5 Must-Do Activities in Maui, Hawaii

When visiting a tropical island like Maui, many people want to kick back and relax by the ocean with a fruity drink in hand. Maui is a great place for that! But Maui is also a really interesting island, full of culture, history and natural wonders. You don’t want to plan out every minute of your visit, but if you are looking for things to do in Lahaina, or nearby, here are 5 fun things to do on Maui.

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Attend a Maui Luau

Old Lahaina Luau

This goes for any Hawaiian island vacation: you must go to a luau! (Full confession: my first luau was at the Polynesian Resort at Disney World, and I still remember the rum punch 20 years later!) I chose the Old Lahaina Luau and from talking to Maui regulars, it’s the best luau on Maui, hands down. They really do a phenomenal job telling the story of the Hawaiian islands and the Polynesian culture, in the most entertaining way, with the most elaborate costumes! You’ll also enjoy a delicious buffet of regional foods and an open bar featuring loads of tropical cocktails.

Old Lahaina Luau

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Haleakala National Park

Even if you are not a National Park fan like I am, it’s worth the trip to the summit of Haleakala National Park. Not only will you drive through a variety of ecosystems, with killer views of the island, you’ll also ascend to over 10,000 feet above sea level! If you’re lucky, you might even get to experience Hawaiian snow! One popular way to visit the crater is on a sunrise bike tour. The road is windy, but paved so you can also drive yourself if you’d like to do some hiking around the crater. (Tour groups are not allowed to hike as they would like to limit impact on the fragile eco-system.)

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

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Maui Boat Charters

If you are visiting Maui, you will want to get out on the water at least one time. If you visit during whale season (starts in mid-December) you’ll definitely want to book a whale watching tour. I was a bit early, so I chose the Lanai Snorkel trip with Ultimate Whale Watch. Luckily, the whales don’t follow the calendar to a tee, so we spotted a few even though it wasn’t quite whale season yet! Another great option is a sunset dinner cruise. Hawaiian sunsets are legendary, even more so from the deck of a dinner cruise!

Ultimate Whale Watch tour

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I’ao Valley State Park

This was another stop on the Haleakala Maui tour that I took, but it’s near Kahului so it would be a good stop on your way to or from the airport. This park has a very different feel from the beaches of Maui and the summit of Haleakala crater. It’s very “Jurassic Park” and reminds me of photos I’ve seen from the Pitons of St. Lucia. There’s a nice hiking trail, with bridges crossing a rushing river. You’ll get good views all the way back out to Kahului.

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

The Road to Hana

Driving the Road to Hana is probably the most popular tourist activity on Maui, and for now, it remains on my Maui bucket list for another trip. While many visitors choose to drive the road on their own, there are also many tours available. The road is windy and takes a full day, up to 12 hours depending on how many stops you make. There are waterfalls and beaches, including black and red sand beaches.

Valley Isle Excursions - Haleakala Maui Tour

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If you prefer to self-drive, check out Hana Highway – Mile by Mile: The Road to Hana and Beyond

Where to Stay in Maui

When planning a visit to Maui, it can be tough to decide where to stay. There are so many different areas of the island you can choose from, it will all depend on your taste and budget.

  • Kapalua – at the northern tip of Maui, Kapalua is an exclusive resort area. Places to stay include the Ritz Carlton and Kapalua Villas.
  • Ka’anapali – just south of Kapalua and north of Lahaina is Ka’anapali Beach, a popular resort area. 3 miles of coastline are fronted by seven resorts, including the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort, where I stayed during my visit to Maui.
  • Lahaina – Lahaina is the most-visited spot on Maui and is where you’ll find tons of restaurants and shops, as well as lower and mid-range lodging options.
  • Kihei – Kihei is on Maui’s southwest shore, in the sunniest and driest part of the island. Kihei has a wide range of accommodation options, including many condos and vacation rentals.
  • Wailea – Further south from Kihei, Wailea is another popular resort area featuring upscale hotels such as the Fairmont, Four Seasons and Grand Wailea.
  • Paia – close to Kahului on the North Shore or Maui, Paia is a hippie town where celebrities like Willie Nelson live. You won’t find big resorts here, but there are guest houses and inns where you can stay.
  • Hana – at the end of the Road to Hana, you will find a few guest houses and B&B’s, if you choose to break up the long drive into 2 days.
  • Kahului – Kahului is where the airport (OGG) is located, so you’ll find the usual assortment of chain hotels for business travelers, especially. I wouldn’t suggest staying here your entire vacation, but if you have an early flight, one night might be a good idea to avoid Maui traffic.

Want more ideas for your Maui vacation? Check out Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook or Lonely Planet Maui.

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What’s your favorite thing to do in Maui?

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Where to Stay in Maui: Westin Ka’anapali

Way back in February of 2016, when I was still collecting a paycheck and reporting to a cubicle, I received an offer from the Westin Vacation Club that seemed too good to be true. 5 nights in a vacation villa at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort, a $75 resort credit and a 6-day rental car credit – all for $798. I immediately called a travel-savvy friend to double check that it wasn’t a scam, and then reserved my spot! After a 2008 trip to Oahu, I’ve always wanted to explore other Hawaiian islands. As I started planning my trip, I didn’t have to worry about where to stay in Maui!

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

Villas at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort

The basic package was a studio suite, which was perfect for me as a solo traveler. Of course, I would have loved an ocean view wraparound balcony, but you pay extra for those! So I settled for the island view and a juliette balcony. The room was pretty standard for a Westin property – Heavenly Bed and White Tea toiletries, with the added convenience of a kitchen and laundry.

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

I stopped at Wal-Mart on my way into town and stocked up on breakfast supplies, only to find out that the hotel gives you breakfast buffet credits for each day that you decline housekeeping service. I usually don’t use housekeeping anyways for stays of less than a week, so this was a nice bonus!

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

You don’t have to buy into the ownership program, or receive this special preview offer to stay at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas. You can reserve a villa through SPG.com. I’m told it’s pretty random how they select who receives the offer, but being a Starwood Points member is most likely how I got on their mailing list. Shockingly, the offer I received did not even require a vacation ownership presentation. However, for an additional $100 resort credit, I did take a tour and review the program with a sales representative. It’s an interesting program, and something I would definitely consider in the future. You know, once I’m working again and have a primary home established, lol!

Amenities at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort

Beach at Westin Ka'anapal Ocean Resort Villas

While the beach here is not the best for lounging (narrow and steep) the pools here more than make up for it! In total, there are six outdoor pools, including two children’s pools and one for adults only. Gazebos and umbrellas are available for an additional fee, as well as water-sports rentals or beach loungers.

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

Spa Helani is a great place to use your resort credit for a relaxing day at the spa. With your spa treatment (I enjoyed a massage) you will also have access to the relaxation areas (indoor and outdoor) for the rest of the day.

Hanali SpaWestin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

Another great amenity at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort is the complimentary shuttle bus that will take you to Whaler’s Village, Lahaina, or any of the other Starwood properties in Ka’anapali. Even though I had a rental car, it was just so much easier to hop on the shuttle and not worry about parking or gas for the whole week. There are two shuttle routes, and the schedules are posted clearly at the shuttle stop. They run about every 20 minutes. Super convenient for going out to dinner, or heading to a luau for the evening!

Restaurants at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort

Westin KOR has 3 on-site restaurants to choose from, where you can dine in convenience by charging everything to your room. There is also a convenience store in each tower with some grocery and snack items, although if you plan on cooking, you will save a lot of money by grocery shopping before you arrive at the resort! (There are gas grills available for guest use, too!)

French Toast at Sheraton Maui

  • Auntie’s Kitchen – I enjoyed several meals at Auntie’s kitchen, including the breakfast buffet served daily. There is one night each week designated as Crab Fest, when you’ll need a reservation and the full menu is not available. Check the schedule so you’re not caught off guard and hangry like I was!
  • Pulehu Italian Grill – this is an award-winning fine dining experience in the North resort. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesday, open only for dinner hours.
  • Pailolo Bar & Grill – food-truck style sports bar near the north pool

Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas

Activities at Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort

Upon check-in you’ll receive an extensive list of ongoing activities for the week. This is also posted throughout the resort. You will find craft fairs, BINGO, fitness classes, craft classes and local tours. Some activities require a reservation, so you may want to spend a few minutes after you get settled to decide what you’d like to participate in during your visit.

Have you visited Maui? What resort do you recommend?

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Maui Adventures: Old Lahaina Luau

A uniquely Hawaiian experience, attending a Polynesian luau should be part of any Hawaiian vacation itinerary. When planning my visit to Maui, I asked around to my travel friends and all recommendations pointed to Old Lahaina Luau as the best luau in Maui. They have an easy online reservation system, put on a show every night, and are conveniently located right behind the Lahaina Cannery Mall, which also happens to be a shuttle stop for many hotel shuttles. Open Bar + No Driving = Winning!

When making your reservation for this Maui luau, you will have two choices in seating. The “traditional” seats are in the front row around the stage, where you will sit cross-legged on cushions and dine from a low table. “Table & Chair” seating is also available, and as it sounds, you will be seated at a table with regular dining chairs. Both tables seat 8, and your party will be combined with others if you don’t have eight to fill a table. The price ($125/adult, $78/children under 13) is the same regardless of the seating style you choose. I was lucky to have a front row table/chair seating, otherwise I would have likely chosen traditional seating to be close to the action!

Old Lahaina Luau

Upon arrival at the Old Lahaina Luau, guests are greeted with a fragrant floral lei, and offered a mai tai immediately. A guide will then show you to your table, and give you the layout of the luau grounds so you can explore a bit. There are craft vendors on-site, dancing and of course the beachside “imu” where the pig is roasted. My only disappointment of the evening was that I was told a later time for the pig to be unearthed, so by the time I wandered over there, the crowd was too dense for me to see. It’s a pretty cool experience, so definitely try to time it right so you can see this! (Photos from the Hale Koa luau on Oahu, 2008)

12/22 - Hale Koa luauLuau boys about to dig out our pig for dinner

12/22 - Hale Koa luauBringing the pig out of the ground

Old Lahaina Luau also provides a program/menu that is really well done. The program walks you through the various phases of the Polynesian performance, explaining the history and traditions behind hula dancing. It also gives you an overview of the menu, which is helpful as there is a TON of food to choose from! Also included is the all-important drink menu – beyond mai tai’s, you’ll find any combination of sweet alcoholic treats, including some frozen drinks as well! These are all included in your luau ticket! Just be sure to bring cash to tip your bartender and servers!

You’ll start off with a light appetizer (taro hummus, in our case) as the evening’s performances begin. Each table will then be led by their server to the buffet line to load up their plates full of delicious food like imu roasted pork, poke ahi, island style chicken, maui style fish, and so many side dishes. I was sure I’d go back for seconds, but ended up super full after the first run!

Not too full for dessert, of course! That coconut pudding had my name all over it!

Once everyone is served, the big performances begin. There are a couple of emcees narrating the dances throughout the night. Several performances tell the story of Pele, the fire Goddess, and her quest for love. Another performance depicts the arrival of the missionaries, who at one time banned hula. All of the evenings performances build up to a grand finale, a dance-off of sorts.

As the evening came to an end, our served gave us mini-loaves of delicious Hawaiian banana bread to take home, and then we were on our way. The luau ends around 8:30, so for those with the energy, there is still plenty of time to have a night out on the town. I already had a very full day, with an early morning start for the Ultimate Whale Watch snorkel trip, so I was tired and went home with my banana bread!

When it comes to Hawaiian luaus, you’ll have many options, often right at your own hotel, but I highly recommend attending the Old Lahaina Luau if you are in Maui. By all accounts, it’s the best luau in Maui!

Have you been to a luau? What did you think?

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I received a discounted media rate in exchange for my review. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.