What are some of your favorite Maui to-dos? For many it’s finding the perfect beach and spending the day. Others plan action-packed days, filled with adventure and excursions. For others it’s all about the food – finding the best island treats and meals. I recently wrote a list of my favorite restaurants. Here is a list of to-dos. This list is meant as a starting point. It by no means includes all the best things to do. We live and work here. We don’t do the tourist thing as much as we should.
This past year we’ve driven up 10,023 ft resident volcano Haleakala both for sunrise and sunset. Both were spectacular. This is my very favorite Maui to-dos. You do need reservations for sunrise (which keeps the numbers in check). Sunset has gotten quite busy as a result, so make sure you get there with plenty of time to get a parking spot. But really, going up during the day is fantastic also. There is a crater webcam and you can see what the weather is like as you are driving and change plans if things seem socked in. Gazing into the crater valley is amazing. And yes, there are many hikes. Something I (and many other locals) do not recommend, is the ‘ride down the volcano’ style bike tours. You are mainly on roads without shoulders and really have to watch out for traffic. In my opinion there are better ways to enjoy the volcano.
Whale watching (in season)
Every year humpback whales journey to Maui to both calve and mate. The journey from Alaska takes them about 6 weeks, during which time they do not eat. They spend roughly 5-6 weeks in Hawaiian waters, mainly in the shallower waters between Maui, Kahoolawe and Lanai, where they mate and calve, and then journey back to Alaska. During this whole time they are on an extreme diet of no eating (we don’t have krill). Can you imagine? Whale season runs mid-November through mid-April, though the best whale watching is January-March.
Whale watch cruises are definitely worth the money. You can also learn much more about whales at the Maui Ocean Center and the Whale Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center (currently closed due to Covid). Once you know what to look for, you can often see whales from the beach. I wrote this blog entry a number of years ago on how to spot Humpback Whales. Watching for humpbacks definitely comes second of my favorite Maui to-dos.
Snorkeling and/or the Maui Ocean Center
Snorkeling is not my area of expertise. So I will leave that for others to discuss, such as Boss Frog’s Maui snorkel blog (this is one of the snorkel gear rental companies). However, there is plenty of snorkeling to do both just from the beach and also through excursions. If you aren’t a strong swimmer or comfortable with snorkeling, you can still see all the local sea life! Go check out the Maui Ocean Center, our local aquarium. It is truly fantastic. At this time (Covid) you will need to make reservations. And as someone who sees many of the news announcements – if you are not a strong swimmer, please do not snorkel. And please, never snorkel alone. Always have a buddy.
There are many hikes here on Maui. Some of my favorites are the Waiehe, Kapalua Coastal Trail, Iao Valley, Sliding Sands, Poli Poli, Makawao Forest, Olinda, Pali Trail, Windmills etc. We enjoyed a number of them last year during the Covid shut-down.
My personal favorite beaches are Keawakapu beach and its neighbor Ulua beach. I also really enjoy Sugar Beach – it is a 5 mile stretch of sand, great for walking. Having said that, I typically go to the beach for an hour, splash in the water, sit in the sand a little and then head home. Others will pack up and spend the day. I would say when considering which beach to go to, you may want to consider the following
- facilities (bathrooms/showers). When we first moved here, we went to Big Beach, not realizing there were no showers. Sig’s brand new truck was initiated with five bodies covered in sand. Ouch.
- are you coming to surf, boogie board, swim, snorkel, walk or suntan) – conditions will vary depending on time of day, time of year, weather, surf conditions etc. Do some research.
- location – do you want to walk to the beach, or are you driving to one further away
- wind – the wind tends to pick up mid to late morning and then can settle down mid afternoon or so. Ulua beach seems to be more protected from the wind, so this can be a good afternoon option
A few words about the Road to Hana
This is a hugely popular all-day drive with multiple pull-outs along the way. However, it is actually the road which leads to Hana where people live and work. It is not designed as a tourist attraction. Since tourism’s rebound this spring things have gotten particularly crazy along this road, with visitors parking willy-nilly because of lack of parking. County workers have placed no-parking signs and Maui Police are now enforcing with tickets. Should you decide to drive the Road to Hana, please be mindful of parking rules and locals trying to get to and from work, grocery shopping, doctors appointments etc. Also note that some of the places mentioned in guide books or online actually involve trespassing – please DO NOT TRESPASS. While I personally have never driven the Road to Hana (I get really car sick), my son says his favorite is the Garden of Eden. And Twin Falls (which is currently struggling with parking issues). You may enjoy the Road to Hana Gypsy app which tells you more about the area and points out sites of interest along the way. I’m told it’s great (we got it when we went to Oahu a few years ago)