If you’re planning a trip to Maui, you’re likely looking forward to plenty of time beach bumming, lounging poolside, and hunting down the best beach bar. And hey, that’s what a beach vacay is all about right?? But just in case you’re looking for more things to do in Maui, for a bigger dose of adventure, or to get out and explore all that Maui has to offer, here are 5 suggestions for Maui day trips:
Road to Hana. You literally cannot come to Maui without driving the Road to Hana. Maui’s famous hair raising winding jungle road is famous for a reason. In 50 miles you’ll see sights you’ve only ever dreamed of…rainbow eucalyptus trees, bamboo forests, deep gorges and valleys, wide ocean views, narrow brides, red and black sand beaches, and waterfalls galore…the Road to Hana has it all. The adventure is all in the journey…there’s not much in Hana town itself but there’s so much to explore along the way that you’ll be hard pressed to see it all in daylight. Leave early and pick up a picnic lunch in Paia town before heading out. Plan to allow 3-4 hours to hike the Pipiwai Trail near Oheo Gulch in Haleakala National Park before continuing along the road clockwise.
Many tourists opt out of the trip thinking it’s too long, too much for kids, or that the road is too scary. Let me tell you…if you come to Maui and skip Hana, you’re missing out. This is the real Maui folks…you won’t see the best of Maui without venturing into the jungles on the east side.
If you really want to enjoy your trip to Hana and not feel so crunched for time, I would suggest spending a night there. If you want to go all out, you can’t beat the Travaasa. If you’re working with a smaller budget, do a search for vacation rentals here.
Haleakala. Everybody wants to go to Hawaii and see a volcano right? Well, there’s no active ones on Maui but Haleakala is an enormous dormant volcano and home to terrain that is truly “out of this world.” Haleakala’s summit hits 10,000 feet making it an excellent place to watch the sunrise. Actually, this is one of THE most popular things to do on Maui, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The summit is a good 2-hour drive from most of the Maui resort areas and you’ll need to be up there well before sunrise to stake out a spot (they close down the parking lot at the top when it fills up) so depending on the time of you, you may need to leave your resort in the wee hours of the morning to make the trip. But it is spectacular. And soooooooo cold. Like seriously cold, not just cold by Hawaii standards. Bundle up.
If getting up at 2AM isn’t your cup of tea (try it on the first morning of your trip when jet lag will likely have you up early anyways), sunset is also pretty spectacular. There are also many hiking trails that traverse the mars like landscape of the crater. Many people combine a trip up to Haleakala with some sights Upcountry (see below). For a big dose of adventure, check out my bike ride down the volcano.
Upcountry. Upcountry is where Maui’s heart is and sadly not many tourists make it up there. Drive up Haleakala Highway out to Ulupalakua where Maui’s Winery is located. This road has great views of the Wailea/Makena area down below. Tour the winery, hit the tasting room, and work your way back down the hill from there. Stop at the Ali’i Lavender Farm for the best views in Maui then cut across Kekaulike road for a scenic drive to Makawao (a shop-able cowboy town) before ending the day in Paia town where there’s plenty of shopping and dining options as well as all of the great sights the north shore offers.
There is so much to see in the Upcountry and it’s a shame most people don’t spend the time. Rolling hills, purple jacaranda trees, and epic views of the island are just a few reasons to make it a destination. For WAY more tips and recommendations, check out this post on what I love about Maui’s Upcountry. And if you’re looking to spend a night or two in this area, I really like Lumeria Maui near Makawao.
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West Maui Loop. While the Road to Hana has the reputation for being a harrowing road, the Kahekili highway around West Maui puts it to shame. While not as tropical, this drive around the West Maui Mountains offers spectacular views and glimpses into remote Hawaiian villages that have been much secluded from Maui tourism. But be warned…this road (especially the end closest to Wailuku) is a single narrow lane with a steep drop off in many places. Start out your day at the Iao Valley in Wailuku (major Jurassic park mountain views) before starting around the loop counter clockwise (warning! This direction puts you on the outside lane of traffic so if you’re super squeamish about heights and cliffs, start in Lahaina and go clockwise).
Don’t miss the Nakalele Blowhole and heart shaped rock, the Olivine pools, and Honolua Bay as you near Kapalua. There are also plenty of places to stop off at local fruit stands and even an art gallery on the route. If you’re leery about the drive but want to see the blowhole and heart shaped rock, start in Kapalua, go clockwise, see the blowhole and then just reverse your route. The really scary part of the road is between Wailuku and the blowhole.
Makena. Makena is a beautiful coastal area stretching south from Wailea and ending past a lava field at La Perouse Bay. Even though it’s right next to one of Maui’s major resort areas, many visitors staying in the Wailea area sometimes miss out on driving as far south as the road will go. Once the resorts end you’ll come to Big Beach (Makena State Park) which is popular with locals and tourists and is a must see. Just past Big Beach on the right side of the road you’ll see a shoreline access sign (don’t blink or you’ll miss it). Park along the side of the road and follow the narrow stone walled path between the two houses and you’ll find Secret Beach.
Keep driving south and you’ll start to see the multi million dollar mansions where Maui’s string of movie star part time residents call home. Eventually the road juts through a lava field before ending at La Perouse Bay. It’s not unusual to see dolphins or sea turtles in the waters along this drive. This is one of my favorite parts of Maui. It’s conveniently close to Wailea but it really does feel a whole world away. If you’re considering making Makena your home base, I recommend Makena Surf.
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