Tips and things to do in Maui, Hawaii: 20 reasons to visit

1. SNORKEL INSIDE A CRATER

Maui is flush with dozens (if not hundreds) of beachside snorkelling spots, but for an otherworldly experience head offshore to Molokini Crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater. Curved like a banana, swimmers are protected from waves and strong currents as they snorkel amid a thriving coral reef, home to more than 250 fish species and 38 species of coral. Travel by luxury catamaran, speedboat or yacht from either Maalaea Harbour or Kihei Boat Ramp. Book an eco-adventure cruise with Pacific Whale Foundation and know your money is going towards ocean conservation. See pacificwhale.org 

2.WITNESS SUNRISE OVER HALEAKALA CRATER

You'll need to set your alarm, rising well before dawn to drive the twirling mountain road to the summit of Haleakala volcano (3055 metres), a dormant shield volcano that forms more than 75 per cent of the island. Bring a fleecy (even better bring a ski jacket, gloves and beanie) and stand back to enjoy the light show as the fireball sun shoots beams across the rim of the crater. Afterwards, follow the Sliding Sands Trail to the crater floor where you'll feel like you've been catapulted to the moon. See nps.gov 

3. GET ARTY IN LAHAINA 

A short drive south of Ka'anapali is Lahaina, the one-time whaling town, turned trendy harbour and shopping strip. Boasting dozens of galleries, Lahaina has everything from artists such as Peter Lik to local artisans creating ceramics, jewellery and handcrafted woodwork. Friday nights are Art Nights, where the galleries throw open their doors, inviting the public to chat with artists, view their works, enjoy music and share some arty camaraderie. See gohawaii.com/au 

4. VISIT MOLOKAI OR LANAI

For an island holiday within an island holiday, catch a ferry from Lahaina Harbour to either one of Maui's outer islands, aka the "Quiet Islands". Lanai is popular with honeymooners, boasting two world-class resorts – the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele, while Molokai is more untouched and historic. Both offer dramatic scenery, spectacular hiking and snorkelling, ancient sites and a glimpse into Hawaiian culture that most visitors rarely experience. See go-lanai.com hawaiioceanproject.com  

5. SHOP IN WAILEA

If you are partial to some retail therapy head to The Shops at Wailea, a destination in its own right with more than 70 boutiques, shops, restaurants and galleries selling everything from Gucci and Prada to Billabong and Rip Curl. The latest foodie kid on the block is the Pint & Cork, a gastropub featuring local ingredients, small production brews and a craft cocktail menu with a speakeasy vibe. The Shops at Wailea also has an active events program, including the Maui Film Festival and February Whale Week. See theshopsatwailea.com 

6. HANG WITH THE HIPPIES AT PAIA

East of Kahului on Maui's north shore is bohemian Paia, a hip mix of surfers and soul  seekers, drifters and dreamers. Home to "Jaws", one of the meanest surf breaks on the island, as well as a string of farm-to-table restaurants, galleries, rustic storefronts and beachfront accommodation, there is something for everyone. Windsurfers (or interested spectators) should head to Ho'okipa Beach, the "windsurfing capital of the world" for some death-defying action. Don't miss Mama's Fish House, serving fresh fish caught daily. See mamasfishhouse.com     

7. DINE AT MORIMOTO MAUI

You can't leave Maui without dining at Iron Chef (and Iron Chef America) Masaharu Morimoto's restaurant.  At the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Morimoto uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to create a distinctive blend of western and Japanese traditions. The lunch menu is HUGE, featuring hot and cold appetisers, soups, noodles and rice bowls, but it's the sushi you are here for. For dinner you can't go past the 10-hour pork belly or yellowtail on rice cooked at your table in a hot stone bowl. For a special celebration, sign up for the "chef's choice", a multi-course tasting menu. See maui.andaz.hyatt.com 

8. DRIVE THE ROAD TO HANA

It's easy to fall under the spell of the west coast, but to limit your Maui experience to just one region is selling the island short. Hire a car in Kahului (make it a Mustang convertible) and follow the coast east along the famed Hana Highway. Also known as the "Road to Hana", this serpentine road of 620 curves and 59 narrow bridges unfurls for 100 kilometres between Kahului and Hana. Stop for a dip at Twin Falls, visit the Garden of Eden, where scenes from the opening sequence of Jurassic Park were filmed and swim  at a red-sand beach. Stay overnight in hippy Hana, or head back to Kahului. See budget.com   

9. STAY AT TRAVAASA HANA

Set on 28 oceanfront hectares, this boutique retreat is the ultimate reward for completing the Road to Hana. Choose from ocean bungalows, with views over the Pacific Ocean, or garden and family suites, which are closer to the restaurant, spa and library. The resort has just undergone a  $16-million restoration with upgrades to guest room decor, furnishings and furniture, plus a new restaurant called The Preserve Kitchen. Dozens of activities are packaged under five different pathways – adventure, culinary, culture, fitness and spa and wellness. See travaasa.com 

Advertisement

10. EAT AT A ROADSIDE FRUIT STAND

Freshly cut pineapples, banana smoothies, drinking coconut, banana popsicles, sugar cane juice and coconut candy – the sweet treat snack of choice for any road trip on Maui. The Road to Hana is strung with a fruity garland of stalls including Twin Falls (just past the  two-mile marker), Halfway to Hana (17-mile marker) and Hana Fresh (34-mile marker). See twinfallsmaui.net; hanahealth.org 

11. HIKE IN A LAVA TUBE

Ka'eleku Cave is a cool, dark change of pace to the lush landscape above.  Near Hana, the cavern is the largest and most accessible lava tube on Maui, a vein-like formation that developed during the island's creation. What appears to be a gaping hole in some guy's back paddock turns out to be a 500-metre tube filled with stalactites, lavacicles, fissures and cracks. One section looks like molten chocolate, another like a bowling alley. The self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes and costs $15.50, which includes the use of a torch. See mauicave.com

12. EAT SHAVE ICE

Shave ice is a favourite all across Maui, but for those in the know, Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice is said to be the best on the island. Using filtered water and homemade syrups crafted from 100 per cent pure cane sugar and local fruits, Ululani's turns out flavours such as Haleakala, a coconut concoction topped with sweetened condensed milk and cream. Other flavours include watermelon, pickled mango, sour lemon and red raspberry. With stores in Laihana, kihei and Kahului, you'll never be far between icy treats. See ululanishawaiianshaveice.com   

13. VISIT THE DRAGON'S TEETH 

North of Kapalua on Maui's north-west coast, is the bizarre lava formation known as Dragon's Teeth or Makalua-puna Point. The jagged teeth are a good example of what happens when two natural forces collide – molten lava from an erupting volcano and violent ocean waves. Different from most other Hawaiian lavas – lighter, denser and more fine-grained – the relentless ocean spray has bleached the "teeth" white in places, even forming cavities in some. Show respect by sticking to the marked access trail, as the adjacent land is an ancient burial ground. See gohawaii.com/au 

14. EXPLORE UPCOUNTRY

Embrace the paniolo lifestyle in upcountry Maui, where cattle ranches, cool mountain air and cowboys are a way of life. Start in Makawao, cowboy town turned art village (with a dash of Age of Aquarius thrown in) on the mid-slopes of Haleakala volcano. The town's paniolo history can be seen in the wild-west style wooden buildings, but, instead of selling boots and spurs, the shops are now home to painters and sculptors. Further afield is the historic Piiholo Ranch, where visitors can be "cowboy for a day", moving and rounding up cattle. Time your trip for the annual Makawao Rodeo, held on the weekend closest to Independence Day (July4) weekend. See piiholo.com

15. SWIM IN SEVEN SACRED POOLS

If you tire of Maui's fabulous beaches, bays and waterfalls there is another swimming option – a set of seven sacred pools known as the Ohe'o Gulch. Although the name was a marketing ploy coined in the '70s (and there are actually 24 pools, not seven) the cascading pools are worth the drive (14 kilometres south of Hana).  Heed all warning signs as the pools are often closed after heavy rain on the upper slopes. Tip; if you've visited Haleakala summit, keep your ticket, as it's good for both sections of the park (valid for three days). See nps.gov

16. GO WHALE WATCHING

It's not just holidaymakers that flock to Maui – humpback whales think it's a bit of a playground as well, turning up in droves each winter to mate and give birth. The narrow channel between Maui and Lanai is one of the best places to see the hulking giants, with February and March peak whale-watching season. If you're not keen on water, there are plenty of land-based vantage points, particularly west-facing beaches between Kapalua and Makena. One of the best places is the clifftop at Papawai Point. See pacificwhale.org

17. VISIT BLACK ROCK 

The Hawaiian name for Black Rock is Pu'u Keka'a, the jumping off point where spirits went to join their ancestors. Nowadays, the young (and young at heart) use the rock as a jumping-off point for some ocean action. Formed as a result of one of the last lava flows on the west side of Maui, the rocky outcrop separates Ka'anapali Beach into two and offers excellent snorkelling, with turtles commonly sighted. Each evening at sunset the adjacent resort (Sheraton Maui) performs a torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony. See sheraton-maui.com 

18. STAY AT LUMERIA MAUI

An air of calm pervades this North Shore retreat, set between the plantation towns of Paia and Makawao, where daily yoga, meditation, Hawaiian heritage, movement and new thought classes are part of the accommodation packages. With an "experience" co-ordinator on hand, additional activities such as kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, horse riding, gardening, hula and cycling can also be arranged. The rooms themselves are works of art – 24 individually designed guest rooms featuring Hawaiian-inspired, organic interiors. Facilities include spa, luxury swimming pool and The Wooden Crate restaurant. See lumeriamaui.com 

19. PLAY A ROUND OF GOLF

Golfers are spoilt for choice, with more than a dozen courses (several ranked on the "world's best" lists) spread from west to south, upcountry and on Lanai. With courses next to ancient lava flows, tees surrounded by palm trees and knock-out ocean views, it's world-class golf, but not as you know it. Big names include the Plantation Course at Kapalua, The Challenge at Manele and the Royal Ka'anapali. See hawaiiteetimes.com 

20. FEEL THE SPIRIT OF ALOHA

Aloha means many things – love, affection, kindness, compassion and grace – and it can be found all over Hawaii. You'll find it in the smile of a stranger or a welcome chant, but often it will find you, in the shape of a double rainbow or in the colours of a fresh flower lei. To gain a deeper understanding, sign up for a hula class or a ukulele lesson; even if it feels a little touristy its roots are still grounded in a rich tradition.

The writer travelled with the assistance of Hawaii Tourism Oceania, gohawaii.com/au.

See also: 20 things that will shock first time visitors to the US

See also: When to tip and how much in the USA

Comments