Maui: Reef Manta
A reef manta cruises over shallows off Ukumehame, Maui
Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island, and much of the land is still wild, including two state parks. Underwater, Maui is a parade of the colorful and the strange: Of the 680 species of fish in Hawaii, 170 are endemic, including the psychedelic wrasse and fantail filefish.
For the Shore Diver
Maui is home to more than 22 named shore dives. One of the most popular, Pu‘u Keka‘a —sometimes inaccurately called Black Rock and located near the Sheraton — is where you’ll see a handful of green turtles and big schools of goatfish and triggerfish, as well as the occasional gray reef shark or eagle ray. Head to Honolua Bay to encounter more unusual finds, such as scorpionfish, eels, and turtle cleaning stations.
For the Big-Animal Lover
The back wall of the current- swept Molokini Crater is a hot spot for big stuff: gray reef sharks, whitetips, Galapagos reef sharks and the occasional hammerhead. And with visibility typically at least100feet, you’re almost guaranteed a large-predator sighting. Between Molokini and the shoreline is a pinnacle in 85 feet of water; known only as the Hawaiian Reef, it’s another go-to for mantas, and has a cave where whitetip sharks tuck in.
For the Surfer
Winter brings the giants: Big-wave surfing, tow-in surfing and windsurfing are popular here. If you simply want to spectate, head slight- ly east of Ho‘okipa Beach in Pā‘ia to see daredevils take on a 40- to 70-foot break called Pe‘ahi, or “Jaws.” Newbies will like the smaller breaks at various Kīhei beaches, in the middle of the western side of the island— and the big, foam boards trotted out by local operator Maui Surfing Lessons.
For the Road Tripper
Easily one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. is the road to Hāna, aka Highway 36, on Maui’s northeast coast. Budget three hours for the journey — perhaps more if you’re an Instagram addict. The road winds past taro fields, waterfalls, ocean views and rainforest. When you’ve reached Hāna, allow time to hike through the bamboo forests, wander the gardens and chat with locals. If you’re visiting Maui during a peak time, try doing a leg before or after daylight.
For the Foodie
With Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese influences, the cuisine favors fish and fresh produce — as well as a lot of island comfort food. Hawaiian staples include poi (taro pudding) and poke (cubed sashimi with soy sauce). If you can look past its stripmall location near the airport, Da Kitchen is a find, beloved by locals for island dishes like deep-fried Spam musubi. For a healthier meal, call ahead to get directions to the organic ‘Ō‘ō farm, where chef Sean Christensen creates an ever-changing buffet inspired by produce, be it pineapple, loquats or daikons.
1 ) First Cathedral
2 ) Carthaginian II
3 ) Turtle Town
4 ) Five Caves
5 ) Molokini Back Wall