Getting into (or onto) the water may well be the highlight of your Maui trip. The Valley Isle is an aquatic wonderland where you can learn to surf, stand-up paddle, or scuba dive. Vibrant snorkel sites can be explored right off the shore, or easily accessed aboard a kayak, motorized raft, or power catamaran. From December into May, whale-watching adventures are a top draw as humpbacks escaping Alaska's frigid winter arrive in Maui's warm, protected waters to frolic, mate, and birth.
Along Maui's leeward coastline, from Kaanapali on the West Shore all the way down to Waiala Cove on the South Shore, you can discover great spots for snorkeling and swimming, some more crowded than others. On a good day, you might encounter dozens of green sea turtles at an underwater cleaning station, a pod of dolphins riding by the catamaran's bow, and an abundance of colorful fish hovering by bright cauliflower coral reefs.
When your preferred sport calls for calm, glassy waters, get an early start when visibility is best; plus the trade winds begin to roll through the valleys in the late morning and pick up speed in the afternoon. For those thrill seekers who flock to Hawaii for the wind, it's best to head out to the North Shore’s Hookipa, where consistent winds keep kiteboarders flying and windsurfers jibing; or Peahi (aka Jaws) where surfers seasonally get towed in to glide on 30- to 60-foot waves.
Treat the ocean with respect and for your safety, choose activities that suit your skill level and health condition. If in doubt, skip the rental and pay for a lesson so that you can have proper instructions in navigating swells and wind, and someone with you in case you get in a bind. The ocean might be beautiful but it can be unpredictable.
Surf can be enjoyed all year, and avid surfers live for the winter swells when the north and west coasts get really "lit up." Whale season on Maui is nothing short of majestic at its peak, late January–mid-March. You can spot them from the shore, or get up close from a motorized raft or catamaran.
We know how tempting it is to spend your entire vacation on the beach (many days we’re tempted as well), but if you do, you’ll miss out on the "other side of Maui": the eerie, moonlike surface of Haleakala Crater, the lush rain forests of East Maui, and the geological wonder that is Iao Valley State Monument, to name just a few. Even playing a round of golf on one of the world-class courses provides breathtaking vistas, reminding you just why you chose to come to Maui in the first place.
Maui’s exceptional climate affords year-round opportunities for outdoor adventures, whether it’s exploring cascading waterfalls on a day hike, riding horseback through verdant valleys, soaring across vast gulches on a zipline, or taking an exhilarating bicycle ride down Haleakala. When you take time to get off the beaten path, you’ll discover just why Maui no ka oi (is the best). But make sure not to overbook yourself—one or two activities per day is plenty. You’re on vacation, remember.