If you’ve visited Maui before, you’ve probably done many of the most popular activities.
You’ve snorkeled the best snorkel spots, hit the best Lahaina happy hours, driven the epic road to Hana, and taken in a sunset while enjoying a cocktail on the beach.
Or perhaps you haven’t yet been to Maui, but want to have an experience that’s a little more offbeat.
If you’re heading to Maui and looking for something different, look no further! Here are 5 Maui experiences you never even knew you wanted to have.
Offbeat Maui Experiences for the Adventurous Traveler
#1: Camp in a Volkswagen Westfalia
Maui is a destination that generally requires a rental car for getting around, but did you know you can rent campervans, too? We rented our white Volkswagen Westfalia from Cruisin Maui Rent-a-Car in Paia and had a camping experience of a lifetime.
Not only were we free to travel wherever we wanted knowing we didn’t have to backtrack to a hotel at the end of the day, but we got to experience some parts of the island we probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
Our rental came equipped with just about everything we needed, too–beach chairs and towels, snorkel gear, a cooler for any food we bought, a full kitchen set, and even drinking water (a major bonus!).
Many of Maui’s campsites are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, which does make some advance planning necessary, especially if it’s a busy time of year.
Camp Olowalu near Lahaina is a pretty epic spot to camp with a view of the West Maui Mountains on one side and beach access on the other, plus facilities like showers and toilets.
#2: Become a mermaid for a day
In Maui, I got to bring a childhood dream to life by becoming a mermaid for a day with Hawaii Mermaid Adventures! We slipped into our fins at Makena Landing and learned how to swim like true sea goddesses (and gods).
Your guide will first educate you on some important marine conservation issues and let you have your pick of neon colored mermaid tails. Then she’ll show you the ropes of swimming like a mermaid and finally set you free to explore the nearby reef.
You’ll be provided with a snorkel set so you can spot turtles, eels, brightly colored fish, and the occasional scuba diver. You can also test your mermaid aptitude by swimming through hoops suspended below the water’s surface.
And of course, your guide will carry a GoPro with them to take epic photos of the whole experience so you can prove to everyone back home that you were indeed #mermaidinginmaui.
#3: Drive the lesser-known Kahekili Highway
As far as Maui drives go, the road to Hana tends to get all the glory. But, if you’re pressed for time like we were, then you can always take on the hairpin turns of West Maui’s Kahekili Highway instead.
The road is narrow and winding and perched above epic views of the coastline, much like the Hana Highway. Along the way, there will be plenty of places to stop and enhance your adventure.
Worthy stops along the route include the Waihee Ridge Trail, the Olivine Pools, and the Nakalele Blowhole (where you can buy some pretty darn delicious banana bread).
You’ll also pass through a few tiny villages where you can stop for sustenance and some friendly alohas from the locals.
This drive does require a bit of caution, as the road is quite narrow (only one lane in places) and the stops along the coast have proven fatal for more than a few careless visitors. But, with a little patience and a little prudence, it’s sure to be a trip you’ll never forget.
#4: Cool off in the Iao Valley’s healing waters
Most people visit the Iao Valley (pronounced ‘ee-ow’) for a chance to see the famous landmark known as the Iao Needle, but it’s also a relaxing place to go for a short hike before cooling off in the stream, which many consider to be a source of healing.
During our visit, the path to the Iao Needle was closed for repairs, so we wandered along a forest trail on the left side of the stream before dipping into the waters below.
The scenery is enough to make you feel like you’ve gone back in time, and the valley possesses a unique and powerful sacred energy that is unmistakable. In my opinion, a trip to this scenic valley is an absolute must!
#5: Spot surfers and sea turtles at Ho’okipa Beach Park
Just outside of the small town of Paia on the road to Hana, you’ll come across Ho’okipa Beach Park, an excellent place to get out, stretch your legs, and experience some true Maui classics.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles love to congregate on this beach to have a rest, and can often be seen in great numbers soaking up the sun. While it’s never okay to touch Maui wildlife, you can still get a great view from just 10 feet away.
And if you wander along the cliff near the parking lot, you’ll be able to watch many a surfer catching waves as you descend down to the water’s edge.
On your way out, don’t forget to hit up one of the Maui food trucks parked here! If you’re going all the way to Hana, you’ll need snacks for the road.
#6: Spend a day exploring the cool, lush upcountry
Beach? Please. Maui’s upcountry is just as stunning as any beach and maintains a temperature several degrees cooler than sea level. It’s gorgeously lush and green, with strong jungle vibes. Oh, and did I mention incredible ocean views?
But what I love most about Maui’s upcountry is that it offers a much-needed reprieve from the tourist-laden beach towns like Kaanapali, Lahaina, and Kihei. If you want to experience Maui from a local’s perspective, put towns like Kula, Makawao, and Haiku on your to-do list.
Visit a vodka distillery, shop the Haiku Market, or take the scenic drive all the way up to Waihou Spring Forest Reserve. You will feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Maui’s tourist centers, and you may just never leave.
Oh, and while you’re there, you may as well drive up to Haleakala Crater for sunrise or sunset! Just be sure to bring plenty of layers, as the 10,000-foot elevation means shockingly low temps when the sun goes down.
Do you seek out alternative experiences when you travel?