Things to Do in Maui - page 2
When you can't get enough of sea life in the waters around Maui, then head for the Maui Ocean Center in the town of Wailuku.
Opened in 1998, Maui Ocean Center is an aquarium featuring only sea life that lives around the Hawaiian islands. It's the largest tropical aquarium in the western hemisphere, and features an enormous Open Ocean tank. There's an acrylic tunnel through the tank, giving visitors the feeling of truly being underwater. Among the diverse array of sea life in the 60 exhibits at the aquarium, you'll see octopuses, stingrays, turtles, sea horses, moray eels, jellies, and sharks, and you'll learn about dolphins, whales, and monk seals – not to mention thousands of fish. Maui Ocean Center also has the largest collection of live corals in the country.
Lanai Island may be dwarfed by Maui, but it’s the sixth largest of the Hawaiian islands. Pineapples rule on Lanai, but resort hotels are springing up to make the most of the island’s beachfront.
You’ll find a golf course and a hotel built by the famous pineapple mogul James Dole. However, you won't find any traffic lights, department stores, paved roads or big-city bustle of any kind.
Get around off-road by 4x4, take a stroll through laid-back Lanai City, go horseback riding or play a round of golf.
Ka’anapali Beach is perhaps the most well-known beach in all of Maui. Situated on west the west coast, these three miles of soft, golden sand have been called the best beach in America. It was once the retreat for the royal family of Hawaii, and it is now home to some of the most famous Hawaiian resorts.
There are countless ways to enjoy the beautiful beach, from a stroll on the sand to swimming and snorkeling in the clear, warm sea. There is a paved walkway along the length of the beach, but it’s hard to resist walking on the sand. If you’re in the water, keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles — they’re common visitors to the area. During whale season, humpback whales can be seen breaching from the shore. At the northern end of the beach, Black Rock has some of the beach’s best snorkeling. Every night at sunset cliff divers can be seen performing the Hawaiian ritual here, lighting torches along the cliff before leaping into the ocean.
The Royal Lahaina luau is a family-friendly evening of oceanfront entertainment set inside of Ka’anapali’s Royal Lahaina resort. More economical than some of the larger shows in town, children will love getting on stage and trying their hand at the hula, and adults will love the buffet of Hawaiian food and open-bar of tropical drinks. Mai-tais and Blue Hawaiians are paired with luau classics such as kalua pig, lomi salmon, and bowls full of poi, and everyone can agree towards the end of the night that the fire dancers are the overall highlight. Oftentimes, the twirling staffs are a fitting end to a fiery sunset which has given way to darkness, the last rays having disappeared over the horizon which is visible from your oceanfront seat.
Since the Royal Lahaina luau is located in the Ka’anapali resort district, the luau grounds are only a short drive from neighboring hotels, or, if you’re staying in the immediate vicinity.
The town of Kahului on Maui is often just the starting point for vacations on the island, but if you've got a bit of spare time there are some good reasons to explore Kahului before moving on.
Kahului is one of the main shopping destinations for Maui residents, and it's home to one of Hawaii's largest airports. Besides shopping, however, you can also check out the Kanaha Beach Park and Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary. The former is a relatively hidden beach (behind the airport), and the latter is a bird sanctuary with some endangered Hawaiian bird species. There's also a botanical gardens featuring solely native Hawaiian flora. The town's history is closely tied to the sugar industry, which you can trace at Kahului's Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum. Many visitors to Kahului know it as the starting point for the scenic Hana Highway (also known as the Road to Hana), which winds more than 50 miles along the northern shore of the island from Kahului to Hana.
Just off Maui’s shore on the island of Molokai, Kalaupapa National Historic Park is the former site of two leper colonies. People living with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) have been quarantined here since the days of King Kamehameha, and a community of cured patients still inhabits the Kalaupapa Settlement, scenically surrounded by steep Pali cliffs. The park is dedicated to preserving the experiences of the past so that they might be learned from in the present and future.
Father Damien, a Belgian missionary, first came to Molokai in the 19th century and cared for the afflicted until his death. In doing so, he brought awareness of the disease to the rest of the world. Once completely isolated, the peaceful area is now a center for education and reflection. Historic churches, homes, and cemeteries can still be seen. Out of respect for the residents, the number of visitors is limited to 100 per day.
More Things to Do in Maui
In the southern region of Maui near Haleakala lies Ulupalakua Ranch, the second largest cattle ranch on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Ulupalakua Ranch covers 18,000 acres stretching from the ocean up the sloping side of Haleakala Volcano. The ranch reaches an elevation of 6,000 feet at its highest point. Visitors to the ranch will mostly hang out at 2,000 feet, which still boasts incredible views of Maui and the nearby islands of Lanai and Molokai. The views are a big draw of Ulupalakua Ranch, but they aren't the only reason people like to visit it while traveling in Maui.
Ulupalakua Ranch also has many activities visitors can partake in. Horseback riding is available through Makena Stables. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy visiting as Ulupalakua Ranch is home to the only winery on the island. Sporting clay shooting is also available, which lets you shoot at a variety of stands, some with moving parts.
The town of Wailea is located on Maui's southwestern coast, known as a beach resort with spectacular beaches and luxury resort hotels. Wailea itself is relatively small, with a population under 6,000, but it's home to no less than five resort hotels – including two huge luxury properties. There are a number of really excellent beaches, such as Ulua Beach, Polo Beach and Wailea Beach, and there are three golf courses that make Wailea a popular draw for golfing vacations, too.
Even if you're not staying in one of the fancy beachfront hotels, you can still enjoy Wailea's gorgeous scenery. Put on your walking shoes and head for the coastal nature trail that winds along the water. It's paved, so it's easy going, and it'll give you an up-close look at an abundance of unique Hawaiian plants. In the morning, the trail is full of joggers, and in the evening, it's an ideal spot to watch the sunset.
Also known as the Hana Lava Tube, these subterranean caverns were created when lava once cooled on the surface here but continued to flow underneath the ground above. Now there are hundreds of unique rock formations throughout the half mile long cavern system, including stalagmites and stalactites. The caverns are the largest accessible lava tubes on Maui. It is estimated that the caves were formed nearly 30,000 years ago, and legend would tell us they are the work of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.
Water drips from the ceilings of the caves, but bats and insects are noticeably absent from the environment. Much of the caverns look as though they’ve been coated in chocolate. It’s an underground landscape that feels almost otherworldly, waiting to be explored. Above ground, there is a unique red Ti botanical garden maze that is also easy to get lost in.
Makawao is a town in Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country beside the slopes of Maui’s Haleakala volcano. The Paniolo culture of horseback riding and cattle wrangling has been present here since the 19th century, with green hillside pastures and ranches throughout the area. The Paniolo influence can still be felt — with horse-hitching posts in the streets and with the unique architectural style of the downtown buildings. Rodeos take place some weekends here, the largest of which is held annually during Fourth of July.
In the past, plantations covered this densely forested area. The name ‘Makawao’ means “eye of the forest.” The higher elevation in this area makes it especially conducive to agriculture, including pineapples and the Maui onion. Today, the town of Makawao is known for its thriving art scene. As such, there are dozens of art galleries, shops, small restaurants and boutiques to explore along the town’s main street.
Little Beach is smaller and more sheltered than many of the beaches on Maui. It is accessed by walking from the neighboring Big Beach, though the two are separated by a large lava rock wall and a five-minute hike. Its fine, white stretch of sand is only slightly more difficult to access than the average beach, but crowds are reduced here. Conditions are often good for both surfing and boogie boarding, and lava rock trails around the beach area lead to some smaller coves and viewpoints of the beaches of Makena State Park.
Also known as "Puʻu Olai,” the beach attracts a free-spirited crowd, with drum circles and fire dancing every Sunday evening. Aside from the blue waters and fine sands, it is a great spot to do some snorkeling (pending current conditions) and watch a famous Hawaiian sunset away from the crowds.
The second largest of the islands, Maui is known for its legendary Road to Hana (aka the Hana Highway). This scenic route past waterfalls and beaches is one of the most popular attractions on the island and makes a great shore excursion. Other shore excursions include snorkeling and trips to the Haleakala Crater, a well-known sunset spot.
Maui has great beaches, including white-sand Kaanapali Beach near Lahaina, so don’t be afraid to spend your whole day in port on the sand.
Ships dock in Kahului Harbor on the north coast or anchor off Lahaina on the west coast. If you’re not taking an organized tour, you’ll want a rental car to get around the island. Most of the rental companies have shuttles from each port to take you to one of the airports to pick up your car.
The city of Wailuku sits on the northern coast of Maui, once a major tourist destination on the island and now a commercial and governmental center. As the Maui County seat, Wailuku is home to the county government and was historically home to some of the Kingdom of Hawaii's most esteemed leaders. It was also a major center of the sugar cane industry in Hawaii in the 19th century.
The town is situated on the coast, but at its back is the mouth of the Iao Valley, a gorgeous and lush state park that was sacred to the old Hawaiian gods and a burial ground for Hawaiian royalty. The valley was also the setting for a legendary 18th century battle in the fight to unify the islands as one kingdom. Visitors to Wailuku today can explore the city's historic monuments, browse its unique local shops and restaurants, and use it as a base for visiting the Iao Valley.
The Bailey House is a historical house and museum operated by the Maui Historical Society. It houses the largest collection of Hawaiian artifacts on Maui, many dating back to the 19th century when the house was built. The home was constructed as a mission in 1833 on what was then the royal compound of Kahekili, the last ruling chief of Maui, and the second story contains many of the koa wood furniture that belonged to the missionary Edward Bailey, who lived in the house. The first floor contains remnants of native Hawaiian life, from wooden bowls and utensils to spears and shark teeth used in battle. The museum also houses a private collection of Edward Bailey’s paintings of Maui along with the oldest surviving photographs of the island.
Outside you can view dozens of native Hawaiian plants in the house gardens. There is a 100-year-old outrigger canoe and a historic surfboard that belonged to Duke Kahanamoku in an outdoor gallery beside the entrance to the house.