Sights And Activities*


Just arrived? Pick up your share of free propaganda (maps, brochures, rack cards, etc) from the brochure racks at the airport (in the baggage claim area), in your hotel, at shopping centers, or on the streets of Lahaina or Kihei. Most of these magazine-type brochures are brimming over with advertising, but there is some useful information (maps, coupons, directions) if you dig deep.

Got a kitchen? Many visitors make a quick stop at Costco (first shopping center on the left as you exit the airport complex) for their goods. But even without, its a good idea to stock up on pop, chips, sunscreen, beach chairs, and other essentials at Safeway grocery store (Lahaina Cannery Mall or Kihei), Wal-Mart (Kahului, near airport), Longs Drugstore (Lahaina Cannery or Kihei, Kahului) avoid Star Market (Honokowai Marketplace or Kihei), ABC (many shopping areas), or Whalers General Store (in many strip malls). After making the long trip to Hawaii, groceries can get a little expensive (in the range of 40% higher). 

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When most people think of Maui, they think of beaches. Here's what you need to know: All beaches in Hawaii are public.

Kamaole III Beach is the best beach in Kihei. Kihei is a town crowded with condos, most of which are across the street from the beaches, rather than being ocean-front. It's a good place for families on a budget that does not allow staying at the big resort hotels.

Keawakapu Beach is a less crowded beach where Kihei meets Wailea.

Polo Beach, located next to the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea is a great stretch of sand.

Big Beach (Makena Beach) is a huge stretch of undeveloped (for now...) beach lying at the southernmost area past Wailea. 

Kapalua Beach is roughly translated (according to some) as “arms embracing the sea”, referring to the protective shape of the bay and the calm waters that invite swimmers. Public parking is available (but tricky to find) next to the Sea House restaurant. Look for the blue "Beach Access" sign off Lower Honoapiilani Road in Kapalua, just north of the Napili Kai resort. You can also park in the parking structure for the Kapalua Bay Shops and walk behind the hotel and down to the beach.

Kaanapali Beach offers four great resort hotels (Sheraton, Westin, Marriott, Hyatt), a couple older hotels (Kaanapali Beach, Royal Lahaina), two major condos (Kaanapali Alii, Whaler), a shopping center (Whaler's Village), and a couple very good restaurants (Hula Grill and Leilani's) are located on this beach. There's a great snorkel spot at Black Rock (in front of the Sheraton). There are booths to rent all sorts of water equipment, and many boat tours pick you up right on the beach.

Baby Beach has much calmer waters than most other beaches, because an offshore breakwater blocks many of the big waves from reaching the shore. This makes it a good place for children to go in the ocean, though even here they of course need adult supervision. Baby Beach is in the north part of Lahaina. Park on Kai Pali Street, just off of Front Street.

Ho'okipa Beach Park is the place to watch kitesurfing and windsurfing, but stick to spectating if you're not particularly adept at the sport. The waves are too rough for swimming and make for great aerial tricks by the talented riders. It's on the Hana Highway just past Paia, on the north shore.

Never leave anything of value in your car or on the beach, since theft from beaches and rental cars does occur. Most Maui beaches have no lifeguards. Whether they are present or not, swimming in the ocean can be dangerous. Coral is sharp (and fragile), people drown, animals bite. Rare as it is, its always good to be aware and respectful when in the ocean; swim at your own risk.

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Hawaii can be so much more than the postcards show. Rather than just skipping through the tourist traps, have a Hawaiian experience. Catch the Aloha Spirit. Learn about the Hawaiian people, land, and culture. The music and dance alone tell an interesting story.

The Aloha Spirit is the natural kindness and friendliness of the Hawaiian people.  Aloha doesn't just mean hello and goodbye, it means love. The love that the Hawaiian people have radiates from their smiles, and rises with the inflections in their voices. The people of Hawaii are the warmest and friendliest people you'll ever meet. They are happy to see you and to help you. They don't rudely rush through their days, they take their time and "go with the flow". Going against the natural flow of things can create a lot of stress, and that's no way to live! Act like a mirror and return that attitude and behavior toward the people you meet on Maui. Or better yet, create it, even where it doesn't yet exist, and you've done your part to beautify the environment. Learn a little of their ways and their lifestyle.  Take that spirit home with you and remember that you learned about this Aloha Spirit during your visit to Hawaii. In this way, your Hawaiian experience will last the rest of your life.

Before you come to Maui, do a little homework and read up on the history of this amazing place. How did plants, animals and eventually people find these islands, the most remote on Earth? While you are on Maui, learn about the people and about this land in which they live.  Try the local foods and drinks. Listen to the music. See the dance. Experience Hawaii. Attend the cultural talk by Clifford Naeole at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. (It's free to everyone on Fridays at 10:00 AM, but check availability and times by calling the Ritz at 669-6200). Take a walking tour of Lahaina (get the free booklet at brochure racks in Lahaina). Stop in at the museums and historic houses (Whaling Museum in Whaler's Village, Bailey House in Wailuku, and the Baldwin House in Lahaina). Learn about the environment at the Hawaii Nature Center on Iao Valley Road (phone 244-6500) and at the Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea (270-7000).  Speak a little Hawaiian; 

Mahalo=thank you 

mauka=toward the mountains 

'aina=the land 

keiki = children 

kokua=help, assistance 

makai=toward the ocean, 


ono=delicious (also a type of fish!) 


Remember that Hawaii is the 50th state, doesn't have its own money, and has all the same traffic laws as your hometown!

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There are sixteen beautiful golf courses on Maui. The Plantation Course at Kapalua (home of the PGA Mercedes Tournament), the Emerald course in Wailea, and the North course at Makena are favorites (and "plenty challenging"). 

You must have reservations at all of these popular courses, especially for the early morning tee times. Kapalua courses take reservations up to 4 days in advance or if you are a guest staying at Kapalua they allow a 7 day advance reservation. Call (808) 669-8044, they open at 6am, so call early for the best tee times. 5 day advance reservations at Wailea golf course: (808) 875-5111; and for Makena it's (808) 879-3344. Guests staying in Kapalua or Wailea usually get discounts on golf, but the cost of the accommodations evens everything out! 

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Lahaina is a must see during your Maui vacation. If not for the fun activities, dining, nightlife and shopping, than for the historic whaling sites. The beaches and the quaint small town atmosphere make for a rich experience. From Kaanapali Beach head four miles south and turn towards the water on Papalaua Street. This runs down to Front Street (along the water). Take a left and cruise Front Street for a while. From the airport or South Maui, take Route 30 west to Lahaina.

Lahaina is an old whaling port and tourist town loaded with many shops and restaurants.  Spend the day walking through Lahaina, shopping and snacking.  Rest under the giant Banyan tree (planted in 1873) at the south end of the shopping strip.  See the Pioneer Inn, the original Lahaina hotel, in use since the whaling days of the last century.  (The ten rooms at the Pioneer Inn were the only accommodations in West Maui until the first hotel on Kaanapali Beach was built in 1962). The most interesting shops to see are on Front Street, but the prices reflect the high rent! 

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The Iao Needle is a 2,250-foot tall natural rock formation in the center of the west half of Maui, about 20 miles from Lahaina.  The same road that winds up the hill through Wailuku (Main Street) takes you to the Needle. The scenery gets increasingly more lush and green as you ascend into the valley, and there are some interesting stops along the way. The park at the end of the road has restroom facilities, as well as paved pathways along the Iao stream. The hiking trail climbs up to a lookout with historic plaques offering insight into the historical (and brutal) past.

Before you reach the needle, you will pass:   

· Bailey House Museum (phone 244-3326) run by the Maui Historical Society.  Ancient Hawaiian artifacts, plus displays about the missionary times of the 1800's on Maui.  Admission $4.Open 10-4 Monday-Saturday.

· Tropical Gardens of Maui (phone 244-3085).  Amazing collection of tropical flora and fauna from around the world. Plant buffs will want to make the stop. Admission $3. Open 9-5 Monday-Saturday. 

· Hawaii Nature Center at 875 Iao Valley Road (phone 244-6500). Interesting modern museum, with historical information and artifacts. Admission $6. Open 10 AM-4 PM. 

· Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, adjacent to the Hawaii Nature Center. Look for the different architectural styles and gardens adjacent to one another. Free. Open 7 AM to 7 PM.  

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As you make your way to Lahaina and Kaanapali, you will travel around the south end of the West Maui mountain. The old stone path you see from time to time is the old Lahaina road (pre-1951). Keep an eye out for rainbows, whales (during winter) and waves, but keep one eye on the road. Numerous traffic accidents along the "Pali" (mountain trail) are due to too much sightseeing and not enough driving. 5 minutes past Lahaina is the Kaanapali Beach area.  All beaches in Hawaii are public, so you don't have to be staying at any of these resorts to go for a swim or frolic in the sand.

As the map shows, the road does go all the way around the West Maui mountain, but we advise against it. The road is extremely narrow and in poor condition, and is often closed due to congestion and traffic. Instead, start from the Wailuku side and go about as far as Kahakuloa to experience a unique side of Maui.

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Ask at your hotel or call Pacific Whale Foundation (879-6530) to find out the most convenient time and place to go out on a boat (Lahaina harbor and Maalaea harbor) to see whales breaching, blowing and bounding in the ocean (winter only). 

The humpback whales start arriving in Hawaii in late November, and most are gone by the beginning of April.  The number of whales are at their peak from January through March.  During those months, you can see whales almost every day. There are about 6500 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean, and about 1000 are around Maui and the nearby islands at any one time in the peak months of winter. 

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So much of Maui's beauty lies underwater. If you've snorkeled before, you'll surely want to give it a try on Maui. If you haven't, ask about lessons at your hotel.  A good place for your first snorkel is by Black Rock, next to the Sheraton Hotel on Kaanapali Beach.  A good place to take children for their first snorkel is Baby Beach, in Lahaina, because the water is usually calm at that beach.  (Baby Beach is in the north part of Lahaina.  Park on Kai Pali street, just off of Front Street.)  Other top snorkel spots on Maui are Mile Marker 14, south of Olowalu, though its so close to the highway it detracts from the experience. North of Lahaina, Kapalua Bay is a beautifully protected bay, and the marine preserve at Honolua Bay is great during the Summer ONLY). In South Maui, try Makena Landing, Big Beach (the rocks at the end of the beach), and Molokini. 

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Like to sleep in? Then skip this section! You can catch a the sun coming up over the horizon at the top of Haleakala (10,000 ft +) and yawn to tell about it!. It is beautiful, but bitingly cold as well (30 to 40 degrees at sunrise). Dress accordingly (heavy jacket, sweater, jeans, gloves, hat and anything else that looks warm) because you'll need it! You can drive yourself up to the stop, or take a tour, most are combinations of watching the sunrise and biking down afterwards. It takes about 2-3 hours to get to the top from West Maui, and is a twisty, turny experience. However, the view at the top will reward you with countless stars and an explosive sunrise. The sky radiates a wide palette of incredible colors (don't forget your camera). Off in the distance is the Big Island of Hawaii (The mountain on the left is Mauna Kea, and the right mountain is Mauna Loa.)  After sunrise, you stop at a couple observation points around the crater.  Then you drive down the mountain in daylight and get great views of the central Maui valley below.  When you get back to your hotel, go back to sleep until mid-afternoon.  (There is a small chance of overcast clouds at the top of Haleakala that could ruin the view some days.  Call 877-5111 for Maui weather.)  If you are from the east coast or the midwest, you might want to plan this sunrise trip to Haleakala for your first or second morning on Maui, when you will find yourself waking up very early because of the time-zone change.

On your way up to the top for sunrise, stop at one of the several pullover lookout points about half way up, and look at the beautiful stars in the pitch dark skies.

If you refuse to go up there for sunrise, the view at the top of Haleakala is also beautiful in the mid-day.  You'll still get to see the multicolored volcano crater (that last erupted in 1790) and the views of Maui's central valley.  Don't forget the heavy clothes, sweater, coat, scarf, gloves, etc., even in the daytime.  Call 572-4400 for Haleakala National Park info or see  Park admission $10 per car.  Free ranger talks in the summit building at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 AM. 

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"Upcountry" includes the small towns of Makawao, Pukalani, Haliimaile, Kula, Keokea and Ulupalakua. These cooler, temperate areas have a charm all their own; from the Paniolo (cowboy) charm of Makawao to the Redwood forests of Polipoli State Park above Kula. The view across the island are stunning and give you an idea of the incredible diversity that Maui has; not only with flora and fauna but folks too. It takes about an hour to drive to Upcountry from Kaanapali or Wailea.

Makawao is an interesting mix of art galleries and country stores. See glass blowing 10:30-4:00 most days at Hot Island Glass at 3620 Baldwin Avenue (call 572-4527 to confirm). Tired of fresh seafood? try a T-bone at Makawao Steak House (572-8711) or some fresh pasta at Casanova restaurant.

The best food in Upcountry is at the Haliimaile General Store (572-2666).  It's open for both lunch and dinner weekdays, but only for dinner on weekends.

There is also very good food at the Kula Lodge (878-1535), half way up the mountain, and you get a great view of the central valley from there.

There are three gardens in Upcountry that are open to the public.  The Enchanting Floral Gardens (878-2531) costs $5, is the best of the three gardens, and is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day.  It has a one-hour stroll through an extensive garden with a wide variety of tropical flowers and plants.  The Kula Botanical Garden (878-1715) costs $5 and is open from 9 AM to 4 PM every day.  It has a one-hour stroll through a somewhat more congested garden without as many bright flowers, but with a great variety of plants.  The Sunrise Protea Farm (878-2119) is free and always open (though the gift shop closes at 4 P.M.).  It has a 10-minute walk through a well-maintained tiny garden of multiple types of protea flowers.

As you continue driving further through Upcountry, stop for a cinnamon roll at Grandma's Coffee House in Keokea.  Then pass the Ulupalakua Ranch, and stop at the Tedeschi Vineyards (878-6058) for a free tour and wine tasting.  (Tours twice a day, at 10:30 and 1:30.)

After you look at the view down to Wailea and Kihei from the Tedeschi Vineyard, it's time to turn around and go back the way you came. (If you continue around the south side of Haleakala, you will get to a section with no paved road. Don't go there.) 

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This excellent aquarium opened in 1998 at the south end of  Maui's central valley. It takes about two hours to tour the exhibits about Maui's sea life, including live fish, sharks, turtles, rays, and others.  Ask about the AAA discount on admission if you're a member. They also offer a "shark dive" for certified Scuba divers. Call 270-7000 for information. 

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Question: what has 617 curves and 56 one-lane bridges, and is worth every one? The Hana Highway is truly one of a kind. The road to Hana, and the crater at the top of Haleakala, are probably the two most famous sights of Maui.  You can drive the road to Hana yourself, or take a tour in a van.  It is a long and difficult drive on a narrow winding mountain road, but you'll see amazing rainforests, waterfalls of various shapes and sizes, and dramatic sea cliffs. If you are planning on making the drive, leave your hotel by 8 A.M., and take a picnic lunch at several restaurants and delis that offer it. Most even rent you the cooler to take it in! CJs in West Maui has one, as well as Casa Mambo (formerly Picnics) (579-8021) at 30 Baldwin Avenue in the town of Paia, which you will pass along the way. Give yourself a good 6 hours to get to Hana (with stops to see scenery), and three hours to return (without stops).  If you are prone to motion sickness, do not read (not even the map) in your car or tour van.  Hana itself is just a quaint small village, isolated from the rest of Maui by the mountain road. There is nothing much to do there. As with many things, its the journey and not the destination, so take your time and experience all it has to offer.

If you have extra time, you can drive another 40 minutes beyond Hana to the beautiful Pools of Ohe'o, also called Ohe'o Gulch and (please don't call it the Seven Sacred Pools). There are dramatic waterfalls and cascading pools making their way to the ocean. You can even go for a dip to cool off in the clear stream water.

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If you drive south on Route 31, past the condos of Kihei and the resorts of Wailea, past the Maui Prince hotel in Makena, past Big Beach, the road becomes narrow.  Soon thereafter, you will find the road takes you over Maui's last lava flow.  In this eerie landscape, you can pull over, get out of your car, and walk on lava that came down from part-way up this side of Haleakala volcano in 1790.  (This flow did not come from the top of the crater, which last erupted 650 years previously.)  If you continue a little farther, the road ends at La Perouse Bay.

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Feel the need for steed? There are several horseback riding companies, including Ironwood Ranch in Napili 669-4991, (kind of slow and plodding, but beautiful pineapple field scenery), Mendes Ranch (good stuff) 871-5222, Pony Express (offers rides into Haleakala Crater, or shorter rides around Haleakala Ranch, 667-2200.

There are two ATV rental companies on Maui, offering adults a fun way to cruise around in a small group. The scenery is top notch and the trails well groomed. Maui ATV Tours 878-2889 or Haleakala ATV Tours 661-0288 .

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If you love Maui and want to learn more about what it was like before the white people arrived a couple hundred years ago, then this is the tour for you.  It is a guided tour, including a long drive and a 1-hour guided walk, that takes you to an isolated valley on the north side of West Maui, where there are no hotels or condos.  You will see unspoiled mountains and waterfalls.  You will hear about the way the native Hawaiian people lived, from the time their ancestors first arrived on these islands in about the year 500 A.D.  You will walk through taro farms, and meet some of the few remaining full-blooded Hawaiians, who want to preserve their cultural heritage.  You can't go here yourself, because it is on private land, so sign up for this 6-hour tour with Ekahi Tours by calling 877-9775.

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Maui Pineapple Company offers a 2½ hour tour of their pineapple fields in Kapalua (north of Kaanapali and Lahaina).  You will learn everything you ever wanted to know about pineapple growing, picking and eating; and that's the best part, eating a fresh "just-picked" pineapple. Call 669-8088 for information and reservations. 

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Maui is not known for an abundance of hiking trails, but if you look closely, you might find some you like. Most of the really great rainforest hikes aren't on the maps; and that's the idea. The kie around Waianapanapa State Park (black sand) is worth a stop. The hike to Waimoku Falls in Kipahulu (past Hana) is a must, and is located across the street from the parking lot at 'Oheo Gulch (don't refer to it as "7 Sacred Pools" or you'll get some sour glances!) Lahaina also has a hike over the "Pali" or cliffs. This is a 5-mile hike reaching almost 1,600 feet in elevation, with wonderful views of the mountains and ocean. To get to the trailhead, look for a small dirt parking lot just off the main road just past Mile Marker 11 on Hwy 30. It lets out in Maalea, so many people leave a car at the end of the trail. Call 871-2521 for information and a brochure about the sights along the Lahaina Pali Trail hike. The are also nice hikes in Polipoli State Park (6,000 feet elevation). Serious hikers may want to consider one of the many hiking trails and loops inside Haleakala Crater, its the closest thing to hiking on the moon. 

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There are several Hawaiian luau dinner shows available any evening.  They run the gamut from interesting, informative and entertaining to downright corny. The Old Lahaina Luau (Toll-free reservations phone 1-800-248-5828) is at the top of our list for authenticity and experience. The oceanfront location is across the street from the Lahaina Cannery Mall at 1251 Front Street.

Places to call to ask about luaus: 

    Old Lahaina Luau      667-1998   

    Maui Lu               879-5881 

    Royal Lahaina Hotel   661-3611 

Maui Prince Hotel   874-1111 

    Hyatt Regency Hotel   667-4420 

    Marriott Hotel        661-5828 

    Feast of Lele    667-5353 

  Renaissance Wailea Hotel  879-4900 

The luau at the Royal Lahaina Hotel is also quite good.  It has a good combination of authentic and touristy music and dance, with a beautiful sunset backdrop.  The luau at the Hyatt is more showy, with the Hawaiian music that all tourists love.

At the Old Lahaina Luau, and at the Feast at Lele, you are assigned to a reserved seat when you make your reservation, so the further in advance you buy your ticket, the closer you will sit to the stage.  For most other luaus, there are no reserved seats, so the earlier you arrive that evening, the closer to the stage you can choose to sit.

The Feast of Lele is more expensive than most other luaus, but its food is more elaborate and is served to you by waiters (instead of a buffet like the other luaus).  It has just 150 people in the audience and just 8 dancers in the cast, so it is much smaller than the others. 

For any luau, you can usually get a discount by calling direct (Never get tickets to anything from anyone who asks you to sit through a timeshare sales presentation.)

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Front Street in Lahaina 

           Little tourist shops for T-shirts and souvenirs and art

Whalers Village on Kaanapali Beach (661-4567) 

           Nicer tourist shops and restaurants (Prada, Gucci, etc)       

The Shops at Wailea (879-1991) 

           Upscale shops and restaurants in a beautiful modern open-air mall

The Cannery on the main road outside the north edge of Lahaina 

           Modern enclosed mall 

           Regular stores, tourist shops, restaurants, Long's Drugstore, and Safeway 24-hour supermarket

Lahaina Center at the north end of the Front Street (Lahaina) shopping district 

Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului (877-4325) 

           Sears and Macy's and about 90 other stores, plus food court 

           Biggest shopping center on Maui 

           Where Maui residents (not just tourists) shop

Hilo Hattie in Lahaina (667-7911) and Kihei (875-4545) 

There is one store on Maui that deserves its own special mention. Hilo Hattie may be tacky, but it's got good prices on all the clothes and souvenirs that you want to bring home from Maui.  An amazing 25% of all the visitors to Hawaii stop in at one of the Hilo Hattie stores on one of the islands some time during their visit.  After you get your free shell lei on arrival, you will be astounded at the huge selection of aloha shirts, dresses, costume jewelry, trinkets, candies, nuts, souvenirs and other Hawaiian-themed STUFF. 

Was there really such a person as Hilo Hattie?  Well, sort of.  Clarissa Haili (1901-1979) was a comic singer, one of whose songs in the 1940's was called "When Hilo Hattie Does the Hula Hop."  A clothing factory on the Big Island, named after the character Hilo Hattie, was bought in the 1960's by Jim Romig, a businessman from Washington state. He turned it into the company that exists today with large stores in several states besides Hawaii, and he is still the CEO of Hilo Hattie. 

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*Portions of this part of the Maui Guide are derived from "Jon's Maui Info" at
(Copyright © 1998-2018 Jon Blum. All rights reserved.)

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