6 Things To Do In Maui When You’re Done With The Beach

Introduction: A Brief Aloha
Review: Hawaiian Business/First A330 Los Angeles To Kahului
Review: Fairmont Kea Lani
6 Things To Do In Maui When You’re Done With The Beach
Review: Hawaiian Airlines Extra Comfort A330 Kahului to Los Angeles


To be clear, I am perfectly content to spend an entire vacation in, on, or at least near the ocean. Truly, nothing sounds more appealing to me than a few days with nothing to do but stick my toes in the sand.

The love of my life, however, is a fair-skinned redhead that can last about four minutes on the beach before he’s looking for the exits. So we tend not to take beach vacations, and when we do we’re always looking for off-beach activities that go beyond tourist traps and shopping for knick-knacks. And there’s quite a few options in Maui, so I figured I’d share a few of my favorites.

Eat like a local

Once you get outside of the resort areas, Maui has an abundance of local food options, and you can stumble by any number of poke shops or food trucks and have a great meal. One of my favorites for a workers-style plate lunch is Waikapu on 30, a “blink and you’ll miss it type of place” in the central valley. They’re only open until 2PM, but as it’s right on the highway it’s convenient for earlier airport arrivals or after a morning hike.

The menu varies daily, but the rib special on Fridays is particularly nice. Outside picnic tables (be mindful of the chickens) offer fun views of the surrounding plantations.

Mama’s Fish House

This is in direct contrast to the “eat like a local” recommendation. Mama’s is family-run, and delicious, but is much more fine-dining than local fare. The entire experience is well-produced (almost Disney-style), but you will find some of the best Mai Tais on the island, and the food is delicious.

I would avoid going for dinner, however, as it can get really crowded. A late lunch offers the same menu, and a chance to enjoy the views without feeling rushed. Advance reservations are a must.

Haleakala

Every guidebook for Maui will tell you that exploring the summit of the Haleakala volcano is a “must-do”. And they’re right — it’s a surreal and breathtaking place, that is shockingly easy to access.

Where most advice goes astray, in my opinion, is in encouraging a sunrise visit. Don’t get me wrong — it’s ethereal to watch the sunrise from 10,000 feet above sea level on an island in the middle of the ocean. But the yammering chatter and traffic from what feels like a thousand tour buses takes something away from it all. And you have to get up at like 2AM.

Much better, if you ask me, is to plan to be on the summit at sunset. You can arrive early and explore the visitor’s center, hike a bit, or just drive directly to the parking lot at the summit.

It’s a magical experience, that is hardly ever crowded — there are still people there, but not packed like the mornings can be.

Keep in mind though — you’re going to be 10,000 feet up (like the elevation at which your in-flight WiFi starts working), which means it is COLD and WINDY and NOT FOR BEACHWEAR. Pack a jacket, a pair of socks, and possibly a Saint Bernard. It’s shockingly cold up there.

Iao Valley

This is a lovely state monument that’s well-maintained, easily accessible, and has gorgeous scenery. It doesn’t seem to be on the main tourist track (it’s a bit of a haul from the resorts on Kanapali), and has several easy trails to explore without necessarily needing to commit to a “hike”.

Watch the windsurfers (or try it yourself)

This is a borderline beach activity if you intend to participate, but just watching kitesurfing can be super fun. One of the most popular spots on Maui is at Ho’okipa to the East of Kahului airport — past Mama’s Fish House but before the Hana Highway gets too exciting.

A lookout point offers easy parking with a view of the cove, and there’s typically some locals selling fresh fruit or other snacks, so it can be a fun place to spend some time.

The Road to Hana

This highway has gained an almost mythical reputation, but it always surprises me how many people think it’s because the town of Hana is particularly incredible.

Like many things in life, the joy here is in the journey. To have a non-horrible experience, you’ll want to start your day plenty early (I would leave Kanapali-area hotels before 5AM). There are hundreds of beautiful beaches, forests, and waterfalls off the side of the road, and an early start will make it possible to actually stop and park at these places.

A fast-paced race to Hana is bound to be frustrating, as neither the road nor traffic are conducive to speed. But you can still have a lovely outing even if you don’t make it all the way to Hana.

Bottom line

Maui’s beaches and water activities steal the spotlight — and for obvious reasons, but there’s an abundance of other experiences to enjoy on the island as well.

Any other favorite spots on Maui?

Comments

  1. I love Tiffany’s posts and know she said she wears lots of hats for Lucky, but I do hope she’ll be able to write for us more regularly. This week has been great. She has a great brain, and it’s a pleasure to read her posts.

    Her interpersonal intelligence in working and interacting with others is very high, and you can see this in her recent posts. For example, the post about dealing and planning with in-laws and all the various constraints that involved. And this post explaining the needs of her husband. She is a severe outlier in this respect. Do you know how many people worldwide cannot do these things? It is the cause of most of our world problems.

    She also has all that patience in dealing with airlines, websites, checking etc. omg.

    Tiffany is needed, and she should be valued, respected, and cherished.

  2. Hey there,I also suggest doing cultural volunteer work. It’s a great way to give back to Hawaiʻi as a guest and a lot of places are not advertised in tourist magazines or websites so there won’t be crowds like in other locations. Furthermore, it’s Hawaiian culture so sometimes you will get to do cultural practices done at that same location for hundreds of years, while other locations have clean-ups of invasive plant species etc.. I suggest looking through this directory for volunteer opportunities (which has volunteer work opportunities on the other Hawaiian islands too): https://preservehawaii.org/volunteer/

    Btw, it’s Kāʻanapali 😉 but great article about Maui!

  3. Mama’s Fish House is awesome. Not only the food is really good but the views are simply breathtaking. Road to Hana is beautiful but I would not recommend to do with young children. The trails to the nicest beaches and water falls are not kid’s friendly, they get bored in the car and not to say dizzy with so many curves on the road. A walk around Lahaina is also a great thing to do after the beach and a stop at ONO for a gelatto is a must.

  4. One other suggestion for going to Hana is to split it up into 2 days. Spending one day going to Hana, allowing lots of time to stop at several areas along the way and then rent a small beach house in Hana for the night. Be mindful though that many places close early in Hana. Then, the next day proceed with the south end of the “Hana road”. Despite what you may hear about not doing the south side of the island, as long as it hasn’t rained much the previous day, it’s totally passable and not rough at all. But it’s a completely different landscape on the south side going away from Hana compared to the north side road going to Hana.

  5. Some additional suggestions and a warning — especially if you’re staying in or around Lahaina…

    First, Aloha Mixed Plate is our favorite breakfast/lunch place on the island. Delicious, friendly, centrally-located, reasonably-priced and, if you play your cards right, seating right on the ocean. Fantastic.

    Second, Merriman’s is a spectacular setting for a sunset dinner. Excellent food without the “kitch” of Mama’s, but (unfortunately) equally expensive.

    Third, the red sand Kaihalulu Beach in Hana. If you’re taking the road to Hana, you’ll probably stop by the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park (which is very cool), but it’s honestly nothing compared to Kaihalulu. In nearly a dozen trips to Hawaii, it stands out as *the* highlight. But, a word of warning: the hike is treacherous and not for children. It is a “hidden beach,” but a simple Google search will yield directions.

    Fourth, Ululani’s shave(d) ice is the best on Maui in my opinion. They have multiple locations (downtown Lahaina, Kihei, Kahalui) and are worth looking for. Matsumoto’s on Oahu may be more famous, but I like Ululani’s better.

    Fifth, if you’re there during “whale soup” season (late December – early April), a snorkel trip or whale watch is a must-do. We’ve been out with Blue Water Rafting a number of times and have had nothing but great experiences. Smaller boats and they go around the back side of Molokini to snorkel which, if you haven’t done it, is a profoundly humbling experience.

    Finally, the warning: if you’re staying in Lahaina, there might be some temptation to take a drive to see what lies around the West Maui mountains. Don’t. Seriously. That road makes the Road To Hana look like a parkway. Literally the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced behind the wheel. My wife drank an entire bottle of wine on the way to the airport.

    Aloha and enjoy!

  6. Thanks Tiffany. Thanks a LOT. I have had NO desire to go to Hawaii EVER, and now you’ve got me champing at the bit to make the trip.

    Also, I echo what Lucky’s Reader said, first comment on this post.

    Keep up the great posts!

  7. @Santastico, @Tommy etc., regarding road to Hana and the part “past” Hana on the southern part of the island, and I don’t know if Lucky’s into this, but from an aviation perspective, some people might be into knowing you can visit Lindbergh’s grave there.

  8. I echo the sentiment of loving Tiffany’s reviews, and am super excited to try some of these in November when I get there.

  9. @ TravelinWilly — Hah! If you’re a committed reader, I highly recommend Michener’s Hawaii. It’s Michener, so it’s 1000 pages of fairly pretentious prose, but the narrative helps takes a Brillo pad to the idea of Hawaii as an overly-kitschy tourist trap.

  10. From what I remember of my Maui trip 20 years ago, there’s a beautiful arboretum somewhere on the road to Hana. And near Hana there’s a bamboo forest that has a magical feel. Bamboo is not native to Hawaii, and it just took over the hillside. You feel like you’re walking in a bamboo cave – one that’s always rustling in the wind.

    No idea how much things have changed in 20 years, but we stayed at a small B&B on the north side of the island, a couple miles down the road to Hana. It was on a small banana plantation at the edge of the jungle, with great views of the ocean a few hundred feet below. It was beautiful, secluded, not very expensive, yet had all the comforts of home – and it was a far cry from the condo and resort mania over on the other side of the island, which we mostly avoided even venturing into. Hopefully places like that little B&B still exist on Maui.

  11. @Jim, I would disagree on the drive around the western part of Maui. I did it about 15 years ago so maybe things have changed for the worse, but it wasn’t a problem then, we just drove slow and enjoyed the scenery. We had my 70 year old father and our 9 month old daughter with us too.

  12. Completely agree with the first comment.

    In recent months I’ve been lamenting the lack of posts from Tiffany.

    More please!

  13. Man I almost threw up driving the Road to Hana. Made it only 2/3 the way and had to turn back. Bring water shoes, grippy flip flops, or plan to go barefoot because there are tons of really cool swimming holes and waterfalls to stop on the way there.

  14. The road between Kapaulua and Kahului is amazing – one lane and you can always stop for banana bread on the way to Kahului. It is not for the faint of heart.

    I love Kapalua and Napili, both are underrated places. Fleming’s beach is fantastic.

  15. What we love on Maui:

    –Kapalua Bay Beach (I know this wasn’t about beaches) – reef protected makes it good for newbie swimmers
    –Aloha Mixed Plate – mentioned before but cheap plate lunch with seating on the water
    –Star Noodle – great deals on good food. Go late for a funner atmosphere, get the Ahi belly and the brussel sprouts
    –Gazebo for breakfast, get in line early for no wait, get the 1/2 plate fried rice
    –Da Kitchen plate lunch in Kahului, locals place
    –Leoda’s for pie on the way toward Lahaina is fun and good
    –I’m pretty sure Leoda’s, Star Noodle, and AMP are all owed by the same people
    –Haleakela was a great drive mid morning and then coming down mid afternoon, no traffic at all
    –Road to Hana was great for us mid afternoon. We stayed overnight in Hana (VERY quiet, almost too quiet) and then had Hamoa beach to ourselves for about 4 hours the next morning and the pool at the hotel to ourselves early afternoon. Travaasa Hana was very nice, especially in the cottage/adults only side of the resort. We didn’t try the spa there but the locals were all very nice. We drove out mid afternoon, again with no traffic either direction.
    –Nakalele blowhole was a pleasant little hike
    –I didn’t want to play a full 18 holes of golf, the Kanapaali course allowed me to join a small group for just 9 holes. I had to fit into their schedule, though.
    –Whale watching tour is a must! Our first trip a mother and calf surfaced not far from our boat and then went right under us, nearly scraping the bottom of our boat. Ultimate Whale Watch’s smaller boat was awesome for it.

    Looking forward to our 4th trip to Maui this spring and then to Kauai/Oahu in July for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

  16. If you are willing to hike a bit, the seven sacred pools and bamboo forest are beautiful. Don’t forget to take some water.

  17. La Perouse Bay at the end of Makena Road is also something to see. Walking along the water to the lava fields was beautiful and in the shade for the most part. Also manageable with kids. Apparently if you go early in the day you can see dolphins as well.

  18. Great recommendations, except for Mama’s Fish House. Yes, the views are good there, and the menu and food preparation are decent, but the noisy crowds are not why we went to Maui. When we were at Mama’s Fish House recently, each of us ordered a different mixed drink. The problem was: there was apparently no alcohol in any of them! There was no indication of booze — just flavor. Each of us reached the same conclusion independently. They accommodated our polite request to delete the cost of the drinks from our bill. But lack of alcohol in mixed drinks is something that, while saving them cost, their customers should never have to experience. We will never go back.

  19. Kula Lodge is a good place to stop to look or eat on the way up or down from Haleakala. Weather permitting great views of the valley and outdoor pizza oven.

  20. Aloha,

    I live on Oahu and visit Maui often!

    Agree with Tiffany about almost everything. Here are a few tidbits I haven’t seen mentioned by others.

    1) Mama’s love it, agree go for lunch. & if you forgot til the last minute know the last lunch reservation is at 2 or so, but they do not close between lunch and dinner service. The lunch menu is served until 4:30pm. We have walked in a 4pm to have an early dinner at lunch prices and enjoy the views. BTW the windsurfing beach nearby is know as Ho’okipa.

    Also Mama’s owns several vacation rental apartments adjacent to the restaurant. Minimum stay is 2 nights and no kids. But very reasonable (for Maui) rates on 1 or 2 bedroom apartments with full kitchens. If you stay you get a discount at Mama’s too.

    2) Road to Hana. If it is not raining consider driving past Hana & around the “backside” you will pass and Charles Lindbergh’s grave. Parts of the road are not paved but they are graded gravel. The worst part of the road is actually a narrow pot hole filled paved portion just beyond Hana. We have made this drive in a 2WD rental car and there were even smaller tour buses using this route last time we did it. DO NOT ATTMEPT THIS IF IT IS RAINING.

    Alternatively you can have dinner in Hana and drive back at night. There is much less traffic and oncoming cars is easier to see when headlights are on.

    3) Visit the Lavender Farm up in Kula (and watch the hang gliders). Oprah’s farm is up in Kula.

    4) Someone mentioned Merriman’s in Lahaina, he also owns a more causal (and less pricey option): The Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea. The have a great happy hour.

  21. Listing the needle, volcano at sunset and road to Hana will be listed in any and all tour books. Good choices. Listing mamas fish house is ridiculous as way over priced restaurant even for Maui. $56 for fish. Gimme a break. Only crazy tourists pay that. I was hoping for something new. Didn’t get it. Seems a travel blogger on your editorial staff could write about more than what a 5 minute perusal of any tourist book would provide you. Hoping for more so disappointed. Maui is a Fabulous place!

  22. “possibly a St. Bernard”… Love it! We’ve been known to take all the hotel towels from our room to wrap up in while waiting for the sunrise.

  23. “possibly a St. Bernard”… Love it! We’ve been known to take all the hotel towels from our room to wrap up in while waiting for the sunrise…or cuddling up to complete strangers to suck up some of their body heat!

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