Even without having stepped foot in Hawaii, there are still a few aspects travelers have come to expect – balmy gold sand beaches, expansive Pacific Ocean views, fragrant wafts of plumeria, and cloud-topped mountains and volcanoes. The land of aloha still holds quite a few secrets and surprises, however, even for those who are lucky enough to visit more than once.
Below we’ve listed some of our favorite, less frequented experiences on Maui that you likely didn’t even know existed, and we hope you take the time to explore the lesser known aspects of the enchanting landscape, culture and cuisine that makes Maui one of the most dreamy destinations on earth.
Maui: Top 5 Under the Radar Experiences
Despite what your first Google search may tell you, there’s plenty more to Maui than luaus, mai tais and sunbathing by your resort pool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – relaxation time is a must! – but there’s so much more to discover if you’re willing to delve a little deeper on your next tropical quest.
Spend the Night in the Crater of the World’s Largest Dormant Volcano
Haleakala Volcano, meaning ‘House of the Sun,’ is the world’s largest dormant volcano, and a major focal point of Maui’s terrain. With a height of 10,023 feet, some of the most popular activities on Maui are located at the summit, along the slopes, and throughout the rainforest-covered eastern side of Haleakala. Though considered neither ‘active’ nor ‘extinct,’ Haleakala’s most recent eruption occurred way back in 1790 at what is now the Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve and La Perouse Bay, the reason for its current categorization as ‘dormant.’
Once at the summit, visitors are able to admire Haleakala Crater, which, at 21 miles across and 4,000 feet deep, is large enough to contain the whole island of Manhattan.
For adventurous travelers, we highly recommend planning ahead to reserve one of three available wilderness cabins – the historic Holua, Kapalaoa or Paliku cabins – to spend the night in Haleakala Crater. Accessible by hiking a distance of 3.7 miles, 5.5 miles or 9.3 miles (one way) along the Halemau’u Trail, Keonehe’ehe’e (aka Sliding Sands) or Kaupo Trail, the cabins offer a remote, unforgettable experience that’s definitely worth the trek to get there. Get ready for otherworldly stargazing and sunrise conditions, and go home with the story of a lifetime.
Ride a Mule Along the World’s Steepest Sea Cliffs
Most people aren’t aware that the world’s steepest sea cliffs lie on the north shore of Moloka’i, Maui’s neighbor island to the west and one of the quietest, most overlooked Hawaiian tourist destinations. Rising 3,315 vertical feet from the ocean, the Kalaupapa Cliffs are a site to behold for nature enthusiasts and intrepid travelers alike.
An island with a deeply tragic history, Kalaupapa was once the chosen isolation area for exiled natives diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. From roughly 1866 to 1969, more than 8,000 people were sent to Kalaupapa in an effort to contain the disease, as it was still somewhat falsely believed to be highly contagious. Today, Kalaupapa National Historical Park serves to preserve “the memories and experiences of the people forcibly sent here so that valuable lessons may be learned.”
While you can certainly see these majestic sea cliffs from an airplane or helicopter, a more unique way to appreciate their beauty up close and personal is from the back of a local mule. Guided mule tours transport guests, who must be 16 or over, along the 3.2 mile Kalaupapa Trail, navigating hefty elevation changes to and from the town of Kalaupapa for an extraordinary look at the quieter side of paradise.
Explore an Underground Lava Tube
Located at Mile Marker #31 along the Road to Hana (just before Wai’anapanapa State Park), a stop at Ka’eleku Cave, or the Hana Lava Tube, is a must for those seeking more of Maui’s volcanic, east shore secrets. Open daily from 10:30am to 4pm, guests are invited to embark on a self-guided cave tour for less than $12 per person.
Formed nearly 1,000 years ago, the Hana Lava Tube is the 18th largest in the world and packed full of interesting stopping points and intriguing, historical artifacts. Each guest is given a flashlight to explore on their own, and the property also includes a red ti botanical garden maze and covered picnic area for those who want to admire the local scenery above ground.
Swim in a Cave & Natural Lava Rock Pool
While you should never get in the water when waves are actively rushing into any natural pool area – it’s absolutely no one’s dream to end up on @kookslams, am I right? – there are a few lovely swimming pools that form near the ocean, the most swimmable of which is Olivine Pools, located on the remote western shore past Honolua Bay. Take the quick hike down the rocks, and on days when the weather and waves are cooperating, enjoy a summery dip in the remnants of a natural lava rock formation.
Alternately, visitors are welcome to take a dip in the frigid, crystal clear waters of the natural sea caves at Wai’anapanapa State Park along the Road to Hana. After a lengthy walk around the park, it’s the perfect way to cool down! Just beware the mosquitoes, as it is still a rainforest area.
*Underwater photo courtesy of Peter Rimkus.
Go Behind the Scenes with Maui’s Most Innovative F&B Professionals
Lucky for you (and us!), there are several crafters on Maui who have turned their passion for quality food and beverages into a full time business. Whether you’ve always wanted to sample locally grown Hawaiian coffee, enjoy farm-to-table pupus from an award-winning chef while overlooking a tropical lagoon, see what a day in the life of Maui’s best beer brewers looks like, sample pineapple wines with panoramic ocean views, or go behind the scenes with master rum, whiskey and vodka distillers, we do it all.
Not to be overly humble, but our range of tours are unlike anyone else’s on Maui, and we love our job! Hop in the Maui Craft Tours van and enjoy a delightfully boozy adventure while learning more about what makes our island not only a beautiful beachy paradise, but an up-and-coming competitor in the international craft food and beverage scene.
Thank you for reading our list of Maui’s coolest off-the-beaten-path experiences, and we hope to see you on your next Valley Isle adventure! If you have more adventurous suggestions we missed in the list above, be sure to get in touch and let us know. Aloha, and a hui hou (until next time)…