Maui is a little paradise in Hawaii, that’s frequently rated as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Not as touristy as Oahu but not quite as rustic as Kaua’i, Maui offers a combination of towns, such as Lahaina or Kahului and untouched landscapes near Hana that make you feel like you stepped into a different world.
Make no mistake: For a remote island in the Pacific, there are tons of things to do in Maui. From surfing to snorkeling and hiking, Maui is a true adventure paradise!
Arriving in Maui
Maui has three airports: Kahului, Kapalua and Hana.
Kahului and Kapalua are the two airports that handle commercial traffic on Maui. But before you plan your Maui adventure, book your car! While it is not a big island, there’s no way to visit some of the best places on Maui without a car.
Where to stay in Maui
Maui hotels around south and west shore (the resort areas of the island) start around $200 and up, but if you a budget traveler, you can stay in a hostel.
I stayed at Banana Bungalow in Wailuku west of Kahului and paid $140 for a private room with a shared bathroom and kitchen in January. This hostel also has shared rooms at lower rates. It’s a reasonable accommodation if you are gone all day and just need a place to crash and take a shower.
And the good part is that they also offer organized bus tours to many landmarks in Maui such as Hana Highway perfect for budget travelers!
You can make your booking at Hostelworld.com
Lahaina is one of the best places to stay in Maui if you are looking for the area with amenities and not far from the Kahului Airport (45 min ride). Located in West Maui, this touristy village has accommodations, restaurants, and stores. It’s a happening place, so if you are looking to be in the middle of action, check these incredible Kapalua Villas.
Located in South Maui, Kihei is less popular than West Maui, but it offers a less crowded space and more accessible beaches than those on the west side of the island. There are plenty of hotels in Kihei and places to eat, and the airport is only 25-30 minutes away!
For example, Kihei Kai Oceanfront Condos is a perfect place along Sugar Beach on the north side of Kihei.
Meanwhile, Wailea, a picturesque area just south of Kihei has some of the best selection of luxury hotels such as Wailea Inn, if you want to go on a splurge.
Hana is a community on the East Side, the most remote part of Maui. For many travelers, Hana is the final point of their road trip along the scenic Hana Highway.
While not many people stay in Hana, I think it is a huge mistake, because this is one of the most beautiful and least developed parts of the island. While there is a limited availability when it comes to hotels in Hana, it’s a perfect place to crash for the night after taking in incredible views along Hana Highway.
Check out Heavenly Hana Paradise, a quiet stay less than 20 minutes away from Seven Sacred Pools.
Don’t forget about reef-safe sunscreen!
Before you start packing your bags to Maui, grab a reef-safe sunscreen that’s not going to damage the delicate marine ecosystems and will keep you safe from sunburn. My go to choices are SunBum, a vegan and reef-safe sunscreen with a wide spectrum and Raw Elements, that works perfect for your face and body.
Things to do in Maui
There are so many amazing things to do in Maui that your entire trip probably is not going to be enough unless you stick around for a few weeks. I recommend staying in Maui 5-7 days which is just enough time to hit the top spots on this island.
1. Waihe’e Ridge Trail
Waihe’e Ridge is one of the best hikes on Maui and is a great way to get some exercise after hitting up Maui beaches.
While the elevation gain is moderate (about 1,500 feet), the views of the West Maui mountains and the ocean in the distance are breathtaking. The trail can be muddy and slippery, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes with a good grip, have plenty of water in your backpack and put on some sunscreen. The hike is 2,5 miles and takes 3 hours on average.
2. Nakalele Blowhole
After taking a hike to Waihe’e Ridge Trail, continue north toward Kapalua. This coastal road is extremely winding and has sharp turns, but the jaw-dropping scenery is well worth it! About 8 miles north of Kapalua at mile marker 38.5 is Nakalele Blowhole, a natural phenomenon created by the waves shooting through a hole in the lava shelf.
Don’t forget to keep the distance. Although there are plenty of warning signs around, some people still try to get close to the blowhole.
After you soak up some fresh ocean breeze, continue driving along the west side of Maui, before you arrive at Kaanapali Beach, one of the most popular Maui beaches with crystal clear water and no waves.
3. West Maui Loop
The stretch of the road between Pali to Lahaina and Ka’anapali is actually called West Maui Loop, an often-ignored part of the island as most tourists head to the famous Highway to Hana. It’s a breathtaking and rustic drive with plenty of sharp turns and untouched beauty.
4. Iao Valley State Park
Famous for its beautiful green needle, the 10-mile long Iao Valley State Park is one of the most incredible places to visit in Maui. This lush valley is actually one of Maui’s sacred spots where you can learn about the culture and history of the island. Iao Valley State Park is located on the west side of the island just 5 miles west of Wailuku.
If you want to get better views of the needle, check out one of the park’s numerous hiking trails such as Iao Needle Lookout Trail.
5. Maui Beaches
Most people come to Hawaii to enjoy its amazing beaches, and Maui is no exception. You can spend a long time touring all of Maui’s beaches, so I wanted to give you my round-up that will help you plan your trip around the island and choose an accommodation near the best beaches in Maui!
- Oneuli Beach – Secluded beach in South Maui that is frequented by locals. Also called “secret beach,” it’s often visited by naturalists and scuba divers.
- Hamoa Beach – A gorgeous crescent-shaped beach in East Maui that is a must-stop on Road to Hana. It is located just 1/2 miles past mile marker 51 along Highway 31.
- Ka’anapali Beach – Kaanapali is a beach on the northwest side of Maui. It is a popular destination for snorkeling and surfing. And if you are lucky, you can also spot a whale splashing not far from the coast.
- Makena Beach State Park – One of the most popular beaches in Maui. It is divided into Little Beach and Big Beach which is more than 100 feet wide and over 1.5 miles long.
- Napili Bay – Located in Lahaina, Napili Bay is another super popular beach on Maui. You can often spot Hawaiian Sea Turtles in its turquoise waters and even snorkel with them.
- Maluaka Beach – A rival of Napili Bay when it comes to snorkeling with the turtles, Maluaka Beach is located in Kihei and has some of the calmest waters on Maui that are secluded from the trade winds.
- Honolua Bay – Just 20 minutes away from Lahaina, Honolulu Bay is one of the best places in Maui for snorkeling.
- Baldwin Beach Park – One of my favorite beaches on Maui, Baldwin Beach Park is a long, sandy beach near Paia in North Maui with facilities and lifeguards. It’s also not uncommon to spot the green turtles here! The huge plus of this beach is that it’s less than 10 minutes from the airport.
An absolute must for anybody who comes to Maui, Haleakala (called the House of the Sun) is the largest dormant volcano in the world and the highest point on the island.
Take a drive to the altitude of more than 10,000 feet above sea level to see the incredible sunrise from the summit of Mount Haleakala.
While watching the sunset is by far one of the most popular activities on Haleakala, there are actually plenty of hiking trails at Haleakala National Park, where you can explore the quirky cinder cones and frozen lava. I recommend setting aside at least half a day to explore Haleakala’s trailheads.
Don’t forget to stock up on food and water and bring a map – most of these trails are in the backcountry wilderness that has no cell phone service.
Snorkeling at Molokini, a crescent-shaped atoll that is believed to have been left from the volcanic eruption more than 200,000 years ago is one of the best things to do in Maui. Since then, Molokini Crater located off the southern shore of the island has been home to many marine animals and birds.
To get to Molokini, visitors are required to purchase a boat tour. Get Your Guide is one of the platforms where you can purchase one of the best-selling Molokini tours!
While you can also scuba dive and snuba dive (yes, it’s the real thing), Molokini Crater is considered one of the best spots for snorkeling in Maui thanks to its crystal clear waters along with places such as Honolua Bay, Napili Bay and Hanakao’o “Canoe” Beach.
8. Whale watching
Winter is one of the best times to see whales in Maui. Right off the shores of Lahaina, sits the Maui Nui Basin that attracts a large number of whales during the breeding season. The area is protected as a sanctuary and is best accessible via an organized boat tour from the Lahaina Harbor.
What makes Lahaina such a great place for whale watching? For once, it’s on the west side of the island that is sheltered from inclement weather such as rain and by the West Maui mountains, making it a perfect place for observing whales in Maui!
9. Seven Sacred Pools
Located toward the end of Road to Hana, near Mile Marker 42, Ohe’o Gulch Kipahulu or Seven Sacred Pools is a gorgeous area with waterfalls and natural pools that empty into the Pacific Ocean. If you want to take a dip in the pools, spare some time for it after taking a hike on Pipiwai Trail through the bamboo forest toward Waimoku Falls.
These pools are extremely popular, so arrive early. I recommend booking a hotel in Hana for the night and leaving early in the morning to enjoy the pools, hike the Pipiwai Trail and continue along Highway to Hana, unless you plan to turn around.
PRO TIP: The pools are also part of the Haleakala National Park, so save your receipt after paying wherever you go first! Admission is $15 for three days.
10. Wai’anapanapa State Park
A major highlight of the Road to Hana, this place near Mile Marker 32 has become one of the most famous beaches in the world thanks to the coarse, black volcanic sand that stands in contrast with the clear blue water of the Pacific Ocean and the bright greenery.
Most people stop here quickly to snap a few photos, but if you have extra time, you should explore the park’s primary trail that goes along the coast past the beach.
Road to Hana
A major highlight of Maui, Road to Hana is a coastal highway that stretches from Kahului to Hana through the verdant rainforest. It’s a day drive if you make stops to marvel at the unbelievable beauty of the scenic places along the way. Be careful, because the road has no lack of hairpin turns and some spots with sheer drop-offs of more than 100 feet.
Plan to spend you entire day along Highway to Hana with an early start to beat the crowds. But don’t try to rush through this scenic 52-mile road and instead take your time exploring this gorgeous part of East Maui.
First Part of Road to Hana
- Hookipa Beach – Just before the Road to Hana begins, there’s a spot you shouldn’t miss. One of the best places to spot turtles on Maui, Hookipa beach is always lively with locals and tourists flocking here.
- Mile Marker 2 -Twin Falls – The very first stop on Hana Highway, Twin Falls is understandably a very popular spot. It is located at Mile Marker 2 and has two hiking trails. Lower Twin Falls is the first of the “twins” and is pretty easily accessible, while the Upper Twin Falls requires a 1.5-mile moderate hike.
- Mile Marker 9.5 – Waikomi Ridge Trail – An often overlooked stop, Waikomi Ridge Trail is tucked in between the more famous Twin Falls and the Garden of Eden Arboretum.
- Mile Marker 10 – Garden of Eden Arboretum – Another beautiful location along Hana Highway with beautiful vegetation, walking trails, waterfall overviews and peacocks walking around. Garden of Eden Arboretum requires a paid admission of $15.
- Between Mile Markers 12 and 13 – Kaumahina Way Stateside Park – A perfect picnic spot with beautiful views and exotic plants.
- Mile Marker 14 – Honomanu Bay – A scenic spot along Hana Highway that requires 4X4, Honomanu Bay is frequented by locals more than tourists as the road that goes down to the bay from the main highway is extremely rugged. If you do decide to go to the beach at Hanauma Bay, keep in mind that while it’s gorgeous, it’s not suitable for swimming because it’s very rocky.
Second Part of Road to Hana
- Most tourists slow down between markers 13 and 14 or pull over at the side of the road to take pictures of the bay.
- Mile Marker 17.5 – Halfway to Hana – A midpoint along Hana Highway where you can get snacks and dig into Hawaii’s signature shaved ice. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s one of the classic things that you should try at least once!
- Mile Marker 19 – Upper Waikani Falls – A gorgeous trio of waterfalls with a swimming hole. The stop also has plenty of parking and restrooms.
- Mile Marker 22.5 – Paua’a Kaa State Wayside Park – Take a quick hike a waterfall with a freshwater pool to stretch your legs.
- Mile Marker 24 – Hanawi Falls – The falls cascading right next to the bridge are also worth stopping. Just make sure to find a good parking spot in a tight space.
- Mile Marker 29 – Nahiku Market Place – The biggest spot for food and souvenirs along Hana Highway.
- Mile Marker 31 – Hana Lava Tube – When you reach Mile Marker 31, turn left on Ula’ino Road and drive for about half a mile. On the left, you will see the entrance to the lava tube. You will have to pay for admission and get a flashlight before you enter the tube.
- Mile Marker 34 – Hana Town – Hana is a small town on a pacific island, but it has a rich history and traditions. I definitely recommend staying in the area for a night and spending more time in this cozy place. This is especially a good place to spend the night if you plan to continue driving past Hana and exploring the less-traveled side of the island.
PRO TIP: If you plan to drive Hana Highway up to Hana and turn around go with a regular compact car. This is a touristy route, and it can get a bit congested. However, if you plan to drive past Hana, you should go with a four-wheel drive.
The End of Road to Hana
- Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach – Tucked away from the main thoroughfare, this hidden cove requires some navigation skills and good physical shape. The trail toward the Red Sand Beach starts at the end of Uakea Road along the grassy field and further snakes along the cliffy area before you arrive at amazing red sand beach.
- Mile Marker 50 – Hamoa Beach – A crescent-shaped beach is one of the most popular swimming spots in East Hawaii. Make sure you drop by Hamoa Beach even for a short time, as it’s really worth it.
- Mile Marker 42 – ’O’heo Gulch Kipahulu – Located toward the end of Road to Hana, O’heo Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools is one of the most popular among tourists in the area. If you want to take a dip in the pools, I recommend sparing some area time for it. Combine it with a hike to Pipiwai Trail to take a refreshing swim!
- Mile Marker 42 – Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls – Pipiwai Trail passes an amazing banyan tree and goes through a bamboo forest. The hike is only 3.5 miles but takes a while because the scenery is just so amazing! Waimoku Falls is a culmination of the hike, and I promise, you will not be disappointed!
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