27 Best Things to Do in Maui Hawaii
Maui’s Aloha is famous among the visitors for her beautiful beaches, delicious food, friendly people, stunning landscape, and perfect weather.
01. Gifts from a Small Island
Visitors enjoy Maui in Hawaii for its warm, tropical weather; beautiful beaches; and the welcoming ways of traditional Hawaiian culture and its people – or the “aloha spirit.” The word aloha could mean a simple and warm “hello.” ” welcome ” Or when a lei (garland of flowers) is placed around a visitor’s neck, aloha spirit means “warm welcome.” The aloha spirit is broader, conveying hospitality and a loving spirit – expressed in cheerful notes of Hawaiian music or graceful sways of the hula. A Hawaiian luau under a starlit tropical Maui night like this one at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua delivers aloha spirit in a dozen ways.
Tiny Islands, Big Reach
Maui and the Hawaiian islands are a small, isolated archipelago in the South Pacific. California is a long 2,500 miles away across the Pacific. Visitors love Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, for its beautiful beaches and lush tropical climate. They also love the Hawaiian experience of the aloha spirit.
So Many Beaches
Beautiful beaches and a blissfully temperate climate are pillars of Maui tourism. But “beautiful and blissful” also describe the aloha spirit. It’s a generosity without expectation of return, plus a gratefulness for all that is given: the sea, earth, wind, sky and all of nature.
Come Sail with Me
Maui’s big and decent luxury hotels make an annual commitment to Hawaiian tradition, the aloha spirit visitors will experience. At The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui and the Four Seasons Resort Maui, guests can sail a traditional outrigger canoe with the help of a paddler. The canoe with an outrigger for balance was the way Hawaiian ancestors reached these islands, and the way Hawaiian fisherman added stability to their vessels in recent centuries.
Tree of Life
The giant Banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui is a beloved connection to Old Hawaii traditional livelihood. Life happens under this tree that’s so huge that it looks like 10 big trees. The tree has played roles in important events, including the statehood ceremony that made Hawaii the 50th state. Anything that happens under this tree has a natural dash of aloha spirit.
Surfer culture brings its own set of traditions to Maui, with surfers defining aloha spirit as much as anyone. The shaka greeting – a horizontal hand signal that sprang from surfer culture but spread throughout the island – is a greeting between locals that can be a simple “hi” or perhaps “hang loose,” “take care” or even “thanks.” The Fairmont Kea Lani canoe paddler here delivers his shaka greeting.
All Things Hawaiian
“All things Hawaiian” is a pledge taken by Maui hotel executives and other community leaders every year. The commitment renewal occurs in an awa ceremony during Celebration of the Arts, an annual event honoring traditional Hawaiian crafts and activities, films and art. It’s held at Maui’s The Ritz Carlton, Kapalua each May.
Hotels in Paradise
Aloha spirit embraces finding balance with nature. Maui resorts are beautiful, and many are set on ancient sacred Hawaiian land. Active attention to environmental balance as well as programs to engage visitors are visible. The Fairmont Kea Lani offers visitors a chance to plant native species or volunteer to assist restoring an ancient fish pond. The Four Seasons Resort Maui encourages visitors to get their hands dirty among indigenous plants at Maui Nui Botanical Garden.
Good Night, Sun
Children gather to watch the daily sunset torch-lighting at The Fairmont Kea Lani. The torch lighter, dressed as a warrior, blows a conch shell (pu) to signal the start of his run around the property to light torches, as the sun’s light begins to wane and dissolve into the sea. The torch-lighting tradition keeps the aloha spirit alight at many Maui hotels.
On Maui, visitors are astonished by flowers exploded to cabbage size. Hikers discover wild orchids. Poinsettia grows wild on the south slope of Haleakala. But plumeria is the Maui flower from heaven. Often used in leis, plumeria slyly wafts its scent in a way you can’t get out of your mind. It’s the one souvenir that infuses aloha spirit solidly right into the room back home, but plumeria flowers last but a few days beyond Maui.
Maui in a Bottle
Organic gardener Jane Hendler of Ajne Rare and Precious has figured out how to bottle aloha spirit. She makes perfume from lavender, plumeria and other plants as a signature scent for Four Seasons Resort Maui. The scent Palen’ole is a scent that conjures the island’s spirit and perhaps the harmony of an organic farmer honoring the earth.
Hawaiian music is distinctively melodic, the audio component of aloha spirit. The ukulele lends an upbeat plucking, while slack-key guitar adds a pleasing layer. On Maui, find crooners and pickers at bars and large hotels in Kihei, Walilea and Ka’anapali. Big name Hawaiian musicians show up periodically at Maui Arts and Cultural Center.
Scoop Up Luau Culture
No Maui visit is complete without a luau. The traditional Hawaiian feast is an extravaganza of food and entertainment, from pig wrapped in banana leaves and roasted in a pit, to the goopy, finger-scooped dish called poi. A hula show and perhaps other Polynesian dancing and drumming fill an evening in the soft air under the star-lit sky with an abundance of aloha spirit.
Poi? It May Be Familiar
“Yuck!” is a common response to the goopy purple poi served at Hawaiian luaus. The traditional poi is made by pounding taro stem to a mushy state. Malihinis (“newcomers”) also react to the fact that you scoop it with two fingers. But visitors might refer to their own childhood. Remember school paste? Poi tastes a bit like that sticky white stuff; it’s just a little blander.
Tiki Bar is Open
A Maui luau is well stocked with tropical drinks. Mosey up to the tiki bar and order up a Blue Hawaiian, a piña colada or perhaps a mai tai. There’s more than one meaning to “aloha spirit.”
Find a Footpath
Harmony with the land, a deeply held belief of Hawaiian tradition and Maui spirit, is an easy connection on Maui. Maui has two inactive volcanos, and trails into valleys and uphill are everywhere in the island. Many follow ancient paths used by ancestral Polynesians. On eastern Maui, tumbling waterfalls mesmerize hikers on Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park.
Green, Fuzzy Mountain
The vegetation-covered “needle” called Iao Needle is in a rainforest in Iao Valley State Park on Maui’s west side. Rich with Hawaiian legend and known as the valley where a mighty historical battle took place, Iao is certainly a draw for hikers.
Haleakala summit is the site of two Maui legends, but it’s most fun to make your own. Be there for the sun rising above the miles-wide crater. A small crowd shivers in the 40-degree cold at 4:30 a.m. The huge crater, filled with slow-moving clouds, seems to be cooking a cloud omelette. The crowd, jumping with the cold, wonders if the sun will ever rise. Then suddenly, up pops the burning ball of orange, almost with a bounce. Mark Twain called Haleaka’s sunrise “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.”
Next Stop: Upcountry
Once the sun is up, the crowd at the Haleakala summit tends to disperse and head back to that seaside condo. After all, it was a short night’s sleep. But they’re missing Maui’s Upcountry, with its remnants of old Hawaiian ways. Small towns such as Makawao, Pukalani and Kula are set among rolling hills dotted with vegetable farms and nurseries. Breakfast at the Hai’imaille General Store Restaurant is a good start on exploring the Upcountry.
Dine with the Fishies
The sea is a wonderful neighbor, and a moody neighbor. The sea is Maui’s only neighbor. The setting of Grand Wailea’s Humuhumunukunukuapua’a Restaurant over the water lends a sense of harmony with the sea, a basic underpinning of Hawaiian culture. Diners gaze out on the lagoon while sampling the island’s fresh fish.
At day’s end on Maui, the sun consults her color palette to select just the right hues to draw all eyes to her departure.
A Brave Leap
Daily, just before sunset at the Sheraton Maui, a young man dressed as a warrior completes torch-lighting at the resort. Then he climbs Black Rock, or Pu’u keka’a, for the nightly dive ceremony. Legend says that only someone with great spiritual strength can return from a Pu’u keka’a dive. Chief Kahekili in the 1700s amazed his people with a dive. As everyone watches from the Sheraton lawns, the diver says a blessing to his ancestors, then takes a sweeping dive into the sea.
The “Aloha spirit” is alive and well on the island of Maui. That smiling welcome and gracious hospitality combine with reverence for land and sea.
Aloha spirit really comes alive among Hawaiian traditions. Here’s where visitors can join in: