Famous for its 30 miles of white, red, and black volcanic sand beaches, Maui is a popular and perfect paradise destination for families, couples, or individuals planning a solo trip. Follow this perfect Maui itinerary to explore one of the top Hawaiian islands.
I’ve visited all three of Hawaii’s largest islands. And every time, I couldn’t find enough time to explore them 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 list of choices you can select from as you narrow down how to spend your time in Maui and create your own dream vacation. Good luck!
Things to do in Maui
Whether you’re seeking adventure or leisure, Maui, Hawaii, has plenty of incredible things to offer.
You can drive the renowned Road to Hana, go mountain biking down a volcano, go on a trek through a bamboo forest, take private surf lessons, swim under a waterfall, or simply go beach hopping to visit the numerous black and golden sand beaches.
You can also snorkel with Hawaiian green sea turtles on vibrant reefs, spot monk seals lazing on beaches, and take a boat ride to get one of the best whale-watching experiences in the world.
In this post, you will read about the best things to do in Maui and how to plan your trip to the island.
1. Road to Hana
This road trip is one of the best day trips and at the top of my list of things to do in Maui – whether you visit with family, as a couple, or even yourself. Make sure to download an audio guide or a driving tour app (like GyPSy). It is the best source of information and provides recommended stops along the way.
Overall, Road to Hana is one of the best things to do in Hawaii, and you’ll be glad you experienced it!
Travel tip: Bring along a portable charger or charger for your phone because the app will take a lot of battery power, and you’ll take 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. You’ll come across beautiful views, short hikes, a black sand beach, 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 many 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—the Road to Hana includes more than 600 curves.
Drive slowly and enjoy the ride!
With over 80 beaches in Maui, finding the perfect one for yourself should be no problem. Each offers its own personality, water activities, and beach conditions. Speaking of beach conditions, make sure to 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 away my son’s cell phone, which 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, wave boards, and more.
You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas (although it does get windy, and I haven’t had much luck keeping my umbrella from falling over). Every time we’ve visited this beach, we see 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.
Here are some of the other best beaches I recommend you visit:
- Kapalua Bay – Kapalua Bay is a calm, peaceful beach surrounded by a luxury resort, the Montage Kapalua Bay. Go on the Kapalua Coastal Trail to enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, calm lagoon, and stunning scenery.
- Makena Beach – Also known as Big Beach, Makena Beach is a long stretch of golden sand. True to its nickname, Big Beach is the largest beach on the island. It’s perfect if you’re looking to have a simple beach day experiencing island life with your family or friends.
- Turtle Town – While not actually a beach, this is a popular snorkeling day trip spot just off the coast of Makena Beach. Hawaiian green sea turtles hang out here because there’s a lot of seaweed for them to munch on, making it a great spot to admire these beautiful creatures
- Waianapanapa Beach – Waianapanapa is the most famous and best black sand beach on the island of Maui. It can be found along the Road to Hana and is definitely a stop you should not miss.
3. Cliff Diving at Sunset
If you’re looking for a fun 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.
Hawaiian mythology states that Kahekili, the last chief of Maui, demonstrated his spiritual power by leaping from the holy Puu Kekaa into the ocean below.
They continue this practice today by hiring a qualified cliff diver. It starts at dusk and is hosted by the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. Cliff diving, or Lele Kawa, the evening ritual, begins with blowing a conch shell and lighting a torch.
The torches get lit one by one as the diver moves toward Black Rock. When he reaches the top, he throws a flower lei and his torch into the water before jumping in.
It’s an outstanding performance to witness that’s better left to the experts. You can enjoy the show from the Sheraton or a place along Ka’anapali Beach’s northern end (Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock Beach). Remember, you do not have to pay any fee to watch the show.
4. Lahaina Banyan Court Park
When you visit Lahaina on the west coast, 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. Not to mention, 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. The incredible banyan tree makes for a great photo op, a cool shady spot, and a fun place for kids to play. Check out these other epic family travel hacks to plan your trip.
It doesn’t take long to visit Banyan Tree Park, making it a worthwhile visit. You can locate it near the Courthouse Museum and several other attractions. Furthermore, the park is close to Lahaina’s best restaurants and shops.
There are many benches scattered throughout the park, ideal for enjoying the landscape from various viewpoints. You will also see some inscriptions on the property explaining the tree’s history.
If you have a rental car, you can drive to Lahaina through the Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30). You can also take the No. 20 bus from Ma’alaea or Kahului, the No. 28 bus from Kapalua, or the No. 25 bus from Kaanapali to get there. Visit the Maui County website for additional details about Banyan Tree Park.
5. Lahaina Town
Even if you’re not staying on the west side of the Hawaiian island, I recommend adding the charming town of Lahaina to your list of things to do in Maui.
Maui is undoubtedly one of the most diverse and historic cities in Hawaii. Anybody visiting The Valley Isle must visit the port town of Lahaina to browse the art galleries, gift stores, restaurants, and historic sites dotted throughout the vibrant community.
The main highlight is Front Street, which you can reach by taking a left turn on Honoapi’ilani Highway, right before milepost 20. It extends along the coastline towards Lahaina Harbor.
The enormous banyan tree that fills most parts of the city block, the old prison, the old courthouse, and the ancient Baldwin House are just a few of the numerous attractions in Lahaina.
It is crucial to note that you could be disappointed if you’re seeking free parking. However, there are many parking lots in town, provided you’re prepared to pay (and stay out of trouble).
Lahaina also has a well-deserved reputation as an artistic community, and there are several art galleries along the streets that cater to all kinds of collectors. The Lahaina art scene may provide what you’re looking for, particularly if you want something unique to bring home as a souvenir of your Hawaiian vacation.
There are activities for every type of visitor in Lahaina, from the leisurely to the adventurous. And if you or someone you know enjoys good cuisine (who doesn’t?), Lahaina has some excellent eateries that provide everything from inexpensive bites to fancy splurges.
If you’re looking for to things to do in Lahaina, you can watch shows like the Old Lahaina Luau and Ulalena. Furthermore, there are some incredible Lahaina vacation rentals in the port town if you want to stay for a while. Check out top holiday rentals in Lahaina:
See Related: Warmest Places to Visit in the US
6. Haleakala National Park
This is the primary reason why I need to return to Maui—I have not yet visited Haleakala National Park. But many of my friends have, and they highly recommend it (they 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 Haleakala National Park: 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 ride 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.
Quick Travel tips
- If you’re planning to watch the sunrise, you’ll need to leave in the middle of the night. You must arrive at the park no later than 4:30 am. 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 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, which is part of Maui’s Seven Sacred Pools.
It’s hot, humid, and rainy, so 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 may occur unexpectedly. And for that reason, they also suggest staying out of closed places.
7. Surf Lesson
Maui offers several beautiful beaches where you and your family can learn how to surf. You typically start on dry land before trying to catch a wave. My son and his friend picked it up in just one lesson.
Lieutenant James King wrote the earliest Western surfing report in Hawaii in 1779. He painted a vivid picture of Native Hawaiians riding wood boards on the waves at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island.
Surfing, known as “hee nalu” in the Hawaiian language, was always a spiritual activity that allowed Native Hawaiians to connect with the power of their gods. Hee Nalu (surfing) was once known as the “Sport of Kings,” a privilege reserved only for the Hawaiian monarchy.
Today, everyone can participate in the water activity of surfing—one of the most well-liked ocean sports in Maui, which keeps evolving with styles, trends, unique skills, and techniques. The Hawaiian Islands continue to hold the top spot among the best surfing spots on the globe.
Every year, tourists from all around the world visit Maui to surf. All the Hawaiian Islands have a thriving surfing scene, with some of the best spots on West Maui and East side North Shore beaches.
If you’re looking for calmer seas in the summer with 50-foot waves in the winter, Honolua Bay, Ho’okipa Beach Park, and Peahi (also known as Jaws) are all excellent choices.
Individuals who prefer a more individualized start can opt for private surf lessons offered by different businesses. Or, if surfing doesn’t seem like your thing, scuba diving or a half-day snorkel trip could be great options instead!
8. Sport Fishing
My son and husband enjoyed a fun and entertaining fishing expedition while I stayed on the beach. No luck on the tropical fish, but they loved the sunrise, and their captain kept them entertained with lots of cool stories.
When sport fishing in Maui, you will witness the breathtaking landscape and the world’s best ocean conditions. There are many options for Hawaii sport fishing on the island, including small and large game fish. Visitors can book an all-day group tour, a two-hour tour, or go off on a privately chartered sport fishing excursion with loved ones.
Sport fishing in Maui is permitted without a fishing license in the State of Hawaii, and a few private charters even let you keep the fish you catch!
You will find many fishing adventures that operate out of Lahaina Harbor and provide the top private fishing charters in Maui. They offer cutting-edge fishing gear, the newest and quickest boats, and a qualified team with the helpful local know-how you’d want to have when game fishing on Maui island.
The Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin, Hawaiian Ahi Tuna, Mahi-Mahi (Dolphin Fish), Skipjack (Tuna), Kawakawa (Mackerel), Spearfish, and Ono (Wahoo) are the most common large game species captured when sport fishing in Maui.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Waikiki
9. Whale-Watching Tour
A Maui itinerary is incomplete without a whale-watching boat tour (although sometimes you can see them from an oceanside balcony or the beach). Both times we went on a tour, we got a bonus when some spinner dolphins decided to give us a show.
Without a doubt, Maui Whale Watching Tours are among the best things to do in Maui. One of the most thrilling experiences you will ever have is seeing the North Pacific humpback whales grace Maui’s waters during their yearly winter migration!
These god-like, magnificent beasts have been seen in Hawaii’s waters since the arrival of ancient Polynesian cultures in the islands, at least since 1300 AD. These marvelous sea animals return to Maui’s shores each year to give birth to their young calves and hibernate during the colder months.
Visitors may see a range of whale behaviors while watching this endangered and protected species in action. These behaviors usually include breaching, tail slaps, and babies playing and frolicking on the ocean’s surface.
Mature humpback whales often weigh 44 tons and are 40 feet in length. Therefore, you cannot fail to notice these enormous ocean creatures in motion. Yes, each time is a breathtaking experience!
The official whale season on Maui may start as early as November and last until May. One of the best ways to view whales on Maui is through an ocean-going vessel between December 15 and March 31. Even though the enormous Humpback Whales can be seen from the shore, a Maui Whale Watching Tour offers a more engaging experience.
See Related: Best Credit Cards for Travel Perks
10. Traditional Hawaiian Luau
You must book 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 do not forget to make a reservation as soon as you book your Maui vacation.
The place will treat you with delicious 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.
Overall, no matter the size of your group, this exciting cultural encounter makes for an enjoyable evening for everyone. A fresh lei awaits you as soon as you arrive at the luau, which starts just before dusk. You will also get a dining table with chairs or a classic low table with cushions as seating options.
Furthermore, you will have the chance to take pictures as the golden hour approaches while enjoying refreshments and native island music. Then, dinner is served buffet-style when the sun sets over the horizon.
Many traditional Hawaiian delicacies will be served, with the highlight being pork cooked underground on hot stones. Lastly, a captivating performance combining storytelling, traditional attire, and hula dance will sum up the evening.
You can surely count on having a wonderful evening that will leave you with a deeper appreciation of Hawaiian culture. Through the music, chant, and dance, you can learn more about Hawaiian history and life in the Hawaiian islands before western contact.
You can purchase tickets online, although reservations fill up well in advance. The luau usually lasts for around three hours, so make sure to have an appetite to enjoy the delicious cuisine.
If you are looking for an exquisite experience, stay at the Royal Lahaina Resort on Kaanapali Beach and immerse yourself in the legends surrounding Maui Luau!
See Related: Best Vacations for a Group of Friends
11. Fabulous Seafood – Where to Eat in Maui
Food had a crucial role in traditional Hawaiian society. At mealtimes, friends and family gathered to make and consume food together. Since the first residents came to Maui in 400 AD, seafood has been the primary meal because of its location at the center of the massive Pacific Ocean.
As we all know, not all seafood is prepared the same way. Fortunately, more than 1,300 years later, modern Maui restaurant owners have perfected the art of fish preparation, yielding a flavor that is distinctively from the islands.
Additionally, you have many options today, including a seafood restaurant on wheels, an elegant fine dining restaurant, a long-established tropical fish market-turned-deli, and much more.
Whether you spend your day trip taking part in an energetic experience like stand-up paddle boarding, body boarding, surfing, or simply relaxing on the beach with a book, the restaurants on the list below specialize in seafood that won’t let you down.
Here are just a few of my favorite restaurants (mainly in Lahaina, where I stayed most of 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 central Maui and the U.S. altogether, so make sure you make your reservation as soon as possible.
- Fleetwood’s on Front Street, Lahaina: It is owned by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. They offer beautiful rooftop dining with live music every night.
- The Fish Market, Lahaina: You can casually order at the counter and eat there or take it 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 the live music!
- Food trucks: I enjoy eating at local food trucks, and there were some excellent food trucks right next door to my condo the last time I visited Maui.
See Related: Best Travel Purses
12. 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, and the sunset was exactly what I needed to meditate and reflect on changing my career (which I did…I resigned from corporate life to become a travel blogger less than a month later).
You do not have to quit your job, but always keep in mind that going on a vacation is the perfect time to take a break from everything. It offers you quiet time where your clients won’t need your services. So make the most of this peaceful moment and prepare yourself for a successful getaway!
A family vacation is also good for the kids to unplug and be present.
How to Plan Your Trip to Maui?
When growing up, I learned that if you make a plan and have one or more backup plans, you can just execute them when the event occurs and deal with any problem that comes your way. Although I haven’t always applied that lesson, I do so when I travel.
Here are some tips you can follow before planning your Maui vacation:
The primary airport to fly into Maui is Kahului Airport. Skyscanner makes it simple to search for the best ticket bargains. To find the cheapest dates to travel to your destination, you can select ‘cheapest month’ on their website as the departure option.
Another option is to fly into HNL (Honolulu International Airport) on the island of Oahu and then take a connecting flight to Maui that lasts 30 minutes.
Places to Stay in Maui
You’ll find most hotels and resorts located in both west Maui and south Maui. Personally, I love the Kaanapali and Lahaina areas as the beaches are great, not too crowded, and within walking distance to stunning restaurants and shopping.
I also recommend finding an ocean-view suite or condo with a full kitchen. It’s worth the upgrade to wake up every morning to a beautiful view as pictured above.
Make Reservations Well in Advance
As soon as you decide on activities, book them as they can fill up fast. Here are the best tours to book in Maui:
- Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkel
- 2-Hour Whale Watching Excursion from Lahaina Harbor
- Maui: Full-Day Sightseeing Tour of the Road to Hana
- Mountaintop Sunrise Tour to Haleakala National Park
What to Pack for Maui
Protect yourself and marine life by packing reef-safe sunscreen. There is a law in Hawaii that bans the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate because of how damaging these chemicals are to the living coral reef. It’s the right thing to do.
As Maui weather is warm and humid year-round, you’ll probably want to opt for sandals instead of shoes, unless you plan to do a lot of hiking. Check out these top travel sandals.
Lightweight clothing will be your best friend while visiting Maui. Warm clothes may be essential if you plan to be up before the sun. Snorkel gear, a beach towel, and other beach items may be essential if you’re not staying at a resort that provides these items.
More Packing Tips for Maui
Although swimsuits are a given to put in your suitcase, make sure to pack appropriate (read: warm) attire if you’re planning to visit the summit area of Haleakalā National Park. Temperatures range from 30 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit 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. You can pack a mobile travel router if you need to gain wi-fi for emergency purposes.
- Sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunblock)
- Raingear, jacket, poncho
- Water bottles
- Sturdy shoes (hiking boots or athletic shoes)
- Warm weather travel shorts
Rent a Car
I highly recommend renting a car in Maui to take the Road to Hana and explore off-the-beaten paths on your own. Ubers and taxis are also plentiful, but may come with a high cost if you’re planning to go across the island.
Whether you plan 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!
Maui has something to offer everyone, from sun-kissed sandy beaches to unwind on and many other spots to be more adventurous.
There may be too many things to do in Maui on the list above to fit into one trip, but that only provides you with an excuse to visit this lovely island again and again.
What to not miss on your Maui trip?
When visiting Maui, be sure to check out Haleakala National Park, the Road to Hana, and a traditional luau feast. In addition, Maui is a fantastic location for whale watching, swimming with Hawaiian green sea turtles, and snorkeling. The highlight of any Maui vacation will undoubtedly be a helicopter tour, so experience it if you can.
How many days in Maui are enough when visiting for the first time?
There are enough hikes, beaches, road excursions, and other experiences in Maui to keep you occupied for a week or more without ever wanting to leave. But if you’re island-hopping, I advise spending at least three days in Maui and a minimum of five days if this is your only stop
What are the best months to visit Maui?
April to May and September to November are the ideal months to travel to Maui. While summer and winter are more expensive and crowded, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall offer Hawaii visitors the lovely weather they are seeking.