Known as the “Valley Isle”, Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Unlike some of the more modernized islands in the Hawaiian chain, most say that Maui is more rustic, with quaint towns, artistic communities, and local shops and restaurants.
There really are so many things to do in Maui, that it's not surprising to find that Conde Nast readers have voted it the “Best Island” for 19 years. Whether you want to visit Lahaina for a little history and cuisine, or the breathtaking beaches of the Iao Valley, you really can't go wrong with a trip to Maui.
Mt. Haleakala and its gorgeous sunsets
Of the many things you can do, one you shouldn’t miss is see where Maui was first created. Mt. Haleakala is a now dormant volcano that helped create this beautiful island. It towers 10,023 feet above Maui, offering views unlike any you've ever seen before.
The ways to enjoy this beautiful volcano are endless – you can hike the trails, you can bike them, you can enjoy sunrises or sunsets from the peak, and yes, you can even camp out on the volcano overnight, getting to experience the beauty both in the daylight and nighttime.
There's a reason this is one of the most popular attractions not only in Maui, but in all of Hawaii as well. Many people like to wake up super early and drive to the visitor center situated at 9,740 feet to watch the sunrise. It's said that on a clear morning, the sunrise is a breathtaking and completely unforgettable experience.
Those who've witnessed the spectacle countless times insist that they've never seen the same sunrise twice, and have been completely awed every single time.
Drive the road to Hana
The road to Hana is possibly one of the most beautiful drives you'll ever take. Plan to spend an entire day making this trip though, because there are plenty of stops you'll want to make, and there's no way you'd want to rush through this. One word of warning though, the roads are curvy, to the point of being scary at times.
There are one lane bridges (with two-way traffic) and this road isn't for those who suffer from car sickness (unless you're willing to take some Dramamine, but please don't drive afterward since the medicine will make you sleepy, and this road can be dangerous to drive through even in a wide-awake state). But trust me; this drive is well worth it.
You'll be driving along cliffs that overlook some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches Maui has to offer. There are waterfalls, rainforests and roadside fruit stands to visit. You can drive down this road countless times and still not see everything there is to see. And while it's known as the road to Hana, you'll probably want to drive a bit past Hana to visit the Kipahulu area, where you can check another item off your list – the Ohe'O Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools).
You can turn around at the Kipahulu region of the Haleakala National Park, but please stay on the paved roads and avoid the back way – not only is it restricted in many rental car agreements, it can even be more frightening than the original drive. With unpaved roads, steep turns with only enough room for one car, and even more treacherous conditions, it is a path you shouldn’t take.
The best way to make the trip is by starting out in the town of Paia, following highway 36 until it becomes highway 360, and continue on, past Hana, where the road becomes highway 31.
Ho'okipa Beach gives special meaning to the word surfing
One of the most famous beaches in Hawaii, and possibly the world, for surfing and windsurfing, is Ho'okipa Beach. It is the place to go if you're looking for some fun on the water. Though, if you're not much of a surfer, just sitting on the beach and watching some of the best surfers in the world, men and women alike, doing their thing, is an experience itself.
You'll also see gorgeous reef formations and have fun soaking up the Maui sunshine. During the summer months, Ho'okipa is a great spot for snorkeling, and it's not unusual to see the rare Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles hanging out on the coastline. It's something that can't be omitted on your trip to Maui.
Iao Valley State Park, a natural gem
End of Iao Valley Road, Highway 32, Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793
Located outside of Wailuku in Central Maui, you’ll find the Iao Valley State Park. Nature lovers and history buffs are sure to appreciate this natural gem. The park encompasses 4,000 acres in all, and the highlight of the park just may be the Iao Needle, which is a 1,200 foot high green-mantled volcanic rock outcropping.
This is a great place for hiking through lush vegetation, passing by the Iao stream, and taking in some of the gorgeous waterfalls along the hiking trails. Not only is the state park beautiful, it's also historically significant. During the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790, King Kamehameha I defeated Maui's army in his quest to unify the islands making this place a treat, not just for the senses, but for the curiosity as well.
Ohe'O Gulch Pools are great for cliff-divers
Haleakala National Park, Maui, HI
Earlier in the article, I wrote about the road to Hana and mentioned that a great place to turn your attention to would be the Ohe'O Gulch Pools. You'll likely want to do more than just pass by here, however. It's well worth getting out of the car and exploring this breathtaking attraction! With idyllic scenery and pools you can swim in when the weather is right, you can easily lose yourself for a few hours just exploring this place.
There's a reason it's one of the most popular sites to visit in Maui – the pools are not only well-suited for swimming, but also cliff-diving if you're the adventure seeking type. So if you've decided to drive the road to Hana, perhaps add a stop to the Ohe'O Gulch Pools to your itinerary at the end, and call it a day. Better yet, stop and get a hotel nearby so you don't have to rush back before truly enjoying the sights Hana and Ohe'O have to offer!
Lahaina's Banyan Tree, a 140 year-old legacy
Front Street, Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
Taking up nearly one full acre of land, the banyan tree in the town of Lahaina is one of the largest banyan trees in the entire United States. Not native to Hawaii, but from India, the tree was planted outside the courthouse in 1873 by Sheriff William Owen Smith – which makes the tree over 140 years old.
Once a single trunk, the tree has now expanded into over 16 other trunks, creating a beautiful and truly unique landmark and meeting place. Oftentimes you'll find local arts and crafts vendors set up underneath the tree's shady canopy, hawking their wares. You can walk around the park, take in this natural wonder, and enjoy local restaurants and shopping nearby.
Tedeschi Winery, a place with pineapple wine
Hwy 37, P.O. Box 953, Kula, Maui, HI 96790
When you think of wine, Hawaii is probably not the first place that comes to mind. And there is a good reason for it. There aren't too many grapes or wineries in Hawaii – which is one reason the Tedeschi Winery stands out. Tedeschi is the only operating winery in Maui, and it's been around since 1974, serving up a unique variety of wines that are sure to please your palate.
They've developed techniques to use local fruits in their wine production, most notably the pineapple. Along with their three distinct pineapple wines, they also produce a variety of traditional wines and a raspberry dessert wine on their menu. It's well worth scheduling a little tasting on your tour through the island.
Helicopter Tour of Maui
There are several different providers to choose from when it comes to helicopter tours in Maui, but I can't say enough about the experience of flying high over some of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine.
The best trip you can take is to Molokai, because you'll get to see the tallest waterfall in the world, which is located in the West Maui Mountains, as well as the sea cliffs of Molokai Island. And if you're really lucky, you may get to see the whales migrating, which in itself would be stunning, don't you think?
It's worth every penny to see Maui from above, from the vantage point of a helicopter. And for the more adventurous folks out there, Alex Air offers a doors-off helicopter experience. You're strapped in tightly, but you won't have pesky doors blocking your view. Just be sure to dress warm, pull your hair back and leave your fear of heights at home!
Wai'anapanapa Park, the volcanic coastline
Yet another beautiful site, well worth seeing, on the road to Hana, is the Wai'anapanapa State Park. Wai'anapanapa is a remote, volcanic coastline that offers a small black sand beach, blow holes, a religious temple, a legendary cave and more.
It's well worth stopping to check it out as you drive the road to Hana, and probably one of the neatest stops you can make on your trip. This is a great spot for camping, picnicking, fishing and hiking. Wai'anapanapa is almost a destination by itself, even if you don't want to travel to Hana!
Piiholo Ranch Ziplining
1156 Makawao Avenue, Makawao, HI 96768
If you want to feel alive, have your blood pumping and your heart pounding in your chest, there's no greater adventure than ziplining. And Hawaii has some awesome ziplining experiences, for sure. But if you're looking to try out just one of them in Maui, look no further than Piiholo Ranch Ziplining.
The folks at Piiholo will have you zipping from tree to tree to up to 600 feet in the air. You'll also have to walk across aerial bridges that will take your breath away. Piiholo Ranch offers the longest side-by-side ziplines in all of Hawaii, and there are six different types of tours with 15 ziplines to experience here. For the true thrill seekers, try out the “Xtreme” zip/climb adventure tour which combines ziplining with climbs on high rope towers.
With so much to see and do, it might be hard to fit it all into just one trip to Maui… But that's a good thing. It always leaves you with more to explore the next time you come to the islands for a visit!