9 Things to Do in Maui That Aren’t the Road to Hana

Oct 13, 2018

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Aloha! October is Hawaii month at The Points Guy, so check back regularly for flight and hotel reviews, features and deals from Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii.

If you’re going to Maui, people will tell you that you have to do the Road to Hana — nay, they’ll assume it’s on your itinerary. And while there’s no question this windy, 64-mile drive along the island’s eastern coast is beautiful, it’s not for everybody.

If you get carsick easily, if you’re a nervous driver or if you simply can’t devote a full day to this excursion, you may be better off skipping it.

The good news is you won’t be lacking for other great options. I didn’t do the Road to Hana on my trip to Maui in mid-September, and I still had an amazing time exploring other parts of the island. Here’s just a sampling of alternatives to consider.

1. Take a Surfing Lesson

Surfer at silhouette in sunset on tropical beach in Maui, Hawaii.
Image courtesy of M.M. Sweet via Getty Images.

I did this (twice) in Maui, and by now everyone’s tired of me talking about how amazing it was. Not only is surfing great exercise and an awesome confidence booster, but it’s also a really neat way to get to know the island and its residents.

Especially if you take a one-on-one lesson, you’ll be spending quite a lot of time chatting with your instructor (and maybe even other surfers) between catching waves. I took a lesson with Maui Waveriders in Lahaina and had a blast — and also picked up quite a few cool facts from my teacher, from the meaning and origins of the Hawaiian word haole to the local high school’s annual tradition of lighting up a giant “L” (for Lahaina) on a nearby hill.

2. Adopt a Dog for the Day

The Maui Humane Society runs a Beach Buddies Visitor Program, letting locals and visitors take a dog out for a day of fun hiking or hanging at the beach. Whether you miss your pet back home or just want to pretend to be a dog owner for a day, this is a great way to give some love to shelter animals.

Just know the program fills up as much as three months in advance, so make sure to get in touch as soon as your Maui plans are finalized so you can snag a spot.

3. Visit Haleakalā Crater

The summit of Haleakala is one of the most sought-after locations in the world for ground-based observatory because of the remarkable clarity, dryness, stillness of the air, and its location above one-third of Earth's atmosphere. Here, high above the clouds, spectators watch for a sunset over the Pacific.
Photo by Xuan Che via Getty Images.

This might be second only to the Road to Hana on the list of famous Maui attractions, and it’s definitely one to consider if driving and other concerns make the Road to Hana a no-go.

You can arrange tours and transportation to this massive shield volcano, and it’s worth the trouble to wake up early to watch the sunrise at the summit. You can even do a downhill bike tour afterward if you’re feeling adventurous. Just make sure to bring warm clothes, as the summit surpasses 10,000 feet, and temperatures in the mornings are usually in the 40s.

4. Stop by a Lavender Farm

On the way out of Haleakalā National Park, stop by Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, where you can book a guided tour or simply wander the fields at your leisure. There are 45 different lavender varieties spread across the 13.5-acre farm, as well as olive trees, succulents and other flora.

The mountain views (and the lavender farm) are beautiful, fragrant and the perfect place to unwind if you’ve just finished a wild crater bike ride. Ali’i Kula is open every day from 9am to 4pm.

5. Snorkel at a Volcanic Crater

Molokini crater maui hawaiifamous snorkel and dive spot.
Image courtesy of M Sweet via Getty Images.

Maui has plenty of great spots for snorkeling, but few compare to the tiny crescent of land known as Molokini: a partially submerged volcanic crater off the coast of Maui. There are plenty of boat tour options to get you there, and most depart from Maalaea Harbor, about a 20-minute drive from the resort haven of Wailea.

6. Go Ziplining

Ziplining companies are ubiquitous on the isle of Maui. After all, ziplining has deep roots in Hawaii — specifically on the island of Maui, where Skyline Eco-Adventures in Kula debuted the nation’s first zipline course in 2002.

In the mountains of west Maui, travelers can also consider the Flyin Hawaiian Zipline, which claims to have the island’s longest zipline. Another great option is Kapalua Ziplines, which boasts an all-dual zipline course. No matter which tour operator or course you choose, you can expect panoramic views of the stunning island scenery below.

7. Taste Local Vodka

Image courtesy of Hawaii Sea Spirits.

You’re probably not heading to Maui for the alcohol — especially of the non-rum variety — but travelers interested in an unconventional tour of Maui should make time to visit the Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery, an 80-acre farm nestled in the lovely sugar cane fields of Kula.

During a tour, guests will learn about the distillery’s emphasis on sustainability and organic farming practices, and how sugar cane and deep sea water are transformed into a premium vodka unlike anything you ever drank in college. Tours cost $12 and include a tasting of the distillery’s signature Ocean Organic Vodka, as well as a complimentary take-home shot glass.

8. Explore the Iao Valley

IAO needle at IAO Valley, Maui, Hawaii.
Image courtesy of Valerie Loiseleux via Getty Images.

This 10-mile-long park has a stunning but easy hike accessible for most travelers. The trail loops through a botanical garden, passes a waterfall with a natural swimming hole and affords excellent views of the iconic Iao Needle (an eroded lava feature that rises 1,200 upward from the valley).

The sacred site where King Kamehameha I conquered Maui’s local army as he battled to unite the Hawaiian Islands is conveniently located in central Maui. There is a $5 per car parking fee.

9. Post up on a Beach

Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best. Maui has over 30 miles of beaches, so make sure you carve out time to relax shoreside.

Makena Beach State Park is home to a few famous, mostly undeveloped beaches: Big Beach and Little Beach are great for swimming and body boarding. But around the bend is One’uli, where travelers can experience black sands without driving the Hana Highway to the more popular black sand beach at Waiʻanapanapa State Park. 

Olowalu Beach, on the island’s west side, is excellent for reef snorkeling. Find calmer waters when swimming along the sheltered Charlie Young Beach, or go cliff-diving at Ka’anapali Beach. For a beach with all the fixings (a lifeguard, bathrooms, picnic tables) head to Baldwin Beach Park.

Featured image by Pierre Leclerc Photography / Getty Images.

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