45 Awesome Things to Do on Maui

In June 2014 our family of three took a luxurious trip to Maui, Hawaii. We spent 10 days exploring as much of the island as we could. These reviews are all from that trip, so they may be dated. Take that into consideration as you plan your own trip and confirm before you go. We’ve been to Hawaii (2103), Maui and Kauai (2015). We have plans to return to Maui in the summer of 2016.

South Maui West Maui Central Maui Hana Highway Southeast Maui

Guide

  • Maui Revealed, the book and the app – the guide is written by Andrew Doughty and he has stayed on the island long-term to experience everything so he can write about it first hand. His reviews are typically spot on and offer a lot of options to appeal to both the tourist and the people who want to travel the road less traveled. The app is $8 and the book was $18.99. The app is great and is kept up to date, it’s searchable and will even let you search by location to find things near you.

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South Maui

Haleakala

Dining:

  • Kula Sandalwoods – Breakfast on the way back down after the sunrise was a welcome sight, this place was empty, but we were starving and decided to try it. Traditional breakfast foods and also our personal favorite when in Hawaii, Portuguese sausage. Hawaiian food service is much slower than Californian food service. In Maui they do not deliver your check and rush you out the door. Instead they give you plenty of time to savor the experience. A lot of traveler’s consider this poor service, but it’s a different lifestyle and experience. When you travel, do what the local’s do. Slow down, savor and enjoy the ride.

Entertainment

  • Haleakala volcano crater for sunrise – If this is on your list, go on your first morning on the island that way your body is still on your home time and getting up early won’t feel as bad. The elevation is 10,000′ (for reference Big Bear in California is only 6700’) so it gets cold up there, really cold. We were there in June and it was about 35 degrees for the sunrise. The sunrise is beautiful and this is a highlight for many people. It will be very windy, there is no way to describe the wind, so be prepared for that. It’s very foggy, and the fog rolls across the crater and down the mountain, it’s a site to behold. We had hoped to see the green flash on the horizon, but it was cloudy so we didn’t get to witness that miracle. It was still beautiful, clouds have a way of doing that.
    • Parking fee $10
  • Ali’I Kula Lavender farms are on the way down – we didn’t stop, but the pictures of the place seem magnificent.

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Kihei

Shopping

  • Farmers Market in the Turtle Town shopping complex, which also hosts Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, a small ABC store, bakery and gift shop – across the street is a small beach with canoes for the resort next door on it, scenic and a great place to enjoy your shaved ice.
  • Kalama Village – outdoor kiosks, shopping and dining for tourists with Maui-made and Hawaiian-made products; great t-shirt shop called the 808 Clothing Company; we didn’t try it but there is a shop called Tutu’s Pantry with tasty treats like lavender honey, gourmet hot sauces, jellies and more.

Dining

  • Coconut’s Fish Cafe in the Azeka Shopping Center – we dubbed this our favorite place on the island for food. We returned multiple times. This is in a shopping mall and there is no ocean view, and we kept going back anyway. The décor is perfect island style, surfboard tables and bench seating. Amazing calamari, a variety of fish, and of course chicken and burgers. They have salad and even pasta, so even if you don’t like seafood, you won’t starve here. It’s the best of fast food and island style. The owner is super friendly, the service was great, and the food is amazingly fresh and tasty. I have no doubt this will be our first meal when we return to the island.
  • Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on the way into Kihei. We may have returned to Coconut’s Fish Cafe a few times, but we went to Ululani’s enough to earn a free shaved ice with their frequent buyer program. If you’ve never had a Hawaiian shaved ice do yourself a favor and try it here. You can add a scoop of ice cream (vanilla or macadamia nut) and the syrup flavors are amazing. You can also top it off with cream which is an interesting touch. Pick one, try it, and see if you get hooked like we did. They run big, so keep that in mind and order accordingly.
  • Life’s a Beach – sports bar, Mexican food, on the street, great for people watching, across from a park that turned into the beach, so great for sunset too.

Entertainment:

  • Surfing the Cove at Kalama Beach Park
    • The park was great with lots of picnic tables, grassy area and huge shade trees.
    • There were multiple places to rent surf boards just across the road, so you could run in, rent a board, walk across the street and hit the waves. Pick your sport: kayak, stand up paddle board, surfing, they probably rent it right here. By the hour, the half day or the full day, whatever you need.
    • We spent a morning here, and could have done this several times, it was just a great, relaxing experience. Even though there were a lot of people around it never felt crowded.
    • While my husband surfed, my daughter and I ended up hanging out with a local couple and the dog they were sitting. We learned a lot about the best places to visit and life on the islands, it was a win-win for us.
    • There are a couple restaurants and food stands, so if you’re needing a snack, you have some options.

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Ma’alaea

  • We stayed here in a condo, there is a small shopping complex with a market, restaurants and the Maui Ocean Center, there’s a harbor that has many of the tour’s that leave for the ocean adventures like snorkeling or whale watching.

Shopping:

  • A variety of different shops, your standard tourist fair. My research shows that this has changed in the years since we visited, so it might have more to offer now.
  • General store – good place to pick up a quick beverage or snack, not really a sundries shop, but they have a few of the basic amenities.

Dining:

  • Beach Bums BBQ & Grill – okay food, service was not that great, but it wasn’t atrocious. I imagine this place appeals to people who have finished a tour and are tired and just want to refuel. Convenience wins sometimes, and for that, this is definitely a winner. They have karaoke if I remember correctly.
  • Oceanside – this was part of the Maui Ocean Center, we ate here on our last day as we were leaving town. It was a nice way to have one more amazing meal with a great view of the harbor. It’s a nice sit down restaurant and priced accordingly, but it was worth it, the service was great

Entertainment

  • Four Winds II – Snorkel Trip to Molokini – we selected them based on the guide book and we were not disappointed
    • The snorkeling was lovely, the water was colder since the crater is further off shore. The tour provided spring suits for rent, it was affordable and worth it.
    • They also had cameras for rent to use during the snorkeling experience.
    • Many fish, but if you stay with everyone else you don’t see anything more spectacular than you would see snorkeling off shore. Some people who ventured further did have experiences with a turtle, a black tip reef shark and an octopus.
    • The crew took good care of us, the cameraman did a good job and got good photographs of the family.
    • There was a slide off the boat with an underwater viewing area so you could watch your loved ones slide in and also see fish without getting too wet.
    • They also fed us with amazing grilled chicken cooked fresh on the back of the boat.
  • We skipped the Maui Ocean Center – with the snorkeling experiences, it didn’t seem worth it, perhaps if you have children it’s a good adventure, we did it at the restaurant though, and that was nice.
  • Sugar Beach – great for a stroll along the beach, not crowded, turtles every evening bobbing in the water

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Makena

Entertainment

  • Lava flow La Perouse Bay beyond Makena
    • South of Kihei and Makena you can explore La Perouse Bay, there is supposed to be really good snorkeling here. The water was cloudy, due to a storm, the day we went so the conditions weren’t great. The lava flow is the last lava flow on Maui and is a good visual reminder of Mother Nature’s power. It’s worth the drive out just to experience it and see what the lava does to the land. If you get in some good snorkeling, all the better.
  • Big Beach – in South Maui, down by Makena.
    • This beach is the kind of beach that summer family post cards are made of. Sweeping sand, mild wave action and lots of room. It poured rain when we were here, so we mostly huddled under the lifeguard stand and enjoyed the warm (ish) summer rain. It looked like a great swim beach but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the ocean, just the rain. There is a great cliff for climbing, and if you climb up, you’ll find access to another beach. There’s a cove, it’s a smaller area and aptly named Little Beach. Be warned that this one is known as a nude beach.
  • Po’olenalena Beach –Wailua/Makena area
    • Beautiful sand beach with great shade trees. Be careful, the trees have thorns, and even with sandals on the thorns find a way to the bottom of your feet. The water here was amazing – this was the place where it felt like a thousand kisses on your skin. It was also great both in temperature (it felt warmer) and for the soft waves, not crashing. It was a quiet beach, not as crowded as many others.

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West Maui

Lahaina

Shopping:

  • This is the place for shopping – you name it, they have it. They have the traditional Hilo Hatties and ABC Store as well as many other name brand, and local’s only shops. There are multiple different shopping areas, so look around to make sure you find the items you’re after.

Dining:

  • Lahaina Fish Company – Cocktails, Maui Brewing Co. beer, and great fish, a wide variety of vegetarian options (also traditional surf and turf or chicken options here)
  • A huge variety of other options available, we were only here once so didn’t have the pleasure to try any others. If you want the traditional, they have Hard Rock and a Bubba Gump.
  • There’s another Ululani’s here, so you can get your shaved ice fix here as well
  • CJ’s Deli and Diner – Up closer to the main highway, not on the ocean, is CJ’s Deli and Diner, they have a nice offering here to make a picnic lunch for you to take when you do the Road to Hana (or anywhere else you want to go) it comes in a cooler, and includes a good selection of food, including a beverage. The sandwiches were good and their menu is huge, they’ll have something for everyone.

Entertainment:

  • La’ua Lahaina – we skipped it because we did one on Hawaii, but rumor has it this one is a good one.
  • Sunset – you and all your best friends will love the sunset here, it’s crowded, but beautiful.
  • Lots to explore on a walking tour, many native Hawaiian features, as well as remnants from the town’s time as a whaling village, including an old jail. One of the best trees (we’ve ever seen anywhere) is on the tour. It’s a huge Banyan tree and is reported to be at least 400 years old.
  • Ka’anapali Beach is here, with Black Rock, a favorite for people who love to jump. This is along the resort row so we found this to be the most populated beach on the whole island. It’s a good beach though, lots of people watching, super fun to watch the crazies jump off Black Rock. Lots of kids on this one, so if you don’t like children, this one isn’t recommended.
  • Atlantis Submarine tour – I didn’t know about this, but it seems pretty cool and a great way to explore under the water, safe and dry.

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Kapalua

Entertainment

  • Honolua Bay – is past Kapalua at mile marker 33. My husband declared this the best snorkeling on the island. The beach is a large smooth rock beach, not sand. Since it was private property, it was hosted, but we were welcomed, along with everyone else, the only request was no sunscreen when snorkeling. There were a lot of birds (ranging from chickens to robins) here to watch in addition to all the great fish.

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Wailuku

Entertainment:

  • Waikapu Plantation Ride, Horseback riding at Makani Olu Ranch
    • We took a private excursion led by a single paniolo and had a great experience. We wanted to do the ride where you get to take your horses on the beach, but when comparing it to what was offered with this one, we decided to go for the private experience. We got to ride up in the beautiful hills and had great views the entire time. We had a picnic lunch by an irrigation pond. The ride was about 1½ -2 hours. Long enough to be a good ride, but not long enough to make you sorry that your untrained legs were in stirrups. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and struck a good balance between telling stories and letting us be alone with our thoughts to enjoy the experience. The horses did not ride nose to tail, and the guide did a good job of understanding everyone’s comfort level and experience to pair them with a good horse.
  • Iao Needle in the Iao Valley State Park, just beyond Wailuku
    • This was our biggest regret from the trip. We saved this for the last day on our way to the airport. It wasn’t enough time.
    • If you are looking for lush greenery, water and hiking, this is the place to go.
    • Paved trails, water fall, creek, garden with all kinds of tropical plants, including taro, unpaved trails too.
    • Parking fee = $5

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Central Maui

Makawao

  • We drove through town, but didn’t spend any time here, it looks charming and is something we plan to investigate on our next trip.

Entertainment:

  • They have a town party on Friday nights – the party rotates every week, the third Friday is in Makawao. (For reference the nights are called Maui Fridays – Wailuku (1st), Lahaina (2nd), Makawao (3rd), Kihei (4th) and Lanai (5th) Friday of each month) – we didn’t go, but it seems like it’s similar to the Redlands Market Night done Hawaiian style.

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Hana Highway

Hana

Dining:

  • Nahiku Marketplace for Kalua pork BBQ (this is a must have, if you have Kalua pork one time on the island, make this that time) and as a bonus there’s a very nice gift shop here too. Stop at the 28 mile marker.
  • Red Sand Beach – this place is off the beaten path, you have to park and hike. It’s also a nude beach, so that keeps the crowds away. The colors are stunning. This private cove is an unbelievable find and worth the hike and scrambling down the trail to experience the majesty.

Entertainment:

  • Road to Hana
    • Get a CD that will give you a guided tour. It’s worth the cost to know where and when to stop and to hear the details about the sights and areas you’re passing through.
  • Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach – most scenic and beautiful, the black sand with the blue water and the lush green vegetation are striking. There’s lots to explore here including caves, walking trails, and of course the beach itself has a couple different areas with different access points
  • Bamboo Forest – we missed this, but won’t skip it next trip. This is hiking through, you guessed it, a bamboo forest.
  • ‘Ohe’o Gulch aka Seven Sacred Pools
    • If you’ve seen IQ with Meg Ryan then you know about this place. She describes the Seven Sacred Pools in Maui like a million kisses on your skin. I experienced that million kisses feeling at Po’lena’lena beach, not while we were here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, because it is an experience.
    • This is a tourist experience, and they cater to that, there’s a lot of parking, there’s a bathroom, and where possible, the walk ways are paved and easy to traverse. But, then you leave the trail, and the fun begins.
    • You are walking along the edge of the pond on a rock path. It gets wet, it’s slippery (like crazy), and it’s crowded all of a sudden because you have all the tourists trying to fit in the pools. Except they can’t get to all the pools because it’s far too much effort to reach the higher pools and the lower pools.
    • You can follow the pools all the way down to the ocean, or hike up and into the forest. You will find people rock diving here. You will have many water falls from one pond to the next.
    • You can approach this two ways.
      • Go to see it and say you’ve seen it, get your feet wet, take a picture and call it good.
      • Or make the time to really explore and hike up or down the ponds and see all there is to see. Unfortunately the drive to Hana is long, and this is another good bit beyond Hana. If you plan to spend a lot of time here, you’ll need to leave early and plan to skip some of the spots along the road to Hana. You will get wet and dirty, so plan a change of clothes, towel and sunscreen.
    • Parking fee = $10.

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Pa’ia

Shopping

  • All of the shops are fun to stop in and look around. This is probably the most laid back shopping experience on the island. The style is more boutique, lots of bohemian style. There are not very many name brand stores, if any.
  • Alice in Hulaland – This is a quaint gift shop with clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts, including ukulele’s.

Dining:

  • There’s a place called Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon which is good for live music supposedly (we didn’t know about this last time). Willie Nelson and his son have both been known to play here.
  • Mama’s Fish House – This one isn’t in the town proper, it’s on the way into town and we missed this one last trip, but won’t miss it this time. If you have a special occassion on your trip, this would be a great place for a birthday or anniversary. (again, based on reviews)
  • Café Mambo – we tried breakfast here before we headed down to Hana. There is lots to choose from, we would go back for sure.

Entertainment:

  • Ho’okipa Beach – supposedly the turtles come up on the beach every night, we didn’t see any, but it was a great place to watch the colors change as the sun set, it was calm and peaceful – take a sweatshirt, it got chilly with the breeze. It’s also a popular surf spot, and wind surfing is fun to watch

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Southeast Maui

Entertainment:

  • Road from Hana
    • Depending on your car rental company you may not be able to do this, but when we left Hana, instead of following the road back, we continued down around the South-East end of the island. Some of the road is a dirt, gravel road, but it was never impassable or bad. We didn’t see many vehicles on this end and we saw some beautiful scenery.
    • Somewhere on this end of the island is Oprah’s land, but we didn’t find her. You can understand why she chose the area though.
    • It’s another long drive, but it’s a completely different experience than the tropical lush green side. There is much more lava rock, the climate is more desert like and it has its own beauty. We even stumbled across some wild goats in one of the vistas

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