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Whether you are an avid adventurer, surf enthusiast or prefer learning about the history and culture, enchanting Maui has something for everyone. Let’s be realistic. The island is a renowned travel destination for romantic getaways. Whatever you’re looking for, the vibrant “Valley Isle” of Maui is truly magical.

Sunset over the Ocean Maui-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Sunset over the Ocean Maui Credit: Diana Kenney

Table of Contents

Maui: Embodying the Spirit of Aloha

Aloha! Welcome to the Valley Isle of Maui, a vibrant paradise where adventure, culture, and natural beauty converge. Maui is the 2nd largest island and the first island we visited in the Hawaii chain. The chain of islands includes the “Big Island” Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau and Kahoolawe. The island of Maui encompasses 272-miles of one of the earth’s most diverse landscapes. Often referred to as the “Valley Isle,” Maui has a multitude of options to explore. The island has colorful communities, gorgeous beaches to watch stunning sunsets, picturesque landscapes with breathtaking vistas and rugged valleys where you can hike to hidden waterfalls.

Magical Maui Map-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Credit: Ralph Torello Flickr

It was a long flight from the east coast, before arriving at Kahului Airport. Mostly overcast, we picked up our rental car and headed out on the Honoapiilani Highway toward Lahaina. The smell of plumeria filled the air, coconut trees swaying in the warm breeze and the lush green grass against the backdrop of azure ocean waters was mesmerizing. The memory of the 10-hour flight slowly faded as we made the turn for Ka’anapali beach. I remember thinking how this was paradise, not to mention leaving behind 6-feet of snow.

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Maui Coastal Sunset-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Maui Coastal Sunset Credit: Brad Fountain

Where We Stayed: Royal Lahaina Resort – A Haven of Luxury and Aloha

We stayed at the Royal Lahaina Resort directly on the beach, overlooking 27 acres of gardens rich with tropical flowers. The hotel was part of the package tour we booked through Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays. It impressed us from the moment we entered the front lobby with its stunning murals and beautiful wood walls lining the hallway. The first thing I noticed was how they complimented the front desk with native fresh flowers. Having left behind cold winter weather, it was refreshing to see so much green. This idyllic setting gave us a genuine feeling for Hawaii and the “aloha spirit.”

Our room on the 9th floor had a peekaboo ocean view and overlooked the well-manicured championship Kaanapali Golf Course. The resort has a great variety of rooms, including suites and cottages. We are exhausted from our journey. Therefore, tonight we watched the sunset with a drink in our hand, feet up on the railing, listened to the sound of the ocean. Our first morning, we spotted humpback whales in the distance sitting on our lanai. It was time to get moving.

Royal Lahaina Resort-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Royal Lahaina Resort Credit: Ralph Torello Flickr

Culinary Delights: Breakfast Buffet on the Royal Terrace

The resort offers a breakfast buffet every morning on the open lanai. We found the open-air restaurant had exceptional views of the ocean and the distant island of Lanai. The buffet includes fresh fruit, omelets made to order, fresh pastry, fresh squeezed juices, Kona coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, waffles, and pancakes.

The expansive beachfront dining room lanai opens onto the tropical garden overlooking one of the three pools. You can sit poolside and enjoy the free Hawaiian music every night. Every evening at sunset we watched the traditional torch lighting ceremony. The Royal Ocean Terrace lounge is a great place to purchase drinks and enjoy happy hour.

If you’re looking for a place that is comfortable and relaxing and would like to call your Ohana, you will find it at the Royal Lahaina. All in all, we were thrilled with our choice to stay at the resort. We would stay there again. 

Ka'anapali Beachfront-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Ka’anapali Beachfront Credit: Wanda Hanley

Exciting Ka’anapali Beach: Disclosing the Spirited Gem of Maui

A trip to Maui is not complete until you visit this beach. They rate this as one of the best beaches in the world for good reason. The wide sandy beach has sugary white sand and crystal-clear turquoise water. There are panoramic views. To the left we could see the island of Lanai and to the right Moloka’i. The beach was relatively uncrowded during the day, even though it was close to Christmas. There is a paved walkway that runs along the entire length of the beach. When we took a break from the water, we walked the entire route from the hotel to the Maui Westin.

Ka'anapali beach-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Ka’anapali beach Brian Harris Flickr Public domain

Note: Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Pay attention to the safety warnings posted on the beach. They are there for your safety.

A word of advice about the beach. It drops quickly, creating a shore break. I was swept off my feet and got tossed under the wave, getting caught in the undertow. I crawled out of the wave, but it gave me quite the scare. Afterwards, in the pool, I realized I had a pound of sand in my swimsuit. I was a little leary of the beach after this.

Waves Splashing against Maui Rugged Coastline-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Maui Rugged Coastline – Credit: Brad Fountain

Best Things to Do on Maui: Embracing the Vibrant Spirit of the Valley Isle

There are many walkable sights in the Ka’anapali area. You can take a seaside stroll to Puu Kekea (Black Rock) for the traditional sunset cliff dive ceremony. It is only about a 10-minute walk from the hotel and also one of the world’s foremost snorkeling spots. Plenty of marine life along the reef and if you are lucky, you can spot sea turtles. We spent an evening walking the Ka’anapali path along the golf course, enjoying the warm ocean breezes, stopping at Whalers Village to have dinner and browse the shops. Most people take advantage of the free trolley to get here.

lahaina Village-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle-
Lahaina Waterfront Credit: Ralph Torello Flicker

Colorful Lahaina Town: Exploring the Vibrant Gem on the Valley Isle

The tiny village is the former capital (1820-1845) of Hawaii and started as a whaling town. The first whaling ships arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1819. For 40 years, the economy of the town was solely reliant on the whaling industry. The need to supply the growing population with fresh provisions gave rise to new industries. The rich fertile soils cultivated agricultural crops such as sugarcane, potatoes and fresh fruits such as pineapples. Local sources of fish, meats and baked goods supplemented the whalers. Exploited by the whaling industry today, the economy relies heavily on tourism.

The Old Lahaina center covers three square blocks on the harbor front. The turn-of-the-century town is stunningly beautiful and is rich in the history and heritage of Hawai’i. It has changed a little since the 19th century. They designated the seaport as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The Lahaina Historic District is also a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, including artisan galleries, unique specialty boutiques, restaurants that serve local delicacies and quaint historic buildings.

Maui-Lahaina-Courthouse-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Lahaina Courthouse Credit Ralph Torello Flickr Public domain

Lahaina Historic Trail: Embark on a Self-Guided Walking Tour Through Time

We spent our first day exploring the village. Lahiana is easily accessible by shuttle from most hotels for a dollar. Stopping by the Lahaina Visitor Center, we grabbed the free brochure for the self-guided walking tour. The visitors’ center is in the Lahiana courthouse on the first floor. Follow the Lahaina Historic Trail (Ala Hele Mo’olelo O Lahaina) to discover the town’s iconic landmarks that have stood the test of time. From the famous Banyan Tree Park to the Lahaina Courthouse, each stop on the tour is a window into Lahaina’s past. You can easily complete the quick tour in 1-2 hours. A longer tour takes at least a day.

We started on the corner of Front and Dickenson streets just steps away from the Baldwin House. Our first stop was the master’s reading room, completed in 1834. Lahaina’s whaling past is an integral part of its history. We explore the remnants of this maritime legacy, from old wharf sites to stories of harpooning adventures on the high seas. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation restored the two-story building constructed of coral/stone in the 1970s. The upper level, starting in 1874, was used by whaling ship captains as a depot for meetings, and for officers to record ship’s logs. They mainly used the lower level for storage. Today, the lower level has displays and shops. The upper level is closed to the public.

Maui-Lahaina-BaldwinHouse-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Baldwin House Credit Ralph Torello Flickr (Public Domain)

Mystical Magical Baldwin House-The Enigmatic Beginnings

Next door is the Baldwin House. From the moment you set eyes on Baldwin House, you’ll be entranced by its spellbinding architecture. Inside, we found many interesting displays. Many of the artifacts are reminiscent of the missionary lifestyle in the 1800s. Dr Baldwin was instrumental in the fight to vaccinate islanders against the smallpox virus of 1853. It was educational learning about the Rev. Dwight Baldwin and the family. Lots of relevant cultural and historical perspectives on their influence on the community. The site charges and admission fee and is open daily 10am-4pm.

Next, we walked down Market street to the Lahaina library. The map notes that the area used to be occupied by a large Taro patch (Kapukaiao). Long a staple for many Hawaiians for making poi. It is said that King Kamehameha III showed the dignity of labor by working the patch himself. The king’s taro patch was visible well into the 1950s before they constructed the library.

Hauola Stone in Lahina-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Hauola Stone Photo: Vihh Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hauola Stone and Brick Palace: A Historical Gem of Architectural Beauty

We walked to the next point of interest by the harbor wall to view the Hauola Stone. Just-off the water-edge and marked by a commemorative plaque, the rock resembles a chair. Ancient Hawaiians used the stone as a birthing stone for royalty. Hauola means “to extend life and health.” Today, many Hawaiians believe the stone has healing powers.

 In 1798, the first western style building was the Brick Palace of King Kamehameha I. Constructed for his wife, Queen Kaahumanu, the two story wood/brick structure no longer stands. All that remains is a brick foundation excavated in 1962.

Lahaina Lighthouse Pioneer Inn-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Lahaina Lighthouse-Credit-United States Coast Guard, PA3 Michael De Nyse

Guided by the Light: The Story Behind the Old Lahaina Lighthouse

Sitting directly in front of the Pioneer Inn is the first lighthouse ever constructed in the Hawaiian Islands. The Old Lahaina Lighthouse isn’t just a solitary structure; it is intricately linked to the island’s vibrant heritage. Commissioned by King Kamehameha III to light the way for whaling vessels, they erected the Lahaina lighthouse in 1840. The original tower was a slight 9 foot wooden structure lit by a whale-oil lamp. They increased the wooden structure to 26 feet in 1866, before being reconstructed in 1905 with sturdier materials, mainly concrete. The US Coast Guard dedicated the 39 foot navigational aid in 1916. Today Lāhainā Restoration Foundation leases and maintains the lighthouse.

The Pioneer Inn is a plantation style building on Wharf street built in 1901. It was the only hotel in West Maui until 1960. Today it is still operating as an inn. I could only imagine what a stay here must have been like during an earlier time when bawdy sailors frequented the hallways. The inn is steeped in lore and wonder.

Lahaina Banyan Tree
Lahaina Banyan Tree Credit Ralph Torello Flickr (Public domain)

Banyan Court Park: A Natural Wonder in the Heart of History

The iconic Banyan Court Park is on the corner of Front Street and Canal Street across from the Old Lahaina Courthouse. The Banyan tree, the centerpiece in this 1.94 acre park, has captured the imaginations of generations with its extraordinary presence. Originally a gift from India, it was planted in 1873. We wander through this lush oasis, encountering the awe-inspiring Banyan tree with its sprawling branches, and learn about its significance as one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Local artists selling their wares made this one of the most memorable spots on the tour. If you’re looking to purchase a unique Hawaiian gift, this is the place.

U.S. Seamen's Hospital-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
U.S. Seamen’s Hospital Credit Ralph Torello Flickr (Public domain)

Historic Roots: Unraveling the Legacy of the Old Lahaina Courthouse

For an instant, you can step back in time. The Old Lahaina Courthouse museum has exhibits that showcase Hawaii’s historical past. The exhibits on the upper level cover the comprehensive history of the island from the prehistoric through the monarch rulers. If you love history, this museum is worth the time. Best of all, the museum is free. There is a gift shop/art studio on the lower level. Throughout the year, the Old Lahaina Courthouse and Banyan Court Park come alive with vibrant events and celebrations.

Located at the north end of Front Street is the U.S. Seamen’s Hospital. Kamehameha III originally commissioned the stone building in 1833. Later, it was leased in 1844 to the United States to serve as a hospital for ailing sailors and whalers. For a time, the building was a boarding school. It officially closed in September 1862. Lahaina Restoration Foundation now leases the building for special events and functions.

Hale Pa'ahao - Old Lahaina Prison-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Hale Pa’ahao – Old Lahaina Prison Credit Ralph Torello Flickr (Public domain)

Lahaina: The Early Years – An Act of Retaliation

Originally, the fort occupied the site where the Old Lahiana courthouse now stands. All that remains of the old prison and fort is a stacked section of brick wall at the intersection of Wharf and Canal Street. The story goes that in 1825, restrictions (kapu) were imposed by the missionaries banning the sale of liquor and stopping local women from soliciting sailors and swimming out to greet arriving ships. In retaliation, the whalers rioted and fired cannons during the three days of the attack. To protect the town, they hastily constructed the fort in 1832. They topped the 20 foot coral block walls with 47 cannons. The fort fell into disrepair after the collapse of the whaling industry and was eventually demolished in 1854. In 1964, the State Parks department rebuilt a small section of wall you see today.

They reused many of the coral bricks from the old fort to build a new prison at the corner of Wainee Street and Prison Road. The Old Lahaina Prison, constructed in 1852 during the reign of King Kamehameha III, was used to lock up rowdy sailors who failed to return to their ships at sundown. Today you can do a free self-guided tour of the cells and yard. The Hawaiian name for the prison is Hale Pa’ahao, which means “stuck in irons house.”

As we concluded our self-guided walking tour along the Lahaina Historic Trail, we’ll carried a deeper appreciation for the town’s rich past and its enduring cultural significance.

Green Sea Turtle Maui
Green Sea Turtle Credit: Brad Fountain

Enjoy the Serenity: Olowalu Beach – Maui’s Uncrowded Paradise

No trip to Lahaina is complete without a visit to its mesmerizing shores. If you are looking for solitude, you can find it here. Just south of Lahaina, at mile marker 14 on the Honoapi’ilani Highway, we found a private spot in the trees to pull off the highway.

Olowalu is the most northerly beach before reaching Ukumehame and Papalua parks. This beach is relatively shallow, with calm waters, especially at low tide when the coral heads are more exposed. We found the beach to be mostly deserted, so this became our favorite go-to spot. There is a maze of sand channels created by small coral islands just off the shoreline. I spent the morning hours snorkeling, losing myself, searching for marine life, chasing a large parrot fish, spotting starfish, sea anemones and other colorful fish. I would recommend wearing water shoes. Flippers would only damage the coral in the shallow water.

Coral Reef-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Turtle Town- Maluaka Beach Photo: Flickr (Public domain)

At one point, I scared myself by remembering the “Beware of Sharks” sign on the beach. I was humming the theme song from Jaws when I got an eerie feeling. I immediately stood up only to realize I was 250 feet from the shore, yet only in three feet of water. Silly I know. Keawe trees shade the beach from the sun, but beware of the thorns. At the nearby park you can rent a kayak for the day. A local told us that if you paddle beyond the reef at high tide, the waves are larger, but they often see green sea turtles, sharks, and occasionally whales.

Puu Ulaula Crater
Puu Ulaula Crater Photo by Jeff King  on Unsplash

Magnificent Haleakalā National Park: A Sunrise Tour of Surreal Beauty

As the popular Hawaiian myth goes, the volcano goddess Pele created the Hawaiian Islands through the forges of lava. Pele is the famed goddess of volcanoes and fire the creator of Haleakalā. Haleakalā means House of the Sun in Hawaiian. This island is named after the demigod Māui. The legend says that he lassoed and trapped the sun god La in order to lengthen the day so that Hina, his mother, could dry her clothes. They stuck a bargain, and he released La. Today, there is no better way to appreciate this legend than to view the jaw-dropping crater at sunrise.

Note: Make sure you reserve your spot on the website prior to your arrival at least 6 months in advance. ($1 fee-only need one reservation per car). The website states they release additional tickets 48 hours prior. Remember the park charges an entrance fee too.

Silver Sword-Haleakala NP
Keonehe‘ehe‘e Trail-Silverword in Flower Image by H. Hach from Pixabay Public domain

Haleakalā’s Splendor: Unveiling the Park’s Natural Wonders

We experienced the sunrise excursion over the Haleakalā crater with Valley Isle Excursions. The tour picked us up outside our hotel in Ka’anapali Beach at 1:40 am. Our driver masterfully navigated the road switchbacks road as we made our way to the summit of the volcano in total darkness. I think the temperatures was in the high 30s or low 40s when we arrived at the top. This is to be expected on the top of a 10,000 foot volcano at 5 in the morning. The wind chill made it feel much colder. Dressed in layers, many visitors arrived in tank tops and shorts. I recommend warm hat, gloves, socks, pants and fleece jacket. We chatted with one couple inside the summit building, as they struggling to stay warm. Through the wide windows we could see that clouds had settled into the crater, stars still twinkle in the dark sky.

Haleakala National Park-Sunrise
Mount Haleakalā Sunrise Excursion Photo: Kayla Ito via Unsplash

Capture Picture-Perfect Moments

It was an amazing spectacle, watching the crowds via for the perfect spot. We settled for a smooth boulder on the crater edge. Slowly, the horizon changes as the first light rays emerge. The clouds bathed first in purple and blue, followed by bright pinks, red and orange. Absolutely breathtaking!! Put this tour on your bucket list!!!

After the sunrise, we walked to the Haleakala Observatory. House of the Sun-Pu’u ‘Ula’ula or Red Hill. This is the highest point in Maui. If you are really adventurous, consider booking the bike ride down the volcano, taking in the upcountry awe-inspiring vistas as you descend. Instead, our tour provided breakfast overlooking the West Maui mountains in upcountry Kula.

‘Iao Valley Creek
‘Iao Valley Creek

Discovering ‘Iao Valley State Park: Nature’s Oasis

The sacred ‘Iao Valley State Park is an enjoyable day trip. Often shrouded in clouds, the natural beauty of the rugged west Maui mountain peaks rising dramatically from the valley floor feels almost like Jurassic Park. This historic State Park is home to the infamous ‘Iao Needle, and the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790. This is where King Kamehameha I conquered Maui’s warriors in pursuit of uniting all Hawaiian Islands. The ferocious battle ultimately changed the course of Hawaiian history. The valley was once burial grounds for Hawaiian royalty, thus is sacred or kapu.

‘Iao Needle
‘Iao Needle-Bernard Spragg. NZ-Flickr (Public domain)

If you walk into the park, you only have to pay $1 for admission. If you drive, you’ll pay $5. The relatively easy walk to the botanical gardens has information boards set throughout to explain the historical significance and ecology of the area. We took the paved 0.6 mile trail to the scenic viewpoint of the iconic 1,200-foot ‘Iao Needle or Kuka’emoku in Hawaiian. The dense tropical rainforest is the second wettest in Hawaii. There are 133 stairs to traverse, but you get stunning views at the top of the valley. The needle is said to be the phallic stone of Kanaloa, the Hawaiian God of the Ocean.

There is a secret trail that is marked closed. It follows an extremely muddy 3-mile course over roots and other worldly trees to stunning 270 degree views of the misty valley and towering mountain waterfalls. Before you go wear a swimsuit under your hiking clothes, bring a towel, and camera.so that after your hike you can jump in a shallow river to cool off.

Molokini Crater-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Molokini Crater Credit: Brian Harris Flickr (Public domain)

Snorkeling in Molokini: A Journey Beneath the Waves

This ancient volcanic caldera just off the coast of Maui lies within the Molokini Island Preserve, in Makena Bay. An adventure snorkel tour aboard the high-speed triple-decker catamaran on the Pride of Maui begins from Ma’alaea Harbor. Today the breezes are light as we make our way to the volcanic caldera. The swells got a little bigger when the boat was on the backside of the caldera. Thankfully, the waters were calmer inside the protected crater.

After a safety briefing, they outfitted us with gear. Floatation devices made it easy to snorkel, and the gear was of excellent quality! Swim platforms made accessing the water effortless. The first thing you notice is the exceptionally clear water gives spectacular visibility. We could see the bottom of the150 feet crater. There were lots of brilliantly colored anemones, fish, and a wide variety of corals. The charter spent an hour and a half or so here, which was a perfect amount of time to explore the crater. On the way to our second snorkel destination, Turtle Town, there were magnificent views on the slopes of Haleakalā. A large pod of spinner dolphins splashed in our boat wake as we enjoyed a sumptuous all-you-care-to-eat buffet lunch.

Green Sea Turtle-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Green Sea Turtle Photo: Image by Pexels 

Note: Touching, chasing, riding or harassing the endanger turtles is strictly prohibited.

An Ecosystem of Wonder: A Journey to Turtle Town

Along the shoreline of South Maui, between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach, is the famed Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach). Most renown for the abundance of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. It was here Barry, and I floated together on the surface as a green turtle swam directly underneath us. A memory that we will cherish forever. In the coral we discovered a wedge-tail triggerfish, also known by its Hawaiian name, humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa. Don’t miss going out to Molokini.

Sunshine Helicopters Tour
Sunshine Helicopters Tour

Taking Flight: Soaring Above Maui’s Beauty

Sunshine helicopters tours offer visitors the opportunity to see the panoramic views of majestic green, sheer mountains, towering waterfalls, and beautiful ocean vistas. We could not resist taking a helicopter tour of the island. Our morning began with an introduction to our pilot, Steve, for the AS350 FX STAR helicopter and a safety briefing at the helipad at Kahului Airport. As luck would have it, we had premium front row seats. The flight started with the music to star trek before switching to Kenny Loggins’ danger zone as we flew over the pineapple fields, gaining altitude over the slopes of the volcano. What an incredible start!

Steve had an excellent narrative and was quite the comedian. Definitely blown away by how much knowledge he shared about everything we were seeing. You get a bird’s-eye views of Haleakalā crater, normally seeing striking views of the sun-splashed north and south coasts. Unfortunately, today is overcast and cloudy, but it does not affect our enthusiasm. The tour circumnavigates the island, passing Kaupo Gap, ‘Ohe’o (Oh-Hey-Oh), Hana Ranch, Jim Nabors property, Jurassic rock and Ho’okipa Beach.

Mana'wai'nui Falls
Mana’wai’nui Falls

Mystical Mana’wai’nui Falls-Into the Rainforest: A Trek to the Unknown

The most outstanding destination was the 2,360 feet Mana’wai’nui Falls. As the helicopter descends into the valley, sheer mountains surround you on all sides. One of the wettest places on Earth, multiple waterfalls dramatically drop over these inaccessible vertical walls. Mana’wai’nui in the Hawaiian language means “many spirited waters” since the waterfalls are only flowing during the rainy season. Clouds were hanging in the air above the mountains as we headed back towards the backside of Maui.

 As our Sunshine Helicopter Tour comes to an end, we are left with a profound appreciation for the vibrant and mystical beauty of Maui. From the soaring heights, we witnessed the island’s majestic landscapes—the volcanic wonder of Haleakalā, the hidden waterfalls, and the lush rainforests. This is by far the BEST activity I have ever signed up for. We flew for a full hour and received a wonderful DVD of our flight. It’s a little on the expensive side, but worth every penny. A once in a lifetime unforgettable experience!

Waiʻanapanapa State Park
Waiʻanapanapa State Park Honokalaini Black Sand Beach Photo: WikiCommons Michael

Exploring the Road to Hāna: A Scenic Extravaganza

Take an epic drive along the stretch of scenic roadway known as the Road to Hāna. Also called the highway to heaven. Not for the faint of heart, the 64-mile scenic and often dangerous road has hundreds of dicey turns and curves with multiple one lane bridges. Thus, we felt it was best viewed from a tour van. The tour took us 12 hours, doing all the many must-see stops as we circumnavigating the island before returning to our hotel in Lahiana.

We were on the road at mile marker 0 in Pa’ia Town by 6 am. It felt like we had found the real Hawaii, away from the resorts, truly paradise, from the first pull out to the last one. Our guide stopped at many locations, including Ho’okipa Beach Park, Pouhokamoa Fall, Waikamoi Ridge Trail, Kaumahina State Park Ke’anae Peninsula, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Wailua State Wayside Park, Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park before reaching Hana Town. The endless waterfalls. lush green rainforests and beach views were gorgeous.

Upper Waikani-Three Bears Waterfall Credit: Free Good Photos CC0 / Public Domain 

Lively Maui Road to Hana: Best Stops and Must-Dos for an Unforgettable Journey

Wai’anapanapa State Park and its Black Sand Beach was the best stop of the day. We crouched down to crawl through a beautiful lava tube just off the beach, entering a huge open cavern. We lucked out, arriving at low tide. The beach had few swimmers since the surf was extremely rough because of the high winds.

Hana Farms Stand
Hana Farms Credit: Wanda Hanley

Hana Town: A Quaint Cultural Stop

We stopped at Hana Town to enjoy lunch at Hana Ranch. The views were phenomenal. As we started towards the backside of Maui on the Piilani Highway, the island is starkly different, almost desert like. The sharp contrast begins after leaving the ‘Ohe’o Gulch in Kipahulu. The road is challenging. We were glad we opted for a tour.

This drive has many “ohs” and “ahh’s”. However, it is all about the journey and soaking in all the natural beauty this island offers. If you decide to drive the road yourself, download the Shaka Road to Hana tour app or Gypsy app, it will tell you where to stop and give a bit of an informational history.

Maui Tropical Plantation-Tropical Express Tram Tour
Maui Tropical Plantation-Tropical Express Tram Tour Photo: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Delightful Maui Tropical Plantation: A Botanical Paradise in the Heart of Maui

On the outskirts of Wailuku, you’ll find the immaculate, sprawling Maui Tropical Plantation. As we arrive at the Maui Tropical Plantation, we are greeted by a breathtaking sight—a symphony of colorful blooms and swaying palm trees. The air is filled with the sweet scent of flowers, setting the tone for a delightful experience.

We highly recommend the narrated Tropical Express Tram tour through the plantation. On the 40-minute tour we learned about the island’s diverse crops, from pineapple and sugar cane to exotic fruits and vegetables, and discovered the farm-to-table journey that sustains the local community. The plantation showcases the many unique Hawaiian produce they grow, including sugarcane, pineapple, bananas, coffee, macadamia nuts, papaya, and jackfruit.

Heliconia bihai (red palulu)

Taking leisurely garden walk through the gardens are breathtaking against the backdrop of the misty West Maui mountains. Our guide did a brief presentation on how to husk a coconut. There are craft shops, a chocolatier, a soap maker, and Mill House eatery, plus other things. They had a Zipline attraction for an additional fee, which we did not try. The fish pond and tropical plants were beautiful. We made a few purchases at the gift shop and enjoyed an ice cream at the end of the tour. This is a laid back attraction best for a quick afternoon escape.

Maui Panoramic Mountain View
Maui Panoramic – Photo: Wanda Hanley

Hitting the Trails in Maui: Lace up your hiking boots

You cannot visit this island without hitting the trails for an exhilarating adventure in Maui. From lush rainforests to volcanic wonders and panoramic vistas, Maui’s hiking trails offer a diverse range of natural masterpieces waiting to be explored.

Road to Hana-Waiamoku Falls
Road to Hana-Waiamoku Falls Photo Credit: Brad Fountain

Thrilling ‘Ohe’o Gulch Trail: Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls: Waterfall Paradise

NOTE: Pay close attention to warning signs and closures when flash flooding is imminent.

Pipiwai Trail Bamboo Forest
Pipiwai Trail Bamboo Forest Credit: Brad Fountain

At Ohe’o Gulch, the Pipiwai trail is one of the must-do hikes along the Road to Hana. After passing a sprawling banyan tree, the trail explores a bamboo forest by way of a boardwalk. Waimoku Falls-a 400-foot cascading waterfall-is reached after hiking through dense bamboo stalks and lush vegetation. Listening to the wind hit the bamboo trees and hear them sing as they collide is very magical! Our hike ended at a waterfall where we were greeted with a rainbow. Extraordinary!

Travel Tip: Remember to bring bug sprayplenty of water and good hiking boots.

‘Ohe’o Gulch-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
‘Ohe’o Gulch Credit: Ralph Torello Flicker

Explore Kapalua Coastal Trail: A Scenic Journey Along Maui’s Seaside Beauty

Kipahulu, meaning “fetch from exhausted gardens,” was once home to thousands of ancient Hawaiians and played a significant role in several legends. The 2-mile Kipahula Coastal Trail (out & back) winds its way along the dramatic northwest shoreline offering breathtaking views of the sparkling ocean, rugged cliffs, and lush landscapes. The scenic trail is best at morning as there is very little shade so remember to apply lots of sunscreen, wear a hat and plenty bring of water. Wear sturdy shoes to negotiate the uneven trail and scramble over some sharp rock areas.

The Dragon's Teeth on Makaluapuna Point
The Dragon’s Teeth on Makaluapuna Point Credit Kenny Underwood

Our journey began at Kapalua Bay, known for its pristine sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. The trail took us close to the thundering surf to Makaluapuna Point and the otherworldly geological formation called the “Dragon’s Teeth.” The formation was created many years ago when the lighter, denser lava reached the ocean where rough winds and waves created what looks like teeth, thus the name. Further along the point is an interesting prayer labyrinth, a place for quiet contemplation or meditation.

The Kapalua Coastal Trail connects a series of stunning beaches, including Oneloa Bay and D.T. Fleming Beach. It was here we took a few minutes to dip your toes in the gentle waves.

Rugged Maui Coastline
Photo Credit Wanda Hanley

Honokahua Burial Site: Honoring Ancient Ancestors and Cultural Legacy

As we continue along the trail, we encounter the secluded coves of Honokahua Bay and Namalu Bay. The Honokahua Burial Site, also known as Mokuhinia, is an ancient burial ground. This sacred place was once the final resting place for Hawaiian chiefs and their families, honoring their lives and spirits .A large hedgerow marks the boundary of the Honokahua Burial Site. The site was discovered in 1980 during the construction of the Ritz hotel. Thus it gained international attention when it became the center of the Battle of Honokahua. Native Hawaiians, environmentalists, and cultural advocates fought to protect this sacred site from development, ultimately leading to significant legal and environmental victories.vThey moved the location of the hotel so that they could leave the remains of 2000 Hawaiians (circa AD 610 & 1800) in this sacred place. A plaque marks the boundary and is strictly off limits to the public.

Nakalele Blowhole
Nakalele Blowhole Credit: Brad Fountain

Maui’s Unique Nakalele Blowhole Trail: Journey to Nature’s Geologic Marvel

This easy 1.2-mile trail is located at mile marker 38.5 on the Honoapi’ilani Highway. The drive to the trail is a bit daunting. The road narrows and twists and turns, hugging the coastline. Lots of places to pull off the road and take pictures. We parked in a gravel parking lot along the road. Reaching the Nakalele Blowhole, watching the powerful ocean pounding the jagged rocks was amazing. It is here where waves collide with lava rock formations to create a remarkable blowhole spectacle. Getting down to the blowhole requires avoiding slippery rocks. Best to wear shoes, not flip-flops.

Rugged Maui Coastline Honoapi'ilani Highway
Photo Credit: Wendy Willis Honeycutt

The awe-inspiring blowhole, the ancient lava formations, and the panoramic ocean views offer a glimpse into the island’s geologic wonders. The incoming high tide pressurizes the water, forcing it up through a small hole blowing geyser-like 30-40 feet in the air.

NOTE: Heed warning signs. Many injuries have happened when gigantic waves swept over the lava shelf. No picture/selfie is worth the risk.

Maui Tidal Pool
Maui Tidal Pool Image by Koenraad Boshoff from Pixabay 

Hawaii’s Tidal Pools: A Natural Playground of Ocean Wonders

Our adventure along the Nakalele Blowhole Trail is one to be treasured forever. Afterwards we made our way down the road is the Olivine pools. As we reach the Olivine Pools, we were captivated by the unique lava rock formations that surround them. The dark volcanic rocks create a striking contrast against the azure blue of the Pacific Ocean, showcasing nature’s geological artistry. The Olivine Pools are a series of naturally formed tide pools named after a gem that is embedded in the lava rocks. As the waves crash against the rocks, the pools are filled with seawater, creating a natural green infinity pool.

Tourists often swim and soak in the rejuvenating waters. While the Olivine Pools provide an exhilarating experience, it’s essential to approach them with caution. The area is exposed to powerful ocean waves, be mindful of the sea’s unpredictability. Due to the incoming tide the ocean appears way to rough for us today. Instead, we cautiously explored the farthest pools. As we explore the pools, we discover hidden gems—tiny fish darting through crevices, hermit crabs scuttling across rocks, and even find a shy octopus looking for refuge.

Maui Luau-Royal Lahaina
Maui Luau-Royal Lahaina

Thrilling Royal Lahaina Luau Dinner: Hawaiian Culinary Delights a Feast Fit for Kings

Looking for an unforgettable evening filled with authentic Hawaiian hula and fire dances? Then experience a luau buffet dinner that captures the “Spirit of Old Hawaii.” Maui’s longest running Luau is the Myths of Maui at the Royal Lahaina Resort oceanfront on Ka’anapali beach It celebrates the traditions of Polynesia with legends and stories from Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga and Maori.

From the moment we stepped foot into the luau grounds, we were transported to a world of enchantment. This is where traditions come alive and aloha spirit is felt. Very kind staff members directed us where to check-in and greeted us with orchid leis for the ladies, and kukui nut shell leis for the men. We then got our complimentary drinks before sitting down. VIP guests are seated on pillows in the sand before a short table. A bonus we are at the front of the stage and have an unobstructed view – THE BEST seats in the house!

The pre-show began with learning a bit of the Hawaiian language. Next, we learned the origins of hula. Volunteers from the audience went on stage to learn the hula.

Hula Dancers-Magical Maui-the Vibrant Valley Isle
Hula Dancers Credit: Ralph Torello Flicker

Unearthing Ancient Hawaiian Traditions: Embracing the Hawaiian Umu Ceremony

The Puaʻa Kālua is pork roasted in a Hawaiian underground oven or “Imu” ocean side on Ka’anapali beach. We watched the unveiling Imu ceremony where they take the pig out of the in-the-ground oven as the sunsets. Before the all-you-can-eat buffet, they offered a traditional prayer blessings for the pig. The buffet was super organized, and the endless array of food was delicious!

The menu included mouth-watering delicacies such as Laulau or lūʻau leaf wrapped pork, Poke ‘Ahi tuna, lomilomi salmon. Pan-fried Noodles, Teriyaki Chicken, Island Fish, Kalua Pork, and Asian Beef Stir Fry. Loved the haupia for dessert. The open bar with traditional Hawaiian drinks. The Mai Tai to be one of the best across the islands. The drinks just kept coming as servers removed empty cups and plates before the show began. The native performers showcased dances from various Polynesian islands.

Sunset on the beach Royal Lahaina Luau Dinner
Photo Credit: Wendy Willis Honeycutt

Dancers telling Hawaiian legends through their graceful movements mesmerized us. Witness the spectacular Samoan fire knife dance finale as the sun sets. They are the highlight, their mesmerizing performances lighting up the night sky. As the luau came to a close, we took with us cherished memories of this thrilling experience. The royal treatment, the delicious feasts, and the vibrant performances all combine to create an unforgettable night under the stars. No vacation to Maui would be complete without the purely Hawaiian experience of attending a luau.

Palm Trees on the Beach in Hawaii
Photo Credit: Wendy Willis Honeycutt

Experience Exceptional Dining on Maui: Savoring the Flavors of Paradise

I think it is fair to say that we did not have a poor meal anywhere. It is safe to say, “Maui, where exceptional dining experiences await around every corner.” From fresh seafood caught daily to locally sourced ingredients bursting with flavor, the island’s vibrant food scene promises a journey for the taste buds like no other. There are countless popular venues for entertainment and food too many to cover here. We ate our fill in Maui and these are only the highlights we remember.

Ka'anapali Beach-Maui
Ka’anapali Beach-Maui Brian Harris Flickr

Eat at the Legendary Mama’s Fish House: A Beachfront Paradise on Maui’s Shores

A friend stated this was one of the best restaurants in Hawaii. I made reservations about 2 weeks in advance. With a reputation that spans decades, this restaurant has earned its place as a beloved culinary institution. Mama’s Fish House has been delighting diners since 1973, and its reputation for serving the finest seafood in Hawaii is well-deserved. Locals and visitors alike are drawn to its timeless charm, exceptional service, and commitment to sourcing the freshest catch of the day.

Mammas Fish House-Maui
Mammas Fish House-Maui Photo: Wanda Hanley

First, the path to the restaurant was stunning! The lit torches on the beach, the seating is open air on all sides the beach is quite breathtaking. Although expensive, it is worth it for the setting alone. For our appetizer, we shared the macadamia nut crab cake and the venison with honey-citrus. Each plate is a masterpiece, showcasing the chef’s creativity and passion for culinary artistry. I had the Mahi Mahi stuffed with crab and lobster with macadamia nut crust. Barry had the Ono Tahitian with Hana lime and taro chips. Words cannot describe these tasty dishes. We shared the Hana Banana Crisp dessert. It’s to die for! We could not be happier with our visit.

View from Lahaina to Lanai Island
Phtoto Credit: Wanda Hanley

Local Fair at the Lahaina Fish Company: A Gastronomic Journey through Lahaina’s Culinary Heritage

Wonderful dining experience overlooking the water listening to the waves makes for a memorable evening. At the Lahaina Fish Company, expect to savor the catch of the day, sourced directly from local fishermen. Each dish tells a story of the sea and the community’s connection to the ocean. Recommend having a Mai Tai while admiring the gorgeous views. The dishes are a blend of traditional Hawaiian flavors with Asian, European, and Polynesian inspirations, creating a fusion of tastes that are uniquely Lahaina.

For dinner I ordered the Seafood Lau Lau, a blended combination of Mahi Mahi, scallops, shrimp served over spinach and brown rice. It was fresh, flavorful, and perfectly presented bento style. Hubby ordered the Island Fish Coconut Curry. He loved it! I am not a fan of curries so never tried tasting it. The sweet mana pie was the perfect ending to our meal.

Whalers Village-Ka'anapali Beach
Whalers Village-Ka’anapali Beach Photo: Pixabay

Kimo’s: A Timeless Lahaina Tradition for Exquisite Dining

The perfect spot for spending the Aloha Hour. Perched right on the water’s edge, Kimo’s boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring islands. Very relaxing environment for listening to local entertainment. As day turns to dusk, Kimo’s becomes a haven for witnessing breathtaking sunsets. I had an excellent piece of Ono. The fish sauteed perfectly. Barry had the fish tacos. The flavor was so fresh and savory. If you go to Kimo’s you MUST try their famous Hula Pie! We shared the decadent dessert, drizzled with chocolate sauce and macadamia nuts served on their signature plate. Kimo’s is more than just a restaurant—it is a part of Lahaina’s storied past. Since its establishment in 1977, Kimo’s has welcomed generations of guests, leaving an indelible mark on Maui’s culinary landscape.

Key West Beach Sunset
Photo Credit: Karen Seddon

Leilani’s On The Beach: An Oceanfront Haven for Unforgettable Dining

Leilani’s On The Beach is in Whalers Village has an outstanding sunset view of the Molokai’i and Lanai for sunset. It was only a short walk from our Ka’anapali Beach. The menu at Leilani’s showcases the best of Hawaii’s culinary treasures, featuring fresh catches from the sea, locally sourced produce, and traditional island favorites. Each dish is a reflection of the rich flavors and cultural diversity of the Hawaiian Islands. The Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi was absolutely incredible! If you go to Leilani’s you MUST try their Hula Pie! I won’t say which pie I liked best between Kimo’s and Leilani’s both were delicious. The warm and attentive staff make you feel like part of the ohana (family).

Maui Coastline
Maui Coastline-Photo: Wanda Hanley

Final thoughts on Beautiful Magical Maui the Vibrant Valley Isle

There’s something very special about this island for all intrepid travelers. Whether you’re an adventurer, a culture enthusiast, or simply seeking relaxation, Maui promises an unforgettable experience. I would best describe Maui as one of the most beautiful Hawaiian Islands. During our visit, we found the beaches have an array of activities such as boogie boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming or just plain lying in the sun. Haleakalā National Park is an unforgettable wilderness, the perfect spot for a hiking adventure. For the romantic, there is the mysterious beauty of Ka’anapali Beach for long walks watching the sunset over Lanai. Whatever you decide to do on your journey, Maui has something for everyone. Aloha, Maui!

Have you vacationed on the Valley Isle of Maui? If not, what do you think you would like best? Share your thoughts with us. We’d love to know your plans! If you have vacationed in this vibrant paradise, what did you enjoy most?