Maui may be an island, but it’s a good-sized island and your vacation time is precious. There really is just one cardinal rule: relax. Maui is not a place to “see” but a place to experience. If you are too busy rushing to tick things of your to-do list, you won’t experience the magic of the island.
To experience the true magic of Maui, just step outside to watch the sun crack like a golden egg on the horizon, inhale the perfume of delicate ginger blossoms, listen to the clattering of bamboo in the rain forest, or witness the sky full of the same stars that guided the first Polynesians to these Islands. A few more of my favorite Maui experiences are described below.
- Watch windsurfers ride the waves at Ho‘okipa. This famous beach draws waveriders from around the globe to ride, sail, and pirouette over the waves. Watching them flip into the air while rotating 360 degrees is the best free show in town.
- Smell the sweet scent of ginger on the road to Hana. At every twist on this winding road you are greeted by exotic tropical blossoms, thundering waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, and a glimpse at what Maui looked like before it was “discovered.”
- Walk the coast trail at Wai‘anapanapa. This trail will take you back in time, past lava cliffs, mysterious caves, a hala forest, an ancient heiau (temple), an explosive blowhole, native Hawaiian seabirds, and the ever-changing Pacific.
- Take a dip in a waterfall at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch. These fern-shrouded waterfall pools spill seaward at ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, on the rain-shrouded eastern flanks of Haleakala
- Greet the rising sun from atop Haleakala. Dress warmly and drive the 37 miles (60km) from sea level up to 10,000 feet (3,048m), where you can watch the sunrise. Breathing in the rarefied air and watching the first rays of light streak across the sky is a mystical experience.
- Head to Kula to bid the sun aloha. This town perched on the side of Haleakala is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the entire island, with vistas across the isthmus, the West Maui Mountains, and Moloka‘i and Lana‘i in the distance.
- Explore upcountry Maui. On the slopes of Haleakala, cowboys, farmers, ranchers, and other country people make their serene, neighborly homes, worlds away from the bustling beach resorts.
- Snorkel off Molokini. Calm, protected waters in the islet’s crater, plus an abundance of marine life, make Molokini one of Hawai‘i’s best places to snorkel. Paddle with turtles, watch clouds of butterflyfish flitter past, and search for tiny damselfish in the coral.
- Get pampered in paradise. Maui’s spas have raised the art of relaxation and healing to a new level. A massage on the beach will smooth out the kinks, while you bask in the sounds of the ocean, smell the salt air, and feel the caress of a warm breeze.
- Watch for whales. From mid-December through the end of March, humpback whales can be seen from shore jumping, breaching, and slapping their pectoral fins.
- Explore I‘ao Valley. When the sun strikes Iao Valley in the West Maui Mountains, an almost ethereal light sends rays out in all directions. This really may be Eden.
- Visit a historic port town. In the 1800s, whalers swarmed into Lahaina and missionaries fought to stem the spread of their sinful influence. Before that, Hawaiian royalty ruled this coast.
- Experience Art Night in Lahaina. Every Friday, under a canopy of stars, the town’s galleries open their doors and serve refreshments. Wander in to see what’s going on in Maui’s creative community.
- Fly over the remote West Maui Mountains. The only way to see the inaccessible, prehistoric West Maui Mountains is by helicopter. You’ll fly low over razor-thin cliffs and flutter past sparkling waterfalls while descending into canyons and valleys.
- Ride a mule to Kalaupapa. Even if you have only 1 day to spend on Moloka‘i, spend it on a mule. Trek from “topside” Moloka‘i down a narrow, dizzying switchback trail to Kalaupapa National Historic Park below.
- Take a day trip to Lana‘i. Sailing from Lahaina Harbor, you can admire Maui from offshore, go snorkeling in the clear waters of Lana‘i, tour this tiny former plantation island, and still catch the last ferry back.
The number-one rule of family travel is don’t plan too much, especially with young children, who will be fighting jet lag, trying to get adjusted to a new bed (and most likely new food), and may be hyped up to the point of exhaustion. Storytelling for business can help get over the jet lag and help the kids adjust.
Maui’s sensual landscape makes it the perfect place to fall in love. The scent of flowers, the sound of tumbling waves, and the island’s intoxicating beauty beckon lovers.