There are many fun things to do in Maui, each easily accessible by
car and/or foot, and all within minutes to just a few hours of each
other. From paddle boarding, snorkeling, hiking and more, your Maui outdoor activities guide starts here.
Maui is the perfect beach vacation destination for the day trip explorer. Whether you like to hike in a rain forest, swim with the turtles, wine taste, jet ski, parasail, snorkel, surf, windsail, golf at a PGA course, shop, eat or ride a bike down ten thousand foot Haleakala crater, there are endless things to do in Maui for all ages.
One of the most popular Maui outdoor activities is to snorkel. For the beginner or expert snorkeler, Maui has the perfect water for all types of experience levels. You will have the option of snorkeling from one of Maui's clear water beaches and coves to alternately taking an offshore day trip in a Zodiac, catamaran or other boat.
The best area in Maui to snorkel is on the south-western side of the
island where the wind generally blows offshore creating calm water
conditions. This side of the island also has less cloud cover. This
includes the areas from Makena in the south to Napali and Kapalua to the
Hint! - The best time to snorkel is mid morning, not too early so that the sun is up but not too late for the wind to pickup. Hitting the water at 9am is about perfect. The brighter the sun and less cloud cover and wind, the better the underwater visibility will be. Plus this is the best time of day to see turtles.
Hint! - For the beginner it is recommended that you
snorkel from shore in a calm shallow cove so that you can get accustomed
to the equipment and water. This way you can control how far out you
go. There are numerous shallow water coves where you can see hundreds
of tropical fish while staying within 10-20 feet of shore and in water
only 3-6 feet deep.
Here is a list of some of the best snorkeling spots in Maui:
Here is a great guide to the different fish you will find in Maui.
Napili bay is a very calm, shallow water cove with a nice sandy beach lined with rocks on both left and right sides of cove. This is a great place to learn how to snorkel with plenty of fish near the rocks without having to go into deeper water. There is generally little or no current or waves. Napili Bay is also protected from the wind.
Black rock is probably the most well
known and popular snorkeling spot on Maui. Located adjacent to the
Sheraton Kaanapali, snorkeling the Sheraton pool side of Black Rock
provides calm, shallow
water and has quick access to much
deeper water. Once out on the point, Black Rock is more susceptible to
waves, although this side of the island is still the calmest part of
Shown to the left is the best spot to enter the water from the beach if you are snorkeling Black Rock. This area is right next to the Sheraton pool area and provides calm water and protection from the wind. Entry into the water should be made on the beach next to the Sheraton. The opposite side does not have any immediate access due to the steep cliffs. If you want to approach from this side, you will have to start from Kahekili beach and swim parallel to the cliffs. This path is recommended for experienced snorkelers only because there is no way out of the water until you either return or reach the Sheraton.
Black rock has two rocky points that extend out into deep water with a shallow coral cove in between. This is a great spot to snorkel as long as the waves are not too big.
Outside of the two points and cove and towards the steeper cliffs, the
current can sometimes pick up, especially as you turn the corner form
the Sheraton and head into deeper water.
While the deep water view of 25-30 feet will often reveal stingrays and large fish on the sandy bottom, one must be careful of the current pushing you down the shoreline with no access to shore and only steep cliffs. This is a must snorkel spot but exercise caution and always watch your location.
If you do decide to snorkel north alongside the cliffs that run all the way to Kahekili beach, watch out for fisherman on the cliffs. It is also a long walk back if you decide to stop there.
Show above, a group of snorkelers swimming alongside the steep cliffs as they swim from Kahekili beach towards Black Rock. Overall, snorkeling Black Rock is one of the most popular Maui outdoor activities.
Located 20 minutes northwest of Lahaina, Honolua Bay is always at the
top of the list of Maui outdoor activities and my absolute favorite cove to
snorkel. It is not the easiest place to find as the road winds towards
the north shore and trees block the view of the cove from below.
However, the road is elevated approaching and leaving the cove giving
you a great view from above. Parking is along the road near the sharp
turn at the lowest point.
HINT ! - Get there early as parking is limited otherwise you will be walking a long distance. Enter into the trees and proceed toward the very back of the cove. The entrance to the cove is very rocky with no sand. The cove is calm and very protected from the wind and waves. It is a great location for the beginner near the shore while more experienced snorkelers can explore the vast coral reefs further out.
If you like cheese, this is a must stop. Located on the slope of Haleakala crater and on the way to the Tedeschi Winery, the Surfing Goat Dairy carries a great selection of cheeses, truffles and soaps. My favorite cheeses include Men's Challenge (horseradish) (try it with Prime Rib !) and Rolling Green (fresh garlic). They also offer a great travel pack that protects your purchase back to the mainland. Tours are offered daily and you can feed the goats.
For the chocolate lovers, there are some great chocolate products for sale that are made with goat milk.
View from upcountry's Surfing Goat dairy looking towards Kihei and the island of Lanai in the background.
Drive times from Lahaina and Kaanapali are about 45 minutes and about 30 minutes from Kahului, Kihei and Wailea
Whale watching is one of those Maui outdoor activities that is only available at certain times of the year. Starting in December and running through April, several thousand Pacific Humpback whales start appearing in the waters surrounding Maui. Adult whales are generally 40 to 50 feet long and can weight between 40 and 50 tons.
The islands of Lanai, Molokai and Maui form a calm water area just off the coast of the Maui towns of Kihei, Lahaina and Kaanapali that makes for spectacular viewing from boat and land.
One of the best whale watching experiences is to take a morning Catamaran tour. This type of boat holds a smaller number of people than the standard tour boats, is lower to the water and offers 360 degree views. Going in the morning will usually produce less wind and calmer waters for better viewing.
Another option to take a snorkeling trip where you will surely see several whales to and from your snorkeling destination.
The Pacific Whale Foundation offers sunrise tours, that combined with the morning's calm water, can be the best viewing time of the day.
February brings Maui's annual whale festival, sponsored by the Pacific Whale Foundation. Events include a run/walk for the Whales, VIP dinner cruise, World whale day and the great whale count.
Don't forget your camera and binoculars.
One of the most well know Maui outdoor activities, to do at least once, is to take the road to Hana. The 55 mile journey to Hana starts in the town of Paia on the North shore of Maui, not too far from the main airport city of Kahului.
The road to Hana is an all day adventure. Don't cut it short by leaving late or only driving half way. To fully enjoy the scenery, leave very early in the morning. I recommend about 7am, certainly no later then 8am. As the morning progresses, the number of cars and tour buses do also. Fill up with gas before you go. There are no stations between Paia and Hana and the one in Hana closes around 6pm. Bring light rain gear if you don't like getting wet. This is Maui's rainforest side of the island with over 300 inches of rain per year.
The road is winding with 54 one-way bridges and over 600 sharp turns but if you take it slow it is well worth the adventure. HINT ! - Purchase
one of the numerous Road to Hana CDs. The CD syncs up with mile markers
and physical locations and will direct you to hidden spots and
treasures that most people miss. This is a must requirement to fully
enjoy your drive. Alternately, if you don't want to drive, there are
several very good tours available.
Take your time and enjoy the unique vegetation, flowers, numerous waterfalls and scenic views.
If you have always wanted to go to the moon, this is the closest that you will ever get. Haleakala crater, located on eastern side of Maui is at an elevation of 10,023 feet and is open 24 hours a day except for in extreme weather conditions. The entrance to the park is located on highway 377 which is just off of Haleakala highway 37. It is about 38 miles and takes about 90 minutes to get to the top from Kahului and a little bit over 2 hours and 60 miles if you start from Lahaina or Kaanapali. The two lane paved road to the road is easy to navigate and in great condition. Hint ! - Leave early in the morning before the daily cloud build up starts to form. This will allow for the best viewing. Night time visits are great for viewing the stars and watching the sunrise. The adventure to the top and back is easily done in a half of a day. This is one of the best Maui outdoor activities that can be done both in the early morning or at night, just before sunrise. Don't miss out.
At the 7000 foot level there is a park entrance with restrooms and a visitor's center. There is a nominal entrance fee that is good for three days should you wish to come back and explore more. Once at the top you will find an additional visitors center, although no restrooms, with park rangers to answer any questions. For the more adventurous, there are also several hiking trails that will take you down into the crater. Hint! - while it may be 85 degrees at the beach, expect mid to high 50s and most likely strong winds at the top during the warmest part of the day. Bring warms clothes, especially if hiking. My last trip was in October 2012. It was 87 in Kaanapali with no wind. At the top of Haleakala it was 57 with a wind of 30-40 miles per hour....and this was at noon. Winter can often bring snow, yes it snows in Hawaii !
Haleakala summit lookout at 10,023 feet, mid 50s with a 30-40 mph wind.
View from the Haleakala summit looking southeast towards the big island of Hawaii shown in the background.
Hashi on the top of Haleakala.
One of the few plants that grow on Haleakala.
View looking towards Kihei and the western Maui towns of Lahaina and Kaanapali that are past the point in the background.
Set in the cool tranquility of Ulupalakua, on the southern slope of
the Haleakala crater, is the Tedeschi winery, Maui's only winery. The
daily cloud buildup over Haleakala combined with the 2000 foot elevation
produces a perfect, year round, temperature range in the low to mid
Tedeschi is known for it's pineapple wines, Maui Blanc and Maui Splash plus sparking pineapple wine, Hula O'Maui. Other favorites include Upcountry Gold (Chardonnay), Ulupalakua Red (Merlot/Syrah blend) and Rose Ranch Cuvee (Pinot/Chardonnay blend).
One of my favorites is the Framboise desert wine, a perfect combination of raspberries, locally grown cane sugar and grape spirits.
Drive times from Lahaina and Kaanapali are about 90 minutes and about 60 minutes from Kahului, Kihei and Wailea. This is based on taking your time and enjoying the very scenic drive.
Located in central Maui, sandwiched between mountains, the Ioa Valley State Park is the second wettest place on earth and receives an average of one inch of rain a day.
The main attraction is the 1200 foot high Ioa needle, pictured above, created by the erosion of the soft surrounding rock. While 1200 feet in height it sits 2300 feet above sea level. The Ioa needle is known as the "stone of the God of the ocean, Kanaloa".
After crossing a foot bridge you have the choices of either going up to the Ioa needle viewing platform or down to the walkway adjacent to the stream and pools.
There are some very nice hiking trails that run along the stream.
Ioa valley is located about 20-30 minutes west of the airport and is an easy drive and easily accessible for all. The parking lot is somewhat small so an early arrival is best. Park gates open at 7am.
This is a must see if you love lush rainforest scenery but it is not an all day event. Get there early and then move on to your next activity before the crowds start arriving.
You can't talk about great Maui outdoor activities without mentioned golf. Maui is home to several world renown PGA golf course available to the public. All are located on the south and west sides of the island where the weather is sunny and less windy. Tee times book fast and discounts are available at most locations if you play in the afternoon. Hint! - Afternoon play has more of a chance for rain and wind, especially at the Kapalua Plantation course. The Kapalua Bay, Wailea and Kaanapali courses are less susceptible to the weather.
Below are the links to the best golfing on Maui:
I have two favorite shopping areas in Maui, with the largest and most well known being Lahaina located, just south of Kaanapali. The other is Whaler's Village in Kaanapali.
Lahaina offers several blocks of clothes, jewelry, souvenirs and restaurants, all located adjacent to the water. There is also a really nice boardwalk along the ocean front making for some great sunset pictures.
Whaler's village is a multi-tier shopping center that is adjacent to the beach and Kaanapali walking trail. It is very nice, and offers somewhat higher end shops.
On the second and fourth Saturday of each month, vendors set up their collection of spectacular art, jewelry and clothes under the downtown Lahaina banyan tree. Right next to Lahaina Harbor and the Courthouse, this 60 foot tall tree spans an entire city block and offers cool shade from the intense Maui sunshine. It is a great place to spend part of a day and purchase one of a kind items, found nowhere else in the world.
Hopefully our list of the Maui outdoor activities for the entire family will give you a great head start on your next Maui vacation.