Did you know Hawaii is made up of eight islands?! I honestly didn’t know there were that many islands before I visited Hawaii for the first time.
I’ve lived a total of two and a half years on the island of Oahu now, and have had multiple chances to visit other Hawaiian Islands. Since 2012, I’ve visited Kauai four times, Maui two times and the Big Island (Hawaii) twice also, and I’d still love to visit all the other ones.
This blog post is going to focus on my favorite things to do in Maui. However as noted, I have only been to Maui twice, for a total of 4 days each visit; so I realize there will be a number of things that I will not mention that others may think are must do’s!
Haleakala National Park
I’ll never forget my first experience in Maui.
In 2012, I was studying a semester abroad at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (in Oahu). One of my best friends Emma had come to visit me from New Zealand so we took the chance to go to Maui with our friend Lizzy (LC) for a long weekend.
The day didn’t start off well, we were all severely hungover, had to run for the bus to the airport (almost missing it), and Emma had ALL of her toiletries thrown out at security as they were over 100mls.
Arriving in Kahului in Maui and catching a taxi to our hostel, while being checked in, we were invited to go somewhere with a guy we’d literally just said hello to. We had no idea what he was propositioning to us but the check in lady said “you should go, it’s really cool”. And that was that. Next minute we were all squished into a car with three new friends, praying that we weren’t about to get murdered.
Our adventure led us to being at the Haleakala summit for sunset which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. At 10,023 feet (3055 metres) above sea level, it was absolutely freezing and I was wearing a jacket the check in lady gave me while in short shorts and jandals (thongs/flip flops/slippers). But being above the clouds for sunset was something I’ll never forget.
I would highly recommend driving up to Haleakala for either sunrise or sunset, but make sure you pack lots of clothes for cold temperatures!
On the way to Halaekala, our new friends stopped in the town of Paia for a quick swim at the beach and some dinner. The Paia Fish Market was the closest thing I’ve found to New Zealand fish n chips (which are amazing by the way). I didn’t know this at the time but this little corner restaurant is locally famous for having the best fish meals on the island, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Paia is a cute little town with a beachy vibe. On my first trip to Maui, I didn’t get to explore Paia very much but I knew I liked the look of it, so on my return trip in 2015, I decided to stay in a hostel in Paia. I’d highly recommend this hostel by the way – they offer day trips for free every day (not including tipping the driver/tour guide which you should do!) around the island. We went to a black sand beach, a cave where you can swim, on a waterfall hike through a bamboo forest, and on the Road to Hana which leads me to my next point…
Road to Hana
The number one tourist activity in Maui is this windy, beautiful road with waterfalls and nearly every turn. The town of Hana isn’t very exciting, so make sure you stop along the way and take in the scenery of the luscious greenery and the breathtaking waterfalls.
Wainapanapa Caves and the Black Sand Beach
The volcanic activity on the islands of Hawaii causes some pretty amazing natural things to occur… and one of them is black sand. Warning: do NOT take anything away from any black sand beach you go to. It is well known as Pele’s curse (Pele being the volcano goddess) and you will suffer bad luck until the element is returned.
The Wainapanapa Cave and the black sand beach are tourist hot spots on the south side of the island (easy to get to after the Road to Hana) and I would highly recommend taking a tour here as you can swim THROUGH the caves if you have an experienced guide. Unfortunately I suffer from claustrophobia and there’s no way I could put myself in complete darkness going through caves while up to the armpits in water, but I’ve heard it’s an amazing experience.
Little Beach on a Sunday
Now this might not appeal to everyone who reads this post… but I think it’s one of the most unique and fun things Maui has to offer! Every Sunday, on a beach called Little Beach (it’s next to Big Beach!), hundreds gather to drink, smoke and play the bongos amongst a number of naked hippies (for the lack of a better word). It is definitely a sight to see although an open mind is needed.
Driving around the top of the island
After exploring the bottom half of the island, the next day we decided to drive around the less populated top half of the island; and I honestly believe this is the more beautiful part of the island. The untouched land, locals selling their produce on the side of the road, and the dropoff cliffs to the ocean are just a small amount of the beauty you will witness. Seriously, just go!
My favorite little town on the island of Maui, and also the most touristy unfortunately. However this walkable, seaside town is so quaint and makes you feel at home even if you are hundreds of miles away from the place you lay your head regularly.
My favorite thing to do in Lahaina is walk the streets stopping into all the charming stores before sunset, then finding a local seaside restaurant to enjoy dinner while the sun is setting over the ocean beside you. Note: the seaside restaurants can have long waiting times to be seated so keep this in mind and make sure you don’t miss the sunset!
On leaving Maui, I unwittingly booked our flights for sunset time and it was a blessing in disguise. I now try to book all my flights for sunrise or sunset time because it’s so stunning up in the sky.
Side note: I experienced two “firsts” in Maui – first time driving a car on the right hand side of the road and also first time experiencing chips being served on the side of a sandwich! The latter is most definitely an American thing and while I am used to it now, it was such a novelty that first time 🙂
This blog post is a little different to my Oahu one as it doesn’t focus on solely food and hiking, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.
Please do let me know if you’ve been to Maui and done any of the things I mentioned, or even if you think I missed something super important!