22 Best Sights in West Maui, Maui

Banyan Tree

Fodor's choice

Planted in 1873, this massive tree is the largest of its kind in the United States and provides a welcome retreat and playground for visitors and locals, who rest and play music under its awesome branches.

The Banyan Tree is a popular and hard-to-miss meeting place if your party splits up for independent exploring.

It's also a terrific place to be when the sun sets—mynah birds settle in here for a screeching symphony, which is an event in itself. During the day it's a respite for a variety of chickens.

Kaanapali Beach

Fodor's choice

If you're looking for quiet and seclusion, this is not the beach for you. But if you want lots of action, spread out your towel here. Stretching from the northernmost end of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa to the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa at its southern tip, Kaanapali Beach is lined with resorts, condominiums, restaurants, and shops. Ocean activity companies launch from the shoreline fronting Whalers Village, making it one of Maui's best people-watching spots. A concrete pathway weaves along the length of this 3-mile-long beach, leading from one astounding resort to the next.

The drop-off from Kaanapali's soft sugary sand is steep, but waves hit the shore with barely a rippling slap outside of winter months. The landmark promontory known as Puu Kekaa (nicknamed "Black Rock") was traditionally considered a leina a ka uhane, or jumping-off place for spirits. It's easy to get into the water from the beach to enjoy the prime snorkeling among the lava-rock outcroppings.

Strong rip currents are often present near Puu Kekaa; always snorkel with a companion.

Throughout the resort, blue "Shoreline Access" signs point the way to a few free-parking stalls and public rights-of-way to the beach. Kaanapali Resort public beach parking can be found between the Hyatt and the Marriott, between the Marriott and the Kaanapali Alii, next to Whalers Village, and at the Sheraton. You can park for a fee at most of the large hotels and at Whalers Village. The merchants in the shopping village will validate your parking ticket if you make a purchase. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; swimming; walking.

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Kapalua Bay Beach

Fodor's choice
Kapalua Bay Beach
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Over the years, Kapalua has been recognized as one of the world's best beaches, and for good reason: it fronts a pristine bay that is good for snorkeling, swimming, and general lazing. Just north of Napili Bay, this lovely sheltered shore often remains calm late into the afternoon, although currents may be strong offshore. Snorkeling is easy here, and there are lots of colorful reef fish. This popular area is bordered by the Kapalua Resort, so don't expect to have the beach to yourself. Walk through the tunnel from the parking lot at the end of Kapalua Place to get here. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; swimming.

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Napili Beach

Fodor's choice
Napili Beach
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Surrounded by sleepy condos, this round bay is a turtle-filled pool lined with a sparkling white crescent of sand. Sunbathers love this beach, which is also a terrific sunset spot. The shore break is steep but gentle, so it's great for bodyboarding and bodysurfing. It's easy to keep an eye on kids here as the entire bay is visible from everywhere. The beach is right outside the Napili Kai Beach Resort, a popular local-style resort for honeymooners and families, only a few miles south of Kapalua. Amenities: showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming; snorkeling.

Old Lahaina Courthouse

Fodor's choice

The Lahaina Arts Society, Lahaina Visitor Center, and Lahaina Heritage Museum occupy this charming old government building in the center of town. Wander among the terrific displays and engage with an interactive exhibit about Lahaina's history, pump the knowledgeable visitor center staff for tips—be sure to ask for the walking-tour brochure covering historic Lahaina sites—and stop at the theater with a rotating array of films about everything from whales to canoes. Erected in 1859 and restored in 1999, the building has served as a customs and court house, governor's office, post office, vault and collector's office, and police station. On August 12, 1898, its postmaster witnessed the lowering of the Hawaiian flag when Hawaii became a U.S. territory. The flag now hangs above the stairway. There's a public restroom in the building.

Waiola Church and Wainee Cemetery

Fodor's choice

Immortalized in James Michener's Hawaii, the original church from the early 1800s was destroyed once by fire and twice by fierce windstorms. Repositioned and rebuilt in 1954, the church was renamed Waiola ("water of life") and has been standing proudly ever since. The adjacent cemetery was the region's first Christian cemetery and is the final resting place of many of Hawaii's most important monarchs, including Kamehameha the Great's wife, Queen Keopuolani, who was baptized during her final illness.

Wo Hing Museum

Fodor's choice

Smack-dab in the center of Front Street, this eye-catching Chinese temple reflects the importance of early Chinese immigrants to Lahaina. Built by the Wo Hing Society in 1912, the museum contains beautiful artifacts, historic photo displays of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and a Taoist altar. Don't miss the films playing in the rustic cookhouse next door—some of Thomas Edison's first films, shot in Hawaii circa 1898, show Hawaiian wranglers herding steer onto ships. Ask the docent for some star fruit from the tree outside, for an offering or for yourself. If you're in town in late January or early February, this museum hosts a nice Chinese New Year festival.

Baldwin Home Museum

If you want some insight into 19th-century life in Hawaii, this informative museum is an excellent place to start. Begun in 1834 and completed the following year, the coral-and-stone house was originally home to missionary Dr. Dwight Baldwin and his family. The building has been carefully restored to reflect the period, and many of the original furnishings remain: you can view the family's grand piano, carved four-poster bed, and most interestingly, Dr. Baldwin's dispensary. Also on display is the "thunderpot"—learn how the doctor single-handedly inoculated 10,000 Maui residents against smallpox. Self-guided tours run Tues.–Sun. from 10 am–4 pm, or come Friday at dusk for a special candlelight tour every half hour from 5–8 pm.

D. T. Fleming Beach

Because the current can be quite strong, this charming, mile-long sandy cove is better for sunbathing than for swimming or water sports. Still, it's one of the Island's most popular beaches. It's a perfect spot to watch the spectacular Maui sunsets, and there are picnic tables and grills. Part of the beach runs along the front of the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua—a good place to grab a cocktail and enjoy the view. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; walking.

Farmer's Market Maui

From pineapples to papayas, the produce at this West Maui market is local and flavorful. Prices are good, too. The deli offers hot and cold food items, and colorful tropical flowers and handcrafted items are also available.

Fort Ruins

Coral stone ruins are all that remain at the site that served mostly as a prison; however, the ruins are actually not the real leftovers from the fort. They were constructed as a set for the 1961 movie The Devil at 4 O'Clock. The real fort was built from 1831 to 1832 after sailors, angered by a law forbidding local women from swimming out to ships, lobbed cannonballs into town the previous year. The fort was finally torn down in the 1850s and the stones were used to construct the new prison. Cannons raised from the wreck of a warship in Honolulu Harbor were brought to Lahaina and placed in front of the fort, where they still sit today at the Lahaina Harbor flagpole.

Hale Paahao (Old Prison)

Lahaina's jailhouse is a reminder of rowdy whaling days. Its name literally means "stuck-in-irons house," referring to the wall shackles and ball-and-chain restraints. The compound was built in the 1850s by convict laborers out of blocks of coral that had been salvaged from the demolished waterfront fort. Most prisoners were sent here for desertion, drunkenness, or reckless horse riding. Today, a figure representing an imprisoned old sailor tells his recorded tale of woe. There are also interpretive signs for the botanical garden and whale boat in the yard.

Hauola Stone

Just visible above the tide is a gigantic stone, perfectly molded into the shape of a low-back chair and believed by Hawaiians to hold healing powers. It sits in the harbor, just off the land, where the sea and the underground freshwater meet.

Holy Innocents Episcopal Church

Built in 1927, this beautiful open-air church is decorated with paintings depicting Hawaiian versions of Christian symbols (including a Hawaiian Madonna and child), rare or extinct birds, and native plants. At Sunday services, the congregation is typically dressed in traditional clothing from Samoa and Tonga. Anyone is welcome to slip into one of the pews, carved from native woods. Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last reigning monarch, lived in a large grass house on this site as a child.

561 Front St., Lahaina, HI, 96761, USA
808-661–4202
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Lahaina Harbor

For centuries, Lahaina has drawn ships of all sizes to its calm harbor: King Kamehameha's conquering fleet of 800 carved koa canoes gave way to Chinese trading ships, Boston whalers, United States Navy frigates, and, finally, a slew of pleasure craft. The picturesque harbor is the departure point for ferries headed to nearby islands, sailing charters, deep-sea fishing trips, and snorkeling excursions. It's also a port of call for cruise ships from around the world.

Wharf St., Lahaina, HI, 96761, USA
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Lahaina Jodo Mission

Established at the turn of the 20th century by Japanese contract workers, this Buddhist mission is one of Lahaina's most popular sites thanks to its idyllic setting and spectacular views across the channel. Although the buildings are not open to the public, you can stroll the grounds and enjoy glimpses of a 90-foot-high pagoda, as well as a great 3.5-ton copper and bronze statue of the Amida Buddha (erected in 1968, it's one of the largest Buddha statues outside of Asia). If you're in the vicinity at 8 on any evening, you may be able to hear the temple bell toll 11 times; the first three peals signifying Buddhist creeds, and the following representing the Noble Eightfold Path.

12 Ala Moana St., Lahaina, HI, 96761, USA
808-661–4304
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Launiupoko Beach Park

This is the beach park of all beach parks: both a surf break and a beach, it offers a little something for everyone with its inviting stretch of lawn, soft white sand, and gentle waves. The shoreline reef creates a protected wading pool, perfect for small children. Outside the reef, beginner surfers will find good longboard rides. From the long sliver of beach, you can enjoy superb views of neighboring islands, and, landside, of deep valleys cutting through West Maui's mountain. Because of its endless sunshine and serenity—not to mention such amenities as picnic tables and grills—Launiupoko draws a crowd on the weekends, but there's space for everyone (and overflow parking across the street). Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: partiers; sunset; surfing; swimming.

Mokuleia Bay (Slaughterhouse Beach)

The Island's northernmost beach is part of the Honolua-Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District. "Slaughterhouse" is the surfers' nickname for what is officially Mokuleia. Weather permitting, this is a great place for bodysurfing and sunbathing. Concrete steps and a railing help you get down the cliff to the sand, but it's generally a difficult area to access for younger children. The next bay over, Honolua, has no beach but offers one of the best surf breaks in Hawaii. Competitions are sometimes held there; telltale signs are cars pulled off the road and parked in the old pineapple field. Amenities: none. Best for: sunset; surfing; snorkeling.

Rte. 30, Kapalua, HI, 96761, USA

Olowalu

More an offshore snorkel and stand-up paddling spot than a beach, Olowalu is also a great place to watch for turtles and whales in season. The beach is literally a pullover from the road, which can make for some unwelcome noise if you're looking for quiet. The entrance can be rocky (reef shoes help), but if you've got your snorkel gear it's a 200-yard swim to an extensive and diverse reef. Shoreline visibility can vary depending on the swell and time of day; late morning is best. Except for during a south swell, the waters are usually calm. You can find this rocky surf break a half mile north of mile marker 14. Snorkeling here is along pathways that wind among coral heads. Note: this is a local hangout and can be unfriendly at times. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling.

Rte. 30, Olowalu, HI, 96761, USA

Papalaua Wayside Park

This popular park is also known as Thousand Peaks because there's barely a break between each wave. Beginner to intermediate surfers say it's a good spot to longboard or bodyboard. It's easy entry into the water, and you don't have to paddle out far. The beach itself leaves something to be desired, but there is some shade, mostly from thorny kiawe trees; footwear is a good idea. Camping is allowed by county permit and with only roadside parking the beach park is often crowded. Portable toilets are available. Amenities: toilets. Best for: surfing.

Pioneer Mill Smokestack & Locomotives

The former Pioneer Mill Company used this site to mill sugar back when Lahaina's main moneymaker was sugarcane. In 2010, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation restored the original smokestack—the tallest structure in Lahaina—and created a place for visitors to learn about the rich plantation history of West Maui. Take an interpretive walk around the smokestack along the landscaped grounds, then check out the old mill and field equipment, and refurbished locomotives that used to cart sugar between the fields and the mill.

Puamana Beach Park

This is both a friendly beach park and a surf spot for mellow longboard rides. With a narrow sandy beach and a grassy area with plenty of shade, it offers mostly calm swimming conditions and a good view of neighboring Lanai. Smaller than Launiupoko, this beach park tends to attract locals looking to surf and barbecue; it has picnic tables and grills. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; picnics.

Rte. 30, Lahaina, HI, 96761, USA