Maui’s Top 7 Free or Nearly Free Things to Do and See

Note that since this article was originally published in 2007, some parks and sites began changing entrance fees. So, some of these sites aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be.

road to hana scenery
Waianapanapa State Park is free to visit off the Road to Hana

You don’t have to spend a bundle on expensive tours to have a fantastic time in Maui. In fact, some of the best sites and activities are free. In this post, I’ve compiled my top seven budget minded activities. Most of them are free, but if there is a fee involved, I’ve made note of it.

  1. Explore Haleakala National Park. Consider making an early morning visit to Haleakala and watch sunrise with a reservation. Then plan to hike the trails and look for native Hawaiian wildlife. There is a $30 per car entrance fee which is valid for three days. See this link to verify the current fees.
  2. Drive the road to Hana (Highway 360). Plan a whole day to take this winding scenic route where you will drive along a lush tropical coastline with stunning cliffs, beaches, and waterfalls. See all my tips for driving the Road to Hana. Also, try to combine your trip to Haleakala summit within three days of your drive of the road to Hana so that you will not need to pay another entrance fee for visiting the coastal area of Haleakala National Park.
  3. Have a sunset picnic on the beach. Whether you are on your honeymoon or on holiday with your friends, it is almost magical to watch sunset at one of the many gorgeous beaches in Maui. (Of course this beach will need to be on the west side of the island.) You can easily find grocery or sandwich shops to pick up picnic supplies on Maui. Just be sure you don’t bring alcoholic beverages which are prohibited on Hawaii beaches.
  4. Go snorkeling. Bring your own equipment or  find inexpensive rentals. Here are some top Maui snorkeling spots that you access from the beaches (except for Molokini).
  5. Go to the Iao Valley State Park to admire it’s beauty and learn about its ancient Hawaiian historical significance. Note that an entrance fee is required.
  6. Take a stroll around historic Lahaina. See the famous banyan tree, historic buildings, and check out the art galleries. You can pick up a free walking map at the Lahania Visitors Center.
  7. Watch the waves, windsurfers, and whales. If you don’t spend some time soaking in the scenery at a beach in Maui, well then you’ve not really had a proper Maui vacation. My favorite beach is D.T. Fleming Beach Park in Kapalua, which once won Dr. Beach’s top beach award. From January to April, this beach is also a good point to watch for whales. See this article for free whalewatching information. As for windsurfing, Hookipa is a world famous windsurfing spot.

A couple of honorable mentions for budget Maui vacation ideas are:

You’ll surely find lots of great ways to enjoy Maui without spending tons of money on tours. In my opinion, there are definitely some other Maui activities that are worth their cost. So, check out my list of the top 5 things you must see and do on Maui and see our Maui vacation itinerary.

If you’ll be visiting other Hawaiian Islands, then don’t miss these picks for the best budget activities:

  1. Hi Kailani – Well not too crazy, really. I grew up near snow ski resorts and I didn’t ski until I was 21 and even after that I rarely skied.

  2. While on Maui this past June, my brother took us to see Dragon’s Teeth, near the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Kapalua. It is a very dramatic sight, lava upturned by wave and wind action as it was flowing into the ocean. It really resembles the teeth of a giant dragon laying right before you, yet my brother says that it looks like someone performed some amateur dentistry on it as it doesn’t look as snarling as it did before. Just be careful of your step, as the area is not even, or the Dragon may take a bite out of you (my brother took a nasty spill his 1st time there and needed stitches!).
    If you continue past the Teeth , you will come upon a maze made of rock, coral and a coarse grass. Several of my traveling companions walked the maze, taking 5-10 minutes to get to the center. I was just wondering if you or anyone reading this would have any knowledge of what this maze is all about. It isn’t even mentioned in my Maui Revealed book. It would be a good addition to my mementos of my trip to Maui.
    This isn’t a BIG item to see on Maui, but it is a beautiful dramatic piece of shoreline that is truly PURE HAWAII, and it’s FREE

  3. @ Chris – a belated thank you for adding the Makena Beach body surfing suggestion.

    @ Joanne – the Kapalua area of Maui is my favorite. I think partly because we stayed in the Kapalua villas on our very first visit to Maui and partly because it’s just beautiful there. I actually did not know about Dragon’s Teeth. I was probably nearby and was so in awe of everything that I completely missed it. I will definitely check that our next time. As for the maze, I just tried looking it up in my brand new Maui Trailblazer guide and on the Kapalua official website and didn’t find any mention of it.

  4. Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for the really very helpful information about activities in Hawaii. It’s a boon in disguise for first timers like me who is trying not to miss any of the must-see places or must-do activities.

    Since I’m planning to go to the Haleakala National Park to see the sunrise, is it possible to combine the Haleakala crater visit also together? I know there are helicopter tours available just to see the crater, but I wanted to check whats the best and economical way to do both.


  5. Hi Akky –

    I know what you mean about being a first timer to Maui and trying to figure out what to do and see. It can be overwhelming, but from my experience these are the best of the best!

    When you go to Haleakala for sunrise, you are on top of Haleakala. You’ll see the surreal landscape as the sun comes up. There are trails that you can take to explore Haleakala. You can learn tons more from here and you can request free brouchures here:

    What a helicopter tour will offer that you won’t get to see from the ground is the bird’s eye perspective. As you are trying to decide what to do, I think this post and the links will help you decide what to explore and if a helicopter tour is worth spending the money:

    And, here’s my final 2 cents – if you are considering a helicopter tour that covers the whole island including the top of Haleakala, that may be worth the time and money even if you are already planning to go to Haleakala for sunrise. If you are going to go to Haleakala for sunrise and the helicopter tour only takes you to the top of Haleakala, that, in my opinion, is not worth the extra money. Just my 2 cents.

    Good luck with your decisions.

    Also, don’t miss this post:

  6. Very helpful post. Me and my wife are in maui now for the first time, and I’m very thankful I ran across your site because we’re not big on the touristy things. We checked out Haleakala this morning and it was fantastic! Heading snorkeling now, we’re in for a long day.

  7. May be a silly question, but when I look at lists from websites and books of all the nice beaches in Maui to visit, snorkle, or hike to (road to Hana)….are all these beaches labeled with signage? I know in Pensacola (where I’m originally from) we have lots of beach spots that have “name” but there are no signs there.

  8. Thanks a lot for these column and thread . I would be with pride of America ship dock at 8 am and then have road to Hana tour which would finish at 3-6 pm . After rest, taking sunrise tour of the crater . Should be back on ship by 11 am . Since, I won’t car , what I can do if I have another six hours . If any activities close to the port or should I rent car for few hours . Not in an snorkeling etc

    1. There are two different places where cruise ships dock on Maui. Don’t know where PoA docks. Perhaps you could search Google maps for nearby beach parks where you could easily walk or get a cab.

  9. Hi, im trying to find out places to go with your siblings for free. I live on Maui but me or my brother don’t have a car. He’s 15 and I haven’t seen him in months. I just wanna know where to go with him. We are both pretty broke 😬 and I just want to do something with him so I thought maybe someone could tell me if I could go somewhere with him? All these places are cool but kinda far from Kahului, and yea so if someone could help me or give me some tips/advice please.

    1. Maybe you could look into taking the Maui bus to check out some of the great sites.

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