Local's Picks: Top Things to Do on Maui
Here are the top adventures to try when visiting this outdoor playground.
Start the Day With a Dawn Patrol
Some call it exercise, others call it therapy — but there’s something innately calming and spiritual about starting the day on the water. Maui has a magic that’s endemic to morning, when the winds are light, the air is cool, and the ocean is as calm as glass. Rent a board from 808 Boards (which offers free delivery) and then rise with the sun to surf or go stand-up paddleboarding on the waves south of Lahaina. If you need a lesson to pick up the basics, Maui Surfer Girls and Rivers to the Sea will get you up and riding.
Savor the Slow Journey to Hana
If there’s 1 thing visitors do wrong on Maui, it’s rushing the Road to Hana. This lush outpost of serenity and simplicity is more than just a town; rather, the journey to Hana is a slow adventure, where waterfall trails are meant to be hiked, loaves of banana bread are meant to be savored, and the blissful absence of cell phone service is a reminder of life untethered. Swim in freshwater pools inside the Waianapanapa caves, or visit the largest religious structure in Polynesia at Kahanu Garden. Jump off rocks at Waioka Pond, or relax on the sands of Hamoa Beach — a place whose beauty made travelers from Michener to Twain gush.
Hit the Trail
One of the best ways to explore Maui is out on your own 2 feet, and while the trails here range from rugged to refined, all offer exceptional beauty and a natural outdoor workout. On the Pipiwai Trail in Kipahulu, hike through a creaking grove of bamboo to the base of a 400-foot waterfall. South of Makena, in Keoneoio, the lava rock pathway of Hoapili Trail is an ancient route for kings. Stroll beneath redwoods in Polipoli, pick guavas on the Kapalua Lake Loop, or skirt past endangered silversword plants in the moonscape of Haleakala Crater.
One of the best ways to form a connection with Maui is to feel as though you’ve helped improve it. Malama ’aina is a Hawaiian phrase that means “to care for the land.” Whether it’s helping to restore an ancient village in misty Honokowai Valley or clearing coral of trash and fishing line during Trilogy Excursions’ monthly Blue’Aina reef cleanup, volunteering is a way to both perpetuate the island’s beauty and engage with the local community in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Paddle an Outrigger Canoe
For those with an interest in the ocean and culture, there are few better ways to spend a morning than paddling an outrigger canoe. These long, sleek, hand-propelled canoes are what native Hawaiians would use to move between the neighboring islands, and the rhythmic paddling might force you to use muscles you never knew you had. In addition to the upper-body workout, paddling provides insight into cultural values such as teamwork and togetherness. And, since most canoe tours also involve snorkeling, it’s a way to experience the island’s marine life in a private ocean setting. To support a company that makes monthly donations to local environmental nonprofits, check out Hawaiian Paddle Sports and its private outrigger paddling tours.
See a Luau
Of the numerous luaus on Maui, Old Lahaina Luau is the most authentically Hawaiian, with a story line that focuses exclusively on the history of the original Hawaiian settlers. Other luaus — such as Drums of the Pacific — highlight cultures from the Polynesian Triangle, allowing you to experience the haka from Aotearoa and Samoan fire-knife dancing. Perhaps even more important than the entertainment value, though, is luaus’ role in preserving island heritage, from preparing traditional island cuisine such as coconut haupia pudding to providing employment for the hula dancers and musicians who perpetuate the culture through song.
Whether it’s sipping on locally roasted coffee at an outdoor farm-to-table luncheon, clipping into the harness of a colorful paraglider or riding horses across green pastureland at the family-owned Thompson Ranch, there’s a rustic yet refined simplicity to little-heralded Upcountry. Set on Haleakala volcano at elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, this farming, ranching and rodeo outpost offers everything from the island’s only commercial winery to goat cheese at Surfing Goat Dairy. For shopping, make a stop in the cowboy town of Makawao, where new-age artists and clothing boutiques fill every storefront.