Maui is the perfect example of the “aloha” spirit – a blend of love, peace, and a complete welcoming attitude. You’ll leave feeling like you’ve found your second home in Hawaii. I sure did!
While it’s easy to get around the island on your own, we do recommend hiring a local sightseeing guide in Maui to give you that special Hawaiian insider perspective. The Hawaiian people are proud of their home, and more than excited to share it with you. Hawaii is all about big adventure as well, so you can try some fun new activities like stand up paddleboarding or kayaking.
Here are six amazing things to do in Maui.
#1. Driving the Road to Hana
If I had to recommend only one thing to do in Maui, it’d be this: rent a Jeep (or a Mustang Convertible!), and ride the road to Hana. With the top off, naturally. For two hours you’ll drive more than 500 hairpin turns along the coast, narrowly scraping by other vehicles, and you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular views in Hawaii. I gotta admit, it’s definitely best to be the passenger rather than the driver in this scenario!
This road was originally used for the plantation workers to travel back and forth from the sugar cane fields, but is now a regular road of transport for the locals (and tourists, of course).
#2. Soak Up Lots and Lots of Beach Time
Of all the Hawaii islands I visited, Maui had my favourite beaches. Honestly, you can find an unbelievably beautiful beach just about anywhere in Hawaii, but there was something special about Maui for me. It’s not hard to find a secluded spot to hang out with some friends and watch the sunset with a beer in hand (technically alcohol isn’t allowed on beaches, but nobody seemed to mind), and I spent a great amount of time doing so.
Some of the more beautiful beaches in Maui include Maluaka Beach, with its wide white sprawling sand, and Big Beach. Just next to Big Beach is Little Beach, a nude beach where a fun drum circle takes place every Sunday evening. You don’t even have to get nude to participate – the merriment is worth witnessing anyway. Red Sand Beach and Black Sand Beach are also worth visiting, for their obvious unique colours.
My favourite place for snorkelling was at Ka’anapali Beach, near Black Rock, where it’s not uncommon to come across a giant sea turtle or two. It does get crowded here, but you’ll find plenty of peace snorkelling among the reef. And if you DO see a sea turtle, please respect them and keep back by at least ten feet. I saw plenty of people breaking this rule.
#3. Hike Around Haleakala Volcano
The most physically challenging hike I have ever completed was in Hawaii, at Maui’s stunning Haleakala Volcano, in Haleakala National Park. The park itself has over 30,000 acres of public land, and the volcano’s summit can be seen from any point on the island (and even from Big Island on a clear day). Once you’re on the top, you may as well be on Mars: the landscape is nothing but otherworldly red deserts and dormant cinder cones.
It’s also COLD at the top! At over 10,000 feet high, temperatures easily drop to the minuses. Dress accordingly. Watching the sunset here is fantastic, and so is the sunrise (but the drive up the volcano is a long one – you’d have to get up super early!).
There are countless hiking trails in the park as well. The route I took was a 12-mile trek down into the crater floor, past native silversword plants (not found anywhere else in the world!), along a lush green landscape in the clouds, and then upwards through a series of insane switchbacks that lasted for hours. It was hands down the most gruelling hike I have ever completed in my life, but the view once it was all over was worth it.
And, of course, there are other options if six hours of intense hiking isn’t your thing! The park website has a great list of options. If safety is your main concern, perhaps a Hawaii volcano tour is your best bet.
#4. Eat Everything
Traditional Hawaiian food might not be what you expect it to be. While I devoured fresh fruit on the daily (the pineapple there is unreal!), many of the other dishes I sampled were heavy and meat-oriented. I was honestly a little surprised. I had expected light fare the whole time!
If you want to sample everything, find a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch. This may feature different foods, but my favourite usually came with kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon (kind of like a salsa), poi (pureed taro root), a scoop of sticky rice, noodles, fish, and a side of mac salad. Eat all the mac salad you can – it’s delicious! Dessert tends to be haupia, a coconut jelly-like dish.
Other things to try include huli huli chicken – slow roasted chicken. This will also often come with a side of mac salad and sticky rice. Then there’s loco moco, a curiously strange meal of white rice covered in a hamburger patty (or two), eggs, and then smothered in gravy. It wasn’t my favourite meal, but it’s still worth trying.
Then there’s the love affair with Spam. Hawaiians love Spam! The most bizarre dish I tried was Spam Musubi – sushi with Spam. It tasted like bologna, and actually wasn’t all that bad. At least if you don’t think about what’s in it.
Wrap up a full meal with some shave ice. It’s NOT a snow cone, and don’t make the mistake of saying so! Depending on the vendor, you can get up to three flavours of shave ice, and you can even add ice cream to the bottom. Don’t forget to add sweetened condensed milk to the top, and azuki beans or mochi balls (sweetened rice balls, like little marshmallows).
#5. Check Out the Seven Sacred Pools
The Seven Sacred Pools – their formal name being the Ohe’o Gulch Pools – is a gorgeous string of natural pools and waterfalls in Haleakala National Park. The pools are fueled by water coming down from the East Maui Mountain valleys, and they flow directly into the Pacific Ocean.
A short hiking trail will take you to the pools, where you can hop in for a swim. It does get crowded, though, so come early if possible. If you want a longer hike, there’s a 2-mile (one way) route to the stunning, towering waterfall at the end of the equally stunning bamboo forest. It’s an easy hike, but make sure you’re wearing proper footwear. The stones get slippery!
You can easily pair this experience with your Road to Hana drive – it’s near the end of your journey. But make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do so! Although the Road to Hana doesn’t seem like a long drive, it will take ages thanks to the winding and “challenging” nature of the road. And you don’t want to be stuck on the trail when it gets dark. You can also camp here for quite cheap.
#6. Check Out the Surf Scene at Ho’okipa Beach
Hawaii is built for athletes… especially those in love with water sports. Ho’okipa Beach Park is one of the most famous beaches in all of the state because of its professional surfing and windsurfing opportunities, as well as stand up paddleboarding. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that exciting to you, but I assure you: it’s easy to get sucked into watching surfers do their thing for hours. I still cannot wrap my head around how they navigate those waves so effortlessly.
If you want to attempt surfing, however (or any other water sport), you’d be better off trying somewhere else. Let the professional athletes do their thing, and don’t get in the way. This also applies to swimming. While you’re allowed to swim, it’s a bit taboo to be out there in the waves, potentially disrupting an athlete’s wave.
This Beach Park is also outfitted nicely for visitors. You can simply hang out in the sand, people watching, striking up a barbecue, etc. You may even make a friend or two in the process.