16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Maui
Author Meagan Drillinger explored the sights of Maui in January 2023.
Ask anyone what their favorite Hawaiian island is, and chances are they are going to say Maui. The island of Maui offers a little bit of everything of all the Hawaiian islands, all served up in a neat, impossibly gorgeous package.
Maui truly has it all: beautiful beaches, surfing, dramatic scenery, hiking, and a wonderful climate. It has volcanic desert landscapes like the Big Island, the lush, jungle-covered peaks of Kauai, the restaurants and luxury hotels of Oahu, the remote villages like Molokai, plus many other places to visit that make Maui entirely its own.
Maui is west of the Big Island of Hawaii, separated by the Alenuihaha Channel. It is the second-largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, covering 694 square miles. Within that space are many of Hawaii's most popular landmarks, beaches, and attractions.
If you're planning your sightseeing trip to Maui, start with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Maui.
1. Haleakala National Park
The 10,023-foot Haleakala Volcano is, without a doubt, the symbol of the island of Maui. The now-dormant volcano covers nearly 25,000 acres and is the focal point of the national park that bears its same name. This is one of the most visited attractions on Maui, and one of the most spectacularly beautiful.
The best thing to do within the park is gaze out over the massive dormant crater. It's an otherworldly experience, to say the least, looking out across the gaping crater, whose colors span nearly every shade of the rainbow. The Martian-esque landscape has rusty reds, pale yellows, purples, and browns.
The road heading up towards the summit climbs well above the clouds, so much of the drive offers a blanket of puffy white. Many visitors come to Haleakala to see the sunrise. Haleakala translates to "House of the Rising Sun" in Hawaiian. This activity is one of the most popular on the island, so reservations are required. But even if you don't go for the sunrise show, Haleakala will take your breath away.
On the other side of the park, closer to the village of Hana, is a completely different tropical landscape. Here visitors come to explore the Seven Sacred Pools or to hike the Pipiwai Trail to the Makahika and Waimoku Waterfalls.
Birders will enjoy the short trail at Hosmer Grove, where some of the original species of Hawaiian birds are seen.
A full-day guided tour of Haleakala National Park and Central Maui is an excellent way to enjoy the area's amazing scenery while hearing about the island's history and culture from a professional guide. The tour includes hotel or resort pickup; a visit to the top of the Haleakala Crater; scenic drives; and a stop in historic Wailuku, where you can enjoy shopping at a variety of locally-owned shops.
2. Experience a Traditional Hawaiian Luau in Lahaina
No visit to Hawaii is complete without attending a Lūʻau, a massive feast accompanied by traditional dance and music. More than just a dinner show, luaus offer tourists the opportunity to taste authentic native foods while watching brightly adorned hula dancers tell stories through their performances.
Tourists can find luaus hosted by several of the island's major resorts, as well as the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku. Most luaus last two to three hours and typically include all food and beverages, including plenty of vegetarian options.
The most popular place to go for a luau on Maui is the Old Lāhainā Lūʻau on the west coast of the island. It's held right on the shore. Guests can enjoy the sunset as they settle in, receiving freshly picked orchid leis to start the evening.
As the sun sets, torches are lit, and the multi-course meal begins, featuring traditional dishes made from local ingredients, including roasts cooked in an underground imu oven. Dancers take the stage with the setting sun as a backdrop and proceed to tell the story of Hawaii through dance, music, and narration.
Address: 1251 Front Street, Lāhainā, Hawaii
3. Drive or Ride the Road to Hana
Hana is a remote village in one of the most thinly-populated districts in the entire state of Hawaii. Its isolated position has enabled the town to maintain an image of the Hawaii that existed before the invasion of mass tourism. It is idyllic, with lush fields and gardens, thanks to the plentiful rains characteristic of the east coasts of all the Hawaiian islands.
One of the main attractions for visitors coming to Hana is the drive to the village. The Road to Hana on the eastern Windward side of Maui starts at the town of Pa'ia and traverses rainforest with waterfalls, making it a stark contrast to the almost desert conditions found everywhere else on the coasts.
While the distance between Pa'ia and Hana is roughly 64 miles, the fact that the road follows a scenic curving coastline with single-lane bridges means that a round trip takes at least four hours of driving. It's best to allow for a full day, so you have plenty of time to stop for photos at the scenic vistas, explore the town of Hana, and check out the villages along the way.
An excellent way to see Hana Road and visit its numerous attractions is on the Small-Group Road to Hana Luxury Tour, which features a maximum of eight passengers to ensure a personalized experience. The nine-hour tour includes narration by an expert guide as you enjoy the scenic views and sites, making plenty of stops along the way for photo-ops, as well as lunch and snacks. Destinations include the village of Ke'anae, Kaumahina State Park, Ho'okipa, Waikani Falls, and the town of Hana, where you will get an exclusive tour of the Hana Tropical Gardens.
4. Visit the Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center houses a collection of Hawaiian reef fish, corals, green turtles, and stingrays in a series of well-designed aquariums. Its most impressive exhibit is the Living Reef, home to more than 40 species of coral native to Hawaii. The reef is fed by water directly from Mā'alaea Bay and is home to a variety of fish that thrive in the reef environment.
Another highlight is the Open Ocean tank, a 750,000-gallon tank featuring a 53-foot acrylic tunnel that allows visitors to see sharks, rays, and fish up close and all around.
Other exhibits include Turtle Lagoon, where visitors can learn more about the native green sea turtles, and a whale exhibit that explains the life cycles of the humpback whales, which migrate to Hawaii from December to March. Visitors can get an in-depth look at the aquarium's operations on a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility, a tour that allows guests to watch feedings and ask the staff naturalist questions about animal care.
Other exhibits explore the relationship that early Polynesian settlers had with the sea, as well as the environmental impact that humans have had on the islands and surrounding aquatic life. The center also displays many pieces of original Hawaiian art. The store on the grounds sells a range of gifts, including original works of art of exceptional quality for the serious collector.
Address: 192 Māʻalaea Road, Wailuku, Hawaii
5. Take a Helicopter Tour
Experiencing the Hawaiian landscape from the air provides a unique perspective, allowing tourists to see untouched expanses and appreciate the stunning natural beauty of the islands.
This bird's-eye view truly gives visitors a new appreciation for the beauty of the lush forests and dramatic landscape of the island below. Passengers can also get glimpses of the islanders' aquatic neighbors from the sky, including pods of dolphins or migrating whales.
The West Maui and Molokai Helicopter Tour is an exclusive 45-minute adventure, which gives you the chance to see remote areas of western Maui, including the forests and waterfalls of the West Maui Mountains and the 4,000-foot cliffs on the coast of neighboring Molokai. The tour is fully narrated by the pilot.
6. Iao Valley State Monument
Iao Valley lies west of Wailuku. Traditionally, Hawaiians would undertake pilgrimages to such places in honor of their gods. Today, several well-maintained paths lead from the parking area to this beautiful valley. It is a popular place to visit; however, tourists should be aware that parts of the park may be closed due to flooding and other weather-related hazards.
In the middle of the valley stands Iao Needle, a pointed lump of basalt, reaching 2,215 feet above sea level. This unique overgrown rock was apparently used as an altar in prehistoric times. A legend surrounds Iao Needle's origin. It is said that the demi-god Maui took captive an unwanted suitor, the water sprite Puukamoua, of his beautiful daughter, Iao, and wanted to kill him. But Pele, the fire goddess, ordered Maui to turn him to stone. Hence the needle.
The valley is said to be full of the ghosts of Hawaiian gods, known as manas. On the left-hand side of the path to Iao Needle is Pali Ele'ele, a dark black cliff.
7. Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach
The three-mile-long Kaanapali Beach is Maui's finest beach. It lies in western Maui and is part of the town of Lahaina. One of the most popular things to do at Kaanapali Beach is to watch the daily cliff-diving ceremony from Black Rock, traditionally known as Puu Kekaa. This is also where some of the island's best hotels and resorts can be found.
As a result, the area is full of activities and things to see and do, including world-class golf; a variety of restaurants; tons of shopping; and a zipline course, which affords great views of the coastline. Whalers Village is a prominent open-air shopping center with a good variety of stores and dining options. Other attractions include a whaling museum and traditional Hawaiian entertainment.
8. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Off the shores of Maui are some of the most remarkable reefs and marine habitats, making this island a top place to visit for snorkeling and scuba diving. Tourists can find equipment rental shops near most of the top beaches, and there are several places that offer scuba lessons for those who would like to try it for the first time. As always, those venturing into the water should be aware of current conditions.
The Marine Life Conservation District of Honolua Bay, located on the northwestern end of the island, is one of the top snorkeling and diving spots. The bay, which is isolated by rocky cliffs, has calm, quiet water and is home to a wide variety of reef fish, including parrot fish, surgeon fish, wrasse, and Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (also known as the Rectangular Triggerfish). Tourists should note that there are no facilities or lifeguards at this location.
Another popular place for snorkeling and diving is Molokini, a volcanic atoll that sits just off the southern coast of Maui. Also a designated conservation district, it is a top destination for snorkeling tours due to its picturesque setting and wide variety of marine life, from rarer species of reef fish to dolphins and turtles.
The Molokini Sail and Snorkel Adventure is a good choice for those who want the option of viewing the spectacular sea life without getting wet, thanks to the glass-bottom section of the catamaran, which affords views deep under the clear water. Those who want to dive right in can spend their time in the pristine reefs or making a splash on the waterslide. The cruise includes breakfast and lunch and lasts approximately five hours.
9. Waianapanapa State Park
Waianapanapa State Park is a remote area on the Hana Coast with beaches, a rugged coastline, hiking, camping facilities, and lodging options. This is a good spot to simply enjoy nature. The black lava beach at Paiola Bay in the park is worth visiting; however, those unfamiliar with the surf conditions should refrain from swimming in the strong waves.
Hiking trails can be challenging but rewarding, and the Ke Ala Loa O Maui/Piilani Trail is one of the most popular for its views of Haleakala and the Hana Coast. Other highlights include natural stone formations like arches and sea stacks, blow holes, caves, and heiau, an old temple.
In southern Maui, the coastal area of Wailea has become a top tourist destination and resort area thanks to its five gorgeous beaches and wide range of things to do. Wailea Beach is the best known and home to some of the more exclusive resorts on Maui, while Polo Beach is popular with swimmers and snorkelers and Ulua Beach Park is the perfect place for a romantic sunset walk.
Outrigger tours are very popular from Wailea Beach, as this is one of the top spots in all of Hawaii where humpback whales come to give birth during the winter months. The calm waters between Maui, Lanai, and Kaho'olawe in particular tend to have teeming populations of whales between November and May.
Wailea is also known for its championship golf courses, consisting of the Wailea Gold, Wailea Blue, and Wailea Emerald. Another top attraction is the Shops at Wailea, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex, which will keep tourists occupied indefinitely.
Wailea is also host to both the Maui Film Festival and Whale Week festivities each February, as well as its wide selection of spas. Nearby natural attractions include the lava fields of Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, an area also known for its snorkeling, and La Perouse Bay, which is home to the scenic Hoapili Trail.
11. Makena Beach
Makena Beach, also known simply as "Big Beach," is one of the longest undeveloped beaches on the island. It sits south of Kihei in the village of Makena, a great alternative to the more crowded Wailea beaches. Tourists should be aware of beach warnings, as this beach is known for having rougher conditions at times, and should never swim here when the lifeguards are off-duty.
This is an excellent spot for a romantic stroll, and the shore affords lovely views of Kahoolawe and Molokini islands. For an even more secluded spot, couples can venture to the park's much smaller "Little Beach," which does not have lifeguards or facilities.
Makena Beach is in the Makena State Park, so parking is ample. On weekends, however, the spots do tend to fill up, so many people opt to park along the road. Just off the parking lot is a sandy pullout where food trucks like to set up shop.
12. Learn to Surf with the Masters
Surfing is nearly synonymous with Hawaii, and no visit to Maui is complete without at least watching the local pros in action. But why just watch when there are so many skilled surfers ready to teach you how to have a tubular time yourself?
One of the top surf schools is Kaanapali Surf School, located on Ka'anapali Beach. Students have the choice of private, semi-private, and small-group lessons, with options for all skill levels. Beginners start with the basics on the beach before hitting the waves, and then head to the water for practice; experienced surfers can hone their skills with one-on-one training.
The folks over at Maui Surfer Girls are a great option for beginners, and with mostly female instructors, it's often a good fit for women trying the sport out for the first time. All group lessons are small groups; lessons are held just south of Lahaina at Ukumehame Beach Park, which is also known for being a great place to spot whales.
13. Visit Lanai Island
The island of Lanai sits nine miles off the west coast of Maui, offering tourists a combination of high-end luxury resorts and nearly untouched wilderness. It is the smallest of Hawaii's inhabited islands, and a nature-lover's paradise. While there are only about 30 miles of paved roads on Lanai, there are over 400 miles of off-roading trails perfect for exploring the lush forests.
The coastline of Lanai is about 18 miles, including several excellent beaches. The southern coast is the best place on Lanai for swimming, home to its most popular beaches. Those who want to go snorkeling or swimming should head to Hulopoe Beach Park, located in Hulopoe Bay. While in the area, be sure to hike over to admire Puu Pehe, an 80-foot rock formation that is named for a Hawaiian legend.
Polihua Beach on the northern coast isn't safe for swimming, but it's a beautiful place for sunbathing and strolling that is rarely occupied by more than a few other beachcombers.
Another great spot along the northern side of the island is Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach). The water here is also dangerous, and the specter of a massive wrecked oil tanker looms just offshore as a reminder. Visitors will also find Poiawa, or petroglyphs, on rocks near the beach and can enjoy great views of the island of Maui from here.
There are also many excellent hikes in the island's interior, including established trails at the Kanepuu Preserve and the Munro Trai near Lanai City, which leads to the highest point on the island for stunning views. Visitors will find several local places that offer guided tours, ATV and 4-Wheel-Drive rentals, as well as opportunities to go horseback riding along the trails and the beaches.
Tourists should be aware that many of the dirt roads are unmarked, and all can be subject to flooding and mud, so be sure to plan ahead and utilize a guide if unsure. The island can be accessed most easily via the Maui-Lanai Passenger Ferry, which departs from Lahaina.
14. Golf in Paradise
Maui is home to over a dozen golf courses, several of which host international competitions and tournaments.
One of the top picks is the Plantation Course at Kapalua Bay, which hosts a PGA tournament annually. In addition to offering a challenging 7,411-yard course, it sits elevated on the West Maui Mountains, overlooking the ocean, for incredible vistas every step of the way. Also on the slopes of these mountains, golfers will love the private club at King Kamehameha, with a course that sits at an elevation of 750 feet.
Another top pick is the Bay Course at Kapalua, a par-72 course designed by Francis Duane and Arnold Palmer. It offers 6,600 yards with excellent views of the Island of Molokai and has been host to numerous professional tournaments.
The Wailea Golf Club offers three courses, with the 7,000-yard Gold Course as its most difficult and also most popular. If you are looking for something more laid-back, Ka'anapali Kai Course on the western tip of the island offers stunning views over the water.
15. Stop by the Nakalele Blowhole
Along the northwestern coast of Maui is one of its coolest natural attractions — the Nakalele Blowhole. At the base of a rocky hill, where the ocean meets the black volcanic rock, is a manhole-sized hole that is fed seawater through an old lava tube. The result is a natural geyser-like eruption that shoots a stream of water straight up into the air.
The blowhole is one of the most popular natural tourist attractions on Maui. The trail to the blowhole is a short one, at less than a mile, but it is a steep scramble down the hill. Be aware of the signs posted that warn you from getting too close to the blowhole. Waves can be unpredictable and have washed people away.
Standing a safe distance from the blowhole will still ensure awesome views, though. It's a quick stop along your sightseeing tour of Maui and will certainly get you a few good photo ops.
16. Walk the King's Highway Lava Fields
If you travel past Wailea and continue along the southeastern coast of Maui, you'll end up at La Perouse Bay, where you'll discover a section of the ancient King's Highway. Centuries ago, the trail, which originally circumnavigated the entire island, was a path to transport royalty around the island. Today it's one of the most rugged and starkly beautiful hiking trails on the island.
The trail takes travelers through the most recent lava flow on the island, which dates back to the 19th century. The path, while flat, is a bit of a clunky one, as it travels up and over the chunks of lava rock. The entire trail is exposed, too, so it can get quite hot.
Still, this is a veritable trip back in time as the path continues along the coastline for several miles, allowing you to absorb both the ancient geological history of Maui, as well as its much more recent cultural past.
All around the King's Highway are several pullouts where you can park your car and have a picnic lunch or take a dip into the crystal-clear water.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Maui
- Volcanic Sunrise: Early birds will get the unique opportunity to watch the sunrise from atop one of the world's largest dormant volcanoes, the Haleakala Crater. The Maui Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour brings you to the summit to witness the breathtaking reds, oranges, and yellows of the sunrise from over 10,000 feet above sea level. After riding part-way down the slope, you are then provided with bicycles and safety gear and will pedal downhill through Haleakala Ranch, Paia, and Makawao to Paia Bay Beach Park.
- Snorkeling Excursion: Tourists looking for a chance to explore two of the top snorkeling spots in Hawaii will want to take the Molokini and Turtle Arches Snorkeling Trip, a five-hour excursion from Ma'alaea Harbor on the catamaran Ocean Odyssey. The tour includes professionally fitted equipment and snorkeling instruction for those who need it, and a certified naturalist will provide details about the area's unique marine ecosystems. The tour includes stops at both Molokini and Turtle Arches, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages all day, and lunch.
- Rainforest Hike: If you would like to fully appreciate the tropical beauty of the Hana region but aren't comfortable bounding off into the forest alone, the Small Group Waterfall and Rainforest Hiking Adventure on Maui is a great option. This half-day tour offers the opportunity to explore the lush rainforests with a knowledgeable guide through the interior of eastern Maui, its most densely forested region. The group will make stops along the way for photos, lunch, and swimming at the pools beneath the falls while learning about the surrounding ecosystem.
- Bird's-Eye View: Adventure-seekers will love this 8-Line Jungle Zipline Tour on Maui, a two-hour canopy excursion. The tour is guided by experts who will ensure safety while providing fascinating information about the area's geology, wildlife, and plants. The course of eight ziplines traverses deep ravines and the canopy of tropical forests, providing amazing views of Lanai and Molokini for an unforgettable experience.
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The Big Island: Maui sits northwest of the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island), and is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The Big Island is home to some of the state's top tourist attractions and natural wonders, including Volcanoes National Park and the Kailua-Kona region, which produces world-famous coffee.
Exploring Oahu: Just under 70 miles northwest of Maui, Oahu is home to the state capital of Honolulu, which draws visitors year-round for its many things to see and do. Of the island's many beautiful beaches, Honolulu's Waikiki is among the most popular. Waikiki is popular with swimmers and surfers for its excellent conditions and offers a huge variety of things to do locally, including shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Waikiki is also home to several of Oahu's best resorts and the majority of Honolulu's resorts. Oahu is also home to the most significant World War II site on U.S. soil, Pearl Harbor, which contains several landmarks and historic sights.