A reader recently asked what would be my top five things to do in Maui on a week-long vacation. Though a challenging task, I narrowed down so many wonderful things to do and see to just five.
1. Go to the top of Haleakala, an inactive volcano, preferably to stargaze and watch sunrise. The top of Haleakala is the highest point on Maui and the views are wonderful. Before you go, please read my advice on visiting Haleakala at sunrise. You can also find more information on planning your visit to Haleakala National Park on their website.
It works best to plan a sunrise visit to Haleakala the first or second morning of your vacation, particularly if you are coming from the mainland. You’ll be jet lagged and have no problems waking up early enough to catch some star gazing before sunrise.
With the elevation of Haleakala summit being over 10,000 feet above sea level, temperatures are chilly compared to Maui’s beaches. Be prepared by bringing a jacket or sweater.
2. Spend a day touring the road to Hana. This coastal road winds through a rainforest. You’ll see beautiful beaches, lava cliffs and waterfalls.
Everyone calls this curvy drive “the road to Hana”, but don’t stop in Hana. You should actually drive 10 miles beyond Hana on Highway 31 to the Kipahulu area, which is also part of Haleakala National Park. Once you arrive at Kipahulu, you can do some short hikes along the coast and to the Oheo Gulch. (Oheo Gulch is also known as the “seven sacred pools”, but that’s not the correct Hawaiian name and there is nothing sacred about them.) If you have time (2.5 hours) and energy available, hike the Pipiwai Trail through a bamboo forest up to towering Waimoku Falls.
We offer lots of advice for great stops along with tips in our post on touring the road to Hana.
As you return back to your resort from your drive to Hana, if you have time and daylight, take a few minutes to watch the windsurfers at Hookipa Beach Park just east of Paia on Hana Highway (36). See this link to find Hookipa on a Google map.
3. Take a snorkeling or diving cruise/sail to Molokini. This crescent shaped top of an extinct volcano is a bird and marine sanctuary. It is one of the top snorkeling spots in Hawaii. In addition to the good snorkeling, taking the boat ride out to the crater offers wonderful views of Maui. In winter months, the boat ride often ends up being an unofficial whale watching cruise, too. We recommend booking this excursion for early morning when the channel water is typically the smoothest.
4 . See the Iao Valley State Park that’s rich with Hawaiian history. The park is beautiful and impressive with the star of the park being the velvet green Iao Needle that stands 2,250 high.
5. Watch for humpback whales with peak months being January through March, but you may see the whales from around December through April.You can either watch from the shore or take a whale watching tour.
So those are my top 5 must do’s. If you do those activities, you’ll will have seen some of the best of Maui, plus you’ll still have time to relax at the beach or pool. If you do nothing else than these five things, you’ll have had a fantastic Maui vacation.
In case you need more ideas, hear are some more suggests for you to consider:
- Catch the evening cliff dive at Black Rock from Sheraton Maui.
- See Dragon’s Teeth in Kapalua.
- See a Maui luau. I think Maui has some really, really good luaus. Two of my favorites are Old Lahaina Luau and Feast at Lele.
- Enjoy a spa treatment. After all your Maui adventures, you’ll deserve to rejuvenate at one of the many top rated spas in Maui. Our favorite spa is Kapalua Spa with their wonderfully relaxing facilities and the way they weave Hawaiian culture into their treatments.
- Plan a beach sunset picnic lunch. My favorite area is Kapalua in northwest Maui where you’ll have great views of Molokai and Lanai. A good place to get picnic supplies is at Honolua Store in Maui. More specifically, we like watching sunset from the ridge between Oneloa and Kapalua Bays from the Kapalua Coastal Trail described here. That being said, there’s loads of beautiful places to watch sunset all along West and South Maui. If you are staying near Kapalua, consider a spot along the Coastal Trail, otherwise, I’m sure you’ll find a beautiful spot anywhere along the west-facing shores of West or South Maui
- Walk around and shop in historic Lahaina town. Make sure you see the massive banyan tree that’s located off of Front Street.
- Get a shave ice and shop in quaint Paia. Just be careful that you don’t leave any valuables in your car. This town has a bit of a reputation for car break-ins. In fact, be sure you never leave valuables in your car in Hawaii.
If you find you’re on Maui when it’s raining, then check out these good Maui rainy day ideas.