Wondering what to do in Maui? Maui is a great choice for a Hawaiian vacation as it has a little of everything. It’s not as busy as Oahu but a little more lively than Kauai so makes for a good compromise on things to do and relaxation time. We found it very family-friendly, easy to get around and less expensive than Kauai. There are a lot of great things you should do in Maui. I’m going to tell you all about them. The good news? Almost all of these things to do in Maui are free or less than $25.

Plus I’m going to let you in one thing you should absolutely avoid in you are visiting Maui! Really. Don’t do it. Wait until you get to the bottom of this post and you’ll realise why there is one thing in Maui that you really should avoid!

 

Five Things You Should Do in Maui, Hawaii

What to do in Maui:

Here are five things to do in Maui (and one thing you really shouldn’t do!!!!)

 

Sunset at Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii

Sunset or Sunrise at Haleakala

Driving from sea level to 10,000 feet, around twisty turns, takes you up through the clouds to the crater of Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano. The road itself is a little hair-raising as it snakes up the side of the volcano but it’s well-sealed and feels very safe (as opposed to others we drove on Maui!). While many choose to visit Haleakala early in the morning to see the sun rise from the east over the volcanic crater, we decided to visit at sunset as getting up at 3am with young children just isn’t a good idea. Sunset was still busy and rightly so. Watching the sun go down from above the clouds was absolutely breathtaking. Do not miss a trip up Haleakala!!

 

Maui Ocean Center, Maui, Hawaii

Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center is a great way to get a glimpse at life under the tropical ocean waves without the worry of scuba diving. Beautiful tropical fish fill the tanks as well as sharks, manta rays  and sea turtles waiting to be released into the wild. There are no dolphins or orca at this aquarium (thank god) but you can still learn all about them via static displays. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Maui with kids, this will do the trick!

Tip: If you book online, you can currently upgrade your 1-day pass to a 1-week pass for free! Find out more here.

 

Looking for hotels in Maui

 

Susnet at Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Sunset at Wailea Beach

We can’t afford to spend $600+ a night to stay at the Four Seasons in Wailea. Not many people can! The beach in front of the Four Seasons is the loveliest we went to on Maui and, luckily for us, it’s free to the public. It’s a great beach for swimming during the day and calm enough for small children if you visit in the morning before 10am. Wailea beach is at it’s absolute best at sunset and you’ll get a cracking view of the sun going down across the ocean. There’s no reason not to visit these amazing beaches even if you are looking for things to do in Maui on a budget.

 

Banyan Tree, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Old Town Lahaina

Lahaina is Maui’s old whaling village with cute colonial era buildings now turned into touristy shops and great restaurants. Eat at Kimo’s for a great view out across the ocean to the island of Lana’i and watch the parasailers taking off. Strolling around Lahaina town is a must, as is an ice cream from Ono Gelato. Want to see a tree that takes up a whole block? Lahaina has the biggest, bendiest, craziest banyan tree! On Sunday mornings there is an artists market underneath the branches with live wood carving demonstrations.

 

Hula at Hula Grill, Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

Sunday Lunch at Hula Grill

If you don’t have the time, money or patience to sit through the full Luau experience when you visit Hawaii, having lunch on Sunday at the Hula Grill in Kaananapli is a great alternative. Live music and hula dancing by beautiful, experienced dancers are a pleasure to watch while you enjoy some great food. Ka’anapali Beach is a gorgeous spot so try and squeeze in a walk or swim along this sandy stretch after lunch.

 

 

And the one thing I do not, under any circumstances, recommend….

 

 

Here's a photo I didn't take as I was petrified the whole way around! photo credit: Intiaz Rahim via photopin cc

Here’s a photo I didn’t take as I was petrified the whole way around!
photo credit: Intiaz Rahim via photopin cc

Drive the Kahekili Highway

Terrifying, white-knuckle, spew inducing; driving around he Kahekili Highway on Maui’s northern mound seemed like a good idea at the time but we had no idea what we were getting into. From Kaanapali north the road quickly climbs and the view is stunning but the further you go around the tip of the island, the more hair raising the drive becomes. The road narrows, becomes unpaved, and is only passable in one direction at many points meaning keeping an eye out for oncoming vehicles and praying there will be space for one of you to pull over. At one point, we had to back up, around a tight curve to find a passing bay in order to let an oncoming car pass. This goes on for many miles and is extremely nerve-wracking even for experienced drivers. I was so utterly terrified I couldn’t take a single picture of our journey. The scenery is breathtaking is you can manage to take them off the road.  I do not recommend it!

 

Hiring a car is the best way to get around in Maui!

 

Where to Stay in Maui

Kihei Kai Oceanfront Condos: If you’re on a budget, Kihei is the best place to stay in Maui. This area has three nice beaches, plenty of dining choices and a great beachfront playground area for families. Condos at Kihei Kai come with a lanai and kitchen and prices start from $110/night. Check prices and availability here.

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel: As mentioned above, Ka’anapali Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand on Maui’s west coast. The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel is an affordable choice right on the beachfront, with rooms from $198/night. While this is an older property, the location makes up for it. There’s also free nightly entertainment on site. Check prices and availability here.

Royal Lahaina Resort: The Royal Lahaina Resort sits on a nice stretch of beach near Ka’anapali Beach but slightly closer to Lahaina town. You’ll get modern rooms with great views at a bargain price, when comparing to similar properties on Maui. Rooms and cottages start at $195/night. Check prices and availability here.

Four Season Maui at Wailea: Set on a gorgeous public beach, the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea is the ultimate in Maui luxury. With prices from $498/night, the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea certainly isn’t cheap but f you’re after a luxury vacation or planning a honeymoon in Maui, this is the hotel to stay at! Check prices and availability here.

Airbnb vacation rental apartment: Maui is a great place to try Airbnb! Click here to get a $20 off coupon. We stayed in a great two-bedroom condo in Maui that we found on Airbnb. You can see pictures of our condo and the prices we paid in this post.

Save up to 25% on Hotels in Maui!

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Showing 38 comments
  • Mary @ Green Global Travel
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing your Maui recommendations for the driving warning. It’s a good thing that Bret has nerves of steal behind the wheel. Unfortunately, I would be a nervous wreck.

  • Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home
    Reply

    I couldn’t imagine driving that highway! Everything else looks stunning though, can’t wait to visit.. one day.

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    OMG!! I drove a very hairy Maui road with my cowriter Kara, just to get to a hike…it was north of Kapalua on the northwest side of the island. She wrote about it (I drove, very adventurous): http://thevacationgals.com/hiking-off-the-beaten-path-maui/

    I think this is part of what you’re talking about!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      That’s the one Jennifer! It was a hair-raising experience for sure.

  • noel
    Reply

    Yes that road is not for sissies and it is beautiful and faster getting back to the sunny side of the island.

  • Rene
    Reply

    Calling it a “highway” is a bit of a stretch in the modern sense of the word. It’s “high” up on steep cliffs for a good part and it’s a “way” to get around to some great hiking spots. Mahalo for reminding people that it’s not a typical “tourist” road, maybe recommend them doing the road to Hana instead.

  • Claudia B
    Reply

    So is that highway worse than the Road to Hana? I thought that was scary enough 🙂

  • Lillie - @WorldLillie
    Reply

    Great list! I’ve only been to the Big Island (though I’ve been there multiple times since I have a good friend there) but I think it’s time to venture to the other islands!

  • Terry at Overnight New York
    Reply

    Great tips, and after seeing your post I can add a sixth — bring a camera and take pictures at every opportunity. Yours are gorgeous. (And I love that Wailea Beach is free.)

  • Megan Claire
    Reply

    Great article! We LOVED Maui! Though totally understand re the highway lol we drove the Road to Hana in a rental car and I swear Ive never been more terrified in my life!!

  • Gran Canaria Local
    Reply

    Oh, we’ll definitely give that highway a miss. We have enough problems with the GC-200. Which, especially if travelling by bus or in the back seat of a car, reduces us to jelly.

  • Sharon
    Reply

    That sounds like a fabulous island to visit. I hadn’t really thought about visiting Hawaii before reading your latest posts but it looks absolutely stunning and well worth the while.

    • Alexis B
      Reply

      If your really thinking of going to Hawaii to indulge in the culture you should definitely visit Hana in Maui. It’s more of a quiet place to relax and there’s a lot of nice welcoming folks. You should first go to the main place on Maui then take the Road to Hana so you can stop by all the forests and waterfalls.

      • Paula
        Reply

        Yes, and there was a gorgeous botanical garden on the Road to Hana, as well. I turned out to be “lucky,” because the friends I was with couldn’t go with me on the drive, so I did it all by myself. I loved it, made lots of stops, and the people in Hana were super friendly. I went on to the Seven Sacred Pools which is a cool area just beyond Hana, then took the hike that started from that location. I hiked through a bamboo forest (the sound was awesome!) to a waterfall/pool. It started to pour rain on my drive back which made it a LOT hairier, but I recommended the drive to my friends who went the next day. Well, that rain made the stream I hiked across a roaring torrent, and they white knuckled it to the waterfall, but they were kinda mad at me when they go back. 🙁

  • Dan @ A Cruising Couple
    Reply

    It’s been a loooong time since I went to Maui (we had family that moved there so we had to be good relatives and go visit!) My favorite memory was the sunrise on Haleakala. Absolutely amazing 🙂

  • Exploramum
    Reply

    I like the Sunday lunch idea. Hawaii is just beautiful and you really do make me want to head back there again.

  • SmithLinda
    Reply

    I agree that it is a white knuckle drive but I LOVE it so much. I would not want anyone to miss this experience. Also—the Road to Hana is a piece of cake compared to this.

  • Carolyn
    Reply

    My husband had a great solution to the challenging drive around the north end of Maui (which is locally called West Maui). We rented a Harley- Davidson motorcycle (my husband owned a motorcycle when he was younger). I tucked in behind him and was hands free most of the way, taking pictures. Whenever we encountered a vehicle coming towards us, they would stop and we would just slow down and go by them on the inside. It was one of our favourite days on Maui! Just be mindful of the weather forecast – it would not have been so pleasant if it had been raining or really windy. Having been there, I would never do West Maui in a car.

  • Claudia
    Reply

    I have always wanted to visit Hawaii. Definitely saving this post for when I finally make it there!

  • Kim Schacht
    Reply

    #6 should be the Hana highway which takes you to the black beach. It has a lot of turns but is paved. There are a lot of waterfalls and a bamboo forest to see. We grabbed a picnic lunch and headed out. It was beautiful. It takes a tee hours there and a few hours back. The black beach is something to see and when we came back we stopped for an incredible dinner at Mamas Fish house. A trip to remember.

  • David
    Reply

    Sunset dinner on the beach is a must, it’s magical to watch the whales jumping out of the water while you are sitting there! Maui is a place everyone has to experience.

  • kathy
    Reply

    We did all of those places and enjoyed everything but the north road. It is hell. Extremely not safe. Unfortunately a couple were killed the following day we traveled when they went over the cliff. I would never go again or recommend it.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Oh gosh Kathy! I didn’t know about anyone dying on that road. I would absolutely not recommend it to anyone. I was terrified the whole way. It was horrible!

  • Rich
    Reply

    Been a reader of your blog for few months, and interestingly I saw this post as I sit here in Kaananapli Beach Hotel.

    A recommendation I’d add/change from Wilea Beach is to drive 15-20 min. more south for Maluaka Beach. Whole lot less people, soft sand, tree lines for shade, and it’s nicknamed Turtle Beach (for obvious reasons). While I’m at it, I’d also add DT Fleming beach near the Kapalua area, which is also a great kid-friendly beach.

    I’m also glad I read this post because I really was thinking of driving the northern part of Maui given all the scenics comments, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk especially when I’m traveling with 2 young kids. But wow, what views and great to know that the Ritz and Kapalua will continue to enjoy the seclude scene for the near future.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Thanks for your comment Rich! I hope you’re enjoying Maui. I’ll have to get back to Maui and explore some of the beaches you’ve recommended.

  • Paula
    Reply

    Just returned from 10 days in Hawaii 7 spent on Maui! Loved every minute, rented an apartment/condo. Took 10 ladies there for my moms 60th and my 40th birthday, went to drums of the Pacific luau on my birthday. Had such an amazing time the whole week.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      That sounds amazing Paula! I think Maui is the perfect place for a “get together” vacation as it caters to so many different types of people.

  • Intiaz
    Reply

    Hey that’s my wife in the Kahekili Highway pic! I took that pic and a few others. MY very first time in Maui and literally drove all around the island. I love drives like this especially testing the PT Cruiser’s limits. It actually did well. I thought the drive from Hana south around the Kapau Gap was more trilling than the Kahekili Highway which was a piece of cake.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Oh wow! That is so cool Intiaz!!! I’m surprised I found a picture of the drive around there as I was so terrified I couldn’t imagine having to get out of my car!!!!

  • Lori Brez
    Reply

    I was just there in March, and it feels like 10 years! Miss it, need to go back.. I’ve been about 6 times.
    Agree with your suggestions, add Hana highway, Kenae peninsula and black sand beach… Mahalo!

  • Tess | BlondVoyage
    Reply

    I completely agree with not Driving the Kahekili Highway. Luckily, my uncle is Hawaiian and can navigate that road, so I’ve only gone with him. It’s crazy how windy, unpaved, and close to the edge the road can be!

    I love Maui, here now!

  • tonja
    Reply

    Please do your research prior to taking children on such a dangerous hwy. It would have been easy to learn that kahekili is a very dangerous road to travel and definitely not recommended for any tourist to travel. Glad you and your kiddos are safe.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      We actually didn’t mean to end up on this road at all. Our GPS stopped working so we figured we’d keep driving and then it got too dangerous to turn back!

  • Rob
    Reply

    We drove the “dangerous” highway you refer to. First of all it is now all paved no more dirt spots. Second, it is a bit nerve wracking but if you do the road to Hana first it will prepare you. It was the most breath taking part of our trip to Maui and worth the risk. Pull over often and take lots of photos. Make a whole day of it. Get the ultimate Maui guide book and it will tell you where to pull over to find the best hiking and water excursions.

  • Colleen Lanin
    Reply

    I liked driving the Kahekili Highway! I’ve done it twice. Gorgeous landscape that many visitors to Maui miss. It’s less nerve-wracking the the Road to Hana, if you ask me!

  • Jenny
    Reply

    Just got back from Maui. It was beautiful! The highway around the northwest end of Maui was treacherous. We turned around at the first spot available. When we stopped to take a picture after getting back on the state road, a young couple was examining their rental car. It had been scraped from one end to the other by another car that refused to give them the right away. They were on the outside part of the road. The views are amazing, but not worth ruining your vacation.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Absolutely not Jenny! I wish we’d been able to turn around on this road before it was too late. Totally terrifying! Those poor people will have to pay for that accident as rental cars are not insured on this road. Found that out AFTER we ended up there! It should be signposted more clearly.

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