Long before bucket lists became a baby boomer obsession, I inadvertently knocked a whopper off of mine by viewing sunrise from the crater rim of Haleakala, Maui’s highest volcanic peak at just over 10,000 feet. Although I was vaguely aware that Haleakala translates to “house of the sun” in Hawaiian, I had no idea what that meant as my teenage brother and I navigated our rental car from Lahaina up the winding dormant volcano in pitch darkness.
As dawn approached, the interplay of morning clouds with enormous volcanic cinder cones inside the vast crater was as close to interplanetary travel as one is likely to get on this big blue ball. Sunrise was absolutely unforgettable–but more importantly just then, warming, as beach wear doesn’t come close to cutting it at 10,000 feet!
Welcome to Maui, the perfect “tweener” of Hawaii’s six major islands. Situated between the more populous city vibe of Oahu and the vastness of the appropriately-nicknamed Big Island of Hawaii, Maui offers a bit of both, with extra helpings of the marine, rain forest and waterfall scenery that bring mainlanders (and bucket listers) flocking. Once you deplane at Kahului Airport (OOG) and arrive at the resort of your choosing, the hardest part of a Maui stay is saying goodbye at the end.
Here are 10 excellent ways to while away your days on the Valley Isle.
Banyan Tree Park: You may have come to Maui for the palm trees, but you’ll leave treasuring a certain lone banyan, planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission to Hawaii, which now provides shade to more than a half-acre central arts and crafts park.
The road to Hana: A pilgrimage of sorts for Maui visitors, this twisty 50-mile stretch of east coast awesomeness is well worth the hours you’ll spend working your way through it. Why so slow? Half your fellow travelers are pausing at the lovely waterfalls along the way, especially…
O’heo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools): Whatever name you choose to refer to this jaw-dropping collection of accessible, interconnected waterfalls and pools, you’ll be glad you visited. The swimming is lovely but be warned: jumping from these falls, as some do, can win you a selfie in the ER.
Ka’anapali Beach: If you prefer to park your beach towel close to shops and restaurants, this popular mile-long west coast strand won’t disappoint, with seven resorts, Whaler’s Village Mall and even a strand for sunset toasting close by. Added pluses: cliff jumping (or watching) at Black Rock, and whale watching from the beach.
Iao Valley and Needle: One of the wettest places on earth, the lush Iao (EE-ow) rain forest and its distinctive 1,200-foot green-covered “needle” peak of volcanic rock, created by erosion of neighboring soils over centuries, was closed in 2016 following severe flooding. It may partially reopen as early as this summer.
Nakalele blowhole: This spray crown off of Highway 30 on the North Shore can best be appreciated when surf and wind conditions are up. You can see it from above, but for full immersion, most tread down some pretty rough terrain, so properly-soled shoes are a must.
Atlantis Submarine Adventure: Thrill those restless minors among you with a 50-minute cruise aboard a 48-passenger, air-conditioned submarine, which descends to a depth of 110 feet for up-close views of reef sharks and other marine exotica. Departs hourly from Lahaina Marina. Cost: $105 adults; $38 children 12 and under.
Lahaina Front Street: There’s something faintly whaling village-esque about Lahaina’s funky oceanfront assemblage of tourist shops. After a brief stroll to pique an appetite, settle into a memorable meal beneath the signature pressed-tin ceilings of…
Lahaina Grill: Considered one of the prettiest freestanding restaurants on Maui, Lahaina Grill serves up surf and turf favorites with flair in an informal, beach house atmosphere, thanks to the vibrant original artwork of Maui’s premier colorist, Jan Kasprzycki, that hangs throughout.
Fleetwood’s on Front Street: What better way to toast another day in paradise than with a visit to a live music pub and restaurant owned by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mick Fleetwood, eh? No promises that the drummer and co-founder of Fleetwood Mac will greet you at the door, but you can depend on enjoying some tasty bands, as well as a Scottish piper at sunset four days a week.
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