You’ve been planning a dream vacation to Maui for years, and cannot wait to lounge on the beach, sample the native cuisine and blow the bottom out of your travel budget at the island’s many boutiques and roadside shops. This is an excellent prescription for a relaxing vacation, but when you’re ready to shake off the cobwebs and get your feet dirty, take a tour that will truly make you understand why the locals are so proud of their island. Here are just a handful of the best sights and distractions found throughout Maui.
Explore the Haleakala National Park
The island of Maui is made up of two massive volcanoes, the larger one being Haleakala or “House of the Sun.” This shield volcano is massive, so instead of wearing out your shoes and potentially risking your life on the trickier areas, stick to the Haleakala National Park. Originally created in 1916, the massive 33,265 acre park offers attractions to suit the most discerning nature lover. Aside from the miles of pristine hiking trails, one of the most visited stops in the park is the Haleakala Crater. Found at the mountain’s summit and best reached by car, the crater is nearly seven miles across and should be viewed at either sunrise or sunset, depending on your party’s preference. The Haleakala Crater resembles the moon in so many ways that NASA even used the area to train astronauts in the late 1960s.
Every year, hundreds of humpback whales make their way from the frigid waters surrounding Alaska to breed along Maui’s western and southern shores. For several decades, millions of tourists have flocked to the area between late-September and early-December to experience whale watching in Maui. As a novice whale-watcher, it’s a wise choice to sign up for a tour group that either observes the humpbacks from the beach or by boat. Legally, the boats aren’t allowed to travel within 100 feet of the whales, but don’t be surprised when these curious creatures get close enough to touch, although that is unfortunately against the rules as well.
Diving off Molokini Island
Located a short boat trip off the shore of Maui you’ll discover the scuba diver or snorkeler’s paradise otherwise known as Molokini Island. The island is actually a volcanic crater that was partially submerged due to erosion and the rising ocean waters. The islet itself is a federally-protected bird sanctuary, making it necessary to dive off the tour boat exclusively. If you’re planning to explore the waters around Molokini Island, do yourself a favor and book a morning tour. The waters are clear and far less choppy, making the short boat trip less nauseating for the more squeamish members of the group.
It’s almost impossible to throw a stone on Maui without it landing on a stretch of beautiful white sand. Sure, you could stick to the crowded beach found a few steps from your resort, or take a drive up Highway 31 past the little town of Hana and visit what is arguably the best area for swimming, boogie boarding and falling asleep while reading a romance novel–Hamoa Beach. The beach is accessible by a single set of wooden stairs, but it’s worth the effort of lugging your kid’s beach toys for the reward ahead. The water is ideal for casual swimmers and scuba divers alike. It’s possible to kayak the area, but be prepared to navigate the stairs and tourists to do so. If possible, visit Hamoa Beach during the morning before the rush.
Once again found within miles of Hana, Wailua Falls isn’t necessarily the tallest waterfall on Maui, but it definitely holds the distinction of being the most elegant. For a more intimate view of the falls, don’t hesitate to take the short nature hike. However, if you really want to snap a few impressive shots of Wailua Falls, consider viewing the area by helicopter.
While packing for your next Maui adventure, don’t let the area’s reputation for abundant sunshine fool you. Depending on your location and the time of year, there’s one potential threat that can put a damper on your whale watching, snorkeling or hiking plans–rain. The best way to combat the wet weather is to pack accordingly, check the forecast and always have an indoor Plan B in place.
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