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More people live in Central Maui than any other region of the island.
Because of this you’ll find all kinds of familiar stuff here including the airport, government offices, shopping malls, and even a Costco.
While Central Maui is a great spot to stock up on essentials for your vacation rental, it’s also home to some of the most beautiful tropical rainforest in the world.
If you have an affinity for majestic, emerald mountains, tropical streams, and jungle hikes, then please be sure to check out Iao Valley while you’re in Central Maui.
Most folks stay in West Maui or South Maui while vacationing on the island, so you’ll likely want to take a rental car, or join a tour group to explore Iao Valley for the day.
During your short 10 minute drive into the mountains from Wailuku, stop and see Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens, and the interactive exhibits of the Hawaii Nature Center.
Once you arrive in Iao Valley State Park by car, parking costs a $5 fee per vehicle.
A paved, 1/2 mile pathway leads to a lookout featuring the 1200 ft. high Iao Needle, one of Maui’s most prominent landmarks.
There are a number of stone steps on this short walk and they are often slick so please wear shoes with good traction.
Iao Valley offers one of the most peaceful, and potentially sacred natural experiences on the island. Consider visiting on a weekday to avoid large tour groups.
If you’re up for an invigorating jungle hike, hop the railing at the Iao Needle lookout and continue into the lush, tropical rainforest along Iao Stream.
On these well traveled trails that offers a couple hours of rainforest hikes you’ll get incredible views of the jagged West Maui Mountains as you wander between mango and other tropical fruit trees.
Remember to bring water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellant for your hike—Iao Valley is indeed a tropical rainforest.
In the foothills of the dramatic West Maui mountains, and only 10 miles from the airport is the charming town of Wailuku—population 13,000.
When passing through Wailuku on your way to the Iao Needle, stop for coffee and baked goods at one of the shops in the center of town.
If you have time, join the “Rediscover Wailuku” walking tour and learn why Wailuku was the most popular tourist destination in Maui for more than a hundred years.
On the tour you’ll see the Bailey House, Kaahumanu Church, Iao Theater, as well as a number of other historical attractions.
Wailuku also acts as the “capital” of Maui, housing most of its government buildings.
On the outskirts of Wailuku, you’ll find the immaculate, sprawling Maui Tropical Plantation.
This beautifully restored active farm offers a narrated tram ride, fresh produce at Kumu Farms, dining at Mill House restaurant, and a variety of concerts and shows if you plan the right evening.
Saddle up at Mendes Ranch for a leisurely, 1 1/2 hour ride along a scenic ridge to the Maui coast.
With panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged West Maui Mountains this easy-going wander is well worth the effort.
We recommend feeding yourself before getting in the saddle, but Mendes Ranch offers a delicious BBQ lunch for $30 if you’d like to eat there.
On Market Street, in downtown Wailuku, you’ll find the Historic Iao Theater. This lively stage offers excellent theatrical performances at a reasonable price.
The bill switches between dramatic, comedic, and musical performances every third week, so check the listings before you book your flight.
Kahului is just down the hill from Wailuku and Iao Valley. It’s the largest “city” on Maui, and the place you landed when you arrived on the island.
In addition to modern conveniences such as malls and familiar stores, Kahului is also home to the Maui Heliport.
Right around the corner from Kahului Airport is a place that has the power to change your life in a very good way.
We’re talking about the Maui heliport, where you’ll depart for a helicopter tour of some of the world’s remote tropical beauty!
On a Maui helicopter tour you can choose between exotic destinations such as Haleakala, The West Maui Mountains, Hana, and even a complete circle of the entire island of Maui.
One popular helicopter tour takes you above the tallest sea cliffs in the world, on the nearby island of Molokai.
Modern helicopters have come a long way in the last 20 years, and today they are surprisingly quiet, and comfortable.
Enjoy a live, narrated history of Maui through headphones as you absorb 180 degree views out the helicopter’s windows.
Open every Saturday in Kahului, the Maui Swap Meet is an excellent place to find locally made arts and crafts, aloha shirts and dresses, and fresh, Maui-grown organic produce.
Stock up on gifts for your friends here and save a bundle of money in the process. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Let’s face it: sometimes you just want to go to the mall.
The largest mall in Maui, its shops aren’t “touristy,” per se, but the Queen Kaahumanu Center is a fun place to visit if you have a little extra time to kill before catching your flight home.
MACC always hosts world-class entertainment on a regular basis.
Consider the MACC schedule before booking your trip and enjoy top names in live music, dance, visual arts, and film on your Maui vacation.
Nearly every Maui visitor has been to Central Maui, but few take full advantage of this beautiful, highly modernized region.
Next time you’re here, plan a trip to Iao Valley and a few if its surrounding attractions. Also, keep in mind that Kahului has many of the modern shopping conveniences you’re accustomed to back on the mainland.
Here’s a list of other popular Maui activities and destinations that are within arm’s reach of the greater Central Maui region:
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