Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
Things to Do in Maui: More Than Just Beaches
You've just booked your flight to Maui, the Valley Isle, and you're looking forward to relaxing on the beach. While Maui's beaches on the Pacific are incredible, there's so much more to the island of Maui than sand and surf. From idyllic tropical valleys to bamboo forests, from hiking trails to active nightlife, Maui entices travelers with a wide variety of attractions. If you're ready to explore, here are some ideas to get you started.
In Hawaiian, Haleakala means "House of the Sun," and this dormant volcano lives up to its name. Standing above the clouds and watching the Haleakala sunrise from the summit, at 10,000 feet in elevation, rising past Kula in upcountry Maui, will literally take your breath away. After sunrise, you can warm up by hiking through the volcano's otherworldly landscape like Haleakala Crater. If you're lucky, you might spot the rare Haleakala silversword plant, which grows nowhere else on the planet. It gets cold on Haleakala, so prepare wisely by bringing warm clothing. The summit is located inside Haleakala National Park, which is open every day of the year. The park's entrance fee is per vehicle, with discounts for disabled people, seniors and members of the military. Visitor centers in the park have drinking water and restrooms, but there are no other amenities.
This former plantation town near Kahului is now famous as a windsurfing destination, but a lot of the action here occurs away from the beach. Paia attracts hippies, artists and other free spirits. Colorful wooden storefronts contain unique restaurants and boutiques that showcase the creative energy here. Visit Paia to eat, browse or just observe the local culture.
Road to Hana
East of Paia, the famous Hana Highway or Road to Hana beckons. With vertiginous cliffs and hairpin turns, this road, rated as one of the world's most scenic drives, is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The driving time from Paia to the town of Hana, at the end of the highway, is approximately two and a half hours each way. You should allow plenty of extra time to stop and admire the gorgeous views along the way. Fill up your gas tank before you go as there are few services on the Road to Hana. Many people drive to Hana and back in one full day. However, an overnight stay in Hana will allow you to enjoy its lush beauty and relaxed pace of life, and also allow for many stops along the way, like the Black Sand Beach in Wai'anapanapa State Park.
On the opposite end of the island on west Maui, Lahaina, just south of Kaanapali beach and Kapalua, provides a striking contrast to Hana. While Hana receives abundant rainfall, Lahaina gets ample sunshine. Hana goes to bed early, but Lahaina boasts a vibrant nightlife scene. A former port of call for whaling ships, the town still retains the ambiance of a lively seaport. You can stroll along Front Street, the town's pleasant promenade, book a whale watching tour, immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture and say aloha to a Maui luau at the Old Lahaina Luau, or enjoy a seafood dinner at an oceanfront restaurant. After dark, enjoy the wild side of Maui at one of the towns bars, many of which have live music. There's also the largest banyan tree in not only Hawaii, but the United States.
Iao Valley State Park
On an island known for beautiful valleys, the verdant Iao Valley stands out as an exceptional place for a short hike or photo shoot. The Iao Needle, a natural rock formation, towers 1200 feet over the valley floor like a giant thumb. A sacred site for the ancient Hawaiians, the valley has also seen many tragic battles throughout Hawaiian history. The park has a botanical garden featuring plants brought to Hawaii by the first Polynesian settlers. Amenities include restrooms and paved trails with interpretive signs. The park is open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is a parking fee per car. Hawaii residents are exempt from this fee. Use caution when visiting the Iao Valley after a heavy rainfall. The area is subject to flash floods.
Final Thought on Things to Do in Maui: Mahalo
Of course, we didn't even get to mention Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped, partially-submerged crater near Wailea, where you can go snorkeling and scuba diving with various marine life, including sea turtles.
Nor did we mention the helicopter tours over Molokai and Lanai, the Pipiwai Trail that runs to Waimoku Falls, the turtle town south of Kihei off Makena, the Maui Ocean Center (the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere), the great surf in Honolua Bay or the North Shore, the Nakalele Blowhole, Makawao, Ho'okipa, the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe'o, or the West Maui Mountains.
These must-do activities and destinations should be on everyone's list, time permitting.
As you can see, from Haleakala's summit to Lahaina's oceanfront promenade, Maui provides many possibilities for adventure. When exploring these places, you'll be impressed by the variety of landscapes and attractions on this small but diverse island.
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