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. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

    Educational Institution

    This nature center sits in prime humpback-viewing territory beside a restored ancient Hawaiian fishpond. Whether the whales are here or not...Read More

  • 2. Oheo Gulch

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    One branch of Haleakala National Park runs down the mountain from the crater and reaches the sea here, 10 miles past Hana at mile marker 42...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Hanawi Falls

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    At mile marker 24 of the Hana Highway, just as you approach the bridge, look toward the mountains to catch a glimpse of Hanawi Falls. This lush...Read More

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Maalaea Harbor

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    With so many good reasons to head out onto the water, this active little harbor is quite busy. Many snorkeling and whale-watching excursions...Read More

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  • 7. Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    Many believe the stretch of landscape between mile markers 19 and 25 of the Hana Highway contain the most picturesque waterfalls on Maui. While...Read More

  • 8. Twin Falls

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    Keep an eye out for the Twin Falls Farm Stand just after mile marker 2 on the Hana Highway. Stop here and treat yourself to some fresh sugarcane...Read More

  • 9. Wailea Beach Path

    Beach–Sight

    A 1.5-mile-long paved beach walk allows you to stroll among Wailea's prettiest properties, restaurants, and rocky coves. The trail, teeming...Read More

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