There’s so much made of Maui’s whale watching, snorkeling, and boating opportunities that sometimes we forget all it has to offer on land.
Maui’s collection of beaches are considered some of the best in the world, and the island has spectacular scenic drives, dense jungles, and tall volcanic peaks to explore. Most notably, the hiking trails of Haleakalā rise to more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
Ocean-view golf, cultural luaus, waterfall chasing, and horseback riding can be found on every Hawaiian Island, but Maui’s landscape makes each one of them unique. It is via these outdoor and culturally-based activities that we are able to see and experience Maui through a different lens.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- ATV Tours
- Farm Tours
- Horseback Riding
- Luau shows
- Parks and Botanical Gardens
- Scenic Drives
- Star Gazing
- Volunteering Opportunities
Below, we round up the most popular activities on Maui that don’t require you to leave shore. If you are more interested in getting your feet wet you should check out our list of Maui water activities!
ATV and Off-Road Tours
Off-road ATV tours are an adrenaline-filled way to explore the natural terrain of an island, and on Maui, they give you a chance to explore the West Maui Mountains, one of two volcanoes that makes up the island (the other being Haleakalā).
Tip: Bring a change of clothes and a towel. ATV tours go out rain or shine and that’s a good thing – a big part of the fun can be racing through the mud and crossing seasonal streams.
ATV tours are short but sweet, typically two hours or less. They include driving instructions and multiple stops at scenic places. On Maui, there’s two tours to choose from:
|Price:||Duration:||Good to know:|
|Maui Off Road Adventures||$350+||2 hours||This is best for families. Adult and child combos start at $353; single adults cost $343.|
|Maui Mountain Activities||$180+||1.5 hour||Includes waterfall viewing in West Maui Mountains and beach ride.|
Maui has a tremendous amount to brag about when it comes to its beaches. It rivals Oʻahu in its numbers – well more than two dozen distinct beaches – and includes arguably even more variety, with white, red, and black sand shores to discover. Multiple offshore islands are visible from these beaches, including Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Molokini, and Molokaʻi. In winter, Maui becomes a breeding ground for more than 10,000 whales that jump, slap, and patrol the waters offshore, adding even more awe and beauty to the picture.
Maui doesn’t have the big-name beach recognition like Waikīkī or the North Shore on Oʻahu, but don’t be fooled. Maui has a beach for everyone, and they are generally less crowded than those on Oʻahu. You can read more in our guide to beaches on Maui.
Here is a preview our recommendations:
- Best beaches to take kids: Kaʻanapali (pictured below)
- Best beach for beginner surfing: Puamana and Launiupoko.
- Best beach to go snorkeling: There are many great snorkeling beaches in and around Wailea.
- Best beach to get away from the crowds: The lesser known beaches in west and south Maui.
Golfers will be pleased to know that Maui has 14 courses to choose from, many offering ocean and/or mountain views, the fairways well-groomed below palm trees and adjacent to lava flows.
The courses in Kapalua and Kaʻanapali are known for their ocean views in resort settings, as are the Blue Course and Emerald Course in Wailea, which have won awards for their design and play. These courses are about as good as it gets, but it will cost you somewhere in the $200-$300 range to play them (or more). But, guests who are staying at nearby resorts receive a discount on the greens fees, so if you plan to play a lot of golf, you may want to look into a stay and play option. For example, non-resort guests pay $205 at the Kaʻanapali Kai Course, but resort guests pay only $139.
There are a handful of local, public courses sprinkled elsewhere around the island, such Kalihi Golf Course, the Dunes at Maui Lani, and Waiehu Municipal Golf Course, among others. Rates at these public courses not associated with resorts are much more affordable, with greens fees often less than $100.
Upcountry Maui – that is, the towns located on the lush, volcanic slopes of Haleakalā – are riddled with small farms and ranch land, including local food, flowers, herbs, and even a winery. As you’ll see as you explore the island, the main valley of Maui is also home to many farms and fields, including pineapple and sunflowers.
Given that Hawaiʻi is one of the most isolated island chains in the world, how it manages its food production and supply is often an interest of visitors. Since it became part of the United States, Hawaiʻi has imported close to 100% of its food. But in recent years, farmers have been trying to reestablish a locally-sourced food chain. Below are some tours we recommend if you’re interested in learning more about Maui’s agriculture and local food production, both past and present:
- Oʻo Farms: Located at 3,500 feet above sea level, Oʻo Farms supplies local restaurants with its local produce. For those interested in learning more about the local food production, the lunch tour at Oʻo will literally give you a taste of what the island has to offer.
- Haliʻimaile Pineapple Tour: There’s a lot going on at Haliʻimaile Plantation, including a local distillery and tasting room. But the big draw here is still the pineapples, which have become nearly synonymous with Hawaiʻi. A tour of the growing fields will explain the industry’s deep connection to the islands and how it plans to move forward in the future.
- MauiGrown Coffee: It’s no secret that Hawaiʻi grows good coffee, and though the Big Island’s Kona District is most famous, every island produces its own coffee. A farm tour at MauiGrown Coffee provides a chance to sample different varieties and buy some as a souvenir or gift to take home.
- Aliʻi Kula Lavender Farm: See teh softer side of Maui at the Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Tours and family friendly activities explain how to best use lavender. Buy some to take home, and learn how to use it in recipes.
- Maui Dragon Fruit Farm: Come see this bright, colorful, exotic fruit’s unique growing process, and taste other locally-grown fruit on this hour-long, family-friendly tour.
- Surfing Goat Dairy: Love goat cheese and other dairy products? Meet the “surfing goats” and take part in the milking process before sampling locally-made cheese.
Between the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakalā and the jagged peaks of the jungle-covered West Maui Mountains, hikers will find a diverse range of trails to explore on Maui. You can hike through a red-sand crater at high altitude one day, then explore a beachside trail through old lava flows the next. Or, you can stick to the classic Hawaiʻi itinerary and make your way through the rainforest to waterfalls.
Hiking all the island has to offer will take several visits, but here are some hikes we recommend to get you started:
- Easy: The ʻIao Valley State Monument has a paved walking trail (.6 miles) that presents a view of the ʻIao Needle, a famous ridge formation in the uber-lush Iao Valley. It’s a great area for those who want to go into nature without getting their shoes dirty.
- Intermediate: The Pīpīwai Trail (4 miles roundtrip) is located on the backside of Haleakalā in the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park. It takes you through a jungle rainforest into a bamboo forest, ending at a 400-foot Waimoku Falls.
- Hard: The Sliding Sands Trail runs on for 11 miles through the Haleakalā Volcano summit area. It’s a wonderful introduction to the ecosystem of a volcanic crater, with cinder cones and red rock. It is completely exposed to the elements, including the harsh sun, strong wind, and cold air (temperatures can be near freezing at the summit), so be sure to bring sun protection, plenty of water, and snacks.
See our list of our 15 favorite hikes on Maui, where we break them down into groups of 5 easy, 5 intermediate, and 5 advanced hikes.
The towns of Upcountry Maui, located upon the slopes of Haleakalā, are home to the “Paniolo,” or Hawaiian cowboy, culture in Hawaiʻi. The history of Hawaiians becoming cowboys dates back to the 1800s, when vaqueros from California were brought to the islands to teach locals how to rope, ride, and run a ranch.
It’s possible to experience this slice of culture and history when visiting an upcountry town like Makawao, which was built around ranching, plantation, and paniolo culture.
Horseback riding tours are also a great way to learn more about ranching in modern-day Hawaiʻi. When combined with ocean or mountain scenery, the rides are a fun, family-friendly outdoor option that allow you to explore the land and see how ranching still plays a major role in Hawaiʻi’s economy and lifestyle. For this reason, we recommend choosing an outfitter that is associated with an actual ranch. This ensures the horses are well cared for, and allows you to learn about the historical and cultural component directly from the source.
Some horseback tours we recommend are:
- West Maui: Ironwood Ranch is located high in the West Maui Mountains above Napili, between Kaʻanapali and Kapalua. The rides take you through the highlands, including tropical valleys, pineapple fields, and ironwood forests. The routes on the mountainside offer views overlooking the island and ocean. Sunset tours are also available.
- South Maui: Makena Stables takes visitors on rides through Ulupalakua Ranch, which overlooks the southwest coast of Maui, including La Perouse Bay. If conditions permit, you may be able to ride on the sandy beach for a photo opportunity. Ask when booking.
- Upcountry Maui: Piʻiholo Ranch is a full equestrian center outside of Makawao. It offers a unique 2.5-hour tour that combines horseback riding and ranch participation. Ride through the open pastures with views of the ocean and Haleakalā, then take part in cattle sorting and other day-to-day ranch activities.
- North Shore: Mendes Ranch is located on the western part of the north shore outside of Wailuku. Its rides explore its ranch but also take you down to the coast, where you can overlook the rocky coastline of northern Maui.
If you’re looking for evening entertainment that celebrates Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, then a lūʻau is right up your alley. Full of storytelling and dance, the performances take place around sunset and bring you on a journey back in time to retrace the ancestral history of the islands. The live shows are typically accompanied by a pig roast and all-you-can-eat buffet, and some include an open bar. Audience participation is part of the show as well.
Lūʻaus in Hawaiʻi vary in their authenticity and food quality, but overall, they offer a family-friendly environment and provide a chance to try Hawaiian foods and digest its cultural history. There are many to choose from on Maui, but here are a few we recommend:
- Best Lūʻau for families: The Myths of Maui Lūʻau at the Royal Lāhainā Resort in Kaʻanapali offers an incredible view of the sunset and a fire dancing performance that kids are sure to enjoy.
- Best Lūʻau for foodies: The Feast at Lele Luau in Lāhainā has the most comprehensive menu of all luaus, offering five courses from four different Polynesian nations: Hawaiʻi, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tahiti, and Samoa.
- Most Authentic Lūʻau: The Old Lāhainā Lūʻau has consistently been regarded as the most authentic on Maui for its attention to detail and quality of its music and dancing.
State Parks & Botanical Gardens
There are 8 state-run recreation areas (parks, monuments, waysides, etc.) on Maui that showcase and preserve the island’s natural beauty.
Some, like the infamous ʻĪao Valley State Monument – home of the ʻĪao Needle in the West Maui Mountains – are well known and get lots of visitation. Others remain overlooked and under-visited.
You can view a full list of state-run parks in Maui here, but here are a few we recommend (besides ʻĪao Valley).
- Adventure Hiking: The forests and trails of Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area in the high elevations of Haleakalā are a lesser-known treat, often immersed in clouds. Adventurers looking to get off the beaten path should check out this area, which also has a cabin and campground.
- Beach and Swimming: Mākena State Park, located in southwest Maui, is a beautiful, sprawling white-sand beach located amongst old cinder cones.
- Fishing, Beach Camping, and Black Sand: Wai’ānapanapa State Park in Hana will take some time to reach, but it’s a favorite amongst locals for fishing and camping. Visitors will love its rocky coastline and black-sand beach.
Botanical gardens often get overlooked in Hawaiʻi, probably because there’s so much beautiful scenery to be enjoyed all around, wherever you are on island. But flora lovers should make time to dig a little deeper. Botanical gardens in Maui offer a look at local Hawaiian plants that make up the changing, unique landscape.
- The Maui Nui Botanical Gardens offers guided tours of its seven-acre complex, which features both Hawaiian and Polynesian varietals. The tours provide a look into the natural history of Maui, including its conservation and cultural efforts.
- The Kula Botanical Gardens is located 3,300 feet above sea level on the slopes of Haleakalā. Started in 1968, it is 8 acres in size and features waterfalls, koi ponds, and high ocean views. There’s also orchid, fuchsia and bromeliad houses to go along with a bird sanctuary for the endangered Nene bird (Hawaiʻi’s state bird).
If you’re having trouble deciding what to do, jumping in the car and going for a drive is simple-yet-rewarding way to take in the beauty of the island and discover new places. In theory, every drive on Maui is a scenic drive, with ocean, mountain, and country views in abundance.
But there are two areas/loops in particular that are great to explore in road-trip fashion. Here’s what we recommend:
- Road to Hana: The most scenic and dramatic drive in all of Hawaiʻi, the Road to Hana is a drive most people make when they come to Maui, exploring overlooks, waterfalls, and dense jungle along the way. See our guide to the Road to Hana for the full details.
- Northwest Maui Loop: Most people are familiar with the west side of Maui surrounding Lāhainā and Kaʻanapali. But the northwest side of Maui between Kapalua and Wailuku remains lesser explored, mostly because it doesn’t have a hub or town. The road in this part of the island hugs the coast and offers many chances to pull over for ocean views and its rolling, grassy volcanic hillsides.
Tip: You’ll want to take traffic into consideration when planning a scenic drive (i.e. don’t head out at rush hour).
Though not as popular as stargazing on the Big Island, Maui does offer visitors a unique window into the night sky from the slopes of Haleakalā. As one of the most isolated island chains in the world, the conditions are perfect for viewing the night sky, and a tour can help bring it to life.
You can drive to the summit to see for yourself, but jumping on a tour is also convenient. Most tours begin before sunset and offer narration of both the National Park and the night sky, including the use of telescopes. Check out the tours from Maui Stargazing, Maui Astronomy Tours, or Robert’s Hawaiʻi.
Volunteering while on vacation? Sounds strange at first, but if you’re looking to connect with the local community, there’s no better way than taking a half day to help a local organization with a project. In many cases, the volunteer experience offers exclusive access to a site, as well as the chance to meet and mingle with residents. You can find many opportunities for volunteering on the GoHawaii website, or the Hands on Maui Volunteer Center.
The Sanctuary Ocean Count
During whale season, there’s a special opportunity to go whale watching and help scientists count whales.
The Sanctuary Ocean Count is organized during peak whale season (November-April) and helps scientists get a snapshot of humpback whale sightings off the coast of Maui (and the other islands as well). You must register to participate, and then you can help document sightings and behavior. The days change each year, so be sure to check the link above for the latest updates.
Maui’s north shore and east coast are loaded with waterfalls. In fact, they are the main draw of the Road to Hana, pouring out of the jungles and down the cliffs into the ocean.
The waterfalls differ in size, ease of access, and swimmability. Below are some recommendations of waterfalls to visit:
- Best for ease of access/swimming: Twin Falls. It’s easy to access from the road via hike of just a little more than a mile, and there’s a large pool for swimming at the bottom of the falls.
- Biggest: Honokohau Falls drops about 1,100 feet, but unfortunately it is not accessible via foot. To see it, you must take a helicopter tour.
- Best for Families: The Seven Scared Pools, also known as Pools of Oheʻo, are located on the backside of Haleakalā in the Kīpahulu District. They are easily viewed from the cliffs above. You can also hike the nearby Pīpīwai Trail through a bamboo forest to end up at the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. For families, it’s easy to spend a half day or more exploring this area.
Ziplining is a popular activity for all-age groups, combining adventure, adrenaline, and scenic beauty. There are a number of options on Maui, and below, we highlight the differences between the zipline tours. Be sure to check each individual outfitter before booking about their restrictions on weight and age.
|# of lines:||Best for:||Starting Price:||Duration:|
|Maui Zipline||5||Families/Value||$125||1.5 hours|
|Skyline Hawaii – Kaʻanapali Zipline Tours||16 (11 in Kaʻanapali, 5 at Haleakalā)||Adventurers||$110||1.5 – 4 hours|
|Kapalua Ziplines||7||Ocean Views||$180||2.5-3.5 hours|
|Jungle Zipline||8||Jungle scenery||$135||2 hours|
Land activities on Kauaʻi and Oʻahu
We have made similar overviews of the land activities on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi in which we list the respective highlights for the islands and give a few recommendations for tour operators. Make sure to check those out if your trip takes you to one of those islands: