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How To Explore Maui From The Mountains To The Ocean: Best Maui Activities
Maui has the reputation of being a world-class beach destination— and rightfully so. The island is home to miles of warm-hued beaches, sensational snorkeling, epic resorts, and perfect year-round temperatures. But the truth is, beaches are only a fraction of what Maui is truly about. And by sticking solely to Maui’s beach areas, you miss out on the full scope of Maui’s might and magic.
Leave no stone unturned— experience the best of land and sea on your next Maui visit. Here are some of our favorite ways to explore Maui, from the mountains to the ocean.
Mountains: Trek Into The Sequestered Puʻu Kukui Preserve
Go where few visitors have gone before with Helewai Eco Tours. This guided hiking excursion treks two miles through private conservation land in the West Maui Mountains, bringing you into the heart of a thriving endemic forest.
Along the way, you’ll learn about Maui’s native ecosystems and the importance of a healthy watershed from a passionate local guide. As you explore the quiet of the Puʻu Kukui Preserve, you’ll forge a deeper connection to the ʻaina (land) and discover new ways in which you can malama (care for) Maui.
Ocean: Experience The Magic Of Humpback Whales In Their Natural Habitat
Maui is one of the world’s top whale-watching destinations. Thousands of humpbacks migrate from Alaska to Maui’s balmy seas each year— in turn attracting thousands of visitors hoping to get a glimpse.
For a one-of-a-kind whale-watching experience, go with Redline Rafting. This locally-owned company hosts small-group whale-watching tours aboard a zippy, 35-foot zodiac raft.
Humpback whales aren’t shy, and sometimes the more curious whales will approach smaller vessels like Redline’s to say, “what’s up.” For the lucky few, this tour yields incredible eye-to-eye encounters with humpback whales.
Mountains: Witness An Unforgettable Sunrise From 10,023 Feet
One of the most awe-inspiring experiences on Maui can be found at dawn on the summit of Haleakala. Watching the sunrise at Haleakala National Park is one of the most popular things to do on Maui.
In fact, it’s so popular that reservations have been required since 2017, and tickets are increasingly hard to come by.
But don’t let the elusive sunrise reservations deter you! The easiest way to experience the magic of Haleakala sunrise is to take a tour with Haleakala Eco Tours. You’ll have a front-row seat to the ethereal sunrise, and you’ll have someone else behind the wheel during the long, dark, pre-dawn drive to the summit.
Ocean: Harness The Power Of The Wind on A Private Sailing Excursion
On Maui, tradewinds blow from the east almost every day. This makes the island a fantastic place for sailing. What is the best way to experience Maui’s breezy seas? A private sailing charter with Maui Custom Charters.
Maui Custom Charters offers a range of experiences aboard their luxe vessel, Nova. But the dreamiest charter is arguably the private sunset sail.
Departing from Maʻalaea Harbor, this charter hits the high seas for an unforgettable sunset experience. Nibble on artful charcuterie boards, get a hands-on sailing lesson from the attentive crew and pack a bottle of champagne to raise a glass to an epic evening on the water.
Mountains: Stay A Night In Paniolo Country
In the Upcountry town of Makawao, beaches are replaced by acres of rolling ranch land. Elegant restaurants give way to general stores, bakeries, and no-frills saloons. And glitzy resorts yield to old plantation houses and cozy B&Bs. This is paniolo country, where Hawaiian cowboys prevail.
For a change of pace, consider staying a few nights at North Shore Lookout. This boutique bed and breakfast is located on nine acres of farmland in the hills above Makawao. With spacious suites, a pool and jacuzzi, and panoramic views of Maui’s north shore, this B&B is the perfect place to unplug— and familiarize yourself with Maui’s less-traveled regions.
Ocean: Fall Asleep To The Sounds of The Sea
If a beachfront stay is a must for your Maui vacation, you can hardly get closer to the ocean than at Napili Bay unit 104. This ground-level unit sits just steps from the turquoise waters and golden sands at Napili Bay and is outfitted with everything you need for an unforgettable beachside stay.
Mountains: Explore The Interior of Haleakala National Park
Watching the sunrise or sunset at Haleakala is one of the most popular things to do on Maui. But few visitors explore beyond the mountain’s summit— despite the extraordinary hiking trails that grace the national park.
Take your Haleakala explorations deeper with Humble Tours. This small-group hiking tour treks three distinctly different trails in Haleakala. You’ll explore the Mars-like sands on the Keoneheehee Trail, wander through native shrubland on the Halemauu Trail, and find yourself among conifers and endemic trees at Hosmer Grove.
This hiking experience is a great opportunity to meet like-minded travelers, explore Maui, and learn more about Haleakala’s unique history, geology, and ecology.
Ocean: Snorkel In Molokini’s Ancient Volcanic Crater
Haleakala isn’t the only famous crater on Maui. Two miles off the coast of South Maui, Molokini delivers an ultra-unique snorkeling experience. Half of this long-dormant volcanic crater is submerged beneath the ocean’s surface, and its basin is now covered in thriving coral reefs.
Since the crater is only accessible by boat, you’ll need to take a tour to get there— and there is no shortage of offerings. But for the best of the best, go with Kai Kanani Sailing.
This plush sailboat is renowned for its comfort, service, and ono food served onboard. And since Kai Kanani departs from Maluaka Beach (rather than Maʻalaea Harbor like most tour boats), they’re typically one of the first tour boats to Molokini in the morning. Book their sunrise tour, and you’ll experience a rare moment of calm — and uncrowdedness — within the crater.
Mountains: Hit The Dusty Trails On An Off-Road Adventure
Most of the West Maui Mountains are protected preservation land, off-limits to the public. But a swath of 1,400 acres in the hills above Kapalua is dedicated to pure fun.
This exhilarating off-road UTV adventure sends you rambling across red-dirt trails, snaking through forests and grasslands. The West Maui Mountains are one of the rainiest places in the world, so don’t be surprised if there’s a little — or a lot — of mud. Amidst the fun, you’ll make an important stop in the Puʻu Kukui Preserve to plant a native tree and malama ʻaina (care for the land). This is an excellent way to explore Maui.
Ocean: Get Your Feet In The Wax With A Surf Lesson
What would a trip to Hawaii be without learning how to surf? Cancel your lazy beach day and opt for a lesson with local pro surfers instead.
Head to Ukumehame Beach Park for a fun shred sesh with Rivers to the Sea. Their team of instructors is the best in the biz and boasts a roster of professional-level surfers.
Whether it’s your first or fifth time surfing, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge about the ocean, surfing etiquette, and form, enabling you to progress faster and take your surfing to new heights.
Where do you like to spend your time while on Maui? The mountains or the ocean? Maybe a little bit of both? Let us know in the comments. Mahalo for reading, and happy travels!