With so many things to see on Maui, it is hard to put together a list of just five. Some people may enjoy dining at fantastic restaurants, while others want to hunt for shells on deserted beaches. Our list is designed as a good starting base of five activities that will surely bring a smile to our visitors faces!
1. Drive to the summit of Haleakala, Maui’s tallest inactive volcano. Whether you plan to wake up early and watch the sunrise, arrive right at sunset, or simply be up there during the day, the views down over the island below are remarkable! The landscape at the summit of a volcano is also unlike anything you have probably ever experienced. Many guests have compared it to what they imagine the moon might be like. Because the summit is over 10,000 feet in elevation, you can bet the temperatures are cold (a lot colder than you imagine). Sometimes it will even snow on the summit during a few days in the winter. We strongly suggest that you dress in layers. Don’t forget the camera either, as you will want to record the views from that vantage point!
2. Block off a full day to drive the road to Hana. Most of the road to Hana is two lanes and hugs the coastline or Maui’s northern and eastern regions. This is one of those trips where the drive is the experience and the places you decide to stop come second. As you meander through lush rain forests, over old stone bridges, and past soothing waterfalls, your eyes will constantly be searching around for the next “moment of awe.” There are some very popular stops along the road to Hana, which include locally-made banana bread stands, an underground lava tube you can explore, a black sand beach, a red sand beach, tropical gardens, and secret natural pools. The most popular stop has to be in Kipahulu, at Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools). This stop is actually part of the National Park system and you will have to pay a small fee to park and enter. You will then be able to choose from a few beautiful hikes or swim in a collection of natural rain pools with stunning waterfalls.
3. Book a snorkeling or diving trip out to the remote crescent moon-shaped island of Molokini. This tiny island is actually the remnant of an old volcano and can be seen from the southern coastline of Maui. It is consistently ranked one of the top snorkeling spots in the state of Hawaii. Don’t worry about bringing or renting snorkeling equipment with you to Maui, since all tours out to Molokini will have all the gear you will need. If you plan a trip out to Molokini during the months of January through March, you can also bank on seeing some whales along the way. Most all the trips out to Molokini are in the early morning when winds and currents are at their gentlest.
4. A trip out to Iao Valley State Park will only take you about two hours at the most, but the location is steep with Hawaiian history. Before the Hawaiian island were united as one kingdom, each island was ruled separately and independently. A large battle was fought at Ioa Valley which eventually led to the unification of all the islands. Learn about this history as you walk through beautiful grounds and streams. The highlight of the park is the tall green Iao Needle that stands 2,250 feet tall. Ascend some stairs to a great viewing point of the needle. Spend 15-30 minutes walking around the park on the various trails that take you past famous indigenous plants. The brave few may even want to bring their swimsuits and take a dip in the cold streams.
5. “Thar she blows!” If you are on Maui during the months of January through March, then you are visiting during the peak whale watching season. The humpback whales migrate from Alaska each winter to Hawaii to give birth and nurse baby calves. If you gaze out over the ocean you should be able to see some blow spouts every now and then. If you are lucky you may even see a tail slap, pectoral slap, or a full on breach. If you want to get even closer to the whales you can book a variety of whale watch excursions from numerous harbors on Maui (Lahaina harbor and Maalaea harbor being the two most popular). Most all whale watch cruises guarantee that you will see whales or you will get your money back. It is truly stunning to be see those large creatures so close to the boat.
[Photo source: Eric Chan]