Wondering what to do in Maui, Hawaii? Congratulations! You’ve made it to one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Waterfalls, hiking, jaw-dropping beaches, fresh seafood, mountains, and more are at your fingertips. Whether you’re a honeymooner, adventure-seeker, or budgeting backpacker, Maui’s unparalleled natural beauty offers plenty to suit every travel persona. You’re bound to fall in love with Hawaii all over again. We certainly did.
After four days enjoying the “city” life of Oahu, Hawaii, we flew into Maui and drove to West Maui for some serious laid-back, sun-loving relaxation. My island fantasy was fulfilled at Napili Bay where a nest of white sand and a crescent-shaped, sea green glass lagoon became my personal playground. Though we did spend several aimless hours lounging poolside or eagerly staring at the ocean in an “I want to spot a whale fluke” mode, we did get our to-do list checked off….for the most part…but who’s keeping track?
So let’s get started on what we shamelessly LOVED about Maui, Hawaii.
Scuba dive, snorkel, and swim as much as humanly possible. And then some more.
I adore nature and wildlife, and no trip to Maui is complete without experiencing Maui’s under the ocean world via snorkeling or scuba diving. If you have your own snorkel gear, simply slather on some sunscreen, jump into any accessible bay, and enjoy the tropical fish, moray eels, and spinner dolphins to your heart’s content.
If diving is your thing (and it should be, by golly), some of Maui’s best dive spots include the two marine conservation areas at Honolua Bay and Molokini. The Molokini crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater, is a virtual quasi-aquarium without walls. I spent a full day at the Molokini reefs and loved every minute. (Though I probably shouldn’t wait three years between dives like I did this time. I was a bit rusty. Oops)
Enjoy a round of golf.
Maui is a premier destination for golf, boasting a staggering seventeen courses, all of which are open to the public. Can I get a “hell, yeah” from all you golf lovers out there?
Two major resort areas in West Maui, the Ka’anapali Beach Resort and the Kapalua Resort, are world class courses featuring absolutely mesmerizing ocean views and challenging greens. Whoever can fully concentrate on a golf course when the view looks like this is a super star in my book. I would prefer to just drive the cart and drink some champagne if given the choice.
However, if golfing in Maui is your dream come true, discounts are usually available by booking earlier tee times or by booking sessions online. Also, riding carts are mandatory on most of Maui’s fairways, and the cart price is usually included in your daily fee.
Drive the Road to Hana
Everyone loves a good road trip. Get on the band wagon and take part in one of the most popular activities in Maui, driving the historic Road to Hana. This 55 mile journey follows an incalculable number of hairpin curves into an unspoiled, slower paced Maui. Here you will see some hidden gems of Maui that are far from the “tan-perfect” beaches and resort tomfoolery, a pure oasis that is so incredibly beautiful, I dare say that it will haunt you in your dreams on mid-winter eves.
The Road to Hana begins in the North Shore town of Paia and stretches along the East Maui coastline into the sleepy town of Hana. There are plenty of opportunities to pull over and stretch your legs, swim under warm waterfalls, hike though jungles, and nap on a black sand beaches. Pack a lunch, roll down your windows, and inhale the island’s sweet smells.
While most tourists turn back at Hana and reverse their original journey back to Paia, I highly suggest continuing all the way around Haleakala’s backside through Ulupalakua Ranch and into Kula. You’ll drive on unpaved roads through desert-like topography and eventually find yourself in Upcountry, Maui. The road is rough in spots, but absolutely doable and a true Hawaiian adventure.
Kickback and relax in Maui’s Upcountry
The west facing upper slopes of Haleakala are referred to as Upcountry, Maui. Mist-covered mountains and fertile, rolling hills give birth to cool breezes that are a welcome relief to the staggering humidity near Maui’s beaches. It’s definitely worthwhile to spend a fews nights in Upcountry, Maui to truly appreciate Hawaii’s diverse regions and climates. Upcountry is also an easy starting point for exploring Haleakala National Park and catching the sunrise at the top of the crater.
We stayed at the Upcountry B&B along Lower Kula Road. Michael and his dog, Gabby, were perfect hosts and even prepared a picnic breakfast of scones and hot coffee for our early a.m. trip to the crater.
Gaze at an endless horizon at Haleakala National Park.
Thirty-eight miles, 1.5 hours, and over 10,000 feet above sea level – the pre-dawn drive can be harrowing, but witnessing a sunrise at Haleakala is a must-do activity in Maui. Get a good night’s sleep and have a full tank of gas for your 4 a.m. departure. The summit is freezing so bring plenty of blankets and a jacket. If you’re lucky (like we were), your B&B or hotel will supply sweatshirts, flannels, and hot drinks to keep the shivers away.
That’s all I’ll say. Let the picture below speak for itself.
Eat as much seafood as possible.
If you’re a foodie, you will certainly appreciate Maui’s eating hot-spots. Enjoy traditional open-air restaurants, quaint gourmet cafes, and fun roadside stalls that offer everything from grilled sea food and lush salads to mouth-watering sushi and fresh breads. Our favorite meals were the local style “plate lunches” for a mere $6 or the sweet pineapple and banana bread from roadside stalls.
Mahi-mahi, known as dolphin fish, is a favorite in Maui, and one of my most-loved dishes too. This melt-in-your-mouth delight is often sauteed in garlic and butter, heaped into a delectable sandwich, or used in fish tacos. Does it get any better than that?
Just. Simply. Chill.
While there is plenty to keep you busy in Maui, the golden beaches and dramatic backdrops offer the perfect opportunity for some seaside basking with a good book. Simply take your pick of shady palm trees for a relaxing afternoon of doing nothing. All of Maui’s beaches are free and open to the public, even those that grace the front yards of fancy resorts. “Beach access” signs should indicate public right-of-ways through most hotel areas, and don’t be afraid to ask where the path is located.
Your paradise awaits in Maui! Have fun!