The Top 7 Maui Travel Experiences

Heading to Maui or just trying to make a decision as to which island to travel to? Maui has captured the hearts of many travelers, having been voted the best island not only in Hawaii, but on the entire planet, by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler—18 times!

With everything from idyllic beaches and a nearly endless number of natural scenic wonders to luxurious high-end waterfront resorts and more intimate, laid-back environments, Maui truly has all you need for an amazing island getaway.

Maui, known as The Magic Isle, offers such a wide variety of sights, attractions and adventures that first-time visitors may feel a bit overwhelmed when trying to decide what to fit into their holiday. I’m going to try to narrow it down for you. Here is a look at the top seven must-travel Maui experiences:

1. Riding the Road to Hana

This spectacular, winding, 55-mile drive is an adventure all travelers to Maui must take. This is the most scenic and dramatic drive found anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands. As heart-stopping as a thrill ride but with unsurpassed views of emerald pools, picturesque beaches, ginger-scented trails that zigzag through lush tropical landscapes and waterfalls around almost every twist and turn.

The road begins in Kahuli and ends in the tiny town of Hana, although this trip is more about the journey than the destination itself.

Be sure to stop at the Hana Lava Tube, one of the world’s largest and longest underground lava tubes. The Lava Tube makes for an especially unique experience as visitors travel into the dark realms of the earth and enjoy a cool break from warm temperatures while seeing up close how lava flows down to the ocean. Venture beyond Hana and take a dip in the basalt-lined pools, letting the waterfalls gently wash your worries away for the ultimate utopian experience.

2. Whale Watching

Have you ever wondered where humpback whales like to go for a little romance? Okay, probably not, but you may not be surprised to learn that North Pacific humpback whales enjoy frolicking along Maui’s western coast.

The four islands that make up Maui County offer a unique topography that shelters a shallow basin with warm, predator-free waters. From mid-December through about mid-April these majestic whales spend time here courting, mating, calving and breaching. The best spots to view them from land are found along the southern and western shores between Wailea, Kihei, Lahaina and Ka’anapali.

A whale-watching tour provides the best chance to get a closer look. Keep in mind that regulations prevent boats from approaching closer than 100 yards, but seeing the up-to-45-ton humpbacks propel their bodies out of the sea, even from that distance, is an experience of a lifetime.

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3. Visiting Haleakla Crater

Driving up to Haleakla Crater, which is considered a crown jewel of the island, is often the highlight of any Maui trip. Awe-inspiring, and a sacred place for natives, the summit is wild, remote and less crowded than Diamond Head in Honolulu.

The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Arrive in the early morning hours for an especially tranquil experience and the chance to watch the vibrant colors of the sunrise.

It can be very chilly at this elevation; don’t forget to wear warm socks and a jacket. If you didn’t bring cold-weather clothing, a blanket from your hotel room can work as well.

4. Snorkeling at Molokini Crater

If you only have time to go snorkeling once while you’re on Maui, Molokini Crater is unsurpassed, with incredible underwater visibility, thousands of fish and marine animals and a flourishing coral reef. It is actually a small volcanic cone set a few miles off the shores of Maui, and it functions as a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District.

The isolation found here creates an especially unique diving or snorkeling experience. There are a wide variety of tours available to bring you out to Molokini, and for those who don’t want to get into the water, glass-bottom boats provide a great way to see the brilliance of the underwater world.

5. Watching the Sun Set at Makena Beach

The sunsets at Makena Beach are often some of the most spectacular in the world. Don’t miss the chance to watch the sun dip below the horizon here at the edge of the pristine, crystal-clear water, where the soft golden sand stretches for a mile.

The water here is especially brilliant, as there is a little reef in the area that makes the sand bottom shine through as if just below the surface.

6. Walking through Iao Valley State Park

This park is a breathtaking example of Mother Nature at her best. It was also the site of important battles and a sacred place where royalty was once buried. Paved paths lined with informative signs about its historical significance lead toward the iconic 2,000-foot-tall Iao Needle.

The needle is the result of water pressure eroding volcanic rock over thousands of years and it makes a beautiful photographic opportunity. Climb the 133 steps to the top of the lookout for 360-degree views of the valley and Wailuku.

7. Attending a Traditional Luau

A Hawaiian holiday wouldn’t be complete without experiencing a luau, and the Old Lahaina Luau is one of the most authentic and traditional that you’ll find on Maui.

It includes an evening of Hawaiian food, music, dance and crafts in a cozy, intimate atmosphere. The tastes and traditions of the rich culture of the islands are represented alongside a beautiful ocean view.

Still not convinced that you want to travel to Maui? If you’re worried it will be too expensive, read my article on how to visit Maui without breaking the bank next. I promise you won’t have to spend your life’s savings to go there!