Beach Vacations to Maui, Hawaii

waterfalls in maui photo
Blue Pools waterfalls on Maui (Ron Dahlquist/Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Maui got its nickname, "The Valley Isle," from the windswept depression that divides the verdant West Maui Mountains and Haleakala, the island's towering, 10,000-foot volcano. And just like the island is divided into unique sections, the vacation experience here has many faces, covering a wide range of styles and environments.

It's a place so scenery-rich that a half-day drive across the island crosses as many ecological zones as a drive across America itself, including deserts, farmlands, volcanic moonscapes, and tropical rainforests. And visitors can find everything from swanky shopping centers, thumping nightlife, and luxury lounging at five-star resorts to world-class watersports, backcountry hiking, and countless secluded beaches and waterfalls.

The arid, sun-baked shores of West and South Maui—around Lahaina and Kihei, respectively—are the main tourist centers, attracting sunseekers with their lively towns and posh resorts. Travel up the mountain, however, and the rolling farms and ranchlands of the upcountry offer small-town getaways among modern-day paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) who still tend their herds by horseback on the side of the volcano. And the lush eastern side, around Hana, sports more waterfalls than people, with hiking trails following mountain streams that spill from the jungle onto multicolored beaches.

In addition to its topside variety, Maui also offers incredible experiences on and under the water. The north shore is renowned among big-wave surfers, and Maui's famous trade winds made this the birthplace of kitesurfing. Snorkelers and divers can kick out from the western beaches to swim among throngs of protected Hawaiian green sea turtles and tropical fish found nowhere else, or hop a boat to the offshore cinder cone, Molokini, to explore its lively reefs.

During the winter months, humpback whales from Alaska congregate in the National Marine Sanctuary just offshore, making this one of the world's best humpback-whale-watching hot spots. And if that isn't enough, Maui is also the jumping-off point to explore the neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai.

Published: 27 Dec 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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