The truth is that you need a week at least for each Hawaii island, and probably more with Maui, Hawaii's second largest island.
If you are visiting for a short time, I would recommend that you stay in a hotel with a little kitchen so you explore more and spend less. It is also a better option for vegetarians because veggie food options are slightly limited. That said, grocery stores carry pretty much anything you may need to cook simple, healthy meals.
On our last visit to Maui, we stayed in an area called Kaanapali, close to Lahaina. We did venture out to other places across the island but we also spent decent periods in those areas. Based on my time there, here are things I recommend to see / do.
There is more than one farm out there, some farms even sell pineapple ice cream! We went to Maui Pineapple Tour where we were driven around in a little bus around the Maui Gold Pineapple Fields, stopped to taste some pineapples and then also viewed the pineapple cleaning and packaging process. Pretty cool stuff!
(Insider Tip: Right next to this farm is a glass blowing shop, check it out!)
We like our alcohol SO MUCH BETTER when it is organic, so we had to go to the Hawaii Sea Spirits farm - especially since we had seen their Ocean Vodka product at Whole Foods.
They say its all about the story, and these folks have a good one. They use organic sugarcane (grown right here!) and deep ocean mineral water in their distillery. There was a nice show and tell, tasting and everyone had a good time.
A rare and sacred landscape is really the best way to describe this place. It is quite windy up there at 10,000 ft over the Pacific Ocean and parts of this massive volcano crater looks like you are on Mars. You can book a tour in advance to see the sunrise or you could just make your way up there in the early afternoon (like we did) to experience this landscape. It is an unforgettable experience.
Road to Hana
While this is just a scenic drive, it is probably the best one you will ever do. If you are not a confident driver, you could join a tour but we were comfortable doing it on our own.
Remember to keep your eyes on the road, though. There are many one-way bridges, some roads are narrow and pretty curvy. And we rented a jeep because that's the kind of car you need.
Lush green covers, rainforest feel, waterfalls and lookouts. If you like nature, your soul will do a happy dance. There is a four-mile hike at the 7 sacred pools, which is worthwhile, and the bamboo forests are amazing.
The drive is long but you can choose to go a specific distance and then turn around. For eg. Turn around at Twin Falls or at the Ke'anae Peninsula or Wai'anapanapa Park.
Play by ear - Just start early!
Goat Dairy Farm and Cheese Tastings
Would you like a make-up brush made of goat hair? Ha! Find it at the Surfing Goat Dairy.
This spot can be a fun break from all the madness and it is perfect for those with little kids. For a casual tour to see the goats, just buy a ticket and walk around the farm. Taste some delicious cheese. If you want to milk the goats, that's another experience to consider.
Note: If you are even slightly lactose intolerant, skip the cheese. It was too fresh for me, but Puneet liked it.
For us, rather than sitting in a hotel room, this was just something fun to do. Besides, who doesn't like cute goats?
The Plantation House at Kapalua Resort
You may or may not know but my partner-in-crime, Puneet loves to golf. While we did not have the time to golf in this trip, we just had to check out the Kapalua Golf Course - one of the most majestic courses in the world, consistently ranked as #1 in Hawaii and one champions talk about!
So, we made our way down to The Plantation House at the Kapalua Resort which has a unique vantage point on the golf course and of course panoramic ocean views. Regrettably, vegetarian food on the menu is an afterthought. I mean, you will find something, but nothing spectacular.
Quick drink and the most beautiful views - Yes!
Okay, yay - Check.
The Great Buddha at Lahaina
I am generally a fan of Buddha and of Buddhism, so I love visiting Buddhist temples. They give me peace. The Giant Buddha statue at Lahaina Jodo Mission is 12-ft high. It was made in 1968 in Japan and then erected in Lahaina that year to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the first Japanese settlement in Hawaii. When you walk around in the premises, look for the huge temple bell which is still rung today.
The Banyan Tree
They claim that this massive Banyan Tree on Front Street in Lahaina is one of the largest in the United States. This beautiful tree is 150 years old and was imported from India. It now has several (16) trunks and it looks like a little forest of its own!
It's fascinating and a must-see. Get a book and read under its shade on those benches.
I live in a beach town so this water stuff is what we take for granted - Right?
Wrong. The Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles is so cold, always cold. Hawaii is a different story. The water is warm and wonderful and you don't need wet suits!
And then, there is the resort pool. We have a water baby so she would literally need to be bribed to get out of water! Anya was the happiest doing water activities.
The Hawaiian Luau
When in Hawaii, find time to go to a Luau - a celebration of food, dance, culture and music. Of course, food is meat-heavy and not for us but the atmosphere is lively and the performances are great.
The Hulu dancers that we had the honor of watching were uber talented! At one point, we saw a person performing with fire, which was scary but cool.
Also, at the end of the performance, the dancers invited all of us on the stage to dance - this was so much fun!
In the videos, you will see that the dancers kept going even when it started to drizzle.
Honestly, it added to the ambience and the experience and the rainbow made an appearance so it was all good.