What is it Like to Visit Maui Right Now?

Travelers wanting to return to Maui are curious if the island will be as they remember. First-time visitors wonder if they can do all the great activities they have heard about. So, here are some honest answers about all there is to do, some restrictions and what to expect when booking your vacation on Maui right now.

You will be happy to know that Maui is open for business. Beaches, parks, trails and most natural attractions are open, along with a healthy amount of shops, restaurants and activities. That said, some businesses could not survive being closed for nearly a year, so not everything will be as you remembered it. Those that have reopened strictly adhere to reduced occupancy rules to allow for social distancing. This means you need to plan ahead and make reservations in advance for most things you want to do- at least three weeks in advance is suggested for activities, and even farther out for restaurant reservations and rental cars. Masks are required by law in all public places in the state of Hawaii and compliance is expected of both residents and visitors.

While we still expect the island’s recovery to continue for some time, there are definitely some good and different things about visiting Maui during Covid-19. Let’s start with the best things to do!

You Can Sail, Soar, Surf or Paddle Around Maui

Adventures available now include:

  • Ziplining through a tropical forest
  • Paragliding down the side of a volcano
  • Parasailing above the sparkling ocean (not offered during whale season)
  • Trying stand up paddle boarding
  • Learning to surf
  • Experiencing windsurfing, kite surfing or foil boarding

Many vendors provide these water and air activities around the island.

Don’t Miss a Luau!

Feast and learn about the history and culture of Pacific islanders at a luau.

  • We have updated our luau page with the top-rated experiences in both South and West Maui. All luaus listed have reopened.
  • If you, or someone in your party, has not yet been to a luau, this is a must do cultural experience, not to mention sampling native cuisine (and familiar dishes) you might not otherwise experience.

Take an Epic Road Trip

haleakala road trip

  • Haleakala Crater. Drive up the slopes of a 10,000-ft. volcano through verdant pastures with sweeping valley views. At the top, the scene resembles the surface of a moon, with unusual plant and wildlife.

Note: advance reservations/ticket purchase is required for sunrise viewing. A reservation is required for each vehicle entering the park from 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. You may book a reservation up to 7 days in advance HERE. Reservations are not needed for other times of day, but there is an entrance fee.

  • Road to Hana. Take a winding and exotically beautiful drive to the remote town of Hana, Maui’s most Hawaiian place. Enjoy the journey beyond Hana town, and experience waterfalls, nature walks, beaches and banana bread.

Note: For natural resource preservation, entry and parking reservations are now required in advance for all non-residents for Waianapanapa State Park, a popular spot just before Hana town. For reservations go to www.gowaianapanapa.com

The road is the experience, so start early, take your time and stop often. We recommend downloading the Shaka Guide, a narrated audio tour, in advance. The community does ask that you limit your time in the town of Hana during this time. Hana town is an isolated community with a high indigenous population and limited medical care. As such, it is extremely vulnerable during this pandemic and residents are concerned about new infection being introduced.

Note: There is an entry fee for the Kipahulu district past Hana (including “Seven Sacred Pools”). However, this area is part of Haleakala National Park, so if you go to the Crater, save your ticket! It is good for 3 days and will allow admission to Kipahulu too.

Weather caution: If the north and east facing shores of Maui are experiencing heavy rain, it is not a safe time to drive the road to Hana. Choose another destination on the South or West side and visit Hana on another day.

  • Drive to Ulupalakua. This special drive in Upcountry Maui is filled with picturesque rolling hills of green pastureland dotted with cows, sheep and purple Jacaranda trees. On one side are the slopes of Haleakala where trade winds carry clouds up the mountainside. On the other, bi-coastal views of Kihei and Maalaea can be seen, all the way over to Kahului harbor on the other side. These beautiful vistas are part of the 50,000 acre Haleakala and Ulupalakua ranches.

Cattle, sugar and other agricultural operations have kept this land in production since the 1800’s, and has been home to Maui Wine for generations. The winery grounds are worth a visit, with a small museum inside, and of course wine tasting! Gourmet snacks are available at the winery, or more hardy fare across the street at the ranch store, including locally grown beef.

Visit Other Parks

Maui's Big Beach

  • Iao Valley State Park and Makena State Park both now have paid parking by credit card. You can view up-to-date park information HERE.

Go Golfing

Walk in the footsteps of golf’s biggest legends, with a stunning backdrop of lava flows and ocean cliffs.

  • Our golf course guide offers a full rundown of all the courses on Maui, with an island map and links to make a tee time.

Note- all resort courses have reopened and the municipal course is open. Some other public and private course are planning on opening soon or have restrictions.

Visit Maui Ocean Center

Maui Ocean Center

  • The world-class Maui Ocean Center aquarium is an ideal place to learn more about the undersea world, including Hawaiian marine life found nowhere else in the world! There is a new Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit and Sphere that goes beyond 3D to a total immersive experience. The park has an extensive gift shop, open air courtyard and certified ocean -friendly restaurant overlooking Ma’alaea Harbor.

Note: Maui Ocean Center currently requires advance reservations to comply with COVID-19 safety regulations. Walk up tickets and reservations are not being accepted. 

Explore Maui Beaches

big beach makena maui

One place to let pandemic worries melt away is on Maui beaches and splashing in the ocean. While you must wear your mask to and from the spot you stake out on the sand, you do not have to mask up while in the water, while excercising or when stationary sunbathing as long as there is 6’ of social distancing around members of your household.

  • Check out our beach guide and explore a beach you haven’t been to before. You will also want to read our safety guide, covering everything from keeping your valuables safe, the new reef-safe sunscreen rules, coral and jellyfish stings, and ocean safety tips.

Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving

Maui Ocean

Maui has an abundance of opportunities to explore the warm ocean and marine life found nowhere else in the world.

  • Take a boat trip to a partially submerged volcanic islet to snorkel or scuba dive, or just step into the ocean with mask, snorkel and fins.
  • How about learning to scuba dive on Maui? You can make your first Discover Scuba dive here with Lahaina Divers- no experience necessary. Or, do your book work at home and get your open water certification in about 3 day on Maui.

Check Out Maui Swap Meets

Maui Swap Meet

Get Some Ono Grinds (good food) and Drinks

  • Whether you are looking for fine dining, the best happy hour, or casual dining where us locals like to hang out, our dining guide has been freshly updated.
  • You will need to wear a mask when going out to eat, but once you are seated, you do not have to wear a mask when actively eating or drinking.

The One Thing to Remember When Visiting Now

Reservations, reservations, reservations!

Reduced capacity during COVID-19 means activities, restaurants and even parks and golf courses are limited in their daily capacity. So, even though there are few tourists on the island, it is difficult to get in many places without an advanced reservation. This requires a little more advanced planning than in the past. Here is our recommendation for saving your spot by general category:

  • Restaurants- Reserve 2 months or more in advance for fine dining. The Open Table app is widely used on Maui for reservations. Just don’t forget to cancel within 48 hours if you can’t make it. Casual restaurants may not take reservations. We suggest getting there 30 minutes before happy hour, or try and stagger you visit and have lunch at 11 or 2, and avoiding the sunset hours for dinner. You can also buy fresh island ingredients at the grocery store and bbq many meals at your condo complex.
  • Activities- Book three weeks or more out. Check each vendor’s cancellation policy so you can get a refund if your plans change. Even attractions with a large physical footprint like Maui Ocean Center are operating under limited capacity.
  • Parks- Check the park’s specific reservation rules for any park on your list, including ones mentioned in this article that now require reservations. Make your reservations on the day and time you are first able to do so. For example, if you want to see Haleakala sunrise and they release reservations at 7 am a week in advance, you need to be online at that time trying to get a reservation. Hint: sunset is just as nice- no reservation required.
  • Rental Cars- Reserve 4- 6 months before your vacation. Thousands of rental cars were shipped off island during the pandemic. As tourism numbers are growing, some people are finding a shortage, or not being able to get the type of vehicle or price they want. Make sure and rent a car well in advance. Most major brands have generous cancellation policies, so you might rent a vehicle before even securing your flight!

Should You Visit Now?

lei greeting

We know that many people visit Maui every year and had to cancel last year. Or maybe you have been anxiously waiting to be able to visit Maui for the first time, and that is now possible without a quarantine if you follow the requirements for a negative COVID test prior to your flight.

Being shuttered for nearly eight months, our natural environment got a chance to rest and recuperate. Beaches are still far less crowded and more marine life is being observed in near-shore waters. Of course, the same less-impacted nature extends to experiencing Maui’s rainforests and other microclimate adventures.

Destination Maui Vacations took advantage of the slow time by beefing up our already extensive cleaning protocols. We also updated our reservation system. Many condo owners took the opportunity to make upgrades to their units.

Driving around, you will experience stretches of roadway that have been repaved and improved, and businesses with shields at cash register stands and hand sanitizer just about everywhere.

You will also find Maui a more conscientious island.

As long as COVID-19 is significantly impacting all of us, Maui will focus on the health and safety of our island community and visitors. That means social distancing, handwashing or using hand sanitizer. Some businesses may require temperature checks upon arrival. Mask-wearing is standard here, and part of being pono, or doing what is right. Please don’t argue about the rules. Wearing a mask on Maui is not a political issue and is not open for debate. We wear masks as an act of aloha to protect others on our island, and as a result have maintained relatively low COVID-19 numbers. This makes Maui one of the safest fly-to vacation destinations, and we appreciate everyone’s kokua in keeping it that way.

You can view the requirements ahead of time in the Statewide details here (Exhibit J at the very end has the mask requirements.) Also see Maui County’s Public Health Emergency Rules (Rule 5). The penalty for not wearing a mask can include fines up to $5,000 and possible imprisonment.

However, if you can’t travel or don’t feel comfortable visiting Maui during COVID with its restrictions, we understand. Visit us when you are ready. Each new day on Maui is sparkling with possibilities, ending with a beautiful sunset promising another day in paradise.

Do Residents Want You to Visit?

Maui attireWe get asked this question a lot. If you follow social media, you might catch some negative conversations from both sides, residents and visitors. Overall, we want you to visit, and our economy is greatly benefited by tourism. That said, here are some thoughts. Some (certainly not all) people have great expectations because of the amount they have paid to get to Hawaii, and may feel entitled by the amount they are willing to spend while here. Maui is not for sale in that way. However, if you greet the people you meet here with friendliness, understanding they have valuable knowledge of the island, and also make a little effort to respect community values and culture, you will be amazed at the warm aloha you receive in return.

Before the pandemic, Maui was being a little “over-loved” with tourism. In 2019, there were 3,071,596 visitors to the island of Maui. During the same period, there were 144,444 residents. Residents are envisioning a different future relationship with visitors, based on culture and connection.

The pandemic has also put a strain on some interactions. Imagine someone to coming into a remote village and cussing at people because things are different than what they are used to back home. Maui may not seem like a remote village when one is at a resort or trying to find a parking spot, but we are a close-knit community isolated in the middle of the Pacific. We ask for your understanding and compliance. Whether we like it or not, Maui’s pandemic rules have proven very effective. None of us are perfect, but residents and visitors alike are all in this together making Maui No Ka Oi (the best).

Maui is Special

Maui beach

We strongly believe you have an opportunity to have a wonderful time on Maui. Our Destination Maui Vacations staff and many others are working hard to make sure your visit is extraordinary. The healing roots, natural beauty and calming aura is stronger on Maui than ever before. So come, visit or revisit when you are ready. There is plenty to do and see, or just relax and take in the beauty of the island and the aloha spirit.

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Destination Maui Vacations
Administrative Office: 380 Huku Li'I Place, Suite 206
Kihei, HI 96753
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