Here are some top five things to do in Maui on a first visit.
Maui is a larger island than most people think. It’s hard to get a grasp on it’s size and all that there is to do unless you’ve been there. And even if you have been there once or twice it always seems like there are still some things that you’d like to do but didn’t get a chance to do. This is why Maui has such a high return rate …. there is always something new to discover!
I have lived on Maui as a professional photographer for the last two decades. It can be much like a lot of places in that to live here you have to work hard. But when friends or family come to visit that is the time I truly enjoy where I live. They often ask if I’m a tour guide because of all the info I share with them. I say “no, but I play one on TV”. Ha! Maui has so much to offer that I’ve tried to narrow it down to a hand full of island highlights. You know, things you gotta see on your first visit and things to do on a return trip.
Road to Hana
I have been going out on the road to Hana 2-3 times a year for the last 20 years. It never gets old. In my book it at the top of the top five things to do in Maui.
For the last 10 or so years I have been going out on a van tour unless I’m spending the night. Tour vans have much larger windows and sit higher off the ground than cars and Jeeps and by not having to drive myself I can focus on making images.
Because they leave early and include food and beverages I don’t have to arrange all that either. I can caption my photos better because I have a guide to ask questions….”what kind of tree, flower, plant is this”? Plus Hana tour guides are hilarious! Choose a tour with 12 passengers or less. You’ll see more and make more stops in the smaller vans.
If you’ve never been to Hawaiʻi you have to go to a luau. There is no better way to learn about the culture of not just Hawaiʻi but Polynesia in general. My favorite is Old Lahaina Luau, but it can be booked out a month in advance. My second favorite is Feast at Lele. Both are on the west side of the island (Lahaina).
Upcountry Haleakala, Makawao
The road leading to Haleakalā National Park winds it’s way up the mountain through some of Maui’s most inspiring views and countryside. This area is known to locals as “Upcountry”. The amazing thing about Upcountry Maui is it’s diversity. Each elevation change is another micro-climate.
It is said that of the 20 known climate zones on earth Maui has 17. No doubt many of them are in this upcountry area. Bring a jacket if you go to the crater for sunrise at 10,000 ft. The temperature before sunrise can be in the low 40’s.
Stop in the town of Makawao for lunch or dinner after visiting the summit. It’s a beautiful little town and the restaurants and shops are quite good. Great art galleries and a famous bakery also. Casanovas has great Italian cuisine and Poli’s servse some unique Mexican fare. I love the seafood burrito!
A large part of the beauty of Maui lies underneath the ocean.
The south and west shores of the island have the best snorkeling reefs and therefore that’s where most of the tour boats are.
The north shore is too rough unless you’re an advanced diver/ fisherman type. Mā`alaea Harbor is on the south side and the boats out of this location are mostly headed out to Molokini Crater. This is a world class snorkeling spot especially during whale season (January through April) when you can view the Humpback whales along the way as you motor out to Molokini. They are truly worth the time and money to see these incredible creatures up close.
For every waterfall you see along the road to Hana, there are 20 that you don’t see upstream on the mountainsides of Haleakala. Same goes for the West Maui Mountains.
Having photographed from the air for years, I can tell you that only about 40% of the truly spectacular beauty of Maui can be seen from ground level. Whatever route you fly or type of aircraft you’re in, you’ll love an air tour of Maui!
So there you have it! This is certainly not all there is to do, but it is a good start. In our next installment we will look at some things to do on a return trip to Maui.
Aloha Nui Loa