When Golf is Not Enough; Exploring Maui

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maui golf off course

KA'ANAPALI, Hawaii – After 18 holes of golf on Maui, enjoying some sun on your beachfront lanai listening to the waves may be about as much action as you desire.

But when you're up to explore, the island has plenty to do after golf – and it's practically all outdoors. Here are some of the best ways to discover Maui's incredible ecology as well as the culture and tastes of the people who live here.
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Mount Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour
No trip to Maui is complete without driving up 10,000 feet to the summit of mighty Mt. Haleakala for sunrise.  

To make it in time, you'll have to get up around 3 a.m. and get to the summit before 5 a.m., before watching the black sky fill with colors.

After a little post-sunrise eco-tour at the top, we chose the downhill bike ride option with MauiDownhill.com, who provided us one-speed cruisers and helmets.

We plunged down about 4,000 feet of mountain switchbacks back toward civilization, taking in sunny panoramic views of the islands the whole way down.

You don't have to do the bike ride to see the sunrise, you can actually drive up yourself ($10 per car) though there is a capacity limit and cars can be turned away during the busy times of year.

Taste of Maui
Hawaii's multicultural heritage stems largely from the plantation-boom years that drew immigrants from all over Asia to find work in paradise. It has led to a fusion of culinary tastes, from sushi to the countless ways to prepare fish, fruits and other island fare.

The Banyan Tree restaurant at the Kapalua Ritz-Carlton offers a tasting menu, a $150 dinner with four courses. Or get their tasting appetizer, which lets you select a trio of mostly seafood-based small bites, from dungeness crab to pan seared scallops.

For a cheaper meal and a little local street cred, try a Spam musabi for breakfast or a traditional plate lunch, consisting of pork, rice and macaroni salad with a good dose of salt.

Watch surfers wipe out, or take your own lesson
We took the five-minute stroll from the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua down to the beach and watched surfers of many abilities take on angry ocean swells of about 6-10 feet. I saw enough spectacular wipe-outs to determine this will always be a sport viewed by me from afar.

But it you simply must try it with your own two feet, most resorts offer surfing lessons. Be sure to tell them your ability.

Stand-up paddle boarding
Stand-up paddle boarding isn't quite as difficult as surfing for the mainlander but is still a good morning workout and rewarding once you get your balance and can paddle across the bays. We rented out some paddleboards at the Sheraton Ka'anapali on a morning when the seas were a little rough. It took a few falls and some advice from the instructor ('Dude, you're on the board backwards.') to figure it out, but it was worth it.

Make it out past 'Maui Midnight'
On the weekend, book a later tee time so you can stay out later than 'Maui Midnight'  (known to us mainlanders as 10 p.m.). For some after-hours action, head to one of two Sansei locations for late-night karaoke and sushi happy hour. You can find Sansei in Kapalua Village and in the heart of Kihei in South Maui.

If you're in sleepier Wailea, head to Mulligan's, a lively Irish pub at Wailea's Old Blue clubhouse, which has live music and open mic nights.

Coral reef snorkeling
You can find coral reefs along many parts of the coastline in Maui. The Sheraton Ka'anapali has a reef near Black Rock, and so does the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea.

When snorkeling, in many places you can hear the sound of whales (in season), and you'll also be swimming with huge sea turtles who often hang around the coral reefs.

Kapalua Adventure Ziplines
Maui has a handful of zipline tour operators. We opted for the Kapalua Adventure afternoon zipline tour ($150 per person), which trudges up into the Maui mountains, high above the Kapalua Plantation course and has four tandem ziplines that total about 5,000 feet.

The first zip is a warm-up, but the next three are fast and dramatic over gorges and valleys. The final zip is about a half-mile long, plenty long enough to pick up some serious speed as you sail high over a bamboo forest and deep gorge toward the ocean.

Take a canoe trip
Canoeing is a good way to head out into the waters, gaze back at the islands and look below for fish and sea life. Maui has enough sheltered bays, like around Kihei or Wailea, that you shouldn't be tipped over by any rogue waves.

At the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, we took their morning historical canoe ride. Guides talked about native Hawaiians' relationship with the sea, and we paddled out to the reef and observed sea turtles and sea urchins in their habitats.

Find your perfect sunset spot
From honeymooners to natives sitting in pick-up trucks drinking beer, everyone makes time to get to a beach and catch the sunset in Maui.

Maui has 120 miles of coastline and 30 miles of beaches. You can either find your own little secluded part of the coast – or grab a stiff Mai Tai at the Sheraton Maui Resort  & Spa in Ka'anapali and watch the ceremonial sunset cliff divers.