I’ve been spending long periods of time in Maui steadily, since 2005. So it’s not surprising that every time a friend of mine books a trip to Maui, I get asked: “What should I do in Maui?” “What are the things I have to see while I’m in Maui?” “Where should I eat in Maui?” I’ve answered this so many times, that I have a auto-response email. But then I thought… why hide all that Maui goodness under wraps.
Most of these suggestions are based on my side of the island (South Maui), but I’ve tried to spread the love all over. So, here are my must do’s, must see’s in Maui…
Your first-stop should be at Costco or Walmart near the airport. You can pick up some cheap snacks and waters and whatever, but also buy the book, “Maui Revealed” while you’re there. It will tell you all about sights you should see.
Drive up to Haleakala
They say to go there at sunrise, but you’re gonna have to start that drive at 2AM to see that. It is quite a drive and it’s FREEZING — like snow is on the ground — so you’d have to pack a really warm jacket to do that. OR you could just go during the day some time to check out the crater. If it’s too cloudy in the crater, wait a while and the clouds will clear at some point so you can get a clear view. It’s impressive AF.
Please note: Starting February 2017, you need to obtain a permit to watch the sunrise. So make sure you make a reservation. And also check road conditions before you go, sometimes they close down the park entrance completely due to high winds.
Go to the beach at Wailea
The one in front of the Four Seasons, to check out the place where my ex-husband Aaron was attacked by a shark! The beach there is one of my favorites, calm shore-line and sometimes there are turtles hanging out by the rocks (yes, near the attack spot).
Their outdoor restaurant, Ferraro’s, is my favorite spot for lunch. (You usually will see some celebrity staying there, especially during summer time. My favorite was constant interactions with Adam Sandler and his adorable daughter.) I recommend their Lahaina Lemonades and their french fries with anything.
Next door to the Four Season’s is The Grand Wailea with very pretty grounds to explore, and, from there, you can walk the ocean-front sidewalk that connects all the big fancy-pants hotels.
Take a boat trip out to Molokini to snorkel
If you CAN hire a more private-style boat. I recommend Makena Coast Dive Charters — they’re friends of the family. But if you just go on one of the big tourist boats, try and swim further away from the crowd or all you’ll see is a sea of white tourist ass.
Go to Paia for lunch and shopping
Paia is a cool hippie town, complete with a head shop and health-conscious grocery store, Mana Foods. It’s super fun to walk around and explore the shops and the food scene.
Speaking of which… When you’re there you MUST eat at the Flatbread Pizza Co. It’s my favorite pizza on Earth, made with all local ingredients.
Another restaurant to experience in (or just outside of) Paia is Mama’s Fish House… it’s very $$$, so we usually go for lunch. But you can’t beat their fish and mai tais. Plus the decor is worth a visit on it’s own. But definitely try to snag a reservation even before you get on island because they book up FAST.
Then you can watch the wind surfers do their thing at Ho’okipa Beach, just outside of Paia.
More on Maui restaurants
Check out our post all about where to eat on Maui, including restaurant suggestions all over the island.
Do the “mini road to Hana”
If you don’t have time to drive the entire road to Hana, I love my mini version (all the pretty, without all the motion sickness AND on you don’t have to spend a whole day to do it) by going to Twin Falls. It’s up a few miles from Paia on Hana Hwy.
You will need to walk about a mile back to see the falls, but it’s well worth it. Oh, and as you start your walk, first grab a coconut water from the fruit stand out front. Wear your swim suit and shoes you don’t mind getting wet because you’ll have to walk through water to get to the waterfall.
Or the full road to Hana
If you want to be able to take your time instead of powering through the drive on a timeline, think about booking a room at the Travaasa for the night, or an Airbnb. Just knowing that you don’t have to make the drive back on the same day eased a lot of anxiety for us. (And trust me, with the roads you’ll be driving along, you’ll have enough anxiety to deal with.)
No matter how you plan your drive, we recommend you download the Shaka Guide’s Maui Driving Tour app to help guide you along. We had a good time with the guy who “conducts” the tours. (We named him Mr Coconut.)
Explore the “Up Country” cowboy town of Makawao
It’s a few miles from Paia up Baldwin Ave. It is a pretty drive, and there is a really good brunch place up there called, Market Fresh Bistro. The shopping is excellent. It’s also a nice break from the sun, as the weather is often very Seattle-esque up there.
Go to Lahaina
It’s a beautiful drive, and there are awesome “beginner surfer” beaches along the way. When Locals drive through the tunnel, they honk their horns, so don’t be alarmed if that happens! There are so many places to eat and shop…
All the stores and restaurants along Front Street are pretty touristy. But you should go into Dan’s Green House and see the parrots and pot belly pigs! So cute. Another little shop that I LOVE is Hale Zen — some of my favorite home goods and jewelry have come from there.
When we go into Lahaina we eat at Mala’s. It’s up a bit from the tourist part of Front St… If you get a window seat in the bar area, you are literally sitting on the rocks with water splashing up to the window! And you can watch for turtles! They also have a good Happy Hour, and make sure you have the the Brussels sprouts and their sangria.
But perhaps my favorite thing in Lahaina is the banyan tree — it never ceases to impress me with its size and its crazy branches that turn into new tree trunks.
If you’re in Kaanapali…
This is totally not my side of the island, but a few of the things I do when I’m on that side is play tourist for a day. I sneak into The Westin to use their awesome pools — there’s like five different pools, and they’re all connected. Aaaand, if you’re really good, you can sneak a ride on their awesome twisty slide!
Then go for drinks at Merriman’s. They have my favorite mai tai — the fancy kine with cocktail foam. If you get a seat on their GIANT outdoor patio at sunset, you can watch the Cliff Dive Ceremony at the neighboring Sheraton.
Check out Whaler’s Village outdoor shopping, and then eat at Lailani’s, treat yourself to a Hula Pie, and listen to live music as you people watch.
Good beaches and places to go snorkeling
Honolua Bay and Napili Bay are always mentioned as some of the best snorkeling spots.
Polo Beach in Wailea is a good snorkel place where you can see lots of turtles without going out in a boat.
Little Beach is where you should go if you’re into nude beaches. But beware: you’ll have to hike over some rocks from the neighboring “Big Beach” to gain access to it.
Go to the Aquarium
The Maui Ocean Center Aquarium in Ma’alea is my favorite aquarium, complete with a HUGE shark tank.
Check out the “Nakalele Blowhole“
Warning: you will get at least damp if you’re going to be near it.
My friends own an Irish pub
It’s in Wailea called Mulligan’s on the Blue. The food is pretty good with live music, and they pour the BEST Guinness on the island. If you can catch a Willie K show, you should — he’s amazing. He’s like the Jon Brion of Hawaii.
Check out if there are any cool concerts
The shows at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center are always awesome, because the crowds are always super appreciative and energetic. I got to see Elton John, Natalie Cole, and Chaka Khan.
Maui First Fridays
First Fridays are community get-togethers that happen every Aloha Friday! Whether it’s a local art show in Lahaina or a paniolo party in Makawao, each town celebrates a little differently, but there’s always great food, music, and local vendors where you can buy anything from hair ties to popsicles.
If you’re going to be there in January-March…
You MUST MUST MUST take a whale watching tour. Of course, you could also just whale watch from the shore. There are whales EVERYWHERE. I mean, just driving down the roads we spot whales constantly. The humpbacks come every year starting in winter to mate and give birth in warm waters. By March & April most all the babies have been born and you can see mama’s and babies everywhere. You can also hear their calls when you go snorkeling.
Hope that’s of some help to you. And if anyone else has suggestions of their favorite things to do in Maui, by all means, leave ’em in the comments!