Hawaii, North America, USA

Best Things to Do on Maui (3 Must Do’s)

Maui has been voted “Top Island in the U.S.” for more than 20 years by Condé Nast Traveler. Once you have experienced the magic of this island and the best things to do on Maui you’ll understand why!

Why Maui?

Majestic bamboo forests, exotic flowers everywhere you look, and delicious fruit and banana bread stands peppered along the streets no matter where you drive. Then there are beautiful jungle hikes with waterfalls and swimming holes, barren volcanic scenes so far above sea level you feel like you’re on another planet, and gorgeous beaches around every corner. Sounds like a dream, am I right?

Of all the incredible things to experience, we’ve narrowed down it down to 3 best things to do on Maui!

Is Maui A Good Destination For Families?

When we visited Maui before we started a family we immediately felt like we could live there. The sheer variety of activities and outdoor opportunities makes it so appealing to nature lovers and travel enthusiasts. One day the opportunity presented itself for us to return to our favorite island in the USA, and we couldn’t book our flights fast enough!

While there are plenty of more “extreme” activities to take part in (scuba diving, parasailing, more strenuous hikes, etc.) our kids were only 2.5 years old and 4 months old during our trip (it was our baby’s first flight!), so we knew we had to plan a more laid back, low key experience. Luckily there is something for everyone in Maui so we didn’t feel like we were missing out even though we had to go a bit slower. (Note: If you’re heading to Maui with your kids, make sure to check out our favorite travel car seats!)

Regardless of if you are traveling to Maui with kids, solo, or on an incredible honeymoon, there are some things you just cannot miss. Here are our 3 top things to do in Maui that you just HAVE to experience!

PS- If you prefer to watch instead of read, check out our Maui video on YouTube!

Road to Hana

#1. One of our favorite things to do on Maui is to drive along the infamous Road to Hana. With its hairpin curves and one-lane bridges, it isn’t for the faint of heart!

If you can stomach the drive, you’ll be rewarded with incredible rainbow eucalyptus trees, majestic bamboo forests, endless waterfalls, gorgeous black sand beaches, epic vistas, and of course, countless adorable roadside stands selling fresh coconuts and banana bread all along the way. The Road to Hana truly embodies the best of Maui!

Shaka Guide

Insider tip: Download the “Shaka Guide” app to receive amazing pointers on the best places to stop along the way. It gives LIVE updates as you drive, like your own personal tour guide that goes exactly at your own pace! (Shaka Guide uses your GPS to track your location and which spots are coming up). We definitely wouldn’t have found the secret lava tube without it 😉

For more info or to download the Shaka Guide Hawaii GPS Audio Driving Tour: https://www.shakaguide.com/

How Much Time Do You Need For the Road to Hana?

While you could hypothetically drive to Hana and back in one day, we would definitely recommend staying in Hana for a night if you can make the time. This will give you more time to enjoy the black sand beaches, hike the Pipiwai Trail to see the infamous bamboo forest, and stop for plenty of pictures along the way. It also gives you a nice break from the craziness that is the Road to Hana! There are a few guest houses in Hana, along with cottages, and even a resort or two. If you’re more adventurous definitely try camping (in tents or cabins) at Waiʻānapanapa State Park where you can wake up just steps from the black sand beach and have the whole beach to yourself before the tour buses arrive later in the day!

Head to the Kihei

After a long drive to and from Hana, take a break at one of Maui’s gorgeous beaches before you set off on your next adventure. Kihei is full of family-friendly beaches that are a bit more mellow than some other surf spots on the island. If you’re lucky you might end up swimming by a sea turtle!

Maui Ocean Center

#2. The Maui Ocean Center has the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere.

You’ll see divers feeding smiling manta rays, and you’ll walk through an underwater tunnel surrounded by sharks. Sound like a magical underwater experience? You have to experience it to believe it!

Close encounters

It’s a fun outing for the whole family, that will leave everyone mesmerized and inspired!

For tickets or more info on the Maui Ocean Center: https://mauioceancenter.com/

Haleakala State Park

#3. Haleakala is the enormous volcano that makes up 75% of the island of Maui. It stands at 10,023 feet/3,055 meters above sea level!

Make sure to bring a jacket and pants if you make the trek up. It can drop to 30F/-1C at the summit, quite a difference to the hot beach weather down below! We love to bring compressible winter jackets with us on our travels for times like these. They don’t take up too much space but when you need them they’re ready to keep you warm!

Quietly marvel at the red crater landscape below you, as the clouds engulf you while they sail by.

High above the clouds

Hiking Haleakala

If you’d like to move a bit on your luxurious holiday consider one of the various hikes in the park. They range from relatively easy with little elevation gain, to almost 70 miles long and about 10,000′ of elevation gain. Hike Maui is the only company that offers commercially guided hiking tours, which we would recommend for anyone who isn’t familiar with the area, terrain, or hiking at elevation. If you want to do it yourself check out this post from Moon Travel with tips on some of the best hikes in Haleakala!

Sunrise vs. Sunset

On the other hand, if you’re traveling with young kids, aren’t used to high altitudes, or if you’d simply prefer to skip the more physically demanding aspect of Haleakala (but don’t want to skimp out on incredible scenery), a sunrise or a sunset at the top of Haleakala is a truly spectacular sight that you’ll never forget. If you do ONE thing on our Top Things to Do in Maui list, make it a sunrise/sunset on Haleakala!

Both sunrise and sunset are spectacular from the top of Haleakala. The sunrise is over the crater, while the sunset is behind the observatory, and both are equally beautiful. One bonus of watching the sunset is you have the chance to stick around another couple hours (staying warm in your car) and see the Milky Way from one of the most incredible viewing spots on Earth!

Incredible stars after sunset

Note: If you’d like to see the sunrise at Haleakala you need to make sunrise viewing reservations in advance. These open online 60 days before your visit, along with some last-minute tickets released two days beforehand at 7am. No reservations for sunset are required at this time, nor for visiting any time after sunrise.

To make your Haleakala sunrise reservation or for more info about the park and entrance fee: https://www.nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/sunrise-and-sunset.html

Photo by Hanna McFall

Let’s Go!

Now that you’ve read all about them, are you ready to see all these places in action? Check out our Maui YouTube video (as seen on Maui Happy Hours) for more travel inspiration: MAUI | Best Things To Do [Road to Hana & Beyond] Have a great trip!

If you found this information useful, please consider purchasing through the affiliate links provided throughout the blog post.