Photograph by Travel Pix / Alamy Stock Photo
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Maui's North Shore draws surfers from around the world.

Photograph by Travel Pix / Alamy Stock Photo

Everything to know about Maui

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to the Valley Isle.

Made of two distinct volcanoes—the West Maui Mountains and Haleakalā—and divided into five regions, Maui’s varied landscapes seamlessly blend working farms, luxurious seaside retreats, culturally significant sites, and adventure activities for unforgettable visits.

When to Go

Coastal daytime temperatures reliably hover around 78 degrees Fahrenheit, but true Maui explorers—especially those heading to the high-elevation interior—should come prepared for rain, wind, and temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Though climactic patterns exist (November through March is cooler and wetter, whereas June through September is warmer and drier), the ocean is the real harbinger of seasonal change. Summertime’s placid North Shore beaches draw big-wave surfers in winter when swells can top 60 feet. Though October to November visits afford the best bargains, it’s worth braving crowds between December and April when vacations overlap with migrating humpback whales.

Celebrate

Maui’s warm, shallow waters harbor more humpback whales than just about anywhere else in the state. During peak whale season, between mid-February and early March, two events—the Maui Whale Festival and Lāhainā’s Whale and Ocean Arts Festival—honor these guests with a whale-themed parade, film festival, concerts, art fairs, scientist talks, parties, and discounted whale watch cruises spread over three weeks.

What to Eat

Long before the poke craze hit the mainland, the cubed raw fish dish was a beach potluck holdover from the eating habits of the earliest Hawaiians. Nab a plate lunch of basic ahi (tuna) poke and—if you can find it—a side of salty pohole salad made from endemic hō'i'o fern shoots. Spammusubi—a nori- and rice-wrapped slab of the island’s favorite tinned meat—is the perfect on-the-go snack, especially when supplemented with home-baked banana bread from roadside stands.

Souvenir to Take Home

Said to be among the world’s most delicious, low-acidity Maui Gold pineapples were almost lost when their only grower shuttered in 2010. Resurrected by dedicated former employees, the new Maui Gold Pineapple Company offers tours of its 1,350 acres of prickly and otherworldly fields on the slopes of Haleakalā. Take home a sun-ripened treat or, for something with a longer shelf life, nab a bottle of semi-dry Maui Blanc, one of three wines made from the fruit by Maui Wine at their upcountry Ulupalakua Ranch.

Sustainable Travel Tips

On land, consider joining a group tour for your visit along the increasingly crowded Road to Hana, and leave the navigating of the 52-mile route’s more than 600 cliffside curves and dozens of one-lane bridges up to the professionals. Before heading into the ocean, slather on sunscreen made without oxybenzone or octinoxate, common ingredients so harmful to coral and other marine life that Hawaii recently banned the sale of products containing them. The Beach Information Station run by the Pacific Whale Foundation at Ulua Beach, a popular sea turtle haunt, offers free reef-safe applications.

Instagram-Worthy View

Rise early for sunrise views atop the world’s largest dormant volcanic crater (tours start as early as 2 a.m.). After the dark drive to the 10,023-foot summit of Haleakalā, you’ll be rewarded with the colorful and moody awakenings of the sun in the same spot Hawaiian legend says demigod Māui snared it to make the days longer. A new permitting system ensures Haleakalā’s four designated overlooks “are all beautiful and peaceful places to view the sunrise,” says Pauline Angelakis, chief of interpretation and education for Haleakalā National Park. Be sure to nab your permit in advance.

Meghan Miner Murray is a freelance researcher, writer, and scuba guide based in Kona on neighboring Hawaii Island. She’s written hundreds of online and print articles covering the food, people, and destinations of Hawaii. Follow her at Megminer.com and on Instagram @meghanminermurray.