A Tropical Travel Blog
by Cate Lincoln

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If you’re looking for a list of things to do in Maui, then I’ve got you covered! Maui is a huge island and some people get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of incredible things there are to do and see, so beside just straight beach bummin’, here are 15 things to do in Maui that you definitely shouldn’t miss:

1.Check out the views at the Ali’i Lavender Farm. Upcountry Maui is not to be missed. The lavender farm offers beautiful gardens, a quaint gift shop, and a nice café but the views of the island are what makes this a do not miss attraction. They have activities you can sign up for every week, like making wreaths out of succulents and there’s also a scavenger hunt through their gardens.

Photo from John Morgan via Flickr.

2. Hang out at Big Beach. One of Maui’s prettiest beaches and a popular hangout spot for locals, Big Beach is south of Wailea in Makena. The huge waves make it good for boogie boarding but take a minute and watch the locals before you dive in to make sure you’re not getting in over your head. If you’re not a strong swimmer, it may be best to hang back and watch. There are plenty of lifeguards on this beach. Keep driving South past Big Beach for a nice shore side drive past some million dollar homes that ends in a lava field.

3. Walk on Ka’anapali Beach. Ka’anapali beach is one of Maui’s best beaches for people watching. There’s a 3-mile long beach walk that begins in front of the Sheraton and goes to the Hyatt at the other end of the beach. Near the middle of the beach is the Whaler’s Village Mall with plenty of great shops and restaurants. The Westin has an exhibit with parrots and flamingos while the Hyatt is home to Maui’s only penguins.

Photo from riNux via Flickr.

4. Shop in Makawao. Just a short drive upcountry from Paia is Maui’s cowboy town. Makawao is “paniolo” country and this cute town with a Western feel has plenty of great shops and couple of good cafes that make it a good day destination. Consider stopping in Makawao on your way down from Haleakala and hit Komoda Bakery for some of their famous stick donuts.

Photo from Warren Antiolo via Flickr.

RELATED: Not very familiar with Maui? Read up on the lay of the is(land) and where to stay plus my favorite budget hotels, condos, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, luxury resorts, and boutique hotels plus my area specific guides (including where to stay, eat, and things to do) for Wailea, Ka’anapali, the north shore, and upcountry plus my review of staying at the Four Seasons Maui.

5. Have dinner at Mama’s Fish House. Mama’s Fish House is THE do not miss dining experience on Maui. It’s pricey but skip the overpriced restaurants lining Front Street in Lahaina and come here instead. This beachfront open air restaurant mixes old Hawaiian charm with a fine dining experience that will leave you wanting to come back for more. Reservations are a must.

6. Snorkel at Molokini. Molokini Crater is Maui’s famed snorkeling spot and a short boat ride away from South Maui. This crescent shaped crater creates a protected refuge and ideal spot for snorkeling with countless species of fish and some of the most impressive coral formations in Hawaii. Boat trips out of South or West Maui will usually include stops at a couple of other great snorkeling spots and going with a guided excursion will give you the best chance at swimming with turtles and maybe even getting to see an octopus or two. Read all about my experience snorkeling at Molokini on my favorite catamaran here plus other Maui snorkeling spots (including where to find sea turtles!) here.

Photo from Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr.

7. Drive the Road to Hana. Tales of the harrowing drive along narrow and windy roads along cliffs, through jungles, and past waterfalls have only built up the folklore surrounding Hawaii’s most popular drive, the Road to Hana. And taking part is practically a right of passage when visiting Maui. Set out early, stopping to grab a picnic lunch in Paia town and see all the sights along the way. Your journey past rainbow eucalyptus trees, bamboo forests, black and red sand beaches, 400 foot waterfalls, and Hana town itself will give you a taste of the real Hawaii. Old Hawaii. Of all the things to do in Maui, you really shouldn’t miss this one. Read this post about my favorite stops on the Road to Hana.

8. See sunrise atop Haleakala. There aren’t many places in the world where you can stand on top of a 10,000 ft tall volcano in the middle of the ocean and watch the sun begin to awaken. It’s become a pilgrimage of sorts, with bleary eyed tourists waking up in the middle of the night and donning coats and hats to make the long and windy drive up the mountain to Haleakala’s summit where they stake out spots and wait for a glimpse of those first sights of peachy orange hues peaking through the cloud canopy. It’s been called magical and that’s all you can really say about it. You’re unlikely to experience this kind of phenomenon anywhere else in the world. If you’re making the trek up to Haleakala for sunrise on your own, you’ll need a reservation through the National Park service. You can make reservations 60 days in advance and they cost $1.50. If you’d rather be picked up at your resort, shuttled to the top of the mountain, and have a full tour with breakfast, check out this tour.

On your Maui trip, don't miss the sunrise at Haleakala!

9. Take a whale-watching excursion. If you’re visiting Maui anytime between December and April, you’re almost guaranteed some whale sightings. While you’ll likely be lucky enough to see a breach or two from shore, nothing beats being out on a boat and watching them play in the water right alongside. Spending a couple of hours out on a catamaran with a marine biologist will ensure that you not only get an up close encounter with these amazing creatures but find out plenty about their behaviors and personalities. Book a tour with Pacific Whale Foundation here. Read more about whale watching here.

Photo from Prab Bhatia via Flickr.

10. Watch the turtles beach at Ho’okipa or Kuau Bay. On the North Shore, Ho’okipa beach is a resting area for the Hawaiian green sea turtles. Every afternoon they will swim up onto the beach (the far East end) to sun themselves while they nap. A volunteer group has taken it upon itself to protect the turtles by enforcing a perimeter around them, but this is the perfect spot to see a whole herd of turtles (usually around 20) both in and out of the water. Ho’okipa is also a popular surfing beach and on good days you’re guaranteed a show from the outlook.

Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount Hawaii Car Rentals. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.

11. Spend the day in Paia town. This “hippy” town on the North Shore has some of the best shopping and dining on Maui. It’s laid back vibe makes it feel more local than other parts of Maui but it has all of the amenities that make it a great place to spend the day. Great local boutiques and plenty of diverse restaurants all a stone’s through from beautiful Baldwin beach are a great reason to make the trip up to Paia from your resort. Read my full north shore guide here.

RELATED: 20 Bakeries and Food Trucks on Maui

Complete Guide to Upcountry Maui

5 Maui Day Trips

Where to Snorkel on Maui (and Find Sea Turtles)

Best Maui Beaches

Where to Eat on Maui 

Guide to the Road to Hana

5 Things to Skip on Maui

12. Take a day trip to Lanai. The “Pineapple Isle” is just a short ferry ride away from Lahaina but it feels like another world. An island ATV tour is a popular option if you’re looking for something organized but there’s also an island shuttle system that runs between the two Four Seasons resorts and Lanai City. If you’d rather sail to Lanai on a catamaran as part of a snorkel day trip, check out this tour.

Photo from Jim Mallhaupt via Flickr.

13. Drive the West Maui Loop. If you thought the Road to Hana was a white-knuckle ride, you haven’t seen anything yet! The Kahekili Highway is definitely not for the faint of heart but if you brave the one lane Cliffside roads, you’ll be rewarded with views of Maui not often seen and glimpses of native Hawaiians living all but “off the grid.” The Nakalele Blowhole and the Olivine Pools are found along this route but if you approach them from the Kapalua side, you can see these sights and turn around and drive back towards Lahaina without attempting the “scary” part of the drive.

Photo from Holger Leiter via Flickr.

14. Have drinks at the Four Seasons or Grand Wailea. Maui has some of the nicest resorts in the world, but even if you’re not staying there you can still have dinner or drinks. The Four Seasons and Grand Wailea in Wailea are the best and they’re located right next to each other on the same beach with a walkway connecting them. The Four Seasons offers free valet for anyone visiting the resort. Their lobby bar has great views of the pool area and beach and Duo and Ferraro’s are good options for dinner. The Bistro Molokini at the Grand Wailea is a good place for a more affordable meal without sacrificing ambiance. And if you’re looking for the best place to stay on Maui, you’ve got to read this post.

15. Sample pineapple wine at Maui’s Winery. The drive is reason enough to go, but the free tastings on the charming property and unique pineapple wine make Maui Wine a truly unique experience. Buy a few bottles to take back to friends or walk across the street to the ranch store for an elk burger and some souvenir shopping. There are a couple of free tours offered daily.


Photo from Jen via Flickr.

Heading to another island? Check out my favorites on Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island.

Thanks for sticking around and reading this whole post! It’s always my goal to provide a TON of value to YOU. To that end, lately I’ve been packing my Instagram (@hula.land) FULL of content and adventures that you might want to check out. A lot of my post captions are like mini blog posts with travel info, I’ve got IGTV review videos for luaus and excursions, and helpful story highlights like grocery store prices and hotel reviews. Not to mention that my feed is pretty much the ultimate tropical eye candy! You can follow me here and share my account with your friends! Your support really helps me to keep this blog running!

Also, if you have ANY questions about planning your trip to Hawaii, you can join my free Facebook group here. I’m in there answering questions every day and there are 5000+ other friends who have a ton of Hawaii information to share!

Feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to plan the perfect Hawaii itinerary? I’ve got just the thing for you!

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Check it out here.

I’ve included everything from the best snorkeling spots, beaches, and excursions and it’s all broken down by each part of the island so you won’t waste any time backtracking.

So what exactly do you get? With Hawaii Bound, you’ll get 10-15 different DAILY itineraries for each of the four main islands (Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island).

These aren’t week long itineraries, but daily itineraries so you can pick and choose what works best for your trip. If you’re the go-go-go type, then pick 6 different daily itineraries and string them together into one adventure packed trip. If you’re staying at a nice beach resort and wanting to take advantage of the amenities, then pick 2-3 daily itineraries and spend the rest of the week chilling at the resort/beach. If you’re going on an island hopping extravaganza trip, use the daily itineraries to figure out how many days to spend on each island and what to do!

This is basically vacation in a box, friend! Just add a bit of salt water and you’re in for the trip of a lifetime.

Click here to grab the Hawaii Bound itinerary bundle.

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