Famous for its 30 miles of white, red and black sand beaches, Maui is a popular and perfect paradise destination for families, couples or even going solo.
I’ve experienced all three. And every time it wasn’t enough time as there are so many incredible things to do in Maui – from snorkeling to surfing to whale-watching to hiking through the rainforest to discovering waterfalls to watching the sunrise or sunset on a dormant volcano.
Here’s a menu of choices you can select from as you narrow down how to spend your time in Maui and create your own Maui itinerary. Good luck!
Things to do in Maui
Road to Hana
This road trip is definitely at the top of my list of things to do in Maui – whether as a family, as a couple or even by yourself. Make sure to download an audio guide or a driving tour app (like GyPSy) as it is a great source of information and provides recommended stops along the way.
Travel tip: Bring along a portable charger or charger for your phone as the app will take a lot of battery power and you’ll be taking lots of photos.
This road trip is definitely about the journey. You can go at your own pace and pick and choose where you want to stop as you’ll come across beautiful views, short hikes, a black volcanic sand beach (pictured above), rainforests, and waterfalls.
Oh, and then there are fresh fruit stands and I remember turning around when we saw a sign for homemade banana bread. You can find places to eat in Maui on the Road to Hana, although we chose to bring a picnic lunch. Book your complete sightseeing adventure on Hana here.
Travel tip: If you’re prone to motion sickness, you may want to take some preventive medicine as the Road to Hana includes more than 600 curves. Drive slowly and enjoy the ride.
With 80 or so beaches in Maui, finding a perfect one for you should be easy. Each offers its own personality, water activities and beach conditions. Speaking of beach conditions, stay safe.
Pay attention to the hazard signs and check the surf and wind conditions ahead of time. My son and I were wading at a remote beach and a rogue wave came out of nowhere knocking us both down (it also took out his cell phone that we thought was in a safe place far away from the shore).
Our favorite is Kaanapali Beach. With three miles of white sand, this beach offers lots of water activities where you can rent snorkeling gear, paddleboards, kayaks, outrigger canoes, waveboards, and more.
You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas (although it does get windy and I haven’t had much luck in keeping my umbrella from falling over). And every time, we’ve seen turtles swimming near the shore.
Kaanapali Beach also features a 1.5-mile boardwalk overlooking the beach, giving you access to the beach, beachside restaurants and bars, hotels, activity vendors and shopping.
You’ll also find it a great place to watch the surfers near the coral reef where the waves hit.
Cliff Diving at Sunset
If you’re looking for a cool spectator experience, check out the cliff divers at Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) where they perform a torch-lighting ceremony at sunset before diving about 30 feet into the ocean.
Lahaina Banyan Court Park
When you visit Lahaina, you must check out Lahaina Banyan Court Park on Front Street. You can’t miss it. That’s because the famous banyan tree covers more than an entire block (nearly 2 acres), and is more than 60 feet high. And it has 16 trunks.
Planted in 1873, it’s the largest banyan tree in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Great photo op, a cool shady spot, and a fun place for kids to play.
Even if you’re not staying on the west side of the island, I recommend adding the charming town of Lahaina to your list of things to do in Maui. From the banyan tree to art galleries to romantic waterfront restaurants to kid-friendly restaurants to shopping to golfing to sunset sails to ukulele shops.
Wit a history walking tour, there is something for everyone. Here are some of the best things to do in Lahaina.
Haleakalā National Park
This is the main reason why I need to return to Maui. I have yet to visit Haleakalā. But many of my friends have, and highly recommend it (and may have gently shamed me for not fitting it into my Maui itinerary even though I’ve visited the island three times).
There are two areas of Haleakalā: The Summit and The Kīpahulu District.
The Summit is where most visitors go to watch a sunrise or sunset and do a little stargazing at night. One fun option that my friend and her family did was take a tour bus to the summit and then rode bikes on the way down. Not sure if I’d be that adventurous.
The area also offers campgrounds and hiking trails. Note that the park does not have any food, beverages or gasoline.
- If you’re planning to watch the sunrise, you’ll need to leave in the middle of the night. It’s recommended that you arrive at the park no later than 4:30 a.m. It takes 1 to 2 hours to drive to the summit from most resorts. So it might be a good idea to make your reservation for the first full day you’re in Maui since your internal clock hasn’t quite adjusted to the time change (if coming from the continental U.S.); you’ll be waking up at early anyway.
- If you are not booking with a guided tour operator and are planning to visit Haleakalā in a rental vehicle, you must make a sunrise viewing reservation online at recreation.gov up to 60 days in advance.
- Haleakalā’s elevation is 10,023 feet; it will get chilly so bring a blanket and coat (see below for National Park Service recommendations on what to bring to stay warm and safe). Also, make sure you’re in good physical health
The Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā is a remote location you can access about 12 miles past the town of Hana. Here you’ll find beautiful ocean views and waterfalls, including the 400-ft. Waimoku Falls. It’s hot, humid and rainy so make sure you dress appropriately and wear mosquito repellent.
And while the streams may seem tempting to swim or wade in, the National Park Service advises against it as flash floods and falling rocks can happen unexpectedly. And for that reason, they also say to stay out of closed places.
Maui offers a number of places where you and your family can learn how to surf. You typically start out on dry land before trying to catch a wave. My son and his friend picked it up in just one lesson.
My son and husband enjoyed a fun and entertaining deep-sea fishing expedition while I stayed on the beach. No luck on the fish, but they loved the sunrise and their captain kept them entertained with lots of cool stories.
A Maui itinerary is not complete without going on a whale-watching boat tour (although sometimes you can see them from an oceanside balcony or even from the beach). Both times we went on a tour, we got a bonus when some spinner dolphins decided to give us a show.
Traditional Hawaiian Luau
You must experience a luau as you plan your Maui itinerary. I highly recommend (as do thousands of others) the Old Lahaina Luau in Lahaina. It’s the oldest and most popular luau on the island so definitely make a reservation as soon as you book your Maui vacation.
You’ll be treated to some amazing food, a traditional Hawaiian pig roast (where you can watch them cook the feast underground), music with traditional Hawaiian instruments and an entertaining show featuring hula dancers, fire and tiki torches.
Fabulous seafood – where to eat in Maui
You can pretty much find fabulous fresh seafood at pretty much any restaurant in Maui. Here are just a few of my favorites (mainly in Lahaina as that’s where I’ve stayed on all my visits).
- Lahaina Grill, Lahaina: Consistently voted as the best restaurant in Maui, it’s a foodie’s paradise on the island of paradise.
- Mama’s Fish House, Paia: Open Table ranks this as the second most-popular restaurant in the U.S. so make sure you make your reservation as soon as possible.
- Fleetwood’s on Front Street, Lahaina: Beautiful rooftop dining with live music every night (it is owned by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac)
- The Fish Market, Lahaina: casual order at the counter and eat there or take with you. I went back three times.
- Java Jazz Maui, Lahaina: This was conveniently located right across the street from our condo. Loved the food and especially the live music.
- Food trucks: Love me some local food trucks and there were some conveniently right next door to my condo that last time I visited Maui
Rest, Reflect and Recharge (i.e., a whole lot of nothing)
I took a solo trip to Maui late last year as I was contemplating making a major life change. Just sitting on the beach watching the waves, the sunrise, the sunset was exactly what I needed to meditate and reflect on changing my career (which I did…I resigned from the corporate life to become a travel blogger less than a month later).
It’s also good for the kids to unplug and be present.
How to plan your trip to Maui
Places to stay in Maui: You’ll find most hotels and resorts located on the western and southern part of the island. Personally, I love Kaanapali and Lahaina area as the beaches are great, not too crowded and also close to great restaurants and shopping in Lahaina.
I also recommend finding an oceanview suite or condo with a full kitchen. It’s worth the upgrade to wake up every morning to a beautiful view as pictured above. Here is a list of where to stay in Maui.
Make reservations well in advance: As soon as you decide on activities, book them as they can fill up fast.
What to pack for Maui: Protect yourself and marine life by packing reef-safe sunscreen. Although a Hawaiian law that bans the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate doesn’t go into effect until 2021, many areas recommend and/or require reef-safe sunscreen. It’s the right thing to do.
More packing tips for Maui: Although swimsuits are a given to put in your suitcase, make sure to pack appropriate attire if you’re planning to visit the summit area of Haleakalā National Park. Temperatures range from 30 to 65 degrees F, and can dip well below freezing with the windchill. The National Park Service recommends bringing the following as the weather can change dramatically without warning.
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunblock)
- Raingear, jacket, poncho
- Water bottles
- Sturdy shoes (hiking boots or athletic shoes)
Rent a car: Highly recommend renting a car to take the Road to Hana and explore off-the-beaten paths on your own. Ubers are also plentiful.
Whether you pack in things to do in Maui every day or decide to do a whole lot of nothing, you will never want to leave and, quite possibly, start planning your next Maui itinerary before you even leave the island. It is a perfect paradise.
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