Nicknamed “The Valley Isle” due to the great valley nestled between its two major volcanoes, the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui is awash with unique things to see and do.
Renowned for its stunning natural beauty luxury resorts, Maui is one of the jewels in the Hawaiian crown. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy world-class hiking, visit a magnificent national park, or delight in a scenic road trip. If you’re planning to visit Maui and would like to sample some of the island’s sites and attractions that you won’t find anywhere else, here are 14 of the best.
Catch a stunning sunset
There’s nothing quite like a Maui sunset, and one of the best spots to catch one is from an elevated perch atop a small hill near the Haleakalā Observatory, an astronomical research centre in Haleakalā National Park. As for how to get there, intrepid types may wish to embark on a hike, or for those of a less adventurous disposition you can drive there in about an hour from the base. You’ll need to pay the entrance fee to the park itself, but this can be done at the gate.
Attend a traditional Hawaiian Luau
If you want to experience a quintessential Hawaiian ritual, an authentic luau is a must-do. There are several venues around the island where you can catch a luau show – extravagant feasts served against the backdrop of an immersive dinner show with live music and Polynesian dancing that tells traditional stories through their rhythmic movements. One of the best luau shows on Maui is Huaka’I Journey through Polynesia, which takes place at the Seascape Restaurant in the Maui Ocean Center. Here you’ll meet the performers as you enter before savouring a Mai Tai tropical drink, checking out Hawaiian arts and crafts, then sitting down to an island-style food buffet. After dinner, the spectacular show will proceed to dazzle and delight in equal measure, bringing your magical experience to a close.
Visit a top-class museum
Created to protect Maui’s cultural roots, the Maui Historical Society’s museum, also known as Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House, is packed full of artefacts, photographs, and documents that tell the story of the island from its origins to the current day. Visitors can explore a wide range of exhibits, including items dating back to pre-recorded times, many of which shine a light on the finely honed and sophisticated culture of pre-contact Hawaii. Spread over several rooms, the museum is divided into distinct zones, with rooms dedicated to such themes as antiquities, the Hawaiian monarchy, paintings, and missionaries. Standout exhibits include a whale tooth and human hair, a table thought to have belonged to Queen Liliʻuokalani, and a collection of rare Hawaiian Land Snails.
2375 Main Street A, Wailuku
During World War II Hawaii served as a major training, staging and supply base for the entire region and the island of Maui was fully engaged for these purposes. Visitors can explore this heritage by joining a tour of a historic landmark site known as Camp Maui, which served as a military training base and was home to the Fighting 4th Marine Division during the war. “Maui’s Marines” were the most highly decorated Marine Corp division of the war and their history is brought to life through stories, images, videos, and World War II-era military vehicles.
Attend a fun-packed festival
Each year Maui plays host to the East Maui Taro Festival, named after the taro plant that lies at the heart of Hawaiian agricultural life for centuries and a dietary staple to this day. As well as every type of taro known to man, the festival also features all-day Hula performances and live music, local arts and crafts, a farmers market, and an array of authentic cultural activities including poi pounding, lauhala weaving and cloth making. This is a great chance to immerse yourselves in one of Hawaii’s most traditional and fun-filled occasions.
Hana Ballpark, 5101 Uakea Road, Hana / April each year
The ukulele is to Hawaii as the saxophone is to New Orleans, and the annual Maui Ukulele Festival celebrates the national instrument with a full day of music. Free to enter, the Maui edition of the festival sees renowned ukulele artists and celebrities from Hawaii and across the world descend on the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, all united in appreciation of the simple and pure melodies generated by this remarkable stringed contraption. As well as live ukulele music, there are also ukulele door prizes, food booths, and plenty more.
Maui Arts & Cultural Center, 1 Cameron Way, Kahului / September each year
Hike around a picture-postcard valley
A fixture in virtually every Maui guidebook’s short-list of must-see places on the island, Iao Valley is a magical place to enjoy a hike. Easily accessible by car, the valley is dotted with paved walkways, steps, and signage with historical information. It is also dramatically scenic and suitable to hike for all ages. The second wettest place in Hawaii, the main attraction is the ‘Iao needle’ a 1200-foot high peak created by erosion of the softer rock around it over many millennia.
Check out some local art
An unusual experience awaits art collectors at the fabulous Harte International Galleries, where fine art works can be purchased for anything from $5,000 to $4 million. Curated from around the world, the gallery presents works from such illustrious names as Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Matisse, Salvador Dali, Rembrandt, and Albrecht Durer. The juxtaposition of 400-year-old Durer’s alongside 350-year-old Rembrandt etchings mixed in with 50-year-old, hand-signed Picasso limited editions, full suites of Salvador Dali’s, and even the art of two-time academy award-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins helps make this a truly unique arts venue. A “Mimosa Art Walk” is also featured daily.
44 Front Street, Lahaina / Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
Or for something completely different, Island Art Party hosts regular evenings of painting, drinking and chatting, where all guests come away with their own unique hand-made artworks featuring Maui as a souvenir. Suitable for both adults and older children, an experienced teacher will give detailed instructions for you to recreate that evening’s chosen theme on canvas, all while munching on popcorn and sipping on beer, wine, cocktails, or something softer for the kids. This is a great way for Maui visitors to unleash their creative juices in a sociable and fun atmosphere.
Learn about Maui’s unique marine environment
For over two decades, Maui Ocean Center has fostered understanding, wonder, and respect for Hawaiʻi’s marine life through its 60+ colourful exhibits and conservation education. Today, it is recognised as one of Maui’s top-rated attractions, and offers a memorable experience for guests to come eye to eye with schooling reef fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, and other native and endemic marine life commonly found in Hawaiʻi’s waters. The aquarium showcases one of the world’s largest collections of live tropical corals and is home to the first immersive 3D encounter with Hawaiʻi’s humpback whales. Visit to cultivate a lasting connection to the underwater world and learn to live Ocean Aloha to support marine conservation for future generations.
192 Maalaea Road, Wailuku / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Traverse the Road to Hana by Jeep
Experience the popular Road to Hana on Maui without crowds and never see the same thing twice. Travel around the base of Haleakala counter-clockwise on a guided private tour by local company Hoaloha Jeep Adventures, accompanied by locals who were born and raised on Maui. The Reverse Hana Road adventure begins along the less-explored southern coast of the Hana Highway, continues past Hana Town, and concludes along the more famous northern route. Experience lush tropical rainforests, numerous cascading waterfalls, breathtaking coastline views and secluded beaches, as well as popular roadside stands and the vast variety of climates and landscapes Maui has to offer. Highlights include swimming at Wailua Falls, oven-fresh banana bread in Ke’anae Village, green sea turtles at Ho’okipa, a natural lava cave, and a rare black and red sand beach.
Go snorkelling and kayaking among stunning marine life
Kayak from Maui’s picture-perfect Olowalu Beach, catch sight of magnificent Humpback Whales, snorkel with giant sea turtles and enjoy majestic views of the West Maui Mountains on a captivating half-day tour. Run and organised by local company Maui Adventure Tours, the excursion is suitable for ages 5 and up, providing you have basic swimming skills. All snorkelling gear, life jackets, fishing licenses, bottled water and healthy snacks are included in the tour price, and HD Underwater digital cameras are also available for rent.
Soak up some rays on a beach
Much of life on Maui revolves around the beach – and little wonder. The island boasts some of Hawaii’s most stunning stretches of sandy coastline that attract, families, sun-worshipers, and water sports enthusiasts in equal measure. Among Maui’s most popular beaches is Kapalua Bay Beach, the long stretch of gorgeous white sand that draws large crowds during peak season. Or to avoid the heaving thongs, head to Keawakapu or Kahekili beaches which are a touch quieter.
Enjoy an underwater submarine adventure
Budding underwater explorers will get to press their face against circular portholes in search of reef sharks and fish on a memorable submarine tour in Maui. Beginning in Lahaina Harbor, an open-air cruiser brings you out to the dive site where you’ll transfer to the state-of-the-art air-conditioned sub, which descends over 100 feet beneath the waves. During the experience you’ll get to marvel at the sights, sounds, and scenes of aquatic life as you go in search of indigenous fish, vibrant coral reef, and even whales. Guests have a choice of morning or afternoon departure slots.