Anyone who thinks Maui is just an overrated holiday destination crawling with American tourists in floral shirts and visors needs to seriously reinvestigate. True, you can still find parts of Maui that feel painfully over-developed with resorts (and visors), but that’s only the experience you’ll have if it’s what you’re looking for. By and large, Maui is a tropical paradise full of sparkling waterfalls, lush jungle hikes, pristine beaches, and bustling reefs. There’s adventure on every square inch of this tiny island, so here are just 10 of my favourite things, adventurous and relaxing, to while away the days in paradise and truly live that aloha life.
Snorkel with turtles
One of the best experiences of any trip to Maui (dare I say the best?) is just hopping in and getting to know the local aquatic life! I am constantly amazed by how many sea turtles are flapping about if you just know where to look— my favourite spot is Maluaka beach near Wailea-Makena in the south of the island. BYO snorkel gear or rent it for pocket change at one of the many Snorkel Bob locations.
Check out my blog post on Maui’s best snorkel spots if you want to know more (or even if you just want to squeal over more turtle photos).
Watch the sunrise over Haleakalā Crater
Undoubtably one of the most popular activities on Maui, sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā is an otherworldly experience not to be missed. The number of daily visitors to the national park is limited, so you’ll need to reserve tickets online in advance, and be well-warned that it’s quite a drive across the island to reach the volcano for sunrise (we left Lahaina at 230am). A tour could be a good opportunity to combine some other activities like ziplining and/or mountain biking with the sunrise viewing AND avoid driving in the middle of the night. Tours aren’t cheap, but I’d highly recommend the Sunrise/Bike/Zip tour we did with Skyline Ecotours for around $220USD— it was a phenomenal, action-packed day that began with one of the most stunning sunrises I’ve ever seen from Maui’s “House of the Sun”. Worth every penny.
Read more about our Haleakalā sunrise experience in this blog post.
Fall in love with shave ice
Maybe I’m an eternal child (ok, I’m definitely an eternal child), but the absolute best thing to eat in Hawaii is hands-down shave ice. And for those reluctant to dig into what may appear to be glorified sugar water, I promise it will not disappoint: start with coconut or vanilla ice cream on the bottom, fill with finely shaved ice and incredible tropical flavours, top with condensed milk.. It’s well and truly paradise in a cup. Try Ulalani’s in Lahaina, Kihei, or at several other island locations, or the tiny Surf Ripper Cafe in Lahaina.
Go ziplining through the trees
There are a handful of companies offering zipline tours on Maui for the adventurous traveller, and I’d highly recommend a zoom through the trees if you have the time (and funds). We chose to go with Skyline Eco Tours, actually the first zipline company in the US, and the experience was great. In all honesty, we could have done with a few longer zips, but the course builds from small to large, probably to ease nervous guests into it a bit more. Still, a cloudy afternoon well-spent in the trees!
Read more about our ziplining expedition through the trees in this blog post.
Hang out in Lahaina
My favourite place to stay in Maui is definitely Lahaina on the west side. It has beautiful beaches, is in close proximity to heaps of great snorkel spots, has a bustling main street lined with shops and restaurants, yet still doesn’t have anywhere near the tourist buzz of Kaanapali’s resort-crammed coastline. Lahaina Shores is a beautiful place to stay with its own private beach, or the Aina Nalu condos set a few blocks back from the water is a cheaper and still lovely option.
Drive the Road to Hana
One of the most famous road trips of all time, the Road to Hana is a day-long drive snaking along Maui’s north coast Hana Highway to the surprisingly small town of the same name. The drive itself is a bit miserable, to be honest.. It’s a lot of hours on a narrow, often sketchy, painfully windy road, but the stops along the way make it all worthwhile, and that’s really saying something. Expect to see stunning beaches, beautiful forests, and more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at.
Read more about our eventful Road to Hana trip in this blog post.
Hike the Pipiwai Trail
My absolute favourite Road to Hana stop is the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakalā National park— so good it’s worth making a special trip across the island even if you don’t drive the Hana Highway. This 4-mile trail winds past a towering Banyan Tree, dozens of waterfalls, through a breathtaking Bamboo Forest, and finishes at the impressive Waimoku Falls, all in under 2 hours. I can’t recommend it enough for walkers of any fitness level.
See more photos from our Pipiwai Trail hike in this blog post about driving the Road to Hana.
Cruise down a volcano on a bike
Still looking for more adventure? Hop on a bike near the Heleakalā Summit and zip all the way down the volcano, passing some truly gorgeous coastal scenery along the way. I’m an awful biker, so believe me when I say that this really is more of a cruise than a mountain biking expedition— all the better for snapping photos while riding one-handed down the hill. We went on this bike tour as part of a combined sunrise/bike/zip tour with Skyline Eco Tours, and I can happily recommend the whole experience.
Read more about our morning bike ride down the Haleakalā Crater in this blog post.
Why not try your luck on some of Maui’s famously pumping waves? I may not have hopped on during this last trip to Hawaii (only because I’ve previously proven myself to be a less than talented surfer and didn’t feel the need to embarrass myself again), but don’t take my lead, just get on out there! A few of the bigger and more touristy beaches even offer surfing lessons, which I would highly recommend for beginners— within a few hours, you’ll actually be able to stand and catch a few small waves if the surf isn’t too crazy. And, more importantly, you’ll have the photos to prove it for a lifetime.
Kick back on the beach
But, of course, no Maui holiday is complete without a few afternoons just lounging about in the sand. Live your best island life beachside: splash around in the surprisingly warm water, tuck into that new book, polish off a couple of cold piña coladas.. it’s truly unlikely you’ll ever want to leave. Skip the touristy beaches and just drive along coastal roads until you see a nice vacant patch of sand with your name on (this particular beach is near Wailea-Makena in south Maui).
Aloha & enjoy!