Not sure what to do In Maui?
There are so many things that you can do on your island vacation! Maui island is home to six distinct and versatile climates. Whether you are looking to trek through the rainforests of Hana or take a dip in the pacific of the desert shores of Lahaina– you can’t go wrong!
If you're looking for ideas on what to do on Maui, we've got you covered! First, let’s dive into the history and legend of Maui!
The History and Legend of Maui
Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727 square miles. According to Native Hawaiian legend, the Polynesian navigator Hawai’iloa, who was attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, named the island of Maui. His son was given the name after the demi-god Maui raised all the Hawaiian Islands from the sea. The Island of Maui is also called the “Valley Isle” for the stretch of land between two towering volcanoes.
The history of modern-day Maui can be traced back to many large-scale events. One of which was the huge whaling boom in the Pacific and Japan that led to sailors making a pit stop at former capital of the State of Hawaii– Lahaina.
Including walking through the Banyan Trees and the Museum that houses both artifacts and legends around this interesting and integral point of Maui’s history; there are so many things to try and do on your trip to Maui for all ages!
Maui’s Activities for Any Weather
It is no secret that Maui is home to a lot of different climates and weather phenomena. This includes large scale rainforest and more marine areas like the West Maui Mountains that can get up to 400 inches (10m) of rainfall a year– whereas Kihei in South Maui gets only around 19 inches (480mm) of rainfall a year.
If you are looking to have a day out in the sun on the beach or on the golf course – you can check out these Maui Activities, or one of our many golf courses like Kaanapali and Kapalua Golf Courses.
If you are looking for more of a rugged adventure while staying here in Maui you could reserve a spot to watch sunrise at the summit of the 10,000-foot-tall dormant volcano Haleakala or take out a dune buggy and rove around the backside of West Maui.
If you are more of a seafaring adventurer there are many different whale watching and snorkel tours like Hawaii Ocean Rafting that are available. Some opt for day long fishing and diving charters as well!
Ocean Adventures on Maui
Maui is a leading whale-watching hub in the world and within the Hawaiian islands come winter, many Humpback whales are sheltered amongst ‘Au‘au Channel between the islands that make up Maui county. The whales migrate approximately 3,500 miles (5,600 km) from Alaska and come here to mate, birth and raise their young in the warm waters.
A whale watching tours is one of the coolest things you can do here in Maui. Spending the day seeing these incredible creatures in their natural habitat, from a safe distance, really gives someone the sense of majesty that both this island and our oceans contain.
If you are looking to visit Maui this is a must see!
Snorkeling or Whale Watching
Maui is home to a vast variety of marine life just waiting to be discovered. Snorkeling is the number one of the top 4 must do activities on Maui. Snorkeling is available throughout the year all around Maui. We would suggest that you hop on one of our rafts and get away from the road system for the best snorkeling. We will whisk you to the neighbor island of Lanai’s and all of its pristine glory. Lana’s is a sparsely habited private island with breathtaking sea cliffs and dramatic lava formations above and below the ocean’s surface. The entire place is teeming with a rainbow of tropical fish as well as several species of Dolphin!
If you will be on Maui between December and May, you should definitely book a whale watching tour. Our tours leave from Lahaina harbor for a full 2 hours dedicated to whale watching. Our rafts are fast which means we can step off the beaten path and spend less time traveling and more time whale watching! The gentle giants leave a lasting impression on all who meet them, it is pretty magical to get up close.
Hana or Haleakala
These two destinations offer the best of the two extremes of Maui's rugged landscape. The stark grandeur of the Haleakala crater is especially dramatic at sunrise and sunset. If you take the time to hike down into the crater it is like visiting an alien landscape (think Mars). The giant telescopes loom in the distance and the silverswords – that live nowhere else on earth – bloom silently all around. Hana, on the other hand, is a lush and secretive jungle. The tiny winding highway skirts jaw dropping cliffs and hundreds of waterfalls just at the edge of dense impenetrable rainforest. Stop for banana bread on the way, and take your time. Hana is home to the seven sacred pools as well as Hamoa beach.
A Day At The Beach
Maui just isn't Maui without a few days devoted to the beach. Sunkissed cheeks and sandy toes may be all you have to show for your efforts, but you won't regret this at all. The thing about Maui is that the gentle trade winds are always blowing, they keep it just cool enough. Our waters hover around 80 degrees and there is always a bit of shade on our treelined beaches. As you bask in the paradise the trades blow the scent of jasmine and plumeria through the air and you can truly relax. For many this is the highlight of Maui.
Unique Island Style Dining and a Luau
Maui is home to a melting pot of cultures that you won't find anywhere else in the world. This rare combination of cultures from all over the globe results in a culinary experience not to be missed. Whether you pick up a musubi at minute stop or take in the Old Lahaina Luau you are sure to experience flavor combinations that do not occur anywhere else.
Where to Shop and Dine in Maui
In addition to an activity to fit the fantasy of any traveler; there are a plethora of amazing places to shop and dine here on the island. Maui has a great culture of shopping and supporting local– it is very important that those who are visiting are contributing back to the local economy and fully immersing themselves in all that the island has to offer.
Some great places to shop and support local are the Lahaina Cannery Mall, Moonbow Tropics, and Made in Maui. For dining one must check out some of the great locally owned and critically acclaimed restaurants like Maui Brewing Company, StarNoodle, and TinRoof– each offer unique dining experiences for a date night or a fun night out with the whole family!
Maui’s Best Kept Secrets
Firstly, Lanai is home to several different species of dolphin which usually greet us upon our arrival to the shores of Lanai. There is something about our quick rafts and wake that the dolphins find irresistible. They jump, spin and surf alongside as we approach our first snorkeling spot. When you snorkel Lanai, you will discover a snorkeler’s paradise. We sometimes see the rarer and more elusive bottle nosed dolphins. These beauties travel in small groups or pairs and are always quite curious. During whale season they are the dolphin that we most often see interacting with the humpbacks. The spinner dolphins are quite a bit more common and are more likely to be the ones putting on a show. They leap and spin up to 5 times before landing back in the water with a resounding slap. You may also see the Pan Tropical spotted dolphins which travel in large pods and are also likely to leap gracefully out of the water time and time again.
The Landscape is Unlike Anything on Maui
Secondly, with so many wonderful rock lava formations all around the island there is a spot for each type of weather. This is one of the wonderful things about having this whole island at our fingertips, she offers something for everyone. The giant sea cliffs of Lanai offer a striking backdrop as well as protection from swells and high winds. There are pinnacles rising to just below the surface in sixty feet of water and outcroppings reaching out of the sea in the middle of calm little bays. Snorkel Lanai and find such a diverse experience all in one trip. If you join us for our full day snorkel tour, you will see the giant shipwreck towering from Lanai's shallow coastal waters.
You Don't need an Airplane to Get There
Finally, for those of you that have ever watched a sunset from the shores of Maui, you have undoubtedly seen the majestic island of Lanai. Lana'i is the star of the show that darkens in silhouette as the colors deepen and flash and night falls. Our tours leave daily from Lahaina harbor on Maui's majestic West side and set out for this hidden gem of an island. If you enjoy stepping off the beaten path and experiencing nature in its purest form, this tour is for you. We specialize in small group tours aboard our speedy ocean rafts, no cattle cars here. We offer both a half and full day snorkeling tour as well as seasonal whale watching (December-May). If you have a free Sunday during your star here on Maui you may want to consider our full day tour. The full day tour circumnavigates the entire island of Lana'i as well as take you up close to a giant shipwreck. If you book directly online you will save an automatic 15%.
What to Do in Maui in December
Winter is a very special time here in Maui. While the weather stays warm, with pictures of a sunscreen and grass skirt-adorned Santa Claus lining the shops of Lahaina’s Front Street’s windows and greeting cards; both tourists and locals alike are more excited for the arrival of our greatest tourists: the Humpback whales.
From the months of December to early April (many arriving in December) humpback whales make their way to Maui’s coast to mate, give birth and raise their young in the tropical waters of the Pacific before returning North.
Maui Arts and Cultural Center
The Maui Arts and Cultural Center, familiarly known as the “MACC” hosts some of Maui’s greatest events! From comedy shows to orchestras, the MACC has it all! If you are lucky, you may be able to enjoy this outdoor venue jamming to some local favorite bands or world-renowned stars.
Since the shutdown of 2020, the MACC has slowly been opening their doors to the public; hosting stars like Jim Gaffigan or, more recently, The Green. This December you can grab your tickets to Maui’s Pop Orchestra for their special holiday show “Holiday Pops” or even the 11th anniversary show of Bill Maher!
Whether you’re in the mood for a laugh or to enjoy some great music in Maui’s most beautiful venue the MACC is a great option! Because you are in the tropical pacific, you don’t have to worry about the weather or the cold derailing your enjoyment— this outdoor venue is sure to provide a great time.
Holiday Traditions in Hawaii
If you are looking to spend a special Christmas or holiday season with your loved ones, there is no better place than Maui!
While it may provide a difference experience than the traditional “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” or lighting candles near a frosted window, Maui has other wonderful holiday traditions to share.
On December 11th, there will be a 6-foot-tall Snowman in Lahaina Town, the perfect photo op for your Maui Christmas vacation! On December 18th, from 6pm-8pm, also in downtown Lahaina, there will be a snow zone for kids to play and cookie decorating for everyone to get into the holiday spirit!
Downtown Lahaina town shows off its holiday spirit in December when it lights up the giant Banyan Tree with magical Christmas lights every year. The historical town celebrates with decorative with banners and festive storefronts, Christmas caroling and holiday dining.
One of these Maui holiday traditions is enjoying some of the seasonal fruit and vegetation that grows during the winter months like squash, strawberries, and melons! Even though most of Maui is classified as a warm tropical climate there are still seasons around some of the most popular crops that locals and visitors alike anticipate.
Maui Whale Watching Tours
The winter months are a time where Maui sees an influx of both visitors and wildlife. As mentioned, whale season in Maui spans from November to early spring at its peaks. If you choose to vacation in Maui during December, make sure that you are aboard one of Maui’s award-winning whale watching tours.
If being on a boat isn’t your thing, you can swim or snorkel in the warm waters that line Maui’s coasts. Lahaina and the West and North Side of Maui host winter surf swells, making it a go to spot for epic surfing during the winter season. If you are lucky, you might see an early firing of “Jaws” the greatest big wave surf of the Pacific (this usually happens in mid to late winter each or every other year).
Bottom line— if you are looking to travel to Maui there is no better time than the winter season!
What Not to do in Maui?
Looking for information on what NOT to do in Maui?
Maui is a magical place filled with majestic beauty and a host of amazing activities. We should we all work to preserve that natural environment. While locals are working hard to spread the message of how important it is to respect the “'Aina”; many tourists are oblivious to some of the mistakes they may be making. That said, keep reading to learn what not to do on Maui. Ever!
Disrespecting Hawaiian Culture
Something that many tourists both from the mainland US and other countries don’t understand is that the Hawaiian islands were not a part of the US until very recently; even if they do know that Hawaii only joined the union in 1959, they may not be aware of the dark events that lead to that decision.
Hawaii was a US territory since the 1800’s, however, this occupation was not one void of mistreatment and tensions between the native Hawaiians and the foreign occupants. American plantation owners have been occupying sacred land across the islands which came hand-in-hand with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
These tensions continue to this day which is why it is imperative that those that visit the Hawaiian islands are aware of the traditions and sacred sites that remain vital to the culture here in Hawaii. This spans from not disrespecting sacred sites like Iao Valley, Hale remnants, and beaches like Red Sand to name a few. It also spans to respecting both the native Hawaiian language and the creole language of Pigeon which is used across generations to this day.
Respecting the Land ('Aina)
One thing that has become central to the missions of Hawaiian residents when it comes to tourism is making sure that visitors respect the land, or 'Aina in native language. While some planes like those of Hawaiian Airlines include an informational video on the dos and don’ts of visiting Hawaii State; many either choose to ignore it by not watching or leave their headphones in and miss the important message.
Some of the main things that we encourage tourists to consider when visiting Maui is making sure that you leave no footprint. This includes picking up any and all trash, not taking or leaving anything in any park, beach, or hike; as well as making sure that you aren’t defacing any nature or sacred landmark here in Maui.
There can be tensions between locals and visitors because many visitors do not respect the land or ocean. Some visitors go on private property, take sacred rocks, fish where they are no allowed, leave trash behind and conduct themselves with an attitude of entitlement; these tensions have only escalated since the reopening of the islands after the pandemic. To give context; when there was less foot traffic in Maui from 2020-2021, many witnessed a massive healing and resurgence of plant and animal life as well as, and most importantly the coral reef and marine life.
You don’t have to volunteer for beach cleanups during your vacation (although the community would love it if you do) but make sure you are doing your part by cleaning up after yourself, be kind and even the small things like making sure your sunscreen is reef safe and no spray sunscreen.
Don’t Put Yourself at Risk on Your Maui Vacation
This might seem obvious but it’s more common than you think! While our Monk Seals are cute and that hike seems like a good time– it’s not worth it if you are risking yours and everyone else’s safety!
One common no-no we see all the time is visitors trying to touch wildlife. A big PSA that we would like to offer is if you see a monk seal or a turtle, especially, lying on the beach; it isn’t dead, just sleeping!
Besides our marine animals; we even see some people displacing local kittens and deer. While there is a large population of both– there are many different precautions when interacting with even the most unthreatening wildlife here in Maui.
Besides not messing with the wildlife, whether that is kittens or a wild boar– make sure that you are watching yourself and where you step. Unfortunately, due to tragic accidents, a lot of iconic hiking and swimming spots are off-limits and illegal for both tourists and locals to visit. Off-limits is not an invitation to break the rules.
When an area is marked off-limits, restricted, or sacred there is a reason. If you are looking for a good hike to an amazing swimming hole it is not necessary to go off the book. Stick to what both locals and your guide say is safe and accessible– you’ll have an amazing time and not be at risk to any injury!
When it comes to planning an amazing vacation in Maui it’s not that hard. Just because some things are ill-advised and off limits does not mean that you have to settle for a “regular” experience. Maui has so much to offer from whale watching and snorkel tours to great golfing and even dune-buggy rides! There is truly fun for every family member to be had! Stay humble and listen to the locals and guides for the best experiences Maui has to offer.
Overall, Maui is home to many activities for any individual of any age! If you are looking for an amazing vacation or just a fun thing to do locally, this is the place to start!