The Ultimate Maui Bucket List
Many travel sites paint similar pictures of Maui. Some outlets exclusively sell Maui's white-sand beaches, waterfall-abundant rainforests, opulent resorts, and images of smiling hula dancers to vacation hungry travelers longing for a tropical getaway. True, Maui is home to all of the things listed above. However, the Valley Isle is also home to various climates, layers of culture, and countless rich experiences away from the resort-centric areas. To help travelers take a deep dive into all that the island of Maui has to offer, we've compiled the top 20 Maui must-dos to add to your travel bucket list. This includes some of the most sought-after island attractions as well as lesser-known activities.
1. Snorkel at Molokini.
Molokini Crater tops the list simply because of the sheer wonder this underwater crater invokes. This is one of the most popular visitor attractions on Maui and is nothing short of a must-do. This ancient crater was once an active volcano and has transformed into a thriving coral reef over many millennia. Kai Kanani is one of the most esteemed tour boats that visit the crater, offering excursions that depart directly from the sands at Maluaka Beach.
2. Visit Maui's different colored sand beaches.
White sand does not have a monopoly over Maui's beaches. Maui is also home to black and red sand beaches, thanks to the island's volcanic nature. Some of the most unique colored sands can be found on the east side of the island. One of the area's biggest attractions is Waianapanapa State Park, known for its glittering black sand cove. If you're searching for red sand, travel a few miles down the road for a stop at Koki Beach. Patches of Koki are made up of iron-rich, rusty red sand, thanks to a large volcanic cone that deposits cinders along the beach. Koki is a great stop for photos, but swimming here is not recommended.
3. Attend a coconut cooking class.
Coconuts were one of the primary food sources in pre-contact Hawaii and are highly revered in Hawaiian culture. Coconut Information Farm in Haiku is dedicated to sharing the almighty coconut with everyone and anyone. Coconut cooking classes are offered here, and you'll learn how to make basic staples like coconut milk, as well as unique dishes that you will not believe are made from coconut.
4. Zipline through a high elevation forest.
Nestled on the slopes of Haleakala, Kapalua, Kaanapali, and on the north shore, Maui zipline courses travels through various climates unlike any you might expect on Maui. Some courses sail through cool, often misty forests situated at around 5,000 feet. Others have you flying along drier climates with incredible views of the ocean. Where ever you are on the island, there’s most likely a zipline within 20-30 minutes of you.
5. Travel the road to Hana.
Serving as one of Maui's most famous attractions, few travelers skip the winding road to Hana. Most people insist on driving the road to Hana themselves. After all, the quintessential experience includes renting a convertible, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and meandering from spot to spot on your itinerary- something that you just can't get out of a tour. However, Hoaloha Jeep Adventures is redefining what road to Hana tours can look like. Their excursions include a ride in a top-down 4x4 Jeep and the freedom to build your own itinerary.
6. Go whale watching in whale season.
Whale watching is a must in the winter months. From December to March, the Auau Channel between Maui and Lanai is brimming with humpback whales. For prime viewing opportunities, climb aboard Hawaii Ocean Project's spacious 70-foot double-decker vessel. Departing out of Lahaina Harbor, you'll cruise into the heart of the Auau channel, where chances of getting an up-close glimpse at these part-time Maui residents are at an all-time high.
7. Learn how to fly a plane.
Learning how to fly a plane is a bucket list item in general- so why not cross it off your list on Maui? The Valley Isles' one and only flight school, Fly Maui, offers visitors and residents alike the chance to try their hand at flying. Their "discovery flight" option serves as lesson one in flight school. Students will learn the ins and outs of Kahului Airport and actually take off the plane under the careful eye of their instructor/copilot. From there, you'll head east to Hana Airport for a touch and go. This is a great way to try something new and exciting and see the sights on the road to Hana from above.
8. Try the local cuisine.
"Local food" encompasses everything from traditional Hawaiian food (think poi, kalua pig, lau lau) to contemporary "grinds" like loco moco, saimin, manapua, and the celebrated spam musubi. Traditional Hawaiian food is served at most Maui luaus and some of the island's most esteemed restaurants like Mama's Fish House. Modern dishes can be found almost anywhere, but food trucks are a great place to start. Don't doubt your local gas station either! You might be surprised to see them serving up heaping plate lunches.
9. Swim under a waterfall.
As dreamy as it sounds, we don't recommend swimming under any random roadside waterfall you might come across. Hidden dangers like flash floods and falling rocks are always present, and no one wants to get caught in a bad situation while on vacation. Luckily, Hike Maui has been safely fulfilling visitor's waterfall dreams for years now. Not only is Hike Maui's waterfall and rainforest tour an immersive cultural experience, but you'll be able to cliff jump and swim under waterfalls that are known to be safe.
10. Watch the sunrise from Haleakala.
Truly a bucket list item, Haleakala sunrise is more elusive than ever. Reservations are required to enter the national park before sunrise. Only a few dozen tickets are available, and demand is greater than supply. Booking a tour is one of the easiest and most comfortable ways to cross Haleakala sunrise off your list. Haleakala EcoTours is one of the highest-rated companies to offer sunrise tours. Their excursions also include engaging tours of Upcountry and the North Shore.
11. Visit Lanai and look for dolphins.
Often overlooked, Maui's neighbor to the west is a fantastic day trip destination. Lana'i is home to plunging sea cliffs, coastal hikes, the beautiful Hulopo’eBeach, thriving coral reefs, and a dolphin population that rivals the island's human population. Aboard Trilogy's Discover Lanai tour, you can skip the crowded commuter ferry ride and sail directly to the golden sands at Hulopo’e Beach. You'll have a full day to swim, snorkel, hike, and learn about the island from a native cultural practitioner. Not to mention, Trilogy is known for its impeccable service, and the cheerful crew will undoubtedly make it a day to remember. Keep an eye out for spinner dolphins along the way!
12. Catch a fresh fish for dinner.
You don't have to be an avid fisherman to join Maui Fun Charters! Spend a day out at sea bottom fishing with some of Maui's most knowledgeable fishermen, and you might just bring home a fresh Mahi or ono to feed the whole family. Whatever you reel in on your line is yours to keep.
13. Visit a lava desert.
The "end of the road" on the south side reveals the harsh but raw beauty of Maui's most recent lava flow. One way to experience this coast is via hiking the Hoapili Trail, but the climate is brutal, the ground is sharp, and there is little shade along the way. Alternatively, Redline Rafting's South Coast Tour visits this coast after a morning of snorkeling at Molokini, and it is a great way to witness the area's striking beauty without hiking in.
14. Take a pineapple tour on the North Shore.
Maui's modern-day melting pot culture is primarily due to the island's plantation era when thousands of immigrants came to the islands to work in the booming agriculture industry. The massive sugar cane and pineapple growing trade is a thing of the past, but some smaller farms still remain. Visit Haliimaile in the hills above the north shore for a glimpse into the island's agricultural history. You'll even get to pick and taste your own pineapple.
15. Attend a painting party.
Easily one of Maui's most unique activities, Island Art Party is a painting class and cocktail party rolled into one. With the help of the step-by-step instruction of your "party artist," along with a bit of liquid confidence, you'll create a tropical masterpiece to take home.
16. Explore Upcountry Maui.
Rolling green pastures, paniolo culture, blooming purple jacarandas, and cool temperatures characterize Maui's Upcountry region. A drive around Upcountry will reveal cute small towns, botanical gardens, lavender farms, and stunning bi-coastal views.
18. Try a local craft beer.
The craft beer scene is booming on Maui. The Valley Isle alone is home to Maui Brewing Company in Kihei, Kohola Brewing in Lahaina, and Mahalo Aleworks in Pukalani. All three rely on Maui's bounty of tropical fruits, boasting nearly every type of beer from pineapple wheats to lilikoi sours. See some favorite spots on Maui for a beer.
19. Visit Iao Valley
Iao Valley's lush vertical walls are about as mesmerizing as its history. Towering over central and north shore Maui, Iao Valley was the site of one of Hawaii's bloodiest battles. Kamehameha and his legions once fought Maui's forces here in an effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands. The energy of the valley and the stunning precipitous landscape draws thousands of visitors and residents to the area every year.
20. Go parasailing.
If we're talking bucket list items, parasailing has certainly earned itself a spot on this list. If sailing 1200’ above the sea isn't memorable enough, the views of Ka'anapali, the West Maui mountains, and neighbor islands are impossible to forget. Parasailing is a seasonal activity offered between the months of May and December.
Curious what else Maui has to offer? Check out The Aloha 360 podcast, recorded right here on Maui by two local residents. The Aloha 360 covers all things Maui, from up-to-date travel tips to local events.