What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of Maui? Sun, sand, and sea, right? And Maui’s many beautiful beaches are undoubtedly a huge reason why it is considered a tropical paradise. But Maui is so much more than beautiful beaches! Your Maui bucket list can span everything from lush waterfalls to lavender farms. Read on to discover my list of 25 most amazing things to do in Maui!
Maui is made up of two overlapping volcanos with an isthmus between them: hence its name “Valley Isle.” Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands. First populated by Polynesians, Maui became known to Europeans in the late 18th century. And in 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States.
According to Hawaiian legend, the discoverer of Hawaii named the island after his oldest son Maui, who, in turn, was named after the demi-god/hero Maui. The demi-god Maui is revered for having lassoed the sun and demanding it travel slower across the skies so that his mother’s kapa cloth could dry before sunset. And the sun agreed, blessing the island with long sunny days for six months of each year!
The Best Things to Do in Maui
You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to amazing things to do in Maui. Looking for beaches? Here you will find not just silver, but gold, red, and black sand beaches.
Looking for adrenaline-pumping hikes? Go to the top of the largest dormant volcano in the world and hike at the top. Searching for memorable experiences? Take a helicopter tour over the island, or marvel at the bright coral reef and hundreds of bright-colored fish in the blue waters on a snorkeling excursion.
Maui’s beautiful landscapes and myriad experiences will thrill and delight you. So if you are planning a visit and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to decide what to do in Maui, here is my list of 25 amazing things to do in Maui to help you compile your own!
#1 Admire the Iao Needle
Want to see a lush tropical valley that comes with a dollop of history? Head to Iao Valley State Park, where you can see the beautiful Iao Needle rise up 1,200 feet into the sky. This is the valley where King Kamehameha I fought with the armies of Maui over his desire to unite the islands. In the mighty battle that took place, he finally emerged victorious.
After you view the needle, enjoy a rainforest walk amidst lush greenery, waterfalls, and streams. Look for the beautiful green or purple taro and other native Hawaiian plants in the park. Allow about two hours inside the park.
#2 Go for a Stroll along Kaanapali Beach at Sunset
Many of Maui’s beaches are great places to take in a Hawaiian sunset but my favorite is Kaanapali Beach. First, you can watch the traditional cliff dive at Black Rock. The diver blows a conch in all four directions, then runs up the rock and lights the torches, and finally dives into the water. You will love watching the beautiful 10-minute ceremony.
Then you can stroll along the stunning gold sand beach, watching the pretty picture made by the crooked palms against the colors of the twilight sky. One of my favorite memories of Maui!
#3 Inhale the Fragrance of Plumeria Blossoms
Nothing evokes the essence of Maui (and indeed all of Hawaii) more than the fragrance of plumeria blossoms. You will see plumeria bushes and trees all over Maui. Pick up a fallen blossom or go close to a bunch of blossoms on a low bush and inhale the heavenly fragrance. If you walk near one of the bushes at night, you will smell the aroma wafting in the air.
Plumeria is not native to Hawaii, it was brought here in the middle of the 19th century. But indigenous or not, I will always associate the pretty white, pink, orange, and peach flowers with Maui!
Plumeria is also known by its common name: frangipani. In Hawaii, plumeria is called melia. Plumeria leis are popular because they are so beautiful and fragrant.
#4 Shop for Pearl Jewelry in Lahaina
If you love shopping (or window shopping or people watching), stroll Front Street in Lahaina. You will see charming little galleries, lots of stores selling crafts, souvenirs, clothing, and jewelry, and restaurants on the waterfront. This is a good place if you are looking to take back some pearl jewelry.
Na Hoku, the famous Hawaiian jewelers, have a store on Front Street. But there are other jewelry stores here as well. I love the pair of pearl danglers I bought on Front Street!
#5 Be Awed by the Power of the Waves at Keanae Peninsula
One of the most awesome places to stop on the legendary drive to Hana, the Keanae Peninsula is one of those places where you can’t put your camera down. You will be completely awed by the high drama of the waves crashing over the black lava rocks at the shore. It’s like a scene from an adventure movie!
And you’ll find its history just as amazing. Did you know that the Hawaiians brought soil down manually from the mountains to create the entire peninsula? I can’t even begin to imagine the time and the effort it must have taken to complete the task. Hands down, exploring the Keanae Peninsula is one of the best things to do in Maui.
The Drive to Hana is a thrilling Maui experience. If you want to enjoy the views without having to worry about the road or parking, consider a full day tour that will take you around the full loop!
#6 Relax on the Black Sand Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park
Walk onto the beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park and be prepared to be amazed: the sand really is black, made from the breakdown of volcanic lava rock over years and years and years. The beach is actually mostly made up of small black pebbles, with a few areas that are more powdery.
You can also go for walks in the park above the beach, or longer hikes. There’s a lot to explore: a natural stone arch, lava tubes, a blowhole, caves, and bird colonies. This amazing park should definitely be on your list of the best things to do in Maui.
#7 Dine at the Hali‘imaile General Store
You will likely have to drive a ways to get to Hali’imaile General Store, but trust me, you do not want to pass up the opportunity to eat here. If you are a vegetarian, try the Watermelon Salad and the Coconut Vegetable Curry. If you eat fish, don’t miss the Sashimi Napoleon as a starter. And if you are a chocolate lover, end on the Chocolate Decadence Cake.
The Sashimi Napoleon is a work of art!
I have no doubt that whatever you choose here will be delicious. Period. Our meal here was so yummy that we drove all the way back to eat here again a couple days later. Reservations are a must!
The original Hali’imaile General Store was an all-purpose store for the pineapple plantations in the area. It was a butcher shop, fish market, grocery store, post office, and basic department store all rolled into one.
#8 Watch the Sun Set at the Summit of Haleakala
Haleakala towers over Maui, and you can’t not go up to the top of the volcano when you visit. Sunrise or sunset? You’ll hear varying opinions on which is the better time to go, but I think either option is fantastic if you are lucky enough to be there when the sky lights up in all shades of pink and orange and purple. I’ve seen gorgeous photos of both sunrise and sunset.
Just bundle up when you go. It can be freezing cold at the top even when it’s hot on the island floor. And don’t miss the Haleakala silversword when you’re up there: it’s a very rare plant that grows only here and on the volcanos on the Big Island.
Check out this sunset tour of Haleakala or this sunrise tour. Or you can combine a tour of Haleakala with a trip to the Iao Valley.
#9 Enjoy the Lush Tropical Vegetation and Blooms in Bright Colors
I was amazed when I visited Maui and saw that the plants I grow as houseplants at home grow rampant in the wild on the island, with each leaf the size of a dinner plate! The amount of lush green everywhere is astounding.
And the flowers! Bougainvillea, birds of paradise, and hibiscus are everywhere, their bright shades of yellow, orange, pink, red, and purple lighting up hedges and gardens. The yellow hibiscus is Hawaii’s state flower, and you can see both single- and double-petaled hibiscus on Maui. And the proteas! I enjoyed these huge flowers that grow in all colors, sizes, and shapes in Maui.
Current day proteas are descended from plants that date back 100 million years. Indigenous to South Africa, they have adapted happily to the cool weather and soils of the slopes of Haleakala in Maui.
#10 Marvel at the Gigantic Lahaina Banyan Tree
You have to see this massive banyan tree in Lahaina! I you know about banyan trees, you know that they sprout roots in their branches and send them down to the ground, forming new trunks. How cool is that? Planted as an 8-foot sapling in 1873, the Lahaina Banyan now has 16 major trunks and a spread of two-thirds of a whole acre. Its height is 60 feet. It’s the largest banyan tree in the United States.
At sunset, the cacophony is deafening as hundreds of birds fly back to the tree to find a resting spot for the night. You can pose for a photo in its largest and oldest trunk.
#11 Treat Yourself to Shaved Ice!
You can’t visit Hawaii and not sample its famous shaved ice. The best shaved ice in Maui is Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. There are six locations on the island, so you don’t have to go far for some of this ice-cold goodness! Many of their flavors are local: try No Ka Oi, a blend of coconut, mango and liliko’i, Lahaina, which includes banana, coconut and pineapple, or the decadent Haleakala, coconut and leche topped with sweet condensed cream. Yum!
#12 Do the Road to Hana Drive Tour!
I’ve listed a few places along this drive as standalone best things to do in Maui, but the drive itself, from start to finish, is amazing. You’ll see lush tropical vegetation, plantations, rainbow eucalyptus, and gorgeous waterfalls.
At every bend in the road (and there are 600 of them on this drive, along with more than 50 one-lane bridges!), you’ll be wowed by the stunning views that greet you. You can either turn back at Hana Town, or drive all the way around.
I suggest you take a tour, so everyone in the party can focus on the sights. Check out this small group full day tour that includes breakfast and lunch.
#13 Watch the Surfers from Ho’okipa Lookout
You’ll stop at Ho’okipa briefly on the Road to Hana drive, but if you are in Maui for a few days it’s worth driving here to spend some time watching the surfers. Especially if you learn that high waves are in the forecast! In the winter, you can see waves get up to 40 feet here.
There is a lookout from where you get great views of surfers trying to ride the monster waves. Sometimes you can see the bright sails of windsurfers as well. Plus, the park is beautiful even if the surf isn’t breaking.
#14 Wander through Paia Town
About four miles south of Ho’okipa Beach is the little oceanside town of Paia, an erstwhile sugar plantation village with lots of reasonably-priced restaurants and eclectic shops. Its bright-colored facades and funky signs are very bohemian, and you will enjoy wandering the streets and browsing the shops and galleries. From surfboards to souvenirs, you will find lots to browse here. Flatbread Pizza is a great stop for lunch.
Stop by the iconic Mana Foods for natural treats: they offer a wide selection of cakes and pastries and other prepared foods.
#15 Take an Early Morning Beach Walk
Maui has so many beautiful beaches that there are sure to be a few close to where you are staying in Maui. Get up early, as in at sunrise, and go for a stroll on a beach. Seeing the shimmering early morning light on the water is a memory you won’t forget.
If you choose a beach on west Maui (Lahaina and Kaanapali) you can see the islands of Lanai and Molokai. From the beaches of the south in Kihei and Wailea you can see the crescent Molokini Crater, and Kahoolawe. And from the beaches of east Maui (Hana), you can see the Big Island of Hawaii. So grab your camera and do that morning walk for stunning photos!
Did you know that all beaches on Maui are public property and open to everyone? Even the most exclusive oceanfront resorts have to provide public access to the beaches behind their properties.
#16 Hike the Pipiwai Trail
If you enjoy hiking, the Pipiwai Trail is a gem you must not miss! It’s about 3.6 miles out and back, and is part of the US National Parks System (Haleakala National Park). The elevation gain is only about 600 feet and the hike will take you about 2-2.5 hours.
Along this gorgeous hike you will see an enormous banyan tree, a bamboo forest, and several streams, pools, and waterfalls. The Pipiwai Trail ends at the stunning 400-foot Waimoku Falls. The trail is well maintained and takes you through some of the best of Maui’s lush tropical beauty.
#17 Explore the Haleakala Crater
Haleakala, House of the Sun, is deservedly Maui’s top attraction. While sunrise or sunset or stargazing at the summit is a bucket-list Maui activity in itself, exploring the park should also be on your list of the best things to do in Maui. Even if you walk around just a little, you will still be awed by the views and the beauty of the landscape.
Stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about the flora and fauna here…Haleakala is home to more endangered species than any other US National Park. I was so excited when we saw a Nēnē goose (Hawaii’s state bird) at the Nēnē crossing when we arrived at the park. For park safety guidelines, click here.
#18 Go on a Whale Watching Tour
If you visit Maui anytime between November and May, book a whale watching tour. This is the season when thousands of North Pacific Humpback Whales (the fifth largest species of whales) make the waters around Hawai’i their winter abode.
The whales migrate here from Alaska. This is also their birthing season! While February is the peak month, you have a good chance of seeing them in the other months as well. Watch them blow, spy hop, tail slap, or….breach!
Humpback whales love Maui as a birthing area because the shallow waters here are relatively free of predators, and humpback babies can be nurtured safely here.
#19 Visit the Ali’i Lavender Farm at Kula
Lavender isn’t native to Hawai’i but it thrives on the slopes of Haleakala at Ali’i Lavender Farm! The farm started with a single plant gifted to Ali’i, the owner, and today features more than 50,000 plants and dozens of varieties.
You will likely see at least one variety in bloom no matter when you visit, but lavender isn’t the only reason to visit the farm. I loved wandering around the property, which features proteas, birds of paradise, and other flowers besides lavender, and many varieties of fruit, olive, and cypress trees.
The views are gorgeous too! And visit the store for everything lavender you can possibly think of: be sure to enjoy a cup of lavender tea with a lavender scone.
#20 Snorkel at the Molokini Crater
The crescent-shaped Molokini Crater Marine Reserve is home to dozens and dozens of species of fish and coral, many you can only see in Hawai’i, making it a snorkeling paradise. The water clarity, the amazing number of species you can see, and the beauty of Molokini make it a very popular diving and snorkeling destination, so plan ahead if you want to go.
#21 Relax on a Sunset Sailing Excursion
For the ultimate relaxing experience while in Maui, consider a sunset sail. There’s nothing more soothing than sitting or standing on deck, the breeze ruffling your hair, and the mellow rays of the setting sun bathing everything in gold. It’s wonderful to see West Maui from the water on a beautiful evening. You’ll also see Lana’i and Molokai. It’s a little touristy, but worth doing regardless.
Choose a cocktail cruise rather than a dinner cruise because dinner options are much better on land. You can choose a departure from a beach or a harbor.
#22 Drive the Kahekili Highway to Honolua Bay
The Kahekili Highway that wraps around the northwestern tip of Maui is sometimes called the “other road to Hana” because it’s just as difficult a drive, with narrow lanes and hairpin curves, and the views are as gorgeous.
Driving this road is definitely not for the faint of heart. We went part of the way, up to the Nakalele Blowhole, and enjoyed the stunning vistas.
But driving at least up to Honolua Bay, three miles north of Kapalua, is very worthwhile. Honolua Bay is simply stunning, and just enjoying the beautiful views from the lookout is enough reason to visit. But Honolua Bay is also a snorkeling and surfing destination.
#23 Tour Art Galleries
You’ll find art galleries all over Maui, including in the Lahaina shopping district and in Paia Town. But you will also find art in some of the resorts on the island, and if you love art you must spare some time to wander around the resorts on West Maui.
The galleries in the Shops at Wailea are worth visiting as well. Some galleries have meet-the-artists evenings, check ahead if you are interested. We loved seeing the different types of art on display: paintings, glass, pottery, sculpture, and wood creations. My faves: Maui Crafts Guild in Paia, NaPua Gallery at the Grand Wailea Resort, and Maui Hands on Front Street in Lahaina.
#24 Wear a Fresh Flower Lei!
You can’t visit Hawaii and not wear a lei (or bring one back when you return). A lei is a symbol of aloha, and a charming Hawaiian tradition that happily still persists. Our vacation rental host had fragrant fresh leis waiting for us in our refrigerator when we arrived. It was a beautiful welcome to Maui!
You can buy leis at grocery stores in Maui, but you can check out local florists for special leis. Leis are most commonly made with flowers, but they can also be made with kukui nuts or seashells. If you want to learn how to make leis, many resorts offer lei-making activities, as does Whalers Village in Lahaina.
#25 See the Pools of ‘Ohe’o
The Pools of ‘Ohe’o, also called the Seven Sacred Pools, is a stunning location, with waterfalls on one end and the ocean at the other. This is a must stop if you are doing the full-loop Hana drive around the island, and worth the 12 extra miles from Hana if you plan to turn back and return the way you came.
The Seven Sacred Pools are part of the Haleakala National Park. They tend to get very crowded, especially in the afternoons. Don’t forget to take in the vistas from the overlooks.
The ‘O’heo Pools may not be open when you visit, so check before you go to avoid disappointment. Keep park safety guidelines in mind as well: note that swimming is not advised, and diving and jumping are not allowed.
And if you are looking for other scenic destinations, check out my posts on the Canadian Rockies, or discover some amazing experiences at Death Valley National Park or the Big Sur Coast in California!
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