Maui is the most-visited of the Hawaiian Islands, but that doesn’t mean it’s always crowded. There are plenty of places on the island where you can go off the beaten path, hang out with locals, or even enjoy absolute solitude.
Here are eight hidden gems in Maui to check out.
1. ‘Iao Valley State Park
Rising 2,250 feet from the valley floor, the ‘Iao Needle, a needle-like shard of rock, is covered in velvety greenery and rich in Hawaiian history. According to Hawaiian mythology, the rock formation is actually ‘Iao’s lover, who had been captured by an angry Maui and turned to stone as punishment. The Needle is a monument to everlasting love, and with its gorgeous flowers, waterways, and scenic paths, you’ll certainly be feeling full of love during your visit.
On your way to the ‘Iao Valley State Park, you may notice several cars pulled over by a bend in the road, about half a mile away from Kepaniwai Park. They’re looking at a rock formation that is reputed to look exactly like the profile of John F. Kennedy. Don’t worry if you can’t really see it -- I couldn’t!
2. Olowalu Petroglyphs
On the drive between Lahaina and Maalaea, you’ll most likely be focused on the ocean, eager to spot the whales that cruise the warm waters. But there’s a very special spot on land that you shouldn’t miss. Behind the general store in the village of Olowalu is a short path (just beyond the water tower -- keep an eye out for the gate and signpost) that will take you to a petroglyph site. These are some of the most unique petroglyphs in Hawaii, since they are carved into the side of a cliff instead of into hardened lava flows. Be sure to treat the carvings and the surrounding area with respect. They’re both artistic treasures and spiritual symbols.
3. Hana Lava Tube
Maui’s Hana Highway isn’t exactly a hidden gem. It’s the most famous road in all of Hawaii! But there are a lot of attractions on this beautiful drive that the majority of visitors pass by. One of these is the Hana Lava Tube. Lava tubes are caves that were formed when fresh lava flowed beneath a hardened top layer. Over time, the caves became self-contained ecosystems with dripping stalactites and stalagmites. They’re fascinating to explore, and the Hana Lava Tube is a great one. It also offers a neat, aboveground botanical maze to explore.
4. Old Lahaina Courthouse
The Old Lahaina Courthouse may be a small building, but it’s served many purposes over the years. Built in 1859, it was originally a courthouse, jail, and customs house (smuggling was a problem in the early days). It also served as the governor's office and was the spot where the United States annexation of Hawaii was concluded. The basement, the area that was once the jail, is now an art gallery operated by the Lahaina Arts Society. The second floor, once home to administrative offices and the courtroom, is now the Lahaina Heritage Museum. Admission is completely free! It’s the perfect place to learn more about Maui’s history and politics, especially if it’s raining outside.
5. Ka’anapali Beach And Black Rock Beach
Ka’anapali Beach has a lot going on. The area near the resorts to the south is sometimes called “Dig-Me Beach,” a nod to all the less-than-shy preeners who are keen to show off their beach bodies. But even if you’re not inclined to strut your stuff in a tiny swimsuit, you should still drop by for a dip. Take a deep breath and dive underwater for a moment or two. Humpback whales love to hang out in the waters off of Ka'anapali and “sing.” If you’re lucky, you’ll hear them!
Farther north along the beach, the area known as Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock Beach, is a bit more relaxed. Instead of showing off their skin, people cover it up with snorkeling and scuba gear! The beach offers fantastic snorkeling, and the sea turtles are more than happy to swim over and say hello. The southern side of the rock is beginner-friendly, but the coral has been damaged over time. Meanwhile, the tip of the rock has amazing coral, but because of the strong currents, it’s best left to strong swimmers to explore. Overall, the best snorkeling is to be had early in the morning, but it’s fun to return at dusk, when the live music starts at the resorts -- you can easily hear it from the beach.
6. Pa’ako Beach (Secret Cove)
Truth be told, the Secret Cove isn’t all that secret anymore. Is there any beach in Maui that has yet to be discovered? But while you might not have it entirely to yourself, the Secret Cove is still a picture-perfect travel destination, and there won’t be as many visitors as you’ll find at other beaches. To reach it, you’ll walk a quarter of a mile past the southernmost Makena State Park parking lot and through an opening in the lava rock wall just south of house number 6900. Don’t confuse Secret Cove with the nearby Little Beach, which is the area’s clothing-optional beach!
7. Maui’s Secret Waterfalls
Maui is home to hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of waterfalls. Some are easily seen from the road, while others are a closely guarded secret. To make your own waterfall memories, ask your hotel staff about little-known waterfalls in the area. They can easily arrange a guided tour for a reasonable price. Your guide will help you find the way, make sure you avoid private property, and keep you from inappropriately approaching a waterfall with spiritual significance.
One great place to start is the Bamboo Forest, located at mile marker 6.7 on the Hana Highway. The challenging hike keeps away more casual travelers, and you may just have the area’s four waterfalls to yourself.
8. Maui’s Food Trucks
Paying a visit to a food truck is the perfect way to taste all the flavors of Maui without spending a fortune. Everyone has a favorite -- expect to hear some strong opinions if you ask for recommendations! You can find just about everything, from old standbys serving ice cream and French fries to bona fide haute cuisine being served up beachside. Here are three special trucks to put on your list:
Jawz Fish Tacos: Oldie But Goodie
The oldest food truck in South Maui, Jawz is famous for its fish tacos.
Maui Fresh Streatery: Fresh Fusion
Maui Fresh Streatery offers a sensational mix of Hawaiian ingredients with Indian, French, Italian, and Asian ones.
Like Poke..? A Local Favorite
Parked across from a Costco in Kahului, Like Poke..? is loved by locals for its fresh flavors and down-to-Earth service.