Beach at Best Beaches, Maui, Hawaii

Best Beaches

Maui is proud of its more than thirty miles of beaches, and with good reason. Most are pristine, with golden sand, crystal blue water and plenty of protected areas for swimming and snorkeling. One of the finest, but alas most crowded, is Kaanapali Beach, a four-mile stretch paralleling the channel between Maui and Lanai and featuring a beach walk that links the area’s hotels and restaurants. At its northernmost point, just in front of the Sheraton, is Black Rock, one of Maui’s premier snorkeling areas.

The relatively flat Wailea Beach, which skirts the posh Wailea resorts, is a wonderful place not just for walking and people watching but also for spotting whales and gazing at sunsets. The beach at Makena Beach State Park, at the south end of Wailea, is a wild, seemingly endless expanse of gorgeous white sand favored by locals, including families, who bring picnic lunches or buy something from one of the food trucks at the entrance. It’s also a good place for swimming and bodysurfing.

Best for body- and board surfers is D.T. Fleming Beach Park, a classic west Maui beach that’s also extremely popular with swimmers, just north of the Ritz-Carlton.

The North Shore is windier than its western counterparts, but for people with kids, the lovely Spreckelsville Beach, aka Baby Beach, is a wonderful spot for whiling an afternoon away. It's protected by a reef, which makes for low surf and tidepools.

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Sea View - Day Trip: Lanai , Hawaii: Maui, Hawaii - Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority, Dana Edmunds

Day Trip: Lanai

Just nine miles west of Maui but seemingly a world apart, low-key Lanai beckons with miles of unspoiled beaches, incredible hikes and two excellent resorts. From Maui, you can take the ferry from Lahaina harbor, which takes about 45 minutes. There are multiple ferries each day to and from Lahaina. You are riding with day trippers, backpackers and those coming from Lanai to grocery shop on Maui, so it’s a local scene. Also, during whale migration months (December – April), the scenic ferry crossing can turn into a mini whale watch. Once on Lanai, there are several great hikes and a gorgeous beach to explore. Lunch should be booked at Views at Manele Golf. Those wanting to spend the night should book at the Four Seasons Resort, which sits overlooking gorgeous Hulopoe Bay.

Turtle Inside Sea - Diving & Snorkeling, Maui, Hawaii

Diving & Snorkeling

Like all of the Hawaiian islands, Maui's underwater life is as varied and impressive as its landscapes above. There are several great spots of diving and snorkeling, including reefs that are close to shore. Here are three favorite underwater experiences:

  1. Half-day trip to Molokini Crater
This half-sunken volcanic crater, shaped like a crescent moon and lying about halfway between Maui and Kahoolawe island and can be reached via boat tour. It's popular and has a lot of traffic in the course of a clear day, but for snorkeling and diving aficionados it's worth the journey for its abundant sea life, including manta ray, reef sharks and turtles. Lahaina and Maalaea both offer boat departures, but from Maalaea (which is located about a 20-minute drive north of Wailea), the boat ride is shorter and more direct. Keep in mind that visibility is best in the mornings.
  1. Turtle spotting at Makena
Tucked south of groomed Wailea, the rugged terrain of Makena comes as a surprise. This entire coastline is prime turtle viewing territory and gets busy with snorkeling activity in the late morning. Most everyone knows about Maluaka Beach, where you should go if you have kids in tow, as the gentle surf and good chance of seeing green-tipped turtles are a winning combo. Less busy, however, is Makena Cove, a tiny cove with a thin stretch of pebble beach where you can spot turtles as well as colorful reef fish. A snorkeling morning at Makena Cove is easily combined with Big Beach in Makena State Park—one of Maui's most glorious sand expanses.
  1. Listening to the whale song
During the months of whale migration (December – April), it's common to see pods of whales passing by in the distance (or even relatively close to shore). Keep an eye out for breaches, tail fins or those telltale water spouts. If you see them, dive into the ocean and stay as still as you can be to hear the males communicating to one another in high-pitched, remarkable sing-song tones. This whale song has fascinated scientists for centuries, and it's an incredibly powerful experience to witness while visiting. Read more about it here.

Indagare Tip: For snorkeling, get an early start. Generally, the water is more clear in the mornings for best visibility. Plus, after 9:30/10am, the crowds start arriving at the more popular spots. As with most activities on Maui, it pays to rise with the sun.

Sea View - Haleakala National Park  Maui, Hawaii

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala is a massive (dormant) shield volcano whose crater spans nearly the size of Manhattan and which forms nearly 75% of the entire island of Maui.
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Island Tours: Hiking & Watersports

Indagare members can contact the bookings team for an introduction to an experienced guide who has been leading half- and full-day hikes since 1994. He takes groups of eight and fewer to scenic spots, such as the Haleakala waterfall, the Maui rain forest and the large volcano known as the West Maui Mountains. Travelers can also choose a combination of all of them to see more than one side of Maui’s extraordinary wilderness.

Hawaii is also popular with the watersports crowd, and surf legends - of the wind, kite and standard board variety - flock here. For lessons, from beginner to expert, Indagare’s team can schedule private classes with the island’s best.

Pineapples at Upcountry Exploration , Maui, Hawaii - Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority, Dana Edmunds

Upcountry Exploration

Maui’s Upcountry feels like another world. Misty and often significantly colder than the coast, with rolling hills that offer breathtaking views, the region is home to many of Maui’s farms, which grow everything from Maui onions and eucalyptus to coffee beans and orchids in the fertile volcanic soil.

Kick off an Upcountry road trip in Makawao, an old hippie town and artist community of glassblowers, printers and wood workers. Continue to Kula, and if it’s Saturday, visit Upcountry Farmer’s Market. Families with children will love the farm tour at Surfing Goat Dairy (3651 Omaopio Rd; 808-878-2870), while adults might prefer a tour and tasting at the Hawaii Sea Spirits Organic Farm and Distillery (4051 Omaopio Rd; 808) 877-0009), which produces vodka from organic sugar cane blended with ocean mineral water. All day trips in this area should include a tour and farm-to-table lunch at O’o Farm (651 Waipoli Rd; 808-667-4341), where guests enjoy incredible cuisine surrounded by sweeping views across the valley.

Whale - Whale Watching, Hawaii: Maui, Hawaii - Courtesy Four Seasons Maui

Whale Watching

Maui is one of the world's great places for whale watching, since about two-thirds of the North Pacific Humpback population migrates annually from the cold waters of Alaska to Hawaii's warm breeding grounds. Generally, whale season runs from December through April, though sightings can occur as early as late September. The whales don't arrive in one happy travel pod, rather, their numbers increase gradually (nursing mother whales are usually the first and pregnant females last).

Lahaina and Maalaea harbors offer myriad whale watch tours but you want to make sure that you are on a boat with a naturalist, as well as that your money is supporting an organization that champions conservation. Maui's most renowned one is the Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit with boats leaving from both harbors. You should choose a departure point based on where you are staying and how long you want to be on the boat (boats out of Lahaina get to whale waters slightly quicker). Whale cruises should be booked well in advance online—during peak season, they always sell out.

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