If you are visiting Maui for the first time, there is so much to see and do, it’s easy to get intimidated when you start making plans. Maui is one of the most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands. Inland, you will find lush tropical landscapes, but the Volcano Haleakala blocks some of the rainfall from the west side of the island, which produces a drier climate.
On Maui, you really have the opportunity to cater your trip to your personality. There are all sorts of water recreation options, daring adventures to be had, and of course, miles upon miles of beaches.
Among all that there is to see and do in Maui, here are the top five sights you might not want to miss.
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First things first
Traveling on Maui is not easily done by bus. You are going to need to rent a car to make your way around the island. The good news is that most of the major car rental services are located at the airport. You’ll find they are very easy to locate and deal with. Most travel websites can help you pre-book a car rental.
Of course, once you arrive, the island time will seamlessly slip into your bloodstream and you might feel torn between exploring the island and sitting by the ocean with the surf as your soundtrack and the sand your bed.
The top five locations to visit on your trip can easily be divided into two day trips or you can visit one per day, if you feel so inclined. All five cover diverse landscapes and show off Maui’s drastic climates. The first two suggestions are located close enough to each other that they are easily combined. The Maui Tropical Plantation and ‘Iao Valley.
The Maui Tropical Plantation is located at the bottom of the lush west Maui mountains. It’s a prime example of how the different climate zones on one island create such an eclectic bounty. The plantation offers a large country store, a large property landscaped with stunning plants and flowers, The Mill House Restaurant and Bar and one of the best farm tours.
The Plantation is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. It is easy to locate and there is plenty of parking. Whatever time of day you decide to go, it is a lovely experience. The Maui Tropical Plantation Express Tram Tour run 7 days a week, however, they only offer 7 tours a day. If you decide to take the tour, allow at least an hour for the whole experience. At the writing of this article, ticket costs were 20 USD per adult and 10 USD for children.
If you decide against the tram tour, there is still plenty to see on the Plantation itself. The large country store offers an array of gifts, and a nice selection of work by local artists. The property is set up with winding paths and small shops set up throughout. There is even a lovely coffee shop that offers Mill House Maui grown organic coffee for purchase by the cup or for sale by the pound.
If you make it to the Plantation Tuesday through Saturday between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm, you might pick up some of the fresh fruits and produce grown at the Plantation and for sale just outside the main country store.
As you leave the Maui Plantation, it is a quick trip, roughly twenty minutes, to ‘Īao Valley State Park. There is an entrance fee of 5 USD per car. Parking is limited, however, you will find that it is manageable.
‘Īao Valley State Park is easily accessible. It offers easy paved paths, however, you cannot go very far into the valley itself. The main path is 0.6 miles (almost 1 km) to the lookout. At the lookout you can see the ‘Īao Needle, which, as it turns out, is not a needle at all, but a jutting formation with a ridge. The view is a sort of visual effect.
The walk is not difficult, however, there are several stairs at the end of the hike, but they are not too daunting. If you are not up for a small hike, a level walk to the bridge from the parking lot offers a lovely view and you will feel like you have still made it into the thick of the jungle.
Makawao and Haleakala are two more destinations that are easily combined.
The area Makawao is known as Upcountry and also is famous as being the area of town where the cowboys come from. It is called Paniolo Country, Paniolo is the Hawaiian word for Cowboy. Because of its wide open fields, the area of Makawao was the perfect place for herds of cattle to graze. Today, the Makawao Rodeo is still held in the area every Fourth of July.
While you might not see too many cowboys, you will find some truly talented artists. Makawao’s main streets are home to some of Maui’s famous artists. You will find glassblowers and painters working in their studios and visiting with customers. There are plenty of lovely restaurants and cafes in Makawao, and you will find it is a perfect stop for brunch on your way up to Haleakala or lunch after your visit to the famous volcano.
Haleakalā , also known as The House of the Rising Sun, is a volcano that is responsible for most of Maui’s formation. At its tallest point, Haleakalā is 10,023 feet (3055 meters). On a cloudy day, the red and brown of the volcano sparkles in the sunshine and it seems like you are floating on an island in the sky, high above the clouds.
Haleakalā is located in a National Park, which means that there will be a fee to enter. At the time of writing this article, the price was 15 USD per car. There are different costs for camping and longer stays. There are also holidays when entrance to the park is free. The best thing to do is check the website for more information.
The road to Haleakalā is well maintained, but it does have a lot of twists and turns. You have several different options when you visit the volcano, as it stands at 10,000 feet, it is a spectacular place to view the sunrise or sunset. It is also a great place to camp and watch the stars without any city lights to obstruct your view. There is also some wonderful hiking to be had around the area.
Whatever you chose to do, know that weather is often a factor. You might think to check before you go. No matter the time of year, you need to be prepared for all different weather conditions. Sun, snow, wind, and rain. It is all a possibility all year round.
If you don’t wish to attempt the winding roads in the dark, a day trip might be right up your alley. Your first stop should be the Haleakalā visitor’s center. They are open from 6 am to 3 pm, but inside they have a spectacular 180 degree view of the volcano, which comes in handy for windy days. If you arrive a bit unprepared, the visitor’s center does have a small selection of jackets and sweatshirts available for purchase. However, there is no food or water for sale in the park.
Haleakala, with its barren landscape and jagged formations makes you feel like you’ve stepped onto a distant planet. But it’s well worth the trip.
You can add a trip into Lahaina at the end of either one of the two trips outlined above, or make an evening of it all by itself.
Historic Lahaina was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845. Today it is a popular destination for shopping and dining. There are plenty of opportunities to explore historic sites and get a feel for old Lahaina. However, it is also an interesting place for the way the old meets the new. You may want to explore Lahaina at night, as it’s known for its nightlife. Great restaurants and bars mingle with art galleries and T-shirt stores.
Watch the sun set from one of the many restaurant along Front Street in Lahaina or from Lahaina Banyan Court Park where you will also find one of the largest Banyan trees in the United States. The tree is a little over 140 years old and is roughly the size of a city block.
Breath of fresh air
The opportunities for exploration are as diverse as the people who live there and visit the wonderful Island. Whatever adventure you choose for your first trip to Maui you can’t go wrong.
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