Maui lures travelers with an invigorating mix of natural beauty and outdoor fun, all shared with warm alohas.
When it comes to outdoor recreation, Maui wins best in show. Just look at that zipliner launching into a canopy of green. Or the mountain biker hurtling past eucalyptus and pine. Hikers have it darn good too, with trails winding through lava flows and bamboo forests. Along the coast, surfers barrel through waves, windboarders skim across whitecaps and snorkelers glide among fish-filled reefs and coral.
And we haven't even mentioned the Valley Isle's most iconic adventures, like driving the Road to Hana. Watching the sunrise from the summit of Haleakalā. Paddling a kayak within sight of humpback whales in Makena Bay. In sum? Amazing.
The golden sands of Keawakapu Beach. The rumpled green flanks of Haleakalā. The graceful beauty of Wailua Falls. These gorgeous sights have drawn admirers for generations. But it's funny, just when you think you have a handle on Maui's sublime scenery, an unexpected view catches you by surprise. It's these unplanned glimpses of beauty that linger in your memory. Maybe it's the ʻahinahina (silversword) staking out a claim on a stark crater slope. Or the jagged lava along the Keʻanae Peninsula, looking protective for a moment, not menacing. And the Waiakoa Loop Trail at Polipoli? Spookily pretty – until that baby boar snuffles into view.
Food & Drink
A top-notch dining scene enhances Maui's natural charms. And the best part? No matter the view or adventure, you're always a short drive from a delicious meal. Unless it's 8pm in Hana and you're looking for dinner...but we digress. From scrappy food trucks to white-linen dining rooms, eateries are embracing locally sourced food, from Upcountry vegetables to grass-fed beef from the ranch down the road. And the local food? The names may be unfamiliar – loco moco, shave ice, kalua pork – but trust us, the flavors are rich and delicious, and the portions typically hearty.
As you hike over the uncomfortable lava rocks on the King's Hwy near La Perouse Bay, gazing out to sea and broiling under the sun, it's easy to connect with ancient travelers who surely felt the same mix of awe and discomfort. Maui is dotted with such spots, where natural formations and historic structures are direct portals to the past. Downtown Lahaina, with its old wooden storefronts and rowdy pubs, channels the whaling era. You'd hardly blink if Edward Bailey, an 1800s missionary, stepped from the stairwell at the Bailey House. And the 100-year-old Komoda Bakery? The past still makes tasty cream puffs.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Maui.
Probably the most significant stop on the entire Road to Hana, this site combines a 294-acre ethnobotanical garden with the magnificent Piʻilanihale Heiau, the largest temple in all of Polynesia. A must-do tour provides fascinating details of the extraordinary relationship between the ancient Hawaiians and their environment. This is perhaps the best opportunity in Hawaii to really understand what traditional Hawaiian culture was like prior to contact with the West. Amazingly, very few people visit. Piʻilanihale Heiau is an immense lava-stone platform with a length of 450ft. The history of this astounding temple is shrouded in mystery, but there’s no doubt that it was an important religious site. Archaeologists believe construction began as early as AD 1200 and continued in phases. The grand finale was the work of Piʻilani (Piʻilanihale means House of Piʻilani), the 14th-century Maui chief who is also credited with the construction of many of the coastal fishponds in the Hana area. The temple occupies one corner of Kahanu Garden, near the sea. An outpost of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (which also runs the Allerton and McBryde gardens on Kauaʻi), Kahanu Garden contains the largest collection of breadfruit species in the world, with over 120 varieties. Breadfruit is significant because, as its name suggests, its nutritional value makes it a dietary pillar, and hence a weapon to combat global hunger. The garden also contains a living catalog of so-called canoe plants, those essentials of traditional life brought to Hawaii in the canoes of Polynesian voyagers, along with a hand-crafted canoe house that is another step back in time. The very best way to unlock the relationship between the heiau (ancient temple), the plants, and their beautiful park-like surroundings, where palms sway in the breeze, is to take a guided tour, something the entire family will enjoy. These are given Monday through Friday at 11am and last two hours. Reserve online via https://ntbg.org/gardens/kahanu. The only other option is a self-guided tour by brochure. The site is located 1.5 miles down ʻUlaʻino Rd from the Hana Hwy.
From break of day to twilight, this sparkling stretch of sand is a showstopper. Extending from south Kihei to Wailea’s Mokapu Beach, Keawakapu is set back from the main road and less visible than Kihei’s main roadside beaches just north. It’s also less crowded, and is a great place to settle in and watch the sunset. With its cushion-soft sand, Keawakapu is also a favorite for sunrise yoga and wake-up strolls. The ocean is a perfect spot for an end-of-day swim. Mornings are best for snorkeling: head to the rocky outcrops that form the northern and southern ends of the beach. During winter look for humpback whales, which come remarkably close to shore here. There are three beach access points, all with outdoor showers. To get to the southern end, drive south on S Kihei Rd until it dead-ends at a beach parking lot. Near the middle of the beach, there’s a parking lot at the corner of Kilohana Dr and S Kihei Rd. Cross S Kihei Rd to the beach access walkway. At the northern end, beach parking can be found in a large access lot north of the Days Inn.
Wai'anapanapa means 'glistening waters', and the clear mineral waters in the cave pools here will leave you feeling squeaky clean. There's a natural lava arch on the right side of Paʻiloa Bay, bordered by low rocky cliffs and a coastal trail with ancient lava stepping stones and a blowhole. Two impressive lava -tube caves are just a five-minute walk from the parking lot. There are no restaurants, markets or vendors in the park, but there are restrooms, camping and cabin facilities and the odd fruit stall.
Sunbathe like a celebrity at this sparkling strand, which fronts the swish Grand Wailea and ever-posh Four Seasons resorts and offers a full menu of water activities. The beach slopes gradually, making it a good swimming spot. When it’s calm, there’s decent snorkeling around the rocky point on the southern end. Most afternoons there’s a gentle shorebreak suitable for bodysurfing. Divers entering the water at Wailea Beach can follow an offshore reef that runs down to Polo Beach. The beach access road, with a parking lot, is between the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons resorts.
Got your camera? This beauty takes its name from the triple cascade that flows down a steep rock face on the inland side of the road, 0.5 miles past the 19-mile marker. Catch it after a rainstorm and the cascades come together and roar as one mighty waterfall. There’s limited parking up the hill to the left after the falls. You can scramble down to the falls via a steep, ill-defined path that begins on the Hana side of the bridge. The stones are moss covered and slippery, so either proceed with caution or simply enjoy the view from the road.
The crowning glory of Makena State Park, this untouched beach is arguably the finest on Maui. In Hawaiian it’s called Oneloa, literally ‘Long Sand.’ And indeed the golden sands stretch for the better part of a mile and are as broad as they come. The waters are a beautiful turquoise. When they’re calm, you’ll find kids boogie boarding here, but at other times the shorebreaks can be dangerous and suitable only for experienced bodysurfers, who get tossed wildly in the transparent waves. There are lifeguard stations here. No drinking water is available, so bring your own. In the late 1960s, this was the site of an alternative-lifestyle encampment nicknamed ‘Hippie Beach.’ The tent city lasted until 1972, when police finally evicted everyone. For a sweeping view of the shore, climb the short trail to the rocky outcrop just north, which divides Big Beach from Little Beach. The turnoff to the main parking area is a mile beyond the closed Makena Beach & Golf Resort. There’s a portable toilet here. A second parking area lies 440yd to the south. Thefts and broken windshields are a possibility, so don’t leave valuables in your car in either lot.
For a long day on the beach, it’s hard to beat this crescent-shaped strip at the southwestern tip of Kapalua. Snorkel in the morning, grab lunch at the Sea House, try stand up paddle surfing, then sip cocktails at Merriman’s next door. Or simply sit on the sand and gaze across the channel at Molokaʻi. Long rocky outcrops at both ends of the bay make Kapalua Beach the safest year-round swimming spot on this coast. You’ll find colorful snorkeling on the right side of the beach, with abundant tropical fish and orange slate-pencil sea urchins. There’s a rental hut here for beach gear. Take the drive immediately north of Napili Kai Beach Resort to get to the beach parking area, where there are restrooms and showers. A tunnel leads from the parking lot north to the beach. This is also a starting point for the Coastal Trail.
You may find yourself standing above the clouds while exploring Puʻuʻulaʻula (10,023ft), Maui’s highest point. The summit building provides a top-of-the-world panorama from its wraparound windows. On a clear day you can see Hawaiʻi (Big Island), Lanaʻi, Molokaʻi and even Oʻahu. When the light’s right, the colors of the crater are nothing short of spectacular, with grays, greens, reds and browns. An ʻahinahina garden has been planted at the overlook, making this the best place to see these luminous silver-leafed plants in various stages of growth.
With its clear water, white sand and hala-tree backdrop, this famous crescent is a little gem; author James Michener once called it the only beach in the North Pacific that looked as if it belonged in the South Pacific. When the surf’s up, surfers and bodyboarders flock here, though beware of rips and currents. When it’s calm, swimming is good in the cove – but check conditions before you take a dip. Public access is down the steps just north of the hotel’s bus-stop sign; there’s parking for seven or eight cars opposite. Facilities include restrooms.