Deciding to go to Maui is easy. Deciding what to do with your precious time once in paradise, is where things can get complicated. The second largest island in Hawaii, Maui boasts more than 30 miles of beautiful beaches. Warm, blue seas are home to coral and critters every color in the rainbow. And then there’s the waterfalls. There’s never enough time to do it all, but our must-do Maui adventures are a good way to start, and make a splash.
1. Fly High Above Ka’anapali Beach
You’ll get some of the best views of Ka’anapali Beach from a boat – well, from behind a boat – parasailing along the coast. Soaring into the sky can seem intimidating, but parasailing is amazingly peaceful and surprisingly quiet once you float, up, up and away. UFO Parasail allows guests to fly solo, tandem or three at a time, making it a fun activity for families. You don’t have to get wet, take-offs and landings are completely dry, but going for a dip is a whole lot of fun, and makes folks watching from shore even more envious. Parasailing runs seasonally on Maui, from May to December, when the humpback whales aren’t in town.
2. Swim with a Buddy at Black Rock
After you’ve taken in the view from above, it makes sense to see how amazing it also is from below. Ka’anapali Beach’s northernmost cliffs, known as Puu Kekaa or Black Rock, are a favorite spot for green sea turtles, often referred to by their Hawaiian name of honu. The snorkeling couldn’t be easier here. Just drop your towel on the beach, put on your gear and walk right in. If you are lucky enough to see turtles, enjoy the view, but be sure to give the gentle sea creatures plenty of space.
3. Cruise to Molokini Crater
Three miles from Maui’s southwestern coast, Molokini is a small, crescent moon-shaped island home to more than 250 species of tropical fish and equally colorful coral. Trilogy tours depart in the morning from Ma’alaea Harbor, and include a second snorkeling stop after exploring Molokini. Whale watching is an added perk during the winter. Wear your swimsuit, but bring a towel, change of clothes and non-aerosol, preferably reef-safe, sunscreen.
4. Take Mermaid Swim Lessons
Fairy “tails” do come true in Maui. It takes a bit of practice to get a feel for life with a tail, but instructors from Hawaii Mermaid Adventures will have you cruising through hoops and doing backflips in the waves with ease. (During whale season, after you get the hang of diving deeper and get more comfortable in the water, listen closely and you might even hear nearby humpbacks singing.) Lessons are held first thing in the morning at Makena Landing Park, an easy drive from Wailea, and mermaids are always within eyesight of the shore along with their certified lifeguard instructors. Before you start splashing, you’ll spend some time on dry land, listening to legends of famous mermaids and learning about how visitors can protect Hawaii’s unique ocean habitat. Tails fit all shapes and sizes from 50 to 190 pounds, meaning mer-men can splash around too. There’s no age requirement for kids, they just need to be comfortable in the water.
5. The Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is legendary for many reasons; 620 curves and 59 bridges, to be exact. (I didn’t count, but someone from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, apparently did.) The winding road takes you alongside cascading waterfalls, beaches and through lush rainforests. Plan on two to four hours to make the drive, and don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy the many views. Waianapanapa State Park and its beautiful black sand beach is an easy stop, that’s close to Hana and has plenty of parking.
The destination of Hana, itself, is just as much fun as the journey getting there. With no traffic lights and just one gas station, small towns like Hana are a rarity. After the long stretch behind the wheel, if giving your legs a workout sounds appealing, be sure to head a bit past Hana to Haleakala National Park, Kipahulu. The popular Pools of ‘O’heo attract most visitors, but the hike through a bamboo forest on Pipiwai Trail is a show stealer, that ends at 400-foot Waimoku Falls.