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Exploring magical Maui

Clive Wedderburn March 31, 2017

Soak up the sunshine on exceptional beaches, tour the island by helicopter, road-trip along winding highways or trek through lush interior landscapes – holidays to Maui offer a fascinating, revitalising and unforgettable adventure in paradise. 

The second largest of the main Hawaii islands, Maui is known as the Valley Isle for its Garden of Eden landscapes, artistic coastal communities and superb diving and snorkelling spots. On the east coast you’ll find the tropical havens Ieo Valley State Park and the scenic Hana Highway. The west coast is home to stunning vistas including the beaches of Kapalua, Wailea and Kaanapali. Winter runs from November to April, but in all honesty there is no wrong time to visit Maui. Your only dilemma is deciding which beautiful attractions you’d like to tick off your travel wish-list. Here are our suggestions for the best things to do in Maui.

Haleakala National Park – to greet the sun

Haleakala National Park means ‘House of the Sun’ and offers 12,000 hectares of public land to discover. Cruise by car, trek along picturesque pathways or amble on horseback through a tropical landscape of waterfalls, such as the magical tiered Pools of Oheo. If you’re seeking serenity surrounded by exotic scenery then we doubt you’ll find a better spot in Hawaii.  

The Haleakala Crater is fabled among the islanders as the home of the Demi-God Maui who, legend has it, created the islands of Hawaii. So it’s perfectly natural that you should want to hike to the top of the island’s highest peak to pay your respects to the creator of this perfect island paradise.

To visit this spot high above a sea of clouds wake up early to watch in stunned silence as dawn breaks over the mountain tops and rainbows arc across the land, while you completely lose track of time.

Visit Lahaina – for whale watching  

The calm, clear waters off the coast of Maui are home to an abundance of exotic marine creatures, many engaged on migratory patterns to Alaska. The Pacific Humpback Whale is a regular visitor to these shores between December to May when over 8,000 glide gracefully by, some up to 40 tonnes in weight, tail slapping and blowing water spouts.

Lahaina Harbor has easy access to a number of whale-watching tours (typically lasting between 2-4 hours) where you’ll learn all about these impressive mammals from your expert crew and captain.

You can also discover the old town’s whaling heritage upon which the settlement was originally built. Drop by the Whaling Museum and the old lighthouse and even the old prison for insights into the islands past.

There are plenty of whale-watching spots to be found on dry land including McGregor Point and the beaches of Kaanapali, for those who prefer their animal encounters a little less active.

Snorkelling and diving – for consistently clear seas

Renowned for being one of the best places for underwater enthusiasts, Maui hosts a plethora of amazing marine experiences featuring coral gardens teeming with fish of every size and colour. Stunning beaches such as Kapalua Bay and Napili Bay offer not only gorgeous sandy coves fringed with swaying palms, but clear and calm seas that are perfect for snorkelling.

A boat trip to Molokini Crater, declared a Marine Life Conservation District in 1977, if timed correctly will allow encounters with dolphins and whales cavorting in the waves. Meanwhile, snorkelling and diving will reveal the natural treasures of the deep including octopus, manta ray and barracudas. Above the waves, keep your eyes peeled for a host of seabirds including, brown boobies, shearwaters and frigate birds.

Drive the Hana Highway – for photography, history and heritage

The road from Kahului to Hana is 68 miles in length and features 620 curves and 59 bridges in a series of twists and hairpins through dramatic land and seascapes, with plenty of parking spots in between to take in those views. If there’s one tip we could offer you: take your time – don’t rush this magical experience – stop at Twin Falls, or Upper Waikani Falls or the Hana Lava Tube along the way. The region is steeped in legend so be sure to discover Maui’s ancient past at the Hana Cultural Center to learn how powerful chieftains once ruled the island, enhancing your Hawaiian holiday by providing a fascinating window on the past.

Once you arrive at Hana be sure to shop for unusual souvenirs at the Hana Ranch Store or Hasegawa General Store before heading to Hamoa Beach to cool your toes in the Pacific Ocean.

Helicopter tours of Maui – for a bird’s eye view of paradise

If you’re pressed for time and would like to see as much of this dream island as possible, a helicopter tour is an experience not to be missed. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of Maui in one jaw-dropping excursion, soaring over volcanoes or hovering above waterfalls, mountains and rainforests from Haleakala Crater to Ieo Valley State Park.

Island hopping – why not experience it all

Why not island hop across Hawaii? It’s relatively easy and most journeys will take approximately 30 minutes. Discover Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbour in Oahu, then paddle the Wailua River by kayak in Kauai before transferring to Maui to decide which island captivated you most (we think they all will).

Emerald peaks, photogenic lookouts, ancient rainforests and captivating legends – Maui has it all and is waiting to be explored on land, sea or air. Tempted? Visit our Maui pages for more inspiration on Hawaii holidays.