Maui might have the best beaches in Hawaii. But there’s a lot more to this Hawaiian island than lying on the sand and working on that perfect tan. Here are five things you should keep in mind on your next trip to Maui.
The north shore drive Travel journalists have made small fortunes writing about the gorgeous drive to Hana. It’s a joyful trip with overhead canopies of brilliant orange African tulips and rainbows and charming, one-way bridges and seemingly a waterfall at every turn. But it can get awfully crowded. I suggest making the Hana trip, but supplementing it with a drive on the north shore. I find it’s best to start in Lahaina or Kaanapali and work your way up past Kapalua. Within minutes of leaving Kapalua’s condos and golf courses you’ll be passing brilliant, deep-set bays like Honolua, with its massive winter surf swells and placid summer snorkelling scene. You’ll soon be winding along a windswept, slightly stark but oh-so-beautiful coastline with massive rocky cliffs and pounding waves. It’s not as tropical as Hana, but it’s pretty in a more rugged kind of way. Because there aren’t as many trees, you’ll actually see a great deal more of the ocean than you do on the trip to Hana. And you can make the trip from Kapalua to the village of Kahakuloa in far less time than it takes to drive from Kahului to Hana. WARNING: The road into Kahakuloa from both the Kapalua side and Wailuku side is one-way for a reasonably long stretch. If you don’t like that kind of adventure, turn around when you see the signs that warn of the one-way road. If you don’t mind having to potentially back up on a narrow road, keep going and head into Kahakuloa for a sense of old-time Hawaii that’s getting harder to find.
Outrigger Canoeing This is a great way to burn off some calories, enjoy wonderful views of Maui and learn about how the Hawaiians used to get around the islands. You’ll likely cruise off the coast of Kihei in the morning, when the surf is calm and the viewing conditions best. Guides can explain a great deal about Hawaiia’s fascinating culture while you practice your canoe strokes.

Snorkel and sail Don’t feel like driving? Let the folks at Trilogy Excursions take you out on a fine day for a snorkelling expedition. I had somehow never done one of these in 20-something trips to Maui over the years. But on my visit in September I took a cruise with them up past Kapalua and Napili to a small bay with good visibility and quite a few colourful fish; including the striped and beautiful state fish of Hawaii called humuhumunukunukuapuaa. They made us a fine lunch of barbequed chicken and there was also soft drinks or alcoholic beverages. We rode on a fine catamaran with a mesh net where we could lie and watch the sails bounce in the breeze. Lying on a boat and watching the coast of Maui and Molokai slip past on a warm, sunny day is about as close to perfection as you’re going to get.

Cool towns Lahaina is a bit touristy for some folks. But I love the massive (and world’s largest) banyan tree that covers an entire square block, a natural playground where kids can swing on vines and clamber on thick branches and pose for photos while their parents shop for jewelry or local art work in the weekly markets they hold in the shade of the massive tree. Buy a shaved ice (like a snow-cone but with tropical flavours like mango or pineapple) and stroll past the shops. Stop in at Baldwin House for a look at how the missionaries lived when they came here from New England so many years ago. Stop at the Wing Ho temple for a display on Chinese life on Maui, and be sure to stop in the small room at the back of the yard to see the black and white film of Hawaii that Thomas Edison made. If Lahaina is too busy for you, and it might be, try Paia on the opposite coast. It’s gotten a lot busier the past few years and can be overrun with tourists at times, too. But it’s got a ton of laid-back, surfer dude vibe that might or might not be enhanced by smoking a certain substance of dubious legality.
george kahumoku by Matt Thayer 12152 (1)

Take in a show The Napili Kai Beach Resort has a free kids’ show each Tuesday night. It’s been going on for decades and is absolutely delightful; with young boys baring their chests and flexing their muscles and young girls and boys doing the hula. There’s a “Slack Key” guitar show every Wednesday ($37.99 US if purchased in advance) featuring multiple Grammy award winner and storyteller George Kahumoku Jr. He brings in hugely talented guests each week for a fun night of entertainment. The Kaanapali Beach Resort has a free Hawaiian show every night that’s open to guests and non-guests alike. They do regular, free hula shows at the Cannery Mall, just north of Lahaina. Most resorts have singers or musicians playing near the pool or at their restaurants and bars.

A cheap round of golf Most folks have heard about the gorgeous Kapalua courses, where they play the opening tournament of the season on the PGA Tour. Both layouts are wonderful, as are the courses down in Wailea and nearby Makena. They’re also expensive; almost always around $150 Canadian and up. Luckily there are some cheaper options. A personal favourite is the Maui municipal course at Waiehu, near the county seat of Wailuku. It’s not in pristine shape, but it’s a good, fun course with more holes on the Pacific Ocean than any course on the island. A great place to meet locals and to take your kids or a beginner golfer. Another fun spot is partway up the slopes of Mt. Haleakala, the Pukalani Country Club. The course has some tough elevation changes but also lovely views of the island. It’s $63 USD for 18 holes, but that drops to $53 from noon to 2:30 p.m. and to $35 after 2:30.