Best Things to Do in Maui on a Short Break

If you only have a short amount of time, these are the best things to do in Maui. You won’t want to miss any of them.

Named for the mythological demi-god of Polynesia who is said to have raised the heavens, snared the sun and discovered fire, the island of Maui is the second most populated and the second largest in the Hawaiian Island Chain.

Kaanapali Beach, Maui

Ruled by several chiefs since 700 AD and conquered by Kamehameha the Great in the 1700’s, Maui has been the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

It is the location of the oldest school west of the Mississippi and the only county in the Hawaiian Islands that consists of more than one island.

However, for many travelers, the Valley Isle is a destination of dreamy proportions and those who are lucky to have a few glorious days on this magical island should prepare a plan that embraces all of the sights and activities possible.

Here are a few tips for a comfortable and enjoyable Maui experience.

Things to do in Maui

When you don’t have much time in this majestic place, you have to prioritize. These are the best things to do in Maui, even on a short break.

Snorkeling

Snorkelling turtle Maui Hawaii
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Maui has one of the best snorkeling experiences of all the Hawaiian islands.

These experiences include being whisked away to the marine conservation district of Molokini where reef fish rule, or the coastal areas of Turtle Town and Coral Gardens where one can enjoy the clear warm waters teeming with colorful coral and sea turtles.

There are many companies that offer trips for families, seniors and everyone where comfort and amenities come along with boogie boards and snorkel equipment.

Snorkeling tours on Maui typically include breakfast, a barbecue lunch, and even an open bar.

SNUBA or SCUBA are available for an additional charge.

Tips for snorkeling in Maui:

  • A Molokini snorkeling tour the day after you arrive can shake off the jet lag.
  • Book SCUBA and snorkel trips before you arrive to be sure of a spot.
  • Opt for a whale watching / snorkeling combo during the months of January to March.

Experience Maui from a new perspective and swim and snorkel with the marine life at Molokini and Turtle Town. Board a catamaran and cruise to a legendary snorkeling destination. Includes deli lunch. See more here.

Driving the road to Hana

The road to hana Maui
Photo: the road to Hana

The drive to Hana is one of the must-do things while on the Valley Isle.

A full day of narrow one-lane roads, cliff-hugging scenic beauty, tropical rainforests and a parade of dazzling waterfalls make this a very popular activity for visitors and locals alike.

The drive is over 50 miles, 600 curves and 59 bridges of awe-inspiring exploration. Discover a terraformed peninsula, black sand beaches, lava tubes and so much more.

the road to hana maui hawaii
Photo: Three Bears Falls

Tips for the drive to Hana:

  • Start early – you don’t want to be driving this road in the dark.
  • Let a pro drive – this road has been known to get people carsick and frustrated but a pro knows the tricks to seeing it all.
  • Plan for a picnic – there are more picnic spots than places to buy food. Depending on the day and the ocean swell, everything or nothing will be open.
  • Always start with a full tank – fuel economy will be poor with no bargains and limited resources for fuel in Hana.
  • Bring cash – a little bit of cash will make sampling from roadside stands along the road easier.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Driving the Road to Hana

Hire a rental car here, even better make it a jeep wrangler because they looked so cool with the Road to Hana scenery. Make it red. Best for your photos.

Road to Hana Tours

Another option, if you did not want to do drive the Road to Hana yourself, is to join a Road to Hana tour through Get Your Guide. You can then sit back and relax and ensure someone else takes you to the best spots.

Surfing, kayaks, outrigger canoes and SUPs

Canoe Maui Hawaii
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Hawaii is all about hanging at the beach. These beach-launched ocean activities are some of the easiest to do while in Maui.

One can rent and learn on the whim in places like Ka’anapali, Kihei and Kapalua.

Nothing is more ego-boosting and enjoyable than getting out on the ocean and learning a new skill, or applying skills to a new locale. Those who prefer to take formal lessons or guided tours can certainly book in advance.

Hawaiian Paddle Sports is a one-stop-shop for all of these activities. Private surfing lessons can be arranged here. 

Attend a Luau on Maui

luau Maui Hawaii
Photo: Luau Maui Hawaii

No one denies that this experience is far from the traditional backyard feasts that locals enjoy for birthdays, weddings, graduations and other family gatherings.

But the luau ritual is a unique way to gather for an evening of good food, drink and entertainment that ranges from sweet and slow to fierce and flaming.

There are many ways to luau so pick one that meets your needs and desires.

Laua’s at resorts are popular with those who don’t want to wander far for the evening’s entertainment and can offer anything from the simple to extravagant. While the more traditional ones offer a special locale for a night out.

But all offer a glorious evening under the stars with a gorgeous sunset backdrop and a balmy breeze along with the roasted pork and poi.

Yes, once in a lifetime might be enough, but that one time is certainly not to be missed.

Eating the local food in Maui

restaurant maui hawaii
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

The variety of cultures and cuisines in Hawaii make food one of the more interesting and enjoyable pursuits on Maui that range from the quick and inexpensive to the opulent and romantic.

However, there are many unique tastes on Maui that should not be passed up.

Visit some of Maui’s top restaurants to savor the fine cuisine or hit our favorite local spots for an everyday take on these interesting dishes.

Why not try a Maui food tasting tour? Experience the real taste of Maui through culture and history with your very own local expert. Visit 7 local restaurants in the heart of Wailuku, sample 17 authentic Hawaiian dishes and local specialities as you taste locally brewed beers.

Book a Maui food tasting tour. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

Try these different Maui dishes

Poke maui
Photo: Poke
  • Poke – spiced and seasoned raw tuna.
  • Guri Guri – milky frozen sherbet perfect for after the beach.
  • Okazuya – all SPAM musubi is okazuya but not all okazuya is SPAM musubi
  • Manju – little pastry pies with sweet fillings.
  • Saimin – noodles in clear broth topped with green onions, sweet and sour pork and more.

Experiencing culture and arts in Maui

Photo: Aloha festival
Photo: Aloha festival

Out of all of Maui’s festivals and celebrations occurring on the island each year, the best and by far the most raucous is Halloween.

People gather along Front Street in Lahaina for an evening of kiddie parades, costume watching, and bar hopping along with lots of frivolity each October.

It’s a grass roots celebration that has been growing like a juggernaut by word of mouth for over 20 years. Today it has become more of a family affair with adults lingering later into the evening.

Some of the more frequent events include Wailuku’s First Friday event every month that includes restaurants, galleries, arts and crafts along with entertainment.

Obon Festival runs through summer along with the Outrigger Canoe Regatta season. All are worth consideration for those who love culture.

Popular annual events on Maui:

  • July 4th weekend: Annual Makawao Rodeo.
  • Third week in September: Maui County Fair in Kahului.
  • September: Maui Festivals of Aloha.
  • Front Street Halloween in Lahaina.

An extended stay on Maui

summit crater maui hawaii
Photo: crater views from the Summit

That is about all you will be able to experience during a short break on Maui.

But add on another week and you can see the summit and it’s massive crater with old lava flows, Iao Valley with it’s bloody history, take a raft to find dolphins along the Forbidden coast, go paragliding down a mountain, and explore the local food culture with farm and food tours.

Plan Your Trip to Maui

We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:

Accommodation in Maui

  • Booking.com has 200+ hotels, apartments and resorts on Maui. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.

Flights

  • Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

Car Rental

  • RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

Getting To and From Maui

This island paradise is at least a 5-hour jaunt from anywhere other than the other Hawaiian islands.

Many find that the best time to visit Maui is between mid-May and mid-June and after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving.

At this time, the prices are realistic, the crowds are thin, the bargains are bountiful and special events and festivals are an added bonus.

  • Plan to arrive on the island in the early afternoon. Maui’s roads are two-lane, coastal and unlighted.
  • Book as many things in advance as possible – island time should be relaxation time!
  • Never put your swimsuit in checked luggage. If they lose your bags at least you can still go to the beach.
  • Put an inexpensive cooler in your rental car. Keep it filled with drinks/water.

You’ll probably need a car to get around Maui. Hire a rental car here.

Popular Tours in Maui

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18 thoughts on “Best Things to Do in Maui on a Short Break”

  1. Ooh Maui looks nice! Im liking the snorkelling picture! Hawaii has always been a place i have wanted to travel to…Looks pretty spesh!

  2. Spent our J1 on Maui (3 months working holiday visa while in Uni). Was the best three months of my life! Definately recommend the sunrise cycle tour of the volcano- amazing views! Lahaina is the best and as I worked in Ono Gelato I really recommend the yummy gelato there!!! Would go back in a heartbeat

  3. Took a family trip to Maui a while back…maybe 6-7 years ago… but it was by far the best vacation I’ve ever had.

    We did all the touristy things, of course – My favorite being the helicopter tour over a couple nearby islands, forgot the name(s), but we went right next to the world’s tallest sea cliffs – and that island where they apparently don’t allow locals on what-so-ever.

    I’ll absolutely be going back. Next time I want to do more hiking and exploring for sure. Beautiful…beautiful place.

  4. I married in Maui 3 years ago…well could look like a big chiche but it was cheaper than made a traditional ceremony to all the family. The entire island is amazing, but if you look for a more relaxing stay look for Wailea – Makena hotels. The best time to go is off season with great deals for a 3 or 4 days stays. Yeah, Hawaii is expensive, but cheaper than Australia in general. Recommend West Maui Heli tour, the Haleakala at Sunrise or sunset , Molokini Snorkeling tours and try local food and Hawaiian beers.

  5. These are beautiful photos of Hawaii, wow. Make sure when you travel again that you have the App “Vidzy” on your phone. It makes recording videos such a breeze and let’s you record upto 5 minutes in length. Plus, you can then share your videos really easy on their platform to friends. Happy travels !

  6. The next time you guys travel, you have to use this new App for the IPhone called Vidzy. It makes it sooo easy to record videos and share them. You also can upload any length onto the platform. It’s such a must have App when traveling. Cheers !

  7. If you need something to do in Maui at night, go to Warren and Annabelles Magic Dinner Show in Lahaina. It’s a great evening of entertainment. Make sure you pre book your reservation or you may not get in. We attended on the advice of friends and haven’t regretted going at all! In fact we’ve gone on two different Maui visits.

  8. You can’t miss the Maui Ocean Center aquarium in Ma’alaea! When you go, sign up for the “behind the scenes” tour where you can get up close to baby green sea turtles and touch moon jelly fish!! Then you get to feed adult green sea turtles and baby sharks!! Watch the feeding frenzy in the big shark tank!! Amazing day spent at this awesome aquarium!!!

  9. This is the best article I could have come across. My friends and I are renting a boat from Dream Yacht Sales and we’re doing a one month sailing trip around all the islands in Hawaii. This article just made me even more exited.

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