Maui looks like two islands that have been fused together. The larger eastern island is where you’ll find the which wraps around one of Hawaii’s still-active volcanoes. This is where you’ll find the bulk of Maui’s adventure. The island’s adventurous east side appeals to outdoor lovers, thrill seekers and families while the island’s laid back west side beckons relaxers, beach lovers and whale watching enthusiasts. Maui is an unfolding choose your own adventure story.
You can’t miss . Literally. The 10,000-foot active volcano dominates the landscape as you fly into Maui. The volcano looks rather barren. You won’t see many trees on its long, lazy slopes, and the mountain’s size is difficult to compute. It’s not a craggy mountain that rises out of the ground in the shape of a triangle like you’d find in Colorado. It’s more of a massive hill, but the hill is so big that you can’t see the top or sides. It simply looks like the ground has risen up to meet the sky. The sheer act looking at the mountain is a near-spiritual experience. It makes you feel quite small.
Remember, Maui is essentially two islands fused together, and Haleakala absolutely dominates the larger eastern “island.” This side of Maui is essentially built around the mountain. Even the Road to Hana wraps around Haleakala’s eastern slopes.
The is still active, but don’t expect to see any lava flowing. The volcano hasn’t erupted for centuries. However, it’s this centuries-old volcanic activity that makes Haleakala such a draw.
At the very top of the massive mountain, you’ll find Haleakala Crater. It’s a veritable moonscape that feel absolutely otherworldly. Getting out of your rental car at the top of the mountain might make you wonder if you’ve stepped out of a land rover onto mars. It’s barren, dry and inhospitable. It’s also jaw droppingly beautiful.
Haleakala’s violent volcanic past has unearthed minerals that have oxidized in the summit’s thin air. It’s a hilly landscape full of colors that range from rust reds to bright oranges and deep purples. And ascending the 10,000 feet to the top brings you to rare air. You’ll leave all the humidity down below to emerge onto a cold, barren landscape. It’s simply a transcendent experience.
And the top of the volcano is especially beautiful during a cloudy day. The clouds crown the mountain, and you’ll drive through the fog to the get to the top. When you emerge from the mist, it’ll feel like Haleakala Crater is an island in the sky. It adds to the ethereal nature of the mountain top’s alien landscape.
There are a variety of activities awaiting you at the mountain top. Of course, you can simply hike around for an unforgettable experience. But you can also take advantage of a sunrise or sunset on Haleakala. In these hours of changing light, the colors of the crater shimmer and glow. It’s a scene that brings you into the now. You’ll forget about all you worries and the world down below.
You can also join a tour to the top of the mountain that offers an exhilarating twist. The tour will pick you up at your hotel, drive you to and give you a bike. After hiking around the mountain top, you can jump on your bike to cruise down the long, slow slope of the still-active volcano back to sea level. It’s a great way to get some exercise, and you don’t have to peddle yourself to the top of the 10,000-foot peak.
is one of the wettest places on earth. It’s fascinating to drive into the valley to see the landscape change from drier parts of the island, and it makes you wonder just what dictates the weather patterns in Hawaii.
The moisture in the valley gives rise to life. It’s verdant, lush and tropical; a snapshot of your dream Hawaiian landscape. And inside the park, you’ll find one of Maui’s most iconic features -- the Iao Needle.
Get your camera ready. You’ll find the park easy accessible, and a well-paved pathway will lead you from the parking lot at the visitor’s center to the needle lookout point. You’ll be gazing upon the main attraction in no time.
The needle looks like it crawled out of the movie “Avatar.” It’s a massive 1,200-foot spire that is covered in greenery, and the moisture in the valley will likely cloak the spire in mist to add to the visual drama. It looks like a guard tower looking after the safety of the valley below.
And that’s exactly how ancient Hawaiian’s used the needle. In fact, the lookout was used during a great battle back in 1790. The revered King Kamehameha I entered the Iao Valley with his troops in an effort to unite the islands. The local Maui forces saw the hoard coming from the top of the needle, and an epic battle ensued. King Kamehameha was victorious, and the battle helped shape the history of Hawaii as we know it today. And Hawaiian history is American history. After all, these eight islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are America’s 50th state.
You’ll find an interesting little visitor’s center in the valley that offers up bathroom facilities, but you won’t find much else in the Iao Valley. Hiking trails here are limited because local authorities like to limit tread in this sacred place. You won’t spend much time here in Iao Valley, but you also won’t forget the needle anytime soon.
There’s a colorful underwater world waiting to be discovered in Hawaii. Snap on a snorkel mask, and you can see up to 250 different kinds of tropical fish in places like Maui’s . But exploring the underwater world of Hawaii forces you to get wet, dawn gear and get active. Fortunately, you can skip all that hardship and get right to the good stuff at Maui’s Ocean Center.
Considered one of the world’s ten best aquariums,the gets you up close and personal with sharks, sting rays and other fascinating creatures of the deep. And this is the largest reef aquarium in the western hemisphere, so there’s plenty to experience. The Maui Ocean Center offers up an entire day of exploration.
Most aquariums have a variety of exhibits that show you the underwater world’s found in different parts of the planet. Not the Maui Ocean Center. This aquarium focuses solely on Hawaii’s unique and beautiful oceans. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
You’ll find a coral reef exhibit inside the ocean center that will show you Hawaii’s colorful underwater landscape. You’ll learn how Hawaii’s marine life has adapted to the unique conditions of Hawaii’s tropical reefs.
You’ll be able to visit friendly , and you’ll learn about the stunning odds these cute creatures have overcome to achieve adulthood. You’ll also learn all about their peculiar eating habits. Baby sea turtles are born carnivorous. Then, in their “teenage” years, the turtles begin a transformation that takes them to adult veganism. And you’ll learn how to spot adult turtles by going to nutrient rich parts of the island to watch them feed on underwater greenery.
There’s also a wonderful humpback whale exhibit. These gentle giants swim for weeks on end to escape the cold waters of Alaska for the warm waters of Hawaii. They begin to arrive in January to breed, birth and rear their young, and they can often be seen breaching in the deep. The whales then undertake a mass exodus in March to return to colder waters, and you’ll learn all about their massive migration at the ocean center.
You can also visit with . You’ll learn how these creatures are misunderstood, and your fear of sharks will fade away. These predators don’t like the taste of the iron in your blood which makes shark bites extremely rare in Hawaii. They don’t want to eat humans. Bites only occur when the animal is confused, and they usually take place in murky water.
A visit to the ocean center will give you a deeper appreciation for Hawaii’s lively oceans, and it will make your Maui vacation even more unforgettable.
The Factory has achieved a rare feat in this internet age. With more than 1,900 reviews on Trip Adviser, the factory’s tour carries a perfect five-star rating. Not a single person has reviewed a visit poorly. It’s a shining beacon of positivity in a sea of internet trolling.
Hawaii has a deep agricultural history. The humidity and year-round heat make the islands perfect for the cultivation of sweet treats like pineapple and sugar cane. The economy has now transitioned to tourism, but the shreds of Hawaii’s agricultural past still stand. And you can visit that past with a tour of Maui’s pineapple factory.
You’ll be taken out into the fields of a still-operating pineapple farm where you’ll be taught about pineapple cultivation from seed to store. Guides will serve you tastings of pineapple at all stages of cultivation, and you’ll be able to take home your very own fresh Maui pineapple.
You’ll then be taken into the factory to see how these sweet treats are washed, packaged and shipped all over the world. And you’ll fall in love with your guide. The Maui Gold Pineapple Factory employs some of the funniest and most personable guides in the state. You’ll definitely gain a deeper appreciation for produce after you see all the hard work that goes into pineapple farming.
You can choose your own tour experience a la carte. You can simply take the tour, or you can bundle the tour with lunch and a distillery tour. The Maui Gold Pineapple Factory distills its own liquors including vodka, rum and whiskey. You can even use that fresh pineapple as a good chaser.