David is an avid traveler who enjoys seeking out relaxation and new experiences and sharing his insights with other eager adventurers.
A trip to Maui offers any number of experiences for those looking to relax, searching for adventure, and everything in between. The range of ecosystems, resorts, and local culture enables those visiting the island to truly pick their own adventure.
There are experiences, however, that stand out from the rest and move beyond the usual recommendations. Here are six of these must-do experiences while visiting Maui.
1. See the Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala
This is as touristy as it gets on Maui, but waking up at 3:00 am and getting on a bus or a rental car to get to the top of Mt. Haleakala for its breathtaking sunrise views is near mandatory while visiting Maui. I must admit that pulling yourself out of bed and making your way to the top of the mountain more than 10,000 feet above sea level before the sun rises is not an easy task, but it is absolutely worth it.
While you are ascending the mountain, you are taken through a change in landscape like few other places. There are plants that literally only grow on Haleakala because of its unique location and elevation.
If you’re lucky, the sky will be clear and the contrast with the bright sun running across the sparse and Mars-like terrain of the mountain top will leave you breathless and in awe of the majesty and wonder of Mt. Haleakala.
Tips for Visiting Mt. Haleakala
- Bring at least a jacket with you, as the cold air will hit you the second you leave your vehicle and be quite the surprise from the normal tropical climate of Maui.
- Hustle to the front of the viewing area because you will not want to miss the sight and feeling of the warm sun rising above the mountain’s edge.
2. Take in the Sunset Over Napili Bay
End your day, on the west coast of Maui and walk the sands of Napili Bay. This gorgeous stretch of beach faces the green landscape of the nearby island of Molokai, with Lanai just to the south and a wide-open ocean in between. The beach is a wonderful spot to watch a few surfers ride some of the rolling waves and take in the perfect Maui sunset.
There are many spots along Maui’s west coast to enjoy a sunset—such as Lahaina and Kaanapali—but Napili Bay offers a relatively secluded public beach on what is a highly sought after coastline. You won’t be alone by any stretch of imagination but you’ll have space to sit in the sand and watch the sun make its slow, graceful descent behind the ocean, concluding another gorgeous day on Maui.
3. Sail to Lanai and Swim at Hulopoe Beach
Lanai is an island just off Maui. It is sparsely populated with only one major—and notably exclusive—Four Seasons Resort hotel and a few thousand residents. It is also home to one of the best beaches in the world: Hulopoe. Hulopoe Beach is a crescent-shaped beach that is full of sea life and calm waters for swimming and snorkeling. Not to mention, the secluded feeling of being on a remote beach with a few of your fellow travelers taking it all in.
To reach Hulopoe Beach, you sail out of Maui from Lahaina through one of the experienced tour operators and experience all that the beach and surrounding area has to offer. I highly recommend making a day of it. Tour operators offer several types of trips including the scenic boat trip to Lanai, breakfast, lunch, and even a guided car excursion throughout the island if you want the whole Lanai experience, in addition to popping over to Hulopoe Beach.
There is a lot to see around the beach as well, including Puu Pehe, also known as Sweetheart Rock. A short hike from the beach, Puu Pehe offers breathtaking views of the ocean as you traverse the red, rocky coastline. Lanai should not be missed, but especially all that Hulopoe Beach has to offer.
4. Drive the Road to Hana
This drive is not for the faint of heart, but it is an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Most people are focused on getting to Hana and the Seven Sacred Pools—which are lovely—but as the saying goes “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” And, driving the Road to Hana is that journey to experience and savor.
Stopping off at one of the 59 bridges to get out of the car and watch one of the many waterfalls nearby will immediately take you into another world. The Waikamoi Nature Trailhead, Ching’s Pond, Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside, the black-sand Honokalani Beach, and Hanawi Falls are just a few of the gorgeous and free places to explore along the Hana Highway. There’s also some local cuisine to sample like Hana Farms a few miles before you actually reach the town of Hana that should not be missed.
There is so much to explore on the Road to Hana that you could spend the whole day pulling over on the side of the road to get out and breathe in the fragrant tropical air, filled with the mist of a nearby waterfall, and immediately be at peace with the world.
5. Sit Along the Iao River
Waterfalls and streams can be found across Maui but there are few as tranquil and accessible as the Iao River found inside the Iao State Park. There are many streams and waterfalls along the Road to Hana, as pointed out previously, but Iao River is located inside the Iao State Park with groomed trails and well-kept fauna throughout.
Inside the state park, you will find the Iao River gently flowing just off the paths. You will see locals swimming near the gentle waterfalls or simply having a picnic near the river’s edge. Take a cue from them and rest along or in the river, surrounded by beautiful greenery and mountain peaks. Hiking Iao is a wonderful activity to do but running your hands through the Iao River and meditating to the sounds of nature take you to another place entirely.
6. Walk Under the Banyan Tree in Lahaina
Lahaina was once the royal capital of Maui where people would travel to from across Hawaii. They would travel to visit, pay homage, and trade. Its past as an enduring part of everyday life on Maui makes the town a popular spot for tourists and locals. Front Street is at the center of the activity of Lahaina, and surrounded by landmarks and local shops is the enormous Banyan Tree.
The Banyan Tree dates back to April 24, 1873, and has grown into an extremely tall and wide tree. It is so large that when you look at it from Google Maps it looks like a small forest in the middle of Lahaina. It is, in fact, a single tree. The tree branches flow in and out of the ground in an almost musical fashion as the tree flows through the Lahaina Banyan Court. You can walk under the tree and through its branches as you stare up trying to catch a glimpse of sunlight flickering through the large leaves above.
With reconstructed ruins from Lahaina Fort that was first built in 1832 at the edge of the Banyan Tree’s canopy, this small patch of Maui is an experience that must not be missed.
There are many other experiences that you can have on Maui—from helicopter rides to snorkeling and scuba diving off the Molokini Crater—but these are some of the most accessible and open to those looking to explore and relax at the same time. Maui is truly a vacation spot filled with countless opportunities. Explore the island and create your own must-do experiences!
© 2019 David Tubbs
Liz Westwood from UK on October 16, 2019:
This is a well-structured and well-illustrated article. It gives great suggestions of things to do on Maui.