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. Iao Valley State Monument

    Geological Site

    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...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 4. Oo Farm

    Farm/Ranch

    About a mile from Alii Kula Lavender are 8 acres of organic salad greens, herbs, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, fruits, and berries—all of it headed...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. Garden of Eden Arboretum

    Garden/Arboretum

    Just beyond mile marker 10 on the Hana Highway, the Garden of Eden Arboretum offers interpretive trails through 26 acres of manicured gardens...Read More

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Kahakuloa

    Town/Village

    The wild side of West Maui, this tiny village at the north end of Honoapiilani Highway is a relic of pre-jet-travel Maui. Remote villages similar...Read More

  • 10. Kaupo Road

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    Also called Piilani Highway, this road winds through what locals say is one of the last parts of real Maui. It goes all the way around Haleakala...Read More

  • 11. Keanae Overlook

    Town/Village

    Near mile marker 17 along the Hana Highway, you can stop at the Keanae Overlook. From this observation point you can take in the quiltlike effect...Read More

  • 12. Lahaina Harbor

    Marina/Pier/Dock

    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...Read More

  • 13. Lahaina Jodo Mission

    Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Established at the turn of the 20th century by Japanese contract workers, this Buddhist mission is one of Lahaina's most popular sites thanks...Read More

  • 14. 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

    View Tours and Activities
  • 15. 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

  • 16. Piilanihale Heiau

    Archaeological Site/Ruins

    This temple was built for a great 16th-century Maui king named Piilani and his heirs. Hawaiian families continue to maintain and protect this...Read More

  • 17. 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

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Wailua Overlook

    Viewpoint/Scenic Overlook

    From the parking lot on the side of the Hana Highway near mile marker 21, you can see Wailua Canyon in one direction and Wailua Village in the...Read More

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