Take a Road Trip to See the Island
I cringe when I see people's vacation photos of Maui and they're all from the resort. To experience Maui you've got to get into that car and drive around the island. From the crazy volcano that will literally take your breath away (elevation 10,000 feet) to a drive into the jungle on the Road to Hana, Maui offers travelers a myriad of sights and experience that are unequaled. Best yet, these are FREE activities. Let's go explore Maui!
Visit a Volcano that Looks Like the Moon
Crazy moon-like volcano
This is one nutty volcano! No, you don't see lava spewing out like you would on the Big Island but you'd swear you landed on the moon. This is no exaggeration, there's no other place like this on Earth.
Lots of people come here for the sunrise, a near religious experience and not too bad if the time zone difference works in your favor. Grab that blanket from the hotel - it's freezing cold there in the morning.
Once there you can hike into the volcano but most people snap a few photos and then head over to the beautiful Ali'i Kula lavender farm or stop in at Paia Town, a trippy little hippy town with shops and restaurants, or combine it with an afternoon in Upcountry. Adventure types will want to check out a bike trip down the volcano, 26 miles and nearly all downhill, they'll take you to the top and away you go.
See What Got Everyone So Excited About Maui in the First Place
THE ROAD TO HANA
FULL DAY DRIVE INTO THE JUNGLE
Don't listen to those people who tell you not to drive the Road to Hana. Anyone who doesn't come away raving about this day long drive into the tropical jungle probably didn't take my advice and purchase the CD guide for their car.
With the CD you'll find the hidden waterfalls and pools, some right off the road, along with jaw dropping views of the coastline. Without the guide you'll see lots of traffic on a winding road with screaming kids (and wife) begging you to turn around.
The Road to Hana is all about the journey, not the destination town of Hana. Wear good shoes and a swimsuit, bring insect repellant and a towel, and be rewarded with stunningly beautiful waterfalls and lush green tropical scenery. Start your day early to avoid the crowds and bring a change of clothes so you can end your day at the wonderful Mama's Fish House. Remember, Hana and the "7 Sacred Pools" is a great destination but it's not the goal of the Road to Hana, it's the journey along the way.
TIP: Some like to drive straight to Hana and then turn around and stop at the sights on the way back, which is pretty smart because the worst part of the Hana adventure is the drive back to the resort.
See the Sights and Shop for Trinkets in a Historic Whaling Town
TOURISTY HISTORIC TOWN
I like Lahaina Town but like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, a little goes a long ways. Sure, it's an authentic old whaling town with lots of cool history but it also gets a bit too touristy with the junky trinket stores and t-shirt shops and NO, I DO NOT WANT TO BUY A TIMESHARE!
That said, there is something charming about Lahaina Town. Come early in the day before the crowds and it's almost serene or arrive after dark and you can almost sense what it was like when it was a rowdy port town filled with rum drinking pirates. The giant Banyon Tree is pretty amazing and the ABC stores are where you can find the best cheap souvenir T-shirts. Good for a side trip and an essential part of any Maui vacation but dangerously close to tourist trap territory.
Discover a Different Side of Maui
Country living, Maui Style
Visiting Upcountry Maui isn't a big adventure, it's a peaceful drive in the country through groves of redwoods and eucalyptus trees and into stunning views of lavender fields and rustic scenery.
Combine this with your trip to Haleakala Volcano or just get away from the beach and resort and go explore a part of Maui that's often missed by busy tourists. Take a stroll through the Upcountry Farmers Market to buy fresh local fruit, it's that sort of adventure.
Get Up Close and Personal with a Blowhole
Beautiful Drive to the North Tip of Maui
In some ways the drive to the northwest tip of Maui is as rewarding as the Road to Hana - and a lot quicker. You'll pass pristine snorkel spots like Honolua Bay and beautiful spans of undeveloped coastline that will take your breath away.
You'll also find the Nakale Blowhole, a great place to put on your hiking shoes to get a closer look. But not too close as blowholes have a nasty habit of sucking you in and depositing you out into the ocean, not a good vacation experience and often fatal. Don't be chicken, take the short hike and check it out as it's pretty darn amazing to see the surf shooting out of a hole like a giant angry whale that you just poked with a stick.
Take the Shortest Hike Ever into Stunning Beauty
Iao Valley national park
historic location of the battle for maui at Iao Needle
Glance at your phone and if all of your photos are of you holding a Mai Tai then get off that lounger and head to the Iao Valley State Park where a short hike into the tropical jungle yields impressive photos that makes it look like you hiked all day. Look at you now!
Located near the airport, take the paved .6 mile path to see rushing streams and rising peaks, including the impressive Iao Needle, and learn a bit about the bloody battle for Maui (which has evolved into the bloody battle for a parking space so come early). See it all in about an hour, a great side destination and perfect for those with exercise-intolerance.
Get Your Nude On at a Local Beach
Big and Little Beach
Which one is the nude beach?
Remember this - Little Beach is nude, Big Beach is not. Little, nude. Big, not. Got that? Good because I don't want any emails complaining that I warped little Johnnie for life because you went to the wrong beach.
Both beaches are located in the south area of Wailea and are true local beaches. It's great to look behind you and see lush greenery rather than high rise resorts and you'll feel a bit less like a tourist lounging with the locals.
Limited food so pack in your own and make sure you bring an umbrella for shade. Oh, did I forget to tell you about the sharks? Yes, Big Beach does have a reputation for being shark friendly but the chances of you being the only one left in the water if a shark does show up are pretty slim - you're more likely to get a sunburn than a shark bite. Of course, if the lifeguard starts yelling like he's Chief Brody I'd listen to him.