There are so many ways to enjoy your summer days on Maui. Yes, the island will be slammed with visitors, but the days are also long enough for all of us to take a moment to enjoy what Maui has to offer. Here’s a selection of tours by land, air and sea that you can take on your own, with friends, or recommend to others looking for ways to spend their days this summer.
A self-guided walking tour is a serene way to spend an afternoon. If you prefer narration, several island gardens and farms offer them, if you give them fair warning. Or you can hop aboard the Maui Country Farm Tour bus that will guide you through the scenic drive and sights along the way. You can also choose to tour botanical gardens or even a goat farm. Some experiences offer food to taste, while others offer collections of native plants or fruits; either way, you’re guided on your own two feet.
The recent trend towards locally crafted brews and spirits hasn’t been lost on Maui. Tasting rooms and tours are all the rage now. Visits to these locally crafted liquors present a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce Maui-made beer and grog, a fast growing industry in our county.
Maui Brewing Company
Their newest Kihei facility is a gorgeous, cutting-edge brewing machine. A trip behind the back doors of the tasting room will run you just $5, and it includes a flight of their flagship beers. The tours run about 40 minutes, and because it’s a rambunctious operation, expect things to be running full speed ahead in the brewing facility. You’ll get to see and smell where the beer is brewing, check out the packaging, peek at the lab where yeast strains are kept and finally drink the beer made right there at the end of the tour, which takes place in the tasting room. That room also offers 30 taps of beer, all made on the premises. There’s also a rotation of food trucks from 11am to 9pm and live music most evenings at 5pm. $5. 605 Lipoa Pkwy., Kihei; 808-213-3002; Mauibrewingco.com
Haliimaile Distillery Tour and Tasting Room
You can do a tour package with Maui Pineapple Tours in which you see pineapple grown for some of their products, or just show up at the distillery and catch a tour. This distillery makes four bottled brands: Pau Vodka, Maui Moon Vodka, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum and Paniolo Whiskey. The Pau Vodka is made with Maui grown pineapple; the small batch stills that master distiller Mark Nigbur designed to proof that alcohol look like something taken from a mad scientist’s lab. The Maui Moon Vodka comes in a tiki bottle with flavors like pineapple orange guava and chocolate macadamia nut. The Paniolo Whiskey barrels sit along the wall outside the tasting room. Chances are you’ll see Mark’s son Corey Nigbur working in the distillery. Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum is available in all of Sammy Hagar’s restaurants nationwide, and production of this cane rum is frenetic and ongoing at the distillery. $10. 883 Hali‘imaile Rd., Makawao; 808-633-3609; Haliimailedistilling.com
Ocean Vodka and Wave Rum Farm Tour
Most of this distillery tour is spent outside. You’ll stroll alongside their organic sugarcane crops. They have a collection of Polynesian sugarcane as well. The chickens that serve as pest control for the cane fields often accompany you. You’ll also get to see their industrial cane juicer that chews up the stalks and spits out the sweet cane juice vital to their vodka and rum. Their vodka is organic and gluten-free, and made with deep sea mineral water imported from Kona. The bottling is done inside the distillery, and you’ll see how innovative the line has to be to bottle those award-winning, glass float-inspired blue bottles. At the end of the tour, you’ll taste the vodka, rum and the mineral water that goes into blending these two superb spirits.
In the gift shop, they sell lots of different bottle sizes for you to take some home, and they even have a martini herb garden where they encourage you to clip some herbs to take with you. $10, ages 12 and older. $25 lunch tours with reservations. 4051 Omaopio Rd., Kula; 808-877-0009; Oceanvodka.com
The historic King’s Cottage tasting room in Ulupalakua is well worth the drive. Complimentary tasting of the wines and tours of the historic Ulupalakua Ranch are all part of the experience in this unique area of that sits at a 2000 foot elevation. One look at the gorgeous surroundings and you’ll know why King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani loved the spot (historical photos and heritage timelines in the King’s Cottage fill you in on the old days). Newly branded as Maui Winery, their estate wines are coming along under the tutelage of Viniculturalist/Winemaker Brett Miller, President Paula Hegle and Marketing Manager Joe Hegle. Syrah, voigner, rose, chenin blanc, and the rose ranch and pineapple wines are just some of the wines available. With plans to open another tasting room for the expanding vintages and varietals of estate wines, and the possibility of doing more vineyard tours by request, Maui Winery plans to put more Maui-made wines on your mind and in your glass. 14815 Pi‘ilani Hwy., Kula; 808-878-6058; Mauiwine.com
Other walking tours
Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farms – Take a lavender-scented stroll Upcountry, and see the several different varieties of the plant that are grown here. $3 entry or $12 guided tours several times daily. Visit the gift shop for Maui Lavender products. 1100 Waipoli Rd., Kula; 808-878-3004; Aliikulalavender.com
Camp Maui – Get a camping kit with tent and explore the terrain on your own. Camping permits obtained on your own. Campmaui.net
Enchanting Floral Gardens – It’s an idyllic stroll among tropical and exotic plants and trees. Enjoy a stop at the Kula Fields Farmshop for lunch, coffee or locally made products. $7.50 adult, $5 kama‘aina, $3 ages 6-12. 2505 Kula Hwy., Kula; Enchantingfloralgardens.com
Garden of Eden – Feast your eyes on more than 500 labeled tropical plants. $15/person. 10600 Hana Hwy., Haiku; 808-572-9899; Mauigardenofeden.com
Hike Maui – Guided adventures on Maui’s trails. Hikemaui.com
Keanae Arboretum – Six acres of tropical plants that are open to the public at no charge. Mile marker 16.5, Hana Hwy, Keanae.
Kahanu Garden – Give yourself plenty of time to take in the Pi‘ilanihale heiau, the thatched canoe hale, Hala forest and large collection of breadfruit trees. $10 ages 13 and up. 650 Ulaino Rd., Hana; 808-248-8912; Kahanu.ntbg.org
Kula Botanical Gardens – Self-guided garden tours at your leisure. $10 adult, $6 ages 12-6, under 6 free. 638 Kekaulike Ave., Kula; 808-878-1715; Kulabotanicalgarden.com
Kula Country Farms – Seasonal strawberry picking, childrens garden and golf, hay stacks, and outdoor country market. Kula Hwy, across from Rice Park. 808-878-8381, www.kulacountryfarmsmaui.com
Maui Country Farm Tours – Private tours to Maui’s farms. $150/person. Mauicountryfarmtours.com
MauiGrown Coffee – Sample 100 percent Maui-origin coffee and take the self-guided tour. 277 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina; 808-661-2728; Mauigrowncoffee.com
Maui Hawaiian Village Tour – Tour a restored Hawaiian village and take part in many traditional practices and activities. Call for prices. 808-244-2221; Mauihawaiianvillage.com
Maui Nui Botanical Gardens – Native Polynesian collection and self-guided tours, $5 adult, $3 kama‘aina, keiki and kupuna free. 150 Kanaloa Ave., Kahului; 808-249-2798; Mnbg.org
Maui Pineapple Tour – This two-hour in depth look at pineapple leaves from the Hui Noeau Visual Center. Mauipineappletour.com
Maui Tropical Plantation – Take the tram around the plantation and learn about their different tropical plants and crops. 1670 Honoapi‘ilani Hwy., Waikapu; 800-451-6805; Mtpmaui.com
O‘o Farms – Lunch and farm tours. $58. Oofarm.com
Surfing Goat Dairy – Tour the farm, taste phenomenal cheese and chocolate and see lots of goats. Drop in farm visits $12 adult, $8 children. 3651 Omaopio Rd., Kula; 808-878-2870; Surfinggoatdairy.com
I’m always up for adventure on the high seas. Of course, by “high seas” I mean the relatively calm ocean surrounding Maui. One of the easiest and most rewarding trips to incorporate into your busy schedule is an evening sunset cruise or sail. The Kai Kanani leaving off the beach in Makena offers a once-a-month Capische? Sunset Cruise with Chef Christopher Kulis. There are really great advantages to having a rock star chef, like fancy pupus, surf and turf and paired wines. The menu and offerings are seasonal–the chef says he usually does a fresh salad, crudo and fish dish–but really, he changes it up every time.
The Kai Kanani does their sunset sail trip every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with check-ins at 4:30pm. If you’re not on the monthly Capische? trip, there’s still a terrific spread with champagne, beer and cocktails. The impressive 65-foot luxury catamaran picks you up on the shore fronting the Makena Golf and Beach Resort, so wear something you don’t mind getting wet. They’ll give you big plastic bags to put around your own totes so they stay dry.
As soon as you’re aboard, the captain briefs you on boat safety. Then it’s full steam ahead–the party starts with charcuterie pupus of cheese, salami and mortadella while you sip prosecco or one of their beers on tap. They also offer other cocktails and wines, but don’t expect any red wine (no one wants to scrub that off the boat’s white deck).
The Kai Kanani has the distinction of being the only beach-launched catamaran in Makena, and they also offer a couple snorkeling trips to Molokini, since it just takes them 15 minutes to get there.
But I wasn’t interested in snorkeling when I went aboard. It was a windy day for my sunset cruise, but the catamaran ride was still very smooth. As we cruised toward Wailea, Chef Kulis was busy whipping up dishes like a farro and summer squash salad and a ahi crudo with sliced caper berries and peppers.
Kulis says cooking on board can be tricky, so some of his courses like the pesto shells with pepitas come pre-cooked. But for the surf and turf opakapaka dish with Kula veggies and short rib ragu, he pan-fried the fish on a hot plate in the galley.
Bruddah Dwight played music while the sun settled near the horizon. After the last dessert dish of S’mores in a jar was finished, we were just about back to the Makena Golf and Beach Resort. The Kai Kanani picks up resort passengers in the Wailea area for its boat trips, and a number of guests were getting back that way. To see the different charters available or book one for yourself, call 808-879-7218 or go to Kaikanani.com.
Other exceptional and fun nautical activities
Romantic sunset sails Mon., Wed., Fri. and Sun. Ma‘alaea Harbor. 800-542-3483. Aliinuimaui.com
Molokai is one of the last frontiers of Maui County. No stoplights, no fast lanes, no cell phone signals. Lahaina Harbor. 808-667-9266, Molokaiferry.com
Island Rhythms Sunset Cruise
Live music with Marty Dread on Fridays, except May 29 when Ras Shaggai will perform. Heavy pupus, cocktails. Ma‘alaea Harbor, Pacificwhale.org
Stargazing with Harriet Witt
Check the Pacific Whale Foundation website for full moon and new moon dates, cocktails, heavy pupus, and dessert. Lahaina Harbor, Pacificwhale.org
Pride of Maui
Dinner cruise buffet style, full cocktail bar, live music. Ma‘alaea Harbor. Prideofmaui.com
Two boats, gourmet dinner or heavy pupus sunset cruise options. Ka‘anapali departure. 808-661-0365, Teralani.net
They offer Aloha Friday adults-only sunset sail; gourmet dinner sail; and other family-friendly sails. Ma‘alaea, Ka‘anapali, Lahaina departures. 808-874-5649, Sailtrilogy.com
We Paddle Maui
Hawaiian canoe adventures from West Maui. Beautiful trips, historic area, fun for the whole family. Lahaina departures. 808-499-9431, Facebook.com/WePaddleMaui
Taking flight over Maui in helicopter will give you a perspective you might never have thought possible. You never really see so much of the island, and the unexplored mountain regions that are only visible from the air will blow your mind. Riding in a helicopter may be a once in a life event, or you may find that you like to take to the sky like a bird. The sensation of taking off in a helicopter is very different than a plane, and you’ll likely find that you can hover over mountains and right next to sea cliffs. If you love hard-to-find waterfalls, this may be the best way to see them all.
Maverick Helicopters just completed a million-dollar build-out at their Kahului Helipad headquarters. Their building has an outdoor area with waterfalls, a climate controlled interior, comfy leather couches and gift shop. The company hails from the Las Vegas, Nevada area. They’ve been flying guests to the Grand Canyon and over the Strip for many years, but this is their first venture outside the Southwest. Maverick currently flies more than 200,000 guests annually and operates 47 Airbus EC130 ECO-Star helicopters in total. For now, they’ve based three of those birds in Kahului. They comfortably seat four people in the back and four up front, including the pilot. Inside, you’re surrounded by head-to-toe windows.
I was able to fly Maverick to Molokai earlier this month, a route I hadn’t seen offered by helicopter before. Their was some heavy cloud cover, so it wasn’t safe for us to fly directly over the West Maui Mountains or the Molokai range. Nevertheless, we zoomed up and over ridges, seeing waterfalls and lush mountainsides that we’d never see otherwise. Deep in Halawa Valley and over on Molokai’s sharp sea cliffs, we witnessed Mother Nature’s best kept secrets.
Since we hit the clouds, our pilot offered a bird’s eye view of shipwreck beach on Lanai. We also flew over the gorgeous rock formations in Kahakuloa, Honokahau and Honolua Valleys, then got a grand view of Lahaina, Olowalu and the windmills. Our pilot made sure each of the passengers saw all the vantage points, even flying back around if we missed anything.
Visibility through these big windows was good enough to take plenty of photos, but if you missed anything, you can purchase DVDs of your trip after you return to Kahului. They also let you take pictures with the pilot as you board and exit the copter.
Maverick offers three tours: the Maui Dream–a full island excursion–at $399/person; the Molokai Voyage–which covers West Maui and Molokai–for $369/person; and the Maui Spirit adventure–which highlights Haleakala and Hana–for $329/person. Exclusive charters are also available by request. To book a tour, visit FlyMaverick.com/Maui or call 800-978-0266.
Air Maui Helicopter Tours
Tours include Hana, Haleakala, West Maui and Molokai. Kama‘aina 30 percent off; Costco membership gift cards: 45-min tour for $199, 65-min for $247; $100 last-minute seats. 808-877-7005; Airmaui.com
This aviation company serves all four major islands. Tours range in price from $150 to $500. Bluehawaiian.com
The only helicopter tour to take off from the exclusive rooftop heliport on the Hyatt Maui in Ka‘anapali, they specialize in Molokai tours and a Haleakala excursion. $299. 808-667-heli; Jurassichelicopters.com
They offer tours of the Grand Canyon as well as Hawaii. Find deals online and book their early bird specials. They also have combo trips like helicopter and horseback. $210-470. 808-871-0722; Sunshinehelicopters.com