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15 best things to do in Kahului (Hawaii)

best things to do in Kahului (Hawaii)

15 best things to do in Kahului (Hawaii)

The largest settlement on Mau is also the island’s commercial and transportation hub. Kahului benefits from a regional airport, which is helpful for helicopter tours over Maui’s magnificent but challenging landscapes.

You’ll also be in a convenient location for unforgettable road trips east along the Hana Highway or through West Maui, encountering incredible volcanic landscapes, waterfalls, rugged coastlines, and world-class beaches.

Closer to home, you’ll also have easy access to the beaches of Maui’s North Shore, with some of the best conditions on the planet for board sports like surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.

There’s world-class culture and entertainment at the Maui Arts and Culture Center, as well as endless inspiration for day trips to botanical gardens, absorbing museums, markets, and stunning natural landmarks.

1. Kanaha Beach Park

East of Kahului is a line of recreational beaches that could rival anyone in the world. The first one parallels the airport and is blessed with dreamy views across Kahului Bay to rugged West Maui.

Kanaha Beach has a worldwide reputation for board sports like windsurfing and kitesurfing, and conditions are rarely less than perfect for these activities, especially towards the western end.

For everyone else, there’s an attractive but un-touristy strip of pale sand, complemented by barbecues, picnic tables, beach volleyball, a campground, and all the usual park facilities.

If you want to escape the crowds, stroll along the quieter east side, and you will have a large stretch of sand almost to yourself.

2. Hana Highway

Kahului is at the western end of a point-to-point drive to remember, curling around eastern Maui for 64.4 miles.

The Hana Highway incorporates Hawaii’s Routes 36 and 360, and it’s like few car trips you’ve ever experienced.

For most of the route, you will drive through lush rainforest and have dozens of opportunities to get out and discover a pristine waterfall, pristine beach, spectacular coastal feature, or beautifully manicured tropical garden.

The Hana Highway takes a full day, especially since it is an excessively winding route, crossing 59 bridges, many of which date back to the early 1900s and are only one lane wide.

From west to east, some of the many highlights are Ho $ 0027okipa Beach Park, Twin Falls, Huelo Lookout, Garden of Eden Arboretum, the stunning Keanae Peninsula, Pua’a Ka’a Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hamoa Beach, and sensational Wailua Falls.

3. West Maui Circle Drive

Kahului is in a great location if you want to continue your odyssey along the Maui coastline, this time along the majestic North Shore.

Often very narrow, West Maui Circle Drive has a reputation for being harsh, but you won’t have a problem in a rental car if you drive sensibly and take precautions.

The prospect of breathtaking landscapes should dispel any doubt, and some places that will remain in your memory are Lipoa Point, Punalau Beach, Nakalele Blowhole, Kahakuloa Head, and Waihee Ridge.

Take the trip clockwise for extra peace of mind. Before you reach Lipoa Point, there are several beautiful tourist beaches at Launiupoko Beach Park, Kaanapali Beach, and Kahekili Beach Park.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for the typical Hawaiian bites on the stands along the route, like Julia’s much-loved banana bread in Wailuku.

4. Iao Valley State Park

One of Maui’s legendary natural landmarks is just five miles west of Kahului in a steep, stream-carved valley covered in thick rainforest.

People come to see the feature of the needle-shaped Iao Spire, a remnant of lava that rises 370 meters above the valley floor.

It is often shrouded in clouds, so it’s a good idea to get there early in the day when the view from the top of the ridge is mesmerizing.

Ten miles of the valley is protected as a state park, and you can head along for hikes through the rainforest and learn more about this landscape at the attached Hawaii Nature Center.

Travel to Balearic Islands

The Iao Valley has an exciting but bloody past, as the scene of a brutal victory for King Kamehameha I in 1790 during his attempt to unify the Hawaiian Islands. 

5. Baldwin Beach Park

Baldwin Beach Park is a beautiful white sand beach lined with palm trees and ironwood just past the airport.

It’s easy to see why this beach is so successful with North Shore families who flock here on weekends.

There is a long and relatively wide sand arch washed by medium surf. It is not necessarily a swimming beach, but designated areas are on the eastern and western ends (Baldwin Cove and Baby Beach). At the same time, the center is not considered safe, especially in winter.

There is a lifeguard on duty at Baldwin Beach Park and picnic areas, restrooms, drinking water, and sports facilities for soccer, baseball, and cricket.

6. Windsurfing and Kitesurfing

Seeing the kaleidoscope of kites and sails on Kanaha Beach, you may be tempted to try your hand at windsurfing or kitesurfing, and you couldn’t pick a better place to learn.

Of the two sports, kitesurfing is easier to learn and more suitable for younger family members.

A complete directory of Kahului-based companies ready to offer tuition, such as HST Windsurfing Kitesurfing School, Kanaha Kai, Maui Windsurf Company, and Second Wind Sail, Surf Kite.

Due to the nature of these activities, lessons are private or semi-private, and absolute newbies will spend a lot of time in drylands.

Once you get some proficiency, some schools will hook you up with a GoPro camera and communicate by radio. Beginner lessons start early in the day as the wind picks up as the day progresses.

7. Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC)

Hawaii’s most comprehensive multi-disciplinary art venue opened in Kahului in 1994.

From high-profile indoor and outdoor concerts to movie screenings, dance performances, and art shows, there are nearly 1,700 events at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center each year. Surprisingly, almost a quarter of these are free to attend.

Some of the top names to take the stage here are Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, and John Prine, as well as dozens of top Hawaiian acts like Amy Hānaialiʻi Gilliom and Keali’i Reichel.

If you come during the day, check out the Schaefer International Gallery, which hosts up to five museum-quality exhibitions each year.

8. Helicopter Tours

Being next to a regional airport has many advantages, especially on an island where 80% of the landscape is impenetrable by road.

The only way to experience the full beauty of Maui and the neighboring islands is to book an in-flight tour.

A few companies are waiting to show you, including Air Maui, Maui Helicopter Tours, Maverick Helicopter Tours, Pacific Helicopter Tours, and Blue Hawaiian.

You will have to choose between flight patterns, most combining two or more views and all presenting you with landscapes that almost defy belief.

A popular route takes you over the rainforest in Hana, before overlooking the immense Haleakalā shield that occupies three-quarters of the island’s landmass and has a crater more than 800 meters deep.

Or you can land in the rainforest on the 75-minute Hana Rainforest helicopter tour via West Maui is no less dramatic, and a time will combine majestic waterfalls and mountains, as well as the mighty cliffs at neighboring Molokai.

9. Hale Hōʻikeʻike in the Bailey House

For a fascinating look at Hawaiian pre-European contact, you can head to this museum, run by the Maui Historical Society and set on lush grounds.

Founded as a mission, the Bailey House is just minutes west in Wailuku and has been standing since 1833, blending Western architecture with traditional Hawaiian stone.

The exhibit features a beautiful collection of pre-western contact artifacts, the largest in Maui County.

On display is an image of the temple of Kamapuaʻa (the joking pig demigod), preserved Kapa bark cloth, used for clothing and bedding, leis of different materials, a hulking wooden spear, and sumptuous paintings of the unspoiled landscapes of Maui.

Also fascinating but slightly poignant are the colorful shells that belong to Maui’s diverse land snail species, many of which are now extinct.

10. Horse riding

Another way to find the problematic terrain of West Maui is on all fours, and if you travel a little further up the coast from Kahului, you will arrive at Rancho Mendes.

It is a working ranch owned by a family that came to Maui from the Azores in 1886. The Mendes family took over this property in the 1940s and offered 90-minute morning and afternoon walks.

These take you along the edge of an idyllic valley to the Pacific for magnificent ocean views before returning to the corral.

It is a group activity, but you can arrange a private trail trip for up to six people, and the ranch also offers a morning trip combined with a West Maui helicopter tour. 

11. Ho’okipa Beach Park

Up ahead, from Baldwin Beach Park, you’ll be at one of Maui’s favorite spots for water activities.

Ho’okipa has been on surfers’ radars since the 1930s, and this is due to a reef system that runs the length of the bay, allowing perfectly formed waves to break.

Those waves can get huge, so the beach is more for experienced surfers, but there is plenty for more casual visitors to enjoy.

The scenery is breathtaking, especially from the high viewpoint on the east side, where you’ll get a magnificent view of the surfers and windsurfers riding those waves. There is a food truck most days for comfort food and Hawaiian goodies.

And then, around sunset, the green sea turtles crawl onto the shore, and there is a guardian to make sure everyone stays at a safe distance.

12. Maui Zipline Company

A novel and familiar way to savor the incredible Maui scenery is suspended on a zip line, approaching the tropical Maui plantation just a few miles from Kahului.

Partly on a lake, the Maui Zipline Company has five lines, ranging in length from 300 to 900 feet.

Children as young as five can participate, and all lines are in tandem, so you can travel side-by-side with a friend or loved one.

Each line has a trained guide who tells you about the green flora around you, and if you lift your head, you’ll catch incredible views of the coastline, the West Maui Mountains, and of course, the vast Haleakalā volcano to the southeast.

13. Alexander Baldwin Sugar Museum

If you want to know more about the territorial history of Hawaii, you can visit a member of the Big Five, who dominated the economy in the early 1900s.

Alexander & amp; Baldwin is a sugar producer first established east of Kahului in the 1870s and now owns more than 87,000 acres throughout the state.

Found across the street from a dismantled refinery, Alexander & amp; Baldwin Sugar Museum documents the history of sugar and the life of Maui plantations for more than 150 years.

You will discover the extraordinary lengths Samuel Thomas Baldwin and Henry Perrine Baldwin took to make sugar production viable in a semi-arid part of the island, building a 17-mile aqueduct that took two years to complete.

Some impressive artifacts are on display, such as an old sugar cane tractor and the massive gears from the cone crushers. Also intriguing is a working miniature model of the old factory across the street.

14. Maui Swap Meet

Maui is famously expensive, but there are bargains at this weekly flea market, set up in the University of Hawaii Maui College parking lot on Saturday mornings.

The Maui Swap Meet has been running since 1981, and one of the things that makes it unique is the high proportion of locals who shop here.

You can spend a couple of hours potting stalls selling jewelry, fashion, plants, seasonal fruits and vegetables, Hawaiian art, and souvenirs, all with the West Maui mountains as a backdrop.

The Maui Swap Meet has excellent food like Hawaiian shaved ice, poke, tacos, BBQ, and much more.

15. Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

Maui College’s west side of the University of Hawaii is a botanical garden that preserves the island’s rich plant life.

There is a mix of native dry forests and coastal plants and many varieties introduced from Polynesia. Among the latter are some 40 types of sugar cane, 20 varieties of taro, and 15 types of sweet potato.

The garden practices water conservation techniques such as xeriscaping and educates visitors on saving water in home gardens.

There is a greenhouse, picnic area, and playground for children, and the garden hires local cultural professionals to demonstrate their crafts and knowledge to the public.

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Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Kahului, Hawaii

things to do in Kahului

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