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. Maui Ocean Center

    Educational Institution

    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...Read More

    View Tours and Activities
  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge

    Trail/Path

    Natural wetlands have become rare in the Islands, so the 700 acres of this reserve attract migratory birds, such as Hawaiian coots and long...Read More

  • 8. Kepaniwai Park & Heritage Gardens

    Forest

    Picnic facilities dot the landscape of this county park, a memorial to Maui's cultural roots. Among the interesting displays are an early-Hawaiian...Read More

  • 9. Launiupoko Beach Park

    Beach–Sight

    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...Read More

  • 10. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

    Garden/Arboretum

    Hawaiian and Polynesian species are cultivated at this fascinating 7-acre garden, including Hawaiian bananas; local varieties of sweet potatoes...Read More

  • 11. Maui Tropical Plantation & Country Store

    Amusement Park/Water Park

    When Maui's cash crop declined in importance, a group of visionaries opened an agricultural theme park on the site of this former sugarcane...Read More

  • 12. Mokapu and Ulua

    Beach–Sight

    Look for a little road and public parking lot near the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa if you are heading to Mokapu and Ulua beaches...Read More

  • 13. Surfing Goat Dairy

    Farm/Ranch

    It takes goats to make goat cheese, and they've got plenty of both at this 42-acre farm. The owners make more than two dozen kinds of goat cheese...Read More

  • 14. The Whale Center of Hawaii

    Museum/Gallery

    The skeleton of a massive whale leads the way to the Whale Center of the Pacific on the second floor of Whalers Village. Here you can learn...Read More

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