8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Maui
Maui is known for beautiful beaches, surfing, dramatic scenery, and a wonderful climate. The island lies west of the Big Island of Hawaii, separated from it by the Alenuihaha Channel, and is about 68 miles from Oahu as the crow flies. It is the second largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, covering an area of 694 sq.miles, with 120 miles of coastline. Following Oahu, Maui is the most visited island in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Maui's mountainous landscape causes weather to vary quite strongly but on the whole it is relatively in line with the other Hawaiian islands. It enjoys high temperatures of about 86°F and low temperatures of 60°F, apart from Haleakala where a temperature of 12°F was recorded in 1961.
See also: Where to Stay on Maui
1 Haleakala National Park
This park is located on the slope of the inactive 10,023 foot high Haleakala Volcano, and covers areas from the summit to the ocean. Visitors can look into the dormant crater. From the summit there are incredible views over the entire island, and many people come up here for sunrise.
While the top of the mountain is what draws most people, the drive up is also impressive. Some of the sites along the way worth visiting include the Seven Sacred Pools of the Oheo Ravine and 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.
2 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 for excursions.
In the middle of the valley stands Iao Needle, a pointed lump of basalt, reaching 2,215 ft 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.
3 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. One highlight is a glass tunnel through a shark and ray tank, allowing visitors to sit and contemplate the varied life around them. Other displays explain the life cycles of the humpback whales which migrate to Hawaii from December to March and how the Polynesians who settled Hawaii used the sea.
The Center displays many pieces of original art. The store on the grounds sells a range of gifts up to original works of art of exceptional quality for the serious collector.
Address: 192 Ma'alaea Road, Wailuku
4 Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach
The 4 mile long Kaanapali Beach is Maui's finest beach. It lies in western Maui and is part of the town of Lahaina. This is also where some of the island's best hotels and resorts can be found. As a result this area has shops, restaurants, golf courses and various other forms of entertainment for tourists. Whalers Village is a prominent open-air shopping center with a good variety of stores and dining options.
5 Hana and the Hana Road
Hana is a remote village in one of the most thinly-populated districts in the whole 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 Hana Road 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 40 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.
Hana's proximity to the Big Island of Hawaii gave it great strategic importance during the battles for unification of the Hawaiian Islands at the end of the 18th c. Kamehameha I used the village as a base for his decisive attack on the large neighboring island. Queen Kaahumanu, King Kamehameha I's wife, was born in Hana in 1768. After Kamehameha's death she remained as the reigning monarch of Hawaii until 1832.
6 Waianapanapa State Park
Waianapanapa State Park is a remote area with beaches, 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 but those unfamiliar with the surf conditions should refrain from swimming in the strong waves.
South of Kihei, Wailea has developed into a tourist destination, with hotels and resorts. The lovely Keawakapu Beach is one of the nicest on the island and there is plenty of shopping and golfing to entertain visitors looking to spend some time off the beach.
8 Makena Beach
South of Kihei is the village of Makena with a beautiful stretch of sand. This white sand beach is the largest beach on the island and great for walking. The ocean here can be rough and at times somewhat treacherous for swimming. Makena Beach is sometimes referred to simply as Big Beach.
Where to Stay on Maui for Sightseeing
We recommend these highly-rated hotels and beachfront resorts on the beautiful island of Maui:
- Montage Kapalua Bay: luxury beachfront resort, sublime ocean views, condos with kitchens and lanais, gorgeous gardens, infinity pool, deluxe day spa.
- Napili Kai Beach Resort: mid-range beach resort, tropical decor, shuffleboard and putting green, four swimming pools, bocce ball.
- Paia Inn: 3-star boutique hotel, private beach access, chic decor, free breakfast and beach gear, spa treatments.
- Maui Seaside Hotel: budget hotel, near the airport and a small beach, inviting pool.