By Spencer Spellman, on November 29, 2013

Maui day trips

“Maui no ka oi!” Translated, “Maui is the best,” this is a common phrase associated with the second-largest Hawaiian island. Maui often brings to mind images of professional golf courses, pristine beaches, whales breaching in the distance, and mai tais galore. All of this you can experience without even leaving your Maui hotel. However, I really believe that it’s down in the valleys, up in the mountains, and around the nooks and crannies that you really find the heart of Maui. And it’s for these, and many other reasons, that people leave Maui saying, “Maui no ka oi.” Hit the road (and water) with these Maui day trips.

Big Beach in Makena State Park

Big Beach in Makena State Park is just that, a big beach. Sure, you’ll find plenty of small beaches right off Maui’s highways, but for a little bit more room to stretch out, then Big Beach is where it’s at. You might not be within walking distance of a local restaurant or open-air bar, but Big Beach gives you what feels like a more genuine Hawaiian experience with its long stretch of sandy beach surrounded by lush forest and rolling hills. 

Haleakala National Park

Viewfinder Tip: It may be Hawaii, but bring a jacket to Haleakala. It’s a tad nippy at the top!

Because when was the last time you watched the sunrise from the top of a volcano? But while volcanoes may bring with it hot images of molten lava, you’ll want to bundle up when you take the trek up to Haleakala. While waking up for sunrise on vacation may not be your idea of “R and R,” this is unlike any sunrise you’ll ever see, as you stand perched thousands of feet above Maui while the sun rises above the Pacific Ocean. For the adventurer, drive up, but bicycle down, as local outfitters offer a unique way to experience the volcano via a bicycling safari. For even more of an adrenaline rush, go paragliding over Maui’s vineyards (yes, there’s wine in Hawaii) and lavender farms with Proflyght Paragliding, which does flights just below Haleakala from 1,500 or 3,000 feet high.

Drive the “Road to Hana”

Sunrise from Hana Bay

Maui’s “Road to Hana” is a runaway favorite as one of Hawaii’s most famous drives. The drive is a little deceptive for a couple different reasons, one of which being that it’s just 50 miles long, though it requires at least half a day to drive. Also, it technically goes just beyond Hana, with notable attractions just beyond the quaint Maui town including the Kipahulu District, which is home to waterfalls, hiking trails, and Oheo Gulch, a.k.a. the Seven Sacred Pools. The drive to Hana itself is home to numerous waterfalls, hiking trails, beautiful vistas, and roadside stands, such as Halfway to Hana, where you’ll find banana bread, shave ice, fresh fruit, and more. 

If you have an entire day or plan on spending the night in Hana, take the backdoor to or from Hana, which takes considerably more time – due to narrow dirt roads and sharp curves – but rewards travelers with unspoiled vistas and an offbeat part of Maui that many don’t see. You just might not want to tweet photos of this part of your trip, since many rental car companies will hold you responsible for car trouble on the shoddy roads beyond Hana (you’ll know you’ve reached these shoddy roads when you see them).

Stop and stay awhile in Hana

Snorkeling Hana Bay

The iconic images you probably have of Maui (miles of sandy beaches, glassy blue waters, and golf courses) isn’t what you’ll find in Hana. And it’s for that reason that you should stop and stay a while. There’s only one hotel (Travaasa) in this small town that you can walk from one end to the other in a few minutes, but you’ll be rewarded with an authentic experience that you don’t get elsewhere on the island, be it mingling with locals in the general store, trekking up Lyon ‘s Hill to Fagan’s Cross, horseback riding along the rocky shoreline, or having lunch at the open-air Thai restaurant, which goes by a few different names, but is Hana’s only Thai restaurant, and one of only a couple restaurants in town. 

Spend an evening (or two or seven) at Travaasa, and it’ll be hard to leave, as you’ll have the chance to snorkel (traditionally or James Bond-style with an underwater scooter), learn to cast net fish, lounge in the infinity pool, listen and dance along to live music from locals, and watch the sunrise from the balcony of your sea cottage.


  • Snorkeling off the coastline of Lanai

  • Polihua Beach

  • Vista near Garden of the Gods

  • Overlooking Manele Bay

If you’ve ever spent anytime on Maui in the town of Lahaina, then you’ve certainly seen the island of Lanai. If it doesn’t look like much, that’s because it isn’t (there’s one franchise on the entire island!). But a day or weekend trip to Lanai on the ferry (just 45 minutes long and running between 6:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m.) will offer a break from the hustle and bustle of Maui. Grab a basket of poke at Lanai Ohana Poke Market, snuba dive around Manele Bay, go off-roading and skeet shooting in the hills with Lanai Pine Sporting Clays, and hit the dusty trail (literally) to see epic Hawaii landmarks, such as Garden of the Gods, Shipwreck Beach, and Polihua Beach. If you stay a night or the weekend, you have your pick between a luxurious lodge, The Lodge at Koele, or a luxurious resort, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay.

What are your favorite Hawaii day trips?