romantic bed and breakfast inns, there is something different for everyone.
Ideal for recharging overworked batteries, the oceanfront Traavasa Hana hotel and spa provides a blissful escape from the frenetic pace of daily life. The hotel was voted the "No. 1 Resort in Hawaii" in Condé Nast Traveler's 2012 Reader's Choice Awards.
The Paia Inn
Located on Maui's North Shore directly overlooking the beach, the Paia Inn is a hip boutique hotel with a low-key attitude and very friendly service. Guests can walk to local cafes and shops in the surfer town of Paia, where they might run into a celebrity like Luke Wilson dining on mahi mahi at the Paia Fish Market.
Napili Kai Beach Resort
Offering old-school Hawaiian charm to spare, the Napili Kai, located on Napili Bay's sandy shore, features condo style rooms with balconies overlooking the sunset, as well as plenty of water sports activities in the calm waters.
Nestled in the West Maui Mountains, Ho'oilo House is a luxurious Hawaii bed and breakfast offering panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and neighboring islands. Cited as a "laid back love nest" by USA Today, Ho'oilo House's guest rooms feature air conditioning, luxury bath amenities, and a delicious island repast each morning.
Affordable Condo Rentals
Kihei, on Maui's Southwestern Coast, is especially popular with retirees and travelers on a budget. There are many low-cost vacation rentals within steps of the beach that are perfect for water sports enthusiasts.
At the top of any list of must-do Maui activities is the quintessential Hawaiian luau. As the sun sets, dine on kalua pig, coconut pudding and poi, and then settle back for a thrilling performance of native dance and music.
- The Old Lahaina Luau offers a popular oceanfront feast, while the Feast at Lele offers a gourmet luau with creative wine pairings.
- In the Kaanapali area, the Royal Lahaina Resort Luau in the Royal Lahaina Resort and the Drums of the Pacific Luau in the Hyatt Regency Maui also present a seaside show by sunset.
Fantastic Maui Eateries
Food loving visitors to Maui are in for a gourmet adventure: Hawaii Regional Cuisine, a superb blend of ethnic flavors and fresh island ingredients, thrives on this verdant island. Restaurants that showcase Hawaii Regional Cuisine include:
- The Hali'imaile General Store in Upcountry Mau, highly praised by Fodor's
- The waterfront Mala Ocean Tavern, recommended by The New York Times
- The Hula Grill on Ka'anapali Beach in Whaler's Village, winner of a 2012 Open Table Diner's Choice Award for outdoor dining
Vacations in Maui
These suggestions for activities in Maui are just a small sampling of the things to see, do and taste on the Magic Isle. For even more trip-planning information, check with your travel agent or visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority web site. Aloha!