29 Best Cheap Things to Do in Maui
With the recent launch of Southwest flights to Hawaii from the Bay Area in 2019, maybe you’re considering a trip! Our Editor-in-Chief booked on the first day the flights went on sale and scored a deal for $200 roundtrip! If you’re looking to score a cheap deal, according to Scott’s Cheap Flights, the cheapest flights are typically January-February, April and September to November.
Why a Maui Guide? This is the first of a brand new travel series by Funcheap on how to travel on the cheap, focused on road trips and places with nonstop flights from the Bay Area.
We feel Maui is worthy of your well-deserved time off because it offers the best of both worlds. You’ll enjoy beaches entirely to yourself, but you’re still a short drive away from restaurants and bars. You’ll experience lush rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, and gorgeous sunsets. And thankfully, most of Maui’s top attractions are entirely free.
Once you’ve got the spendy flights and lodging sorted, thankfully everything else can be done the Funcheap-way! – Updated July 2019
Top Free Things to do in Maui
Banyan Tree Park – A giant “magical” tree
West Maui / In the main town square of Lahaina, you can’t miss Banyan Tree Park. It’s home to the biggest Banyan tree in the United States. This one magical tree has grown 16 separate trunks (yep — it’s still just one tree). It stands 60 feet high and its canopy spreads over two thirds of an acre. Learn More.
Maui Friday Town Parties
Entire Island / If you’re on the island on a Friday, you’re in luck. There’s always a party happening somewhere on the island. This roaming party has a small town feel where locals and visitors mix together; each party includes retailers, local artisans and crafters, delicious food and energetic music. Learn More.
- First Friday of the month – Wailuku
- Second Friday – Lahaina
- Third Friday – Makawao
- Fourth Friday – Kihei
- Fifth Friday – Lāna‘i
Sunset Tiki Torch Ceremony & Traditional Cliff Dive
West Maui / Take a stroll to Black Rock, in front of the Sheraton on Kaanapali Beach, to watch their daily torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony, a few minutes before sunset. Each night, a Hawaiian warrior blows a conch shell, then scrambles barefoot up the Black Rock, lighting torches along the way. He offers a lei to the ancient Hawaiian gods and then dives headfirst 30 feet into the ocean below. Learn More.
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
South Maui / Stroll the 2,200-foot boardwalk to take in one of just a few natural wetlands in Hawaii, home to many endangered Hawaiian birds. There’s a visitor center you can stop in before you embark on a self-guided tour, complete with interpretive exhibits. Learn More. Temporarily closed due to fire as of 7/12/19.
Maui Tropical Plantation – Gorgeous native plants & flowers
Central Maui / Take a short stop at the working plantation to view hundreds of gorgeous tropical and native plants and flowers. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, complete with a pretty lagoon. Learn More.
Ke’anae Arboretum – Rainbow Gum trees & 150 tropical plants
Road to Hana / About halfway on the Road to Hana, consider pulling off to stretch your legs and visit the Ke’anae Arboretum, a free arboretum and botanical garden within a rainforest, located just past mile marker 16. There’s a .5 mile one-way path along the Pi’ina’au stream where you can check out 150 tropical plants including different types of taro, ginger, hibiscus, papaya, and a mix of both native and non-native Hawaiian trees. Don’t miss the gorgeous Rainbow Gum Trees that have an array of pretty multi-colored streaks on its trunks that come from patches of outer bark that are shed annually at different times. If you keep going past the taro patch, you’ll reach a waterfall with a swimming area. Learn More.
Free Cultural Shows & Lessons
Lahaina Cannery Mall | 1221 Honoapiilani Hwy, Lahaina | Free Parking
- Every Tuesday: Free Ukulele Lessons | 5:45-6:45 pm
- Every Thursday: Free Hula Lessons with a professional instructor | 5-6 pm
- Every Saturday & Sunday: Free Polynesian Hula Shows | 1-2 pm
The Shops at Wailea | 3750 Wailea Alanui Drive Wailea
- Free Polynesian Show, Ukulele Lessons, Lei Po’o Making, Coconut Husking, Island Wood Carving, Coconut Frond Weaving, Papa Hula, Live Concerts and more. See website for current schedule.
Outlets of Maui | 900 Front Street, Lahaina
- Every Tuesday: Free Ukulele Lessons | 11 am-Noon
- Free Tahitian Dance Show every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday from 6 pm-7 pm, and every Wednesday 5:30-6:30 pm
- Every Monday: Create your own free Flower Rosettes | 4-5 pm
- Every Wednesday: Create your own free Lauhala Bracelets | 3:30-4:30 pm
Whalers Village | 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina
- Every Saturday: Free Hula Lessons | 11 am-Noon
- Every Tuesday & Thursday: Free Lei Making Class | 11 am-1 pm
- Every Monday: Free Ukulele lessons | 11 am-1 pm
- Every Monday & Saturday: Free Hula Show | 7-8 pm
- Every Sunday: Live Music | 6-8 pm
- Every Wednesday: Coconut History Lesson & Husking Demo | 11 am-Noon
- Every Thursday: Coconut Frond Weaving Lesson & DIY Craft | 11:30am–12:30pm
- Seasonally, they offer free outdoor movie nights with free popcorn.
Lahaina Heritage Museum | 648 Wharf St., Lahaina | Open Daily, 9 am to 5 pm
Take a comprehensive, interactive look at the rich and varied history of Lahaina with giant light-up topographical map of Maui on the second floor.
Free Guided Tours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Meet on the makai (ocean-side) steps, facing the harbor flagpole
- 10 am – Ke Kai – Ocean, Voyaging and Ancient Society
- 11 am – Hana No‘Eau – Master Crafts, Essential Plants and Daily Life
- Noon – Ua Mau Ke Ea + Contact To Today – Hawaiian Nation, Western Arrival, Whaling and Plantation Eras
Plantation Museum | The Wharf Cinema Center | 658 Front Street, Lahaina | Open daily, 9 am to 6 pm
Learn the history of sugar and pineapple plantations on the island which thrived for over 100 years.
Hale Pa’ahao/Old Lahaina Prison | 187 Prison Street, Lahaina | Open daily, 10 am to 4 pm
See where rowdy sailors were kept at this “new” prison built in the 1850s.
Pioneer Mill Co. Smokestack & Locomotives Exhibit | 275 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina | Open daily, dawn to dusk
Check out historic 19th century trains plus what was once the tallest smokestack in Hawaii. Parking is available on site at 275 Lahainaluna Road.
Hale Pa’i Printing Museum | Lahainaluna High School Campus, 980 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina | Open Mon.-Wed., 10 am to 4 pm
Home of the island’s first Hawaiian language newspaper dating back to 1837. It’s also open by appointment with 48 hours advance notice. To book an appointment, call 808-662-0560.
Sunrise at Haleakala National Park Summit
There’s a reason why everyone tries to get up early to view sunrise at the Haleakala National Park Summit because it’s truly amazing watching the sky change while standing on the volcano crater rim. Please note, a National Park Pass is required. It’s $25 per vehicle, valid for 3 days, or consider an $80 annual National Park pass, valid 365 days from your date of purchase, valid at all National Parks nationwide.
But it’s also crowded, so in addition to your National Park Pass, you’ll need to make reservations. Fortunately, they’re just $1 per car (as of July 2019) and are required for any car driving in between 3 am and 7 am. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the summit. Don’t trust Google Maps’ time estimates since that only gets you to the entrance gate and the summit is about another 30 minutes past the gate.
Once you’re there, you’ll see magical colors coming up over the island featuring shades of yellows, oranges, reds and pinks. No Instagram filter needed! Another benefit if you arrive early – well before sunrise – is that this is a designated “Dark Sky” area specifically for world-class night sky conditions which should make for excellent stargazing.
What about Sunset? If you don’t want to wake up early you can always give sunset a try on the summit. The best thing about viewing sunset? Unlike sunrise, no reservations are necessary. Plus, consider packing yourself a picnic and staying a bit later to do some epic stargazing after sundown.
Sunrise Tips & Resources
Reservations are available, online-only, up to 60 days in advance of your sunrise visit. A small number of last-minute tickets are released online two days beforehand at 7 am Hawaii time.
Great Beaches and Snorkeling Spots
Unfortunately, the tradewinds kick up in Maui in the afternoons, which make snorkeling in Maui a challenge. To stay informed of the weather, snorkeling conditions, and the best snorkeling spots for each day, sign up for The Snorkeling Store’s Daily Snorkeling Report email which is chock full of helpful information. They also post a condensed snorkeling report daily on their Instagram page.
Makena State Park – Whale watching & nude beaches
South Maui / Just south of Wailea are two sister beaches Makena Beach (Big Beach) and Pu’u Olai Beach (Little Beach). Makena is a wide open undeveloped beach and is one of the most famous beaches on Maui. If you’re looking to avoid perky tan lines and want to go as bare as you dare, check out Little Beach, one of the few Hawaiian beaches that tolerate nude sunbathing. During whale season at Makena Landing, you can hear often hear humpbacks singing underwater. As a bonus, every Sunday night, head to Little Beach for sunset to hopefully see a mystical flash of green light as a finale and afterwards stick around for a nude drum circle with poi fire dancers.
Honolua Bay – Clear waters and sea turtles
West Maui / Honolua Bay on the northern tip of the Kaanapali coast is a Marine Life Conservation District with an amazing diversity of sea life. Plus it’s in a bay that’s sheltered from the wind.
It’s free to visit Honolua Bay and also free to park; however, there’s no official parking lot. You’ll need to park along the street and make the trek about 100 meters on a dirt path down to the water. Take note that this isn’t an idyllic sandy beach. It’s a rocky shoreline. To get into the water for the best snorkeling, you’ll want to carefully traverse the rocky shoreline to the right of the bay until you reach the reef, about 600 feet from the beach. It’s a bit awkward getting into the water from here, but it saves you a longer swim out and you’ll be very close to the reef. Here you’ll have amazing water clarity to spot diverse fish and even sea turtles. Be careful not to swim too far out along the rocks; you’ll see where the surf breaks and it can be incredibly dangerous. You’ll be fine once you enter the water and swim into the center over the reef.
Olowalu Beach – Great snorkeling protected by winds
West Maui / If you’re looking to snorkel in the afternoon, Olowalu Beach is your best best because it’s Maui’s only major snorkel reef protected from trade winds. There’s a massive coral reef here, that’s close to shore. Its clear and calm waters make it perfect for beginner snorkelers, but its varied fish and marine life make it exciting for all levels. It features 100 acres of reef, and it’s relatively shallow with visibility up to 120 feet.
Once you are near Mile Marker 14, park anywhere along the side of the road (just avoid going onto the soft sand as you could get your car stuck).
Road to Hana
As long as you don’t mind a bare-knuckle drive, the 64-mile Road to Hana is absolutely worth doing. You’ll see gorgeous waterfalls, black sand beaches and cute roadside tropical fruit and homemade banana bread stands (yum!).
While there are lots of beautiful pull outs and waterfalls (especially the jungly Wailua Falls just after the 45-mile marker), the main attraction is the Pailoa Black Sand Beach, tidepools, sea arches, blowholes and freshwater caves at the remote and beautiful Waiʻanapanapa State Park (no fee) about ¾ of the way along the road.
And if you don’t mind driving a little past Hana, you’ll be rewarded with two great hikes, The Oheo Gulch (or Seven Sacred Falls), and The Pipiwai Trail located in Haleakala National Park (National Park Pass required – $25 per vehicle, valid for 3 days) which cuts through a bamboo forest and ends with a spectacular waterfall.
If you’re making a round trip, you’ll definitely want to leave early. The road always takes longer than you think it will, especially if it’s raining. The whole point is to take your time and enjoy pulling over often to take in the numerous waterfalls you’ll pass. And if the wind is howling, be prepared for the traffic to come to a standstill whenever trees fall over or giant boulders block the road.
Great Photo Spots
When your front door is the Pacific Ocean, you can’t really go wrong with taking photos in Maui, but here are a few of our favorite spots.
West Maui / Just a short hike from the Ritz-Carlton is a gorgeous scenic spot which features very cool rock formations that look like jagged aptly-name, Dragon’s Teeth. Hike down through the golf course along the Dragon’s Teeth Access Trail to see how nature has changed the natural landscape over time. Forceful ocean winds shaped the molten lava at Makaluapuna Point skyward to form these cool formations. Learn More
Heart Rock & Nakalele Blowhole
West Maui / Pull over on the side of the road, and scramble carefully down the rockface about ¾ mile to see both Nakalele Blowhole and the Heart Rock. When you reach the bottom of the steep trail, the blowhole will be off to your left. The Nakalele Blowhole is a natural geyser that forcefully erupts seawater trapped in an underwater lava tube every few minutes.
To find the Insta-worthy Heart Rock, a heart-shaped formation in the lava rock shelf, turn around and look behind you—placing the blowhole at your back and keep walking until you reach the cool formation. To find the trail, drive north from Kapalua for about 8 miles. Find parking along mileage marker 38.5. Learn More. >> UPDATE: As of January 2020, nature took over and the heart is now broken. You can just see half a heart now if you go down to visit Nakalele Blowhole.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm
Upcountry / On your way back from sunrise at Haleakala, consider a stop at the gorgeous Lavender Farm. It’s a beautiful mountain sanctuary featuring approximately 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different varieties of lavender. Plus, you’ll see olive trees, hydrangea, Protea, succulents and an exceptional variety of other plants. Also, hidden amongst the lavender and plants are cool sculptures.
If you’re up for a little exploration, the farm offers a free scavenger hunt. Pick up your Treasure Hunt Map at the Gallery Gift Shop. Complete the Treasure Hunt and you’ll be rewarded with a free lavender treat (often a shortbread lavender cookie… yum!). As of May 2019, if bring your own mug (or if you check-in on Yelp), you can get a free cup of lavender tea from the gift shop. Sit out on the patio for a truly relaxing time out, overlooking the lavender fields. 1100 Waipoli Road Kula, Maui | Open daily, 9 am to 4 pm (last entry 3:45 pm). Admission is $3 per person. Learn More.
Great Sunset Spots
Mother nature loves giving you a free show every night.
Big Beach at Makena State Park
South Maui / Pack a picnic for a postcard-worthy sunset on an unobstructed, wide-open beach. You’ll often find skimboarders and boogie boarders here who nearly steal the show until the sun starts to set.
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Lahaina Pali Trail
West Maui / Arguably one of the best views on the entire island, you’ll have to climb 500 vertical feet on a short 15-minute hike, starting at the Ukumehame trailhead, but you’ll be rewarded with epic panoramic views and a breathtaking sunset. In winter, you can spot whales. Bring a flashlight for the hike back down. Learn More.
Kaanapali Beach Walk
West Maui / Take a gorgeous stroll along the boardwalk, watching the waves, on the western edge of Maui. The above photo was taken near the Hyatt Regency Maui.
Kihei Beach – South Maui
Our Favorite Cheap Eats
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice – Shave Ice with a View & Free Luau Show
West Maui / When in Hawaii, Shave Ice is a must. It’s like a Sno-Cone, but lighter, fluffier and dreamier. Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice is one of the best Shave Ices on Maui and the location at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort And Spa was one of one our favorite locations. Surprisingly, there was free parking for visitors at the hotel. Once parked, head towards the beach and pool area until you spot their outdoor stand. Despite being at a resort, the prices here are the same as their other locations and the flavor options were nearly identical as well.
What makes this their best location is the amazing ambiance. Come around sunset and take your Shave Ice just a few steps away to the beach. Plus the beach boardwalk is lined with ample beach loungers (technically, only for resort guests with wristbands, but in our experience no one ever checked and we happily lounged Funcheap-style enjoying our treat).
Bonus Luau Show! If you’re lucky, stroll the boardwalk and you’ll come across the Drums of the Pacific Lu`au. Tickets are a spendy $131 (including food and drinks), but if you you can watch the entire show for free. While on the boardwalk, you’ll have a spectacular free view of the show including poi and hula dancers. The show is offered nightly from 5-8 pm.
Tin Roof – Top Chef lunch spot
Central Maui / The best food we ate on the island was also among the cheapest we found. Fans of Top Chef, take note, you don’t want to miss 2-time awarded Fan Favorite Sheldon Simeon’s lunch spot on the island. Ambiance is not important here. This is a takeaway lunch spot located in a strip mall near the airport, and parking is free and easy.
There are lots of menu options $10 and less (except for the Poke Bowl and the Fish of the Day). The must-try item is the Kau Kau Tin which is like a build-your-own bowl featuring your choice of white rice, brown rice (add $1), Hapa Rice (brown and white rice) (add $1), kale (add $4) or garlic noodles (add $4). The standout Kay Kau Tin is Mochiko Chicken. There’s often a long line here, and they only serve food until it runs out.
Do yourself a favor and order online for easy pickup. Open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm. No reservations. Learn More.