Planning a visit to the Hawaiian island of Maui and wondering about the best things to do in Maui?
The Valley Isle is one of the most popular travel destinations on the planet, and it’s not surprising why!
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 and volcanic craters to botanic gardens.
Read on to discover my list of the best things to do in Maui for an unforgettable visit!
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: only the Big Island is larger.
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 the most amazing things to do in Maui, to help you plan your itinerary!
Do the Road to Hana Drive Tour!
We’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, and among the best things to do in Maui.
You’ll see lush tropical vegetation, plantations, rainbow eucalyptus, and gorgeous waterfalls along the route.
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.
We suggest you take a tour, so everyone in your party can focus on the sights. Check out this small group full day tour that includes breakfast and lunch.
The tour is both highly-rated and popular. Stops include the famous Wai’anapanapa State Park with its black sand beach, and Ke‘anae Point.
The part of the road that loops around the island beyond Hana is marked by beautiful ocean views. If you are driving on your own, you can stop at Maui Wine for a taste of sparkling pineapple wine.
Watch the Sun rise or 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.
We’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 and endangered species that grows only here and on the volcanos on the Big Island.
If you want to experience the out-of-this-world sunrise at Haleakala, schedule it for day one or two of your trip from mainland USA. You will likely rise early anyway because of the time difference so it won’t feel like you are sacrificing zzzs on your vacation!
Check out this popular sunrise plus breakfast tour: hotel pick-up and drop-off are included, as well as entrance fees.
Or this highly rated tour that combines sunrise with a bike ride downhill from the top of Haleakala, a visit to the town of makawao, and breakfast.
Go on a Whale Watching Tour
Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Maui! If you visit Maui anytime between November and May, a whale watching tour is a must.
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!
Check out this highly rated 2-hour whale watching excursion that leaves from Lahaina harbor!
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.
This highly-rated tour to Lanai is limited to just 22 people, and you’ll travel in a smaller craft, with opportunities to see not just whales but also tropical fish, turtles, octopus, manta rays, and dolphins on snorkeling stops.
Book this half-day snorkel and whale watching trip to Lanai now!
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.
There are spots at Molokini for all levels of snorkeling ability; check with your tour company. You can take a boat from Ma’alaea Harbor, Kihei, or Lahaina.
This highly rated snorkeling excursion leaves from Kihei, and this equally popular one from Ma’alaea Harbor.
Go in the early part of the day for calmer waters and more marine life. Morning trips are less likely to be canceled due to rough waters.
If you want to snorkel but you are not especially interested in Molokini, this highly-rated West Maui excursion (all 5-star reviews!) leaves from Ka’anapali, and takes you to two snorkeling spots on a 5-hour tour.
Swimming with turtles happens almost on every trip!
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.
If you don’t mind getting your feet and legs wet, choose a cruise that departs from the beach. Walking barefoot on the sand, sandals or shoes dangling from your hand, to board the boat is part of the magic!
Book this beach-loading sunset cocktail catamaran cruise from Kaanapali Beach now!
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.
This beautiful black sand beach is one of the most Instagrammable spots you’ll find in Maui, so get ready to snap lots and lots of photos here.
Swimming is not recommended at this beach, so enjoy the scenery instead. The surf is often too rough for swimming and the waters are known to be populated by jellyfish and Portuguese man-o-war.
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.
Head to the Iao Valley early in the day for your best chance of an unobscured view of the Iao Needle. Later in the day, clouds tend to roll in.
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: it is one of the best beaches in Hawaii.
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!
The lighting of the torches and dive takes place right behind the Sheraton Maui Resort. The beach behind the hotel is the best place to view the ceremony. Call the resort for the exact time the ceremony starts on the day you plan to visit.
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.
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!
Where to Stay in Maui
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Resort in the north of the island. It is a beautiful property on the beach, and you can choose to stay in a villa if you want room to spread out. Kihei, a little to the south, or Wailua, in the driest southern part of the island, are also excellent choices. You have lots of accommodation choices in Maui, no matter whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family.
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.
This is a great spot to use the video feature (with sound) on your camera or smartphone. You will love playing the videos back later to recreate the power and thundering of the water at Keanae Peninsula.
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.
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!
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.
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.
If you are in the Lahaina area at sunset, return just after dark to see the banyan tree lit with hundreds of fairy lights. It’s the perfect place to stroll after dinner.
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!
For an even more decadent treat, you can add on locally made Roselani’s ice cream to your shaved ice. It makes for a luscious creamy contrast to the crisp fruity ice.
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.
If you go down to the Ho’okipa Beach in the afternoon, you can sometimes see giant sea turtles sunning themselves on the sand.
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.
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.
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.
Wear waterproof hiking boots and carry a light poncho: passing rain showers can occur at any time on the wet side of the island. Always follow park regulations and advisories.
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.
There is no gas or food in the park. If you are going up on your own, make sure you have a full tank of gas, and take plenty of food and drinking water with you!
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.
If you are looking for swathes of purple, call ahead to make sure fields are in bloom before you make the drive. We visited when not much lavender was blooming, but still enjoyed our visit.
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.
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.
If you are in Wailea in the morning, don’t miss the Artists’ Showcase at the Four Seasons Resort. You will see different types of paintings, handwoven fabrics, hand-painted silks, and sculptures, all while walking through the breezy hallways.
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.
If you want to bring leis back to the mainland, check what’s prohibited before you buy. Your seller should be able to guide you to choices that are safe to bring back.
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.
So that’s my list of 25 amazing things to do in Maui. Did I miss something you’d love to do? Comment below to respond!
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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