One of the most prominent nature preserves, Haleakala National Park was established to protect the unique craggy wilderness of Maui in the year 1961. Home to a virtually never-ending variety of natural wonders, the national park's uneven 33,265 acre-lands (13,462 hectares) shelter intricate networks of craters that pass through the mystical Kipahulu Valley, much of which is closed to tourists. The Kipahulu region is one of the park's most ecologically-rich areas that are home to more than 31 different species of Tardigrade colonies that populate most of Haleakala's eastern shores. The Haleakala Observatory offers the best views of the park's serene surroundings through a 12.04-feet (3.67-meter) advanced electro-optical lens.
The first sight of Ho'okipa is likely to make a visitor pull the car over and stare. From the vantage point of the highway or the parking lot, one can appreciate the spectacle: a seemingly endless expanse of deep blue water, white rock and crashing waves. This beach has been called the windsurfing capital of the world and is popular with daredevil surfers as well. However, it is not recommended that you swim here; the surf is as perilous as it is beautiful, and sharp coral reefs lurk below the waves.
Along with Wailea, this is the resort hotspot of the island. Ka'anapali is Maui's equivalent of Waikiki Beach. The entire beach is open to the public. Access is available through resort grounds, as are public restrooms and showers. Plenty of shops and restaurants are located right along the strip. The sands are warm and gold; the water is clear and flat. A major Ka'anapali landmark is Black Rock, once known as Soul's Leap, this rock is still a popular jumping point for locals and particularly brave visitors and also a popular snorkeling location.
In the early days of Hawaii's Western colonization, trains were used to haul sugar cane from one spot to the other. Eventually, more modern forms of transportation became popular, and today almost nothing can be seen of the original Hawaiian railroads. However, the tracks between Lahaina and Ka'anapali are still functional, and the cherry-red Sugar Cane Train still travels them regularly. A dinner ride is available during the week; check out the website or contact Sugar Cane Train for more information.
Wailea, in South Maui, is one of the most breathtaking resort communities in the world. The air is perfumed with island blossoms, the beaches (all of them public-access) are white sand, and the resorts are architectural wonders. Marvel at the palatial Eastern-themed Fairmont Kea Lani Resort or the understated elegance at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Shopping in this area is decidedly upscale. The best place to go is The Shops at Wailea, which offer high-end stores such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co, to name a few.
While Lahaina's rich history is a major draw for visitors exploring the town, there is no denying the natural splendor that underlies the locale's rustic charm. A prominent feature is the town's pristine beaches, and among these, Launiupoko Beach Park makes for an invigorating excursion. Endowed with soft sands that glisten beneath the ever-present sun and featuring a coastline carved by the ocean, this stunning park has something for everyone. Adults can embark on leisurely strolls along the oceanfront and savor the surrounding scenery, while kids can frolic in the cove as they splash around in the water. You can also settle down for a picnic as you sit back to watch the sun make its descent beneath the horizon, a spectacular sight that the beach is particularly known for.
Combine a snorkel cruise with a trip to Molokini and a detour at nearby Turtle Town (home of the sea turtles), and you have got an irresistible excursion. This company only takes small groups and is operated by a Coast Guard Captain with almost 20 years of experience; he and his crew take pride in their ecological awareness. The Seafire is new to South Maui, and is highly recommended by tour guides if you are staying in Kihei or Wailea. Call for prices and to make reservations.
The "Kams," as they are known, span about a mile along the coast of South Kihei. On sunny days, the Kams fill up with adults, kids and entire groups of all ages. Frisbees sail, stereos blast, and tiny children splash in the equally tiny waves. The small waves create an easy spot to launch from for ocean kayaking fun. While these beaches are often disparaged as being too crowded or too dirty, they are head and shoulders above any mainland beach. The grass is green, the sand is soft and the sun is seemingly always out.
Located behind the Mana Kai Maui Hotel on the border of Wailea and Kihei, this beach is small but still fairly popular. It offers spectacular sunning and great facilities. Beach parking is also available. The half-grass, half-sand beach is less than a minute's distance from the parking lot. As far as swimming goes, this is a good place to get refreshed, but not particularly good for water sports. There's a great deal of lava rock just below the surface, and although the waves tend to be small, getting knocked against the rock is still a danger.
This is an excellent beach for families. The two beaches used to be separated but have since joined together with the removal of the natural barriers. It is located just a mile down from South Kihei Road. Mornings here offer ideal snorkeling conditions, while afternoons are good for sunning and evenings feature gorgeous Maui sunsets. The beach itself is fairly small and tends to be crowded. However, it offers excellent facilities and easy access to a midday snack. As with many Maui beaches, be careful what you leave locked in your car; break-ins are common after dark.
Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery is an eco-friendly distillery that produces premium quality vodka. The sugarcane comes from its onsite farm which blends with mineral water from the deep sea to create this popular brand. It is touted to be the only vodka that is made from organic sugarcane. The drink is gluten-free and as close to nature as possible. Tour the facility and relax in the martini garden where you can sip a few strong cocktails amidst strawberries, pineapple and local flora.