Things to do in Maui

Top 12 Things to Do in Maui

When considering travel to distant places it’s especially helpful to plan your routes and proximities to activities, attractions and excursions in advance.

It pays to do some research on the types and locations of excursions you want to do to make the best use of your time.

Maui is a perfect example of a location which has a plethora of tours and attractions. But to travel between the areas of the island can take some time due to narrow roads and traffic.

So for a typical 7-10 day stay, you can most likely get in all the activities you are interested in on Maui and take in another island. Oahu being a another popular tourist destination. You can take a puddle jumper and be there in less than an hour.

Be sure to see our guide to Things To Do In Oahu.

Things to do in Maui at a Glance:

SnorkelingDeep Sea FishingZiplining
Scuba DivingKayakingBiking
ParasailingPaddle BoardingWindsurfing
Horse Back RidingSurfingHelicopter Tours
Paragliding

With our list of 12 fun and exciting activities we’re sure you’ll find something that suits you.

Things To Do In Maui

#1 Helicopter Tours

Helicopter Tours in Maui

When your looking for what to do in Maui, helicopter tours are truly a one-of-a-kind way to experience the beauty of Maui. In fact, there’s simply no better to way to appreciate the multitude of its unique geographic formations.

Many valleys, canyons, ridgelines, and hidden coves are simply inaccessible by other means and must be seen from the air. Expect a narrated adventure from your helicopter pilot-guide.

Not only will you enjoy taking in the view, you will gain a richer perspective of area’s geology, history, and culture.

Tours are offered in various areas on and around the island. Molokai, colloquially known as the “Friendly Island” lies to the northwest of Maui and boasts the highest cliff in the world, at a height of over 4,000 feet.

Sites on the Western side of Maui include Honokohau Falls, the tallest waterfall on the island; the vegetation-covered lava rainforest of Iao Valley State Park; and the Pailolo channel with Elephant Rock, an islet that resembles its namesake from an aerial view.

On the Eastern side, take in views of the Manawainui Valley, the Hana Rainforest, and the dormant volcano located in Haleakala National Park. A helicopter ride is no doubt one of the best things to do in Maui!

#2 Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Maui

If you looking for things to do in Maui with kids snorkeling is a popular activity which requires minimal skill. No worries if you’ve never tried it before or if you left your gear at home.

Tours abound and they all include gear rental as well as transportation to excellent snorkeling sites. Beginners can rest assured that tour boat captains are experienced in making sure first timers have a safe experience.

Two popular areas for snorkeling that are worth mentioning include the Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. These are merely a couple of noteworthy places.

Enjoy a spectacular snorkeling experience at the Molokini Crater, a volcanic caldera that rises from the sea. Inside the crescent-shaped formation you will find up to 200 different species of fish and other forms of marine life such as eels and manta rays.

En route to the crater, you may spot dolphins or sea turtles. This area is a protected preserve, so you can expect a crystalline marine environment.

As the name suggests, Turtle Town, is overrun with the enormous Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Swim among these gentle giants in a pristine marine environment.

Right off Maluaka Beach, this location is accessible without having to take a formally organized tour. Just be sure to bring a good snorkel mask so you can see all the beautiful sites!

#3 Parasailing

Parasailing in Maui

Parasailing allows you to experience the sensation of gliding while being suspended by a parachute-like sail. Because parasailing is a completely passive sport, you can immerse yourself fully to enjoy the exhilaration of soaring while gazing upon a clear horizon and beautiful blue water below.

Your guides will secure you safely in a harness that’s attached to a tow rope. You and your parasail will be be pulled by a motorized boat. This causes you to gradually float up to a height of about 38 stories.

Ride either solo or enjoy the thrill with some friends. Up to three people can ride together in tandem, weather conditions permitting.

Parasailing is located exclusively in West Maui, in Lahaina Harbor off Ka’anapali Beach. From this location you will enjoy breathtaking views of Maui and the neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai.

Due to the migration of humpback whales in this area, the season for parasailing season is limited to the months May through December. Of all the fun things to do in Maui, parasailing is at the top of your list!

#4 Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding in Maui

Maui has many natural areas to explore, some inaccessible on foot or by vehicle. You may prefer the idea of exploring a pristine beach or perhaps your preference is making your way through a thick, tropical jungle.

Independent from your ideal adventure, what better way to experience these places than on the back of a gentle giant?

Horseback riding is the perfect way to access those locations you may otherwise be unable to see. Small groups led by knowledgeable and friendly guides provides the opportunity to experience Maui’s varied landscapes in an intimate setting. Escape the usual tourist scenes to commune with nature in a unique way.

On the southwest shore of Maui, riding trails overlook the Ahihi Kinau Natural Reserve. From here there’s an amazing view of the outer islands and a spectacular view of the most recent lava flows.

Along the way to the shoreline, check out the local wildlife including Axis deer. As you approach La Perouse Bay, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and whales.

If woodsy is more your style, head north to the West Maui Forest Reserve area, where riding trails overlook plunging valleys and meander through expanses of pasture and forests.

#5 Surfing

Surfing in Maui

Seasoned surfers may want to brave the waves at Waikiki and the off the North Shore of Oahu. In particular, Ho’okipa Beach on Honolua Bay is a popular spot and known for attracting pro surfers.

Ho’okipa is the home to The Aloha Classic and Red Bull surfing competition. This area is popular for windsurfing as well.

“Tow-in-surfing” is a new surfing technique you may witness while you’re there where jet skis tow experienced surfers into large waves.

Surfing novices may consider catching a lesson or two at any of a number of surf schools. These schools abound in Western and Southern Maui.

With their off-the-beaten-track vibe, the following beaches boast conditions ideal for beginners: Kaanapali, Lahaina, and Kihei. Gently breaking waves create a perfect setting for first-timers and one of the top things to do in Maui.

#6 Windsurfing

Windsurfing in Maui

Maui basically has two seasons – a windy one and a wavy one. Summer is the windiest season when windsurfers can take advantage of the tropical trade-winds. Peak wind months are from May to December.

Kanaha Beach Park is the most popular in Maui for windsurfing, and with good reason. Nearby town, Kahului is one of the windiest places in the U.S., with wind averaging 13.7 mph per year.

#7 Paragliding

Paragliding in Maui

For those adventure-seekers who want to enjoy the freeing sensation of flight, paragliding is the ideal activity. From the slopes of of Mt. Haleakala, you will glide effortlessly as the wind sweeps you off the ground.

With the exception of waiting for the perfect wind conditions and a brief sprint, paragliding is quite effortless. When you feel your chute beginning to resist the wind- that’s your signal to sprint. Before you know it, you’ll be air-bound.

Those who shy away from heights may be hesitant to try paragliding. Surprisingly, though, first-timers say there is no sensation of falling and the experience is so exhilarating there’s no time to focus on your distance from the ground.

Novices will need to fly tandem with a certified instructor. Like SCUBA, formal training is necessary before a pilot can brave paragliding on their own. Flying tandem, you will be secured in a chair-like harness and accompanied by the instructor.

Proflyght is the sole full-time paragliding operator/school on Maui and has been giving lessons since 2002. They are located in the Maui Upcountry where they launch from Mt. Haleakala. Be assured you are in good hands with instructors who are U.S.H.P.A. certified.

#8 Ziplining

Ziplining in Maui

Ziplining may be the most effortless activity you can enjoy while in Maui; but don’t confuse effortlessness with boring. Ziplining is a thrilling experience where you’re transported between a series of platforms on a course made of cable.

These platforms are located at a decent height which allow the rider to zip from one to another, while at the same time, taking in amazing views from above.

Two notable places for ziplining include the North Shore and the Ka’anapali coastal region. From the North Shore you will zip over a tropical valley and through lush foliage.

The Ka’anapali coastal region offers amazing views of the coastline, the Pacific Ocean and outlying islands. While in the area, take advantage of exploring the Haleakala National Park. If your looking for some excitement, zip lining is one of the top Maui things to do.

#9 Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding in Maui

Paddleboarding has become an increasingly popular sport. As a low-impact activity, almost anyone can partake in it.

Standing atop a paddleboard, the rider has a unique vantage point; and this certainly is the case with paddleboarding in Maui. As you skim across the ocean’s surface, peer down to catch a glimpse of the varied sea life below.

The following three areas are well-known for good paddleboarding conditions.

Kapalua Bay – Kapalau Bay is home to a large c-shaped beach. The Bay is located on the northwest coast of Maui. It is fairly well- sheltered from the elements, and during most of the year rain and wind are rare, creating ideal conditions for a perfect paddle board experience. Given the absence of strong winds, this would be a great starting-off point for beginners.

Napili Bay – Another notable area for paddleboarding is Napili Bay. Located off the northwestern corner of the island, Napili Bay is slightly windier and rainier than other parts of the region. The challenges of this environment are best tackled by those paddleboarders who have some experience with the sport.

Kihei Beach – The gentle beach at Kihei is a favorite site for paddleboarding among both locals and tourists alike. During the humpback whale season (winter), whale-loving paddlers can see the gentle mammals offshore. Regional reefs are also accessible from Kihei.

#10 Kayaking

Kayaking in Maui

Regardless of whether you prefer venturing out on your own or you prefer a tour by a knowledgeable guide, exploring the area on kayak is one of the most serene ways to enjoy caves, craggy coastlines, and native marine life.

As an activity, kayaking is gentle on the ecosystem, allowing you to “leave no tracks”.

It’s also easy on paddlers, as just about anyone can maneuver a kayak. Kayaking is the perfect way for ANYBODY to get up close and personal with Maui’s diverse wildlife and geography.

One popular place for kayaking are the reefs of Turtle Town, an area off southwest Maui, where the Hawaiian Sea Turtle tends to congregate. Depending on the season, whales may be visible.

Honolua Bay – located off the Northwest coast of the island, paddlers can maneuver their kayaks along rocky sea cliffs. With its peaceful undisturbed beaches, this area is a little windier. This conservation area is teeming with fish. Lucky paddlers may even catch a glimpse of a manta ray or spinner dolphin.

Molokini Crater – For a more challenging paddle, check out Molokini Crater. Situated 3.5 miles from the coast, this volcanic caldera rose out of the sea approximately 230,000 years ago. The result of a volcanic eruption, this crater now serves as home to a myriad of sea and bird life.

#11 Fishing

DeepSea Fishing in Maui

Just as with most island activities, charters or tours, are available for hire. These services are located around the island. Popular places for launching a fishing trip include Kihei, Lahaina, and Kapalua.

Spear Fishing

Spearfishing, an ancient fishing technique, has been around for millenia. The activity can be done while free-diving, snorkelling, or scuba diving. With its warm, crystal clear water and an ocean teeming with fish, Maui is simply unparalleled for spearfishing.

“Spearfishing academies” will teach you to safely operate a speargun, and hopefully return to land with at least one good fish story.

Deep Sea Fishing

When your planning your Maui adventures, Deep Sea Fishing needs to be on your list. Reeling in a 500 pound Yellowfin Tuna makes for one exciting experience you won’t soon forget!

Other species commonly caught in the area include Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo and Marlin. Hiring a skilled captain, who is knowledgeable about local waters and tuned into weather conditions, is your best bet for having a successful fishing experience.

#12 Biking

Biking in Maui

Seeing Maui by bike is a no-brainer. Rentals are affordable and biking allows you to experience the island’s diverse terrain up front and personal. Trails abound for riders of all skill-level.

Several tour operators offer the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the sunrise from atop the dormant Haleakala volcano in the Haleakala National Park.

After witnessing the sun rise magnificently from the Pacific Ocean, you and your bikes will be transported to a trail from where you can make a 23 mile down-hill ride.

Mountain bikers may consider the Mamane Trail, a mountain singletrack in a cloud forest on the southwestern slopes of Haleakala. Some technical skill is needed on this and the nearby Skyline Trail, as the lava gravel can get sketchy in certain areas.

Another area popular with mountain bikers is located in The Makawao Forest Reserve. This reserve is situated in the center of the island, boasting well-maintained trails in a wonderful, cool forest setting. It’s many jumps and gently sloped long climbs provide a fun challenge.

Those interested in archaeology will enjoy the Olowalu Petroglyphs Trail. This trail begins in Lahaina and heads south toward Olowalu. Along this trail you will see around 70 petroglyphs that are about 300 years old.

#13 SCUBA Diving

Scuba Diving in Maui

Maui’s Southwest coast, in particular the Molokini marine sanctuary, is a favorite for scuba diving. The backside of the Molokini volcano crater is a vertical wall that drops to 300′ and offers nice sloping ridges that run from snorkeling depth down to more than 130 ft.

Nearby is Moku Ho’onani Rock, a place where Scalloped Hammerhead sharks, manta rays, pods of spinner dolphins, the rare Hawaiian Monk Seal, or Galapagos sharks may be spotted.

Located off the south shore of Lanai, is an area with more than 25 dive sites. These sites are characterized by unique formations such as lava bubbles, lava tubes, arches, and swim-throughs. Two lava domes are known as the First and Second Cathedrals, named for the phenomenal spectacle of light cascading through various apertures in the domes.

In the waters off Lahaina, The Carthaginian Sailing Ship rests at a depth of 97 feet. The sinking of this vessel 23 years ago resulted in the creation of an artificial reef. It makes for an intriguing dive, as the “reef” attracts a diverse collection of underwater marine life and coral.

Originally we wanted to create a top 10 things to do in Maui list but we would have left off some activities that you shouldn’t miss!

We hope this guide was helpful for finding things to do in Maui to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend an activity I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and enjoy your trip!

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About El Tigre

Richard M. aka El Tigre is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. In the summer of 2004 he lived among the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands in Panama. Today, he manages a real estate investments company based in San Jose, Costa Rica and organizes adventure travel excursions to Costa Rica. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys sport touring and dual-sport riding. Richard lives in Arizona.