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Planning a Vacation to Maui Hawaii

Updated on November 9, 2015

Maui Hawaii

Ahihi Bay, Maui
Ahihi Bay, Maui

Favorite Things to do and Places to See in Maui

Although any time of the year is a great time to go to Maui, I enjoy going to the Hawaiian Islands in the winter months to get away from the cold dreary winter weather in the area where I live. The weather in Hawaii is wonderful year-round with high temperatures usually about 80 degrees and lows at night about 70 degrees. Although it is hard to choose the best island in Hawaii, I think Maui is my favorite. In the winter the humpback whales visit as well as all of the year-round attractions of beautiful beaches, snorkeling, hiking, waterfalls, volcanoes to explore and many other attractions. There are many things to do in Maui in the winter, but I've made a list of what I consider to be the best places to see, places to go, attractions and activities.

All photos by Vicki Green - PNW travels unless otherwise credited.

Maui - Yes or No?

Have You Ever Been To Maui in Winter?

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Watch Humpback Whales

Humpback Whale in Hawaii
Humpback Whale in Hawaii

Take a Whale Watching Cruise

One of the best reasons to visit Maui in the winter is the whales! From December to early May, large numbers of humpback whales enjoy a winter vacation in Hawai, too. In the fall they make a 3,000 mile trip from Alaska to Hawaii. Mothers give birth to their calves in the waters around Hawaii and then they migrate miles back to Alaska for the summer. The waters around Maui are a particularly good place to see whales in the winter. You can often see them from the shore, but taking a whale watching cruise will give you the opportunity to see more whales at a closer range and learn more about these fascinating creatures. Most whale watching boats come equipped with a naturalist on board and an underwater microphone to hear the famous songs of the humpback whales. We went on a whale watching cocktail cruise with the Pacific Whale Foundation. We saw lots of whales, heard their underwater sounds and the naturalists provided an abundance of fascinating information. Although it wasn't a dinner cruise, the Pupu buffet was so generous that afterwards we didn't need dinner.

Makena Beach (also known as Big Beach)

Makena Beach Maui Hawaii
Makena Beach Maui Hawaii | Source

The Best Beach - Makena Beach

With so many beautiful beaches on the island of Maui, it would be impossible to name one as "the best" that everyone would agree with. In the opinion of many people, Makena Beach (also known as Big Beach) is the best beach on Maui. Big Beach is a beautiful white sand beach that seems to go on forever. Makena Beach is a great place for sunbathing, picnicking walking, body surfing and boogie boarding, but it can be dangerous for swimming, surfing or snorkeling when the surf is up, especially for children or inexperienced swimmers.

Although nude beaches are not officially designated nor legally sanctioned in Maui, on the other side of a ridge to the north of Big Beach (and out of view) is "little beach" where traditionally clothes are optional. If finding a nude beach on Maui is on your bucket list, here's how to get there. After walking from the Makena Beach State Park parking lot, turn right after you arrive at the beach. Walk the well-worn trail leading up and over a rocky ridge to Little Beach. At the top of the ridge is where many people find a place behind a shrub or rock to disrobe before heading down the trail to the beach.

Sunrise from the top of the Haleakala Volcano

Haleakala Sunrise
Haleakala Sunrise

The Best Place to Watch the Sunrise

It has been claimed that the most beautiful sunrises in the world may be seen from the top of Maui's Mt Haleakala every morning. I must admit that I think the sunrise I saw there was the most beautiful I've ever seen. It does require that you get up early to get to the top of the mountain before sunrise, but I think it was worth the effort. There is the option of doing the Maui Volcano Downhill Bike Ride after watching the sunrise. For more photos and information, visit my lens about my Maui Sunrise and Haleakala Volcano Downhill Bike Trip adventure.

A Snorkeling Trip to the Molokini Crater

Molokini Volcano Crater, Hawaii
Molokini Volcano Crater, Hawaii | Source

The Best Snorkeling Destination - Molokini

Molokini is a rocky island that is all that remains from a sunken volcano crater. Underwater it is covered with beautiful coral and has an abundance of many species of fish and other sea creatures. Located about three miles from the coast of Maui, it is a marine sanctuary and is the most popular snorkeling destination. After doing some research, we decided to book a trip on the Four Winds II, a sailing catamaran for our snorkeling adventure to Molokini. Snorkeling equipment was provided as well as kickboards with see through windows for people who preferred not to snorkel, but wanted to see underwater. The boat even has a see through glass bottom for people who wanted to stay on board but still be able to see all of the beautiful coral and fish. We were served breakfast on the way out to Molokini and a delicious lunch when we were done snorkeling. A second stop to visit "turtle town" to see some green sea turtles before returning made it a fabulous, fun Maui snorkeling trip!

Snorkeling Trip with the Four Winds II

Maui Snorkeling Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Turquoise blue water and coralLooking through the glass bottom of the boatA crew member helps as we slide into the waterA fish underwaterA green sea turtle
Turquoise blue water and coral
Turquoise blue water and coral
Looking through the glass bottom of the boat
Looking through the glass bottom of the boat
A crew member helps as we slide into the water
A crew member helps as we slide into the water
A fish underwater
A fish underwater
A green sea turtle
A green sea turtle

The Maui Ocean Center

Sharks at the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium
Sharks at the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium | Source

The Best Aquarium on Maui

For those who don't snorkel, you can see what lies under the sea without getting wet at the Maui Ocean Center. At this three acre marine park you can take tours led by marine biologists and learn about the species found in the waters around Maui including marine mammals, sharks, rays, other fish and sea turtles. The Maui Ocean Center is the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. It has been rated as one of the 50 top rated attractions in the US by Zagat.

The exhibits include:

Surge Zone where pounding waves provide young fish shelter from predators.

Turtle Lagoon - a favorite for many who want to see the green sea turtles of Hawaii close-up.

Tide Pool: A hands-on exhibit where young and old can touch sea stars, shells, and other tide pool creatures.

Hammerhead Harbor: See Hammerhead sharks up close and personal, but with sturdy glass between you and the sharks

Marine Mammals: See life-sized models and interactive displays where you can learn about local marine mammals like monk seals, dolphins and whales

Hawaiians and the Sea: A special exhibit showing the native Hawaiian's connection to the sea including legends and lore, fishing equipment and more

Open Ocean: Walk through an acrylic tunnel surrounded by the ocean creatures of Hawaii swimming around you in a giant aquarium.

The Famous Road to Hana

The Road to Hana. Maui, Hawaii
The Road to Hana. Maui, Hawaii | Source

The Best Road Trip on Maui

The road to Hana on the rainy eastern side of the island is Maui's best road trip. You can rent a car and drive yourself or book a Road to Hana Van Tour. If you drive yourself, get an early start to avoid the crowds. The road winds along the hillside through lush tropical vegetation overlooking the ocean providing the views of what most of us imagine when we think of Hawaii. Along the way there are numerous trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls. The road ends at Hana which is not in itself a particularly special destination - it is all about the journey with scenes of an island paradise at every turn.

Hana, Maui

The Road to Hana:
Hana, Hawaii

get directions

Zoom in on this map Hawaii to see the location of Hana on the island of Maui. There is only one road to get there - the famous Road to Hana.

The Old Lahaina Luau

Old Lahaina Luau Maui
Old Lahaina Luau Maui | Source

The Best Authentic Luau

What trip to Hawaii is complete without going to a luau? The Old Lahaina Luau is most authentic Hawaiian professional luau on the island of Maui. Learn about the culture and history of Hawaii while enjoying a delicious traditional Hawaiian luau dinner. Drinks are also included in the price of the luau. The location near the beach overlooking the ocean is magnificent and you can see the sunset while dining and watching the show. The dancers perform on an elevated grassy stage with the ocean as the backdrop.

The Best Entertainment Show - Warren and Annabelle's in Lahaina

I have a confession - I hate magic shows. I know magic is an illusion and I'm being tricked but I can't figure out how it's done so it annoys me. The last time we were vacationing on Maui, I was pretty much dragged into the show at Warren and Annabelle's and only agreed to go to avoid being called a party pooper. So admittedly my expectations were low. I can honestly say I'm glad I went, had a wonderful time and heartily recommend seeing the show. Warren Gibson is hilarious! My stomach ached from laughing so hard. Even if you don't enjoy his amazing sleight of hand magic, it was a fantastic show. It is definitely a "must see" on a winter get away to Maui. Watch this short video clip to get an idea of what the show at Warren and Annabelle's in Lahaina is all about.

The Best Maui Travel Guide

I have borrowed and purchased several Hawaii travel guides and my favorites are the "Hawaii Revealed" series of books by Andrew Doughty. There is a separate travel guide for each of the major islands, and the one for Maui is as excellent as all of the others. The author anonymously visits every hotel, restaurant and attraction and writes honest reviews for each.

Hotels and Resort Condos on Maui

Aston Maui Hill Resort
Aston Maui Hill Resort

The Best Resort Hotel

Where to Stay

With so many hotels, condo resorts and vacation rentals to choose from, it would be impossible to name one that is "the" best. Each person has their own preferences and budget. According to Trip Advisor the top rated hotel on Maui is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

Personally I prefer condo resorts and vacation rentals over hotels because they are more spacious, have a kitchen and often other amenities like a washer and dryer.

© 2013 Vicki Green

What are your Favorite Things to Do on Maui? - Please leave a comment

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    • stereomike83 profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      We went to Maui (as well as couple of others islands) for our honeymoon in Nov08 and it was wonderful, even if we didn't see any whales. Best trip we did was boat trip round Lanai followed closely by driving to Hana

    • CanadaRed LM profile image

      CanadaRed LM 

      5 years ago

      Love it! great lens.

    • PNWtravels profile imageAUTHOR

      Vicki Green 

      5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @dean_w: Ahhh, renting a convertible for the road to Hana - what a great idea. Thanks for the kind words. I'm happy that you enjoyed this lens.

    • ConnieGreen LM profile image

      ConnieGreen LM 

      5 years ago

      I love Maui and consider it to be my favorite location to spend time with friends and family. I've been many times and love sharing it with new people.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      For anyone driving the Road to Hana I highly suggest that you rent a convertible to do it. I couldn't imagine making that trip in anything else. There is so much to see up, down, and sideways. With the sharp curves, sometimes you are liable to see your own back bumper. Wonderful place. Wonderful lens.

    • beaworkathomemom profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful photos. And great information! Thanks for sharing all these ideas.

    • CoolFool83 profile image


      6 years ago

      Looks beautiful!

    • kerilovesadeal profile image


      6 years ago

      I want to go. :) It's cold on the east cost in February! Brrr. Nice lens. :)

    • PNWtravels profile imageAUTHOR

      Vicki Green 

      6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      @CampingmanNW: Thanks for the comment and suggestion. I contemplated adding a "best shopping" or "best shop" category, but couldn't decide what most people would consider the best. I love Hilo Hatties anywhere in the islands, but then I really enjoy the entire shopping area in Lahaina - so much more picturesque and historic than a mall. Then although, it's not my favorite, there are those that enjoy the more high end shopping in Wailea. So many choices - something for everyone.

    • CampingmanNW profile image


      6 years ago

      We try to go to Maui every other year or so. We love the island. Took the trip to Hana...once. Love to visit Haleakala and the people who live on it's slopes. I had some of the best sweet bread I have ever eaten, from a family we met there. The old Baldwin sugar cane plantation, so much history. Yes Makena is a beautiful beach, but aren't they all? A really great lens about Maui, you covered all of the highlights except Hilo Hatties (just kidding) thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was there 2 years ago and enjoyed your lens very much!

    • mrdata profile image


      6 years ago

      What a lovely sea! I would love to visit it one day... Thanks for your great lens!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 

      6 years ago from France

      What a fantastic looking place. As soon as I win the lottery .....

    • TCB dan profile image

      TCB dan 

      6 years ago

      This lens brought back such great me ories for me - thank you...I mean, mahalo :)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I've never been to Maui in the winter, but have been to Oahu in February (1989). Whether it's Maui or another island, Hawaii is definitely THE place to be in the winter months! :) Absolutely gorgeous pictures.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Maui is very tempting, I would love to take a vacation there, the images are luring.

    • Donallphin profile image


      6 years ago

      We love to snorkel, golf, fish and relax. You cannot go wrong with Maui. Thanks for a fine lens.

    • colesbabyblues profile image


      6 years ago

      Great Lens! I had been planning on going next May for my 10 year wedding anniversary but maybe we will go in February for my birthday instead. Thank you for all the great info on things to do in the winter!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree on the Mt Haleakela sunrise and the road to Hana. Best memories for me besides the sunsets from the hotel.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I would like to go there in winter and see how it looks like. Wonderful lens is here.

    • nicks44 profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful place ... Maybe a visit will be nigh throughout my plans, who knows ... :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Just beautiful, I would love to be there now. Aw, that would be wonderful! :)

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 

      6 years ago from Burbank, CA

      Love eating in Maui some amazing restaurants! Mama's fish house, general store and love the zip line tour! and the lavender farm, and the volcano etc. LOVE LOVE LOVE going to maui. The Four Seasons is our favorite place to stay.

    • Adventuretravels profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      This is a very interesting lens. Lots of up close facts about Maui that makes it very useful. I have not been there but it is on my bucket list -maybe one day! Thanks for this lens

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens. I've never been to Hawaii; hope that I can go one day.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens! My wife and I honeymooned in Maui and returned a few years later. Loved Lahaina and the all the shops, Whaling Museum, etc.. Can't wait to go back.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We were in Maui years ago for a short consulting stint so we had a chance to go around. We never thought we'd enjoy it but we did.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 

      6 years ago from USA

      I visited Maui about fourteen years ago , and loved it. From our balcony we saw the whales play. Haleakela was incredible. Driving up the mountains on one lane roads with no guard rails lead to breathtaking views, and a somber thought of just how small we were compared to the depth of the drop off beside us.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We spent a wonderful vacation on Maui several years ago and did the Pacific Institute Whale Watching Tour. We were fortunate enough to see not one, but several whales breaching. Wow! We did a drive up Haleakela and the Road to Hana in one day....what were we thinking. It was wonderful. Of course we took in a luau and snorkeling and just hung. Ahh! I would love to go back to Maui.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the Best of Maui in Winter

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      6 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I've never been to Maui but I live on a similarly gorgeous tropical island and love the winters here.

    • PlethoraReader profile image


      6 years ago from Silicon Valley

      Next trip to Hawaii we are absolutely going to use your suggestions. Thank you. Blessed!

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 

      6 years ago from England

      It looks like a really lovely place, great lens.

    • Art Inspired profile image

      Art Inspired 

      6 years ago

      I love Maui. My last visit there we went snorkeling, kayaking, zip lining, touring around the island and more. I too recommend the book Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty. Mahalo!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      6 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Thanks for these places to go on Maui. We are going to June and 4 or 5 of your suggestions sound like perfect place to go.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good lens with fascinating photos! : )

      Thumbs up for your great job done!

    • profile image

      sybil watson 

      6 years ago

      I could live in the Maui Ocean Center if they'd let me! Great lens! I live on the Big Island, but I've always loved visiting Maui, and diving Molokini crater is on my bucket list.


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