Last Updated on March 17, 2023

I often call Maui the sampler platter of the Hawaiian Islands. Commonly known as the Valley Isle, Hawaii’s second-largest island enthralls visitors with its staggeringly beautiful scenery. It’s no surprise my favorite activities in Maui, Hawaii are outdoors.

You name it, it’s here: pristine beaches, waterfalls, rainforests, volcanic mountains, lush green valleys, and historic towns, along with some of the most stunning sunsets in the world.

The mix of farmers, paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys), award-winning chefs, artists, New Age healers, and big wave riders all blend together harmoniously to make Maui one of Hawaii’s most loved islands.  

No matter where your wanderlust leads you on this enchanting isle, rest assured at the end of your visit you’ll completely understand the Hawaiian expression Maui no ka ‘oi­–Maui is the best. 

While you will hear many suggestions of what to do when visiting, these are the activities in Maui, Hawaii highly recommend to others coming to this incredible piece of Hawaiian paradise.

Maui, Hawaii Activities

Sunrise at Haleakalā

Seeing the sunrise at Haleakalā is a must and some frequent visitors make a regular pilgrimage. The trip is best done on the morning after your arrival. Why? Although waking up at 3 a.m. (depending on your island location) sounds painful, it’s much easier to do before acclimating to the time change.

The early start is necessary as it takes a while to drive to the summit of Haleakalā. At 10,230 feet above sea level, this dormant volcano’s Hawaiian name means “house of the rising sun.” And for good reason.

There is nothing like wrapping up in a warm coat, hat, and mittens and watching the sun peak over the horizon in an ever-changing swirl of color and light dancing across the vast sea of clouds. It’s so amazing that Mark Twain described it as “the most sublime spectacle” he had ever witnessed. 

The Road to Hana

© Noreen Kompanik

The scenic Road to Hana, also known as the Hana Highway, is an undisputed top Maui attraction. You’ll need to set aside an entire day to do it.

Start early because there are many opportunities for photos on this picturesque drive. On this scenic highway, it’s about the journey and not just the destination.

There are few words to describe the immense beauty of this drive with its emerald cliffs and lush valleys bursting with waterfalls. The ocean views are stunning, and couple that with black, red, and white sand beaches and majestic gardens and you’ve discovered the highway to heaven.

Picking up a guidebook ahead of time and highlighting the top sights will help you chart your path and discover the treasures along the route.

Hike to the Nakalele Blowhole

© Noreen Kompanik

I had been to Maui several times before I found out about this impressively powerful natural geyser that shoots ocean water up to 100 feet into the air. Called the Nakalele Blowhole, this geological phenomenon can be found just eight miles north of Kapalua on Maui’s west coast.

The hike down to the blowhole is moderately challenging, but numerous trails crisscrossing the open landscape lead down to the geyser. I recommend hiking shoes or sturdy tennis shoes for the best footing through the jagged black lava terrain.

High tide is the ideal time to arrive as water pressure building up inside the lava tube is at its maximum, resulting in powerful sprays. The ocean swells rolling in to create spectacular eruptions; mostly vertical but an occasional angled blast can completely surprise spectators. Morning views can also produce multiple rainbows from the sprays. 

Word of warning here—heed the local signs and advice and don’t get too close to the blowhole itself.

Swim the Olivine Pools

© Noreen Kompanik

Waves thunder against volcanic rock and gather in natural tide pools in an area just four miles north of the Nakalele Blowhole on the northwest side of Maui.

The pools are named for their ample amounts of olivine, a semi-precious gem encrusted in the surrounding lava and sandstone. A short, faintly-marked trail leads to a series of shallow and deep pools perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing on a calm day. Conditions for visiting this of my favorite activities in Maui, Hawaii can vary dramatically depending on the wind and tides, so plan accordingly.

Footing along the trail can be tricky and flip flops are not advised. Adventurous travelers, however, are richly rewarded as the Olivine Pools are the most spectacular natural lava swimming pools in the Hawaiian Islands—better than even the Queen’s Bath on Kauai.

Snorkel at Molokini Crater

What’s left of a volcanic eruption 230,000 years ago is the remnants of a cinder cone eroded into a crescent atoll known as Molokini Crater. 

Situated just a few miles offshore, the atoll is frequented by scuba diving, snuba, or snorkeling tour boats exploring its crystalline waters. Here visitors can enjoy a thriving coral reef, home to more than 250 species of fish and 38 species of coral. The crater is widely considered the best diving and snorkel spot on the island.

Old Lahaina Luau

Yes, there are luaus all throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but not one other can compare to our all-time favorite—the Old Lahaina Luau. 

A true authentic luau, this impressive spectacle takes place on the oceanfront grounds of the historic whaling village of Lahaina and comes with amazing sunset views.

A flower lei and tropical cocktails greet guests upon arrival. You’re then treated to a traditional multi-course Hawaiian dinner accompanied by legendary music and hula. The festivities transport guests on a magical and mystical journey of the Hawaiian people through the pages of history.

The food, music, and pageantry are second to none. It’s an unforgettable experience. 

Explore a Black Sand Beach with Sea Turtles

© Noreen Kompanik

Often referred to as honu, Hawaii’s sea turtles are ancient and revered­–the turtles have been a part of these islands for more than 150,000 years. The animals can often be seen sunning themselves on Wai’anapanapa Beach, a black glistening volcanic stretch of sand with crystalline blue waters. 

Wai’anapanapa is an excellent place for snorkeling while surrounded by these gentle giants. 

The sea turtles are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are highly protected; it’s illegal to touch or harass them.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

Nestled 4,000 feet up in the clouds on the slopes of Haleakala Crater, Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm boasts over 45 different varieties of lavender along with expansive views of the central and west Maui coast and mountains.

Tranquil paths with statues and fountains lead through native Hawaiian gardens as well as citrus and apple orchards. Their lovely gift shop is filled with lavender-infused products, many not found elsewhere. Lavender chocolates, teas, coffee, brownies, lotions, and more can be found here.

Tours of the farm are available by reservation.

Mama’s Fish House

Yes, it’s expensive. And yes, it’s worth it. If you choose only one high-end place to dine in Maui, it has to be Mama’s Fish House, consistently rated the number one place to dine on the island.

This famed restaurant is located along Ho’okipa, Maui’s blustery windsurfing beach. It’s also one of the most picture-perfect postcard spots on the island.

Here it’s all about the tropical breezes, gracious service, and the freshest fish you’ll find anywhere on the island, all in a throwback 1960s tiki-like setting.

‘Iao Valley

Hawaiians use the term mana to describe all manner of divine power and spiritual life force, and there are places on Maui where mana feels both strong and tangible. Central Maui’s ‘Iao Valley is definitely one of them.

The lush tropical rainforest valley is a sacred burying place for Hawaiian chiefs. The iconic pinnacle of this verdant valley is a 2,250-foot rock pillared point known as the ‘Iao Needle. 134 baby steps lead to an upper lookout with stunning views of the surrounding valley and Kahului Harbor.

Wine Tasting 

Here’s a surprising top activities in Maui, Hawaii. I’d never tasted pineapple wine before and I’ve tasted A LOT of wine! Not until visiting Maui, that is.

Maui Wine’s picturesque property is located on the Pi’ilani Highway in the southwest region. Specializing in decadent wines, the winery’s pineapple collection is produced from 100-percent Maui Gold pineapples. Fruity and fun, these tasty and refreshing wines join the family of other estate specialties like Rosé, Syrah, and Chenin-Viognier blends.

Author

  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.