Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do

There is so much to do on the island of Maui, you will never have to worry about being bored. We recently completed our second two week visit there and still found something new to do every day. There are an endless number of beaches to explore and, if you need to get out of the sun, lots of little towns and hikes waiting to be discovered. No matter what your budget, you will have a memorable time exploring the best of what Maui has to offer!

This article will be updated again in Spring 2018, so come back to find out what new things we have discovered to add to our Best of Maui list!


Best of Maui – Land

Road to Hana  A beautiful drive, especially if you’re not the driver:) Waterfalls, hikes, and roadside stands can be found all along the route. Waikamoi Stream Waterfall has easy access for a dip in the pool. If you’re looking for a longer hike, consider Pipiwai Trail near the end of the highway. Remember to pull over to let locals pass!


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do
Waimoku falls on the Pipiwai Trail.


Paia  We love this little hippy town! We always come for the gluten-free pie (see below), but this is also where we do most of our shopping.

La Parouse Bay  Walk through an extensive lava field along the beautiful coast. If you can manage to tear your eyes away from the ocean, you may be lucky enough to see the rare forest goat (these are actually free-ranging goats from a nearby farm:)


Best of Maui
I took way too many pictures of goats.


Hiking  You know what’s great about hiking in Hawaii? There are no animals that want to kill you! That being said, there are still dangers. I never really understood the power of flash floods and how quickly they develop until I saw this video. Check out Maui Guidebook for a list of hikes to get you started.  Waihou Spring Trail is a beautiful hike that can be a short and easy loop or you can take the steep switchbacks to the spring. Get there early to hear the birds in the morning and watch the sunlight filter through the trees. As the air warms, the scent from the eucalyptus trees becomes more prominent.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do


Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm  I wouldn’t have expected this quaint place to have been one of my favourites, but it really is a sweet little garden. Admission is $3/$2 for new/returning visitors. They have a little shop that will instantly relax you with the scent of lavender. I’m not big on coffee, but their lavender coffee with a touch of lavender infused honey is wonderfully smooth to sip on as you stroll through the gardens. If you bring your own travel mug, your first coffee is free! They have a little scavenger hunt game you can play which, if you complete it, you will be rewarded with some lavender shortbread cookies (not gluten-free unfortunately, but they do have gluten-free lavender and coconut macaroons as well as lavender sweet potato chips). We also saw the famous Jackson Chameleon here! If you want to make a day of the drive here, continue up the steep and narrow road for hiking at Poli Poili Springs State Park.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do
This chameleon is trying to camouflage itself, but we still saw it!


Volunteer  There are many opportunities to volunteer on Maui. As well as helping the environment, it’s a great way to meet new people and get to see new places. We just missed turtle nesting season and couldn’t participate in the turtle watch with the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, but I did go out on a turtle survey with the Hawksbill Recovery Project where we searched for the rare Hawksbill Turtle (we didn’t see one, but we did clean up a bunch of fishing line hopefully saving a turtle from becoming entangled). I also confronted my fear of jellyfish on this swim when we swam through seemingly endless clouds of white jellies.

If organised volunteering doesn’t fit with your schedule, you can still help by picking up garbage while you’re at the beach. If you’re really lucky, you may just stumble across a new pair of Ray-Bans that somebody lost…


Best of Maui – Sea

Get Naked  Is there anything better than swimming naked in the ocean while watching the sun set? Nudity on public beaches is not illegal on Maui, but you aren’t going to see many people taking advantage of this. The general rule is, if there’s no one around, feel free to strip down. Even people passing by won’t say anything and, if they do, there’s nothing else they can do about it. If you prefer to be at a more designated clothing-optional beach, you have two choices.

The first is Paia’s Secret Beach. There is no vehicle access to this beach, so park at Paia Bay and walk through the small wooded area on the west side (left if you’re facing the water) or park at Baldwin Cove and follow the path along the seawall. We pretty much had this beach to ourselves, sharing it mostly with the turtles.

Popular Little Beach is a fun place to hang out with a good hippie vibe. On Sunday evenings, there is a drum circle that plays until sunset. Once it gets dark, fire dancers come out to light up the beach with their talent. The Maui police aren’t so fond of people dancing here after dark though and may come by to fine the fire dancers and send everybody home early. If you plan on staying at Little Beach past 8pm, make sure you park on the road instead of the parking lot so your car doesn’t get locked in when the gates close. Also, bring a flashlight of some kind. The trail runs over a steep cliff and is a bit treacherous at night.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do
Little Beach is on the other side of the small cliff.


Scuba Diving  I have been wanting to do this my whole life and finally got my chance thanks to Maui Dive Shop! As someone who loves being in and on the water, I thought I would have no problems learning to dive. Admittedly though, I did panic on that first decent. Luckily, I breathed through it and once I consciously realised I was breathing, I was able to enjoy the magic of being underwater. Our instructor was laid-back, patient, and encouraging. During the second tank dive, I even had the instructor all to myself! I will absolutely do my open water certification with Maui Dive Shop as their prices are the most reasonable I’ve seen. Now I just have to wait for the Canadian dollar to catch up with the American dollar…                 This dive was provided courtesy of Maui Dive Shop.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do, beaches, diving
Visibility was low on our first dive, but that doesn’t take away from the experience of breathing underwater!


Jaws  If you happen to be lucky enough to be on Maui when Jaws is going off, it is quite something to watch people surfing 35 foot waves. Getting to viewpoint is an adventure in itself. The long, dirt road is accessible to 4WD vehicles only, but even then I wouldn’t trust my driving skills. If something is happening at Jaws though, you can hitch a ride from anyone else driving the road. I was worried about meeting my maker when I went scuba diving, but when our truck carrying ten people in the back almost flipped on a pot-hole, I learned a new kind of fear.


Best of Maui
This was when the waves at Jaws had died down a bit…


Whale Songs  This is the only sound in the ocean that gets loud enough to even drown out the crackling sounds of tiny shrimp living in the coral (if you haven’t heard this shrimp yet, they are loud). Whale season is from December to April. Put on your snorkel gear and see if you can hear these giant mammals talking to each other!

Snorkelling  On the days you can’t scuba dive, you can snorkel! My favourite spot so far is at Kapalua Bay for the sheer number and variety of marine life. It’s also the only place I’ve seen unicorn fish – because I love unicorns – so it’s even more special to me. If you get tired of swimming, the Kapalua Coastal Trail starts here and is a stunning walk along the coast. No matter where you go snorkelling, you are bound to find something. Every time I go out snorkelling, I see something new. One person I talked to had even seen two octopus at Kamaole I Beach! My favourite finds have been the Spanish dancer nudibranch and watching a squid change colour.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do, beaches


Paddle Boarding  This sport isn’t as easy as it looks. While it seems tranquil, it’s actually quite a good workout. Read our Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Maui post for details.

Surfing  If feeling like your body has literally been beat up by the ocean sounds like your idea of a good time, surfing on Maui is an ideal place to realise this dream. Seriously though, you get a wicked workout doing something fun. And unlike surfing in Tofino, you don’t have to wear a wetsuit.


Best of Maui – Food and Drink

Kombucha  Not for everybody, this fermented drink is one of my favourite treats – and one of my favourite ways of getting my probiotics. I don’t know why Maui has such a huge kombucha scene, but you can find this drink everywhere. There are craft kombucha breweries and tasting rooms in different towns. We even saw it on tap at a local beer brewery!

Lava Java  While they do make all sorts of coffees, I’m not sure anybody orders anything besides the frozen mocha. I don’t know what’s in this drink that makes it better than any other frozen coffee drink, but it’s super addictive. Most of our budget gets blown buying these.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do


Mana Foods  A wonderful grocery store in Paia carrying local and organic foods. We come here specifically for the gluten-free macadamia nut pie. Think pecan pie (which they also have), but substitute creamy mac nuts in place of pecans. They have never had a lot of these when we’ve gone in, so I would suggest going early to avoid disappointment. Gluten-free or not, our whole family can’t stop eating these!

S & Q Coffee Shack  If you need a bit more food in your coffee, you have to try the Crazy Mac Nut Shake. This milkshake is made with espresso and real macadamia nuts. My personal favourite drink on Maui.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do


Farmers Markets  We always stock up on fresh, tropical fruits to make delicious smoothies. The Maui onions are deliciously sweet and the purple potatoes make a great garlic mashed potato dish. There are farmers markets all over the island. Some are only open on specific days while others are open regularly.

Billie Jackson’s Fresh Fish  Buy fresh fish from the white van parked alongside South Kihei Rd. Billie is super friendly and you can call ahead if you want to see what was caught that day. Alternatively, if you’re in Napili, you can choose from a selection of fresh fish at Fish Market Maui.


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do, gluten-free


Maui Sugar Shop  Located in Lahaina (opening a second location soon), this gluten-free bakery has all kinds of mouth-watering treats.

Maui Brick Oven  A 100% gluten-free restaurant right in Kihei! As a celiac, it’s been years since I’ve been able to have onion rings and mozzarella sticks, but not any longer. We filled up on these appetizers before our fabulous pizza even made it to the table. Also, bottomless iced tea!


Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do, gluten-free
Fresh veggies and loads of cheese on this gluten-free pizza!


Hawaiian Moon Natural Foods  A natural foods grocery store in Kihei with an outstanding collection of reef-safe sunscreen. Reef-safe sunscreens are not only better for the environment, they are better for you. The chemical ingredients in commercial sunscreens can be absorbed by the body and interfere with the endocrine system. Hawaii is currently working to ban all reef unfriendly sunscreens (you can read more about that here).

This grocery store also has a great hot food and salad bar with lots of vegan and gluten-free options for those days you just don’t feel like cooking.


Please share your favourite Maui tips with me!


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No matter what your budget, you will have a memorable time exploring the best of what Maui has to offer without ever having to worry about being bored!







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19 Replies to “Best of Maui – Free, Affordable & Awesome Things to Do”

  1. Awesome post Jennifer👍👍
    Now I can’t wait to go back in 90 odd days!….
    With my drone…..

  2. Those waves! 😳 it must be epic to sit and watch the surfers doing their thing there. Gluten-free pizza and snacks must have been the dream for you!

  3. Adding this place to the bucket list for future trips


  4. it’s a dream of mine to visit Maui (and the big island). Loads of good information

    1. We were hoping to go to the Big Island on our next trip too, but couldn’t justify the extra cost:( I am confident we will have opportunity to explore more of the islands though:)

  5. Great read and I absolutely love all your photos! Maui is definitely on my list of places to visit 🙂

  6. Wow. Thanks for the fantastic and thorough read. I cannot imagine what you would add to the list on your next visit. I have never been to Maui. We are headed to Kauai next year, but after your recommendations, we might have to make a side trip to Maui. I would love to do the lavender gardens, but think i’ll stay away from swimming nude 🙂

    1. Maui always has something, but I do agree that each trip will (probably) get more relaxed. I do love hiking though, so hopefully we can focus more on that in March.

  7. Thanks for the comprehensive post! I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and enjoy all it has to offer. I’d love the waterfalls and the ocean most of all.

  8. Love your Jaws picture. I have been surfing for a couple of years now, but I don’t think I would ever attempt that. Way too much wave for me. The Road to Hana is a world class experience. The climate changes so much as you work around the rain shadow of the mountain. You go from the lush tropics to dry arid land at almost the drop of a hat. The changes in nature are a wonderful thing to observe.

    1. I would not be brave enough to go out into those waves either. They don’t look too intimidating until you see how small the person is on them. Or until a surfer bails.

  9. Cool article. I definitely don’t think free or cheap when I consider Maui. You’ve given lots of opportunities though. You mentioned the drink with the macadamia nuts—my friend who lives in Maui uses them for everything, including drinks. I love seeing posts of his cooking skills. 😉

    1. Yeah, those mac nut shakes are neither free nor cheap, especially if you’re from Canada, but I just can’t resist. I’m not a great cook, but I find if you just add some fresh fruit and mac nuts to whatever you’re cooking, it turns out pretty well:)

  10. Maui seems like an exceptional travel destination and with your tips, it can be an excellent budget travel destination. I would love to try diving there, Jen and Laura. 😉

    1. It takes some careful planning and some willpower if you’re on a tight budget. There are so many amazing excursions, but they aren’t cheap. Pick one or two within your budget and then stick to snorkelling, hiking, and beaching:) I have couchsurfed on Oahu, so it is possible to find affordable accommodation (camping is also an option). We are privileged that our parents pay for a car rental, but there is public transit on the island as well.

  11. What captured my interest the most were the hikes. Waihou Spring Trail with its eucalyptus scent and the Poli Poili Springs State Park both sound fabulous. You also mentioned a lavender farm, which I would not miss.

  12. Maui sounds marvellous! I’d love to visit. I really like the way there are places with a hippie vibe like Paia! The whole place looks gorgeous 🙂

  13. Having seen you guys paddle board I’d be definitely up for that. I learnt to snorkel in O’ahu (strange given I grew up in Australia) and so I would be right at home snorkelling here. Great list of free things to do. I think many people forget that by getting out into nature, so many wonderful things are always on offer for free and are just as good if not better than things with a big price tag.

  14. Hawaii is the stuff that dreams are made of. Maui sounds like a place where the dream never ends. o many things to see and experience in this lovely place could spend weeks if not months on this paradise. Hiking is something apart from snorkelling that I would spend maximum time on.

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