Top Attractions in Maui
Take time to trek down one of the trails into Haleakala National Park's massive bowl and see proof, at this dormant volcano, of how powerful the earth's exhalations can be. The cinder cones have beautiful swirls of subtle colors that can sparkle in the sunlight. You won't see a landscape like this anywhere, outside of visiting the moon. The barren terrain is deceptive, however—many of the world's rarest plants, birds, and insects live here.
Take the Road to Hana
Spectacular views of waterfalls, lush forests, and the sparkling ocean are part of the pleasure of the twisting drive along the North Shore to tiny, timeless Hana in East Maui. The journey is the destination, but once you arrive, kick back and enjoy. Wave to pedestrians, "talk story" with locals in line at Hasegawa store, and explore the multicolor beaches. An overnight stay here allows for the most relaxed experience, though; a day trip is a big push. You may decide to drive just part of the way as an alternative.
Discover the Joy of Snorkeling
Snorkeling is a must, either on your own with a buddy or on a snorkel cruise. Maui has snorkel boats of all sizes to take you to spots such as the Molokini Crater. Wherever you duck under, you'll be inducted into a mesmerizing world underwater. Slow down and keep your eyes open; even fish dressed in camouflage can be spotted when they snatch at food passing by. Some great spots to try right near the shore are Honolua Bay and Kekaa (known as Black Rock, it's in front of the Sheraton Maui) in West Maui; there are also good spots on the rocky fringes of Wailea's beaches on the South Shore.
Stretch Out on Makena
This South Shore beauty is the sand dreams are made of: deep, golden, and pillowy. Don't be discouraged by the crammed parking lots; there's more than enough room. Makena (Oneloa in Hawaiian) is still relatively wild. There are no hotels, minimarts, or public restrooms nearby—instead there's crystal-clear water, the occasional pod of dolphins, and drop-dead-gorgeous scenery (including the sunbathers). You can grab a fish taco and a drink at a nearby truck for a tasty lunch.
Buy Tropical Fruit at a Roadside Stand
Your first taste of ripe guava or mango is something to remember. Delicious lychee, mangoes, star fruit, bananas, passion fruit, pineapple, and papaya can be bought on the side of the road with the change in your pocket. Go on, let the juice run down your chin. Farmers' markets are another place to seek out taste treats—just be sure to ask if what you crave is, indeed, local.
Try the Resorts and Spas
Indulge your inner rock star at the posh, pampering resorts and spas around the island. Sip a "Tommy Girl" in the hot tub at the Four Seasons or get massaged poolside at the Grand Wailea. Even if you don't stay the night, you can enjoy the opulent gardens, restaurants, art collections, and perfectly cordial staff. For pure relaxation, book a spa treatment from the extensive menus.
Escape to a Bed-and-Breakfast
Being a shut-in isn't so bad at a secluded B&B. It's a sure way to get a taste of what it's like to live in paradise: ripe fruit trees outside your door, late-night tropical rainstorms, a wild chicken or two. Rather than blasting the air-conditioning in a hotel room, relax with the windows open in a plantation house designed to capture sea breezes.
Maui is the cradle for hundreds of humpback whales that return every year from late December through April to frolic in the warm waters and give birth. Watch a mama whale teach her one-ton calf how to tail-wave. You can eavesdrop on them, too: book a tour boat with a hydrophone or just plunk your head underwater to hear the strange squeaks, groans, and chortles of the cetaceans. Tours are good, but you can also easily watch whales from the beach.
Listen to Hawaiian Music
Before his untimely death in 1997, Israel Kamakawiwoole, or "IZ," woke the world to the sound of modern Hawaiian music. Don't leave without hearing it live. The Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului has top Hawaiian entertainers regularly, and so do many island bars and restaurants. The Wednesday-night George Kahumoku Jr.'s Slack Key Show: Masters of Hawaiian Music concert series at the Napili Kai Beach Resort in West Maui is excellent. The Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival (check www.slackkeyfestival.com) features guest performers who play Hawaii's signature style.
Go Surfing on West Maui
Feel the thrill of a wave rushing beneath your feet at any one of the beginner's breaks along Honoapiilani Highway. Ask local surf schools about the best locations for beginners and consider taking a lesson or two. You can bring surf wax home as a souvenir. Stand-up paddle surfing is popular now, too.
Attend the Old Lahaina Luau
The Old Lahaina Luau has a warm heart—and seriously good poke (diced raw tuna tossed with herbs and other seasonings). Tuck a flower behind your ear, mix a dab of poi (taro-root paste) with your lomilomi salmon (rubbed with onions and herbs), and you'll be living like a local. Different styles of hula are part of the performance; the fire dancers are not traditional, but they are fun. Reserve well in advance.
Tee Off in Paradise
Spectacular views, great weather year-round, and challenging courses created by the game's top designers make Maui an inspiring place to play golf. The Kapulua Resort on West Maui and the Wailea and Makena resort courses on the South Shore offer memorable rounds. Check about twilight fees to save some money.
Beach lovers might need some arm-twisting to head up the mountain for a day, but the views and the fresh-smelling countryside are ample reward. On the roads winding through ranchlands, crisp, high-altitude air is scented with eucalyptus and the fragrances of the forest. Stop for an agricultural tour and learn about where the island's bounty comes from; you can sample it, too.
Dig into Ono Kine Grinds
"Ono kine grinds" is local slang for delicious food you'll find at dozens of restaurants island-wide. Maui chefs take their work seriously, and they have good material to start with: sun-ripened produce and seafood caught the very same morning. Try a plate lunch, that reminder of the state's cultural mix, at a casual spot. Sample as many types of fish as you can and don't be shy: try it raw. And try shave ice flavored with tropical fruit syrups.
Windsurf at Kanaha or Hookipa
You might not be a water-sports legend, but that doesn't mean you can't give it a try. In the early morning, some of windsurfing's big-wave spots are safe for beginners. Don't settle for the pond in front of your hotel—book a lesson on the North Shore and impress yourself by hanging tough where the action is.