The island of Maui is a little slice of paradise in the Pacific. It’s no wonder the Valley Isle welcomes an incredible 3 million visitors each year. And even though the island is only 48 miles long and 26 miles wide, there are endless ways to enjoy every day. If it’s your first time in Maui, here are eight activities you simply must add to your itinerary.
1. Watch the sunrise from atop the Haleakalā Volcano
Maui is home to the Haleakalā Volcano, which is both the island’s only national park and a spiritual site for native Hawaiians. With an elevation of just over 10,000 feet, the peak of Haleakalā offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a Hawaiian sunrise from above the clouds. You’ll have to arrive early — between 3 and 7 a.m., depending on the time of year — and you’ll want to bring a jacket. Reservations are required if you visit on your own. If you’re going with a tour company, you’ll have the opportunity to follow up the sunrise viewing with a 23-mile downhill bike ride.
2. Snorkel at Molokini
There are great snorkeling spots all over Maui — with a snorkel mask, an offshore swim at your favorite beach gives you the opportunity to see colorful fish and often sea turtles. But serious snorkelers will want to set aside a day to take a snorkeling tour to Molokini, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater three miles off Maui’s southwest coast. A marine life conservation area, the waters around the crater are home to sea turtles, 250 varieties of fish and eight varieties of coral. If you visit during the winter months, you can even hear humpback whales singing underwater.
3. Relax on Wailea Beach
South Maui’s Wailea Beach is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it’s easy to see why. It features golden sand, turquoise water, endless palm trees and a winding paved walkway that’s perfect for a sunset stroll. Wailea Beach is great for families, since the waves are usually small and the wide beach has ample space for frolicking. It also has convenient amenities like free parking, restrooms, and food and drinks at nearby resorts.
4. Drive the Hana Highway
Easily one of the most famous attractions on Maui, the Hana Highway — commonly called the Road to Hana — is an all-day, stop-and-go scenic drive that takes you through Maui’s rugged northern and eastern regions. Give yourself plenty of time to explore: While the road is only a little more than 50 miles, you’ll be traveling at a meandering pace, thanks to over 600 turns and 59 one-lane bridges. You’ll welcome the slower pace so you can revel in the truly incredible scenery and stop frequently at bountiful fruit stands, gorgeous waterfalls and unspoiled swimming holes.
5. Go to a luau
It may seem a bit touristy, but every visitor to Maui should experience a luau at least once. Most of the evening luaus in Maui take place in the Lahaina and Kaanapali areas, with many offered by the larger resorts. While the entertainment and menu will vary a bit based on which luau you choose, you’ll experience traditional Hawaiian cuisine, live music, Polynesian dance and cultural performances, folklore and more.
6. Dine at Mama’s Fish House
Located on Maui’s north coast in the town of Paia, Mama’s Fish House is undoubtedly the island’s most famous restaurant, and for good reason. Since 1973, it has been serving up freshly caught seafood, local Hawaiian and Polynesian fare, and gorgeous views. It’s a popular spot for people celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, so you’ll need to plan ahead: The restaurant can book out months in advance, both for lunch and dinner.
7. Go whale watching (if the time is right)
Between November and May, humpback whales arrive in the warm waters of Hawaii to breed and birth their calves. Peak whale watching season is between mid-January and March, when you’ll see whales spouting, breaching and swimming with their calves. While you can easily catch the action from the shore, especially with binoculars, a whale watching tour is the best way to see these majestic creatures up close.
8. Golf at Kapalua
Hitting the links at Kapalua Resort is a bucket-list activity for avid golfers, and it’s not just because of the incredible views. The resort’s challenging Plantation Course plays host to the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions each January. Schedule your trip around the tournament to see the game’s greatest players in action, or play the course yourself, walking in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and others.
Embrace island life
No matter how long your visit to Maui is, it’s never long enough. Set down roots as the co-owner of a Pacaso second home, and explore the Valley Isle’s many treasures. From gorgeous beaches to the rugged upcountry, Maui is a great place to call home.
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