We recently went to Maui!
In short, an epic time was had by all (me, Sarah, and our cousins).
And in full length, here are some of the things we did and some things you can do if you happen to find yourself on this most glorious of Hawaiian islands. Before we jump in, I just want to clarify that NO ONE paid us ANYTHING to write any of the following. We just had *that* great of a time.
Scroll down to the bottom of the post for our full list of places to eat, beaches to lie on, and sights to see.
For some color on the trip, though, here we go–23 things to do in Maui…
1. Realize that time waits for no man in Maui
I feel like this is the right thing to kick off this lil listicle, because the great thing about Hawaii is it’s actual paradise. Hawaii lives up to the hype. People just don’t go and come back feeling disappointed. That just doesn’t happen. It’s an amazing place with delicious food, amazing scenery, and great people. And like in any good paradise, time feels like it’s suspended.
That said, if you see something in Maui, you’d better get after it then and there. Because it will NOT be around when you mosey on back from the beach or when you decide to wind your way back down the mountain in your rental car. That cute fresh fruit stand? That farmer’s market? That flea market? That smoothie truck? That cute little bookstore? If it’s open and you even vaguely want to check it out, CHECK IT OUT. Because there’s no such thing in Maui as “oh yeah we’ll see what’s up on the way back.” Places open at 11 and close shop at 4PM. Or they’ll “be back later.” In short, they will pack up their coconuts and LEAVE to go eat dinner / surfing / go run on the beach with their dogs rather than stick around too long.
If I had a coconut bra for every time Sarah said “Oh! We’ll check it out on the way back” and it never came to fruition, I’d have enough to put on my own dang luau.
2. Feel like you’re on Pandora (i.e., giant house plants gone totally berserk)
As a bonafide plant nerd, Hawaii is a dreeeeam. There are giant tropical plants and succulents at every turn, and brightly colored plumerias and hibiscus dotting the roads and highways.
One of the botanical highlights was the bamboo forest in Haleakala National Park. Incredible trail with an easily accessible footpath and enough bamboo to make you feel like you’re in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
3. Check out some tide pools
I have a strange fascination with the tiny worlds of tide pools. Nothing thrills me like seeing tiny fish flitting around, glimpsing a spiny shrimp crawling between rocks, or happening upon the odd sea cucumber (quite a find, let me tell you). We’d park our butts on the beach, and while everyone else was content to lie in the sun, I was always itching to crawl over rocks to search the tide pools for signs of life.
Maybe it has something to do with our obsession with food? Like, look ma, I found food in the wild! Tiny snails don’t make much of a meal, but they are surprisingly entertaining. You could say I need to get out more, but they’re already outside, so HA.
4. Drown in delicious heaps of fresh poke
So much poke, so little time! Foodland is where it’s at. Cheap, fast, and tasty. Get a side of cucumber kimchi and have a picnic on the beach with the sand between your toes. Ahhh… Pro tip: ask for your poke and rice in separate containers because dat hot rice *will* harsh your poke buzz, cooking those little jewels of tuna. As Ina would say, ugh who wants that?
5. Stumble upon a sea turtle
When we had gone 5 days without yet seeing a sea turtle, we started getting prettyyy antsy. We were promised sea turtles and we were gonna see one, dangit. (See the similar moose effect in Alaska–where the promise of those large antlered mammalian cuties can drive you to the brink on a 10-day cruise. Spoiler alert: we did NOT see a moose.)
Cut to a hidden beach frequented by locals on one of our last days in Maui. I walked from our towels to the water and heard a gasp behind me. I thought our admittedly somewhat clumsy cousin Kim had tripped in the sand already (Lol, yes, I am full of compassion), but I had actually walked right past a giant sea turtle! Parked in the sand for a nap, it was easy to dismiss it as a giant rock in my head.
We watched the sun set with the little dude, and it was pretty magical. We also managed to see a few turtles at Ho’okipa Beach Park.
6. Go macadamia nuts!
(See what I did there?) Macadamia nut errthang. Here’s a picture of some delicious banana macadamia nut pancakes we had.
And here’s a picture of a macadamia nut chocolate pie (along with a coconut cream pie and a banana cream pie).
All was delicious and not long for this world with us around.
7. Check out the black sand beaches
Ain’t nothing like the uber warm sand of a black sand beach. You’ll have to get over the pebbliness of it all, but it’s pretty delightful. What’s more we visited this same beach last time we were in Maui, and it’s always a wonderful surprise to see a corner of nature untouched after 4 years.
8. Check out the red sand beaches
This red sand beach had the perfect little oasis for snorkeling and swimming.
The water was a bit frigid, but these little kids absolutely slayed at spearfishing. Do you see that lobster! The octopus! All those tasty fish! I effusively gushed to their mom and she was very much unimpressed “Oh this? Pshhh…”
Just small beans for Maui flora and fauna.
9. Be as basic as your heart wishes, and eat allll the acai bowls
Fresh papaya, mango, berries, and coconut? Topped off with a little crunchy granola and maybe a lil’ dollop of passionfruit butter? The #healthychoices hordes would approve.
10. Eat really really really good Thai food at Thai Mee Up
There’s Thai fried chicken that’s oh so good–coated in fried bits of garlic and ginger. AND shrimp pad Thai that blows all the mediocre New York City lunch hour pad Thais out of the water! Maybe our own shrimp pad Thai comes close. Miracle of miracles! Get after it, kids.
11. Eat surprisingly delicious pizza!
Okay so it’s “flatbread” at a place called Flatbread Co. in Paia, but it was a delicious first day meal. We totally were converted into pineapple pizza believers by a kalua pork and pineapple flatbread with BBQ sauce. Yummm.
12. Suspend all snobbery and get thee to thy nearest luau!
When we went to Hawaii with our parents, we did not do a luau, and we totally missed out. Te Au Moana at the Marriott was kind of a major highlight of our Maui cousins trip. The kitschy lei ceremonies, the “unearthing of the kalua pig” ceremony, the fire dancing, the insane buffet line, the sunset, the cheesy but lovely MC of the whole evening–it was a whole exercise in egregious tourism, but was so so fun. It’s one big photo op, but one very very very very very fun photo op.
13. Go on a tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation
We had a great morning of whale watching, wherein we saw a handful of whale flippers, tails, and even a whale mama and baby off the side of our boat.
And if you didn’t hate us enough already for this seemingly picturesque Hawaiian adventure, the whole thing got capped off with a pod of spinner dolphins. Even the staff were excited by all the sightings they documented that day. If you find yourself in Maui, support the Pacific Whale Foundation!
14. Pack your binoculars
See above. You’ll want them!
15. Eat a loco moco
Gravy-laden ground beef and rice topped with a fried egg. You know you want it. Just do it.
16. Get up early to watch the sunrise at the top of Haleakala
Wake up at the crack of dawn, drive the winding Haleakala Crater Road up to the lookout point, and shiver in the cold as the sun rises.
The sunlight on a clear day floods the crater below; on the day we went it was a bit misty and cloudy, but it didn’t disappoint.
17. Stay at the beach late to watch the sunset
Your standard beach bum will wander off the beach for dinner at a certain hour, but that’s when the sunset is at its finest! Trust us.
18. Sip fresh coconut water
This one really goes without saying.
19. Name that wild chicken that keeps following you around the beach
This is Paulina. She was quite bothersome and was a little too interested in our bag of Maui sweet onion potato chips.
20. Eat all the mahi mahi in all forms you can find it
Mahi mahi tacos, cajun blackened mahi mahi, mahi mahi penang curry, mahi mahi katsu…
All. The. Mahi. Mahi.
21. Go snorkeling at Honolua Bay (and wear your reef-safe sunscreen!)
This little hideaway had great visibility and lovely reefs full of happy fish and giant sea urchins. Wear that reef-safe sunscreen to keep it that way! (Even tiny amounts of oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, and even mineral-based sunscreens with nanoparticles, which allow them to rub in easier, can cause reef bleaching!)
Some brands are better than others. We found one favored by the locals that went on smoothly and absorbed quickly: Hawaiian Sol.
You can also wear protective clothing like rashguards to eliminate the need for sunscreen altogether!
22. Hike Waihe’e Ridge Trail
This 4.75 mile hike with 1,500 feet of elevation in West Maui Forest Reserve was a beautiful morning hike with great views. It required a bit of fancy footwork on some parts, but that’s half the fun.
If you go on a hike and don’t have the sweaty selfie to prove it, did you actually even go?
23. Watch the surfers ride the waves (or at least watch the surfers’ dogs)
Equally entertaining to be honest.
Some of you may have noticed that the Road to Hana is the conspicuously missing 24th item in this list of things to do in Maui. Stay tuned for a post from Sarah all about the Road to Hana in the next couple of days!
For anyone planning an upcoming trip who’d like a full list of the spots we hit , here they are:
Things to Do in Maui (the Details):
- Ho’okipa Beach Park (great for watching surfers––there was a swell when we were there and the waves were huge!)
- Baldwin Beach Park (right outside of Paia, a hippie town with lots of great food options)
- Red Sand Beach (slightly hidden along the road to Hana, stay tuned for more details in Sarah’s Road to Hana post!)
- Black Sand Beach (another road to Hana gem. See above)
- Kapalua Bay (one of the most beautiful beaches for sunset)
- Wailea Beach (for that Maui resort life vibe)
- Makena Beach & Paako Cove (didn’t make it here, but we drove past it and it was very popular!)
- A few others that we heard about from locals. We will be keeping their secret. ;)
Stuff to Do:
- Road to Hana: Black Sand Beach, Red Sand Beach, Hamoa Beach, Wailua Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park, 7 Sacred Pools, Thai By Pranee, Haleakala National Park/Pipiwai Trail, etc. more to come in an upcoming post.
- Haleakala Crater (make reservations for sunrise 60 days in advance)
- Surfing Goat Dairy: Fresh (albeit a bit pricey) goat cheese! They also have a small tour, but the grounds are very nice.
- Waihe’e Ridge Trail: One of the best hikes we did on Maui––dramatic Jurassic-park like landscapes and waterfalls in the distance.
- Maui Ocean Center: Saved us on a very rainy day. Super informative, with great educational talks at set times.
- Whale Watching with the Whale Center of the Pacific: Really awesome whale watching that supports a cause. Right next to Maui Ocean Center.
- The Luau: Read the reviews and take your pick for a super touristy, albeit very fun experience (the free-flowing fruit punch helps).
- Ahihi Kinau Natural Area: Lava fields and great snorkeling. Don’t go in the water with regular sun-screen! Go reef-safe!
- Lahaina Front Street: All the souvenirs. A good place to get shopping out of your system. Also check out Lahaina Banyan Tree Park
- Honolua Bay: Another great snorkeling spot.
Maui Topical Planation: A fruit plantation with fruit stand, store, a tour, and a sunflower field for all your Instagram needs.
Places to Eat (we’re only including our favorites here!):
- Coconuts Fish Cafe: Our favorite fish tacos. They have 2 locations: 1279 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753 and 2463 S Kihei Rd Ste A-21 Kihei, HI 96753
- Thai Food by Pranee: The best Thai food we’ve eaten in a long time, and we live in New York City, land of unlimited food options. You’ll find this little truck at the end of Hana Highway, near Hana Bay.
- Thai Mee Up: Another really delicious Thai option, it can be found in a food truck park outside the airport.
- Mo Ono Acai Bowls: You’ll find this place right across from Thai By Pranee. Don’t pass up the lilikoi butter.
- Fresh off the Boat: Another food truck offering sushi, sashimi, poke, salad, and grilled fish. A bit healthier than your average food truck with really great seafood––we got the steak and poke plate. Mmmm.
- Kula Bistro: We went here for breakfast after coming down from Haleakala summit. Very good food in a small, often overlooked town.
- Flatbread Company: Surprisingly good brick oven pizza. They’re always packed, so call ahead and get there early.
- Paia Fish Market: This place has several different locations across the island, but we went to the one in Paia. We destroyed their grilled mahi mahi over cajun rice before we headed to the airport and lamented the fact that we wouldn’t be able to get it in New York.
- Huli Huli Chicken: Really great chicken and ribs. Don’t forget the rice and mac salad. It’s also right on the beach, along the road to Hana. (Known for their roast chicken, food truck right on the beach in Hana).
- Da Kitchen: Huge menu, huge portions. Really really delicious “Hawaiian Comfort” food.
- Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop: Pretty, delicious pies in flavors like Chocolate Mac Nut and Coconut Cream. They also do lunch––savory pies, sandwiches, salads, etc.
I’m sure we missed some spots, so if you know of any, feel free to shout them out in the comments! Like we need a reason to go back to Maui. ;)