8 Unforgettable Outdoor Activities Maui Has To Offer

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Outdoor Activities in Maui

Maui, it’s too beautiful to waste your time away inside. This jewel of the Pacific Ocean beckons you to adventure on the island’s varied landscapes and the stunning blue waters along its shoreline.  

The outdoor activities Maui provides run the gamut from raw, unadulterated fun to more quiet times that allow you to soak in the considerable natural beauty of this special place on the planet. This list of Maui Outdoor activities includes some old standbys synonymous with Maui and perhaps a couple you may not have previously associated with the island. 

Venture into the otherworldly landscape of the summit of Haleakalā, spend a night under the stars near a black sand beach, spot a spotted eagle ray while snorkeling near Black Rock, zip along single track in a fragrant eucalyptus forest, or glide just above the surface of the ocean on a wing foil. The options are many.

For those who find themselves falling in love with the island’s vibrant lifestyle and dreaming of calling this paradise home, exploring Maui properties can be the first step towards making that dream a reality.

Whether you’re looking for a beachfront villa to enjoy the ocean’s melody every morning or a secluded mountain retreat surrounded by lush tropical forests, Maui offers a diverse range of properties to suit every preference and lifestyle.

1. Embracing the Natural Splendor of Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā rises 10,023 feet from sea level. This majestic volcano dominates the landscape of the Central and Eastern parts of the island. Haleakalā National Park has two separate districts. Whether you visit the otherworldly landscapes of the Summit District or the lush beauty of the coastal district, Haleakalā provides a stunning setting for hiking or just quiet contemplation of the island’s beauty. 

Exploring Sliding Sands Trail

The summit of Haleakalā offers plenty of overlooks to take in the vistas of the crater, Maui, and the neighboring islands. That said, the best way to experience the summit is to explore the crater via the Keonehe’ehe’e or Sliding Sands Trail. The hike descends to the crater floor, meandering through multi-hued sands and the Volcanic Pu’us. The landscape is said to be one of the quietest places on earth.

The Summit of Haleakala
Haleakala’s otherworldly summit area.

The sliding sands trail is no joke, with 11.4 miles of hiking and 2,400 feet of elevation gain to return to the trailhead. Bring plenty of water and layers for the unpredictable alpine environment.

If you want a shorter and less strenuous hike, the Halemau’u Trail offers a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike to a crater overlook on the edge of the Ko’olau Gap. You can also descend into the crater on Halemau’u. Some people will enter the crater via Sliding Sands and exit via Halemau’u. 

Hike The Pipiwai Trail

To get a taste of the Kipahulu District, venture into the rainforest via the Pipiwai Trail. This hike is a favorite of residents and visitors alike due to its varied scenery. The out-and-back trail wanders alongside Oheo Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools.

Along the way, you will pass numerous waterfalls, walk under a majestic banyan tree, cross bridges and small streams, and hike through a bamboo forest before coming to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. 

Hiking into the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail in the Kipahulu district of Haleakala National Park
Hiking across a bridge into a Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park

Bring a light rain jacket, as passing showers can be common on this part of Windward Maui. In the event of heavier rain, avoid stream crossings. Flash flooding isn’t uncommon in Oheo Gulch. 

2. Camp at One of Maui’s Beautiful State Parks

There’s nothing like a night in nature to truly get away. Dark skies, time away from screens, and the sounds of nature can help your body restore its natural rhythms. Polipoli State Recreation Area and Waianapanapa State Park offer cabin and tent camping if you want overnight back to nature time. 

Black Sand Beaches and Rugged Shorelines at Waianapanapa State Park

Located in Hana, Wainapanapa State Park is renowned for its beautiful black sand beach. The park is one of the more popular stops for visitors traveling the road to Hana. Camping at the park overnight is a great way to enjoy the Black Sand Beach with lighter crowds. You will find limited to no crowds right before sunset and first thing in the morning. 

The rugged shoreline of Waianapanapa State Park in Hana
Waianapapa State Park in Hana

The park offers tent camping and cabins. Both require reservations. The twelve rustic cabins are a popular choice for Kama’aina families looking for an East Maui getaway. A handful of the cabins offer ocean views and all of the cabins are close enough to the water to hear the sound of surf crashing against the rough lava rock shore.

The cabins offer bunks, a basic kitchen and a bathroom. Bring your own bedding, pillows or sleeping bags. Check out the State Park website to book a campsite or cabin in Wainapanapa

Camping Among Redwoods. On Maui? 

Located at 6,200 feet of elevation, Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is like taking a trip to Northern California without leaving the island. The elevation is frequently draped in low-lying clouds, particularly in the afternoon or evenings.

The native forest was clear-cut from the area in the 1800s. It was reforested in the first half of the 20th century with non-native conifers, including redwoods. 

Redwoods and other conifers surround the camping area at Polipoli State Recreation Area
Redwoods and other conifers surround the campground in Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area

Several hiking trails meander through the forest at Polipoli. You can catch glimpses of the ocean and South Maui coastline below in breaks between the clouds. 

There is a small campground for tent camping and a single cabin. Both require reservations. The small cabin is rustic, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a basic kitchen. There is also a grill if you want to cook outdoors.

A wood-burning stove is there to help keep you warm on chilly nights at elevation. Bring your own firewood and warm bedding. The state parks website allows you to book a campsite at Polipoli online. It also has the number to call to book a reservation at the cabin. 

3. Explore Your Inner Jacques Cousteau

A world of discovery lies off the shores of Maui. Grab a mask, a snorkel, and some fins, and you can explore the varied reefs and lava rock shorelines that harbor colorful fish, sea turtles, and all sorts of other marine life. These are some of our favorite places to snorkel on Maui and some tips on when the snorkeling will be at its best. 

Snorkeling in West Maui

Black Rock, located at the north end of Kaanapali Beach, offers an easily accessible yet mesmerizing experience. Its rocky outcrop serves as a natural sanctuary for marine creatures large and small. Two quick safety tips for when snorkeling near Black Rock.

This promontory is also a favorite spot for diving and jumping into the water. Keep a wide berth from the area where people jump from the rock. Another thing to keep in mind is that the currents along Black Rock can be strong at times. If you aren’t a strong swimmer, you may not want to venture too close to the rock. 

https://youtu.be/XmmjfET3Xj4
A video from snorkeling Black Rock in Ka’anapali

Moving up the west coast of Maui, Honolua Bay, located just past Kapalua Resort is one of the island’s two marine reserves. With no fishing pressure, marine life is that much more abundant. Honolua Bay is best during the summer months when the surf is calm.

During the wintertime, it’s more of a surf spot than a snorkeling destination. Waves from 5 to 20 feet are great for surfers, but needless to say they are not well suited to a placid snorkeling excursion. Winter storms can also cause more runoff into Honolua Stream and silty conditions with poor visibility. 

South Maui Snorkeling Spots

The area between South Kihei and Makena is full of quality snorkeling spots. The Kamaole Beach Parks are excellent spots for beginners just venturing out with a mask and fins for the first time. Access is easy, and lifeguards are on station to keep an eye on things.

The north end of Keawakapu Beach by the Mana Kai is another place with easy access and varied marine life. Polo Beach, Palauea Beach, and Maluaka Beach all offer varied marine life and larger corals. 

The island’s one other Marine Reserve is located offshore at Molokini Crater. You will need to take a snorkeling tour or have a friend with a boat, but it is worth the trip. The Northwest side of the crater has the most vibrant reefs close to the island. 

Safe and Smart Snorkeling

We have a few additional pointers if you are planning on snorkeling. When the tradewinds are blowing, they typically get stronger in the afternoon. That means better snorkeling conditions in the morning.

Heavier rainfall events are going to limit visibility and can make the water murky for extended periods of time. Ocean conditions are variable and we can get larger surf on any shoreline at different times of the year.

As we mentioned with Honolua Bay, big waves and snorkeling don’t go hand and hand. Finally, be kind to the reef and sea life by wearing reef-friendly sunscreens.  

4. Experiencing Whale Watching in Maui’s Waters

As temperatures begin to dip in the rest of North America, our famous winter visitors start to show up around Maui. At first, there’s a solitary sighting in early October. They are spotted more frequently in the late fall, and right around Christmas time they show up in significant numbers.

While I could be talking about winter snowbirds, I am speaking of course about humpback whales. These leviathans come to the waters off Maui every year to give birth before returning to their feeding grounds around Alaska and Siberia in the late spring. 

A whale breaching off the Maui Coastline
A humpback whale breaching off the Maui Coastline

Sightseeing Adventure with Humpback Whales

Arguably the best way to see the most whales is to book a spot on one of the island’s many whale watches. Boats embarking out of Ma’alaea Harbor are adept at spotting pods of whales at a distance and positioning themselves in the paths of the whales as they navigate the channels between Maui and the surrounding islands.

The boat captains cut their engines as the whales approach.  The Humpbacks frequently pass directly under the boat. If you are lucky, the whales will put on a display of aerial acrobatics and fin and tail slaps. 

These trips fill up early, especially around the holidays and spring break. Book in advance to guarantee yourself a spot. Our favorite tour provider is Trilogy. They have boats that depart out of both Ma’alaea Harbor and Ka’anapali Beach. 

Paddle Out With The Whales

While Maui is known for its trade winds, winter whale season coincides with when trades blow less frequently. If you are confident on a stand-up paddle board or competent in a canoe or kayak, take advantage of one of the calm days and go for a paddle in Ma’alaea Bay.

At some point, you are likely to encounter a pod of whales in reasonable proximity. It’s one thing to see a whale from the comfort of a big boat, but it’s another experience when sitting or standing right on the surface of the water. 

For your and the whales’ safety, keep a safe distance from any pods you encounter. Adult humpback whales can weigh as much as 35 tons. An unintentional tale slap or a breach could have dire consequences.

Federal Law requires that you don’t approach within 100 yards of a humpback whale. If a whale approaches you, remain stationary until it passes you. 

5. Soaking Up More Than Just Sun on Maui’s Stunning Beaches

Maui’s beaches are more than just a place to soak up the sun. They are a place to swim, snorkel, surf, walk, enjoy nature, gather, mourn, and celebrate. Our beaches aren’t just a place of recreation; they are a social hub. They are treasured spaces for Maui residents and visitors. 

With so many great beaches on the island, the subject deserves its post. For this particular post, we highlight two very different South Maui beaches.

Take a Long Beach Walk

Want to catch up with a friend and get some exercise? Need some time to think? Beach walks are a great way to do both. The longest stretch of sand on the island for walking is from Sugar Beach in North Kihei to Haycraft Park in Ma’alaea.

This almost five-mile stretch of sand gives you plenty of time to clear your mind, get rid of some work stress, or hear about your friend’s latest life happenings. During wintertime, keep your eyes peeled for whales spouting and breaching in offshore waters. 

Bring water and plenty of sunscreen. The tradewinds can be strong along this stretch in the afternoon, meaning mornings may be your best bet for a comfortable stroll. 

See it All at Makena State Park

Makena State Park or Big Beach is truly one of Maui’s most stunning stretches of sand. It offers a wide sandy beach with vivid blue waters. The green slopes of Haleakala make a perfect backdrop and the views of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai are stunning.  

Big Beach epitomizes everything we have talked about with Maui Beaches. It’s a popular gathering and social spot for Maui residents. It’s home to weddings and gatherings to celebrate those who have passed. It’s a nice place for a shorter beach walk.

In the summer months, the shore break can be treacherous with large, powerful waves that break right on the sand. It’s quite the sight watching seasoned bodyboarders try to navigate the closeout barrels. During calmer winter days, it is a tranquil spot to swim or snorkel. 

Big Beach at Makena State Park
An aerial shot of “Big Beach” at Makena State Park. Molokini Crater is in the distance.

Big Beach is a stunning vantage point for taking in the sunset. Keep on the lookout for winter whales or pods of spinner dolphins swimming close to shore. Little Beach, located just over the hill to the North of Big Beach, is a spectacle in and of itself.

It is not sanctioned as a clothing-optional spot, but it is popular with Maui’s nudists. Sunday night drum circles are famous or infamous, depending on your perspective. 

6. Ride a Wave

The Hawaiian Islands are renowned around the world for its waves. Maui is home to the world-famous waves Peahi and Honolua Bay. People travel to and move to Maui specifically to surf. It is never too late to paddle out if you want to surf but have never learned or lived in a surf-friendly location. If you are thinking of learning, here are a few suggestions.

Sunset surf at Ho’okipa Beach Park

Get a Surf Lesson

The fastest way to make progress surfing is to take a lesson or lessons. Surf instructors can teach you the basics of paddling and standing up. More importantly, they will also teach you surf etiquette and safety. A good surf instructor will also take you to waves and conditions better suited for beginners. 

There are a ton of surf schools in Maui. Rivers to the Sea has a great staff of incredibly talented surfers. Maui Surfer Girls is the island’s only woman-owned surf school. Their lessons aren’t just for women, though. They will teach anyone how to surf!

Know Your Limits

Just because you’ve had a few lessons under your belt, doesn’t mean you are ready to venture out into bigger surf. While there are gentler waves on the island, there are also a lot of really powerful waves, particularly along Maui’s North Shore. That said, big surf can impact any side of the island depending on the year.

Check the surf forecasts and take some time from the beach to observe ocean conditions before you paddle out. What may look like smaller surf could just be a lull between much bigger sets of waves?  When in doubt, don’t paddle out.

 Know Your Surf Etiquette

I mentioned learning surf etiquette as one of the perks of surf lessons. That said, it is worth reiterating that practicing proper surf etiquette is essential for your safety and enjoyment as well as the safety and enjoyment of others.

Riding Waves isn’t Just About Surfing

There is a reason we titled this section Ride The Waves and not just learn to surf. Bodyboarding and bodysurfing can both provide tons of fun. As with surfing, safety is important. Keep an eye out for reefs and rocks when bodysurfing or bodyboarding. Be wary of waves that break powerfully right onto the beach.

Paddle boarding is a great way to spend time on the water, even without catching waves. As we mentioned in the whale watching part of this past, the elevated position provides a great vantage point for seeing sea life and can be great exercise. Confident paddle boarders can, of course, try their luck catching waves, too!

7. Ride the Wind

Maui is considered the mecca of wind sports. An international capital of windsurfing since the 80s, Maui’s been at the forefront of every new wind sport that started since that time. Kiteboarding emerged on the island in the late 90s, and wing foiling is taking the island by storm today.

It’s not just the consistency of the trade winds. The perfect orientation of Maui’s North Shore coastline makes for an ideal combination of wind and waves.

The consistent trade winds don’t always make for ideal conditions for surfing. Adding windsurfing, kiting, or winging to your repertoire translates to more enjoyable days on the water.

Kaden Pritchard wing foils at Ho'okipa Beach Park.
Wing Foiling at Ho’okipa Beach Park near Paia.

Take a Lesson

If taking a lesson when learning to surf is important, it is imperative to take a lesson if you are learning any wind sports. Harnessing the wind is a whole new component to your ocean experience.

It also takes time to sort out the gear and how to prepare it before and after a session on the water. Last but not least, these sports have a steeper initial learning curve than surfing.

If you are up for the challenge and some fun, Pritchard Windsurfing offers windsurfing and wing foiling lessons. The Pritchards are world-champion windsurfers who teach people of all skill levels.

Matt also happens to be an agent with the Maui Real Estate Team. Hawaii Sailboarding Techniques is another good option for lessons. They offer lessons in almost every wind and water sport on Maui including kitesurfing.

8. Mountain Biking Makawao Forest Reserve

While Maui is renowned for its ocean sports, its mountain biking flies under the radar. One of the better places to ride is in the Makawao Forest Reserve. Located about 10-15 minutes from downtown Makawao, the forest reserve is home to mixed-use trails that accommodate hikers, bikers, and horseback riding, dedicated mountain biking trails, pump tracks, and skills areas with jumps, teeter-totters, and more.

Mountain Biking in the Makawao Forest Reserve

The trails meander through stands of large Eucalyptus trees. The Forest Reserve suits riders of all skill levels, albeit with some more technical sections. The three separate skill areas cater to different skill levels, with an entry-level area, intermediate area, and advanced area.

There are enough trails and skill areas for an afternoon or even a whole day in the forest. The Maui Mountain Bike Coalition built and maintains the mountain bike-specific trails and skill areas.

Ready To Live In Paradise? Contact Maui Real Estate

It’s easy to see why people who love the outdoors love living in Maui. From Mauka (Mountain) to Makai (the ocean), there are outdoor activities on Maui for all to enjoy.

From casual days at the beach to surfing, to chasing fish through coral gardens, to hikes through forests and explorations of volcanic landscapes,  there is always something to do outside in Maui’s jaw-dropping natural beauty.

Whether you were born and raised in Maui, moved here, or are just visiting, spending quality time outdoors in Maui is bound to grow your love for our island home. 

Ready to turn your dream of island living into reality? Whether you’re looking to buy your first home, find a new property, or just explore what Maui has to offer, we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Dive into your next adventure with us—start by reaching out for personalized assistance or browse our Detailed Search to discover the perfect Maui property that awaits you. Your paradise home is just a click away!

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