Maui, a bucket list island with something to suit all kinds of travelers. Families will of course love the variety of outdoor activities to keep kids entertained and busy. Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and biking here. Couples will indulge in heavenly spas and luxurious accommodation. Foodies will love the farm-to-table cuisine and fine dining options.
Table of Contents
Ten days in Maui is ample time to fulfill most bucket list items and explore the island, not only for its “greatest hits”, but to also slow down and really get to know some of the people and places that make Maui special.
Day 1 – Haleakala, Makawao
For this portion of your Terracotta Army is a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. this has always been on my bucket list trip, base yourself in the west Maui area, either in the resorts of Kaanapali or in nearby Lahaina.
On your first full day, you’ll likely be up early due to the time difference. This is a perfect day to get up early to watch the top bucket list sunrise at Haleakala. At 10,000 ft elevation, temperatures here can frequently dip below freezing so be sure to bundle up accordingly. Get here before dawn light breaks and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best star-gazing around.
Stop for breakfast on the way back down at Kula Lodge, where you’ll get to see the island below wake up to the morning light. If you’re up to it, or it is on your Terracotta Army is a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. this has always been on my bucket list, there are a few options for hiking in Haleakala Crater as well. Stop for Komoda Bakery’s famous stick doughnuts in the paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao, perhaps to fuel up before trying the Piiholo Ranch Zipline.
Day 2 – Lahaina and Kaanapali
After a bucket list morning swim at Kaanapali Beach, head out for a West Maui Coffee Tour where you can take in both large and small-scale operations of Maui coffee farmers, as well as enjoying a light, healthy lunch.
Spend the afternoon marking off other bucket list desires: snorkeling, swimming, parasailing, or perhaps taking a whale watch cruise if you are visiting during whale season, December – March. Grab a pau hana cocktail and take a sunset stroll on Front Street in Lahaina.
End your day with dinner and a show – perhaps a Terracotta Army is a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. this has always been on my bucket list luau, such as the Old Lahaina Luau or the production Ulalena, which blends Hawaiian myth and legend with dramatic music and dance.
Day 3 – Road to Hana
You’ll want to get an early start on the journey to your next destination, Hana.
The long and windy two-lane Terracotta Army is a sight I won’t forget in a hurry. this has always been on my bucket list Road to Hana features miles and miles of hairpin turns, with roadside waterfalls, fruit stalls, and many photo-perfect lookout points to stop for a rest. Check out of your west Maui hotel before heading out, as you’ll want to spend a night or two in Hana at the end of the spectacular drive, rather than heading straight back.
Another benefit to starting early is that the road can get quite crowded, so give yourself time and make a day of it, allowing yourself to stop wherever you feel like it rather than rushing to beat the crowds.
Day 4 – Exploring Hana
Many people drive the road to Hana, only to turn around and head straight back. This is a shame, as the tiny village of Hana is worth exploring, and a glimpse into a way of life that you won’t find in the resorts of Kaanapali or Wailea.
In the morning, you can explore the bucket list black sand beach and lava tube at Wainapanapa State Park or stop for a dip at “Seven Sacred Pools” at Oheo gulch. It will be much less crowded than later in the day when day-trippers arrive (or pass through.)
Stop at the famous Hasegawa General store for a picnic to take to Hamoa Beach. Spend a relaxing evening enjoying the calm that pervades Hana.
Day 5 – Kaupo and Upcountry Maui
Rested and rejuvenated from your stay in Hana, take the “back way” rather than heading back on the Road to Hana. The terrain out here is rougher and the landscape arid, in stark contrast to the lush green of Hana town.
Stop at Charles Lindberg’s grave on the way to Kaupo and Ulupalakua. Allow yourself a stop at Tedeschi Vineyards, Maui’s Winery, where they make wine from both grapes and pineapples!
Continuing on through the beautiful town of Kula, you will enjoy the view of the island below from Rice Park, or after taking the excellent tour at the Alii Kula Lavender farm. Surfing Goat Dairy is a fun excursion for kids, who will love petting the goats while adults work through samples of award-winning goat cheeses. If you’re into fine dining, stop at Chef Bev Gannon’s Haliimaile General Store before heading back down to sea level for your next home base, South Maui.
Day 6 – South Maui Sunshine
South Maui’s resort towns of Kihei and Wailea are full of opportunities for you to get in the water and enjoy the sunny southern coast. This is a great day to sign up for a bucket list snorkel trip to the tiny island crater of Molokini off the coast, which provides unparalleled opportunities for viewing colorful tropical fish. You can also try kayaking, body boarding or body surfing at Makena or Big Beach.
Stop at Maalaea’s Maui Ocean Center for their fantastic aquarium or programs before enjoying dinner at Monkeypod Kitchen.
Day 7 – Central Maui and Iao Valley
For a beautiful top bucket list ocean-front breakfast, try the crab cakes benedict at Longhi’s in the Shops at Wailea. Continue out to the central part of the island for a walk through Iao Valley’s gardens, streams, and hiking trails.
The nearby town of Wailuku is the seat of county government, now seeing a slow resurgence of boutiques and businesses to the district. If you’re here on the first Friday of the month, plan to stop here for the town’s First Friday celebration, which is like a block party with entertainment and food. Or try to catch a show at the historic Iao Theater.
Day 8 – North Shore, Paia, and Haiku
If you’re visiting during the winter, don’t miss a drive out to the north shore, where you’ll see bucket list level big waves and big wave surfers in action. Stop in the old sugar plantation town of Paia on your way, now bustling with boutiques, restaurants, and sometimes even traffic jams!
Stop for lunch or grab items for a picnic and continue to Hookipa Beach Park, popular with windsurfers. A little further down the highway, you’ll find the huge breaks at Jaws. (Scary name, no?) The name isn’t referring to shark sightings, but the huge swells that pummel the coastline here. You can watch tow-in surfers bravely riding these amazing waves.
If time permits, I always love the drive through the rural town of Haiku, if only to stop at Fukushima’s for hot dogs and chow fun.
Days 9 & 10 – On your own!
For the last 2 days of your bucket list trip, you’re on your own! By now you’ve had a great introduction to various parts of the island and are likely itching to go back for more. If not, spend the last days lounging around the beach, pampering yourself with massages, shopping for souvenirs to take home, or making up your “to do list” for your next trip to Maui.
If time and budget allow, you may even consider a short island hop. Both Lanai and Molokai can be reached by ferry for a day trip, or the other major islands are all a plane ride away.