20 Things You HAVEN’T Done on Maui
Maui draws people back to its sandy shores again and again. It’s easy to get hooked on this beautiful place! But once you have visited the island multiple times, you might be tempted to think you’ve “done it all.” Not so! There are always some great new, off-the-beaten-path, unique Maui activities available here — hidden gems that await your discovery. For your bucket list, here are 20 activities you have probably NOT done on Maui.
NOTE: This blog was updated in April 2021, but due to continuing COVID-19 restrictions, some of the businesses, events, or activities mentioned in the blog could be temporarily changed or suspended. Please check with these places directly to verify their latest operating status and hours. Mahalo!
UNIQUE MAUI ACTIVITIES
1. WATERFALL RAPPELLING: Head out with Rappel Maui for a day of rappelling and canyoneering in lush East Maui, along the Road to Hana. Various excursions are offered involving waterfalls, jungle cliffs, canyons, natural freshwater pools, and even zip rappels. No experience is required for the more basic tours, and all gear is provided. A truly incredible Maui experience! (East Maui/Hana)
2. FOOTGOLF: Want to experience the beauty of a Maui golf course without having to swing a club? Play FootGolf! This game involves kicking a soccer-type ball around a golf course, aiming for a 21-inch diameter hole. Loads of fun for friends and family to enjoy together, and no golf skills are required. You can enjoy nine holes of FootGolf on the Kaanapali Kai Golf Course, after 4 p.m. daily. (Places to stay in Kaanapali)
3. OUTRIGGER CANOE EXCURSION: Paddle away in an outrigger canoe tour and experience Maui’s ocean the traditional Hawaiian way. You’ll be accompanied by a certified marine naturalist who will instruct you on paddling (or canoe surfing!), provide pointers for great snorkel spots, and guide you for some awesome whale watching during the winter season. (West and South Maui)
4. LEARN ABOUT NATIVE PLANTS: Enjoy a tour of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens in Kahului, dedicated to preserving Maui’s native plants and cultural heritage. Docent-led guided tours are available on weekdays at 10 a.m. (by advance reservation only). You’ll learn about the natural history, conservation, and traditional uses of Hawaiian plants. Or wander the garden yourself with a brochure and audio wand designed for self-guided tours. General Admission: $5 (Central Maui)
5. STARGAZING FROM THE SUMMIT OF HALEAKALA: Yes, watching the sunrise from atop Haleakala is spectacular. But a Haleakala sunset is just as magnificent, especially when followed by an after-dark exploration of the night sky. Experience a mind-blowing, close-up view of the universe with Maui Stargazing and their portable telescope from this above-the-clouds viewpoint. Also . . . prior to COVID, Haleakala National Park had begun offering a “Stars Over Haleakala” night-sky-viewing astronomy program every few weeks that included star talks, full moon hikes, telescope parties, and meteor shower gazing. These events have been suspended due to COVID restrictions, but hopefully they will resume when all is safe again! (Upcountry/Haleakala)
6. STARRY NIGHT CINEMA AT THE MACC: Settle in on the sprawling courtyard lawn at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) for this free movie night under the stars, featuring a massive outdoor screen. Come early to enjoy live entertainment and food (available for purchase). These family-friendly Starry Night Cinema nights are offered several times a year and are open to locals and visitors alike. (Kahului) (UPDATE: These events have been temporarily suspended due to COVID restrictions.)
7. ISLAND ART PARTY: Looking for something to do at night after watching yet another spectacular Maui sunset? Create your own work of art at Island Art Party‘s adults-only evening gatherings. You’re provided with an apron, art supplies and instruction, then amidst drinks, snacks, music, and chit-chat, everyone creates their own masterpiece.Talent not required! A fun way to meet other people on Maui, and you’ll take home a unique and personal Maui memento. (Where to stay in Kihei)
8. SUGAR MUSEUM: The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is a true gem, and all the more now since the last working sugar plantation and mill in the state—located in Central Maui—has closed. This marks the end of Hawaii’s 180-year-old sugar cane industry, and the Sugar Museum beautifully captures this monumental era in Hawaii’s history. (Puunene, Central Maui)
9. DIVE WITH SHARKS: A visit to the fabulous Maui Ocean Center is always fascinating, but certified SCUBA divers can go a step further, gliding among sharks, stingrays, and thousands of tropical fish with the aquarium’s “Shark Dive Maui” program. Learn the significance of sharks in Hawaiian culture and the marine ecosystem, then dive into the Center’s 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit for your own personal encounter. Plus friends and family can share the experience from the glass viewing area! (UPDATE: This activity at the Maui Ocean Center has been temporarily suspended due to COVID restrictions.) Find a vacation condo nearby in Maalaea.
10. HARVEST YOUR OWN MEAL: The Gourmet Lunch and Farm Tour at O’o Farm is a truly memorable “farm to fork” dining experience! Start with a tour of the 8.5-acre farm, during which you will harvest the produce for your meal. Then enjoy a chef-prepared gourmet lunch utilizing the farm-fresh products, set on the slopes of Haleakala amidst panoramic views of the island. (Upcountry)
11. HORSEBACK RIDING: I admit that horseback riding in itself is not a unique Maui activity, but the fact is many people do not think of doing it here. Well, think again! Exploring Maui’s coastal areas and hidden valleys on horseback is an awesome way to see the island, and there are excursions for everyone from beginner to expert riders. So saddle up! (Islandwide)
12. TAKE A SHELTER DOG OUT FOR THE DAY: Share a little love with a homeless shelter dog by taking one out for a fun excursion! The Maui Humane Society’s “Beach Buddies” program is designed specifically for visitors who miss their pets and want to enjoy some time with a canine buddy. You are provided with instructions and all the doggy supplies you might need in a “beach buddy backpack.” (And by the end of the day, if you decide you just can’t live without your new beach buddy, you CAN adopt him/her and take them home!) Advance sign up is required…a heads up, this is a very popular program so sign up waaaaay in advance. Every Wednesday and Saturday. (UPDATE: This activity has been temporarily suspended due to COVID.) Details
13. WALK INSIDE A LAVA TUBE: When in Hana, stop and explore the Hana Lava Tube (Ka’ Eleku Cavern). This natural wonder was formed by molten lava nearly a thousand years ago and is one of the largest lava tubes in the world. Worth a stop! (Stay in a Hana vacation condo)
14. MAUI PINEAPPLE TOUR: Do pineapples grow on trees? (Nope.) Will that pineapple on your kitchen counter continue to ripen? (Uh uh.) You’ll learn “all things pineapple” on the 90-minute Maui Pineapple Tour, an interesting, fun, authentic farm tour. You’ll go right into the pineapple fields to sample fresh-picked extra sweet Maui Gold pineapple, plus they’ll send you home with your own pineapple, boxed and ready for travel. (Hali’imaile, near Makawao)
15. CANDLELIT TOUR OF THE BALDWIN HOME MUSEUM: Once a week, from dusk to 8:30 p.m., docents will guide you by candlelight through a fascinating tour of the Baldwin Home Museum in Lahaina. You’ll learn about the family who resided in this home and their significance in Hawaiian history. Although open during daylight hours, this place truly comes alive by candlelight as you step back in time to the mid 1800s. (UPDATE: This activity has been temporarily suspended due to COVID.) Vacation Condos in Lahaina.
16. LAHAINA HISTORIC SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR: Lahaina has an incredibly rich history, including eras as a booming whaling town, a thriving sugar cane plantation, and the royal capital of the kingdom of Hawaii. Stroll at your own pace and explore Lahaina’s past with this great self-guided walking tour. I recommend you do this one- to two-hour walk in the morning, as Lahaina (which means “cruel sun”) can get pretty hot in the afternoon! (Stay at a B&B in Lahaina)
17. MAUI SWAP MEET: If you are looking for unique island products and souvenirs, head to Maui’s biggest swap meet every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus. Row after row of open-air booths, offering arts and crafts, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, food, flowers, produce, and everything else you can imagine from around 200 vendors. Admission is 50 cents. (Kahului) (UPDATE: The swap meet at this location has been temporarily suspended due to COVID.)
18. KAHANU GARDEN AND HEIAU: A visit to Kahanu Garden in Hana is an amazing educational and cultural experience. Part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden network, this 484-acre garden features ethnobotanical plants that were brought to the islands by the first Polynesian settlers. Also on site is the Pi’ilanihale Heiau—an ancient place of worship that is still sacred to Hawaiians. Fascinating place. (Vacation rentals in Hana)
19. VODKA FARM AND DISTILLERY TOURS: Ever visit a vodka farm? Ocean Vodka offers a great tour of their 80-acre farm and distillery (with tastings) in Upcountry Maui where organic vodka is produced from sugar cane. Or try Hali’imaile Distilling Company’s distillery tour and tasting for their Pau Vodka, produced from Maui pineapples, and their flavored vodkas. Chocolate Macadamia Nut Vodka, anyone? (Upcountry)
20. VIEW THE GREEN FLASH: Okay, I admit this is not readily available every day. And you can’t book it in advance. But if you ever get to see this rare natural phenomenon, treasure the moment! The famed sunset “green flash” occurs only in certain places on the globe under certain conditions on evenings when there are no clouds, haze, or other obstructions on the horizon. As the sun sinks, just at that very moment when the last bit of sun disappears into the sea, a tiny brilliant emerald-green “spark” will flash on the horizon. It lasts no more than a second. A mere blink of the eye. SO DON’T BLINK. No kidding. You will miss it. The green flash is extremely rare and completely unpredictable. Even when conditions seem to be ideal for a green flash, sometimes it appears—or not. So, if you have seen the illusive green flash from Maui, you can honestly say you have done something here that most people have never done!
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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