Welcome, fellow adventure seekers!
If you’re planning a trip to Maui, then get ready for an unforgettable experience. This island is not just about lounging on beaches or staying cooped up in your hotel room. Instead, it offers a plethora of thrilling activities that will leave you breathless and wanting more. As someone who loves exploring new places with my boyfriend, I can attest that Maui has something for everyone.
But let’s be real – planning an adventure-packed vacation can be overwhelming. With so many options available, how do you know which ones are worth your time and money? That’s where I come in. Having visited Maui multiple times over the years, I’ve researched and tested out various activities to bring you the best of the best.
In this article, I’ll share my personal experiences and expertise on the top adventure activities in Maui that will make your heart race and leave lasting memories. Whether you’re into hiking through lush rainforests or ziplining across breathtaking landscapes, there’s something here for every type of traveler. So buckle up and get ready to embark on an epic journey through one of Hawaii’s most exciting islands!
Warning: You may never want to leave after experiencing these adrenaline-pumping adventures!
Take the Road to Hana
If you come to Maui and don’t cruise on the Road to Hana, then I’m sorry to say you’ve missed out. This 64-mile-long Highway in East Maui has stunning waterfalls at every turn, hiking trails through lush rainforests, and beautiful secluded beaches all along the way.
All you’ll need is a rental car, a tank full of gas, and the patience for a 5-7 hour road trip (it’s totally worth it!)
Start your trip from Paia town to stock up on essentials and get a delicious breakfast from its many local eateries. Then, drive to Ho’okipa Beach to spot green sea turtles, stop by Twin Falls for a quick swim in freshwater pools, or drive further to Upper Waikani Falls to enjoy views of a gorgeous triplet of falls.
There are also many State Parks offering hikes through well-maintained trails, like the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park, where a winding trail leads to a secluded waterfall.
We highly recommend stopping by the Waianapanapa State Park to witness the black sands at Honokalani beach, made from fine lava rocks, and enjoy a picnic on its expansive shoreline.
In addition, don’t miss a hike on the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park, a breathtaking trek through a dense bamboo forest with many small waterfalls along the way. Lastly, stop by the Ohe’o Gulch falls for a refreshing swim through small pools connected by the waterfall.
Watch the Sunrise from Haleakala Crater
You can’t miss a chance to see the dazzling views from the Haleakala Crater at daybreak, as it’s one of the most sought-out sunrise points in the world. The view of the island sun rising over the East Maui coastline at an elevation of 10,000 ft. and lighting up the entire shore in a slow ascent is a breathtaking sight.
However, getting to the top is just as much an adventure as the sunrise itself. You’ll have to set out late at night, as the drive takes more than an hour, through hairpin curves and steep inclines on the road, before getting to the top.
In addition, since the view at Haleakala is on everyone’s to-do list, you’ll have to book your spot months in advance, as they only let 150 cars drive to the top.
But the effort is well worth the outcome since there’s nothing quite like an island sunrise to set the rest of your day in motion.
Bike down Haleakala
If you’ve driven to Haleakala Crater for the sunrise, don’t just come back the same way down. Instead, go to the National Park’s entrance at an elevation of 6500 ft., where there’s a great biking tour leading to the mountain’s base.
We took a tour with Maui Sunriders, which provides mountain bikes on a self-guided biking tour down the mountain slopes. You can stop for a meal at the beautiful Kula Lodge and enjoy serene views of Upcountry Maui from the restaurant’s elevated location.
Other terrific stops include Makawao town, a historic cowboy town in Maui, and riding past beautiful sceneries of lavender farms and a eucalyptus forest. Your trip ends in Paia, where you can grab a meal, shop at stylish local boutiques, and wander through local markets.
This tour is the best way to explore Haleakala and Upcountry Maui, and definitely one of the best adventure activities in Maui.
Take a Helicopter Tour
You’ll find many helicopter tours going over the Maui coasts and rainforests, which provide stunning aerial views of the island. Taking a helicopter tour is ideal in Maui’s landscape since many parts of the island remain inaccessible by land to this day.
Take the 45-minute tour over Hana and Haleakala with Air Maui, which goes over Hana’s rainforests and raging waterfalls. In addition, the helicopter stays at a 10,000 ft. elevation of the Haleakala Crater, well above the clouds, offering breathtaking views of the mountain.
Another terrific tour goes over West Maui and the secluded island of Molokai. You’ll pass over lush green valleys, gushing waterfalls, and sea cliffs. This is a great way to experience West Maui’s mountainscape without hiking through it. Plus, the helicopter also flies over a nearby sugarcane factory, historic to Maui’s early populations.
Make sure to book your tours in advance, as these intimate rides are loved by many tourists and are one of the best adventure activities in Maui.
Zipline through Maui
Want to explore the vast stretches of Maui’s landscape but fall short on time? Then take a zipline adventure over North and East Maui, with zip lines running over the dense forestry of these beautiful parts of the island.
We recommend the North Shore Zipline Co., which has 7 zip lines that pass over rainforest canopies and run alongside huge rainbow eucalyptus trees native to Hawaii. In addition, you’ll enjoy views of the nearby shores through the lush greenery. The company has swinging bridges to take guided and freestyle rides, so definitely try this exciting activity.
If you’re in East Maui, take the 8 Lines Jungle Zipline Tour, which involves whizzing past treetops through the jungles of Haiku.
All the tours in Maui are well-maintained and safe, so don’t hesitate to take them as they’re the best adventure activities in Maui.
Snorkel at Molokini
Maui offers the best snorkeling in Hawaii, as it’s a hub of native Hawaiian and rare marine species of the Pacific Ocean. Although there are great spots for snorkeling all over the island, Molokini Crater is the best one since it’s home to a huge coral reef.
You can take a cruise from South Maui’s beaches, which travel to the secluded Molokini island, and stop by marine life hotspots to snorkel in. You can expect to see tropical fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles, and spinner dolphins, among many other sea creatures, while snorkeling. In addition, if you visit during the winter, whale watching will be included in the tours.
The snorkeling takes place on a catamaran cruise, with a small group of people to keep the tour private. The cruise staff is well-trained and knows the best stops for snorkeling, and the tour includes a stop at a secluded beach that’s perfect for swimming.
Hike the Waihe’e Ridge Trail
The waterfall hikes on the East shore are all nice and scenic, but it’s the expert treks like Waihe’e Ridge Trail that adventure-seekers will love. The hike offers unmatched views of the West Maui mountains, starting from a trailhead just past Wailuku.
To access this trail, you’ll want to pass the nearby Mendes Trail towards a big parking lot about a mile away. The round trip will be four miles, with moderate difficulty, taking between two to three hours, depending on your pace.
We recommend taking this hike earlier in the day, as you can enjoy stunning coast views from the trail’s elevation without the mid-morning clouds fogging up the view. However, the path is muddy and gets very slippery after rain, so come prepared.
Although the trail includes steep inclines that tire you out, you can rest on benches along the way and take in the unmatched views. Once you reach the top, rest on the viewing platform and enjoy the stunning sights of the nearby Makamakaole Falls.
Cruise on the Kahekili Highway
With everyone heading to the Road to Hana for a fun road trip, the Kahekili Highway often gets overlooked – precisely why you need to visit it. You’ll be driving through the West Maui mountains with hairpin curves and stunning views, which puts every other road trip to shame.
Kahekili Highway is completely tourist-free, with no traffic and plenty of secluded trails. You’ll pass by quaint Hawaiian villages, towns with small markets and fresh fruit stands, along cliffs and deep valleys, all while navigating on a single-lane road with steep drop-offs.
However adventurous the drive may be, always take caution as the road can get narrow and harrowing in some places.
Some other terrific sights you’ll pass by are the Honolua Bay, the Olivine Pools, and the Nakalele Blowhole – an unmissable stop to see water spouting from the ground at insane heights.
We came across this Highway while trying to reach the Nakalele Blowhole. And if you want to pass on the drive and just see the blowhole, drive from Kapalua directly to it and then back on the return.
Wind Surfing and Kite Surfing on the North Shore
Maui offers some of the best waters for surfing in Hawaii, with the North shore providing terrific opportunities to tackle the waves. Head to Kahului to get lessons in kitesurfing from a certified school, followed by cruising the waves with your newfound skills.
The school also provides lessons in windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), and surfing. Their instructors are all well-trained and patient, teaching you the sport based on your existing skills.
We took on kitesurfing and really enjoyed the experience. The lessons start on easier waves, but after a few tries, you’ll be cruising them on your own. Try it out if you love water sports or are only starting out, as the thrill from the waves is an unbeatable adventure.
Take an ATV tour
Taking an ATV tour on the rough terrain of Maui’s valleys is a great way to explore inaccessible parts of the island, otherwise only visited by helicopter. There are different tours on the island leading into the backcountry for some off-roading and offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
We took a guided ATV trip through the West Maui mountains, which provided heavy-duty vehicles, protective gear, and some refreshments. Your guide will start with an orientation to the vehicle, then lead you to the top of the valley with beautiful views of distant waterfalls. Lastly, you can freestyle down to the ocean for a ride along the coast.
The view on your way down the West Maui mountains is a breathtaking sight as you pass lush greenery while driving on paved pathways, and blowing up some serious dirt.
Don’t miss an ATV tour if it’s your first time in Maui since the short trip through the mountainscape is a great adventure without having to trek the whole way.
Go Horseback Riding
Most people think of beaches and valleys when they hear about Maui, but the island has a lush countryside in the Upcountry, home to cowboy towns and great activities like horseback riding. Maui has terrific ranches in Wailuku and Makawao, housing large stables and vast expanses of land to ride your horses on.
We love going to the Mendes Ranch in Wailuku, which has well-maintained grounds and beautiful horses. Take the Morning Oceanfront Ride, which is more than an hour long, beginning at the Mendes Ranch and going to the edge of the scenic valley towards the coastline.
Here, you can see the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean, and the trail guides take great photos of you with the majestic seascape background. In addition, you’ll see distant waterfalls on the way up, which look like small streams from the trail’s height.
If it’s your first time riding, the instructors will give you a tutorial beforehand and a refresher for intermediate riders. No matter your skill level, don’t miss a chance to ride the great horses at Mendes Ranch while enjoying views of the laid-back countryside.
Go Whale Watching
If your Maui vacation falls between November to March, you can book a whale-watching tour and get to see humpback whales up close. These beautiful sea creatures are native to the Pacific Ocean, and Hawaii has kept them well-protected in its waters by only allowing specific tours around the islands.
You can enjoy watching whales as part of cruise trips from the South shore towards Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. We took this trip a few years back, and it’s a great way to incorporate whale watching with snorkeling.
Another great way to see the whales is by rafts flowing right past the gorgeous creatures, and you can watch them play in the serene waters. We recommend taking a trip with Zodiac Rafts if you want a personal audience with the whales (without disturbing their habitat) and learning about their behaviors and natural environment.
What is the most visited spot in Maui?
Maui has many popular spots frequented by tourists around the year, like the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park in East Maui, the West shore beaches like Ka’anapali Beach, and the Molokini Crater off the South Maui shore.
What tourist activities are open in Maui?
All the beaches, state parks, major hiking trails, and waterfalls are open to the public in Maui year-round. However, extreme weather conditions like excessive rains can make some areas inaccessible, so always check with your hotel before heading out.
What are some extreme adventures in Maui?
Thrill-seekers will love the adventure activities in Maui, like ATV tours through Lahaina’s rough terrain, a 7-line zipline through North Maui’s rainforest, hiking up the steep inclines of the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, and driving the harrowing Kahekili Highway. Of course, some adventures are always fun on vacation, but always listen to your guides, take safety precautions, and avoid going out in harsh weather, as your safety comes first.
Concluding the Best Adventure Activities in Maui
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’ll know that Maui has amazing adventure activities for every traveler. The island isn’t all sandy beaches, and luxury resorts since the most fun you can have here is by getting rough on the winding trails, swimming in waterfall pools, and taking tours through the valleys on bikes, ATVs, and via helicopters.
We love the range of activities available in Maui, as you don’t need any specific skills or athletic shape to participate in them.
Families will love horseback riding on Mendes Ranch and taking zipline tours of North Maui.
Those with mobility issues can enjoy whale watching from the South shore and watch the sunrise from Haleakala.
Folks wanting to tackle water sports can try kitesurfing and windsurfing on the North shore.
The best adventure activities in Maui are unmissable!
Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by Brigitte