Best Things to Do in Maui

If you’re planning a vacation in Maui, these activities should be on your must-do list.

It's pretty much impossible to be bored while vacationing in Maui, the Hawaiian island that offers it all: abundant sunshine and breathtaking landscapes, exhilarating zip-line courses and helicopter tours, and water sports and golf courses galore.

Traditional Polynesian cultural traditions such as luaus and outrigger canoes add to the allure. Plus, there’s a volcano and whales and an insanely scenic road with 620 curves. Check out the best things to do in Maui.

Sightsee by Helicopter Tour

Best Things to Do in Maui - helicopter tour in Maui
Maui’s stunning coastline, as seen from a helicopter tourShutterstock

At 727-square miles, Maui is a sizeable island to explore, but you can see all (or much) of it in about 45-60 minutes on a helicopter sightseeing tour. Options include Scenic West Maui and Molokai, East Maui and Haleakala Crater, and a Complete Island Flight with established operators such as Blue Hawaiian and Air Maui.

Seeing the island's spectacular geography, from its world-renowned beaches and cascading waterfalls to the rippled West Maui Mountains and vividly hued Haleakala Crater, from above is worth the splurge and one of the best things to do in Maui.

Zip Line for Sky-High Thrills

Maui may be famous for its beaches, but it’s also one of the top places on the planet to go zip-lining. So if you’re visiting for a family vacation, honeymoon or friends’ getaway, you can easily experience the thrill of gliding high above the tropical landscape — and maybe even beneath one of Maui’s famous rainbows.

Three places to consider for zip-lining in Maui: Skyline Eco-Adventures, which has courses with ocean views in Kaanapali and on the slopes of Haleakala; Kapalua Ziplines, Maui's largest all-dual zip-line course; and Piihola Ranch, located in Makawao and featuring 6,400 feet of zip-line.

Play a Round of Golf (or Two or Three)

With 15 courses, Maui is one of the best islands for a vacation if you love to golf. Four of the golf courses in Maui are public, including the Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku, which has dynamic pricing, so book well in advance for the best deals.

Eight golf courses in Maui are resort courses, and tops in this category are The Plantation Course at Kapalua (which hosts the annual PGA Tournament of Champions) and the Wailea Golf Club, home to three championship courses: Blue, Emerald and Gold.

Hike, Bike or View Sunrise/Sunset on Haleakala

Best Things to Do in Maui- sunrise in Haleakala National Park
Catching a sunrise at Haleakala National Park is worth the early wake-up callShutterstock

The slopes of Haleakala — "House of the Sun" in native Hawaiian — are visible all around the island, and visiting Haleakala National Park is hands down one of the best things to do in Maui. This 10,023-foot-tall dormant volcano offers thrills for adventure seekers and eco surprises for nature lovers — namely the endangered Nene, a Hawaiian goose, and the only-on-Haleakala silversword plant.

The drive to the summit is quite scenic (bring layers as it's typically 35-55 degrees Fahrenheit up there), unless you're headed up in the dark to watch the sunrise above the clouds and then bike back down the switchback roads with an outfitter such as Bike Maui.

Hikers can explore 30 miles of trails in the park including Sliding Sands, which descends 2,800 feet from the summit to the lunar-like crater floor. For a sunset and stargazing, book a tour with Maui Stargazing.

Choose the Perfect Snorkel Spot

No matter what your preferred snorkel style — from easy beach access to a half-day cruise to float above the undersea wonders of Molokini Crater — Maui’s got you covered.

Top spots for snorkeling in Maui include Kapalua Bay (in calm, well-protected water), Honolua Bay (another gem located just past Kapalua), and Kaanapali Beach (near Black Rock). Ahihi Kinau Reserve is a marine life conservation area close to Makena Beach, don't miss a trip to snorkel at Molokini, a crescent-shaped, half-submerged volcanic crater where the water is exceptionally clear.

Drive the Road to Hana

Best Things to Do in Maui - Road to Hana
Maui’s scenic Road to Hana weaves past several waterfallsShutterstock

While not for timid drivers (or anyone with severe motion sickness), the 52-mile road to Hana — with its 620 curves and 59 bridges — is a popular day or overnight trip. On this scenic route (which starts in Paia and takes 4-5 hours one way) to the quiet hamlet of Hana on East Maui’s dramatic black-lava coast, travelers enjoy spectacular scenery and waterfalls, some seen from the road, others accessible via a short trail hike.

Occasional roadside stands sell local snacks and Hana has several restaurants that are a perfect spot to refuel. The coastline is the star here, including black-sand Waiananpanapa State Park and golden-sand Koki Beach.

Explore Upcountry

Driving through Upcountry — the picturesque farmland on Haleakala’s fertile slopes — it’s possible to think you’ve somehow left Maui and arrived in the agricultural regions of Northern California or Oregon. The landscape is rolling and the air is crisp and clear.

The feeling is especially evident in Kula, which is home to Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm, where souvenirs include soap, candles and lavender-infused treats such as chocolate and honey, and Surfing Goat Dairy, where goat cheese (even as truffles!) and the goats that produce it are the stars. If you're looking for things to do in Maui with kids, these are two perfect options.

And a stroll through the 19th-century cowboy town of Makawao is a must — just arrive early to get some cream puffs at T Komodo Store and Bakery before they sell out.

Book a Whale-Watching Cruise

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Spot humpback whales in Maui between December and early AprilShutterstock

One of the biggest reasons, literally, to visit Maui between December and early April are the humpback whales that winter here. Whale-watching in Maui is a must-do: If you’re lucky and have great eyesight, you can spot them from the beach (especially during the peak month of February), but the best way to return home with incredible memories of a whale encounter is to book a cruise.

Experienced and knowledgeable guides from outfitters such as the PacWhale Eco-Adventures, whose profits go to the Pacific Whale Foundation, and Ultimate Whale Watch and Snorkel, which offers small-raft adventures, will take you where these mammoth creatures are known to congregate. You can even book a combo whale watching and snorkeling excursion to check out other island sea life.

Enjoy Cultural Activities — from Luaus to Hawaiian Lore

Maui celebrates Hawaiian culture, from music and dance to local lore and even contemporary visual and performing arts. Learn about Hawaiian music, dance and cuisine during a sunset luau; two of the best are the Feast at Lele and the Old Lahaina Luau.

Paddle an outrigger canoe off of Kaanapali Beach and as the sun sets head toward Black Rock for the nightly tiki torch lighting and cliff dive honoring the ancient Hawaiian gods.

In Kahului, The Maui Arts & Cultural Center — The MAAC to locals — presents exhibits and performances by both big name artists and local Hawaiian talent as well as annual festivals of Hawaiian guitar and ukulele music.

Other interesting sites include the Lahaina historic district, the 19th-century capital of the Hawaiian kingdom and center of its whaling and sugar trade, and the Io Valley State Monument where King Kamehameha defeated the Maui army in 1790. Many resorts have onsite cultural programming, too.