I love Maui. You’re still in the US, but you have the feeling of being transported to another world – with all the conveniences of America still at hand. Just stepping off of the plane is already fantastic: the air is warm, the airport is open air, and finally, the sound of ukuleles doesn’t feel cliche. If you’re planning your trip to Maui, here is the list of things to do in Maui that you shouldn’t miss!
Visit Ho’okipa Beach Maui
Located in Paia, also conveniently on the Road to Hana, you’ll find Ho’okipa Beach. This beach is fantastic for two reasons:
- Its a great place to watch surfers/wind surfers. This would just be a lookout for me, as the waves here get pretty big and I’m pretty sure there’s a reef (I’m experienced enough to enjoy wearing reef shoes yet).
- TURTLES! HUGE TURTLES! Vist Ho’okipa Beach in the late afternoon prior to sunset and you’ll see massive honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) making their way out of the ocean and slowly crawling up on to the beach. At first glance they look like a pile of giant rocks, but come closer and you’ll see dozens of honu getting comfortable for their night’s sleep.
Spotting turtles at Ho’okipa Beach is also a great thing to do in Maui with kids! They’ll love playing the guessing game “rock or turtle?”
Go Whale Watching in Maui
If you’re visiting Maui in whale watching months (November – March), be sure to book a whale watching tour. We visited in December, and whale watching was incredible. Being so close to humpback whales, seeing them breach, slap their tails on the water, and just hearing them expelling water through their blowholes was amazing. For me, seeing whales is a very humbling experience. You’re just a little human compared to the biggest mammal on earth. Its incredible.
If you go, I recommend going with Pacific Whale Eco Adventures, located in Lahaina. Pacific Whale Eco Adventures is a non-profit dedicated to protecting the habitats of marine life, and as a bonus, they have a great guide. Even though its been more than a year since I took the tour, I still remember Beth, our guide who was so informative. Whale watching was one of the best activities we did in Maui.
Snorkeling in Maui at Molokini Crater
Another magical day of our trip in Maui… the marine life there is just awesome. On our snorkel trip to Molokini we saw dozens of colorful fish (unfortunately that was before we bought a GoPro), including eels – which I chose to keep my distance from! Molokini was beautiful but the best part of the tour was on the way back when the boat anchored off shore and we snorkeled with honu. Seeing Hawaiian green sea turtles up close in the ocean was mesmerizing – how peaceful they are in the water. It is truly a beautiful sight. Luckily we snapped some pics on an iPhone in a waterproof case. Also great about our trip was that lunch was included – and it was tasty. We also booked this one through Pacific Whale Foundation.
Snorkeling in Maui at Molokini Crater was absolutely one of the best things we did there.
Hike Maui’s Waihe’e Ridge Trail
This 5-mile roundtrip hike in West Maui leads you on a steep climb up the ridge with breathtaking views of the ocean. The trail leads up to the top of the ridge, where (if there are no clouds) you can take in the panoramic views from the picnic table at the top.
This is a gorgeous way to spend half a day. Its a moderate hike, but can be slippery, so bring a good pair of shoes – and some water! Its hot out there. We hiked this trail in Maui with my boyfriend’s parents who are in their 60’s, so it is definitely do-able for people who are a bit older 😉
Drive Road to Hana – all the way around
There are two types of people in this world: The people who turn around on the road to Hana once they reach Hana, and the ones who keep going. Before you reach Hana there are tons of incredible stops to make – this blog does a great job noting some of the best stops you can make along the way.
After Hana you’ll see fewer and fewer cars… until the road basically becomes a gravel road against the side of the mountain. Its mostly safe (I think), is a little bit nerve racking, and is completely gorgeous, and worth doing!
After you’ve driven along the cliffside road, you’ll get out into a no-man’s land where you might not see another passing car for several miles at a time. By this time, the landscape has changed from jungle, to rocky cliff, to driving through farm like land between you and Haleakala. Its a beautiful, and less frequently visited part of Maui. From there you will continue driving west, then north toward Kula.
Tips for driving the Road to Hana:
- Start early! Like 6am early… the road is very windy and narrow, so there can be a lot of traffic
- Make sure you have enough time to make it ALL THE WAY around, ideally in day light. Between Hana and Kula it probably took us 4 hours…
- Drive the right car – we did it in a mini-van… not ideal… that’s probably why it took us so long
- Make sure you have enough gas! There are so few people on the road. If you run out, you’ll surely be screwed…
- Bring snacks and water… just in case 🙂
Where to stay in Maui
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency at Ka’anapali Beach. I love this hotel for many reasons: 1) I stayed there as a child and have such fond memories of laying in the hammocks reading all day (aww), 2) There is a waterslide that beckons even the biggest kids (i.e. me) to take a plunge on the days we chilled at the pool, 3) you can easily walk up and down to restaurants on Ka’anapali beach, and 4) its just a short drive from Lahaina if you’re looking to shop, dine, etc.
I would argue this is one of the best resorts in Maui for kids. I went here when I was a kid, and I still remembered the epic waterslide when we planned our visit again when I was 26! The Hyatt Regency in Maui has permanently engrained itself in my mind as one of the highlights of my childhood and adult life… just wish I could go back every year!
What did I miss on my list of what to do in Maui?
Next time I’d like to…
- Visit Haleakala at sunrise
- Take more time on the Road to Hana – maybe spend the night halfway!
- SURF! We were on a family trip so didn’t have the opportunity to surf… this will be a non-negotiable on my next trip!
Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.