A cliff diver honors the last chief of Maui with a nightly sunset cliff dive off of Black Rock on Kaanapali Beach. // © 2013 Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa
Time and again, Maui has proven itself as a destination for visitors on all budgets.
While it can be easy running up a big bill exploring the island’s rich sightseeing, shopping, dining and nightlife scene, the island is equally abundant in activities that cost little or nothing.
Here are five of the many great ways to spend time, not money, enjoying Maui.
Learn About History
As Hawaii’s former capital, Lahaina features fascinating landmarks including the Baldwin House, Seaman’s Hospital and Lahaina Jodo Mission, all easy to find with the Lahaina Visitor Center’s self-guided tour map. Nearby, on the Kaanapali Historical Trail, walkers can visit 10 significant sites in the resort, all marked by plaques. Among them: an 1890s horseracing track and a lava rock promontory from which 18th-century high chief Kahekili leapt into the sea. The Sheraton Maui recreates this feat each night at sunset.
Party on Fridays
Four little towns make a big splash at the end of each work week thanks to Maui Fridays, an ongoing series of casual outdoor parties where visitors can mingle with residents. Throughout each evening, folks can check out the colorful shops and galleries that stay open late, sample locally-prepared dishes, watch artists and craftsmen work their wonders and listen to live music. Wailuku hosts the first Friday party of the month, with the second in Lahaina, third in Makawao and fourth in Kihei.
Stroll the Park
The 4,000-acre Iao Valley State Park boasts a lush rainforest, an interactive nature center and a 1,200-foot-high peak called Iao Needle. But it’s more than just a beautiful place for a walk; it’s also steeped in local history and culture. Here, during the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790, King Kamehameha defeated Maui’s army as part of his goal to unite the Hawaiian islands. It costs $1 for walk-ins and $5 per car, which is a small price to pay for the chance to savor the spiritual and visual gifts of nature in central Maui.
Take a Drive
Hugging the island’s northern coast from Kahului to the easternmost hamlet of Hana, the Hana Highway is not to be rushed. Visitors should allow a full day to roll along its 52-mile expanse, crossing 59 bridges and winding around 620 curves. Favorite stops along the way include farm stands, mom-and-pop markets, voluptuous waterfalls and gardens and lookouts with spectacular ocean views. Travelers should allow extra time to explore Hana’s charms before enjoying the journey back.
Watch the Whales
Visitors have two choices for watching the whales who migrate to Hawaii each winter. Though it is highly worthwhile to spend money on a narrated cruise, visitors can stand on shore and get an eyeful for free. From December to May, the humpbacks are especially easy to spot in the warm, shallow Auau Channel between west Maui, Lanai and Molokai. A pair of binoculars comes in handy, but gear is not essential to see the graceful creatures leap and spout.