Maui is not a cheap place to go on Vacation. Flights are pricey, hotels are extortionate, Restaurants overpriced, and even simple things like Gas and Milk are far higher than the mainland. So in order to make the budget last that little bit further, you may want to spend some time doing activities and that won’t cost you a cent. Fortunately, there is a load of things to do on the Island that will cost you absolutely nothing or maybe just a few dollars for things like petrol or snacks, but on the whole, these are super cheap things to do even if some are not quite 100% free In the strictest sense.
Our top 10 things to do on Maui for free shows you the some of the Island sBEST activities need not actually cost you anything, this could be a relief after forking out so much for Luau’s or helicopter tours or one of the islands many paid attractions, it is great to spend a day or two not breaking the bank and just enjoying the wonderful island for what it is… a Stunning Tropical Paradise. These Free activities really get under the skin of the island and show you what the Island is really like outside of the plush resorts!
Money-Saving on Maui
For general money-saving on Maui, we have a detailed article showing all the ways you can save money and reduce costs on your Maui Vacation, These include saving on Hotels, Flights, Attractions, food and drink and getting around the Island. While free attractions are a great way to stretch the budget there is a whole host of other tips and tricks in that article, which you can find here!
On with the Free attractions…
1 – Beaches
Ok, it is an obvious one to start with. However, we are not just saying head to the resort beach and sit in the sun sipping cocktails all day (although you should certainly do a bit of that!). We mean you should check out a selection of Maui’s stunning sandy strips. The Beaches on Maui are incredibly diverse, from long stretches of golden sand to Quint and protected bays. Flat calm and Gin clear water to raging Pacific breakers. Built-up resort beaches to lost world style castaway beaches, even the sand is varied, golden sand made from crushed coral and shell, Black sand made from cooled volcanic lava, even bright red sand beaches can be found.
Some of the Islands’ best beaches are naturally found in the resort areas But no resort or hotels has private access to any Beach. ALL beaches in Hawaii are public and access is enshrined in LAW. On top of this right to Beach Access, most Beaches have free parking available. It may be limited but there is always a free lot for every beach even in the most built-up resort areas.
Kaanapali Beach, Airport Beach, Napili Bay, Kapalua Bay, and DT Flemming in West Maui. In South Maui, The three Kameole Beaches along with Ulai and Wailea Bech off resort luxury, while Big and Little Beach are wilder and more secluded beach paradises.
The counties north shore beaches are a little wilder and more windswept and focus on water sports such as surfing and Kite Surfing, while the Beaches of Hana off the weird and bizarre such as Wai’ānapanapa Black Sand Beach and Hana’s hidden Red Sand Beach.
2 – Snorkeling
Maui’s landscape is one of the most stunning and beautiful anywhere in the world and this is only topped by the breathtaking beauty of its underwater treasures. This Makes Scuba Diving a very popular activity as the best way to fully appreciate Maui’s stunning undersea landscapes and aquatic treasures. However, While scuba Diving is the best way to experience the underwater world, it is not overly cheap. In steps Snorkeling, Divings cheaper, more accessible little cousin.
While there is a minimal outlay for Snorkelling as you will need to purchase or rent some equipment the cost of this is minimal and once acquired you are good to go for many hours of completely free entertainment as you get to marvel at the scale and beauty of Maui’s Ocean Treasures.
Almost all of Maui’s best snorkeling sites are conveniently in the resort areas. The North Shore and Hana Coasts are just too wild and rough for good snorkeling so this makes snorkeling a fund and convenient free activity. We really feel we haven’t done the day properly is we don’t get in for at least one snorkel a day!
There are many really great snorkeling sites in Maui and we go through these in our Snorkeling Sites Guide here. We also have a guide to what kit you will need and some safety tips along with a beginner’s guide to getting started. That should cover everything you need to know about Snorkelling Maui’s amazing shoreline!
3 – Free Hula Shows
A Luau is a real Must-Do Activity in Maui and a right of passage for anyone heading to the islands. They are incredibly pricy, however! If your budget just will not stretch to a $100 per person dinner and show then you can still get some of the Luau experience with the Free Hula Shows put on at the Lahaina Cannery Mall.
The Lahaina Cannery Hula Shows are free to all and are held every Saturday and Sunday between 1-2 pm at the Cannery Mall. These are not the same High-end productions that you get at the Luaus but a more authentic display of traditional Hawaiian Hula Dancing. In a way this is better than the Luau shows as the authenticity is not lost in the search for “spectacle” and the dancers are every bit as skilled, they just display their art in a more modest manner.
These shows are even worthwhile if you do visit a Luau, as you will get to see the more authentic Hula the Hawaiians have been practicing for centuries, and after all, they are free to all! We still love an organized Luau and Recommend them to Everyone, but the Free Hula Shows should not be overlooked, and if you are on a real Shoestring budget they are perfect.
On top of these shows, the Mall also offers FREE Hula Lessons, along with FREE Magic Shows, and Free Ukelele Lessons! Check the Schedule here
4 – Hiking
For and Island made up of so much wilderness and only space urbanized Areas there are very few hiking trails really. Huge tracts of land are inaccessible either through private ownership, farming, or nature reserves. For example, almost the entire West Maui Mountain is a Forest reserve that is completely off-limits to the public.
Things are a little better on Haleakala as the Mountain is in the control of the National Park Service and they have opened up several really great Trails, however, these are not technically free as they will require paying the National Park Entry Fee. At $30 per Car for 3 Days, it’s great value but not free. You do get the incredible Sliding Sand trail, the Pipiwai Trail, Skyline Trail, and even the EPIC Kaupo gap Trail, along with all the other attractions of the park (see below).
However, Outside of the Haleakala National Park Trails are fairly thin on the ground. But the good news is the few trails that are available are varied and cover some seriously great vistas and terrain.
The Waihee Ridge Trail is the king and the only way to really hike into the West Maui Mountains. The relatively short 2.5-mile hike takes in 1500+ feet of elevation to provide stunning views of the West Maui Mountain peaks and Valleys as well as great Coastal Vistas. There are also a few short hikes in the Io Valley State Park, although again there is a small fee.
West Maui has several Coastal Paths and walks you can take such as the Kaanapali Beach Walk, the Kapalua Coastal Trail, and the Dragons Teeth access Trail. You can also Hike to the Nakalele Blowhole Via the Acid Warzone Trial. The Lahaina Pali Trail is a breathtaking haul over the lower foothills of the West Maui Mountains with mindblowing views and sweeping vistas of the Island, the Channel and its neighbors!
South Maui is more heavily built up and the hiking is poor. The Wailea Coastal Path meanders along the stunning seafront but is very sedate. Out towards Makena, things pick up, there are a few small trails around Makena Beach between big and little beach with some unofficial goat tracks leading up the Puu Plai Crater. Further on at La Peruse Bay, things pick up. There is a great hike over the Lava flow out past Anchialine pools, Archeological sites, and Ferrel goats. The Bay is also the start of the King’s Highway an ancient trail that used to circumnavigate the island but is now largely superseded by Roads. Here the trail remains intact and you can hike for 10-15 miles out into the barren lava coastline of Maui’s far south!
5 – Wildlife Spotting
As is often the case you can always rely on Nature to provide a spectacle and free show. Maui is filled with incredible wildlife experiences and exploring some of Maui’s wonderful plants, Animals and Creatures is a great way to spend time for free. We have already mentioned snorkeling, which is essentially wildlife viewing, but there are many more ways to see and experience Maui’s amazing wildlife.
Whale Season brings huge numbers of Humpback Whales to the shores of Maui, and while viewing these is best done from a tour boat, these cost money and there is no need really. The Whales can be viewed easily from shore form many locations and are just as wonderful with your feet on the ground.
Maui’s green Sea Turtles are regularly seen while snorkeling but you do not need to get wet to see the Turtles. On Ho’okipi beach the Turtles haul out each day to sun themselves on the beach and it is an incredible sight.
You can also hunt for stunning tropical flowers, lizards, beautiful birds, rare endemic species, and the Hawaiian State Bird the Nene. We have several Articles featuring Hawaii’s amazing Flora and Fauna and what you can expect to see on the Islands.
6 – Road To Hana
Some travel experiences are not about the destination but about the journey. This is never more true than the Road to Hana. While the town of Hana is a nice little backwater escape, it is nothing overly special and in no way worth the 2-3-hour trek to get to it. However, the journey itself is one that will live in your memory forever and if treated as the attraction itself one of your life’s high-water marks!
The 65-mile stretch of winding black tarmac winds through some of the most remote, lush, and awe-inspiring jungle territory you could imagine. This lost world of plunging cliffs, dense jungle, endless waterfalls, and mindblowing coastal vistas, feels like you are driving straight into Jurassic Park, which technically you are as some of the films most dramatic scenery was shot in this part of Maui, Think the opening scene where the chopper soars in over the ocean with the iconic Jurrasic Rock, which is found just of the coastline here.
This drive is considered scary and dangerous to some, but really the road is wide enough in most places to fit two vehicles (going in opposite directions) and is only a single track on the many bridges you will encounter. We think of the drive as an adventure and heading deep into the jungle on this narrow winding road is certainly that. With hundreds of stops and things to see and do on the way, it’s a full-day adventure. While you will obviously need to rent a car to do the drive, if you are renting anyway, and we do recommend it, this drive will cost you nothing but a tank of gas and some snacks.
7 – Sunrise on Haleakala
As we mentioned earlier, Access to the Haleakala National park is $30 per car so we are stretching this a bit to call it free, but that is a minimal outlay and also gets you 3 days access to the park where you can hike, explore the sacred 7 pools, view the island from the third tallest* mountain on earth, see stars like never before AND witness the most stunning sunrise imaginable. So it is not quite free but it is great value.
Some claim that seeing the sunrise from the summit of Haleakala is a spiritual and almost religious experience. Others just moan about the cold and the early start. We sit somewhere in the middle but lean more to the positive side. It is undoubtedly a chore to wake at 2-3 am on vacation and then drive from the balmy 70°F air (21°C) of the coast drive up a volcano to stand around for an hour or two in Freezing condition waiting for the sun to make its appearance to start the day. But it is so worth it.
From the vantage point above the clouds, the sunrise is otherworldly and the hues of burning orange and red are like nothing we have witnessed anywhere else. There is a real sense of awe and wonder amongst the crowds as our own Star bursts up from the cloud base and fills the martian landscaper with ethereal light and color. It is hard not to be moved, despite the hour and the temperature.
Combine this trip with a super early start to catch the dark Skies and see the Milky Way laid out before you, even with the naked eye. Whatever your worldview, religious or scientific, to see the universe displayed in such graphic and wonderful detail is seriously moving.
No matter what your budget, no trip to Maui should miss out on the Haleakala summit and despite the hardships, it is best enjoyed in the very early hours of the day.
* Everest and most of the Himalayan giants have a much higher elevation, but they are measured from sea level as they are part of the Asian continent. As Haleakala rises directly from the Pacific Abyssal plane, The majority of its height is underwater. The two tallest peaks are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa over on the Big Island.
8 – Nakalele Blowhole
Note – Love Heart Rocks has no been destroyed by winter storms and all that remains is half a broken heart, leaving us Broken Hearted also.
Blowholes and Hawaii go hand in hand and one of the most dramatic of the island chain is situated on Maui. Tucked right up at the far end of West Maui near the end of the paved section of the 340 highway, and a short hike down a steep rocky pathway is the Nakalele Blowhole.
The Ocean out at this far wend of the island can be fierce with large Atlantic swells pounding the cliffs, this makes the landscape rugged and at times almost alien. The long approach to the blowhole takes you through the Acid War Zone. A rocky section of the coast where the salt from the ocean spray seems to have melted the rocks away as if covered in acid. It is pretty spectacular.
Once at the blowhole you will be treated with one of two things, the blowhole is almost always active, even at low swell and low tide. But when the tide is low and swells inactive the blowhole is little more than a big puff of spray followed by a plush of water. After hiking the steep rocky cliff face to get down to it, disappointment is pretty common.
The alternative is when the tides and swell activity are just right this thing goes off like a jet engine! The initial surge forces spray through at tremendous force howling like a typhoon followed by a huge blast of water as the cavern below fills up and bursts out. If you visit Nakalele and find it disappointing be assured your timing is poor as when the Blowhole really fires it’s hard to be anything but blown away.
A quick word of warning, as we see people every visit ignoring this. The blowhole is unpredictable, and the hole is definitely big enough to fall into. Stood on the slippery rock peering into it invites a rogue wave to cause an unexpected blast sucking you into the whole. It does happen and we can think of few more horrific ways to check out!
Nakalele is, or was, the home of the heart rock. This is now defunct, smashed apart during a winter storm, as of 2020. 2020 is possibly the worst year in our entire lives as nature seems to strike back at every turn, burning Australia to the ground and unleashing a life-changing murderous virus on the planet, and it all started with the breaking of Maui’s heart!
Read our full guide to visiting the Nakalele Blowhole here
9 – Maui’s Hidden Gems
By hidden gems, we mean the things that are not signposted. The parts of the island that people do not want tourists visiting. However, we stop short of recommending things that require you to trespass or break laws or even cultural taboos. Not all Blogs and Guide Books, Mentioning no names, are so considerate.
There are many hidden gems off the beaten track that you can visit and all cost nothing to visit other than petrol and potentially a little park entrance fee. We take an in-depth look at these gems rather than listing them all here.
10 – Black Rock Kaanapali
Black Rock in Kaanapali is the focal point of the resort area. This large basalt outcrop formed over 500,000 years ago during the last active phase of west Maui Mountain and splits the resort area in two. Atop the rock sits the prestigious Sheraton hotel, and access to the rock is largely limited to hotel guests, however, the rock still holds huge interest for none guests.
The Waters around the rock offer some of the best snorkeling and the beach area is very popular as we discuss in our snorkeling guide and best Maui Beach Guide. However, the Rock has a few other things going for it.
Firstly Cliff jumping! On the whole, cliff jumping and diving is not a very good idea in Hawaii. Locals still indulge but they have a level of local knowledge most tourists do not possess. This has led to a lot of injuries and deaths as tourists copy the locals without the requisite skill and knowledge. Where a local may slot themselves into the deep water a tourist can miss and plow into the rocks!
However, at Black Rock, the moderately high cliffs sheer walls and deep water makes cliff jumping here as safe as possible and even if it is still strictly outlawed at Black Rock it is certainly tolerated and practiced, by locals and tourists alike. We do not usually advise cliff jumping due to the inherent risks, but it is hard to discourage it when crowds of 40-50 people congregate daily having safe and harmless fun on the rock. If you partake don’t allow bravado to overtake common sense and only jump from where you are comfortable and where others are jumping.
The other draw of Black Rock is the Sunset Cliffdiving (Lele Kawa) ceremony. Every night just before the sun sets the Sheraton hosts the CliffDiving and Torch lighting Ceremony. A torchbearer runs along Kaanapali beach, up the Black Rock (Barefoot!) lighting the Tiki lamps along the way. After a short ceremony during which they offer the torch to the ocean and the Lei to the heavens, the Diver leaps fro the rock into the ocean. The Ceremony is short and sweet and steeped I Hawaiian tradition so it is nice the Sheraton keeps this alive. The brief Ceromnat makes Black Rock the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing sunset and evening, even if you are not staying in the immediate area!
Have Your Say
Let us know your Favorite things to do on Maui for free? Have you got a must-do thing that costs you nothing? A favorite spot to go that is free or and activity you Just can’t Skip? Let us know in the comments below. Also, let us know what you think of our list? Have you tried any of our suggestions? how did it go? If you have anything to say just leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.