Sweet, beautiful Maui.
To visitors, Maui can seem like a flawless paradise- an Eden void of poisonous snakes, violent crime, and the usual perils of the world. However, while Maui is generally safer than many places globally, the island is far from a sanctuary. The elements in the Hawaiian Islands are immensely powerful, and Maui’s ER routinely sees unsuspecting visitors who have fallen victim to the power of the sea, storms, or the sun. Therefore, education is key to preparing for your visit. To help visitors have a safe, worry-free, and enjoyable vacation, we’ve compiled a list of what NOT to do on Maui.
PLEASE DO NOT:
Underestimate the ocean.
The golden rule of traveling in Hawaii: do NOT, by any means, underestimate the ocean. Even beaches that look calm can be home to powerful rip currents and undertows. To navigate the ocean safely, it is imperative to know your limit and ask for a local’s or lifeguard’s advice. Here are some general rules of thumb:
- If waves are breaking heavily on the shore, particularly at places like Makena State Park (Big Beach), it’s best to find a calmer beach to swim at. Don’t get too close to the waterline; the shore break can be powerful and sweep you off your feet.
- Avoid kayaking or stand-up paddling if there are white caps offshore. Maui’s tradewinds usually start blowing hard around 11, and the powerful wind commonly blows small crafts out to sea. In the busy season, strong winds can result in multiple ocean rescues a day.
Tying into the first point, never, EVER, snorkel alone. You could be an Olympic swimmer, and we would still be headstrong on this point. There are a number of hazards, from shallow water blackouts, sudden currents, injuries- just don’t do it.
Snorkel tours are a great way to bump up the safety factor when snorkeling. Esteemed Maui snorkel tours offer snorkel instruction on their excursions for those new to snorkeling. Additionally, the captain and crew are experts on ocean conditions and can spot hazards better than those with little ocean experience. You’ll be under a careful eye while you’re in the water, with trained crew members there to assist you in the blink of an eye should anything happen. But on tour boats, things usually run smoothly.
Feel pressured to drive to Hana.
Hana is often touted as Maui’s #1 attraction, but it’s not for everyone. Whether you’re uncomfortable driving the road, aren’t keen on spending hours in a car, or any multitude of reasons, don’t pressure yourself into making the drive. There are other ways to get a taste of East Maui without navigating Hana Highway.
One of the most exciting ways to see the road to Hana is with Fly Maui. Fly Maui is a flight school operating out of Kahului Airport. Not exclusive by any means, the folks at Fly Maui want to share the joy of flying and the beauty of Maui with the world. They offer “discovery flights,” which allow people to take their first lesson in flight school. This “discovery flight” leaves from OGG and heads out to Hana, where you’ll experience a “touch and go” at Hana Airport. You’ll pass directly over the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park, over countless waterfalls, Keanae Peninsula, and more. It’s a hell of a way to see the East Side, and it’s a lot quicker too. But for those of you that want the full-day experience, grab The R2H audio guide to help you navigate the road.
Wander off the trail at places like Haleakala.
Only hiking on public, designated hiking trails is an absolute must while visiting Hawaii. Some “secret” trails run through private property. If you are hiking on a designated trail, wandering off the path is a huge taboo, especially in Haleakala National Park. In fact, it’s actually required by law that hikers stay on marked trails within the park. Haleakala is home to an incredibly fragile ecosystem and species found nowhere else on earth, like the Silversword plant. If you roam around off-trail, you could be destroying Silversword seedlings or animal habitats without even knowing it.
If you are interested in learning more about the unique plant and animal life in the crater, Haleakala EcoTours offers one of the most respected summit tours around. You will undoubtedly come away with new respect and understanding of the history, geology, and legends of the House of the Sun.
Go hiking in bad weather.
This is one of the most important rules to abide by on Maui. In early 2021, flash floods killed several visitors to Maui just within a few weeks. If you are hiking near a stream or in a low-lying area, leave the area immediately if it starts raining heavily. If the skies are clear where you are, but there are dark clouds up the mountain, it could send a flash flood down to where you are.
Basically, if the weather is anything less than clear and beautiful, Just. Don’t. Risk. It.
Forget your (reef-safe) sunscreen!
The sun on Maui can be brutal, and one bad sunburn can keep you holed up in your hotel room for a couple of days, or worse, send you to the hospital. Sunscreen is an absolute must. However, it’s important to note that some sunscreens can actually be harmful to the reef. Oxybenzone and octinoxate, common sunscreen ingredients, can be toxic to juvenile corals. The State of Hawaii recently banned the sale of sunscreens containing these chemicals.
Reef-safe sunscreen is essential to remember while snorkeling, seeing as some of Maui’s coral heads are over 1500 years old and susceptible to disease. That is why tour boats such as Trilogy are happy to share their reef sunscreen with guests who may be caught short-handed. One of Trilogy’s top snorkel tours visits the ancient reef at Olowalu, so they take reef safety seriously. Their commitment to Maui’s reefs is part of what makes them such a valued company.
Worry too much about eating at famous restaurants.
Yes, Mama’s Fish House is amazing. There is no denying that. But it’s also usually booked months in advance. If you had your heart set on an establishment and your reservation didn’t come through, don’t let it bring you down too much. If good food is your one and only objective, don’t overlook food trucks or hole-in-the-wall eateries.
If it is the ambiance you’re looking for, there’s no better location than aboard Kai Kanani‘s sunset dinner cruise. Booking in advance is crucial, but you’re likely to have more success getting a reservation here than at one of Maui’s top restaurants.
Expect to see whales in July.
Humpback whales are plentiful in Maui’s waters, but only from December to March. Those September flight sales might seem lucrative, but if you have your heart set on seeing some whales, don’t give in to the temptation. If you do happen to be on Maui during the winter months, Redline Rafting offers one of the best opportunities to see whales up close. Whales are federally protected and must not be approached within 1,000 feet. There’s not much you can do if they want to check you out, though. And for some reason, Redline’s little red raft seems to make these massive creatures pretty curious. It’s not unheard of for them to cruise right up to the side of the boat.
Leave valuables unattended in your car.
This is a good rule anywhere you may travel. Maui’s pretty safe, but petty crime still exists. Wherever you may be on the island, it’s best not to leave any valuables in sight if you leave your car unattended. This is an easy way to become a target and a quick way to ruin a vacation.
Get too close to wildlife.
Getting too close to protected wildlife is an easy way to get yelled at by a protective local, or worse, earn you a hefty fine. Green sea turtles, monk seals, dolphins, and humpback whales are all federally protected. It’s understandably so exciting to see these animals in the wild, but they are exactly that- wild. Give sea turtles at least 10 feet and monk seals at least 50 feet.
One of the coolest ways to see green sea turtles without disturbing them is by entering their natural habitat. Kayak tours usually yield the best results, where you can explore snorkeling nooks close to shore. You’ll probably see sea turtles popping their heads above the water for a breath of air. They might even cruise right up to you while you’re snorkeling. It can be a pretty magical moment. Just be sure not to disturb them or approach them in any way.
Stress about the weather.
Maui’s rainy season typically lasts from November until April, but it can rain in any season since Maui is a tropical island. So if you travel during Hawaii’s rainy season, there is a chance you’ll see a rainy day or two. Don’t let this bum you out; just have a contingency plan in place. There are actually fantastic things to do on the island that don’t involve being outside. Take Island Art Party, for example. Island Art Party is part painting class, part cocktail party, and the end result yields you a masterpiece painting to bring home as a souvenir. It’s a ton of fun, rain or shine.
Some other rainy day suggestions include the escape rooms at Mystery Maui or a visit to the Maui Ocean Center. If you have Keiki, the Ultimate Air Trampoline park will be sure to put a smile on their faces and tire them out as well.
***Curate your Hawaii experience even more by tuning in to the oh-so-enjoyable The Aloha 360 Podcast. Gain insight into where to go, what to do, what NOT to do so you can have the best visit possible.***
Our 2nd trip to Maui we were Kayaking and the wind came up. We safely got to shore. We saw a couple go out after we made it back to shore after 20 minutes of hard paddling against the wind. We thought they either knew what they were doing or not. Turned out they were not. We watched as they got further away. No cell phones then. No way to call anyone. Found out 2 days later, he was found on Molokai. They were on their honeymoon. She was not found. After 3 years he was cleared of any foul play. RESPECT the ocean! Warnings are all over the island. So sad.
Park where there are No Parking signs!