The Ultimate Maui Bucket List
Hawaii,  United States

The Ultimate Maui Bucket List

If you are seeking the charm of Old Hawaii with all the amenities of modern-day, Maui is the island for you.

While it may come second in size to the rest of the Hawaiian islands, there is no beating the many fun things to do in Maui. Between the tropical food scene and the experiences unique to any other destination in the world, you will most definitely wish that you had more time to spend here!

I’m sharing my favorite picks for the ultimate Maui bucket list experience.

Maui Activities

You don’t have to look far to find fun things to do in Maui. In fact, narrowing down your Maui bucket list will be a difficult feat if you only have a few days to spend here.

These are my personal picks for the best Maui activities and tours.

Snorkel Molokini Crater

When people ask me about my favorite thing I did in Maui, I say snorkeling Molokini Crater every time! Taking a boat out to the crescent-shaped islet is one of the coolest ways to interact with underwater wildlife. An experience I will never forget.

Check out my post on the best way to snorkel Molokini Crater for the best Molokini tour company.

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater
Turtles at Ho'okipa State Park.

Pro Tip: If you are unable to snorkel but still want to see wild sea turtles, head to Ho’Okipa Beach just past Mama’s Fish House in Paia. There is a turtle watch station set up there as it is a prime nesting spot for them!

Drive the Road to Hana

The “main” Road to Hana begins in Paia and ends in Hana. There are a lot of apps and information about where to stop on The Road to Hana. They all say different things so it can be a little overwhelming to try and plan out.

On top of that, the majority of the stops are unmarked and difficult to spot because of the winding road. I found it useful to make a mini bucket list of places to stop on The Road to Hana.

This took the pressure off finding the exact spots and made our drive more flexible and fun:

  • Shop at an “honor stand”
  • Find the black and red sand beaches
  • Find 3 different waterfalls
  • See a bamboo forest
  • Explore a lava tube
  • Hike The 7 Sacred Pools
The waterfall that awaits you at the end of the 7 Sacred Pools Hike
The end of the 7 Sacred Pools

The Road to Hana can also be driven “the back way” from Pukalani to Hana. Be warned that this route has unpaved roads, major potholes, and hairpin turns around sheer cliffs.

I found the drive exhilarating and rewarding, but would not recommend it at night, in inclement weather, or without an SUV. I was so pleased with my jeep rental from Avis if you are still deciding on a rental.

Watch the Sunrise at Haleakalā

Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā takes some planning and it will cost you some sleep, but it will be so so worth it.

This is a popular experience with limited parking, so book your ticket early and arrive early! I wore jeans, a fleece jacket, and had a blanket but I was still freezing. Absolutely bring more layers than you think you will need.

You will be thankful when you are huddled in the dark, watching your breath puff into the glittery night sky.

Driving up to Haleakala
  1. Book your $1.00 ticket up to 2 months in advance at the official website. This reserves your parking space for the selected date.
  2. Layer up and leave your hotel early. I left at 2:00 am to make it up the winding volcanic road (2 hours from Kihei.)
    • Pro Tip: Bring an insulated thermos of hot cocoa to enjoy later! It is seriously cold up there.
  3. Pay the $15.00 park entrance fee at the gate near the summit. They will not let you in the park if you have not reserved your tickets from step 1 in advance.
  4. Find a space to park. While you should technically have a space, the parking lots fill up fast, even in the dead of night. Make sure to head all the way to the observatory parking lot to avoid walking far in the dark.
  5. Find a spot to sit and await the sunrise. I hung out at the designated observatory platform. But I really wish I had seen the trailhead just to the right of the observatory parking lot entrance! It would have been a far less crowded spot to enjoy the moment.
sunrise at Haleakala

Take a Ferry to Lanai

Although I didn’t actually get to experience this, I will absolutely be on this ferry the next time I’m in Maui! I’m a bucket list type of person so I would have loved to add another island to my Hawaii bucket list.

The ferry from Lahaina to Manele Bay on Lanai is one of only two inter-island ferries in Hawaii. My snorkeling guide highly recommended catching the ferry and spending an afternoon relaxing on a secluded beach or taking a 4×4 to explore the island.

Go on a Helicopter Tour

Taking a helicopter tour is a bit of a splurge budget-wise. However, there are so many parts of Maui (as well as all of the other islands) that are protected and therefore only accessible by air.

I loved the Molokai Voyage with Maverick Helicopters because I got to add another island to my list as we hovered over stunning sea cliffs and untouched, thousand-foot waterfalls.

view from Maui helicopter

Find the Nakalele Blowhole

Similar to the Road to Hana, the west side of the island features a narrow, sometimes one-lane road that traces the coast.

I personally enjoyed the east side of the island more, but since I had spare time I am glad I got to visit the west side of the island too.

The Nakalele Blowhole and the adjacent “Heart-Shaped Rock” are the main stopping points on this highway. However, if short on time I would keep this one at the bottom of my Maui must do list.

Heart shaped rock at Nakalele point in Maui

Hike the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

Another stop on the west side of the island is the Waihe’e Ridge Trail. A moderately easy hike, the views at the top of the ridge are the closest you can get to seeing the Jurassic-esque mountains and waterfalls without a helicopter.

Waihe'e Ridge Trail

Where to Stay in Maui

Kihei is my resounding recommendation for where to stay in Maui! And that is because of Maui’s unique geography and climate.

Known as Hawaii’s “Valley Isle,” Maui is shaped like a figure 8 with a flat, sea-level valley dividing the east and west “loops.”

The smaller west loop is known as the “resort” side of the island where you will find Lahaina and Kaanapali. The west side also features a desert microclimate and is more arid than how most visitors picture Hawaii.

The east loop surrounds Haleakalā and features the jungly Road to Hana.

Map of Maui
Courtesy of Google Maps.

I heard from a few friends that they did not enjoy Maui as much as the other Hawaiian islands they visited. I could understand that if they only stayed on the resort side of the island.

Kihei was perfect for me because it was central to the “figure 8” and there were plenty of affordable Airbnb options.

Food to Try in Maui

Whether at a roadside stand or an established restaurant, Maui has so many fantastic food options. It has so many options that it would be impossible to list them all in one post.

Instead, I picked out my favorite types of food that are unique to Hawaii and create a special experience by tasting them on Maui.

  • Coconut water from a freshly macheted coconut
  • Kalua Pig
  • Manapua
  • Hawaiian Sun Canned Drinks
  • Shaved Ice
  • Huli Huli chicken
  • Banana bread
  • Fresh pineapple
coconut wearing sunglasses
Road to Hana fruit stand

Before You Visit Maui

In order to be a responsible and respectful visitor, there are a few basics to consider before your visit:

  • Hawaii is the first state to ban certain types of sunscreens that can be harmful to coral reefs. Make sure you pack or purchase reef-safe sunscreen before you go.
  • On such a small island it’s not surprising that there are some areas that are restricted to visitors. Sadly, I saw too many vehicles parked right next to No Trespassing signs that the passengers had obviously ignored. Even if you have seen pictures or guides to sites that are now restricted, it does not make it okay to disrespect the local’s land. And a friendly reminder that just because you see other tourists do it, it doesn’t make it okay.
  • Get a Jeep! Or at least some sort of SUV, especially if you are going to drive the full Road to Hana. While driving a Jeep is a dead giveaway that you are a tourist, there were plenty of unpaved roads and I would not have felt comfortable driving in a compact vehicle.
  • When traveling it’s always common courtesy to learn some language basics. My Hawaiian husband Ka’eo helped me curate a few language basics over on this Instagram post!
  • Lately, I added praying for the destination to my pre-trip routine. Here are four easy prayers for travel to help get you started. I’ve found that praying before my visit makes me a more mindful traveler and gives me a greater appreciation for the experience.
Driving the Road to Hana in a Jeep

That sums up my favorite things to do in Maui. If any of these have inspired your Maui bucketlist or if you have any questions, I’d love to know in the comments below!

For this post, I partnered with some companies for a discounted experience. However, you can count on me to be a good steward of this opportunity. All thoughts and opinions are completely honest and completely my own.

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For Cassie, every destination deepens her love for God. Her mission is to inspire that same love in others. Hang around and find something to inspire your next adventure!

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