Maui Top Places To Visit – First time to Maui? If so, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the most popular sights and destinations when planning your itinerary. Below, we dive into Maui’s top attractions to help you get the lay of the land.
Well, places are popular for a reason, and if many people are attracted to a particular place, there must be something to it – that is, there must be something that adds value. While we agree that the crowds at many popular spots aren’t ideal, we find that they’re worth navigating in some cases (especially if you’re visiting during off-peak hours). Come along as we take a look at Maui’s most iconic areas and attractions.
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Kaʻanapali is the island’s largest resort area, extending several miles north of Lāhainā. It is home to a range of hotels and resorts as well as the island’s longest white sand beach. People flock to Kaʻanapali for its variety of rooms, well-maintained properties, golf courses, paved beach boardwalk, shopping centers, restaurants, and pristine coastline.
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If you’re a beach bum looking for long days in the warm sun, Kaʻanapali is a great place to put your feet in the sand. The water is usually calm and safe for swimming, and offshore views of Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi add to the appeal. During whale season (November-March), you can see humpback whales off the coast.
While the area can be busy due to the number of rooms available, its beauty cannot be ignored. We find you can still escape the crowds in the mornings and late afternoons – our favorite time for a beach walk.
Once you reach the long, white-sand beach in front of Kaanapali, it’s hard to leave! Image credit: Jeffery Simpson, source.
Rising to over 10,000 feet above sea level, the Haleakalā Volcano makes up the majority of Maui’s landmass. The Haleakalā Highway runs 37 miles from Kahului to the summit of the volcano, passing many attractions, trails, and points of interest along the way. The trip is one made by many visitors to Maui, most driving to the summit for a short walk or photo shoot.
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If any part of your brain thinks that Haleakalā’s popularity makes it a tourist trap, forget it now. Its status as a National Park keeps it well maintained and protected, and its sheer size means there’s plenty of room to spread out. The peak area offers a variety of hiking, biking, stargazing tours, camping, birding and scenic viewpoints.
Lāhainā is probably the busiest beach town in all of Maui thanks to its combination of sunny days, beaches, boat harbor, beginner surf breaks, historical/cultural significance, and a myriad of restaurants and bars. On any given day, the streets of Lāhainā will be packed with visitors exploring its waterfront and enjoying its local offerings.
But once you get past the hustle and bustle, you’ll see that there are many reasons to love Lāhainā. It is the former capital of Hawaii (before it was moved to Honolulu in 1850) and was also the epicenter of the global whaling industry in the 1820s. Ironically, its port is where many whale-watching tours depart from, as well as various other snorkeling and sightseeing tours. Waterfront dining, local breweries, and nightlife (which is absent from many other areas of Maui) are what keep people coming back. The beaches surrounding Lāhainā, such as Launiupoko, are great for families, barbecues, and beginner surfers.
With endless activities, Front Street serves as a historical landmark located in downtown Lāhainā. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
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Located at the beginning of the south shore, Kīhei is larger and more residential than Lāhainā. It of course has its hotels and visitors, but overall, it feels more like a local community than a tourist town that has some great beaches and plenty of local restaurants to try.
In this sense, Kīhei walks a fine line – it’s definitely a popular area of the island, but, in general, it caters more to locals than visitors. It’s a good spot for beach bums, and its central location is also perfect for travelers who expect to be outside every day, with easy access south to Wailea, north to Lāhainā, or east to Haleakalā.
For more, see our list of favorite things to do in Kihei and our guide to places to stay in Maui. There, we dive deeper into what you can expect from Kīhei.
While almost all beaches and outdoor areas in Maui are considered kid-friendly, here are some other attractions that families will enjoy.
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There aren’t many places in the world better suited to host an ocean center and aquarium than Maui. The ʻAuʻau Channel on the west coast of the island is a breeding ground for humpback whales, and you’ll find many other protected marine sanctuaries along the coast of Maui.
For young children, a visit to the Maui Ocean Center gives them a chance to see Maui’s reefs and its marine life up close. Look out for its special exhibits, such as Hawaiians and the Sea, which delve into the cultural relationship between the ocean and the people of Maui.
The Maui Ocean Center offers an up-close view of more than 40 Hawaiian coral species that range from shallow to deep reef environments. Image credit: Maui Ocean Center.
Although pineapple is no longer a major cash crop in Hawaiʻi, it is still grown in the islands. The farms of Maui Gold – a very famous brand of pineapples in Hawaiʻi – are located in Upcountry Maui. It offers tours of its fields and packing facilities, which include pineapple tastings and a free pineapple as a take-home gift (boxed and ready to fly).
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The landscape in the agricultural fields offers beautiful views of Maui from the slopes of Haleakalā, and it is a great environment for families and a fun, educational experience for everyone.
On the Maui Gold pineapple tour you learn about the growth cycle and cultivation techniques, tasting the stages as you learn them. Image credit: Maui Pineapple Tours
Every night at sunset (just before their Luau), the Sheraton Maui Resort puts on a simple show at Kaʻananapli Beach – a diver climbs up a rocky outcrop at the end of the beach, torch in hand, and then jumps off the 30-foot. cliffs into the water.
The dive, which has been taking place since 1963, pays homage to a Hawaiian legend that the last king of Maui, Kahekili, once made the same jump. Although it is now part of a major tourist area, Black Rock is a sacred space for Native Hawaiians, believed to be a portal to the afterlife.
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This is a great event for families to enjoy. Pack a small “happy” picnic with fruit and refreshments and enjoy the show and sunset from the beach before heading out for dinner.
Maui has a myriad of outdoor areas and points of interest to explore. Here are some of the most famous:
The back side of Haleakalā National Park is known as the Kīpahulu District. It is located at sea level along the coast with hiking trails, camping, and other points of interest. Many people stop here on the Road to Hāna.
The main draw at Kipahulu is the hikes. Specifically, the Pīpīwai Trail (bamboo forest) and the Seven Frightened Pools. Those who camp at Kīpahulu are in prime position to beat the crowds along the trails. Otherwise, we encourage patience, as the bamboo forest and waterfalls are totally worth it.
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Located outside of Pāʻia along the Road to Hāna, Hoʻokipa is the most popular, active beach on Maui’s north shore. Its waters are typically filled with surfers, paddle boarders and windsurfers, and sea turtles often nest on its white-sand beach, where there is plenty of room for sunbathing and picnicking.
Based on sea cliffs, many people choose to simply sit and catch a bird’s eye view of the water activity below. From the cliffs, you can also take in views of the West Maui Mountains. Whether you’re making it a quick stop on the way or settling in for the afternoon, a visit to Hoʻokipa should be on your list.
Located at Mile 9 on Hana Highway, Hoʻokipa is a beautiful white sand beach that boasts some of the best waves on the Maui coast. Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Maui is surrounded by other islands, and all of them can be seen from the west and south coasts: Kahoʻolawe, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Molokini. The latter is the remains of a submerged volcanic crater, small in size and crescent in shape, which sits off the southern shore.
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Although you can’t set foot on Molokini, thousands of people visit its waters every day. It is by far the most popular snorkeling destination in Maui, with a large reef and a variety of tropical fish. The draw is not just a visit to the protected reef, but the scenic boat ride to get there, which allows for views of the other islands as well as a look back at Haleakalā and Maui itself.
Molokini (with Kaho’olawe in the background) is one of the best places for snorkeling and diving on Maui. Credit: Hawaii
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