Hawaii Travel: 48 Hours on Maui

With 48 hours in paradise, you won’t have enough time to become the next Kelly Slater surf legend, but two days on the island of Maui and in the town of Kahului are enough to check some serious fun off your bucket list.

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With 48 hours in paradise, you won’t have enough time to become the next Kelly Slater surf legend, but two days on the island of Maui and in the town of Kahului (where the airport is located) are enough to check some serious fun off your bucket list. This list starts off with a few quick hits. Fit in a handful in one day, or cherry-pick your faves to squeeze into your schedule. Or, opt for the longer experiences at the end of the list. It’s your 48 hours so hop in the car, roll down the windows, and get started.

Give Yourself a Sugar High

Hawaiian agriculture is known for top-notch coffee and pineapples, but sugarcane has big roots here, too — no pun intended. Check out the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, right next to Hawaii’s largest working sugar factory in plantation town Pu’unene. Inside you’ll wander through exhibits. Outside sits the big equipment, like trench diggers, vintage tractors, and a cane hauler. Swing by the gift shop for sugary stalks and sticks; you can even pick up the plantation’s proprietary coffee blend too.

Go Green

Are you close to the airport? A Nature lover? Head to the 6-acre Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. It’s full of native plants and those introduced from other Polynesian islands. If you’re feeling anti-social, or maybe just contemplative, take a self-guided walking tour. Otherwise, plan ahead for a docent-led group tour or even a craft class where you use flowers and plants as your materials.

Bond with Birds

A Hawaiian Stilt bird walking in Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary during the day on the island of Maui, Hawaii

Like a botanical garden, it’s weird to think of a wildlife sanctuary right next to the airport, but that’s where you’ll find the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. This man-made pond was originally intended to fatten up fish for Hawaiian royalty a few hundred years ago. It changed to a bird refuge in the 1900s. Birds breed here and use it as a migratory stop, too. Bring out the bird book. You may be able to spot up to 90 different species.

Get Your Culture Fix

Music, painting, film, dance, even circus arts — you’ll find it all at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Check out the calendar before you arrive so you don’t miss anything. At the very least, visit the Schaefer International Gallery — it’s free — where you can admire a handful of different visual art exhibits at any given time.

Drive the Road to Hana

Upper Waikani Falls through bright greenery during the day in Maui Hawaii

It’s famous for a reason. The scenic 64-mile road to Hana is filled with unbeatable views and plenty of opportunities for spontaneous stops. It’s not a race, so take your time and consider staying overnight along the way if you can swing it. There are waterfalls, hiking trails, parks, arboretums, bays, markets, gardens, and food trucks along the way. Plan ahead or let the aloha spirit move you. Just don’t drive too fast. You’ll miss all the sights, and there are 600 curves in the road. You don’t want to miss those either.

See the Sunrise

Silhouettes of people watching the sunset on Maui

If your goal is to see the famed sunrise from the peak of volcanic Haleakala, you can do that with 48 hours in Maui. But you need a reservation, and expect to spend a few hours on the road — in the middle of the night — if you’re coming from Kahului. You’ll probably feel tired once you summit and the sun comes up — and the adrenaline wears off. If this is your last stop before heading to the airport, though, just drive safely and you can conk out on the plane. The photos and memories will keep you going until then.

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