From the moment you step off the plane in Maui there’s an urge to seek out adventure — but sitting by the beach and doing absolutely nothing sounds pretty dreamy as well. Tropical vacations, after all, are meant to be relaxing and not be spent at hyperspeed between dozens of different activities. Even still, it would be a shame to visit Maui and not get out and see for yourself why visitors fly back in droves.
The key to a successful stay on Maui is balancing rest and adventure, and by loosely following a sample itinerary like this one listed below, you can walk away having seen most the sights but still have time to kick back.
Since you’re probably waking up early from jetlag, take advantage of your early wakeup with sunrise at Haleakala Crater. The winding drive in the dark to the summit just adds to the mountain’s mystique, which unveils itself with a colorful burst of sunlight bouncing off cinder. On the weaving drive back down the mountain, stop for breakfast at Kula Lodge, or if open, La Provence, and schedule nothing for the afternoon — just rest or relax by the pool.
Since you’ll probably wake up early again — but not quite as early as the first day — schedule another morning activity like snorkeling or outrigger canoeing. Most of these popular ocean adventures begin around 7am, since that’s the calmest time of the day before afternoon tradewinds start blowing. For a chance of spotting turtles in summer, head to Honolua Bay or visit as part of a catamaran cruise that departs from Kā‘anapali Beach. For the chance to swim in gin-clear waters inside a volcanic caldera, opt for a cruise to Molokini Crater, the most popular snorkeling spot on Maui.
For travelers staying in West Maui, start the day with an early breakfast at The Gazebo restaurant in Nāpili, before setting out on a half-day adventure of touring the northwestern coast. Hike the stairs to Mokulei‘a Bay to snorkel or watch the surf and stop at the lookout for Honolua Bay just another mile up the road. Once you reach the Nakalele Blowhole, on the island’s northern tip, set out on foot to find the famous — and dangerous — salt water geyser, and photograph the “heart in the rock” that’s become an Instagram darling. Continue north to Kahakuloa for a loaf of Julia’s Banana Bread, and finish the day with the happy hour menu at The Sea House restaurant in Nāpili.
For travelers based in South Maui, grab breakfast at Kīhei Caffe or French-themed Chez Meme, and then drive through fields of black lava to the end of the road in Makena. If you’re feeling up for a coastal hike, walk the Hoapili Trail to an ancient Hawaiian village site, before stopping at Makena State Park, or “Big Beach,” for a swim or stroll on the sand.
After sleeping in for a little bit (you deserve it — you’re on vacation), head to the waters south of Lahaina to try your hand at surfing. While the island’s most popular surf school spots are in Kīhei and Lahaina Breakwall, the crowds that often accompany those spots can make for a hectic scene. Instead, choose an operator like Maui Surfer Girls who offer their lessons south of Lahaina on waves that are free of the crowds. Or, to try something completely different, call up Hawaiian Paddle Sports to surf an outrigger canoe.
Head to Pāʻia for an early morning stroll on mile-long Baldwin Beach, where you’ll kick off your stress-free, two-day tour of driving the Road to Hana. Because you’ll end up with far more time than if you tried to drive it in a day, linger a while in laidback Pāʻia to wander the shops and boutiques, grabbing breakfast at Café des Amis or vegan Maka by Mana. Point the car in the direction of Hāna and spend most of the day on the drive, stopping at spots along the way like Keanae and Twin Falls. For a fascinating lesson in Hawaiian history, tour exquisite Kahanu Garden and drive through a grove of ʻulu (breadfruit), to experience the wonder of Pi‘ilanihale — Hawaii’s largest heiau. Spend the night in a bed-and-breakfast, or splurge for a room at Travaasa and go to bed early for another full day of exploring Hāna the next morning.
Capitalize on your Hāna location and wake up early for sunrise, which you’ll watch as it paints the black sand beach at Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Because you’ve chosen to stay in Hāna, you’ve beaten the day-tripping crowds, so it’s surprising to find that the Pipiwai Trail has virtually no one else on it. One of Maui’s most popular hikes, this trail across from the Pools of ‘Ohe‘o climbs the mountains for nearly two miles and ends at the base of Waimoku Falls—a 400-foot cascade. Finish the drive by circling around the bumpy “backside” of the island, stopping to taste at MauiWine if you’ve made it there before closing.
If the 7th day is the day of your flight — and it doesn’t leave until nighttime—head up the hill to Makawao town after checking out of your hotel. Wild chickens strut across streets that are lined with boutiques and hitching posts, and don’t leave town without grabbing a bite at Polli’s Mexican Restaurant. Before dropping off the rental car, make a stop at Kanaha Beach Park — just two minutes away from the airport — to watch as windsurfers race through the water on blustery days of summer or surfers ride the winter waves that break on reefs offshore.