Top 10 Hidden Gems on Maui
Between social media, travel bloggers, and the internet in general, nowhere on Maui is a secret anymore- right? Well, that’s not entirely true. Believe it or not, there are still quite a few safe, legal, off-the-beaten-track locales to visit on the Valley Isle.
Here are the Top 10 Hidden Gems On Maui.
Despite sitting off of one of Maui’s busiest highways, this obscure west side gem doesn’t usually get a mention in the guidebooks. Olowalu Landing is the remains of a rock pier built by sugar plantation owners and once used as a port for the Inter-Island Steamship Company in the early 1900s. Today, Olowalu Landing’s shallow, sandy waters and tree-fringed grounds are a popular hangout among locals. Not to mention, the views of the West Maui Mountains from the pier are second to none, and the sunsets here are top-notch.
Find Olowalu Landing across the street from Olowalu General Store. Park in the public parking lot.
While Wailuku itself is an unsung jewel, numerous hidden gems are scattered about the town. Wailuku Town proper is as funky as they come. The main drags of Market Street and Main Street are plastered with colorful murals and peppered with groovy cafes, unique locally-owned shops, and antique stores. Wailuku Town is also home to a record store with a basement stocked with thousands of records, the oldest theater on Maui, and most importantly, some of the best hidden-gem eateries on the island.
In Wailuku, you can eat your way through the fares of the world via heaps of local mom-and-pop establishments. There are several located within a mile or so of each other, from the Japanese/local grinds at Ichiban Okazuya to the flavors of Puerto Rico at The Empanada Lady.
Kula Botanical Gardens
Situated on eight acres of verdant Upcountry land, the Kula Botanical Gardens has been a fixture in the Maui community since it opened in 1968. The gardens are a cornucopia of tropical flora and fauna. Serene walking paths wind through masses of fragrant white ginger, hydrangeas, proteas, eucalyptus trees, and orchids. A wander through the ultra-photogenic grounds will also reveal quaint gazebos, a bromeliad house, Fuchsia exhibits, a bird sanctuary, and so much more.
(Kula Botanical Gardens was ravaged by a storm in December 2021. Although they have reopened, the storm caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to their property, and the clean-up is still ongoing. However, since Kula Botanical Gardens is a Maui hidden gem to many visitors and residents alike, we chose to include it anyway in hopes that their recovery process will be smooth and speedy. Kula Botanical Gardens is family-owned and has been in operation for 50 years. If you would like to donate to their clean-up efforts, visit their GoFundMe page.)
Find Kula Botanical Gardens at 638 Kekaulike Ave, Kula.
Hana Lava Tube
Typically, East Maui’s black sand beaches and countless waterfalls get the most recognition from visitors, and the Hana Lava Tube tends to get passed over by the masses. However, the underground exploration at the Hana Lava Tube is a definite change of pace for travelers to Hana, and the cave is one of the only lava tubes on Maui open to the public. The $15 admission gets you entry into the tube and a handheld flashlight to explore the gaping caverns. In addition to the cave, the grounds at Hana Lava Tube are also home to a unique red ti leaf maze.
Find Hana Lava Tube at 205 Ulaino Rd, Hana.
Steeped in history and located on a pristine swath of north Maui land, the Hui No’eau is a visual art center offering art classes, workshops, and self-guided tours of the historic grounds. Once a sugar plantation, the property was purchased by H.P. Baldwin in 1885, and in 1917, Baldwin’s son built the Hui Noʻeau mansion, reflection pond, and outbuildings. In addition to the countless art programs, the mansion houses a gallery, a gift shop, and the stunning grounds double as a wedding venue.
Find the Hui Noʻeau at 2841 Baldwin Ave, Makawao.
Paia Secret Beach
A stroll east from Baldwin Beach and west from Paia Bay will reveal a secluded strip of white sand known as Paia Secret Beach. Tucked between two famous North Shore beaches, Secret Beach has managed to maintain its secrecy- and for this reason, you might find folks sunbathing sans swimwear. If you’re not bothered by this, Secret Beach is a great place to chill out away from the thronging crowds of Paia. Keep in mind, that the Paia end of the beach is a popular fishing spot and close to the Paia Youth Center. Therefore, clothing on this side of the beach is expected.
Find Paia Secret Beach between Paia Bay and Baldwin Beach.
Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens
Kepaniwai Park sits at the mouth of the gaping ʻIao Valley, just a mile below the famous ʻIao Valley State Park. But, while the state park might receive the lion’s share of attention from visitors, Kepaniwai is equally unique and often less crowded. Here, visitors will find a collection of heritage gardens that honor the many different cultures that make Hawaii the melting pot it is today. The park features Japanese koi ponds and pagodas, Hawaiian grass-thatched hales, a Chinese moon gate, and other unique cultural structures.
Similar to ʻIao, sheer emerald walls outline Kepaniwai Park, and the refreshing waters of the Wailuku River rush parallel to the gardens, making the park a great place to bask in the beauty of ʻIao Valley minus the crowds.
Find Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens at 870 Iao Valley Rd, Wailuku.
Sun Yat-Sen Park
Easily missed if you’re not paying attention, Sun Yat-Sen Park sits in the undulating hills of Upcountry near Keokea. The small park is dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen, the first president of the Republic of China- who also happened to be a Kula resident from 1879 to 1910. The land was donated to Maui County by Ulupalukua Ranch in the late ’80s, and today is home to bronze statues of Sun Yat-Sen and his brother Sun Mei, a stone arch, stone dragon sculptures, and picnic benches. Aside from the park’s captivating history, Sun Yat-Sen Park boasts superb views of South Maui, Molokini, Kahoʻolawe, and the West Maui Mountains. This tranquil park is a fantastic spot to watch the sunset or enjoy a takeout breakfast from nearby Grandma’s Coffee House.
Find Sun Yat-Sen Park at 13434 Kula Highway, Keokea.
Makawao Forest Reserve
Whether you’re a mountain biker, a hiker, or an intrepid traveler, the Makawao Forest Reserve is a stunning Upcountry jewel to add to your itinerary. Mountain bike trails and the six-mile Kahakapao Loop hiking trail wind through the lush expanse of forest, flooded with emerald and jade hues. The ferns, pines, eucalyptus, and ash trees that line the well-maintained red dirt paths will have you wondering if you have left Maui behind for somewhere far less tropical. Situated at an elevation of about 3,000 ft, the cool climate in the Makawao Forest Reserve is a great place to escape the tropical heat.
Find Makawao Forest Reserve at the end of Kahakapao Road in Makawao.
This Maui hidden gem is located in the summit district of Haleakala National Park, the lookout at Leleiwi is often overlooked by visitors in favor of the summit. While a visit to Haleakala’s 10,023′ summit is certainly a must-do, a stop at Leleiwi Overlook offers a unique vantage point of the grassy northern quadrant of the crater, the Halemauʻu Trail etched into the cliffside and the lush Koʻolau Gap (best not attempt this trail hike, as it’s dangerous and grueling). Accessible by a short 5-15 minute walk, the overlook is often less crowded than its summit counterparts and even downright secluded at times.
Find Leleiwi Overlook at mile 17.5 of Haleakala Highway, located inside the national park.