Maui is the second largest of the islands in the Hawaiian Island chain, standing at 1.883 sq km (727 sq mi), and is also known as ‘The Valley Isle’. Formed by six volcanoes, the islands of Maui, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokai were originally known as Maui Nui and were one landmass, which has since been separated by rising sea levels.
The shallow waters created by these sunken valleys provide excellent shelter to breeding humpback whales that can often been seen from the shore with their calves. The warm shallow waters are also host to huge numbers of fish and expanses of coral, making this a snorkelers’ paradise.
The historic whaling village of Lahainha, on the west of the island, is a must-see. Steeped in history, the town was the home of King Kamehameha I, and later made the capital in 1790. It was also home to missionaries from 1824 who brought with them their religion and education for the masses but also measles and small pox. Today it is a bustling tourist town with a multitude of shops selling souvenirs and sea cruises. Ride the Lahainha Kaanapali Railroad, often referred to as Sugar Cane Train the only train in the whole of Hawaii, between Lahainha and Kaanapali for a different view of the island.
Haleakala National Park, famous for its endangered silversword plant, protects 122 sq km (47 sq mi) of land from the peaks of Haleakala, down to sea level along the Kipahulu coast. You’ll need to purchase a pass on arrival at the park, but it is well worth it. For a swim, head down to the southeast part of the island to visit the Ohe’o Gulch, or Seven Sacred Pools. This stunning series of waterfalls and plunge pools progresses for four miles down to sea level and is often busy by the afternoon, so get there early.
When to go: Arrive between December and April and witness the majestic humpback whales breeding season.
Don’t miss: An authentic evening at a luau with traditional dancing and food.
You should know: Maui was voted ‘the best island in the world’ by independent travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller.