While beaches are one of the biggest gems on Maui, Hawaii, if you are not a “beach person”, you’ll be far from boring here. Haleakala Volcano National Park with a Mars-like and lush tropical landscape, 2 scenic, mind-blowing coastline drives, tree the size of a city block, and many more places to explore.
If you are looking for a budget stay on Maui, the best time to visit, cheapest time to visit, car rentals, flights, etc. start here.
The most fascinating places and things to do on Maui, Hawaii
1. Short picturesque hike at Iao Valley
Iao Valley is one of our most favorite places on Maui, scenic, culturally rich, and easy to explore. Covered in the dense, beautiful rainforest, it can get very wet: an average of 9.8 m of rainfall per year. We picked coffee, avocado there, (the tastiest we have ever have) and swam in a waterhole:
2. Road to Hana Maui: a separate destination
Road to Hana is one of the most dangerous roads in the world but it’s much safer than its sounds. It could be very rainy and dizzy: there are 46 one-lane bridges and 620 curves. If you are afraid of Hana Highway, it might help to … think of locals, who use it several times a day:
Key points: We rode Hana highway three times, spending 10-12 hours each time, and still didn’t see everything. One day is minimum to explore the highway and it’s great if you can spend a night or two there. Try not to drive it during the night.
Sightseeing on the Hana Highway
Points of interests on the Hana highway are so numerous it’s hard to even make a list of them. Our top: lava cave, bamboo forest, red and black sand beaches, old (but still operating) churches, and the road itself:
Swimming in 5 waterfalls, Hana Highway
“This is something you’ll want to do in Hawaii”
All waterfalls are located in real, rural Hawaii, surrounded by tropical forests, one of the most beautiful on Maui. The Twin Falls hike is easy and cool to do with a family. Cliff-diving at Ching’s Pond is something to watch.
Key Points: Be aware of flash floods. Their signs:
- dark skies over the mountains
- rising water level/brown stream
- sounds of coming water and rocks
Famous Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o were closed due to its reason.
Also, don’t stay/swim right under the falls – sometimes streams carry rocks. Many other safety issues and tips we learned from Maui Shaka Guide.
3. Kahekili Highway, the “Hana Highway” you might have never heard of
With Hana Highway being one of the top destinations on the Maui, Kahekili Highway rarely pops up. It is indeed, less packed with activities, but much shorter and has the same level of adrenaline to drive it:
Key Points: as well as with Hana Highway, it is dangerous to back up in case you run into incoming traffic: the road is very narrow. Points of interest: Nakalele Blowhole, Ohai Trail, Olivine Pools. Karen Lei’s Gallery has a great assortment, views, and picnic tables (pic #4)
4. Maui, Hawaii: Haleakala Volcano National Park
The Haleakala Volcano is gigantic: it forms more than 75% of the island. Haleakala National Park is considered one of the most popular spots to visit on Maui. There is no need to rent a 4*4 vehicle to get to the top and no suffer from the thin air (as on Mauna Kea, Big Island, for example).
Visiting Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park is picturesque and is a huge place to explore. While the area around the crater is impressive, there are more wonderful places to visit: Hosmer grove, Pipiwai trail (and all it has to offer), etc.
Being with little kids was a blessing: depending on how tired they were we could choose to visit observation platforms or go on a hike through the Mars-like landscape:
Key points: there are two distinct areas of Haleakala National Park: the Summit District and the Kīpahulu District. Distance between them is 2 hours of driving time.
Watching the sunrise at the Haleakala crater became so much in demand that you have to make a reservation before arrival. It is a wonderful sight, like being on another planet:
Key points: make sure you have enough gas, water, snacks, and warm clothes for Haleakala sunrise. Before dawn and after dusk it is windy, wet, and below freezing which is common at the Haleakala crater. All other important nuances are here.
5. Maui beaches: nude, red, black, white sand beaches; snorkeling among reefs and turtles. Kids welcome
After visiting Oahu, Big Island, Kauai, and Maui, we can say that Maui beaches are the best among the Hawaiian islands. (Also the most swimmable and diverse.) Snorkeling among reefs and turtles; nude, red, black, white sand beaches. And, you can visit them with little kids and little effort:
Key Points: mornings are the best for snorkeling (the water is more clear and calm). Other important details and the list of 12 top beaches are here.
6. Maui Hawaii: Watching humpback whales
Most of the North Pacific humpback whales migrate 3000 miles to Hawaiian waters each winter to mate, calve, and nurse. (During the spring and summer, they return to feed to cool, rich waters near Alaska). Maui is lucky to be located at the shallow Auau Channel, a premium location for whale-watching.
The best time to spot whales is from December to April. Mornings and the West side of the island give you the most chances but it is possible to watch them in other locations and times of the day. Don’t forget binoculars!
Watch for those surface behaviors to spot whales: tail throws, pectoral slap (both typically performed by females), and spyhop, literally “peeking out of the water”:
7. Lahaina Hawaii: lively front street and tree the size of a city block
Lahaina Front Street is a lively place and has one of its kind experience: a banyan tree that covers a whole block. It reaches 60 feet and has 16 major trunks: the largest banyan in the USA! During the winter holidays, it is an amazing substitute for a classical Christmas tree. 😀
The local elementary school also caught our eyes: located right at the ocean and named after the King – pretty rare in the US. If you want to learn more about Hawaiian culture and history – try Shaka Guide, we loved it.
- Farmers markets aren’t always cheap, but a great chance to buy fresh fruits and souvenirs made by locals. Our favorite – Upcountry market.
- Water, snacks, sun protection, sturdy shoes, and cold/wet weather clothing are important while visiting Haleakala National Park.
- Grab a raincoat or umbrella, especially for Iao Valley and the Road to Hana.
- Take the National Park Annual Pass, if you already have one.
- The self-driving audio guide we love and recommend: Shaka Guide.
- We visited all the places listed above over two trips to Maui. Kids were 10 months old, 3, 6, and 11 y.o. Last trip was in December 2020.
Mahalo for reading, friends!
All the mentioned places on My Map
Maui beaches: nude, with red-, black-, and white sand, turtles, lush forest, and easy, amazing snorkeling.
Big Island: volcanoes, caves, Royal footsteps, waterfalls, trails, beaches, etc. Kauai: pros and cons of the “Garden Isle”. Kauai top 10 places to visit.
Hawaii on a budget 2021: where to look for budget accommodation, cheap flights, affordable car rental, tours, etc.
Yellowstone: what we have learned only after we reached the park. Budget stay at Yellowstone. The best and worst of the Park with a map.