When asked about the subject of what is arguably Hawaii’s most beautiful island, Mark Twain once quipped, “I went to Maui to stay a week and remained for five.” Twain went on to write about the regret he felt upon leaving this paradise and there’s no doubt you will too. So instead of dwelling on the departure, explore some of the best sights and distractions Maui has to offer. No matter if you’re travelling with the kids, your spouse or your best friend, here are some of the best things to do in Maui.
Take a Helicopter Tour
Maui is a diminutive 727 square miles, but when it comes to this hot tourist destination, it’s not really about the island’s size. There is something beautiful to explore around every corner, so instead of trying to pack every sight imaginable into your short trip, view the best of what Maui has to offer in a few hours by enjoying a helicopter ride. There are a number of companies throughout Maui offering this service, so it’s best to determine what you would like to see the most. For instance, one group may focus a trip on the waterfalls of Maui, while another will fly you over the nearby island of Molokini. If you’re all about snapping impressive photos and aren’t faint of heart, consider buzzing the island in a helicopter with the doors off. It’s exhilarating, and the absence of glare from the windows allows you to snap some amazing aerial photos.
Maui Ocean Center
When you’re ready to take a break from Maui’s notoriously humid temperatures, consider exploring the biggest tropical reef aquarium in the Western hemisphere, the Maui Ocean Center. First opened in 1998, the massive three-acre aquarium and marine science institute is home to an impressive array of native fauna and flora, including coral, sting rays and, to the delight of your kids, sharks. Nowhere else in Maui will you experience underwater creatures in quite the same way, especially if you muster up enough bravery to actually swim with the sharks. The Maui Ocean Center allows adults and kids 15 and over to dive into the facility’s 750,000 gallon “Open Ocean” exhibit and commune with the sharks. The experience is pricy, at around $200 per person, but the bragging rights alone are worth the added expense.
Take a Lesson from the Locals
Hawaii is famous for hula dancers, water sports and tourists attempting to do both. If you don’t mind being the brunt of your family’s jokes for the next 10 years, consider immersing yourself in the local culture by taking a hula, snorkeling, windsurfing or traditional surfing class. You won’t have to travel far to find an impromptu, inexpensive hula lesson. Hula instructors and knowledgeable locals alike are always offering classes in resorts, shopping malls or even on the street. When it comes to water sports, there are a number of instructors waiting to offer your children a lesson on how to brave the waters on a surf board or behind a scuba mask.
The O’heo Gulch
Located a few miles outside the popular tourist town of Hana and inside the Haleakala National Park lies the O’heo Gulch. Don’t be turned off to the experience by the word “gulch” because what you’ll find upon entering the area is a series of waterfalls and warm water pools just waiting for you to explore. Cliff-diving, swimming, picnicking and hiking are just a few of the ways to spend your day exploring the gulch and the Haleakala National Park as a whole. Once you’ve had your fill of splashing and people watching, leave the O’heo Gulch and climb to the summit of Haleakala, which is the highest point in Maui. For a more intimate, tourist-free experience, consider either arriving early or spending the night inside the nearby Kipahulu Campground.
The above-mentioned activities are only a handful of the hundreds of ways to enjoy your next Maui vacation. For a more informative view of the area’s history, head to the Whalers Village Museum. The museum and cultural center is devoted to preserving the heritage of Maui’s past and protecting the future of many species of whales.