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Best Things To Do in Maui

Maui, Hawaii's second largest island, is a fascinating place that has it all for a memorable holiday.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

7 min read

Best Things To Do in Maui

Maui sunset | ©Neora Aylon

Paradise beaches, quaint villages, party nights and dreamy landscapes to escape to for adventurous hiking and sightseeing adventures - Maui is impossible to get bored. Want to know all there is to do in Maui? I'll tell you all about it!

1. Snorkel in Maui and swim with fish and turtles

Admire Maui's marine wildlife| ©Stephen Leonardi
Admire Maui's marine wildlife| ©Stephen Leonardi

With over 1900 kilometres of coral reefs surrounding the Hawaiian coastline, snorkelling is one of the most popular things to do on Maui during a stay on the island, as its pristine waters hold a natural underwater treasure trove of green turtles, tropical fish, sea urchins, dolphins, manta rays and whimsical lava and coral formations that will leave you in awe.

One of the best snorkelling spots on Maui is Molokini Island, located off the southwest coast of Maui. It's a large volcanic cone that is extinct but so full of life that the island was named a State Marine and Birdlife Conservation District.

A place like this is a must-see at all costs, but it's only accessible by boat, as are other dive sites such as Turtle Town on Maluaka Beach, the best place to see turtles on Maui away from the crowds. This beach is undoubtedly one of Maui's best kept secrets and another hidden gem to admire while snorkelling.

For snorkelling in Maui, there are many boat tours available. If you are interested in diving and want to join a sea excursion during your holidays in Hawaii, I recommend you to take a look at the post Diving and Snorkelling in Maui where you will find very interesting proposals to spend an unforgettable day snorkelling in Polynesia.

2. Visit Pearl Harbor on Oahu

View of the Arizona Memorial and the bay from the USS Missouri| ©Bernard Spragg. NZ
View of the Arizona Memorial and the bay from the USS Missouri| ©Bernard Spragg. NZ

Pearl Harbor Naval Base is an iconic destination in Hawaii for which every tourist is willing to queue to enter. Although we know all too well what happened here on that fateful morning of 7 December 1941, there is something fascinating and moving about this place that cannot be described in words and that draws us like a magnet to see it for ourselves.

What happened at Pearl Harbor was a turning point in the course of World War II. It was an episode of great historical significance whose impact and repercussions can still be seen today. You can learn about it in the exhibitions at the Visitor Centre, visit the USS Arizona Memorial (where the remains of a battleship sunk at sea and the monument in memory of the victims are located), the USS Missouri (the ship where Japan's surrender was signed, ending the war) or the USS Oklahoma, among other places.

Pearl Harbor is a shocking but also emotional place. This is one of the visits to make in Maui that I recommend the most, whether you are passionate about history or not, because it leaves no one indifferent.

How to visit Pearl Harbor?

If you are staying on the island of Maui and want to visit Pearl Harbor (which is located on the neighbouring island of Oahu) my advice is to join one of the tours that visit the military base as they usually also include a tour of downtown Honolulu with which you will discover tourist attractions as outstanding as the Pearl Harbor:

  • Kawaiahao Church
  • Iolani Palace
  • Statue of King Kamehameha
  • Mission Houses Museum
  • Waikiki Beach area

It's a great way to get an overview of the most important things to see on the island of Oahu! If you want to know more, don't miss the post Excursions to Pearl Harbor from Mauid whereyou'll find some great ideas.

3. Experience a magical night on Maui at a luau party

Typical Hawaiian dance at a luau| ©Andy L
Typical Hawaiian dance at a luau| ©Andy L

During your trip to Hawaii, I'm sure you'll want to attend a traditional luau party on the island - they're so much fun and one of the best things to do in Maui! Considering that they are held for all sorts of reasons (birthdays, weddings, christenings...), why not celebrate your trip to Hawaii in style and toast to the many more to come?

What are luau parties?

A Hawaiian luau party revolves around the dance, music and cuisine typical of the islands but its meaning goes beyond that as it has quite an interesting origin. King Kamehameha II wanted to eradicate some customs that did not allow women to share a table with men or eat certain foods, and changed them for new, more inclusive ones that gave rise to the luau festivities.

These festivals are also an expression of Polynesian culture, so put on your best clothes for a magical sunset experience!

When you arrive at the luau, you'll be greeted with a flower lei necklace and cocktails to make you comfortable. At the sound of the conch shell, the imu ceremony will begin and the delicious kalua pig will be brought out of the underground oven. From there you will enjoy a spectacular feast of Hawaiian food while watching a Samoan fire dance show and other live Hawaiian music performances with lots of hula dancing.

There are several places on Maui where you can enjoy an authentic and unforgettable luau party - check out the Mauai Luau Experiences and Tours in Maui post to discover the best ones!

4. Take to the skies over Maui by helicopter

Discover the most beautiful views of the island in a helicopter flight| ©Ted Murphy
Discover the most beautiful views of the island in a helicopter flight| ©Ted Murphy

Maui is another island in the Hawaiian archipelago which, with its beautiful scenery, does its bit to feed the reputation of an earthly paradise for which this US state is known worldwide.

During your stay on the island, one of the most exciting and fun things to do on Maui is to take a helicopter ride over the island and get a bird's eye view of spectacular sites such as the beautiful green Halawa Valley, Maui's Honokohau Falls, Iao Valley State Park, Haleakala Volcano and Molokai's Kahiwa Falls, among many other places of captivating beauty.

Take advantage of this experience to take some of the most stunning and beautiful photographs you'll take during your holiday. It's really worth taking a helicopter ride over Maui, even if you're a little vertigo-stricken, because when you're up there, the beautiful views of Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean will take your mind off everything. You'll feel like you're floating on air... (literally!).

If you're curious and want to know more about this activity, check out our Maui Helicopter Tours article for more detailed information.

5. Go on a tour of Maui to explore the island

Haleakala National Park| ©NOAA
Haleakala National Park| ©NOAA

A trip to Hawaii is an experience that every traveller should have at least once in their lifetime. Despite being a small archipelago in the middle of the ocean, the enormous diversity, beauty and grandeur of each of the islands that make up the archipelago is impressive.

In the case of Maui, Hawaii's second largest after the Big Island, the island is known for its fantastic beaches for surfing and other water sports, the beautiful Waimoku Falls, for its wonderful national parks such as the historic Iao Valley State Park or Haleakala (a volcano with the most beautiful sunrise in the Pacific) and not forgetting the legendary Hana Highway, a route to this picturesque East Maui town that takes you through all kinds of rainforests, ponds, waterfalls and fascinating seascapes.

To explore the beauty of the island and these beautiful places, the best thing to do on Maui is to join a tour that allows you to experience the magic of this place to the fullest - get your camera out and you'll be amazed at the variety of landscapes you can fit into such a small space!

If you'd like to take a tour of Maui and want to know more about these activities, don't miss the article Tours in Maui.

6. Sunbathe and surf on Maui's beaches

Surf Maui's waters| ©Ted
Surf Maui's waters| ©Ted

One of Hawaii's biggest tourist attractions is its paradisiacal beaches. They come in all colours (white, red, black sand...) and all have crystal-clear waters that invite you not only to take a dip but also to practice all kinds of water activities such as surfing, snorkelling, windsurfing or kayaking.

Maui's beaches are the ideal place to relax and get away from it all. If you were to ask me which are the coolest beaches on the island for sunbathing and having a great time, I'd tell you that you can't miss them:

  • Makena Beach: South Maui's largest beach with great views of the islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe.
  • Wailea Beach: considered the best beach in the United States.
  • Polo Beach: ideal for snorkelling and swimming.
  • Kaanapali Beach: in West Maui where you can attend the Puu Kekaa ceremony at sunset to commemorate the deed of King Kahekili.
  • Puamana Beach County Park: a beach with waves perfect for beginner surfers.

7. Get to know Maui's small towns

Visit picturesque Lahaina| ©the misshapen steed
Visit picturesque Lahaina| ©the misshapen steed

With so much to do in Maui, it's sometimes difficult to plan your schedule so you don't miss out on anything on the island. That's why you can't forget to include some sightseeing in your trip to Hawaii to see Maui's picturesque towns and villages.

There are many interesting places to explore but I recommend three:

Lahaina

This port city was once the most important city on Maui and the capital of Hawaii as it was the centre of government for the Hawaiian monarchy until the mid-19th century and a prominent whaling settlement.

The best way to get to know Lahaina is to take the Lahaina Historic Trail, which takes in the city's main historical and cultural attractions.

Hana

Visiting Hana in East Maui is like taking a trip back in time to a place where you can feel that traditional Hawaiian atmosphere and the true aloha spirit of Hawaii.

Just the drive to town (known as the 'Road to Hana') is worth it in itself because you'll pass through spectacular scenery, but once you're there there are incredible sights to see such as Wailua Falls, Waiʻanapanapa State Park and Honokalani Black Sand Beach.

Wailuku

Nestled at the foot of the West Maui Mountains and surrounded by the rainforests of the sacred Iao Valley is Wailuku, the county seat of Maui County. A quiet town steeped in history and full of fantastic sights such as Kaahumanu Church (the oldest church on the island), the Bailey House Museum and the Market Street area, where you can wander among the shops, art galleries and cafes.