Fun Activities on Maui
Activities abound on Maui. Some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii is found on Maui, with top locations being Honokeana Cove and Napili Bay (both in Napili) and Black Rock by the Sheraton on the Kaanapali Boardwalk in West Maui. Of course, nothing beats a trip out to Molokini Crater just off the shore of Wailea (you'll need to go on one the snorkeling excursions by boat to get to this incredible snorkel and dive location). The Road to Hana and bike ride down Haleakala are always exciting as well.
Seventy-five percent of Maui is visible only from the air! If you haven't seen Maui by helicopter, you haven't seen Maui. Maui has a number of helicopter tours to choose from, each specializing in a particular type of aircraft: The A-Star is one of the most luxurious, designed specifically for sightseeing.
No matter where you sit you'll have 180-degree visibility. The rotator shaft does not come between the front and back seats and there are no visual impediments interrupting your view forward. The back seat is raised to give a better view above the seats in front and there is an abundance of windows.
The Hughes 500 is small, fast and maneuverable. It seats only 4 passengers so each person is guaranteed a window seat. The Bell Jet Ranger is a little larger than the Hughes and smaller than the A-Star. The McDonnell-Douglas Notar is designed without a tail rotor, giving a noticeably quieter flight. This helicopter is often hired by professional photographers on aerial shoots because it can be flown with the doors removed.
With regard to photography, many Maui helicopter companies equip their aircraft with special video recorders mounted in the nose and along the sides of the helicopter. Some even have camera lenses mounted in the cockpit. As the pilot flies along he directs the taping, selecting the camera offering the best view. The result: at the end of your helicopter tour you're presented with a video tape of your actual flight to take home and enjoy over and over.
Imagine standing at the top of a 10,000 foot dormant volcano - two miles high - getting on a bicycle, and coasting down a 38-mile road all the way to the ocean, without pedaling. This is a reality on Maui's Mount Haleakala. Thousands of downhill biking enthusiasts have experienced this adventure since the industry began in 1982.
Of all the activities on Maui, this is the one that can't be done anywhere else on earth. This is how it works. You're picked up at your hotel and transported to a baseyard at the foot of the mountain. Here you're fitted with the windbreakers, helmet and gloves you'll be wearing on your downhill journey.
After a continental breakfast you're off to the top of the mountain where you witness the spectacle of Haleakala Crater. This enormous crater is 21 miles in circumference, 3000 feet deep, and is large enough to fit all of Manhattan Island within its perimeter.
If you choose to go at sunrise (a good choice) you will also see one of the most spectacular solar displays found anywhere.
Your breathtaking descent begins from the crater rim. Each group follows a lead guide in radio contact with the "chase van" that follows the group with cameras, warm clothing, etc. Many stops are made on the way down for extraordinary views of the island.
A luncheon stop is usually made at one of the restaurants and then the final descent is made to the sea. Once at the bottom, the experience takes on a somewhat surreal quality as your mind keeps replaying the constant series of turns and roadways that led to your final destination.
One glance up at the top and you realize that you've conquered a mountain. You've connected with Maui in some way that you know is different. You smelled the camphor of the eucalyptus trees as you passed through the forests, and you breathed the cool thin air from Maui's highest slopes. Today was a different day for you, and it was worthwhile.
Every trip to Maui should include a visit to Hana. There are very few places that rivals Hana in sheer beauty and power of nature. Each bend of the narrow, winding road carved along the Hana coastline curves into a valley of waterfalls and fresh water pools. Dense jungle and rainforest are so thick in places you wonder how anyone could have made the trek before the Hana Highway.
The forest appears in layer upon layer of higher and higher canopies of overgrowth and spreading trees. The African Tulip tree stands out against the emerald green as beautiful plumes of brilliant orange high above the forest dome. The pale green of Kukui trees, which produce the Kukui nut used in ancient Hawaii as a source of oil for night lanterns, softens the dark forests of Koa and mahogany.
The air is fragrant with the sweet aroma of ginger blossoms and everywhere you look are tropical flowers of all colors and shapes. Tropical fruit trees line the road - and sometimes cover the road - with mango, papaya, guava, passion fruit, mountain apple, breadfruit and wild berries.
Hana is heaven on earth and should not be missed. Take a mini-van tour. That way, you won't miss a single view or wonder what the name of that huge tree is. You'll learn all about the place names, the plants, flowers, and the Hawaiian stories and legends of the area.
Drive yourself in a rental car, but pay close attention to the road and the traffic. Hundreds of curves, narrow bridges and very wet areas will keep you within the speed limit. You'll want to stop at lots of the turnouts to get good photos of waterfalls and valleys, old bridges and tiny villages.
Hire a private tour guide who will travel in your rental car with you. We've had some of the best luck with these services lately, and they're not half as expensive as you might think.
Enjoy a feast for the senses at one of Maui's Hawaiian luaus. Food, drink, dance, music and much aloha. It is highly recommended that you take one in while you're on Maui.
First, there's the food. On the morning of the luau, a pit or "imu" is dug and filled with kiawe branches and river rocks. A fire is lit, the stones are heated and then a combination of banana stalks, banana leaves and ti leaves are placed in the imu pit along with a pig. The hole is covered up and the pig steams all day until the "imu ceremony" when it is unearthed and presented to all as the main dish. It is called "kalua pork" and meat prepared in this manner is lean, succulent, and falls away from the bone. In addition, traditional dishes such as lomi lomi salmon, chicken long rice, haupia, poi, and other exotic fare is available for the tasting.
There is also a wide selection of American dishes, including beef, fish, chicken, salads, vegetables, exotic fruits, desserts and an open bar. The food at an authentic Hawaiian luau is always wonderful, but that's just the beginning.
Next, there's the music and dance. Some luaus on Maui are distinctly authentic. these luaus portray the culture of old Hawaii exclusively, featuring the Hula and other dances unique to the Hawaiian Islands. Other Maui luaus include other cultures of the Pacific Rim including the Maori of New Zealand, dances from Tonga and Fiji, the drums of Tahiti, and the fire dancers of Samoa.
All Hawaiian luaus on Maui are held at sunset and are filled with the romance of the islands. Whether young or old, newlywed or celebrating a 50th anniversary, you will find this evening at a luau to be uniquely Hawaiian and very special.
Riding stables and working ranches are located from Kapalua in West Maui to Makena in South Maui and from Waihee Valley to Hana. Once the guide knows your level of experience, he or she will match you up with a horse that will be appropriate.
If you're a beginner, don't worry, they've seen your kind before. If you're a veteran equestrian they have rides that are a bit more challenging. Maui horseback rides will take you: Through a tropical rain forest and down to windswept cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Into the crater of Haleakala (like riding on the moon). Up into the Hana highlands near the famous Oheo Gulch. Onto the ranch lands high above the central valley, with views galore. From the beach at Makena to the winery at Ulupalakua.
All in all, your Maui horseback ride will be one of the most beautiful and fun rides you have ever taken.
Now the fun really begins. Skyline Eco Adventures offers the only zip-line adventure on Maui. Located on the slopes of Haleakala at about the 3500 ft. level, Skyline offers a series of four (perhaps more soon) zip-line jumps over progressively larger gorges or canyons.
It's a good thing that you have already had experience on the first three by the time you get to the fourth jump because you probably wouldn't do it otherwise. It will offer however, perhaps the single most exciting moments you will have on your entire vacation. This tour is fun!
When was the last time you were on a submarine? Never? If you're one of the few who have been on a submarine, we'll bet it didn't have windows! Here's your chance to board a $4.5 million submarine, dive to a depth of 150 feet, and cruise around the ocean floor for an hour - and see everything out there from the best vantage point possible. Sound exciting? It is!
The climate-controlled cabin and giant viewing ports make your voyage below the surface both comfortable and interesting. You'll see hundreds and hundreds of fish and coral heads of all sizes and colors. Sometimes you'll see eels, rays and occasionally a shark. As you inch along the sea floor, more and more is revealed, color upon color, shape upon shape. During the winter months whales have swum into view. Each trip is different, but each dive is exciting, informative and educational.
Semi-submersibles, or glass bottom boats, are also available. The underwater experience is similar to that on a submarine except you remain on the ocean surface. The cost is less but the visual impact can be impressive as well. They're a far cry from the old glass bottom boats people used to use 20 years ago off Lahaina's coast.
Snorkeling is Maui's #1 Activity!
Never snorkeled before? Don't worry. It's simple, can be learned in a matter of minutes and mastered on your first outing. It's easiest to learn with the assistance of one of the crew on a Maui snorkeling trip, so you might give that a try before you set out on your own.
There's a reason people love snorkeling on Maui. The ocean waters surrounding Maui and its neighbor islands of Lanai and Molokini are comfortably warm, have great visibility (often in excess of 100 feet), and are teeming with beautiful coral formations and colorful tropical fish.
The viewing begins within feet of the shoreline and may extend out a quarter of a mile in some areas. As you glide over fantastic spires and crevices of coral, watch for eels, starfish, rays, lobster, or even a giant ulua. The panorama is hypnotic: swaying limu and sea urchins, the endless shifting of the sandy bottom between coral cliffs.
People love dinner cruises. When you think back on your moments on Maui years from now, this last evening may be the one you remember most fondly. Floating gently between the islands of Molokai, Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe, clouds painted with every sunset color, the ocean reflecting the sun's last moments, the gentle lapping of waves and the soothing rhythm of the sea, a glass of wine in hand, a companion at your side - ah, it's a fine life!
This is a wonderful way to gather family and friends, too, to share a convivial evening of fun with a fine dinner, generous libations and good music. Some vessels even have room for dancing. And there's nothing quite like returning to the port of Lahaina, the town's light reflected in the waves, as you end a special evening drenched in stars.
It's hard to think of a better way to celebrate an anniversary, have a mini reunion or bid 'aloha' to island friends. A large part it has to do with romance. We're a romantic species and no activity plays the heartstrings better than a dinner cruise at sunset, especially on your last night on Maui. Dinner cruises usually include: Full dinner, an open bar, live entertainment. The best show of all: the islands, the sea, the mountain peaks, clouds, sun, stars, and - as often as heavenly possible - the moon.
This is one activity that almost warrants a page of its own, it's growing so rapidly. Maui's coastline is ideal for kayaking, particularly in the early morning when the ocean is smooth as silk. Many spots are perfect for this activity: underwater marine preserves of Honolua Bay and La Perouse Bay, and picturesque spots such as Makena and the Hana coastline, just to mention a few.
Whale season is one of the best times to go as there is no greater thrill than viewing one of the "gentle giants" from kayak-level. Talk about having something to write home about! And no experience is necessary. After a few minutes of instruction you'll be paddling out beyond the surf and exploring the little bays and inlets along the shore.
A two-hour whale watching trip may not be enough to satisfy your curiosity about these marine mammals. You may want to go on a couple of different trips during your holidays (Whale watching season hits its peak in February).
Many types of boats offer whale watching. Large ones provide stability on the ocean. Some have upper decks for greater viewing capacity. Rafts, or zodiacs, are more adventurous, more intimate and give more of a 'whale-eye' view of the surroundings. Whale watching by kayak is the best way to get close and personal with Maui's largest visitors.
Morning is usually the best time for whale watching on Maui. The ocean is flat, making the whales easier to spot.
Zodiac rafts are extremely exciting but not recommended for pregnant women or those with bad backs. Children love whale watching! The price for kids is usually half the adult fare.