15x Best things to do in Maui in 2021

Let us introduce you to some of the most mind-blowing things to do in Maui. This island was the first stop on our Hawaii island hopping trip and we were amazed by its natural abundance. Maui truly has it all: gorgeous beaches, a mighty volcano, lush green mountains, captivating performances, mesmerizing waterfalls, mouth-watering food and one of the most epic road trips in the world. The list of Maui activities is never-ending and so is the list of Maui accommodation options. From the luxurious Wailea or Kaanapali Beach resorts to some of the most unique Hawaii Airbnbs, there’s a slice of heaven for every type of traveler. Whether you plan on exploring Maui with kids, enjoying an action-packed vacation with friends or spending some time with your loved one, you’re in for an unforgettable trip. Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Maui.

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Things to do in Maui

From whale-watching to zipling and everything in between, the order in which the Maui attractions are listed is purely the result of our personal preference. First up, the things to do on Maui that we consider truly essential must-do’s. Then we continue with other awesome experiences and travel tips that are perfect for longer (or second) trips.

We’re not even half-way this Maui bucket list ourselves – there’s only so much you can do in a week – and can’t wait to return to this amazing place in order to tackle the other essential activities in Maui.

  1. Experience the magic of a Haleakala sunrise

The most magical sunrise is one above the clouds. On Maui, you can experience this unique spectacle from the summit of the dormant Haleakala volcano. It does require some effort, especially of you’re not a morning persion, but it’ so worth getting out of bed for.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • This tour includes breakfast. Do note that going on a tour means you’ll be wasting precious time during the pick-up round.
  • Driving up the summit yourself will save you time and money. Advance reservations required via this link. You can only book up to 7 days in advance, though.
  • Add a coat and a warm blanket to your vacation packing list.
  • If you plan on traveling to this Hawaiian island with kids, then we’d recommend the Haleakala sunset experience instead.
Seeing the sunrise at the Haleakala is the best thing to do in Maui

2. Drive the Road to Hana

Its 620 curves, many of which are hairpins, 59 one-lane bridges and sweeping ocean views make the Road to Hana one most legendary road trips in the world. Hana itself is not that special but this day trip is all about the journey and not the destination. From tropical waterfalls to insta-worthy food stands, the Hana highway reflects what Maui is all about. We had to give up halfway because of the pouring rain and fog but we sure hope you’ll make it to Hana.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • Download the GyPSy app so you won’t miss any Road to Hana stop.
  • There are no gas stations along the Hana highway, so fuel up the car before you leave or do so in Paia.
  • Leave early to avoid the crowds.
  • This GoPro car mount is the perfect accessory to film your Road to Hana road trip.
Driving the Road to Hana is one of the top 10 things to do in Maui Hawaii

3. Go on a whale-watching cruise (seasonal)

Every year, from North November/December to May, Pacific Humpback whales migrate to the warm and safe waters in between Maui and Lanai. See these friendly giants up close on a whale-watching cruise. If you’re lucky, you might spot a pod of local spinner dolphins too.

Tips for this Maui activity:

Whale watching from Lahaina in Maui Hawaii
Source: Andrew Bain – Unsplash

4. Attend a luau

Dancing the night away during a luau performance truly is one of those essential Maui things to do. We got to experience the Wailele Polynesian Luau in the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, known for its spectacular fire-knife dance. The food was pretty good and the atmosphere amazing.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • Advance reservations are required.
  • Some highly recommended luau shows on Maui are the Old Lahaina Luau, which caters to families with onsite craft demos and cushion seating, and the Feast at Lele, which offers a more sophisticated culinary experience that couples will enjoy.
  • In our experience, seating arrangements can make a big difference so we recommend arriving early.
Watching a luau is one of the Hawaii things to do Maui

5. Discover the Seven Sacred Pools

The Seven Sacred Pools or ‘Ohe’o Gulch is a series of pools and waterfalls that spills into the Pacific. Its remote location beyond the Road to Hana and at the furthermost end of the Haleakala National Park combined with the scenic landscape make it an adventurous place to swim.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • Get out of these pools as soon as it starts to rain or you’ll get washed out to the ocean.
  • The Seven Sacred Pools are a popular Maui attraction. Plan your visit in the morning or the evening to escape the crowds.
The Seven Sacred Pools is one of the best places to visit in Maui
Source: Rusty Gage – Pixabay

6. Swim with turtles

One of our fondest memories of our trip to Hawaii, is the experience of swimming with turtles. We mainly did so at several beaches on the Big Island. On Maui, there are a two spots that are known to attract turtles (honu in Hawaiian): A bay called Turtle Town and the extinct crescent-shaped Molokini Crater. There’s one rule that applies on all the Hawaiian islands and that’s not to touch the turtles.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • Most visitors take an excursion to Turtle Town. It’s a little-known fact that you can actually reach this place by car as well. That’s why we’d recommend driving up to Maluaka Beach which gives out to Turtle Town and spending your money on some of the other fun things to do in Maui.
  • The Molokini Crater is located off-shore and can be reached by boat in about 15 minutes. Several tours go there but this is the one we’d pick.
GoPro for your Hawaii vacation

7. Go hiking in the West-Maui mountains

If you’re looking to explore a different side of the Valley Isle, then head to the West Maui Forest Reserve. The scenic Waihee Ridge Trail offers the most mind-blowing views, from majestic mountain sides to verdant valleys and spectacular coastline views.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • This is a strenuous hike. For inexperienced hikers, like ourselves, we’d recommend a guided Waihee Ridge hiking adventure.
  • Your shoes will get muddy so pack an extra pair for after the hike. Better yet, wear water resistant hiking shoes from a trusted brand such as Merrell or Keen.
View over the West Maui mountains

8. Visit a lavender farm

A fragrant gift from a friend back in 2001 formed the prelude for a drastic change in the life of Ali’i Chang. The result is the 13.5-acre Kula Lavender Farm in upcountry Maui. Explore dozens of thousands of lavender plants individually or learn more about the different varieties and their healing aspects during a guided tour or treasure hunt.

Tips for this Maui activity:

  • The lavender farm is located in the cooler Kula mountains so bring a light sweater or a jacket.
  • The summer months are the best time to see the lavender fields in all their glory since only some of the Kula Farm’s lavender varieties bloom year round.
Lavender field in Maui

9. Take in the beauty of Iao Valley

The Iao valley State Monument is one of our favorite attractions in Maui. Getting there requires little effort but the change in scenery is dramatic. The focal point in this sacred valley is an erosional landmark known as Kukaemoku or Iao Needle, which rises 1200 ft from the valley floor. A paved trail leads visitors through a small botanical garden, over a narrow bridge and up to the observation desk.

Tip for this Maui activity:

  • Swimming in the mountain water of the Waikuku River is allowed. Do note, however, that flash floods can occur when it’s raining (or has been raining recently).
Visiting Iao Valley State Park is a one of the best things to do in Maui on a budget

10. Discover Maui’s only black sand beach

Tucked away behind the palms in Wai’anapanapa State Park, near the town of Hana, lies a unique beach. Honokalani beach is the only black sand beach in Maui and the scenic setting and color contrasts makes it a true stunner. This state park is also home to a blowhole and two caverns in which fresh water floats above the salt ocean water.

Tip for this Maui activity:

  • Most visitors only make a quick stop at the beach but there’s actually much more to discover in Wai’anapanapa State Park.
  • Nature is wild and rugged here so use common sense and don’t take risks.
Visiting the black sand beach  in Wai’ anapanapa State Park is one of the essential things to do on Maui Hawaii
Source: Kehn Hermano – Pexels

11. Explore the underwater world on a snorkel trip

As much as there’s to see on land, there’s a whole world to explore under the warm Mauian ocean waters as well. Some wonderful places to go snorkeling in Maui are the waters around Black Rock at Kaanapali beach in West-Maui and the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve in South-Maui.

If you want to teach your little ones how to snorkel, then Kapalua Bay is a great place to do so. The reef starts right at the beach, making snorkeling in this picturesque bay one of the most delightful things to do in Maui with kids.

12. Hug the Lahaina banyan tree

The Maui banyan tree, located at Banyan Tree Park, forms the heart of Lahaina. And that statement can be taken literally because this tree takes up an entire block. It was planted in 1873 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first American protestant missionary in this whaling town. The small Indian tree sapling has grown out to a mesmerizing tree that’s over 60 ft high (about 18 m) with a crown spanning 225 ft wide (about 70 m) and a canopy spread over an area of 0.66 ac (0.27 ha). The aerial roots formed 16 new trunks that act as a support for the ever-growing tree.

Visiting Banyan Tree Park is one of the top things to do in Lahaina and you'll find some of the best places to eat in Maui nearby

13. Have dinner at Mama’s Fish House

From banana-bread to Hula Pie, food on Maui is heavenly. If there’s one fine-dining experience you need to add to your Maui bucket list, then it’s dinner at Mama’s Fish House, one of the best restaurants in Maui. Savor the catch of the day while taking in the most scenic ocean views. This legendary restaurant is located at Ho’okipa Beach Park, known to attract many turtles at sunset. So, not only will you be enjoying good food, you’ll be in good company as well.

Tip for this Maui activity:

  • Advance reservations are required.
  • Head there a bit ahead of the booking to enjoy the magical setting before dinner.

14. Watch the torch lighting ceremony at Black rock

About halfway Kaanpali Beach is the geographical landmark known as Black Rock. It’s a significant place for native Hawaiians since it’s believed to be the place where the souls of the dead cross over to the spirit world. To this day, the leap of the soul or ka leina a ka ‘uhane is still commemorated. Every evening at sunset, a conch shell blower sets the mood as a cliff diver lights the torches and jumps off Black Rock. You can watch the ceremony from the beach, right near the Sheraton Maui Resort.

Watching the torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony is one of the top things to do in Maui for free
Source: Flickr – Matt McGee – CC BY-ND 2.0

15. Enjoy Maui’s signature sunset at Pa’ako Beach (Secret Cove)

Maui’s most iconic beach may be nicknamed Secret Cove, in reality it’s not as secret as the name would lead you to believe. The beach in question is Pa’ako Beach, located just south of Makena State Park. It’s located along the west coast and therefore makes for a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

This signature beach is perfect for sunsets and can be found in South Maui
Source: Pascal Debrunner – Unsplash
Hire a local photographer to have your picture taken on this Maui beach

Map of these Maui activities

For your convenience, we’ve created this map mentioning all the top things to do in Maui as listed in this article.

Where to stay in Maui

A good night’s sleep is essential when you plan any vacation. We’ve dedicated an entire article on the best places to stay in Maui to help you choose the best area.

Tip: Costco offers some interesting Maui resort packages on a regular basis.

We love Maui so much that we’ve put together a wish list of places to stay in the future and we’d love to share it with you:

Plenty of Maui things to do near this corner condo in Kaanapali
Image courtesy of VRBO – Maui Resort Rentals
KAANAPALI ALII – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 6
Lanai of a rental house in Paia near some of the most adventurous Maui activities
Image courtesy of VRBO – Kahale Makani
PAIA – 3 bedrooms – sleeps 6
Backyard with pool and ocean views on Maui's North Shore
Image courtesy of VRBO – Pinnacle
HAIKU – 3 bedrooms – sleeps 4
Terrace in Maui with ocean views
Image courtesy of VRBO – Dave Medina
LAHAINA – 3 bedrooms – sleeps 8
White and bright interior of a South-Maui beach house
Image courtesy of VRBO – Maui Beachside 2
KIHEI – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 5
Jacuzzi, pool and ocean views at this luxury beach house in West-Maui
Image courtesy of VRBO – Sherry Barbier
LAHAINA – 6 bedrooms – sleeps 15
This Kihei garden cottage is enjoys a central location which is perfect for exploring Maui
Image courtesy of VRBO – Kihei Garden Cottage
KIHEI – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 5
Staying in a surf shack is one of the ultimate things to do in Maui
Image courtesy of VRBO – Haiku Surf House
PAIA – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 6
Oceanfront terrace in this Maui vacation rental
Image courtesy of VRBO – Maui Resort Rentals
HYATT KAANAPALI – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 7
This Maui rental home features a terrace with pool and ocean views
Image courtesy of VRBO – Coral Gardens Estate
MAKENA – 4 bedrooms – sleeps 8
This upscale home is where to stay in Maui with the family
Image courtesy of VRBO – Andrew M.
KAPALUA – 7 bedrooms – sleeps 28
Lanai of an oceanfront Makena condo
Image courtesy of VRBO – The Peterson Family
MAKENA – 2 bedrooms – sleeps 4

Getting around Maui

You’ll probably need a car to get around because some of the best things to do in Maui are pretty remote. We used this website to to book our rental car and were very happy with the process and service.

Car rental Hawaii family vacation

What are your favorite things to do Maui?

Now that you know what this amazing island is all about, we can’t wait to find out which of these things to do in Maui rank highest on your bucket list. Or maybe you’ve been to the island before and have an experience to share? Either way, we can’t wait to hear from you.

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