Maui is known for its big waves and sandy beaches, but there are many unique things to do in Maui that help it stand out from other destinations around the world. If you are looking to try some of the more unusual activities and adventures in Maui that may not have thought of…Read on.
Adventures in Maui
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The year was around 200 to 400 AD when outrigger canoe first came to Hawaii from Marquesas Islands. Hundreds of brave souls from Polynesia sailed thousands of miles through the Pacific Ocean in search of land. Since then, the Hawaiian Islands have held strong to their Polynesian roots making Maui not only an amazing adventure travel destination, it is also filled with unique cultural experiences.
One of our favorite things to do in Maui is to go on an outrigger canoe trip to canoe with sea turtles and admire the coast. We’ve loved it so much, we’ve done it twice! What sets this paddling excursion apart from other boat journeys is the cultural element. Our guide Keoni sang traditional Polynesian songs and spoke to us in Hawaiian. Keoni had passion in his voice as he spoke about the great chiefs like King Kamehameha who unified the Hawaiian Islands with the aid of European technology and weapons. He told us how the ancient star navigation traditions were nearly lost but thanks to an elder in Tahiti, a team from the Polynesian Voyaging Society learned the tradition and passed it on.
Listening to Keoni’s instructions we paddled in unison as we admired the coastline of Maui and nearby islands of Molokai and Lanai in the distance and on one of our outrigger canoe experiences from Mekena Beach, we saw the heavily bombed Kaho’olawe Island in the distance. We would paddle a few strokes on each side and then listen for his instructions to switch as he told us story after story. You can book Outrigger canoe trips with Hawaiian Paddle Sports
- Check out our complete guide of where to stay in Maui to help book your travels.
Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Many people make their way to Honokeana Bay to canoe with sea turtles if they aren’t comfortable getting in the water to snorkel yet. But our two outrigger canoe experiences took us to two different places to snorkel with sea turtles. The waters in Maui are so warm and inviting. They are crystal clear and the sea turtle numbers are healthy here.
After an hour of paddling and learning about the history of the Hawaiian islands, it was our time to hop in the water. It wasn’t long before we spotted giant sea turtles swimming below. We were very impressed with the strict rules of snorkeling in Maui. You are not allowed to go near the turtles and you are definitely not allowed to chase them.
- We did our snorkeling tour with Hawaiian Paddle Sports as part of our outrigger canoe experience.
- Take your snorkeling up a level and give Sea Scooter Snorkelling a try. This is definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Maui.
We had plenty of time in the water and shared it only with a few scuba divers below. The snorkelling area wasn’t crowded at all and it seemed as if the only way out to the reef was to kayak or canoe. We were so far away from shore. It is definitely one of the must-have experiences in Maui.
- You can book Outrigger canoe trips with Hawaiian Paddle Sports
- You can also check out this Turtle Town Canoe and Snorkeling Tour.
Maui is known for surfing, but if you want to try something a little more unusual, you can take kiteboarding lessons at “Kite Beach” in Kahului. We met our guides Natasha and Tim and within a heartbeat, we were suited up in our life vest, waist harness, and helmets.
Our three-hour lesson started off with us learning about how to set up the kite, how to read the wind, and how to move the kite on dry land. We then, sat on the sand and practiced controlling the kite and lifting it from the ground to a 3 O’Clock, 6 O’Clock, and 12 O’Clock position. Once they feel that you have control of the kite on land, it’s time to get into the water.
The guides at Kiteboarding School Maui are true professionals and they made us feel comfortable and confident in the water. There really isn’t anything to be afraid of when trying Kiteboarding (with a professional). If you feel that you are losing control all you have to do is let go of the bar and the kite will fall into the water. Once you learn all of the nuances, you just ride the wind and enjoy the ride.
For more information on Kiteboarding in Maui, check out Kiteboarding School Maui for prices and details.
If kiteboarding doesn’t sound like your thing, Maui is one of the best places in the world for windsurfing. Kanaha Beach Park is a good place to go windsurfing for the first time. Ho’okipa Beach Park is reserved for the experts. If you are an avid windsurfer this is the place to go, but don’t even think about it if you are not.
- Another very popular thing to do in Maui is to go Whale Watching, check out this tour that includes lunch.
We’ve done a lot of stand-up paddle boarding and we even own our own paddle boards, but there is nowhere as memorable to SUP as Maui. We learned in the relatively calm waters of Napili Bay. If you are looking for a unique adventure you also can try when you get home give stand-up paddle boarding a try.
While SUP has gained in popularity in recent years, it has existed in Hawaii for hundreds of years. Stand-up paddleboarding is a bit like surfing mixed with a touch of canoeing. When paddleboarding in Maui, you can either make your way across calm waters for a full-body workout or you can join the surfers and catch a wave in the surf. We have never quite gotten the hang of surfing ourselves, so SUP is a great compromise. We can still feel the excitement of catching a wave without having to become expert surfers. We took our SUP lessons from Napili Kai Resort. Our favourite place to stay in Maui.
If you have never tried paragliding before, Maui is the place to do it. Like many of the unusual activities on this list, no experience is necessary to have a great adventure. Paragliding is the perfect compromise for those who want to fly through the air, but don’t want to jump out of a plane to do it. Skilled instructors offer tandem flights off the slopes of Mount Haleakala letting you soar through the air taking in the extraordinary views. It’s a thrill of a lifetime. Check out FlyMaui for details.
Nothing is more exciting than rappelling over a waterfall and plunging into the cool waters of the pool below. Especially on a hot day in Maui. Canyoning is one fun adventure that anyone can do. You don’t need any experience to go canyoning and you can learn to rappel in a flash. It’s easy and safe. A Maui waterfall adventure is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Maui. Rapell Maui offers Canyon Tours.
Canyoning is becoming the adventure of choice for adrenaline junkies. It mixes a bit of rock climbing with hiking and swimming. It not only is an exciting adventure, but it also keeps you cool in the tropical heat. On Maui, especially with Maui Waterfall Adventure, most trips involve rappelling over waterfalls and plunging into the pool below. The good news: You don’t have to have any climbing experience to go canyoning, and rappelling is easy to learn. Outfitters rig their rappels so that you can’t fall. And if you freak out, pass out, or forget everything, they will talk you down.
- We did a guided waterfall hike which is awesome to see the high waterfalls and swim in their pools.
Speaking of Mount Haleakala, many people get up early to catch the sunrise over Maui and it is a popular sunset destination too. But if you are looking for something a little more off-beat to do in Maui, head to the summit of Mount Haleakala for a guided telescope tour of the night skies. Make sure you dress warm, it gets cold up there at night. Check out Maui Stargazing for details.
Cycle Down Haleakala
If you want to try something even more unique, what about cycling down a volcano? Take a van to the top of the volcano learning about Maui history, culture, and points of interest before hopping on a mountain bike to cycle downhill. There are plenty of stops along the way and you can go as fast or as slow as you want, stopping at shops and restaurants along the way. It takes about 90 minutes non-stop. This is a relaxing trip as it’s all downhill so you don’t have to exert any energy to enjoy this unique adventure. Maui SunRiders offers Haleakala Bike Tours.
Many people try shark diving at the Maui Ocean center, but why go to an aquarium when you can do the real thing in Maui. There are a few different shark diving excursions in Maui. You can dive in open water with white tip reef sharks at Mala Wharf. Sharks are often swimming among the shipwreck here. Or if you don’t dive, you can take a cage diving experience. There are 40 different species of sharks in the waters of Hawaii, so get out and see them. Sharks are not as scary as they look once you are in the water with them. We’ve done cage diving in South Africa and Australia and it is a great introduction to those thinking about taking up scuba diving.
- If you are new to scuba diving, you can book beginner discovery dives from Lahaina.
Helicopter Tour to Molokai
A helicopter tour on Maui is one of the most beautiful helicopter rides we’ve ever had. Why is a helicopter tour unusual here? It’s because Molokai is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world. And you thought the Cliffs of Moher were high. Molokai’s sea cliffs rise 3,600 and 3,900 feet above the ocean and it is just a short helicopter ride from Maui. The sea cliffs and waterfalls of Maui are impressive enough but getting to see a neighboring island is a truly special treat. Book this amazing 50 minute helicopter flight to Molokai
Nakalele Point Blowhole
From the flight you will see the Nakalele Point Blowhole but you can also hike out to see this magnificent geyser shoot into the air at high tide. Located at 32.5-mile marker on the North Shore of Maui, this adventure requires a hike of 1.2 miles round trip. Take care to not get too close to shore as the waves can crash up sweeping you out to sea and don’t get too close to the blowhole. Admire it from a distance because getting too close can get you sucked into the hole never to be heard of again. (did I scare you into staying safe? Good)
Maui Pineapple Tour
It’s not a crazy adventure, but it’s not every day you get to visit a plaec that grows pineapples. Learn how pineapples are cultivated and harvested and take some pineapple home with you. You can mix a pineapple and distillery tour to make the most of your trip. We bought a bottle of Vodka on Maui, and it is seriously, one of the best we’ve ever tried. Visit the Hali’imaile Distillery for details.
Make Hawaiian Poke
While we’re on the topic of food, one of the more unusual foods in Maui Poke. We attended a cooking course at the Grand Wailea to learn how to make our own Hawaiian Poke. Poke is a dish that is a bit like ceviche. It is diced pieces of raw fish that is topped with fresh salts from Maui, fresh ginger, fresh-cut calamansi. (calamansi is a cross between a lime and a lemon) and avocado. You can really mix poke with anything you like. It is often served over rice, but I like it as a refreshing salad.
Eat Shave Ice
And one last unusual dish in Maui is the delicious treat of shave ice. First created in Japan, it was immigrant workers who brought Shave Ice to Maui while working on the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. Shave ice is when you take chunks of ice and shave them to a fluffy light sensation topping with fresh fruit juices from the tropical fruit of Hawaii. (most notably the pineapple) The tradition stuck and you can find shave ice all around the islands. A popular shave ice shop is Ululani’s Shave Ice with five locations on Maui. Check their website for locations.
Walk Through a Bamboo Forest
I didn’t even know this bamboo forest existed until driving the Hana Highway and hiking along the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park. This beautiful 1.2-mile-long boardwalk takes you through high stalks of bamboo. It is on the way to the 400-foot high Waimoku Falls and you can visit the Seven Sacred Pools as well. Bamboo isn’t native to Hawaii but was introduced by migrant workers from Asia to use as scaffolding for building. The best way to explore the Road to Hana is to rent a car, you can compare rates at Car Rentals.com
Maui is known for its world-class golf courses with 14 on the island. They are ranked some of the best in the world being a popular stop on the PGA. But if you aren’t into golfing (like us) and want to try something different without breaking the bank, the Ka’anapali Golf Courses offers FootGolf for just $15. FootGolf takes place on a golf course, but you use soccer balls instead of clubs and golf balls.
Maui Off road Adventures
Dave and I always get a kick out of doing off-road adventures, and an ATV tour takes you to places that are only otherwise accessible by helicopter. Head into the backcountry for some offroading and then come out to spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Check out Maui Off Road Adventures for details.
Search for Rainbow Trees
These are one of the most unique things I have ever seen. The Rainbow Eucalyptus tree can be found on the Road to Hana. Eucalyptus Trees are native to Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, but introduced to Hawaii to burn fuel for plantations. They are now considered an invasive species and have been difficult to control since they grow quickly at 6 feet per year reaching heights of up to 200 feet. But they are beautiful to see and you can’t help but stop for photos when you find them.
Maui Zip Line
Maui’s lush rainforests and volcanic setting make for the perfect ziplining adventure. We love zip lining. It’s an adrenaline rush without the terror of having to bunjy jump or fling yourself out of a plane. There are several places to go ziplining in Maui offering views of Haleakala, the coast, and the jungle canopy.
Attend a Luau
While it’s not only unique to Maui, attending a Luau is one of the most unique things to do on a vacation. This traditional Hawaiian Feast is a must when on the island. Roast pig is often served, but there is also Poke and seafood. But it is really the entertainment that makes it special. It was King Kamehameha II who changed the long-held law of men and women eating separately. It was accompanied by a ceremony that sparked the tradition of Luaus being festive events. Join in the celebration on stage with traditional dancers showcase music and dancing from the Polynesian culture and the main event is a fire dance. Book a luau at Ka’anapali Beach
Walk through a Lava Tube
Driving along the Road to Hana is one of the top things to do in Maui, but it also has many interesting and unique stops along the route. Take a guided tour of the Hana Lava Tube to see this amazing cave that was formed nearly 1000 years ago from molten lava flowing toward the ocean. As the lava cooled its top hardened as the lava flowed beneath the surface creating a tunnel toward the ocean. You can book 40 minute guided tours for $11.95 per person. Check car rentals to book your drive along the Road to Hana.
And these are our favourite unique things to do in Maui, if you want to explore more of Maui, check out our ultimate list of things to do in Maui.