The magical island of Maui presents a cornucopia of adventures and delights, and due to its varied landscape, seascapes, and all the activities that come with it, even though small, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by all that there is to do.
I spent a couple of weeks on the island, making sure to explore all four corners (and beyond!) so I could put together a list of must-dos if you ever have the pleasure to visit this beautiful island. I have listed the top 14 favourite experiences I encountered whilst I was there, so you would know what not to miss when you visit!
1. Go on the road to Hana
This is an absolute must if you are in Maui! The road to Hana is a 64.4 mile, winding road through the hills of Maui, showing off both the plush rainforest and the wonderful waterfalls as well as other treasures along the way. It truly shows what's special about Maui- not only does it have the impressive beaches of the other islands, but it has this rich, green forest that is completely unique to Maui. The best two pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to Hana is : 1. Head out as early as you can. I got on the road at 6am which meant I got on the Hana Highway just before 7am, and felt like I had the whole Maui rainforest to myself! 2. Take your time. The best parts of the road to Hana are unmarked. I found my own private waterfall by following a little unassuming dirtpath. Get your Dora the explorer hat on and enjoy it!
2. Swim with the Ho'okipa beach park turtles
These are the biggest turtles I have ever seen in my life. As you get onto the Ho'okipa state beach (from the state park entrance), turn right and keep walking down until you get to the red barrier. Then.... Jump over the barrier. And swim! Technically you're not allowed to go up to the turtles (and Hawai'ians are serious about protecting their wildlife, you can incur a fine of $10,000 for doing so!), but if you are in the water, and they are also in the water... It's fair game. You're welcome for the loophole ;) just don't do a me and freak out when one actually comes in to swim with you!
3. Spend some time upcountry
I had the pleasure of spending a whole week upcountry, which is known in all of Hawai'i as sacred land. That week for me was truly transformational, and part of the reason is being on that holy ground and being inspired by all that it brought. So if you have the chance to, spend some time in Makawao or Paia. It's just at the top end of the road to Hana, so it would be a wonderful place to end your trip to Hana.
4. Eat at Paia Fish Market
Smooth segway onto one of my favourite topics... food! Paia fish market has a couple of locations across Maui, but its original restaurant in located in Paia. The fish here is ridiculous fresh, and I had my fill of Ono and Mahi Mahi! Amongst all of the food, their taco dinner plate (with fries and coleslaw) was my favourite, and eating this under the stars on my birthday was one of the highlights of my trip, and a moment I'll always remember!
5. Surf at Lahaina beach for great beginner waves
I stayed at a Lahaina beach house for a week, and got to live out all my beach bum dreams by surfing daily, making friends with the locals, walking along the beach at sunrise and catching a wave or two at sunset! The waves here are really good for beginners and easy to manage, which means you can feel the true thrill of 'catching a hawai'ian wave! However surf shoes are advised, as the sea bed is pretty much all coral reef, and even at high tide, the water levels are about chest high. This is advice I wish I had gotten- might have saved me from the surf scars and bruises I currently have all over my legs!
6. Mama's Fish House
This is an experience I had the pleasure of sharing with my new sisters at the end of our retreat in Upcountry Maui. The restaurant has its own section of the beach, and is aesthetically wonderful. The food matches the views, and its best dish is Mama's stuffed Mahi Mahi with lobster and crab and encrusted with Macadamia nuts... Or so I've heard! I couldn't have this due to my nut allergy, but my sister Angel (when the name matches the character!) graciously gave me her lobster tail so I could try it <3 I had some freshly caught Opah, cooked rare, with kahlua pork fried rice, and finished off with some lilikoi creme brulee (lilikoi is passion fruit... But lilikoi sounds better) and a cup of Darjeeling. Absolutely perfect meal.
7. Little beach (now not so....) secret Sunday party
This is how I began my 29th birthday party. My surfer friends invited me to a beach party which happens every Sunday over the summer, and is a well known local hideout... And it was absolutely mind-blowing! It's quite hidden, so here are the directions to get there: Go to Big Beach. Walk all the way to the right, and you'll see a small cliff with some steps. Climb over the steps and let the party begin! Fair warning: this is not for the uptight or close minded, as many locals use this little hideaway as a nude beach (which was a bit of a culture shock for this prim and proper Brit!). However the sun setting completely unobstructed over the blue sea, the drum circle revving up and the fire-breathers performing made this an experience to remember.
8. Haleakala at sunrise (and a volcano cycle!)
This was the continuation of my birthday treat. It did require a 1.45am wake up call (because I was driving from the north west of Maui) but wow was it worth it! The sunrise was unlike anything I've ever seen before. The calm that set across the mountain in anticipation for the newest rising of the sun, the colours as the sky broke into shades of red pink and yellow, and the feeling that you are quite literally sitting above the clouds... It was absolutely glorious! And the best part was the fact that when the sun rose, it wasn't over! We then got to cycle down this volcanic crater which is a once in a lifetime experience. You're mostly cycling downhill so peak fitness is not a requirement, although there is one hill which almost took me out (but I think that's because I went the wrong way for a bit...). Bike Maui was my provider of choice, and I'd recommend them! Pictures would never be able to adequately replicate the beauty of the Haleakala sunrise, but I do have a time-lapse on my Instagram which is my best attempt at bringing that beauty to you! Check it out at @beewhollyliving.
9. Haleakala at sunset (and stay to watch the stars)
Ever had something so good you had to do it twice? This was what Haleakala was for me! The second time I didn't go through a tour company, I just did the whole drive up and down on my own. I will warn you, it's not for the faint hearted, or those scared of heights- there are some parts where you are driving cliffside at 9000 feet elevation. And then back down the same cliffside... This time in the dark (don't tell my mum I did this...). But wow, it might be even more magical at nighttime. Above the clouds, you have a perfect, unblocked view of the millions of stars in the sky. For a londoner who never gets to see stars thanks to the smog and buildings, this was truly a magical experience that had me awestruck, and almost made me miss my flight!
10. Scuba/snorkel at Molokini
This by far was my most unique experience in Maui. Hawai'i is blessed with wonderful sea life, and the Molokini crater attracts the most wonderful and interesting sea life. It is a wildlife protected area of the world due to its rich and varied underwater and above water natural wildlife, and the 45 minutes of snorkelling I did were not enough to truly take in all of the riches of the deep blue sea. Molokini is its own special 'island' that can only be accessed by chartered boats, so the journey up there is a part of the wonderful experience! And being one of only 2 volcanic specimens of its kind, you are truly seeing something unique by visiting Molokini. Check it all out on my Instagram @beewhollyliving.
11. Swim with more turtles in Makena cove
I know I keep saying "this was the most *insert experience here*...", but that should give you an idea of what Maui has to offer! I made a friend in Makena and his name is Humphrey the turtle. He was very shy at first, and hiding in his cave, but he grew to like me and led me on all sorts of adventures under the sea. I didn't realise what calming creatures turtles were, and for an anxious human like me, being able to swim with in tranquility under water for close to an hour, following Humphrey going about his daily business was better than therapy!
12. Brunch at Sarento's on the beach
This was my first experience of tuna on the island, and one bite of that Mahi-Mahi again made me want to have a stern word with everyone who had ever served me a tuna steak. I was very apprehensive about picking the Mahi-Mahi Benedict, as I've only had bad experiences with tuna in the past. Like, terrible. But the server seemed very confident, and I was in a 'try anything once' holiday mindset, and so I went for it. And wow. It blew me away. Who knew tuna didn't have to be dry, or taste fishy?? It was my first brunch on the island, and combined with the views of the beach from this beachside restaurant, it set a high tone for the rest of my holiday!
13. Spend at least one night in Wailea or Kaanapali
Wailea and Kaanapali are well known as the most luxurious parts of the island. The price tag matches the reputation, so you may not be able to spend your whole holiday there, but try to spend at least one night. I opted for Wailea, and it was the luxury I needed to end my dream holiday on a high. I personally like experiencing local life when I travel, so more than a couple of nights in a hotel is too much for me (especially because I often travel alone, so hotels can become quite lonely quite quickly!), but having some time in the lap of luxury was definitely what I needed! I opted for Wailea because the south shore gets the best view of the sunset, as you can see from the picture I took from my hotel room, but I have heard Kaanapali is just as good if you prefer being close to the famous North Shore surfing hotspots.
14. Eat the freshest Poke at Foodland
Once again, a stern word will need to be had with every Poke vendor I have encountered in the past. I genuinely thought I hated Poke due to my poor experiences with it (I even got food poisoning after a particularly questionable poke bowl), but after my first bite of Wasabi Ahi, I was a convert. The freshness of this fish is unbelievable, and as most of their fish is freshly caught that morning, you can understand why. Foodland poke is another local's secret as it found at the back of a very unassuming grocery store, and were it not for a local's tip I would never have found it myself- so you're welcome!
And there you go! A list of wonderful adventures and activities to inspire you for your next trip to Maui! I hope you found it useful- leave me a comment below if you have any further questions or would like more tips of what to do in Maui!