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Top 10 Things to do in Maui

Updated on April 7, 2016

Our love of Hawaii

We made our first visit to Hawaii about a year after we were married. We stayed on Oahu for a week and had a great time. The next year we went to Maui and have been back each of the last 3 years. We've found so much to do there that we haven't even wanted to go to the other islands for vacation. Before we went to Maui for the 1st time, I'd tried Google'ing the top 3, 5 and 10 things to do in Maui and found a varied list, and found that multiple things from each list were not on the other lists. I talked to a few people as well and got a pretty good idea of the things that we wanted to do. After going for each of the last 3 year, I feel that now feel pretty confident with listings out the the Top things to do on Maui. Each trip we tried to do 1 or 2 "main" things and then a bunch of small, inexpensive activities.

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1. Bike ride down Haleakala

His Experience:

I was not sold on this when a buddy was explaining it to me, as well as looking at pictures online of people doing this. This is one activity that has to be experienced to be believed. The pictures and experiences found online do no do it justice. This is by far one of my favorite activities we did while we were in Maui but it is something I'd hold off doing again for at least a couple visits. Make sure to plan this out in advance. We'd used these guys The tour guide was super nice, friendly, funny and knowledgeable of the island. We'd opted in for the early morning sunrise tour. They picked us up around 3:30am in the morning and we began to drive up the mountain. Once we got up to the top of the mountain (10,000+ feet) we were hit with a pretty intense cold wind. When they say dress in layers, they mean dress in layers. Bundle up! It is cold! I'd recommend having at least a long sleeve shirt and a jacket along with a stocking cap. Because of how high up it is, its cold and the wind blows pretty strongly and goes right through you. The views were AMAZING. Seeing the sun rise from that elevation was an amazing site.

The bike ride itself was just as fantastic. The 23 mile (all downhill) ride was filled with beautiful sites and amazing smells. This is a really refreshing activity. While the group rides downhill in a line, they have someone else following you with the van. If you are worried for any reason you couldn't keep up or handle it, you have the option of jumping back into the van. And you'll still have a nice view riding in the van :) They stop every so often for water & food breaks at some local shops. Got to see my first Chameleon in a tree at one of the stores. As you go down the mountain you take off layers because it starts warming up the closer you get to shore. The tour we'd went on ended at the ocean around 12 or 1pm so it was a very fun, fulfilled day. Was not too much of a physically exhausting experience as you would think. There were only a few parts of the entire 23 that you actually have to pedal much. Highly, highly recommended.

Her Experience:

Ladies! This bike right didn't seem like the funnest thing to me when my husband was telling me about it. 27 mile bike ride! What?!?! But it was really fun and exciting! It is all downhill so you don't need to worry about going to a spin class before hand or anything like that. It's super easy. The tour guides would stop at different locations so you can take pretty pictures and eat a snack or go potty. There's really nothing to worry about with doing this. If you can ride a bike down hill, you can do this. They let you leave your stuff in the van so you don't have to worry about whether you're bringing too much or too little, which let's face it that is a girls worst fear. The sites down the mountain are amazing. You get the opportunity to see the ocean and island from far above and you get to go through some really cute, attractive towns on your way down as well. I would highly recommend doing this. It's really exhilarating and at the end you get to say... Whoot whoot I just rode a bike 27 miles!... No one has to know it was all downhill, we'll keep that between us. ;)

View of the sun just behind the clouds from Haleakala

2. Whale watching (November-April)

Few wildlife moments will grab your attention like a humpback whale breaching out in the ocean. Seeing them up close or from a distance is breathtaking. We've only been to Maui during the winter season . We are from Utah so we escape the cold for a week or two every year. Thankfully, whale season is during the winter months, December through March, sometimes beginning of April. We've stayed on Kaanapali beach and every day throughout the day, you can see whale's slapping their tales, breaching and tons of exhalations. We would wake up early every day and go to the beach and it seemed the whales were often a lot closer to the shore earlier in the day. Seeing the whales will quickly make your list of best things to do on Maui and you will not want to go back any other season other than winter.

Mothers have their calf's in the warm Hawaii'n waters and teach them how to breach which is a pretty funny site. You'll see a giant whale breach out of the water and then the baby try to duplicate it. The mom will help push the little one out of the water and teach by example. There are quite a few whale watching tours, dinner cruises and similar events taking you out in throughout the day to get a little bit closer to them. When you are out in the ocean and can see the whales up close (not too close though, because they are endangered you can't come within 500 feet or meters, can't remember which one it is) These come HIGHLY recommended. We went to an hour long time share presentation each time at our resort and got free tickets aboard the Teralani They offer appetizers and an open bar with your wale watching tour. The boat is pretty big and lots of room to walk around. This is an activity we would go on every single year. It's a lot of fun to get a closer look at those beautiful creatures.

Whale breaching on the west site of Maui

3. Boat ride to Molokini

Molokini is something to admire both from afar and up close. What it is, is a partially submerged volcano crater. And I'd read somewhere that there are only a couple similar partially submerged volcano craters and Molokini is one of these. A beautiful reef has developed and as a resolute it makes for an amazing scuba and snorkeling location. Every time we've flow into Maui, I love flying over Molokini. Such a unique shape and from an aerial view, the colors of the water around it look amazing.

We aren't scuba certified but we did try the Snuba. Friends that I have that are scuba certified say they've seen some smaller sharks out where they've went here. Snuba is something between snorkeling and scuba diving. You use an air hose to breath under water but you don't go down under water very far, only about 10-15 feet. Because of Molokini's cresent shape you're able to snorkel in the middle and the current isn't quite as strong. This was a pretty cool experience. The water was very clear and you could see really, really far down.The tour provided breakfast as well as lunch which was great. The crew was very entertaining and because it is a bit of a boat ride out there (maybe an hour to hour and half if I remember right) you can lay out on the deck and soak up the sun as you listen to music. If you go during whale season they stop and point out whales as they get close to them so it doubled as whale watching tour :) We stopped by Turtle town on the way back to shore and were able to see some pretty big turtles there as well as some pretty cool fish. I've hear that sometimes in Turtle Town you can sometimes see a handful of turtles together which would be pretty cool.

Aerial view of Molokini

4. Take a guided tour on the Road to Hana

His Experience:

If you don't mind some windy roads and like the rain forest, you will love this trip. One bit of advice if you get carsick is to look at some of the stores and buy some of the ginger candies they offer. This helps a lot with car sickness and dizziness doesn't work for everyone I'm told but worked for me and my wife. This trip as well as the bike ride down Haleakala when they are driving you up have a ton of switch backs and even if you don't get car sick often, it is a good precaution. This is another one to plan out in advance. This is an ALL day ordeal but it's definitely a day well spent with all the activities and things to see and you won't forget your experience anytime soon. They picked us up right around 5:30 in the morning and dropped us back off at our resort around 6:30 in the evening. You do not want to drive this yourself! There are a bunch of 1 lane bridges and very steep, sharp pin-point turns. Our tour bus driver stopped at all the waterfalls and interesting sites like the black sand beaches, state parks and little ships along the way. I learned more about Hawaiian culture on this one tour than all my other visits combined. At the Halfway to Hana stop make sure to try their banana bread and their mango ice cream. SOOOOOO good! This is a great way to see a majority of the entire outer island. Some of the tours only go to Hana and then turn around. We enjoyed seeing both the rain forest side and the desert side. You get a good view of the lava fields on the second part of the tour. Here are the guys we'd went with but there are a handful of other companies that do very similar tours.

Her Experience:

This tour was a lot of fun and I'm glad we did it. I was happy we did it with a tour guide and not our selves because the drive would have been really scary on our own. A lot of the car rental places will have you sign an agreement that you won't go past a certain point when you go to Hana because the roads are really scary and to keep their cars from getting damaged they don't want you going on those roads. They driver had a lot of knowledge about the island and kept things light and funny. He stopped enough time to use restrooms and to eat. He also stopped at some great locations. I felt that he didn't stop too much or too little to make the journey enjoyable. We were able to see just the right amount of fun locations without seeming like we were stopping all the time. They stop at some fun shops and locations that we would never have found otherwise. There was a quaint little ranch that they stopped at that had some really cute rings make out of coconuts. And if you enjoy wine they also stop at a winery at which they do a free tasting.

Half way there.....

5. Snorkel Black Reef and Ka'anapali Beach

It drove my wife crazy, but I wanted to go snorkeling out in front of the Westin Kaanapali Beach Resort Villas every day and often multiple times throughout the day. The reef that is out there is filled with a HUGE variety of sea life. Right when you enter the water you start to see sealife. We saw eels, octopus, quite a few turtles and tons of fish. Each time was like a new adventure. The nice thing about going out in the same area each time is that you start to get used to what to look for. Their was a little hole in the reef about 12-15 feet under the water that I saw different sea turtles at 3-4 different times. Each time was an equally amazing experience. The water and tide here is very mild. You don't have to be a great swimmer to enjoy this and don't have to go very far out into the water to start enjoying it. I would recommend either buying a Gopro camera or something similar to be able to remember each adventure. The first year we went to Maui we rented a Sony Camera from Boss Frogs for about $50 a week. That took great pictures and videos and then they burn it onto a CD for you which was great.

I include the Black reef in front of the Sheraton mostly because I know how many people enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving there. To be completely honest, I was not too impressed. I felt like it took a little bit of a swim to even get out to where I could see anything worth seeing. If you are not a great swimmer this may be tough for you. The tide was a little rough right around the reef and I was worried I was gonna keep running into it and had to keep swimming away from it. Maybe it was just the day that I'd went, but there was neither much of a variety or quantity. On Ka'anapali beach, seconds after you get into the water you start seeing fish in both variety and quantity. I've seen multiple schools of fish with anywhere from 30-50 fish in varying sizes and colors.

Turtle in front of Kaanapali resort villas

Picture of rainbow taken while I was snorkeling Kaanapali beach

Shot this video with my Go pro. This was the 3rd or 4 turtle I'd seen this trip.

If you've made it this far down the page, here are some things I would highly recommend getting for your trip. All of which my wife and I have actually used.

6. Golf

Golf. Enough said. If you are a golfer, Maui has some amazing courses at discounted prices. The views from most courses can sometimes makes it difficult to concentrate on the game because of how beautiful it is. With most of the courses it can be a bit cheaper to rent the clubs rather than flying yours in with you unless you plan on playing at least two or three plus times. Depending on the time of year you go and if there are any cruise ships docked in the bay, make sure you schedule your t time well in advance to be able go to the course on the day and time of your choosing.

Make sure to schedule time to try a variety of the different courses Maui has to offer. The three most popular I've found are: (1) The Challenge at Manele (2) The Experience at Keole (3) The Emerald Course at Wailea. Each course offers something different but are all very special in their own way. Some of the other popular ones to try on the island are Wailea Gold, the Dunes, Kaanapali North, Kaanapali south and many more.

One of the many spectacular views from a golf course.

Huge wave in the background

7. Attend the old Lahaina Luau and go hungry

You will want to book this Luau well in advance. The sooner you book, the better chance you have of getting a better seat. When you book, it will ask if you want to sit at a normal table or seated on a pad on the ground. Because of how long the show is, I would highly recommend sitting at a table. From what I could tell in walking around, there wasn't really a bad seat in the house.

One thing that I thought that was really, really cool that they did, is they are very catering to people with special needs as far as foods go. We were eating with a lady that had a daughter that could only eat gluten free foods. They brought her an entire plate filled with delicious looking gluten free foods as well as a special desert. They also brought her a list of the foods that were gluten fee in the buffet.

They have an amazing buffet as you can see from the picture below. My favorite thing was the yellow fin tuna and kalua pork.

The show itself was great. The only thing it was missing was fire dancers. But was filled with great singing, dancing and very interesting information. The show is a very traditional Hawaiian Luau and the clothing, song, and dance shows off their heritage. If this is your first time going to Maui, I'd highly recommend this show. Here is the link to book it straight through their site, again, you want to do it well in advance :)

My plate at the Old Lahaina Luau.

Video of part of the Old Lahaina Luau

8. Eat amazing food

One of my favorite things to do when I vacation is trying new foods. Maui is filled with quite a few amazing restaurants. I've written a previous hub about my favorite 3 cheap places to eat in Maui 1) Aloha mixed plate. Make sure to try their Kalua pork and short ribs. We've tried about 8-10 different menu items there and we really enjoyed everything we got there. They have very authentic Hawaiian food, super cheap prices and its right on the beach so it's a very fun environment to sit back, relax and enjoy great food. 2) Leilani's on the beach. We did not discover this little gem until our last trip and we couldn't get enough of it once we did. Their Ono fish tacos are fantastic. A friend of mine had suggested them but you have to specifically order them with Chili water. They are not the same without it. We also tried their loaded nachos, (these were enough to fill us up by themselves and we'd had them topped with Kalua pork) 3) The Fish Market in Ka'anapali. This is where you get the below pictured sandwich. They have sashimi as well as a variety of other types of fresh fish. Go earlier in the day if you want to get their freshest catches. If you like to get dressed up and go to a very nice restaurant, Roy's is an excellent choice. Plan on spending about $100 for 2 people but the food and service there is amazing.

One things we realized shortly into our first visit was that you never want to go into a restaurant in a hurry. Maui is on Island time and no one is ever in a hurry. Tasks that that would take you twenty minutes normally take forty minutes there which is actually quite nice. Take a step back from the hustle and bustle and enjoy yourself. But, just be away if you go out to eat right before you are expected somewhere else, plan on it taking a while.

Literally, one of my favorite things I've EVER ate in my life! (Seared Ahi tuna sandwich)

9. Enjoy the great beaches

Ka'anapali, Kapalua, Wailea, Hamoa and I could go on and on and on with how beautiful and great each of them are. These 4 are some of my favorite beaches to lay out, snorkel and paddle board and more. Ka'anapali I would have to say is my favorite. The reef as mentioned above is great. The sand is nice and clean. Tons of room for laying out and going for walks along it in the morning we've seen crab, whales (during winter months) and a had a few of the monk seals come up on shore. Most of the resorts on the beach offer rental equipment like sea kayaks, paddle boards, beach chairs etc. Most resorts sell out pretty early on in the day on the Sea Kayaks and Paddle Boards. Our first trip we tried multiple times to rent them around nine or ten in the morning and found they were already booked out for the day. If its something you want to do it would be a good idea to get there right around opening time to ensure get one. Bring lots of sunscreen as most days in Maui are pretty sunny and not overcast as often as you'd think. Make sure to limit the time out in the sun to prevent burning. Most of the main beaches have beach umbrellas you can use or rent. These come in handy so you can relax and stay out on the sand and beach all day long without getting burnt. However, if you do get burnt, most shops and ABC stores have some really nice Aloe Vera after sun lotions which we found very helpful each trip.

Ka'anapali Beach

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10. Visit the Ocean center

If you like aquariums and seeing sea life up close, you have to stop by the Maui Ocean Center. We've went there each year we've visited. They have an amazing collection of just about every type of fish you could ask for. We spent most of our time staring at the giant shark tank. They have Hammerheads, White and Black Tip Reef Sharks, Rays, giant fish and my personal favorite, the Tiger Shark. Their gift shop is where we've picked up some of my favorite souvenirs. Make sure you camera is good and charged before going. There is a TON to see and the 1st year we went about two thirds of the way through our visit my camera battery died due to how many pictures and videos I was taking. The visit itself is about $20 which isn't too bad considering there is enough to see that it could take 2-4 hours depending on how long you look at each thing. Here is a link to their site and you save a buck or two by booking it online in advance.

Other notable things to do:

1) Make sure you try a Maui Pineapple. You won't believe how much better these are than the regular ones. Be aware, this will ruin eating regular pineapple for you, but its so worth it :)

2) Visit Ulupalakua Ranch. If you take a guided tour on the Road to Hana, more than likely this will be one of your stops, but if not, stop by. There is a lot of history here as well as a winery if that's your thing.

3) Take a dinner or sunset cruise (much better if its during whale season)

4) Check out some of the zipline tours

5) Go Horseback riding.

6) If you can afford it, go on a helicopter ride to see the island.

7) Spend a day going out to Lanai to visit 4 seasons or some of the secluded beaches.

We hope you have enjoyed reading about our different experiences. We hope that is also makes your next vacation or trip there that much more enjoyable. If there is anything you feel that should be added to the Top things to do in Maui or Best things to do on Maui, please message us or leave it in the comments and we will consider it. ALOHA!


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      6 years ago

      Great advice, thanks for the info.


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