Note: places mentioned here are shown on a special map. Disclaimer – this information is slanted towards South Maui, doesn’t include as much about the West Maui resort areas.
An amazingly beautiful (and popular) beach is Big Beach down in Mākena. It’s fun to watch the waves and people boogie-boarding – or rent your own. The turn-off to the larger of two parking areas is a little after the turn-off to Makena Landing. At the north end of the beach you can climb over a hill to get to Little Beach; I think it is the only clothing-optional beach on the island, although many people are clothed. Better to go on a weekday – the parking lots are packed on weekends. See also Black Sand Beach below under Diving and Snorkeling. It’s one of our favorites for just hanging out and reading (besides our “own” beach Kama‘ole I).
Diving and Snorkeling
The dive operator we’ve been out with almost every year: Mike Severns When they are booked solid we go out with Ed Robinson. For both, you meet up early in the morning at the Kihei Boat Ramp. The dive operators usually take you to the half-moon shaped crater Molokini for the first dive. It has the best diving on Maui with at least 100 foot visibility most days. Many of the dive operators also take snorkelers there, but not Mike Severns.
This is the dive shop that has good rental equipment at decent prices, and a big free brochure describing all the shore dive spots: http://www.mauidiveshop.com/. They have a small shop in a mall on South Kihei Road across from Kama’ole II beach, but go to the main shop which is a mile and a half north on South Kihei Road. Maui Dreams has a much smaller store but they are very friendly and helpful; we go to them for dive equipment repairs, some gear, and to check the current dive conditions.
If you get there early in the morning, you can swim/snorkel out from La Perouse Bay and be near a large number of dolphins. “Dumps” has a lot of fish life to see snorkeling but can be rough to enter. Ahihi Cove is easy, shallow snorkeling with lots of fish. Parking is at Dumps (a little south of the cove).
Easy snorkeling at Kamaole Point (North end of Kamaole Beach Park III) in Kihei, Ulua Beach in Wailea, Makena Landing in Makena, or on the West side of the island, both South and North of Lahaina. Honolua Bay past Kapalua on the West side has great snorkeling and chances to see turtles, but the water is murky after a storm. A little-known beach (Black Sand Beach) with great snorkeling at the south end can be reached through an orange-painted metal gate (drive through) on the right side between the second Makena Road turn-off and the Big Beach turn-off from Makena Alanui Drive. The sand is a volcanic mix of black, red, and white. If the waves are high it is difficult to enter and exit the water at this beach.
Learning to Surf
I took my first surfing lesson in Kihei. It was fun. The waves are not as big as in other parts of the island, so it is a good place to learn. I took a lesson at a place near Kalama Beach Park, where there is a protected cove with long but gentle waves.
A must-see location, easily accessed, is Hookipa on the north shore just East of Kahului. From the upper parking lot (the Lookout) you can watch surfers, wind surfers, and kite surfers on usually huge waves and also walk down to some beautiful rocks below. At the lower area – the corner of the beach below the upper area – you can almost always see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. During the day maybe two to four of them, after 6PM dozens of them. They are protected and you should stay ten feet from them, 30 feet if they’re nesting.
On your way back from Hookipa you might want to check out the hippie/artisan/surfer town of Paia and have lunch or dinner at Flatbread Pizza or Paia Fish Market.
Another popular destination is the Haleakala volcano, especially for viewing the spectacular sunrise. Remember that it is very cold and windy up there so you have to bring a sweater and jacket. One time we biked down from the top. The company picks you up and drops you off at the top for sunrise, then forms a protective group to bike down. You stop for lunch on the way. Update 2011: The bike tours now start outside the state park area (not at the summit) due to liability issues because there have been accidents pretty much every year on the tours. Still well worth doing.
On your way down from Haleakala (if you’re driving) you may want to stop in the artsy little town Makawao and check out the many galleries and watch glass pieces being blown.
You can see whales from just about anywhere along the southern or western coasts between November and March. Be sure to have binoculars with you in the car at all times. I also recommend taking a boat outing to see whales up close, with Pacific Whale Foundation in Maalaea.
West Side Loop
The clockwise loop around the western half of the island is worth driving one day. Start early and take your time. There are pictures from Honolua Bay through “Falls of north Maui” from one of our trips there. One of the neat things is a place towards the end where ocean water fills basins of lava to form a natural spa – the Olivine Pools.
Spend a few hours walking along Front Street in Lahaina – boutiques of all kinds, historical sites, cafes and restaurants. During the weekends there is almost always an art and handicrafts bazaar (local artists) under the huge banyan tree. Sometimes there are special festival events there.
Kapalua Arboretum and Trails
In 2009 new trails were made available in the mountains above Kapalua in the north-west. Mostly very easy hiking. There used to be a free shuttle up from Kapalua to the Arboretum and trail heads from where you can do a short or long loop trail but now you have to hike both up and down (six miles each way).
Wailea Beach Walk
There is a very nice beach walk you can do in Wailea just south of Kihei. It’s in the books. It starts at Ulua Beach next to the Andaz hotel and goes south for about 1 1/2 miles (return on the same path).
Upcountry near the volcano you can zip through the jungle with a harness attached to a cable high above the ground. We tried it in late 2007 and loved it. Nowadays you can also do it in Waikapu (near the Tropical Plantation in central Maui, not as interesting views) or in north-west Maui not far from Kaanapali.
A central element of our stays in Maui was to walk down to the beach (Kama’ole I) with light folding beach chairs, wine, crackers, and sometimes cheese to watch the sun set. Sometimes it is a spectacular show that lasts for half an hour. There are often side shows as well – a modern ballet dancer practicing his moves, dogs performing miraculous recoveries of things tossed into the waves by their owners, kids building sand castles.
The Sierra Club in Maui offers many hikes, outings, and volunteer opportunities. Other volunteer opportunities can be found at www.hear.org/volunteer/maui. If you’re staying in south Maui, consider spending a couple of hours Monday mornings on the beach with Hoaloha ‘Aina (South Maui Volunteers) removing invasive plant species, building dune barriers and rails, improving trails, meeting locals who love Maui and work to preserve its beauty and uniqueness.
The Pacific Whale Foundation has a page with additional regular service outings.
We always check if there is anything interesting happening at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului (north side of the island).
There are a couple of books and maps in the ohana. Be sure to bring one with you in the car when you’re out. The island is so small that you might suddenly find yourself someplace that you’ve heard of, and then it’s fun to look up in the book what you can do when you’re there.
Current water temperature; supposedly there is no difference at depth from near the surface.
There are links to many hiking opportunities here.
No Longer Available
You may hear or read about the following but they are no longer available:
There is wonderful snorkeling at Fishbowl south of Makena, but it is tricky to get there (walking 40 minutes on sharp, uneven lava, and hard to find the trailhead). See pictures 1871 to 1876. There are instructions on getting to the trailhead in Maui Revealed.
Update 2013: The entire area on both sides of the road between “Dumps” and La Perouse Bay is closed off until July 31, 2014 for protection. It may not be reopened then, either, since it has been marked off limits since 2008.
Hanging Bridges hike below Waihee Ridge – the land owner closed off access in 2012 or 2013.