The Best Things to Do in Maui — Without the Crowds

Often considered the ultimate destination in the Hawaiian Islands, Maui, with its abundant nature, vibrant culture, and rich history full of sugarcane and cowboys, has earned top marks from Travel + Leisure readers eight years in a row.

a sunset over a beach

Though island visitors tend to make a beeline toward Lahaina and the sprawling hotels of Kaanapali, Maui’s less-trodden outposts reveal faces of the Valley Isle many travelers rarely see. Heading inland delivers a taste of authentic Maui flavor — literally. The pastoral slopes of Haleakala, the island’s 10,023-foot shield volcano, nurture abundance in the form of lavender, goat cheese, craft spirits, honey, wine, and, of course, Maui’s famed cattle. Meanwhile, the windswept east coast and the sunny southern shore offer their own unique brands of allure.

Here are three ways to delve into some hidden Maui magic.

The Upcountry

a sandy beach next to a body of water: Courtesy of Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

Funky Paia on Maui’s north shore was a thriving plantation hub during king sugar’s heyday, but the industry’s decline hobbled the local economy. Windsurfers breathed new life into town in the late ’70s when the epic trade winds and winter swells at Hookipa Beach began attracting hordes of big wave seekers. These days, surf shops and cafés mingle with hip boutiques and galleries in this bohemian beach town.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Courtesy of Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

Greet the day at Paia Bay Coffee & Bar, an eco-eatery that serves island-style breakfasts alongside delicious lattes in a tropical, open-air garden. Afterwards, pop into Heart in Paia, a pocket-sized shop tucked around the corner, for handmade Hawaii-themed jewelry and artwork created by Maui native Lynn Lindell Baldwin.

A short drive south leads to historic Makawao and the scenery along the way — chestnut-colored cattle grazing on rolling green pastures — provides a clue to the town’s backstory. This is paniolo country, the heart of Maui’s proud cowboy legacy, which began in 1793 when British naval captain George Vancouver gifted a herd of longhorns to King Kamehameha I. Get schooled at the tiny Makawao History Museum, where mini-exhibits, ranch-relics, and old fashioned photos share tales of the community’s diverse, plantation-era culture.

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