Q: Why Is Maui Called the "Valley Isle?"
A: Each of the Hawaiian islands has a nickname. Maui is known as the "Valley Isle" because of its unique geography.
Most of the island's interior sits less than 200 feet above sea level, while each side is flanked by mountains. The West Maui mountains rise in the west, while the peak of Haleakala rises over 10,000 feet to the east.
The "Valley Isle" encompasses 728 square miles and is home to 140,000 people. It's the second-largest island in the chain but the most visited, with over 3 million visitors arriving in 2019.
Q: When Is the Best Time to Visit Maui?
A: While the weather is beautiful year-round, the spring and autumn months are the best time to visit Maui. Temperatures sit comfortably in the 80s and there are fewer crowds at the island's top sights.
December through March is busy on Maui, as snowbirds flock to the island to escape the mainland winter. However, this is the best time of year for both whale watching and surfing.
The summer months also see an influx of families visiting Maui while the kids are out of school. There are festivals galore and the waters are warm, calm, and great for swimming and snorkeling.
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Q: How Can I Choose Where to Go in Maui?
A: Although the island isn't very large, there's a staggering variety of natural elements to explore. Here's a quick overview of the different regions in Maui and what each has to offer:
- Lahaina & Ka'anapali: long beaches, historic towns, snorkeling tours, and hula shows
- Hana Highway: lush rural forests, waterfalls, windsurfing, and a stunning 64-mile coastal highway
- Kihei & Wailea: white sandy beaches, lava fields, reef snorkeling, dry weather
- Upcountry Maui & Haleakala: ranches, vineyards, floral gardens, hiking trails, art galleries
- West Maui: resort towns, lush forests, high rainfall, scenic coastal drives
- Central Maui: golf courses, sugar and pineapple plantations, shopping areas, parks
For more details on sights and activities in each area, check out our detailed regions guide.
Q: What's on the "Must See" List of Maui Places to Visit?
A: Whether it's your first trip to Maui or your twentieth, you'll never run out of things to see and do. Here's our pick of the island's best activities:
- Explore the volcanic crater at Haleakala National Park
- Go for a hike to a hidden waterfall, a lush rainforest, or the summit of a volcano
- Learn about life under the sea at the Maui Ocean Center
- Experience a drive you'll never forget along the scenic Road to Hana
- Go snorkeling or scuba diving around Molokini island
- Learn about Maui's rich history in the lush Iao Valley
- Take a helicopter or airplane tour for a bird's eye view of the island
- Visit the 130-year old banyan tree in Lahaina that spreads out over two-thirds of an acre
Of course, any of these activities can be tailored to suit couples, singles, seniors, or families with young children.
Q: What's the Weather Like in Maui (and on Haleakala)?
A: The weather in Maui is comfortably warm and humid year-round. Summer highs reach the high 80s while winter lows sit in the mid-60s. The mean annual temperature is 76 degrees (just perfect, if you ask us)!
March is generally the wettest month, while July is the windiest. The sea temperature is suitable for swimming year-round as well, with average temperatures between 75 and 79 degrees.
The one exception to the "comfortably warm" rule is the summit of Haleakala. Because of its high altitude, temperatures in the national park are routinely 30 degrees colder than at sea level. Nighttime lows can dip below freezing and wind and rain are possible at any time, so dress accordingly if you're planning a visit.
Q: Where Are the Best Beaches in Maui?
A: With over 30 miles of public beach access across the island, you'll never be far from a beautiful seashore. Whether you want to play in the water with the kids, snorkel through a beautiful reef, or take a romantic sunset stroll, there's a Maui beach that's perfect for you.
Makena Beach (also called "Big Beach") routinely ranks as the best beach on Maui. Located in southern Maui, it's over two-thirds of a mile long and 100 feet wide. Meanwhile, Ka'anapali Beach is the ideal place for scuba diving, windsurfing, and other water activities.
If you're looking for a black sand beach, take the Road to Hana and follow the signs to Wai'anapanapa State Park. There are dozens of other beaches to discover, too, that we've compiled in our Maui beaches guide.
Q: Are There Any Active Volcanoes in Maui?
A: No. The only place to see an active lava flow is on the big island of Hawaii.
Haleakala is considered to be "dormant," not extinct, which means it will probably erupt again sometime in the future. The last confirmed eruption was sometime before or during the 1700s.
Q: Where Can I Swim Under a Waterfall in Maui?
A: Your jaw will drop when you review the long list of waterfalls you can visit on Maui, but we have to provide a word of caution.
Remember that water isn't the only thing that cascades over waterfalls. You'll need to keep an eye out for logs, rocks, or other debris. There's also a chance you could encounter Leptospirosis, a bacterium that enters the water through animal waste.
If you do choose to wade into a scenic pool beneath a waterfall, be sure to cover open wounds and never drink the water.
Q: What Islands Can I See Offshore?
A: From the Upcountry, you'll be able to see the crescent-shaped island of Molokini and the larger island of Kaho'olawe behind it. In the summertime, the sun sets directly behind the island of Lanai.
From East Maui or the top of Haleakala, you may be able to spot the peaks of the big island on a clear day.
Q: What Is the Silversword Plant (And Where Can I See One)?
A: These majestic plants resemble an enormous silver sea urchin. The sword-like leaves stick out of a round ball-like center, and the plant produces stunning flowers about once every 40 years.
Maui's Haleakala National Park is one of the only places on earth to see this rare and beautiful species.
Q: So how big is Maui, and how many people live on the island?
A: It's the second-largest island in the chain, but don't let that statistic fool you. If you live on the mainland, the county you live in is likely larger than Maui. Maui is approximately 48 miles (76.8km) long and 26 miles (41.6km) wide, totaling 728 square miles. Chances are it'll feel larger than it sounds when you arrive, plus there is enough topographic diversity on this island to make it feel like a multi-state road trip on the mainland. Where on the mainland can you visit a tropical rain forest, a 400' waterfall, hike a lava field, visit a volcano's summit, and swim in the ocean on the same day? Maui has a population of about 140,000 people. During the peak travel months, visitors can often easily outnumber the local population. And though it's not directly related to the FAQ, we should probably also note that Maui, as a county, includes the separate islands of Lanai, Molokai, and Kaho'olawe.
Q: I've heard about a big tree in Lahaina; what's that all about?
A: "Big" might be an understatement. The famous Banyon Tree in Lahaina is over 130 years old and shades almost two-thirds of an acre.
Q: Is the Hana Highway worth my time?
A: The short answer - Absolutely! But you might want to read our article, "Is the Road to Hana worth it?" to get a better idea of how this drive may or may not appeal to you.
Q: I spy - several islands offshore... what islands are they?
A: Well, it depends on where you are. If you're in Kihei or Upcountry, you can view several islands. Facing the ocean, the small islet to your left is Molokini, the snorkelers haven. The large island behind it is Kaho'olawe, and the island on the horizon in front of you is Lanai (the sun sets behind it in the summer). To your right will be the West Maui mountains curving around, blocking your view of Molokai. However, if you are in Lahaina or Ka'anapali, you can get excellent views of both Molokai and Lanai offshore. If you're in east Maui, beyond Hana town, and you squint on a really clear day... you might even catch a glimpse of the Big Island's peaks in the far distance. You can also see the Big Island's peaks from atop Haleakala.