15 Things NOT To Do on Maui
There are lists and lists of things to do on our island, but there are also some things you shouldn’t do on Maui. Maui is mostly all about “Do’s,” but as a local resident, I always share some important “Don’ts” with my friends and family members who are visiting. Now I’m sharing those tips with you!
NOTE: If you’re planning a visit to Maui during the COVID pandemic, take a look at this blog for some specific COVID-era do’s and don’ts: Visiting Maui During COVID: What You Need To Know.
THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO ON MAUI
1. Don’t rent a stand up paddle (SUP) board and blithely head out to sea. . . unless you are experienced with SUP. Or unless you want to make an unscheduled ocean excursion to Tahiti. By yourself. On just that little board. SUP is loads of fun, but get some training before hitting the waves. You’ll enjoy it more if you learn how to do it right, and you’ll be much safer with a little instruction under your belt (or swimsuit). When it comes to ocean sports like SUP, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is dangerous.
2. Don’t leave opened food containers out. We share our island paradise with multitudes of insects and other critters who, like us, thrive in Maui’s warm, tropical climate. Ants, cockroaches, spiders, centipedes, rodents . . . they live here, just as we do, and are simply a fact of life in the tropics. Most homes and visitor accommodations exterminate the premises on a regular basis to keep unwanted creatures under control. But don’t tempt fate by leaving any opened food in your car, room, or on your lanai. That leftover piece of pineapple pizza or bowl of taro chips and guacamole is like ringing a dinner bell for our creepy, crawly neighbors and yelling, “Come and get it!”
3. Don’t stand (or sit or park or picnic or nap) directly under a coconut tree loaded with coconuts. Youch. Definitely one of those things you shouldn’t do on Maui. One of those babies can unexpectedly fall and dent your head—or your car—inflicting some serious damage. There are not always signs around to warn you, so pay attention to what is hovering over your head.
4. Don’t call local residents “Hawaiians.” Those of us who live in Hawaii call ourselves “locals.” A “Hawaiian” is a person who is actually of Native Hawaiian ethnicity. So, for instance, I am a local—I live here. But I am not a Hawaiian. My husband (who is of Native Hawaiian ancestry) IS a Hawaiian—and he’s a local, too. And definitely don’t refer to local residents (or Hawaiians) as “natives.” Yikes. That’s sure to make the locals wince.
5. Don’t honk. On Maui, we don’t honk our horn at other drivers, unless we REALLY REALLY REALLY need to get their attention. We might send a friendly “toot” to a pal in a passing car, but we don’t hooooonk at people unless cars or lives are in imminent danger. Honking is sure to get you some “stink eye” (or worse), so don’t honk at other drivers unless you seriously need to get their attention for safety reasons.
6. Don’t smoke on Maui beaches. Over the years, our beautiful beaches had become virtual ashtrays, littered with thousands of cigarette butts. Smoking is now prohibited on most Maui beaches, punishable by a fine up to $500.
7. Don’t turn your back on the ocean. Keep your eyes on the surf. An unexpected wave can knock you down while you’re coming out of the water or stopping to adjust your flippers, injuring you or pulling you into the sea. Pay attention to the ocean so you are not caught off-guard. It’s more powerful than you are. Trust me on that.
8. Don’t swim in murky waters. After heavy rains, stay out of the ocean until the water clears. Avoid swimming near the mouths of rivers or streams or in any murky or brown water areas. These waters attract predators (pictured), and you don’t want to be mistaken for a fish or turtle when this guy is looking for a snack. Other Maui Beach Tips.
9. Don’t leave your windows open while you’re gone. Any windows. Whether it’s your car or accommodations. Maui is blessed with tropical weather that can change from moment to moment. So if you run into the grocery store on a sunny day and leave your car windows down (or even worse, leave the top down on your convertible rental car), you could very well come back 10 minutes later and discover that there was a downpour while you were gone and you can now swim in your back seat.
10. Don’t be afraid of “local” food. Yes, we have McDonalds, Burger King, and Starbucks. But why visit Maui and eat the same food you can get at home? There is such a rich variety of food here: tropical fruits and vegetables fresh from the farm; fish caught that morning and on your plate at lunchtime; local fast food eateries, food trucks, mom-and-pop cafes, ethnic foods, and cutting-edge fine dining restaurants with acclaimed chefs. Be adventurous and try some local foods you’ve never tasted before! For dining suggestions, see my Top 20 Favorite Restaurants.
11. Don’t scuba dive in the morning then head to the top of Mount Haleakala that afternoon. If you are a diver, wait 24 hours after scuba diving before driving up to Haleakala or doing any other high-altitude activity like a helicopter tour or mountainside zip line. Decompression sickness (aka “the bends”) is not a memory you want to take home from your Maui trip.
12. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen, but please use ONLY reef-safe sunscreen. Just keep slathering on the high-SPF sunscreen throughout the day when exploring the island. Due to our proximity to the Equator, Maui’s tropical sun can burn you fast, even more so when you are near the water, and even on a cloudy overcast day. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than a painful sunburn! However, if you plan on going into the ocean, please be aware that many sunscreens have ingredients that can irreparably harm the coral reefs.
On January 1, 2021, a new law took effect in Hawaii prohibiting the sale or distribution of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals that have been proven harmful to the marine ecosystems. Hawaii is the first place in the world to ban sunscreens with these chemicals. If you brought sunscreen with you that contains those chemicals, please do not use it here. Instead, choose mineral sunscreens with titanium oxide or zinc oxide, as they are reef-friendly choices.
13. Don’t try to pet a Hawaiian monk seal or ride on the back of a green sea turtle. These are two of the many endangered and threatened species in the Hawaiian islands, and they are protected from harm or harassment by very strict State and Federal laws. So if you are lucky enough to see these wild creatures, enjoy them from a distance, and “look, don’t touch.” This should top everyone’s list of things you shouldn’t do on Maui.
And, speaking of wild ocean creatures, DON’T FEED THE FISH. It may sound charming to have a flurry of tropical fish gather ’round for a hand-feeding when you’re snorkeling, but remember this is not an animated Disney movie. There are dangers. First, it’s harmful to the fish and disrupts the natural environmental balance, even affecting the coral reefs, which rely on hungry fish to keep them from being choked by algae. And fish can become aggressive–you can lose a finger (or worse) in the process. Plus, you don’t want to be at the center of a feeding frenzy that draws the attention of the “big boys” (see shark photo above). Please don’t feed the fish.
14. Don’t call the continental U.S. “the states.” Hawaii IS one of the states. The 50th state, to be precise. In Hawaii, we refer to the continental U.S. states as “the mainland.” Never “the states.” So statements like “I just arrived from the states” or “They’re having bad weather back in the states” will earn you a look from locals.
15. Be cautious about removing any natural items to take as souvenirs. Our island environment, both on land and in the sea, is precious and fragile. Please respect it. It is illegal to take sand (since 2013), dead coral, rocks and other “marine deposits” from the beach. The exceptions are driftwood, shells, beach glass, glass floats (pictured below), and seaweed. It is also illegal to take rocks or minerals from Haleakala National Park; and don’t even think about uprooting an endangered Haleakala Silversword plant to take home — they are protected by Federal law, and theft of a Silversword is a felony crime.
DO relax and enjoy. DON’T stress or rush. And check out my other Practical Do’s and Don’ts for Maui Visitors.
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