101 Best Sights in Maui, Hawaii

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.

Garden of Eden Arboretum

Fodor's choice

Just beyond mile marker 10 on the Hana Highway, the Garden of Eden Arboretum offers interpretive trails through 26 acres of manicured gardens. Anyone with a green thumb will appreciate the care and attention given to the more than 500 varieties of tropical plants—many of them native. Trails lead to views of the lovely Puohokamoa Falls and provide a glimpse into the botanical wonders that thrive in this lush region. Be sure to stop by the gift shop on the way out for a wide variety of gifts made by local artisans and to hang out with the ducks and peacocks. To avoid lines and crowds, visit in the morning at opening time or in the afternoon after 2 pm.

Hale Hoikeike at the Bailey House

Fodor's choice

This repository of the largest and best collection of Hawaiian artifacts on Maui includes objects from the sacred island of Kahoolawe. Erected in 1833 on the site of the compound of Kahekili (the last ruling chief of Maui), the building was occupied by the family of missionary teachers Edward and Caroline Bailey until 1888. Edward Bailey was something of a Renaissance man: not only a missionary, but also a surveyor, a naturalist, and an excellent artist. The museum contains missionary-period furniture and displays a number of Bailey's landscape paintings, which provide a snapshot of the island during his time. The grounds include gardens with native Hawaiian plants and a fine example of a traditional canoe. The gift shop is one of the best sources on Maui for items that are actually made in Hawaii. Before visiting, check their website for current hours of operation.

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Haleakala Crater

Fodor's choice

The park’s main attraction is the eroded depression found at the Summit District known as Haleakala Crater. And, undoubtedly, the island's best hiking is found here. If you're in good shape, do a day hike descending from the summit along Keoneheehee Trail (Sliding Sands Trail) to the crater floor. You might also consider spending several days here amid the cinder cones, lava flows, and all that loud silence. Entering the crater is like landing on a different planet. In the early 1960s, NASA brought moon-suited astronauts here to practice what it would be like to "walk on the moon." Tent camping and cabins are available with permits. On the 30 miles of trails, you can traverse black sand and wild lava formations, follow the blooming ahinahina (silverswords) path, and take in tremendous views of the big sky and burned-red cliffs.

The best time to go into the crater is summer when the conditions are generally more predictable. Be sure to bring layered clothing—and plenty of warm clothes if you're staying overnight. It may be scorching hot during the day, but it gets mighty chilly after dark. Bring drinking water, as potable water is available only at the two visitor centers. Overnight visitors must get a permit at park headquarters before entering the crater.

Haleakala National Park

Fodor's choice
Oheo Gulch Waterfall, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA
© Peter Guttman/PeterGuttman.com

Nowhere else on Earth can you drive from sea level to 10,023 feet in only 38 miles. And what's more shocking: in that short vertical ascent to the summit of the volcano Haleakala you'll journey from lush, tropical island landscape to the stark, moon-like basin of the volcano's enormous, otherworldly crater.

Established in 1916, Haleakala National Park covers an astonishing 33,222 acres, with the Haleakala Crater as its centerpiece. There's terrific hiking, including trails for one-hour, four-hour, eight-hour, and overnight hikes, one of which goes through the Waikamoi Cloud Forest on Monday and Thursday only and requires reservations (call the park line no more than a week in advance). No other hikes require reservations. There is also on-site camping.

Before you head up Haleakala, call for the latest weather conditions. Extreme gusty winds, heavy rain, and even snow in winter are not uncommon. Because of the high altitude, the mountaintop temperature is often as much as 30°F cooler than that at sea level, so bring a jacket.

There's a $30-per-car fee to enter the park, good for three days. Hold on to your receipt—it can also be used at Oheo Gulch in Kipahulu. Once inside the park, stop at the Park Headquarters to learn about the volcano's history, and pick up trail maps (and memorabilia, if you want) at the gift shop. Campers and hikers must check in here.

If you're planning to view the sunrise from the summit, you must make reservations ( recreation.gov) up to 60 days before your visit. This allows you to enter the summit area between 3 and 7 am. A limited number of last-minute tickets are released online two days beforehand, but these can be difficult to secure. If you don't snag one of these coveted spots, consider visiting for sunset, which, on most days, offers equally stunning views. The air is thin at 10,000 feet. Don't be surprised if you feel a little breathless while walking around the summit. Take it easy, and drink lots of water. Anyone who has been scuba diving within the last 24 hours should not make the trip up Haleakala.

Hamoa Beach

Fodor's choice

Why did James Michener describe this stretch of salt-and-pepper sand as the most "South Pacific" beach he'd come across, even though it's in the North Pacific? Maybe it was the perfect half-moon shape, speckled with the shade of palm trees. Perhaps he was intrigued by the jutting black coastline, often outlined by rain showers out at sea, or the pervasive lack of hurry he felt here. Whatever it was, many still feel the lure. The beach can be crowded, yet it is nonetheless relaxing. Early mornings and late afternoons are best for swimming. At times the churning surf might intimidate swimmers, but the bodysurfing can be great. Though there are beach chairs and a pavilion at the beach, they are strictly for the use of Travaasa Hana guests. Hamoa is half a mile past Koki Beach on Haneoo Loop Road, 2 miles south of Hana Town. Amenities: showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming.

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Fodor's choice

This nature center sits in prime humpback-viewing territory beside a restored ancient Hawaiian fishpond. Whether the whales are here or not, the education center is a great stop for youngsters curious to know more about underwater life, and for anyone eager to gain insight into the cultural connection between Hawaii and its whale residents. Interactive displays and informative naturalists explain it all, including the sanctuary that acts as a breeding ground for humpbacks. Throughout the year, the center hosts activities that include talks, labs, and volunteer opportunities. The sanctuary itself includes virtually all the waters surrounding the archipelago. Just outside the visitor center is the ancient Koieie fishpond; it is a popular place for locals to bring their children to wade in the water.

Hookipa Beach

Fodor's choice
Hookipa Beach, Hookipa Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Mike Brake / Shutterstock

To see some of the world's finest windsurfers, hit this beach along the Hana Highway. It's also one of Maui's hottest surfing spots, with waves that can reach 20 feet. Hookipa is not necessarily a good swimming beach; however, there are a few spots that have protected reef areas that provide a shore break and places to play in the water, so getting wet isn’t completely out of the question. It's also not the place to learn windsurfing, but it's great for hanging out and watching the pros. There are picnic tables and grills, though the pavilion area isn't particularly inviting. Amenities: lifeguard; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: surfing; windsurfing.

Iao Valley State Monument

Fodor's choice

When Mark Twain saw this park, he dubbed it the Yosemite of the Pacific. Yosemite, it's not, but it is a lovely deep valley with the curious Iao Needle, a spire that rises more than 2,000 feet from the valley floor. You can walk from the parking lot across Iao Stream and explore the thick, jungle-like topography. This park has some lovely short strolls on paved paths, where you can stop and meditate by the edge of a stream or marvel at the native plants. Mist often rises if there has been raining, making it even more magical. Be aware that this area is prone to flash flooding; stay out of the water if it's been raining.

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, Maui, Hawaii, USA
idreamphoto / Shutterstock

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.

Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach)

Fodor's choice
Big Beach, Makena Beach State Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Ivan_Sabo / Shutterstock

Locals successfully fought to turn Makena—one of Hawaii's most breathtaking beaches—into a state park. This stretch of deep golden sand abutting sparkling aquamarine water is 3,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. It's often mistakenly referred to as Big Beach, but natives prefer its Hawaiian name, Oneloa. The water is fine for swimming, but use caution.

The shore drop-off is steep, and swells can get deceptively big.

Despite the infamous "Makena cloud," a blanket that rolls in during the early afternoon and obscures the sun, it seldom rains here. For a dramatic view of the beach, climb Puu Olai, the steep cinder cone near the first entrance you pass if you're driving south. Continue over the cinder cone's side to discover "Little Beach"—clothing-optional by popular practice, although this is technically illegal. On Sunday, free spirits of all kinds crowd Little Beach's tiny shoreline for a drumming circle and bonfire. Little Beach has the Island's best bodysurfing (no pun intended). Skimboarders catch air at Makena's third entrance, which is a little tricky to find (it's just a dirt path with street parking). Access to all beaches now requires paid parking and an entrance fee for non-resident visitors. Amenities: lifeguards; parking ($10 fee for non-residents); toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.

Maui Ocean Center

Fodor's choice

You'll feel as though you're walking from the seashore down to the bottom of the reef at this aquarium, which focuses on creatures of the Pacific. Vibrant exhibits let you get close to turtles, rays, sharks, and the unusual creatures of the tide pools; allow two hours or so to explore it all. A whale exhibit includes interactive learning stations and a dome theater that uses 3-D technology to give viewers a whale's-eye-view. There's also a moving exhibit highlighting the history of Kahoolawe, a neighboring island that can be seen just across the Alalakeiki Channel. It's not an enormous facility, but it does provide an excellent introduction to the sea life that makes Hawaii special. The center is part of a complex of retail shops and restaurants overlooking the harbor. Enter from Honoapiilani Highway as it curves past Maalaea Harbor. The Ocean Center's gift shop is one of the best on Maui for artsy souvenirs and toys.

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MauiWine

Fodor's choice

Maui's only winery in Ulupalakua is located on the former Rose Ranch on historical grounds. Stop by to learn about its history—which includes visits by monarchs, sugar production, and cattle ranching—and to sample its coveted wines. The King's Cottage was built in the late 1800s for frequent appearances from King Kalakaua, but today, tastings are held daily. A more intimate tasting held in the Old Jail building sometimes includes unreleased wines or special bottlings. Naturally, the winery's top seller is the pineapple wine Maui Blanc.

Napili Beach

Fodor's choice
Napili Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA
(c) Love2pic | Dreamstime.com

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.

Oo Farm

Fodor's choice

About a mile from Alii Kula Lavender are 8 acres of organic salad greens, herbs, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, fruits, and berries—and the public is welcome to enjoy the bounty. Oo Farm is owned and operated by the restaurateurs responsible for one of Maui's finest dining establishments, PacificO, and more than 300 pounds of produce end up on diners' plates every week. Reserve a space for the breakfast or lunch tours that include an informational walk around the pastoral grounds and an alfresco meal prepared by an on-site chef. Cap off the experience with house-grown roasted and brewed coffee. Reservations are required.

Pipiwai Trail

Fodor's choice

This popular 2-mile trek upstream reveals two magnificent waterfalls: Makahiku Falls at about half a mile in, and the grand finale 400-foot Waimoku Falls, pounding down in all its power and glory. Following signs from the parking lot, head across the road and uphill into the forest. The trail borders a stunning gorge and passes onto a boardwalk through an impenetrable forest of giant bamboo. This stomp through muddy and rocky terrain takes around three hours to enjoy fully. Although this trail is never truly crowded, it's best done early in the morning before the tours arrive. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent. Moderate.

Upcountry Farmers' Market

Fodor's choice

Most of Maui's produce is grown Upcountry, which is why everything is fresh at this outdoor market located next to Long's in the Kulamalu Town Center. Every Saturday from 7 to 11 am, vendors offer fruits, vegetables, flowers, jellies, bread, plus unique finds like venison, kimchi, and fresh caught fish. Prepared food offerings reflect the island's cultural melting pot, and there's an excellent selection of vegan and raw food. Go early, as nearly everything sells out.

Waianapanapa State Park

Fodor's choice
Beach, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA
(c) Rrxxuu | Dreamstime.com

Home to one of Maui's few black-sand beaches and freshwater caves for adventurous swimmers to explore, this park is right on the ocean. It's a lovely spot to picnic, hike, or swim. To the left you'll find the volcanic sand beach, picnic tables, and cave pools; to the right is an ancient trail that snakes along the ocean past blowholes, sea arches, and archaeological sites. Bird lovers could linger for hours watching the comings and goings of seabirds on the ocean outcroppings. The tide pools here turn red several times a year. Scientists say it's explained by the arrival of small shrimp, but legend claims the color represents the blood of Popoalaea, said to have been murdered in one of the caves by her husband, Chief Kakae. In either case, the dramatic landscape is bound to leave a lasting impression. There is a private cemetery on the grounds of the park, so be mindful to keep out of this area. With a permit, you can stay in a state-run cabin or campsite for a steal. It's wise to reserve as early as possible, as these spots book up quickly.

Waianapanapa State Park

Fodor's choice
Coast, Waianapanapa State Park, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Marisa Estivill / Shutterstock

This black volcanic-pebble beach fringed with green beach vines and palms will remain in your memory long after your visit. Swimming here is both relaxing and invigorating. Strong currents bump smooth stones up against your ankles, while seabirds flit above a black, jagged sea arch, and fingers of white foam rush onto the beach. There are picnic tables and grills. At the edge of the parking lot, a sign tells you the sad story of a doomed Hawaiian princess. Stairs lead through a tunnel of interlocking Polynesian hau (a native tree) branches to an icy cave pool—the secret hiding place of the ancient princess (you can swim in this pool, but beware of mosquitoes). In the other direction a dramatic 3-mile coastal path continues past sea arches, blowholes, cultural sites, and even a ramshackle fishermen's shelter, all the way to Hana town. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

Wailua Falls

Fodor's choice
Once you've made it past Hana town, you're rewarded with views of what many consider to be the most beautiful and most photographed waterfall in Maui. The best part is that you don't even have to get off of the highway to see the stunning 80-foot falls that end in a gorgeous pool. Look for local food and gift vendors in the parking area.

Waimoku Falls

Fodor's choice

If you enjoy hiking, go up the stream from the Pools of Oheo on the 2-mile hike to Waimoku Falls via Pipiwai Trail. The trail crosses a spectacular gorge, then turns into a boardwalk that takes you through an amazing bamboo forest. The hike also includes a giant banyan tree, views of Makahiku Falls, and forests of tropical plant life. After returning from your hike you can pitch a tent in the grassy campground down by the sea if you've made reservations in advance.

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.

4th Marine Division Memorial Park

Up Kokomo Road in Haiku you'll find a large puu (volcanic cinder cone) capped with a grove of columnar pines and the 4th Marine Division Memorial Park. During World War II, American GIs trained here for battles on Iwo Jima and Saipan. Locals nicknamed the cinder cone "Giggle Hill" because it was a popular hangout for Maui women and their favorite servicemen. The park includes an impressive playground, picnic tables, and lots of wide-open space.

AA Oceanfront Rentals and Sales

As the name suggests, the specialty is "oceanfront." With rental units in more than 25 condominium complexes on the South Shore from the northernmost reaches of Kihei all the way to Wailea, there's something for everyone at rates that run $90–$450 a night.

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve

South of Makena State Park, the road fades away into a vast territory of black-lava flows, the result of Haleakala's last eruption and now a place for exploration. The road passes through the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, an excellent place for morning snorkel adventures. All wildlife, vegetation, coral, lava rock formations, and archaeological sites are highly protected under state law, which means that removing or disturbing items is prohibited, as is fishing. Two miles of coastline and the interior of the reserve are closed so that endangered species have an undisturbed area. You can visit one mile of the reserve's coastline for a ½-mile hike or snorkeling, from 5:30 am to 7:30 pm. To snorkel Ahihi Bay, park at the reserve's main lot and follow signage. Be sure to wear mineral sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens, which kill corals—other sunscreens are now banned in Hawaii. Adjacent to Ahihi-Kinau is the Keoneoio archaeological district, where the start of the Hoapili Trail can be found. Limited cell phone service exists at the reserve.

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum

Maui's largest landowner, A&B was one of the "Big Five" companies that spearheaded the planting, harvesting, and processing of sugarcane. At this museum, historic photos, artifacts, and documents explain the introduction of sugarcane to Hawaii. Exhibits reveal how plantations brought in laborers from other countries, forever changing the Islands' ethnic mix. Although sugarcane is no longer being grown on Maui, the crop was for many years the mainstay of the local economy. You can find the museum in a small, restored plantation manager's house across the street from the post office and the still-operating sugar refinery, where smoke billows up when the cane is being processed. Their gift shop sells plantation-themed memorabilia, coffee, and a selection of history books. 

3957 Hansen Rd., Puunene, HI, 96784, USA
808-871–8058
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $7, Closed Fri., Sat., Sun.

Alii Kula Lavender

Created by Alii Chang, master horticulturist and visionary, Alii Kula Lavender farm has a falcon's view: it's the relaxing remedy for those suffering from too much sun, shopping, or golf. You can explore on your own or reserve a spot for the 30–40 minute tour that winds through paths of therapeutic lavender varieties, protea, and succulents. The gift shop has many locally made lavender products, such as honey, moisturizing lotions, and scone mixes.

1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula, HI, 96790, USA
808-878–3004
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $3, walking tours $12 (reservations recommended), Closed Tues. to Thurs.