Hawaii Activities

Establishment neighborhood
Polihale Beach
Hwy. 50, Waimea
Your rental car contract will prohibit you from accessing this beach—and should you attempt it, you'll understand why. The road is terrible, but the beach at its end is incredible. At 17-miles long, its one of Hawaii's longest beaches and it is vast and stunning and more or less empty. It abuts the Napali Coast and shares those epic views. Similarly, it faces the open ocean and the waves are intense, making the water only safe for strong swimmers. Most visitors come to walk the beach.
Dole Plantation
64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy., Wahiawa
To state the obvious: The Dole Plantation is a totally kitschy, touristy experience. But if you can get past (or even get excited about) the hoards of pineapple memorabilia and the tourists that look straight out of central casting, it’s actually a very fun stopover on the way to the North Shore. For starters, there’s fresh, juicy, just-picked pineapple around every corner. Visitors can also check out the pineapple-shaped garden maze, which is the largest maze in the world, or the “Pineapple Express,” a just-for-kids train that circles the property. The real reason to go, though, is because the Dole whip here tastes even better than the Disneyland version.
Lanikai Beach
Haokea Dr., Kailua
A coral reef off the shore of Lanikai Beach protects the water from big tides and waves, so this is a local favorite for a calm, relaxing swimming. The safe, warm water also makes it good for snorkeling—there are plenty of reef fish to be seen, and there are turtles once in a while, as well. And though it does get a bit crowded on the weekends, the stunning view of the Mokulua Islands and the powdery, white sand make for excellent sunbathing (though you’ll want to come early in the day, before the afternoon sun slips behind the mountains to the West, and also before all of the parking spots are taken). Note: It’s a great place to watch the sunrise.
Maunawili Falls Hike
1201 Kelewina St., Kailua
This hiking trail in Kailua is great for hot days because it’s almost entirely covered by trees and foliage. The trail itself follows a creek up the hillside through a lush forest until you arrive at a swimming hole that features a lovely waterfall and a few great jumping-off points for brave cliff jumpers. A few words to the wise: The trail can get muddy when the creek is high, so wear appropriate shoes. It’s also a good idea to pack some bug spray.
This tiny, incredibly lush private island (it’s easily accessible by ferry or charter plane) is close enough to Maui to justify a daytrip, though we think it’s worthy of a weekend stay. As of right now, it’s home to two Four Seasons properties—the Manele Bay beach resort is fresh off a top-to-bottom refresh and the forest lodge is in the midst of one right now. There's a great Asian-inspired restaurant called Lana’I City Grille, and little else—though the island’s new owner, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, has big plans to reimagine it as a sustainable, 100% eco-friendly tourist destination, meaning now is a good time to go if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet.
Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
Haleakalā National Park
The perfect ending point on the road to Hana, ‘Ohe’o Gulch is also called the “Seven Sacred Pools,” and its not surprising—the seven swimming pools linked by stunning waterfalls and surrounded by lush green jungle look like something out of Avatar. The name is a bit misleading, as there are many more than seven pools, all of which are ripe for climbing, swimming, and exploring. Don’t be surprised if you see locals and tourists alike climbing the slick rocks to jump from the cliffs—to be clear, we don’t recommend it, as there are several warning signs, and there have been a few deaths here over the years. Check with your concierge before you make the trip; the area can get dangerous in wet weather, when it’s vulnerable to flooding.
Road to Hana
Driving the road to Hana is either billed as a little touristy, or the best way to see “the real Hawaii.” (It’s actually a little of both.) It’s 50 miles from Kahului (Maui’s main airport) to Hana on Highway 36 (which turns into 370). Note: this includes some tight-hugging curves. Depending on traffic, the drive itself is only a few hours, so it makes a great day-trip (in which case it’s best to leave before sunrise). But as the old adage goes, this adventure is largely about the journey, which means taking the time to stop and enjoy everything you’re passing—e.g. Maui’s magnificent coastline, rich rainforest landscapes, waterfalls cascading into blue pools, tropical foliage galore. There are also two standout beaches near Hana: the black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park, called Pa'iloa, because it’s such a sight; and Hamoa Beach, because it’s likewise pretty and a relatively easy swimming spot. If you want to make a bigger trip of it, consider staying the night in Hana; Travaasa is a solid hotel option, and there are also some fun Airbnbs in the surrounding area.
Biking down Haleakala
810 Haiku Rd., Haiku-Pauwela
For older kids and adults who are adventure-minded, this bike ride is a popular choice. There are several companies that provide all the necessary equipment to bike down Haleakala, and offer guided tours, as well as a few that run more self-guided trips, including Haleakala Bike Co., which has been in business since 1995. Here’s the idea behind this bike adventure: You’re dropped off to explore the impressive summit of Haleakala (10,000-plus feet)—if you do an early morning ride, you get to watch the sunrise from the edge of the enormous crater (about 7 miles long and 2 wide)—and then, for safety reasons, you’re taken to a starting point outside of Haleakala National Park at 6,500 feet. From there, you zoom down 23 miles of Maui switchbacks to sea level.
Pa’ia Town
Pa'ia, a sugar cane plantation village on Maui’s North Shore with roots that date all the way back to the 1870’s, serves as the kickoff point on the Road to Hana. It’s one of those quintessentially Hawaiian surf towns where the beaches are the main attraction: While Ho’okipa beach is where you want to be to watch the local surfers tackle the famously fat swells, Baldwin beach is best if you plan on getting in the water yourself as there are lifeguards on duty and the surf is mild. Après beach, hit Paia’s main drag for lunch at Hana Ranch Provisions then spend some time exploring while making pit stops for shaved ice and Maui coffee.