Close your eyes. Now imagine yourself sipping a piña colada on the beach as the waves crash and fall back. Crash, and fall right back. It’s the perfect day with the sun shining, and as you rush into the water, you can’t help but realize it’s warm like a bathtub—nothing the Atlantic Ocean could ever do. You, my friend, are in Hawaii. While each of its islands has something to offer, if you’re looking for a balance of pure serenity mixed with activities, as well as a place that also counts Oprah as a resident, we’ve got to talk Maui. After all, the second largest of the islands is most famous for its immaculate beaches, caves, and coves that offer exploring and adventure at every turn. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway (I went for my 30th and my babymoon!) or are hoping to have a kid-friendly vacation, Maui is the answer. Below, here’s everything to see and do on the most-treasured island.
Calling all daredevils! Let me paint a picture: It’s 6 A.M., and you’ve been dropped off at the 10,000-plus-foot-high Haleakala summit to bike down to the crater’s edge and watch the sunset. From there, you’ll bike down another 20ish miles to the ocean, where you are again greeted by a sea breeze. Not for the faint of heart, this is the ultimate expedition to see Maui’s natural beauty and wonders, with a bit of a challenge. You can rent bikes from Bike Maui and opt for a self-guided or group tour. Bring layers of clothes, closed-toe shoes, water, and a sense of adventure.
Road to Hana
If biking isn’t your jam, but you still want to see the real Maui, may we suggest the road to Hana? It’s best to leave before the sun is up (sorry about that, again!) and drive down some very curvy and windy roads with views you can’t fathom are real. You’ll get breathtaking coastline vistas, rainforests, lagoons, and trees so tall the weather will change. The biggest draw is the black sand beach called Pa’iloa, which offers one of the most stunning natural wonders that you are welcome to swim in. Also, those who are familiar with the Road to Hana know that it leads to the seven sacred pools, complete with lush greenery, waterfalls, and wonders the metaverse can only dream of. And although the name mentions seven, there are actually many more pools for climbing and swimming around in during your visit.
Ali’i Kula Lavender
If you’re tired of the countless hours at the pool or beach and want to change the scenery to something fresh, head to Maui’s countryside. It’s a cottagecore dream: over 50,000 lavender plants that you can stroll aimlessly through (or take selfies in!), as well as small shops, chicken coops, and ocean views at every turn. Lavender isn’t native to Maui, but because of the island’s climate, the lavender on the farm blooms year-round in the cool, dry temperatures.
A Hawaii-based restaurant serving the most delicious and mouth-watering fresh food. Each bowl is crafted with local flavors and ingredients that just taste so impossibly fresh. You’ll also experience local recipes from traditional Hawaiian culture with a bit of fusion from food worldwide.
Genius chef Wolfgang Puck brings his culinary cuisine to the islands with a Hawaiian and California-coastal fusion. The restaurant has earned a Forbes Four Star and an AAA Four Diamond Restaurant Award. Plus, it has panoramic ocean views that cannot be missed.
Chef Sheldon Simeon won Top Chef and decided to open up a restaurant in Hawaii. (Dream life?) The Asian fusion restaurant boasts perfect ramen, udon, and long lines. It’s best to make a reservation in advance, but completely worth the wait if you don’t.
South Shore Tiki Lounge
Remember the bar in Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Well, it was fictional, but this one is as close as you will get. The tiki vibe includes bamboo walls and surfboard ceilings; you’ll get a good mix of tourists and locals. Bonus: the drinks are cheap and the music is loud, so you know you’re in for a good time.
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
Though technically not a bar, this shaved ice spot is just as refreshing and mouth-watering. The OG stop of shaved ice in Hawaii, the store now has seven locations across the island. Ulalani’s is famous for its over 55 flavors of syrups that let you mix and match to your tastebuds’ desires.
Maui Brewing Company
Grab a beer at Hawaii’s largest local craft brewery to get a taste of real Hawaiian nightlife. The location boasts an array of beers you can only find on the grounds of the brewery and also features a full gastropub if you’ve worked up an appetite. (Our recommendation is to order a beer and fries with house-made ketchup and mustard, infused with beer.)
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
There’s just nowhere else to stay. Experience pure luxury with beachside cabanas, poolside massages, and the most breathtaking views on the island. The opportunities are endless at the resort, with daily lei-making and hula classes, surf lessons, and private helicopter excursions. The adults-only infinity pool with views overlooking the Pacific is an all-time favorite of the resort. Suffice it to say, the Four Seasons is truly 100 out of five stars, and was memorably featured on HBO’s The White Lotus to boot.
If you’re looking for a complete spa-like experience, head away from the water to the countryside on a secluded part of Lanai. This resort features a personalized wellness journey, including fitness, lectures, and spa treatments. (Plus, the grounds boasts a Nobu, which is wellness at its finest.) The adults-only spa is the perfect place to recharge and reset with the best accommodations and services at your fingertips.
If you’re looking for the real Maui experience, look no further than this classic Maui hotel. Visitors are greeted by the black beaches near Hana plus views of the nature and mountains of the island’s eastern tip. The biggest draw is a fishing class where you can catch your own dinner to enjoy. It also boasts sunrise yoga and a natural spa with organic and clean beauty products.
Chloe Hall oversees all beauty coverage at ELLE.com. She knew she wanted to get into beauty the moment Donna Summer came on her screen and she’s been chasing the perfect disco shadows ever since. Her sweet spot is the intersections of beauty with current culture, whether it’s music, movies, or social media. You can find her in Brooklyn with her pug or in Rihanna’s comment section.