Exploring Maui, Hawaii: A Marvelous Journey from Volcanoes to Beaches

Maui | Introduction

Maui is the second largest island in the Hawaiian Islands, located in the central part of the Hawaiian archipelago, with a warm and pleasant climate year-round. Maui is home to one of the world's largest dormant volcanoes, Haleakalā, where you can enjoy a magnificent sunrise from the summit. The famous Road to Hana winds and twists, offering views of waterfalls, tropical plants, and spectacular coastlines along the way. Of course, there are also beautiful golden and black sand beaches, with diverse terrains attracting tourists from all over the world.

Maui | Where to Stay

Maui Island offers a wide range of accommodation options, with the most popular places to stay being West Maui or South Maui. The luxury resorts and premium hotels in Kaanapali on the west side are perfect for those who enjoy upscale vacations. For those who are looking for convenient transportation, the south's Wailea also has numerous resorts, and for those seeking slightly cheaper lodgings, the more affordable Kihei area is a good choice.

Find a stay in Kaanapali?

Find a stay in Wailea?

Find a stay in Kihei?

Maui | Attractions & Itineraries

Travel itineraries in Maui can generally be divided into five regions: the Road to Hana, Haleakalā National Park Summit Area, Central Maui, South Maui, and West Maui. Each route can be arranged for half a day to a full day, allowing for a total trip of three to five days depending on personal needs.

Region 1 | Road to Hana

The Hana Highway starts in the middle of Maui, a coastal road totaling about 103.6 kilometers that stretches from Paia to the town of Hana. Known for its winding route, more than 600 curves and 50 bridges, the road offers scenic beauty and adventure along the way. Traveling along Maui's northeast coast to the wetter east coast of Maui, you'll pass waterfalls, rainforests and many other attractions along the beautiful coastline.

The attractions along the Road to Hana are very abundant. I have a more detailed introduction in this article.

If you want to visit the Kipahulu Area, it is highly recommended that you plan a two-day and one-night trip for this route. If Hana is your endpoint, you need to arrange at least one day for a round trip. Moreover, we strongly recommend that if you have the physical strength and time, continue past the town of Hana to Haleakalā National Park's Kipahulu Area to hike the Pipiwai Trail. It's even fair to say that this trail is arguably the main highlight of the Road to Hana.

Region 2 | Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park, with its magnificent volcanic landscapes, is an excellent spot for watching the sunrise. The national park is actually divided into two areas: one is the Summit Area located in the center of the island, and the other is the Kipahulu Area in the southeast of the island, which can be reached via the Road to Hāna. Most visitors plan to spend about half a day in the Haleakalā National Park Summit Area, the highlight of the park, which houses one of the world's largest dormant volcanoes, standing over 10,000 feet (about 3,050 meters) high. Heading to the summit in the early morning, one can witness the magnificent sunrise view, with the fiery sun rising from the sea of clouds, presenting a spectacular sight. There are also multiple hiking trails, such as the Sliding Sands Trail, allowing visitors to closely observe the volcanic terrain and rare flora and fauna.

Haleakala National Park is rich in content, and I have a more detailed introduction in this article.

Region 3 | South Maui

South Maui is renowned for its beaches, stretching southward to include popular lodging areas such as the Kihei region, Wailea Beach, and Makena State Park, making it an ideal destination for vacations and relaxation. You can choose to spend half a day to a full day at the beach here, or set out from the Kihei area to the well-known snorkeling spot, Molokini Crater.


Kihei boasts a six-mile-long coastline with a dry and warm climate, and an abundant selection of accommodations and dining options, making it one of the beloved holiday destinations. A distinctive feature of Kihei is its well-equipped beaches, featuring picnic areas, lifeguards, and ample parking, making it very suitable for family and group activities.

Along the coastline of Kihei, you will pass through several beach parks such as Kamaole Beach Parks I, II, III, which are very convenient and comfortable for simply taking a walk to admire the sea or for water activities. Looking out from the beach, you can see Molokini, a crescent-shaped volcanic atoll located about 3 miles off the southwest coast of Maui. It is one of the most popular snorkeling and diving spots on Maui, and snorkeling trips to Molokini are very popular.

Molokini Snorkeling Trips


Wailea is a high-end resort area known for its luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches, and golf courses. The beaches in Wailea, including Wailea Beach, Ulua Beach, and Makena Beach, all feature fine white sand and crystal-clear blue waters, making them perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The best public beach for snorkeling is Polo Beach.

Makena State Park

Makena State Park features the famous Big Beach and Little Beach. Big Beach is a vast expanse of golden sand, perfect for swimming and surfing. It is the most popular beach among the residents of Maui, with its incredibly beautiful water color and the sand that feels fine and comfortable to walk on. Little Beach, on the other hand, can only be reached by climbing a small trail, making it more secluded. Visitors from other states must pay a $5 entrance fee per person plus a $10 parking fee to access Makena State Park, resulting in fewer tourists and making it ideal for those who prefer a quiet swim.

Hoapili Trail

Driving south, you can reach the southernmost Hoapili Trail, which starts at La Perouse Bay. This trail was originally built by the ancient Hawaiians and is characterized by stretching along ancient volcanic lava flows, traversing spectacular volcanic landscapes and rugged coastlines.

The Hoapili Trail is the last lava flow in Maui, with a rugged terrain due to the cooling magma, making it best to wear hiking boots. The entire trail is about 5.5 miles long, and the beaches here are also great places for watching sea turtles.

Region 4 | Central Maui

The main attractions of the Central Maui route are Iao Valley State Park, Maui Tropical Plantation, and the Sugar Museum, which can be explored in half a day.

Iao Valley State Monument

Iao Valley State Park is located in the central valley of Maui, covering an area of about 4,000 acres. It is the wettest place on Maui, featuring spectacular tropical rainforests, lush vegetation, and the Iao Needle. Beyond its stunning landscapes, Iao Valley also has significant historical importance in Hawaii. In 1790, King Kamehameha fought a decisive battle here against the chief of Maui, a battle that ultimately led to his unification of the Hawaiian Islands. Currently, non-residents of Hawaii must make a reservation to enter Iao Valley State Park, so be sure to book on the state park's website at least a day in advance.

The Iao Needle is a 1,200-foot (approximately 365 meters) tall volcanic rock spire that looks quite distinctive. This iconic landmark of the park is very accessible, with about a ten-minute walk up the trail. The trails are well-maintained, making it a suitable site for a family outing. From a higher vantage point, in addition to the Iao Needle, you can also see the beautiful scenery of the Iao Stream winding through the valley.

Kepaniwai Park | Heritage Gardens

Kepaniwai Park is located next to Iao Stream, not far from Iao Valley State Monument, making it a convenient stop for visitors. The uniqueness of this park lies in its multicultural gardens. Each garden represents the culture of different ethnic groups in the history of Maui, including Native Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Koreans, and Filipinos, showcasing the architectural styles, sculptures, and plants of each group.

Sugar Museum

The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is a thematic museum that showcases the history and culture of the sugar industry on Maui Island. Originally a sugar mill, it exhibits the development of the sugar industry in Hawaii from the 19th century to the end of the 20th century. In addition to various sugar industry machines, tools, and equipment, it also details the profound impact of the sugar industry on the society and culture of Maui Island.

You may wonder why Asian culture, especially Japanese culture, can be seen everywhere in Hawaii. In fact, during the 19th century, Hawaii's sugar industry brought in a large number of immigrant workers, including Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Portuguese, and Filipinos, with the majority being Japanese. At that time, Japan was going through the Meiji Restoration, and many Japanese came here seeking a better life. Although the reality of their treatment and living conditions was far from what they had imagined, facing many hardships, this period deeply influenced the social structure and cultural life in Hawaii. Today, distinct local foods like Saimin, Spam Musubi, Shaved Ice, and Poke are actually cultural legacies left by the Japanese immigrants.

Region 5 | West Maui

West Maui includes the beach areas on the west coast of Maui and is the driest part of the island, usually enjoying excellent weather. Although it's not as famous as the Road to Hana, in my opinion, the west coast from DT Fleming Beach to Nakalele Blowhole is actually Maui's most beautiful coastline. In 2023, wildfires swept through the historic town of Lahaina, but the well-known Kaanapali Beach area and the upscale resort region remained intact. The coastal area's snorkeling spots, surf points, and shopping areas could easily fill half a day's itinerary. The mountain and ocean views along the way are quite stunning, and even if you're not into water activities, just taking a drive on the West Coast road is a fantastic experience.

Papawai Scenic Lookout

Driving west along the highway, we will pass by the beautiful coast of Maui. Along the way, we can stop at the Papawai Scenic Lookout to enjoy the view. If the season is right, this lookout is also one of the best whale watching spots in Maui, where whales can be seen from the shore with the naked eye.

Kaanapali Beach | Whaler's Village

Kaanapali Beach, located on the west coast, is one of the most renowned and popular beaches in Hawaii. This three-mile (approximately 4.8 kilometers) stretch of golden sand is also the resort area of West Maui, surrounded by several upscale resorts and hotels such as the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, and the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. Just steps away from the accommodations are the beach, numerous restaurants, bars, and shopping centers.

Whalers Village Shopping Center is located in front of Kaanapali Beach, the most famous shopping destination on the island of Maui. It boasts a wide range of internationally renowned brands as well as local boutiques and dining options. If you are not staying in the resort area, parking here costs $4 for 30 minutes, but dining and shopping can redeem up to 2 hours.

Kapalua Coastal Trail

The Kapalua Coastal Trail is approximately 2.5 miles (about 4 kilometers) long, starting from Kapalua Bay and passing through several famous sites before finally reaching Honokahua Bay. The terrain of the trail varies, with some sections next to the resort area being well-paved paths that have a very pleasant atmosphere. The rest of the trail consists of natural dirt and rocky surfaces, suitable for visitors of varying physical fitness levels.

DT Fleming Beach Park

DT Fleming Beach Park is located on the northwest coast of Maui and is my favorite beach on the island; I even specifically arranged half a day to come here and play again. The beach boasts a half-mile (approximately 0.8 kilometers) stretch of golden sand, which is fine in texture and perfect for walks and sunbathing. What's more, the dense tropical vegetation and tall ironwood trees beside the beach provide natural shade. The water is clear, making it suitable for swimming and surfing.

Hanolua Bay

I have personally experienced Hanolua Bay, and it is definitely the best snorkeling spot on Maui. To reach the snorkeling area, you need to walk a bit. Around the beach, except for one path, it is all private land with strict regulations. A better way to get there is actually to park in the parking lot next to the Farm Kitchen and then walk a longer path to get in. Although it's a bit farther, the terrain is flat and easy to walk on. Moreover, the forest along the path is actually pretty beautiful and worth the walk.

Maui, Maui 81

Compared to other beaches in Maui, this place is all rocky coast, and there is not a single grain of sand once you enter the water. The waters here are calm, rich in coral reefs, offering the chance to observe various marine life up close. It is recommended to bring your own snorkeling gear, as the morning is the best time for snorkeling, given that the sea is at its calmest and visibility is at its highest. Even without snorkeling, it's easy to spot sea turtles here.

Nakalele Blowhole

On the West Maui Road, it is recommended to drive to the northernmost point, which is the Nakalele Blowhole. This is a natural wonder known for its spectacular sea spray fountains and beautiful coastal scenery. This geological marvel attracts numerous visitors, making it a must-see spot on Maui. The Nakalele Blowhole is created by seawater pushing through underground tunnels, forming impressive sea spray fountains that can sometimes reach up to 50 feet in height.

Starting from the parking lot, there is a short trail leading to the Nakalele Blowhole. Some sections of the trail are rugged, and it's important to watch your step. Along the way, there are multiple viewpoints where you can overlook the entire blowhole and the magnificent coastline. However, it is advised not to get too close to the blowhole, as there is a chance of being sucked into the hole by the waves when the sea is rough.

Ukumehame Beach Park

If you think the resort is too crowded and not suitable for you, and you prefer a quiet and deserted beach, there is another option to head towards the southwest coast. There are many beaches here that are not only less crowded but also beautiful, and Ukumehame Beach Park is one of them.

Maui Island | Food

Of course, Maui also has many Hawaiian cuisine restaurants to try. This time, we have recorded all the Maui restaurants we tried in the following article.

Further reading

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