Maui

Those who know Maui well understand why it's earned all its superlatives. The island's miles of perfect beaches, lush green valleys, historic villages, top-notch water sports and outdoor activities, and amazing marine life have made it an international favorite. But nature isn't all Maui has to offer: it's also home to a wide variety of cultural activities, stunning ethnic diversity, and stellar restaurants and resorts.

Maui is much more than sandy beaches and palm trees; it's a land of water and fire. Puu Kukui, the 5,788-foot interior of Mauna Kahalawai, also known as the "West Maui Mountains," is one of Earth's wettest spots—an annual rainfall of 400 inches has sculpted the land into impassable gorges and razor-sharp ridges. On the opposite side of the island, the blistering lava fields at Ahihi-Kinau receive scant rain. Just above this desertlike landscape, paniolo (cowboys) herd cattle on rolling fertile ranchlands. On the island's rugged east side is the lush tropical Hawaii of travel posters.

In small towns like Paia and Hana you can see remnants of the past mingling with modern-day life. Ancient heiau (platforms, often made of stone, once used as places of worship) line busy roadways. Old coral-and-brick missionary homes now welcome visitors. The antique smokestacks of sugar mills tower above communities where the children blend English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino, and more into one colorful language. Hawaii is a melting pot like no other. Visiting an eclectic mom-and-pop shop—such as Makawao's T. Komoda Store & Bakery—can feel like stepping into another country, or back in time. The more you look here, the more you find.

At 729 square miles, Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian Island, but it offers more miles of swimmable beaches than any of its neighbors. Despite rapid growth over the past few decades, the local population still totals less than 200,000.

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  • 1. Hookipa Beach

    Beach–Sight

    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...Read More

  • 2. Kapalua Bay Beach

    Beach–Sight

    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...Read More

  • 3. Makena Beach State Park (Big Beach)

    Beach–Sight

    Locals successfully fought to turn Makena—one of Hawaii's most breathtaking beaches—into a state park. This stretch of deep golden sand abutting...Read More

  • 4. Napili Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Surrounded by sleepy condos, this round bay is a turtle-filled pool lined with a sparkling white crescent of sand. Sunbathers love this beach...Read More

  • 5. Waianapanapa State Park

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    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...Read More

  • 6. Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve

    Archaeological Site/Ruins

    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...Read More

  • 7. Baldwin Beach

    Beach–Sight

    A local favorite, this big stretch of comfortable golden sand is a good place to stretch out, jog, or swim, although the waves can sometimes...Read More

  • 8. Charley Young Beach

    Beach–Sight

    This secluded 3-acre park sits off the main drag in a residential area. The sand is soft and smooth, with a gentle slope into the ocean. A cloister...Read More

  • 9. Cove Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    Go to the Cove if you want to learn to surf or stand-up paddle. All the surf schools are here in the morning, pushing longboard beginners onto...Read More

  • 10. D.T. Fleming Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Because the current can be quite strong, this charming, mile-long sandy cove is better for sunbathing than for swimming or water sports. Still...Read More

  • 11. Hamoa Beach

    Beach–Sight

    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...Read More

  • 12. Kaanapali

    Beach–Sight

    The theatrical look of Hawaii tourism—planned resort communities where luxury homes mix with high-rise hotels, fantasy swimming pools, and a...Read More

  • 13. Kaanapali Beach

    Beach–Sight

    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...Read More

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  • 14. Kalama Park

    Beach–Sight

    Stocked with grills and picnic pavilions, this 36-acre beach park with plenty of shade is great for families and sports lovers. With its extensive...Read More

  • 15. Kalepolepo Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    This tiny beach is the site of the ancient Kalepolepo Village, the prized property of King Kamehameha III in the 1850s. Here the makaainana...Read More

  • 16. Kamaole I, II, and III

    Beach–Sight

    Three steps from South Kihei Road are three golden stretches of sand separated by outcroppings of dark, jagged lava rocks. You can walk the...Read More

  • 17. Kanaha Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Windsurfers, kiteboarders, joggers, and picnicking families like this long, golden strip of sand bordered by a wide grassy area with lots of...Read More

  • 18. Kapalua

    Beach–Sight

    Beautiful and secluded, Kapalua is West Maui's northernmost, most exclusive resort community. First developed in the late 1970s, the resort...Read More

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  • 19. Keawakapu Beach

    Beach–Sight

    Everyone loves Keawakapu, with its long stretch of golden sand, near-perfect swimming, and views of Puu Olai cinder cone. It's great fun to...Read More

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  • 20. Koki Beach

    Beach–Sight

    You can tell from the trucks parked alongside the road that this is a favorite local surf spot. Watch conditions before swimming or bodysurfing...Read More

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