5 Adrenaline-Filled Adventures in Maui

Napili Kai Beach Resort
Napili Kai Beach Resort

When most people think of Hawaii, they picture themselves lazily sipping Mai Tai cocktails at a beach side bars, laying in a hammock, and reading a book.

That’s perfectly fine, but for the more extreme travelers, there are the adventure activities that can only be found on the island of Maui.

At only 727 square miles, Maui packs a ton of excitement into a small space, filled to the beaches with biking, hiking, kite surfing, scuba and ziplining opportunities galore, as well as some sports and ideas you might not even know existed.

In my travels to Maui, I visited some old favorite happenings and tried some adventure activities I had never heard of, but couldn’t live without afterwards.

"Aloha" rock
Is this rock saying “Hello” or “Goodbye?” You just don’t know with rocks.

1. Stand-Up Paddleboarding

The first of many new adventure activities I tried actually isn’t new at all, but rather an ancient travel method that has been used by native Hawaiians to travel across the islands for centuries.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding, or SUP, is a relaxing activity that doubles as an intense workout.

Thirty minutes of SUP is actually equal to six miles of running, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way while you’re doing it.

SUP places you on what looks like a long, skinny surfboard and gives you an oar with which to propel yourself, essentially turning you into a one man kayaking team.

Many places in Hawaii hold lessons and races, but the best place to do it in Maui is at Tiki Man Stand Up Paddle.

Tiki Man SUP sunset vertical
Tiki Man SUP sunset vertical

My guide at Tiki Man, Nate Cloud, who doubles as a fashion designer by night with his Spread The Like clothing brand took us into the crescent-shaped harbor with smooth, gentle waters, making it just right for beginners.

With good sarcastic humor, he began teaching us basic techniques to move across the water.

Like yoga, SUP can be a hard-core workout, only if you want it to be. But I found it incredibly relaxing, to the point where I was so content to bob up and down on the soft current that I actually laid down for a nap.

Unfortunately, it’s not called “Lay-down Paddle Boarding,” so Nate blew his whistle at me to check if I was okay.

He also explained that sometimes he straps a cooler filled with beers to the back of the board out in the ocean with him, something I’m positive that dude has done more than once.

In addition to regular SUP lessons, Tiki Man Stand Up Paddle also offers SUP yoga and SUP boot camp lessons, for those who want a more intense core workout.

Not that I know from experience or anything.

2. Snorkeling with Sharks

One of the more common adventure activities in Hawaii is snorkeling.

It’s easy to make fun of snorkeling as something that only middle-aged tourists do, until you find yourself staring face-to-face with a shark, then you realize really quick that it is pretty intense.

Ali‘i Nui Snorkel Sail took me out on a boat with a group of about forty people of all ages to Molokini marine reserve, early in the morning when the air is just the right temperature.

Many people were sunbathing on the roof, but I chose to stay in and socialize, and take advantage of their continental breakfast and lunch.

Scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced fresh island fruits, croissants, bagels, and muffins kept me occupied.

I’ll try not to brag about lunch, but I did eat guava-smoked pulled pork, marinated Teriyaki chicken thighs, and homemade macadamia nut cookies.

Unafraid of swimming too soon after eating, I was first in line to dive under when we reached our coral destination.

Sea turtle
This sea turtle even struck a pose.

Sea turtles, brightly colored fish, and the aforementioned shark came by to visit while I was there, none of which seemed to care that a bunch of weird bipedal creatures just dropped into their existence from above.

For them, it was something that happened all the time.

They were just content to dart in about the beautiful coral reef and let me take pictures of them.

Our guide, Kate
Our organic farmer turned hiking guide, Kate

3. Hiking on Volcanic Landscapes

Hiking is another one of those adventure activities that Maui puts its own spin on, that spin happens to be that you are walking along an active volcano.

At Halekala National Park, you can actually walk around miles of volcanic landscape and encounter species of plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

I also went on a guided hike with Hike Maui that involved traversing through a secluded jungle, trying different edible plants, and taking some quick jumps through refreshing waterfalls.

Just off the road to Hana, we stopped at a private farm that is made open to the public.

Mini pineapples
Mini pineapples

Our guide, Kate, introduced us to many of the plants and led us through the tropical rainforest down rocks, under trees, and off cliffs into waterfalls. Her story is particularly interesting.

She gave everything up to work on an organic farm while living in a tent in Maui. Since then, she switched careers and now leads hikes around Maui.

Kate first introduced us to cute mini pineapples. We all just wanted to stuff them into our backpacks and take them home with us.

Here we go venturing into the unknown.
Here we go venturing into the unknown.

I wasn’t lying when I said the hike included some wild exploration through water-filled tunnels hidden in the rainforest.

The main highlight of the hike was visiting three different waterfalls, two of which we could jump off.

Posing like models under a waterfall

All three of them allowed for model poses you can look back at fifty years from now to prove to your grandchildren that you in fact took part in a Maui model photo shoot.

If you are brave like the eight year old children, their parents, and us twenty-somethings you can leap into the deep, chilly pools like us.

Cliff jump
Cliff jumping into ice cold water

They do not seem so high from below, but while standing above before jumping, I can guarantee your feet will tremble.

Hanging out under the falls
Hanging out under the falls

Finally, if you happen to stumble upon a few cute girls your age just hanging out under a water fall, you may have found the best place in Maui.

We did.

The Needle in Iao Valley State Park
The Needle in Iao Valley State Park (photo: Traveling Otter)

Then there’s the Iao Valley, where travelers can hike up to the Iao Needle, a 365-metre rock outcropping that overlooks a beautiful stream.

The needle was used as a lookout point in many important Hawaiian conflicts, but now it is a popular destination for hikers.

4. Ziplining

If you’d rather fly than walk, Piiholo Ranch Zipline in the town of Makawao offers three levels of tours across their two different zipline courses, including a whopping 2,800-footer of a line.

You can zoom above the Hawaiian canopies and climb their massive zip line towers for one of the most unforgettable adventure activities in Hawaii.

On the Hana Highway, the whole drive looks like this. Seriously.
On the Hana Highway, the whole drive looks like this. Seriously.

5. Driving the Hana Highway

The famous drive from Paia to Hana, also known as the “Hana highway” is one of the most interesting and picturesque drives on earth.

With dozens of stops to see and check out across the three-hour drive, I wished I could stay on that winding road forever.

I was grateful that I didn’t, however, once I reached the red-and-black sand beaches of Hana Bay.

The black sand beaches of Hana Bay
The black sand beaches of Hana Bay

While red sand beach involves a rather sneaky and difficult climb down through private property to reach the famous nude beach, black sand beach offers incredible adventure through mysterious caves leading to the ocean.


Of all the possible adventure activities Maui has to offer, I never thought my favorite would be driving from one town to the next, but I soon learned that there are reasons this road is so well-known.

I should also mention I have an irrational fear of driving.

The road to Hana was so enticing that I grabbed the wheel from my buddy and drove us the entire way there.

During one point of the journey he grew tired of my constant stomping on the brakes.

When I left the car for a wee, he nearly left me behind to find my own way home.

Handstand at sunset
Handstand at sunset

As you can see, the island of Maui is the perfect destination for the adventure-minded traveler.

In my time span of one week, I couldn’t cover half of the adventure activities that are packed into this place, and there are many, many more categories of fun still to be found.

Maui is an island for everyone, and that reason is plain and simple. It offers unique, exciting and fun adventure activities that you just can not replicate almost anywhere else when it comes to the natural wonders and small town island culture. Will I find you there soon?


My trip to Maui was provided in collaboration with Maui, the Magic Isle. Opinions expressed above are my own.


    • says

      Yeah, it’s a really nice spot. You won’t see as much marine life as in other dive sites, but the water is warm, the coral is beautiful and the companies that take you out are top notch.

      • says

        Yeah, you are right there Jason. There won’t be as much marine life to see as in other dive sites. My husband is a scuba master and he likes Belize better. But I would love to do those 5 Adrenaline-Filled Adventures that you are talking about here :-) Sounds really cool!

  1. says

    That’s awesome…I just finished writing a bucketlist of adrenaline filled activities for my site…swimming with sharks was on the list, as was ziplining…2 things I have jet to try but would love to! So much fun in the adrenaline packed adventures! Looking forward to crossing these items off my list…doing some of them in Maui would be like icing on the cake! http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com/2013/06/12/adrenaline-inspired-bucket-list-for-the-adrenaline-junkie-in-you/

  2. says

    Love this list and I have to agree it would be hard to cover half of the adventure activities in one week that Maui has to offer. We have completed 4 out of the 5 you listed… we have yet to try stand-Up paddleboarding but I will add it to our to do list for our next trip to Maui! Thanks for a great post!

  3. says

    Your photos are quite enjoyable to stare at (yeah stare :O) We used to have those tiny pineapples in our garden, my grandma used to grow.. they turn red when ripened if I’m not mistaken, but I can’t remember tasting them. The photo of you going into the unknown (lol) is one of my favorites.. and your encounter with shark and turtle, well all of them. Love your post all in all. :>

    • says

      Thanks Shirley. I would kill for fresh fruit to grow in my yard, especially pineapples. The shark experience was really unexpected because it happened within the first thirty seconds of entering the ocean. After that, the only marine life I saw were colorful fish.

      • says

        Reminds me of the time I saw the jaguar within the first hour of entering the Peruvian Amazon by boat last year. After seeing the top predator, the rest was monkeys and birds (fun, but not quite as exciting).

  4. Tom says

    Wow looks you made the most of your trip. At first I was saying no way Ziplining but after watching the video I have been convinced. Tour America have greats deals to Hawaii at the moment. I have never been but will have to do something about that.

      • Shrey gediya says

        Hey your experiences are legendary….. Im going to visit USA , can suggests some adrenaline packed spots.

        • says

          Sure, of course Maui should be at the top of your list. But just about every state has something worthwhile. Choosing your preferred type of weather is probably the best starting point.

  5. tinica says

    I spent New Year’s Y2K on Maui, at a reunion of some hippie commune where a lot of actors and such had grown up together, including the first transexual on a major US network drama. But even better was climbing Haleakala for sunrise on New Year’s Day. (Perhaps especially since people feared that 1/1/00 was going to “crash” the world. The sun still rose and it was still a gorgeous sight to behold :)

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