When you think of Hawaii, you probably think of beaches. However there’s much more to Maui than just beaches. In fact, I’m the type of person that rarely ever just sits on a beach, I want to be doing something. There are so many outdoor Maui adventures to have on the island it’s hard to know where to begin.
My last trip to Maui was adventure focused and their list of outdoor activities seems to continue to grow. Here’s what makes this article/list of Maui Adventures different – these are all things I’ve experienced myself. So this isn’t by far a list of absolutely every adventure on Maui, it’s the list of adventures that I did and loved on Maui.
These aren’t your average Maui Adventures! Be ready for to push your limits.
1. Drive Kahekili Highway For a Real Thrill
This isn’t your normal drive, it’s much more adventureous than that. Kahekili Highway (Hawaii state highway 340) lives in the shadow of its big well-known brother – the Road to Hana. However, this highway along Maui’s North shore was no Road to Hana, because it was 10 times better than the Road to Hana.
You’ll wind along the cliffs and back into the valleys on this narrow, often single lane road. Luckily you won’t see too much traffic on this secluded road, but when you do, be prepared! One of you will likely have to back up.
It’s not just about the fun coastal driving, it’s also about what you can stop and see along the way that is virtually tourist-free. Hike around tide pools, see blow holes, stop at fruit stands, get some shaved ice, and even take some short hikes on this incredible and little-known drive. These are some of the most beautiful and secluded views on the whole island – don’t miss them!
Read about my entire drive along Kahekili Highway and learn how you can do this fun Maui Adventure.
2. Biking Down Haleakala
Most people just go to Haleakala to see and photograph the sunrise. But why not make an adventure out of it and hop on a bike! There is very little pedaling required when coasting down a 10,000 ft. mountain. Unless you count that my hands did get a big workout as they squeezed the brakes all the way down.
I took the self guided Haleakala Express Tour – via the Haleakala Bike Company. This bike down Haleakala was a perfect opportunity to do it your way (woohoo!) – take as much time as you wanted, stop as often as you like and slowly make your way down the mountain.
Once you are outfitted in bikes and gear at the shop, you hop in the van and are driven up the mountain to a starting point. Our driver, Fred, explained the route on the way up and provided us with a map that we could refer to on the way down with places to stop and take photos.
The best advice he gave was to just keep coming down the mountain – if you are going up then you are going the wrong way. I think I could handle that!
Our ride only took only about 1 ½ to 2 hours to get down – but it totally depends on how many stops you make. There’s no time limit, no timetable, no people to follow, no lines or convoy to keep – and this was the part I loved the most. I liked the independent feel to this tour and the ability to pull over wherever you wanted to take pictures, rest, eat, or soak in the view or the smells. As I braked down Haleakala, I saw other tours in lines following each other I realized just how great this independent option was.
You started above the clouds and descend through them. Due to the altitude and the descent, you experience a broad range of temperatures. Eventually when you are low enough, the road winds through fragrant eucalyptus forests, down into a lavender farm, and through ranches.
Make sure you stop in Makawao – a little cowboy town that seemed more shopping town that cowboy town to me – but it was a super spot to get off the bike and walk around a bit.
Plus – there are a number of places to stop here for lunch. We stopped at to Polli’s Mexican restaurant for some margaritas and burritos. After all, I had worked up quite an appetite braking down the mountain!
Eventually you coast back on down to the town of Haiku where you started, turn in your bikes, and look back up at the mountain to marvel had how far you and your braking hand had come.
You can do this fun descent down Maui’s tallest mountain with Haleakala Bike Company.
3. Experience Hawaiian Rowing and Culture
I had always been interested in learning more about rowing, so I was pretty excited to be on this Hawaiian outrigger canoe adventure in Maui learning how to paddle as the ancient Hawaiians did. Learn about marine life, history, culture – AND rowing. It was the perfect combination of cultural and athletic experience that I look for when traveling.
These sleek, long vessels are the traditional canoes Hawaiians have used for centuries, and the same vessels used originally to discover the Hawaiian islands!
The owner of Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Tim, put together this uniuqe Maui adventure becuase he wanted to create a more personal island experience. He also wanted to infuse knowledge building and culture into a traditional tour. This meant he not only taught us how to row like the ancient Hawaiians, but he also taught us about the ancient Hawaiians, their culture and communities. He basically taught us why they rowed.
This half day experience included paddling instruction, and rowing in the ocean to another part of the island. It also included cultural learning about the first Islanders and how they survived. Be ready to put some muscle into this adventure – it’s totally worth it!
Read about my Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Experience and learn how you can do this fun Maui Adventure.
4. Learn How to Surf on Maui
If you are in Maui, then it’s hard to resist the pull of the waves. This is the perfect island to learn how to surf. I had determined that I was in good hands for the day of surf lessons – even if my Maui Surfer Girl instructor was a guy.
The Maui Surfer Girls mission is to “empower girls through the sport of surfing” – and they take this mission seriously. They have been operating on Maui for years, they run camps, and have incredible instructors.
We used softboards which were perfect for beginners – big and ‘sticky’ – much easier to get up on. Maui Surfer Girls gave us long sleeve shirts to protect us from the sun and board rash, foot booties which provided some extra grip, and they told us to put on body glide for rashes. Even after just one lesson – I had some great success – and awakened the surfer girl inside of me!
Read about my Maui Surf Lessons and how you can do this fun Maui Adventure.
5. Go Under the Sea in a Submarine
If you don’t dive, but want to get up close to life under the sea, then check out the Atlantis Submarine Ride. The submarine is the world’s most technologically advanced passenger submarine.
Going 129 ft to the ocean bottom the submarine will safely take you to see schools of fish, reef sharks, dolphins, and a even shipwreck. In addition, learn about ocean conservation; Atlantis installed artificial reefs to create self-sustaining habitats for fish and marine life to flourish. Areas once barren of life are now vibrant.
This is a great experience for someone who doesn’t dive like me.
6. If You Want to Get Really Wild – Volunteer
For tasks big and small, Hawaiian Island Land Trust, HILT, is always looking for energetic and enthusiastic volunteers. An essential component to the success of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, volunteers help with restoration and conservation projects, land stewardship, assist with events, complete office tasks, and collaborate on special projects. Nothing beats being able to connect with nature and and work the soil.
It might seem counter-intuitive for me to spend my holiday time in Maui pulling invasive plants from protected lands – but I LOVE these islands. They are a unique little world that feels nothing like the US and provide us such beauty in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. Mere dots engulfed by the ocean. This is why I wanted to add ‘volunteer in Hawaii’ to my itinerary.
Read about my experience volunteering with HILT on Maui and how you can also give back to the island.
Where to Stay During your Maui Adventures
There are so many choices of lodging in Maui, however I mainly stayed in Condos because I prefer a kitchen and a bit homier feel. I stayed at 3 very different places while on my recent trip to Maui, and my experiences there may help you find the perfect match for your Maui lodging needs. The places I stayed were a variety of locations and budgets!
For the foodie who is looking for a less touristy experience and enjoys privacy in paradise – Mama’s Fish House and Inn.
Read Trip Advisor reviews of Mama’s Fish House Condos
For the person looking for a local experience, and may not need all of the frills or hand-holding – Sunny Maui Condos.