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.
Watched over by imposing, viridescent peaks, this park is replete with refreshing tropical woods sliced by winding trails and pathways. Dubbed as the 'Yosemite of the Pacific' by Mark Twain, this serene park is home to clearings, gardens and a spacious picnic area. This is an invigorating hiking destination, accentuated by the beauty of rejuvenating rainforests. The focal point of this park is the Iao Needle, a natural rock formation covered in green moss that towers mightily over the park as well as the Iao Stream that flows alongside it. Once the site of a great battle, this is a stirring centerpoint of history and natural beauty.
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.
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.
A sprawling strand of white sand along the North Shore of Maui, the wide beach attracts body boarders, picnickers and sunbathers alike. With the Baby Beach to its west and the Baldwin Cove to its east, this surreal-looking beach is not just replete with natural wonders, but it is also an astounding cultural site. Stippled along its expanse are dunes which are known to be part of an olden Hawaiian burial complex. A stunning turquoise oasis situated right on the fringes of Paia, this magnificent beach rightly embodies nature merged with recreation. The beach has a large ball field that often is the site for soccer, baseball and softball games, while also being home to a pavilion, restroom facilities, barbecues and picnic areas, with plenty of free parking.
If eco-adventures appeal to you, this paddle and snorkel tour is just your speed. Local guides lead a few people into the open seas of South Maui or West Maui for several hours of snorkeling, kayaking and sightseeing. The kayak tours take place in the waters off Makena, La Perouse or on the other side of the island, just off the pali (cliffs). The tours last anywhere from two and a-half to four hours and include snacks and soft drinks. Call or check out the website for prices and reservations.
This is not your average snorkel cruise. It offers you the opportunity to see the Kanaio Coast and some of the most amazing natural scenery on the island. Lava arches, sea caves, turtles, dolphins and other undersea life are all a part of these half-day tours. The Kanaio tour visits pristine coves and bays, as well as volcanic formations and excellent snorkeling. Molokini tours steer clear of heavily touristed areas, seeking out pristine waters and unique views. Tours depart from the Kihei boat ramp. Tour packages include all equipment, drinks and lunch. Call for reservations and other details.
This dive company has been a part of the Maui diving community for more than ten years and, during that time, has consistently made customer satisfaction a priority. The goal is that every dive lives up to customers' expectations. To that end, divemasters are prepared to meet every reasonable request. More than 20 dive sites are available through Ed Robinson's, so customers do not have repeat experiences (unless they so choose, of course). Certification courses and private charters are also offered.
There's enough on Maui to keep you busy above ground, but things can get overwhelming when you start looking below sea level. There are colonies of sea turtles, pods of dolphins, living coral reefs and hundreds of species of tropical fish. Makena Charters show you just a small portion of what there is to see: underwater caves, the reefs off Molokini, a sunken World War II tank, Turtle Town and more. The underwater action is nonstop. This is one of the last remaining six-person dive boats. Beginners and certified divers are welcome.
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.
If you have two left feet or an unreasonable fear of the ocean, do not worry about it; this surf and kayak company prides itself on "catering to the cowardly or uncoordinated." Located just across from Kihei Cove, the Big Kahuna store is perfectly located for visitors to South Maui. Several different kayaking adventure tours are available, and the company also specializes in surf lessons and scuba trips and operates a rental/retail store. Stop by or call for more information.