Maui is known for its great waves and sandy beaches, but there are many unique things to do on Maui that help it stand out among other destinations around the world. If you’re looking to try some of the more unusual activities and adventures in Maui that you may not have thought of…Read on.
It was between A.D. 200 and 400 when the outrigger canoe first came to Hawaii from the Marquesas Islands. Hundreds of Polynesian braves sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean in search of land. Since then, the Hawaiian Islands have held fast to their Polynesian roots, making Maui not only an incredible adventure travel destination, but also packed with unique cultural experiences.
One of our favorite things to do on Maui is to go on an outrigger canoe trip to sail with the sea turtles and admire the coastline. We loved it so much that we have done it twice. What sets this canoe trip apart from other boat trips 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 of the great chiefs like King Kamehameha who unified the Hawaiian Islands with the help of European technology and weapons. He told us how the ancient traditions of navigating by the stars were nearly lost, but thanks to a Tahitian elder, 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 Maui coastline and the nearby islands of Molokai and Lanai in the distance and on one of our outrigger canoe experiences from Mekena Beach, we saw the heavily shelled island of Kaho’olawe in the distance. We paddled a few strokes on each side and then listened to his instructions to change as he told us story after story. You can book Outrigger Canoe Trips with Hawaiian Paddle Sports
Diving with sea turtles
Many people head to Honokeana Bay to canoe with sea turtles if they don’t feel comfortable getting in the water to snorkel. But our two outrigger canoe experiences took us to two different places to snorkel with sea turtles. Maui’s waters are very warm and inviting. They are crystal clear and the numbers of sea turtles are healthy here.
After an hour of paddling and learning about the history of the Hawaiian Islands, it was our time to get in the water. It wasn’t long before we saw giant sea turtles swimming underneath. We were very impressed with the strict diving rules on Maui. You are not allowed to get close to the turtles and you are definitely not allowed to chase them.
We had a lot of time in the water and shared it with only a few divers below. The snorkeling area was not crowded at all and it seemed like the only way to get out to the reef was by kayak or canoe. We were a long way from shore. It is definitely one of the must do experiences on Maui.
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 in no time we had our life jackets, waist harness and helmets on.
Our three hour lesson started 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 in the sand and practiced controlling the kite and lifting it from the ground to the 3, 6, and 12 o’clock position. Once you feel you have control of the kite on land, it’s time to get into the water.
The guides at Maui Kiteboarding School are true professionals and made us feel comfortable and safe on the water. There is really nothing to be afraid of when trying kiteboarding (with a pro). If you feel like 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 the nuances, just let the wind take you and enjoy the ride.
If kiteboarding isn’t your thing, Maui is one of the best places in the world to windsurf. Kanaha Beach Park is a great place to windsurf for the first time. Ho’okipa Beach Park is reserved for experts. If you are an avid windsurfer this is the place to go, but don’t even think about it if you are not.
We’ve done a lot of stand-up paddle boarding and even have our own paddle boards, but there’s no place as memorable for SUP as Maui. We learned in the relatively calm waters of Napili Bay. If you’re looking for a unique adventure that you can also try when you get back home, try stand-up paddle boarding.
Although SUP has gained in popularity in recent years, it has been around in Hawaii for hundreds of years. Stand-up paddleboarding is a bit like surfing mixed with a touch of canoeing. On Maui you can paddleboard in calm waters to get a full body workout or join the surfers and catch a wave in the surf. We’ve never really gotten the hang of surfing, so SUP is a great compromise. We can still feel the thrill of catching a wave without having to become expert surfers. We take our SUP lessons at Napili Kai Resort. Our favorite place to stay in Maui.
If you’ve never tried paragliding, Maui is the place to do it. Like many of the unusual activities on this list, you don’t need experience to have a great adventure. Paragliding is the perfect compromise for those who want to soar through the air, but don’t want to jump out of an airplane to do it. Qualified instructors offer tandem flights from the slopes of Mount Haleakala, allowing you to soar through the air with extraordinary views. It’s the thrill of a lifetime. See FlyMaui for more details.
There’s nothing more thrilling than rappelling down a waterfall and plunging into the cool waters of the pool below. Especially on a hot day in Maui. Canyoning is a fun adventure that anyone can do. You don’t need any experience to canyoneer and you can learn to rappel in no time. It’s easy and safe. A Maui waterfall adventure is definitely one of the most unique things to do on Maui. Rapell Maui offers canyoneering tours.
Canyoning is becoming the adventure of choice for adrenaline junkies. It mixes a little climbing with hiking and swimming. Not only is it a thrilling adventure, but it also keeps you cool in the tropical heat. On Maui, especially with Maui Waterfall Adventure, most hikes involve rappelling over waterfalls and diving into the pool below. The good news is that you don’t need climbing experience to canyoneer, and rappelling is easy to learn. The organisers set up their abseils in such a way that you can’t fall. And if you get scared, pass out or forget everything, they’ll bring you back down.
Stargazing at Haleakala.
Speaking of Mount Haleakala, many people get up early to watch the sunrise on Maui and it’s also a popular sunset destination. But if you’re looking for something a little more out of the ordinary to do on Maui, head to the top of Mount Haleakala for a guided telescope tour of the night skies. Be sure to dress warmly, as it gets chilly at night. For more details, check out Maui Stargazing.
Downhill biking on Haleakala
If you want to try something even more unique, how about biking down a volcano? Take a van to the top of the volcano and learn about Maui’s history, culture, and points of interest before hopping on a mountain bike to descend. There are many stops along the way and you can go as fast or as slow as you like, stopping at shops and restaurants along the way. It takes about 90 minutes without stopping. It’s a relaxing ride, as it’s all downhill, so you don’t have to strain yourself to enjoy this unique adventure. Maui SunRiders offers bike tours of Haleakala.
Many people try shark diving at the Maui Ocean center, but why go to an aquarium when you can do it for real in Maui. There are several shark diving excursions in Maui. You can dive in open water with white tip reef sharks at Mala Wharf. Here the sharks often swim among the wrecks. Or if you don’t dive, you can do a cage diving experience. There are 40 different species of sharks in Hawaiian waters, so go out and see them. Sharks aren’t as scary as they look once you’re in the water with them. We have done cage diving in South Africa and Australia, and it is a great introduction for those who are thinking about getting into scuba diving.
Molokai Helicopter Tour
A helicopter tour on Maui is one of the most beautiful helicopter rides we’ve ever taken. Why is a helicopter tour here unusual? Because Molokai is home to the highest cliffs in the world. And you thought the Cliffs of Moher were high. Molokai’s sea cliffs rise 5,000 to 5,000 feet above the ocean and are a short helicopter ride from Maui. Maui’s cliffs and waterfalls are impressive enough, but to see a neighbor island is something truly special. Book this amazing 50 minute helicopter flight to Molokai
The mouth of Nakalele Point
From the flight you can see the Nakalele Point Blowhole, but you can also hike to see this magnificent geyser that shoots into the air at high tide. Located at the 32.5-mile marker on Maui’s north shore, this adventure requires a 1.2-mile round-trip hike. Be careful not to get too close to shore, as waves can crash washing you out to sea, and don’t get too close to the blowhole. Admire it from a distance because if you get too close you may be sucked into the hole never to be heard from again. (Did I scare you to keep you safe? Good).
Maui Pineapple Tour
It’s not a crazy adventure, but it’s not every day you get to visit a place where pineapples are grown. Learn how pineapples are grown and harvested and take some pineapple home with you. You can combine a visit to the pineapple and distillery to make the most of your trip. We bought a bottle of vodka on Maui and seriously, it’s one of the best we’ve ever tasted. Visit the Hali’imaile distillery for the details.
Make Hawaiian Poke
While we’re on the topic of food, one of the most unusual foods on Maui Poke. We attended a cooking class at the Grand Wailea to learn how to make our own Hawaiian Poke. Poke is a dish that looks a bit like ceviche. It consists of diced pieces of raw fish that are topped with fresh Maui salts, fresh ginger and freshly cut calamansi. (Calamansi is a cross between a lime and a lemon) and avocado. You can really mix the poke with whatever you like. It’s often served over rice, but I like it as a refreshing salad.
Eating crushed ice
And one last unusual dish on Maui is the delicious shave ice delicacy. 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 involves taking chunks of ice and shaving them into a fluffy lightness that is topped with fresh fruit juices from Hawaii’s tropical fruits. (especially pineapple). The tradition was carried on and you can find shave ice all over the islands. One 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 I drove down the Hana Highway and hiked the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park. This beautiful 1.2 mile long trail takes you through tall bamboo stalks. It’s on the way to the 400-foot-high Waimoku Falls, and you can also visit the Seven Sacred Pools. Bamboo is not indigenous to Hawaii, but was introduced by migrant workers from Asia for use as scaffolding in construction. The best way to explore the Route 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 as some of the best in the world being a popular stop on the PGA. But if you’re not into golf (like us) and want to try something different without going broke, Ka’anapali golf courses offer FootGolf for only $15. FootGolf takes place on a golf course, but soccer balls are used instead of golf clubs and balls.
Maui Off road Adventures
Dave and I always like to do off road adventures, and an ATV tour takes you to places that are only accessible by helicopter. Go deep into the backcountry for some off-roading, then head out for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. See Maui Off Road Adventures for more details.
Rainbow Tree Search
They are one of the most unique things I have ever seen. The Rainbow Eucalyptus is located on Hana Road. Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, but were introduced to Hawaii to burn fuel for plantations. They are now considered an invasive species and have been difficult to control as they grow rapidly at 6 feet per year reaching heights of up to 200 feet. But they are beautiful to look at and you can’t help but stop to take pictures when you encounter them.
Maui Zip Line
Maui’s lush rainforests and volcanic surroundings make for the perfect zip line adventure. We love zip lining. It’s an adrenaline rush without the terror of having to bunjy jump or jump out of an airplane. There are several zip line locations on Maui that offer views of Haleakala, the coastline and the jungle canopy.
Check out these highly rated zip line adventures.
Attend a Luau
While not 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-do when on the island. Roast pork is often served, but there’s also Poke and seafood. But what really makes it special is the entertainment. It was King Kamehameha II who changed the old law of men and women eating separately. The accompanying ceremony gave rise to the tradition of Luaus being festive events. Join the celebration on stage with traditional dancers performing music and dances from Polynesian culture and the main event is a fire dance. Book a luau at Ka’anapali Beach
Walk through a lava tube
Driving down the Road to Hana is one of the top things to do on 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 1,000 years ago from molten lava flowing into the ocean. When the lava cooled, its top hardened and the lava flowed beneath the surface creating a tunnel to the ocean. Guided 40-minute tours can be booked for $11.95 per person. Check out the car rental service to book your trip on the Road to Hana.
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