Planning a Vacation to Maui Hawaii
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?
Watch Humpback Whales
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)
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
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
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 PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Maui Ocean Center
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 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.
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
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
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.
Information to Plan Your Trip to Maui
- Pacific Whale Foundation | pacificwhale.org
Pacific Whale Foundation - Protecting Our Oceans Through Science and Advocacy
- Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
- Maui Comedy Magic Dinner Show | Warren & Annabelle's in Lahaina, Maui
Maui's favorite nighttime entertainment on Front Street in Lahaina. Fabulous pupus, cocktails, and live comedy and magic performances by Warren Gibson and others. Don't miss it.
© 2013 Vicki Green