World renowned for its breathtaking topography and lush tropical setting, Maui is much more than just a pretty postcard. Whether your idea of a perfect vacation involves a lounge chair parked on a white sandy beach or a windsurfer cutting through the aqua waves (or both), we’ve got you covered. Maui is a traveler’s paradise, whether you’re coming to relax at a world class resort, take in the scenery, or get sporty with some of the best adventure activities in all of Hawaii. Read on to discover the top 10 natural wonders that have put Maui on the map as an ideal getaway for travelers looking for a truly unforgettable vacation. Best of all, many of Maui’s parks, beaches, and must-see destinations can be experienced for little to no cost, making budget friendly travel to Maui well within reach. Consider this your ticket to an affordable adventure in paradise!
Speaking of tickets, are you traveling to Maui from another island on your Hawaiian vacation? Your best bet is to book a convenient direct flight with Island Air, with nonstop flights to Maui from Honolulu and Lanai for as little as $59. We make day trips and island hopping easy, helping you see more of Hawaii for less.
1. Haleakala National Park
From hiking to horseback riding, bird watching to catching some of the most spectacular sunrises in Hawaii, Haleakala National Park is known as the “house of the sun” for good reason. Featuring the highest dormant volcano peak in Hawaii, legend has it that the demigod Maui lassoed the sun from its path across the sky as he stood on Haleakala’s summit, making the day last a bit longer. With over 30 miles of hiking trails—including some that take you above the cloud cover and some that lead you through spectacular bamboo forests—this park is a hiker’s dream. You can pitch a tent too, as two camp sites in the park offer free accommodations and a great convenient spot to wake up early and catch the famous summit sunrise!
2. ‘Ohe’o Pools (the Seven Sacred Pools)
While you’re visiting Haleakala National Park, be sure to schedule some time for a dip into the stunning pools at ‘Ohe’o Gulch, commonly called the Seven Sacred Pools. These natural falls and pools, located in a lush valley bisected by a rainforest stream, are the most popular travel destination in Maui, and for good reason. Get there before noon to beat the crowds, and consider reaching the falls from the backside of the park. This is a truly unforgettable and budget-friendly destination, included in the $10 admission price to Haleakala National Park.
3. ‘Iao Valley & ‘Iao Needle
Another can’t miss park while you’re in Maui is ‘Iao Valley, a lush, stream-cut valley framed by emerald peaks on the western side of the island, 3 miles from the town of Wailuku. The 1,200 foot tall ‘Iao Needle was named a national natural landmark in 1972, but its historical significance goes back much further. The tall pointy lava remnant covered in lush green vegetation marks the spot of one of Hawaii’s most important battles in history: In 1790, King Kamehameha I destroyed the Maui army here in his effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands. From the ‘Iao Valley visitor center, it’s an easy short hike to the needle. Be sure to come early not just to beat the crowds, but also because the tip of the needle likes to hide behind clouds later in the day. Legend has it that the ‘Iao Needle was once used as a natural altar to the Hawaiian god of the oceans, and it’s easy to see why, with the basalt peak’s unusual height and its stunning natural surroundings, with views to the ocean. Iao Valley State Park features parking and admission is just $1 for walk-ins and $5 for cars. Sound like a local by pronouncing it “EE-ow.”
4. The Road to Hana
The Hana Highway is a 64-mile stretch of superbly scenic road winding along the coastline connecting Kahului to the small town of Hana. The road to Hana takes you through Hawaii’s only coastal rainforest accessible by car. There are so many great places to stop along the way that you’ll want to narrow your guidebook down to just a few, so that you can really experience those places rather than rushing from photo spot to photo spot. For a great detour to watch some world class windsurfers, check out Ho’okipa lookout at mile marker 9. For a step back in time into an authentic Hawaiian general store, check out Kaupo General Store at mile marker 35. Check out a full list of awesome spots along the Road to Hana here, including amazing national parks and spots to stop for lunch or refreshments. This is one road trip where you won’t want to rush, and no one will be saying, “Are we there yet?” When you do reach Hana, though, prepare to be awestruck by Hawaii’s last undeveloped paradise on Maui. Hana has a timeless feeling and an authentic Hawaiian culture that make it well worth the scenic trip.
5. Wai’anapanapa State Park
Also located along the road to Hana is this perfect detour for a picnic and a stroll on Wai’anapanapa State Park’s famous black sand beach, Pa’iloa Beach. Wai’anapanapa means “glistening water,” and from the stunning 360-degree ocean vistas to the sunlight dappled streams, you’ll be surrounded by sparkling water at Wai’anapanapa. The contrast of the verdant tropical forest extending to the black basalt beaches is the stuff of photographers’ dreams. Beyond the usual photo spots in this park though, there are amazing ocean caves, sea arches, hikes, walkways, cliff diving, camping, cabins, and more. We think Wai’anapanapa should be a required detour on any road trip to Hana. It’s like living in a postcard designed by the gods! blank
6. Makena Beach
Located south of Wailea and a 50 minute drive from Lahaina, Makena Beach (“Big Beach”) is one of the biggest beaches in Maui. If you’re looking for world class golf resort, check into the secluded Makena Beach & Golf Resort. Resort goers and day trippers alike are in for a treat at Makena, as the shores are often less crowded than the beaches in Lahaina and Kaanapali. Two black lava outcroppings at either end protect this beach from the trade winds, making it a great family friendly swimming spot, as well as a perfect place to take in the view of the islands of Molokini and Kahoolawe.
7. Dragon’s Teeth
Located in West Maui, the Dragon’s Teeth are an amazing natural rock formation caused by Maui Volcano’s last eruption. When volcanic ash rushed across the island to the sea, it met fierce ocean waves, which forced the lava to settle into these unique 6 foot tall jagged rock shapes that really do resemble the teeth of a giant dragon. Be sure to peer over the edge, as this is a favorite hang out for sea turtles. Guess they’re not afraid of the dragon.
8. Molokini Crater
The Molokini Crater is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater that forms a small inlet between the islands of Maui and Kahoʻolawe. It’s also one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii, so be sure to bring your flippers or rent some locally. The Snorkel Store often runs 50% rentals, and also offers reasonably priced guided snorkel tours. Molokini Crater is Hawaii’s only island marine sanctuary, so you’ll be sure to see some amazing fish and underwater wildlife that you won’t see anywhere else. The clarity of the water is unsurpassed, with no soil clouding your vision as you take in the clear sunny waters surrounded by friendly fish. You can easily book snorkeling, sunset cruise, SCUBA diving, and whale watching trips at Molokini Crater aboard the Pride of Maui catamaran. If water sports are part of your Hawaiian itinerary, Molokini Crater is a can’t miss destination that won’t disappoint!
Now that we’ve shown you a preview of Maui’s most jaw dropping natural wonders, what are you waiting for? Head on over to Island Air to book an easy and convenient flight to Maui today! And be sure to check back soon for helpful tips on seeing more of Hawaii for less.