Kiteboarding off Ho’okipa Beach Park is one alternative to working on your tan. (Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson)
Think of the Hawaiian island of Maui, and immediately its stunning beaches and marine life come to mind. But there’s so much more to do here than bask on the sand — there’s amazing regional food, culture, and adventure. Here are 10 diverse Maui attractions that you have to see:
(Courtesy: Montage Kapalua Bay)
1. Great Digs
Hotels, resorts, condos, B&Bs, vacation rentals … there are hundreds of accommodation possibilities available to Maui visitors. A newcomer to the island is Montage Kapalua Bay Resort. Make a beeline to its spa for a treatment that speaks of Maui through indigenous ingredients. Savor similar elements a different way later with dinner at Cane & Canoe restaurant. Looking for accommodations with a twist? Head to the Hāna side of the island for a night in Luana Spa Retreat’s unique yurt.
Haleakalā National Park (Courtesy: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Max Wanger)
2. A National Park Above the Clouds
The best place to get “above it all” is Haleakalā National Park, aka House of the Sun. Vistas stun along the drive to the volcano’s 10,023-foot summit. Ideal time to arrive — sunrise or sunset. There’s much to discover within the 30,183-acre park, which houses three different regions: the summit as well as the Kīpahulu coastal and wilderness areas. For hiking, procure maps of the park’s 38 miles of public trails from the visitor center. Depending on the chosen route/region, it’s possible to see everything from a cinder desert and cloud forest to old lava flows and waterfalls.
(Photo: Merriman’s Kapalua)
3. Hawaii Regional Cuisine
Back in 1992, 13 of Hawaii’s top chefs convened with the island’s agricultural communities to collaborate on what would become its farm-to-table movement, Hawaii Regional Cuisine (HRC). The cooking style uses goods produced in Hawaii and reflects the multicultural aspects of the islands. Several of HRC’s founders have restaurants on Maui, including Merriman’s Kapalua and Monkeypod Kitchen from Peter Merriman, Beverly Gannon’s Hali’imaile General Store and Joe’s, and Mark Ellman’s Mala Ocean Tavern and Maui Tacos.
Whales are a big attraction from November to May. (Courtesy: HIHWNMS, NOAA Fisheries Permit #782-1719)
4. Whale Migration Season
From November through May, up to 15,000 endangered koholā, or North Pacific humpback whales, can be spotted making their way from Alaska to their breeding and calving grounds in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Visitors can catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures either from land or by water. For information, pointers, and ecocruise suggestions, visit The Sanctuary Visitor Center and the Pacific Whale Foundation. Another hot spot for sightings — the Humpback Whale Lookout Station on Papawai Point.
Lahaina stays open late to show off its art on Fridays. (Courtesy: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson)
5. Friday Town Parties
Frequenting museums is one way to see art. On Maui, though, taking in the arts is a veritable party. On Friday nights, the island showcases its historic towns — Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao, and Kihei — while featuring works from local artisans. Live music and food trucks add to the mix. As for Lahaina’s art scene, its plethora of art galleries have extended hours every Friday at 7 p.m. for its weekly Art Walk. Can’t get enough? Art fairs are held under Lahaina’s banyan tree three weekends a month.
(Courtesy: Hawaii Tourism Japan)
6. Slack Key & Ukulele
There are many places to catch performing arts on Maui, from hula to opera. Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) has a vibrant schedule of both gallery art exhibitions and live performances. Two upcoming events to note — the annual Ku Mai Ka Hula competition on Sept. 11 and the Maui Ukulele Festival on Oct. 12. Listen to the strains of slack key guitar and ukulele during George Kahumoku’s Slack Key Show every Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Napili Kai Beach Resort. Also, be on the lookout for the following acts: Daniel Ho, Jeff Peterson, and Kimo West.
Where ziplining began. (Courtesy: Skyline Eco-Adventures)
7. Adrenaline Rush
Ziplining first hit the United States in 2002, when Skyline Eco-Adventures opened on Maui. Not one to rest on its laurels, in June, the company introduced the island’s first Zip N’ Dip tour in Ka‘anapali. Suspended above the landscape, participants get a bird’s-eye views of mountains, the Pacific, and offshore islands. The best way to land is with the aforementioned “dip” in a natural mountain pool. Another mode of flying — windsurfing and kiteboarding. Watch pros harness the wind off Ho’okipa Beach Park, and the wish for one’s own adrenaline rush comes on. Obliging with lessons is Alan Cadiz’s HST Windsurfing and Kiteboarding School.
(Courtesy: John-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment)
8. Adventures in Conservation
One needn’t be a guest at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua to partake in Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program. What better way to learn about the island’s terrain and ecosystems than under the guidance of expert naturalists while hiking through the rainforest, snorkeling among coral reefs, or piloting an outrigger canoe. When passion strikes, lend a hand toward conservation with Trilogy Excursions and the Surfrider Foundation’s monthly Blue‘Aina reef clean-up program. Snorkelers surface with everything from car parts to luggage during this act of stewardship. Can’t make it during one of those times? Book a snorkel tour through Trilogy to learn more about Maui’s marine life.
Goodies at the Kahului Swap Meet. (Photo: Bekah Wright)
9. Local Faves
A throng of locals and visitors can be found rubbing elbows on Saturdays at Kahului’s weekly Swap Meet. From 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., there’s farm-fresh produce and regional artisans displaying their crafts. Cool off before heading out with a shave ice. Later, newly made friends can “talk story” over another Maui fave – pie from Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. The words Macnut Chocolate Praline Pie pretty much say it all.
The Road to Hāna (Courtesy: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson)
10. Survive the Drive
Nail-biting twists and turns and goosebump-delivering panoramas await along Maui’s notorious Road to Hāna. Don’t just watch Route 360’s landscape from the car. The 52-mile route takes two and half hours in each direction, so stop for some leg-stretching along the way. Highly recommended activities include hikes along the trails to Twin Falls and Waikamoi Ridge’s bamboo forest and through Garden of Eden’s Enchanted Forest to Keopuka Rock (Movie buffs will recognize it from “Jurassic Park.”) and an overlook for Puohokamoa Falls.