If you’d like an adventure in Hawaii, Maui’s West highway may be what you’re looking for! From small gorgeous cities to natural wonders, this thin cliff-hugging highway has everything you could want in a day trip. Family-friendly options are everywhere, and the whole family will enjoy the benefits of this trip! The distance seems long, but in Maui everything is close together. Now I don’t claim to be an expert (there are many, many highlights to this drive) but if you’re going to drive highway 30/340 around Maui’s West coast, here are some stops you don’t want to miss!
(Stops are listed in order based on a round-trip drive from Maalaea)
1. Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center is right at the beginning of your trip, located in the town of Maalaea. This is a five acre aquarium featuring 60 indoor and outdoor exhibits, a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean Exhibit (with a 54ft walk through tunnel), tide pool and the worlds largest collection of live Pacific corals. This stop is absolutely enjoyable for travelers of any age!
2. Petroglyphs at Olowalu
Driving along Maui’s west highway 30 in a clockwise direction, the next stop is at the Olowalu Petroglyphs. To find them turn right just past Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, left onto Olowalu Village Road, and then your first right. Continue down this road until it splits, taking the dirt road to the left. A short way down this road you will see the petroglyphs on the rock wall to your right. They are not extremely large or bright so look carefully and you will see human and animal figures. This is definitely worth a stop if you a looking for something unique (and it is a great opportunity to learn or teach your children about history!)
The town of Lahaina can be a day trip in itself, there is so much to see. Banyan Tree Park on Front street is a great spot to start. This tree was planted in 1873 and covers an entire acre. It is an incredible sight! Right next to the park is the Old Fort, which was originally built in 1834. The most unique feature of this fort is that it is built out of coral stones. Other great stops include the Lahaina prison (built in 1852), the harbour and beaches, and the many beautiful art galleries.
4. Ka’anapali and Black Rock Beach
Black Rock/Ka’anapali Beach is a popular stop along Maui’s west highway. Stop for a swim on the large sandy beach, snorkel, or if you’re feeling brave, you can even cliff dive off of the beaches name-sake lava promontory. This beach can get very busy (it is surrounded by resorts) so it’s best to visit during off-peak hours.
5. Dragon’s Teeth and Labyrinth at Kapalua
Kapalua offers two great sites in one place. A short walk through a golf course leads you to rocky outcrop. Along the borders of this you will see the Dragon’s Teeth – a brilliant lava formation shaped like sharp teeth. You won’t see anything like this elsewhere! Beside this you will also see the Kapalua Labyrinth. This labyrinth is designed for walking prayer or meditation purposes. It is a recent build, having been constructed in the early 2000’s. Red rocks along two Labyrinth edges mark the shift in the sun during sunrise/sunset and can be used to track the seasons.
6. Nakalele Blowhole and Heart rock
Located in the Poelua Bay region (where highway 30 becomes the 340), the Nakalele Blowhole is a natural geyser. Seawater trapped in an underwater lava tube is placed under pressure by the incoming waves, and its only outlet is a small hole in the black lava rock, which sends water shooting up to 100 feet in the air. View from a distance, or step closer for a much more wet experience. A word of warning though: getting too close can be dangerous. There have been a few cases of people standing too close, or right over the blow hole and being sucked down after a strong expulsion. Viewing from the dry rocks is always the safest. In this same location you will find the famous Heart Rock (which makes for a great photo op!).
7. The Mushroom Rock
(Sadly I don’t have any pictures of Mushroom Rock, so instead here is a picture of our drive on Maui’s West Highway.)
Mushroom Rock isn’t a place you will see listed as one of Maui’s hot-spots. About 4 miles from Nakalele Blowhole you will come to a pull-off near Papanalahoa Point. This is a good place to stop and walk the short trails to the rocky coast edge where you will find a large rock shaped like a mushroom. The rock itself is a neat formation to see and the tranquil location is hard to beat. Soak up the ocean views and sounds of the waves in a spot not often visited by tourists.
8. Julia’s Best Banana Bread
Okay, so this isn’t exactly an item you were expecting on this list… but trust me, you want me to tell you about this place! Julia’s is a small green treehouse of a shop located at mile marker 38 at Old Kahakuloa Village. I have no idea what makes their banana bread the best, but it is, and everyone around will agree. Try it, and buy an extra loaf for later. You’ll thank me!
9. Iao Valley State Park
The State Park in Iao Valley is 4000 acres of lush tropical forest perfect for hiking, sightseeing and viewing the Iao Needle. Visit the nature center, botanical gardens and half a mile of paved trails to explore (and many more unpaved trails). This park is suitable for all ages and abilities and will definitely leave it’s mark on your trip!
10. Highway 30
The road you travel around Maui’s west highway is an attraction in itself. Thin roads wide enough for only one vehicle travel along the edge of a cliff, some points without a guard rail. You will have incredible views of the ocean, huge rolling hills, and see many different types of Earth (from back lava rock to red dirt roads). You will see a much quieter side of the island; the less explored. Even if you don’t stop along the way, this road is worth the trip.
Hawaii is a classic destination for family travel and after spending time in Maui we can understand why! Maui’s west highway provides plenty of family friendly activities, and most on this list are FREE! If you’re thinking of flying to Maui with your family here are some tips for flying with kids that might make your trip a bit more stress free!
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