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With its world-famous beaches, stunning natural landscapes, and rich Hawaiian culture, the island of Maui has rightfully earned its nickname as the “Valley Isle.” If you’re wondering what there is to see and do during a visit, Maui offers no shortage of unique attractions and quintessential Hawaiian experiences that call travelers back year after year.

In short, Maui is best known for its miles of beautiful beaches, the epic Haleakala volcano, the iconic Road to Hana drive with abundant waterfalls, as well as Hawaiian culture including luau feasts and hula dancing.


Extensive Beaches and Resorts Along Maui’s Western Shores

Maui’s western shores are home to over 30 miles of gorgeous sandy beaches lined with luxury resorts and condos. Popular spots like Ka’anapali, Lahaina, Napili, and Kapalua offer soft white sand, gentle surf, and stunning sunsets over the Pacific.

Many consider Ka’anapali Beach one of the best beaches in Hawaii with its calm waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Lahaina is more lively with shops and restaurants within walking distance from the beach. Those seeking a quieter experience can head to Napili and Kapalua a bit further north.

White Sand Beaches on South Maui

The leeward side of Maui boasts over 15 miles of stunning white sand beaches with calm, clear waters and gentle waves. Top spots like Wailea Beach, Makena Beach, and Ulua Beach are postcard-perfect with swaying palms and views of Molokini crater and Kahoʻolawe offshore.

The Wailea coastline is home to many resorts and oceanfront condos. The beaches here are popular for swimming, snorkeling tours, stand up paddleboarding, and whale watching in winter. Those wanting a quieter experience can venture down to Makena with its wide stretches of sand.

Dynamic North Shore Beaches

Maui’s North Shore is beloved for its wild natural beauty, big wave surfing, and quiet country charm. Top beaches like Ho’okipa, Baldwin, Pa’ia, and Kanaha feature stunning backdrops of verdant cliffs and views of Moloka’i offshore.

Winter is big wave season with 30-50 foot swells rolling in, attracting surfers from around the world. The vibe here is more laid-back compared to the busy resort areas. Ho’okipa and Baldwin are popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers thanks to consistent tradewinds.

And Kanaha Beach Park hosts major kiteboarding events. Pa’ia town is a funky surf community with boutiques, cafes, and organic eateries.

Underrated Beaches on the East Side

Maui’s eastern coastline is more remote but rewards those who make the drive with beautiful beaches in serene settings. Hamoa Beach is a half-moon shaped sandy cove with calm turquoise waters perfect for swimming—author James Michener once called it the most beautiful beach in the Pacific.

Just north is Koki Beach, a tiny secluded stretch backed by cliffs and coconut palms. And the road to Hana offers small gems like Wai’anapanapa State Park with its striking black sand beach and cave. Those craving an off-the-beaten-path experience will love these spots.

Haleakala National Park

Sunrise from the Summit

One of the top attractions at Haleakala National Park is witnessing a breathtaking sunrise from the summit of the dormant volcano. Many visitors and locals alike make the early morning trip up the 10,000-foot peak to view the first rays of light cascade over the enormous crater below.

The sunrise here has been described by many as spiritual, energizing, and unforgettable.

The best chances for clear skies are during summer and early fall. However, sunrise viewings can be spectacular year-round if Lady Luck allows. Most visitors start the one-hour drive from sea level around 3 am to arrive before daybreak.

Dress warmly, as it can be below freezing at sunrise on the summit.

Hiking the Crater Floor

Once the morning light fully illuminates the interior of Haleakala Crater, an otherworldly landscape emerges. Contrasts between red, black, brown, green, and gray sand and rock make visitors feel as if they’ve landed on Mars.

Experiencing the crater floor firsthand via hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous is highly recommended.

For casual hikers and families, we suggest the 1-mile Keoneheʻeheʻe Trail (Sliding Sands Trail), which provides panoramic views into the crater. More adventurous trekkers will enjoy the 11.2-mile route from Halemauʻu Trailhead down Sliding Sands Trail across the crater floor and back out on Switchback Trail.

Refer to the National Park website for maps, current conditions, and safety tips before attempting a crater hike.

Upcountry Exploring

The summit of Haleakala resides within Haleakala National Park, but a large portion of the massive shield volcano slopes down into Upcountry Maui. Here one finds ranch lands, small agricultural towns like Kula and Makawao, and numerous things to see and do away from the beach.

Some of Maui’s finest farms offer tours and tastings in Upcountry, like Surfing Goat Dairy with its award-winning goat cheese and O’o Farm Coffee with exceptional 100% Maui coffee beans

The area also boasts lavender farms, protea farms, and the island’s only commercial vineyards. For some of Maui’s most jaw-dropping views, take a scenic drive along the remote Piʻilani Highway past the town of Kipahulu near Haleakala’s southeast boundary.

Road to Hana and Waterfalls

The Famed Hana Highway Drive

The spectacular Road to Hana is one of Maui’s top attractions, offering stunning ocean views, lush rainforests, and an abundance of waterfalls along the way. This famous highway stretches for around 64 miles along Maui’s northeastern coast, with over 600 twists and turns that zigzag through tropical valleys and past rugged sea cliffs (Go Hawaii).

The drive takes at least 3 hours one way without stops. Most visitors make it a full day road trip with plenty of stops to take in the sights. Top highlights along the Hana Highway include:

  • Twin Falls with its beautiful pools and waterfalls
  • The Garden of Eden Arboretum with over 500 plant species
  • Wailua Valley Lookout with views of waterfalls cascading down steep cliffs
  • The famous black sand beach at Waiʻānapanapa State Park

This curvy road is not for the faint of heart though. Parts of it are very narrow with steep drop offs and limited guardrails. Driving carefully and cautiously is a must. Many visitors opt to take guided van tours instead of driving themselves.

Abundant Waterfalls

One of the things Maui is most renowned for is its abundance of breathtaking waterfalls. There are estimated to be over 120 waterfalls throughout the island, with many concentrated along the Road to Hana and in the lush region of east Maui.

Some of Maui’s most spectacular waterfalls include:

  • ʻOheʻo Gulch (also known as Seven Sacred Pools) with its series of cascading pools falling into the ocean
  • 400-foot Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakalā National Park
  • The majestic colls of Puohokamoa Falls plunging down steep cliffs
  • The trio of waterfalls at Three Bears Falls with its easy roadside access

Many of these waterfalls flow year-round while others are seasonal, fed by the plentiful rainfall on the Road to Hana side of the island. Visiting after a rainstorm guarantees the most dramatic waterfall views (Hawaii Guide).

Hana Town

The town of Hāna is situated at the end of the scenic Hana Highway. This isolated rural town has a population of under 2000 residents and retains a remote unspoiled feel. Top attractions here include:

  • Red Sand Beach, a starkly beautiful cove rimmed in crimson sand
  • Wananalua Congregational Church, a historic coral and mortar church built in 1838
  • Hāna Cultural Center & Museum with rotating exhibits on the area’s history
  • Hāna Bay, the calm sheltered bay fronting the town

Hana town has limited services so most visitors continue driving the full loop back around Haleakala, rather than backtracking the same Highway. This adds an additional 2-3 hours but showcases even more of Maui’s beauty.

Hawaiian Culture and Luau

Lahaina and Whaling History

The historic whaling town of Lahaina offers a window into 19th century Hawaiian culture and history. During the 1800s, Lahaina was the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom and a bustling center of the whaling industry.

Today, the Lahaina Historic District allows visitors to step back in time with its preserved brick buildings, galleries, and museums depicting the era of whaling and Hawaiian monarchy.

At the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Whalers Village Museum, you can learn more about the rich cultural history of whaling and its impact on Lahaina. Don’t miss the famous Banyan Tree in the center of town which was planted in 1873 – it now shades almost an entire acre with its sprawling branches!

Evening Luaus with Entertainment

No trip to Hawaii is complete without attending a lively Polynesian luau featuring delectable Hawaiian food, traditional dances, music, and more. Maui offers multiple luau options nearly every evening.

The feast generally includes kalua pig roasted underground, lomi salmon, poke, poi, haupia (coconut pudding), and tropical cocktails.

Family-friendly luau shows like the Old Lahaina Luau and Fete Hawaii integrate Hawaiian history and breathtaking displays of hula and fire dancing. For smaller, more intimate luaus focusing solely on the food and culture, check out an oceanfront venue like Makena Grill or Honu Seafood and Pizza.


With its incredible diversity of landscapes, activities and attractions – from world-famous beaches to the tallest sea mountains, luxury resorts to lush rainforests, historic towns to vibrant modern cities – Maui has secured its reputation as one of the most unforgettable destinations Hawaii has to offer.

Whether you’re looking to relax under a palm tree, embark on an outdoor adventure, or immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture, Maui has it all. The island offers memorable one-of-a-kind experiences you won’t find anywhere else. No wonder visitors can’t get enough of the magic of Maui!

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