41 Best Things To Do In Maui Hawaii
The most comprehensive list of the best things to do in Maui. Including many free activities and hidden gems. Written by a long-time Maui local.
Known as the “Valley Island” because of its geographic terrain, Maui is one of the best Islands for outdoor adventure. Endless outdoor recreation makes Maui a top athletic vacation destination for wellness travel. The Island has a thriving marine ecosystem. Sea turtles coming ashore at Ho’okipa beach and whales breaching in the distance of Lahaina. If that isn’t enough for you, Maui has many of the best beaches in Hawaii. There are multiple marine preserves that provide for amazing snorkeling right from the sandy beach.
Formed by two volcanoes, Haleakala and West Maui Mountains, Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii.
Towering over 10,000′ in elevation, Haleakala has multiple microclimates from the beach, to tropical rainforest, to high altitude rugged terrain that gets snow in the winter. This variety of microclimates makes for an awesome variety of outdoor activities.
Our guide starts at Paia and works its way around the Island to Hana and then around to the Kula and Makawao country towns. From here, we drop down into Kahului and then over to the south shore of Kihei and Wailea. Following the coast, we go north to Maalaea, Lahaina, and Kapalua.
I lived in Paia for over three years and was able to experience everything on this guide first hand. The resorts in Maui are some of the best in the world. It is hard sometimes to pull yourself away from this glamour. For this reason I have dividing the guide by region. I hope that this will make it easier for you to pull one or two activities from the list that is close to your resort. If you are looking for help planning your dram Maui vacation, reach out to me at Admin [at] TheKlubb [dot] com.
Located on Maui’s North Shore on Hana Highway, Paia is the first town on the way to Hana and about 20 minutes from Kahului airport. Once a watering hole for agricultural workers, Paia grew into a wind-surfing mecca as the sport exploded globally. Today, the town is a blend of both with the addition of new restaurants and boutique stores.
Known for its fences that are made from old wind-surfing boards and surfboard, there is a lot of culture that keeps Paia town special.
Known for its world class windsurfing, Ho’okipa is also the home to hundreds of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, “honu” in Hawaiian. The turtles at Ho’okipa beach get so many visitors that volunteers stand guard and put up cones to ensure that tourists keep their distance and allow the tired turtles to rest. Summer is the best time to see turtles at Ho’okipa.
Baked on Maui is a popular hangout for big wave surfers, ranch workers, and North Shore Maui locals. The breakfast skillets are perfect for charging your batteries before a big day of adventure. Located in lower Haiku, Baked on Maui is the best breakfast spot on Maui.
Located just off the road from Hana Highway, Twin Fall is the most popular waterfall hike on Maui. Because of how accessible the trail is, this hike can get very crowded during the tourist peak seasons of Summer and Winter. Read more about Twin Falls on our Best Hikes on Maui guide here.
Development of the property took five years before its official opening to the public in 1996. Designed by Alan Bradbury, ISA certified arborist, the goal of Garden of Eden is to help restore and promote Hawai’i’s native and indigenous species. There are 2.5 miles of trails in 30 acre Garden of Eden Arboretum. Garden of Eden has picnic areas and modern restrooms.
The Garden of Eden costs $20 per adult with discounts for Kama’aina, Students and AAA members.
Home to “the original” banana bread, this small store is your half way point to Hana and a great opportunity to stock up on snacks and drinks. It is a great spot to stretch your legs and give yourself a break from the curvy road. The drive to Hana takes between 2 hours and 5 hours each way depending on traffic.
The halfway to Hana food stand is located at mile marker 17 just off the side of the road. You will see a bright sign that stays “Halfway to Hana” with a rainbow and shave ice image.
Pua’a Ka’a is the iconic Hawaii swimming hole and waterfall shower you have been looking for. The Pua’a Ka’a State Park is located at mile marker 22.5 and is around 40 miles from Kahalui. Take a short walk down to plunge pool which has easy access to the swimming area.
Note: If there has been heavy rain in the area, do not enter the water.
The Nahiku Marketplace is located at Mile Marker 29 and roughly 6 miles from Hana. If Halfway to Hana was too crowded this is a great place to stop. There is more variety of restaurants at Nahiku than there are at Halfway to Hana.
The Hana Lava Tube tour is well worth it. As you enter Ka’eleku Cave the air gets moist and the temperature cooler… at roughly a quarter-mile long, the lava tube has stalagmites, stalactites, and the famous “Chocolate Corridor” that looks like melted chocolate.
The Hana Lava Tube is located on Ulaino road just past Mile Marker 31. Admission is $15 per person (children under 5 are free).
The black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa Beach is a must see destination on the Road to Hana. When the sea is calm and there is no surf it is okay to swim at Wai’anapanapa Beach. Advanced reservations are now required and can be made here. Wai’anapanapa State Park is off Hana Hwy at Mile Marker 32.
Hana is known for its untouched beauty and essence of Old Hawaii. Today, around 80% of the villages population has native Hawaiian ancestry. Hana is also home to celebrities like Weird Al Yankovitch and Woody Harrelson.
While in Hana, check out Braddah Hutts BBQ Grill for an amazing local plate lunch. If you want something more mainland, the Hana Ranch Restaurant has brick oven pizza and burgers.
The crescent shaped Homoa Beach has pristine waters and perfect soft sand. Hala trees line the edge of the sand which makes for the perfect balance of sun and shade during a full day on the beach. There are also new restrooms and shower stations near the parking lot.
Because there is no outer reef, the surf can change from small to dangerous quickly. And, with no lifeguards on duty, it is important to know your limits and check surf forecasts prior. When the water is calm, Hamoa Beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
The red sands of Koki beach is said to be where Pele (volcano goddess) fought her final battle against her older sister Namakaokaha’i (ocean goddess). The Hawaiian legend goes on to say how Pele’s bones were stacked on the shore of Koki beach before her spirit traveled to the Big Island (Hawaii Island).
While the dramatic juxtaposition between red sand and shimmering blue ocean can be tempting to enter, be very careful as the surf here can be hazardous. A well known surfing spot, Koki has no life guards and dangerous rip currents. It is more exposed than Homoa Beach and therefore captures swells much easier. Koki beach is located at Mile Marker 49.
The Kipahulu ahupua’a has been inhabited by native Hawaiians for hundreds of years. An ahupua’a is a division of land typically bounded by ridge lines and encompasses all of the lands from the top of the mountain to the outer reef in the ocean. This unique land division gave the inhabitants the resources they needed to survive.
Today, many native Hawaiians still call Kipahulu home. When visiting the area, be respectful of others around you. The State park at Kipahulu offers hikes along the Pīpīwai trail to amazing waterfalls.
Remember that there are Hawaiians who live off the land here. Below are a few recommendations when visiting Kipahulu.
Built-in 1857, the Palapala Ho’omau Church is most famous today for being the burial site of Charles Lindbergh – aviator, author, and, later in life, a blue and humpback whale activist. The Palapala Ho’omau Church is at Mile Marker 41 near the Maui Stables.
Visit Hawaii’s first winery and enjoy panoramic views of Molokini and Kaho’olawe while sipping Maui Wine’s famous Pineapple Sparkling Wine. Located on the Ulupalakua Ranch property, Maui Wine is a must-visit spot while exploring Maui.
Located at around 2,000′ elevation, the weather is perfect for enjoying a glass of wine.
Editor Notes: Bring a sweater as it does get cold in the late afternoon. You will be surprised at how cold it can get upcountry. Having lived in Makawao and Kula, I can attest to the bitterly cold mornings and evenings. Note that this is “Hawaii Cold” and somewhere between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
A step-back-in-time coffee house that transports you back one hundred years, well, 104 years to be exact. Grandma started roasting coffee on Maui in 1918. Her house was where to go for a coffee and to “talk story.” The term “talk story” is commonly used in Hawaii and refers to talking about new and old stories among a group or one-on-one.
While the weather at Maui Wine, mentioned above, can get “Hawaii Cold,” the top of Haleakala gets actually cold. It is not uncommon for there to be snow at the top of Haleakala and for temperatures to plunge below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reservations are now required for sunrise viewing. For everything you need to know about watching the sunrise at the top of Haleakala, visit the Haleakala National Parks page.
For the freshest Hawaiian produce, stop by Kula Country Farms. Located near Rice Park in Kula, Kula Country Farms has the most delicious strawberries you will ever have. Locally owned and operated, the farm provides produce to many of the island’s restaurants. They also sell directly to customers from their farm stand.
A classic Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy) town, Makawao is where to go to experience upcountry Maui living at its best. There is a great variety of shops on the main street Baldwin Avenue and a few restaurants. Makawao is the cowboy capital of upcountry Maui.
There are hidden gems in the town of Makawao. One of the best is Sip Me Coffee Shop. The local pastries and delicious coffee is the best way to start your day upcountry.
Editors Notes: Poli’s Mexican is the oldest and best bet restaurant. Casablanca is another staple and is just up the street. If you are looking for a great dive bar, you are in the right town. The Stopwatch is the best dive bar in Maui and is located on Makawao Ave in the downtown area. Now that Charles in Paia has closed, Stopwatch is the new hangout for locals looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy karaoke. Occasionally The Stopwatch serves sushi – this is a must-do.
Find more up country Maui restaurants in this article here.
There are a handful of great local restaurants in Kahului. Tin Roof Maui is the best lunch spot in Kahului. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant is easy to find during lunch time because of the long line outside. Don’t worry, the line moves fast, and the food is well worth the wait.
The windsurfing on the north shore of Maui is world-class. Many professional windsurfers live in Maui because of the consistently epic conditions. The best windsurfing spots on Maui are Ho’okipa and Kanaha Beach Park.
If you are starting, the best windsurfing spot on Maui for beginners is Kanaha Beach. There are a variety of local windsurfing companies that offer lessons.
The Maui Nui Botanical Gardens is located in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, and has six acres of manicured gardens. There are a wide variety of Native Hawaiian plants which are spectacular to view in person.
Located a short distance from the Kahului Airport, MNBG is adjacent to the Kahului Harbor. Below is a Maui Nui Botanical Garden Map showing the gardens location in Kahului.
The Iao Valley State Monument will be closed through February 2023.
Once reopened, the Iao valley is absolutely worth visiting when on Maui. Located close to downtown Kahului, Iao Valley State Monument is a great place to bring a picnic and soak up the amazing views within the valley. There are picturesque waterfalls and a wide variety of exotic plants.
From the parking lot, it is roughly 1 to 2 hours round-trip to hike to the Iao Needle.
The Maui Sunflower Farm is adjacent to the Kuihelani Hwy on the right side, coming from Kahului to Maalaea Harbor. When in bloom, the juxtaposition between the bright yellow sunflowers and the vibrant green of the West Maui Mountains is a must-see.
On your way from Kahului to Ka’anapali, be sure to stop and check out the sunflower fields when they are in bloom. The sunflowers are on private land, so do not enter or pick any of the flowers.
Known to locals as “dumps” beach, Ahihi Kinau reserve is far from being a dump. The coral reefs are some of the most vibrant in Maui, and on the right swell, the surf is some of the best on the Island. The intermediate to advanced wave breaks right along a shallow coral reef. Inside the main break is a cabbage patch of sharp coral.
Surfers who are confident in their ability will love this fast wave. Beginners or those still learning should not surf here. Getting caught inside during a big set can lead to a trip to the hospital or worse. Despite the dangers of surfing here, Ahihi Kinau beach is well worth the visit. On days without surf the snorkeling is some of the best in the world.
The most popular beach for locals and tourists on the South Shore of Maui, Makena is a picturesque Hawaiian beach. The long white sand offers ample sitting area for groups of all sizes. During the winter months, the water is usually very calm. In the summer, when the South Swells are pouring in, the shore break at Makena can be hazardous.
On the drive into Makena, there are rows of fresh fruit stands where you can stock up on snacks for your beach day. Makena beach is best known for its wide beach and shore break, ideal for body surfing.
This is one of the funnest beach to hang out at. The energy and excitement of bodysurfing the shore break is amazing. Having such a wide and long stretch of sand makes this beach the perfect hangout for an all day beach day. I’ve spent many winter days on this beach with a cooler of beverages and a group of close friends.
Hoapili Trail takes about four hours to hike the 5.5-mile round-trip trail. Located on the Island’s South side, the Hoapili trail is a sparse lava rock trail lined by stacked lava rock dating back to the days of the Hawaiian Monarchy.
The trailhead for Hoapili is at the literal end of Makena Road. There is a large parking lot that serves the King’s Trail as well as nearby snorkeling coves.
Editors Note: There is also really great snorkeling right by the trailhead for the Hoapili Trail. Conditions can get rough so only experienced divers should go into the water. Also, getting in and out can be very tough depending on ocean surge. You need to navigate up a jagged rock face in surging conditions to get out after your dive. Use extreme caution.
The Five Graves dive spot is one of Maui’s most popular scuba diving destinations. Located at Makena Landing, the Five Graves (aka Five Caves) is known for its amazing underwater caves. The first cave is the largest and home to reef sharks and other fish. When you enter at Makena Landing, follow the curve of the coastline north [underwater], and you will see the first cave.
Editors Note: Makena Landing is the perfect place if you are looking for a nice swim spot after the Kings Trail hike. The sandy beach entrance to the water makes this spot much more manageable for beginner snorkelers.
The largest snorkel and dive center on Maui, Alii Nui has three locations; Kahana, Kihei, and Wailea. Sailing out of Maalaea Harbor, the Alli Nui luxury sailing catamaran features a sunset dinner cruise, whale watching, snorkel excursions, and Molokini snorkel excursions.
The Alii Nui has ample indoor seating and restrooms. Meals and drink options vary based on the activity and time of day. Alii Nui measures 65′ long and 36′ wide, providing plenty of space for larger groups.
The Lahaina Pali Trail is located just off the Honoapiilani Hwy and is across the street from the beach access to Coral Gardens. The trail is 5 to 10 miles long, depending if you hike to the ridge-and-back or follow the trail to the Kuihelani Hwy. It takes about 6 hours to hike the full length of the Pali Trail.
If you plan to hike the entire trail, go with a friend and leave one car at the parking lot you will end at:
Located off the Honoapiilani Hwy, Coral Gardens is one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui. The massive coral structures are home to various fish species and the Hawaiian green sea turtle. Tucked away behind the steep edge of the West Maui Mountains, Coral Gardens usually has very calm seas, which make for excellent snorkeling conditions.
Tour boats like the Alii Nui and the Four Winds Maui offer morning/afternoon snorkel tours to Coral Gardens. The reef is Maui’s largest and healthiest, spanning over 100 acres.
The Molokini Crater is best known for its world-class scuba diving and snorkeling. Inside the crater’s cove is an amazing shallow water reef teaming with sea life. The backside of the crater – which is only accessible in very calm waters – offers advanced scuba divers a wall dive that drops hundreds of feet.
While the crater gets extremely busy during peak season, there is usually ample room to explore and not bump into people. A half dozen larger boats and about the same or smaller boats arrive at Molokini daily, causing it to get crowded in certain areas.
The Maui Jim office is located a couple of blocks off Front Street and has a retail showroom downstairs. Inside is a magnificent saltwater aquarium and all of the newest styles of Maui Jim sunnies. The store also offers repairs and cleanings of your Maui Jim Sunglasses.
A beautiful beach park that is the perfect place for beginners to try surfing. A big grassy area with picnic benches and BBQs offers outdoor enthusiasts the perfect setting for a fun-filled day. If you are on Island during the 4th of July, Launiupoko Beach is a great place to watch the fireworks.
The Lahaina Harbor was a major port for Hawaii’s whaling era (1820 to 1860). Plaques around the city tell the stories of the past. Lahaina was also the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1802 until 1845 when it moved to Honolulu.
Today, Lahaina is known for its amazing waterfront restaurants, fun nightlife, high-end art galleries, and boutique retail stores. The old-world feel of Lahaina makes the downtown even more special.
The Old Lahaina Luau is the best Luau on Maui. Set against an incredible ocean view, the luau features Hawaiian Hula, authentic Hawaiian cuisine, and live Hawaiian music. Choose between Table & Chair seating or Traditional Seating (cushions on the ground and a low table) in the first row around the stage.
Pricing varies, but the price for the Old Lahaina Luau is roughly $230 per adult (age 13 and older) and $140 per child (age 3-12).
While walking Front Street, spend some time under the Banyan Tree in the town center. Bring out your inner child and swing like Tarzan from the hanging vines (use caution as they can break). Or, grab takeout from one of the many eateries along Front Street and have a picnic under the shaded canopy.
Honolua Bay offers different extremes depending on the conditions. A calm day, like the one shown above, is what you can expect during the summer months. Conditions are perfect for snorkeling and the water is as calm as a lake.
When winter comes and the massive North Swells pour in, Honolua Bay becomes one of the gnarliest surfing spots on the Island of Maui. Breaking outside the point and steamrolling through the bay, the right at Honolua is as good as it gets. The speed and power of the wave will challenge expert-level surfers. If you are not extremely experienced and comfortable in gnarly ocean conditions, do not attempt to surf this wave.
During the Summer months and on days without high surf, Kapalua bay is a great place to snorkel and swim. The sandy beach gently meets the water making for easy access in and out of the water.
There are snorkel rentals and local restaurants close by, making Kapalua Bay a great place to spend the entire day.
Somewhat difficult to get to, the Nakalele Blowhole is located north of Kapalua off the Kahekili Hwy by the Nakalele Point Lighthouse. There are usually a couple of food trucks parked on the side of the road – these make great markers to let you know you’ve arrived. In the same area are other great hikes as well.
The water is very rough near the Nakalele blowhole, and swimming is hazardous, even on a calm day. Keep a safe distance from wet rocks, as rouge waves are common and can pull you into the ocean. If you are going to swim, opt for one of the other beaches mentioned above and check with the life guards about conditions before entering the water.
Located in Napili, the Ironwood Ranch offers Eco-Historical Horseback Tours that wind through history-rich Hawaiian valleys. Ride along streams and through the awesome countryside as you learn about Napili’s ancient history.
Comments or Recommendations?
Please feel free to email us at admin [at] theklubb [dot] com if we missed one of your favorites! Our local team is always looking for a reason to checkout the best beaches in Hawaii.