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Best Things To Do in Maui

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The best things to do in Maui can be as simple as sitting and watching the waves or as dynamic as hiking around a 19-square-mile lava crater. That there are so many top things to do in Maui makes the island the most desired destination in the archipelago. You can drive to the 10,000-foot summit of a dormant volcano to view the sunrise, hike through a bamboo rain forest to a freshwater pool fed by a 100-foot waterfall, snorkel the warm waters of Molokini teeming with turtles and tropical fish, then settle back to watch the day's end over a meal of fresh island ahi, island-grown fruits and local vegetables. Not everything on Maui requires a credit card. All the city's beaches are free and open to the public making them some of the best things to do in Maui.

 

Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy - Surfing Lessons

Neighborhood: West Maui

Yes, it’s possible to plunk down a few dollars to rent a surfboard and learn on your own. The better idea is to take a lesson, a $65, two-hour lesson, any weekday morning. Surf lessons allow surfer wannabes to get out there, get on a board and challenge waves without getting in the way of expert surfers, getting pounded by the Pacific, getting nailed by blown-out surf sets, or getting embarrassed when Water Safety officers have to launch a rescue. Folks at the Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy teach the fundamentals and even guarantee a surfboard stand and wave ride before the end of the first day’s session making this one of the best things to do in Maui if you've never surfed before.

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Kahanu Gardens

Neighborhood: East Maui

If the legends of a land can be told through its plant life, the Kahanu Garden on the rugged Hana Coast is a veritable encyclopedia of Pacific Island culture. This is considered the top thing to do in Maui for botanical garden buffs interested in rare tropical island flora. But it also contains the heiau of Piilani, the largest religious temple in all of Polynesia. The Kahanu Garden’s collection focuses on plants important to the sustenance of the cultures of Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians: niu (coconut), kalo (taro), and ulu (breadfruit) among others. The gardens meander through pandanus-shaded paths, and along terraces and rock walls all created in the 14th century, cut from forests once revered as hallowed ground and now registered as a National Historic Landmark.

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Pacific Whale Foundation

Neighborhood: Central Maui

You can help save the planet while you enjoy Maui's sea life with the non-profit Pacific Whale Foundation. The outfit offers a menu of daily tour options, from whale-watching expeditions to snorkeling and sunset cruises. The two-hour tours come with simple libations and repasts on board. Interpretations by naturalists and researchers come with the tours. The company uses mostly smooth-sailing 160-passenger catamarans; however, the catamarans must remain outside the mandated 100-yard zone around the great sea mammals. Check their website for cruise schedules. Tickets start at $24.99 with discounts running throughout the season for various tours. If you've always wanted to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii, and perhaps catch a glimpse of some whales in their natural habitat, then going on one of these tours should be on your list of best things to do in Maui.

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Maui Ocean Center

Neighborhood: Central Maui

Just steps from the snorkeling and fishing boats at Maalaea Harbor and adjacent to the well-traveled Lower Honoapiilani Highway, the Maui Ocean Center is a gathering place for researchers and visitors fascinated with tropical marine life. While not as large as other aquariums, it has exhibits that rival some of the best aquariums. A visit won't cut into your pool time: little more than an hour here should be enough time to take in all the exhibits at one of the top things to do in Maui. The reef exhibit will put you nose to nose with sea horses, moray eels and lobsters. Hammerhead sharks are constantly on the prowl at Hammerhead Harbor, while turtles swim and do flipper waves at the Turtle Lagoon. Get wet with crustaceans, sea cucumbers and sea anemone at the Tide Pool and watch jellyfish at the Sea Jelly Gallery. A 52-foot-long Plexiglas tunnel will put you in a world of more than 2,000 fish.

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Pride of Maui - Molokini Snorkeling Cruise

Neighborhood: Central Maui

The Hawaiian Islands abound with opportunities for wonderful snorkeling experiences. One of the best things to do in Maui is to join a broad snorkeling expedition aboard a Molokini-bound boat such as the Pride of Maui cruise. No experience or equipment is required, as lessons and gear are included in the price of the trip. The five-hour tour departs from Maalaea Boat Harbor off the south-central crook of Maui, and heads straight for the small islet off Maui’s south shore called the Molokini Marine Preserve. The waters teem with turtles and fish of all colors and sizes. On a great day, there may even be encounters with whales and dolphins. Rates start at $89 per person and several tour variations and times are available.

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Iao Valley State Park

Neighborhood: Central Maui

The Iao Valley offers up mysteries of moving rocks, bloody battles for island domination and lots of natural beauty, but it’s the 1,200-foot needle that defines Maui in the minds of islanders. The drive in will take you past established Maui neighborhoods, across running streams and along a narrow road. As the valley narrows the views of the mountains close in enough to see the details of tree foliage and scars of waterfalls that are active during extremely heavy rain. The road ends at the parking lot. Park at the first opportunity upon entering (the lower side is reserved for tour buses). To get to the viewing area simply follow the trail, which is paved with handrails and easy enough for most people to manage. The needle comes into view as you make your way toward the lower side of the parking lot and head up toward the trail.

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The Road to Hana

Neighborhood: East Maui

There’s nothing like taking a drive to Hana, when someone else does the driving. The single-lane bridges and twists and turns make driving a challenge for even the most confident of drivers, who end up tightly watching the road rather than absorbing the volcanic rainforest scenery that makes a visit to Hana so unforgettable. Polynesian Adventure Tours travels through Kaumahina State Park, along the angry breakers of Keanae Valley, to Pua`a Ka`a, Waianapanapa State Park and Wailua Falls. The tour makes time for stops at Hasegawa General Store, as well as forest pools at Kipahulu for a refreshing swim and rainforest walks to waterfalls making it one of the top things to do in Maui. It’s an all-day affair that begins with a 7AM pick-up and ends with a 6:30PM drop off for just over $100 per person.

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Downhill Haleakala Bicycling Adventure

Neighborhood: Upcountry

One of the top things to do in Maui is also an activity that offers the most thrills. Gliding down the slopes of a dormant volcano on this tropical island is one of the destination’s top adrenaline pumpers. Combine it with a visit to the summit at sunrise where the clean chilled air keeps you cool as you pedal above the clouds at 6,500-foot elevations. The sunrise views from the summit are nothing less than spiritual and worth doing at least once in a lifetime. On a clear day you can see the Big Island summits of perfectly symmetrical Mauna Loa and the often snow-capped Mauna Kea in the distance. As you soar down Haleakala on your bike, if you slow down enough at intervals you will encounter endangered plant species and maybe even catch a peek at the endangered state bird, the Nene. Tours include hotel pick-up and drop-off, bike gear, continental breakfast and time for lunch at a flower farm. This is probably the best Maui tour $150 will buy.

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Haleakala National Park

Neighborhood: Upcountry

This is one of the best things to do in Maui for a truly magical experience. Filled with mystery, legend and natural beauty a visit to Haleakala is well worth at least a short half-day trip to the summit. To the Hawaiians it’s believed to be the “House of the Sun” and any visit at sunrise will certainly prove why. To adventurers it can be an overnight hike along the crater floor watching for endangered birds and spotting rare plants while trekking along sweeping escarpments of cinder cones and lava tubes. It can also mean cozying up in a mountaintop cabin where temperatures regularly dip below freezing. The views from the top on the clearest of days can take in the Big Island, Oahu and everything in between.

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Bailey House Museum

Neighborhood: Central Maui

Built on the royal grounds of Kahekili, Maui’s last reigning king, this museum is filled with historical data, artifacts and cultural exhibits. The home was originally built in 1833 and was used as a home for girls and as a private residence over the years. This is one of the best things to do in Maui if your interests lead you to inquiries on land snails (the museum houses the largest specimen collection and documentation of Hawaiian land and marine snails in the archipelago, if not the world) or to beautiful hats (the straw hat collection on view here is a must for members of 1950s-style ladies clubs). And if that is not enough, the museum houses one of the best archives on the island for those searching for information about their long-lost Maui family roots. In addition, there are regular seminars on Hawaiian crafts and concerts held in the small, Victorian-style garden.

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