Central & North Maui in a Day
A Wayfinders Guide to Waihee Ridge, Iao Valley, & North Maui Attractions
Today's Maui itinerary explores the great hiking trails and attractions located in Central & North Maui. Central Maui is best known for the Iao Valley, technically in West Maui, but access is via central Maui. The Waihee Ridge Trail is also technically in northwest Maui. Yet, we added it here because you must access it from central Maui.
The proverbial 'heart' of Maui, Central Maui, is the isthmus that connects Maui's two volcanoes. Your visit to Maui likely began here at the airport in Kahului.
Central Maui includes residential communities, sugar and pineapple plantations, county and state government offices, and various visitor attractions, including the Kahului Airport (OGG), the Maui Tropical Plantation, golf courses, parks, shopping areas, and more.
We've also included the famous 'Iao Valley State Park' in this area since it's accessible only through Central Maui. In North Maui, along the Hana Highway, you can also explore Baldwin Beach Park. While in Northwest Maui, you can hike the Waihee Ridge Trail, one of our favorite hikes on the island.
How our Maui Itineraries Work
Remember, each of our Maui Day-By-Day Itineraries is used as a grab-and-go resource for 'mapping' your trip. Mix, shuffle, and re-order our itineraries according to your desires for this dream vacation. As fellow travelers, we understand the value of having options. Subsequently, consider our plans as suggestions that you can ultimately adapt to your liking. For instance, if one of our suggested stops or Maui attractions doesn't sound appealing to you, skip to the following suggested stop on the list.
Mapping Your Maui Trip
We've designed our itineraries around many on-island Maui days: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven-day itineraries. With our well-planned itinerary, we soak in the best sights to make most of your precious time on Maui. We split our itineraries between those seeking adventure and those seeking to relax. Overall, we designated this to build your dream Maui trip.
In this Central & North Maui itinerary, we have NOT included dining recommendations. We did not want to assume anyone's dining preferences. There are several excellent options for finding dining: TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc. If you'd like to see, we add local dining options or suggestions, drop us a line: [email protected].
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Central & North Maui Map
We've provided all Maui directions via Google Maps when possible. Google Maps works on all platforms and across all devices. Search for the address or destination's name with your phone or tablet.
To help you visualize each day's itinerary, we've also provided a Central & North Maui overview map that helps you get your bearings.
Central & North Maui Itinerary Stops
Itinerary for Central & North Maui...
Stop # 1.) Optional - Waihee Valley & Ridge
Waihee Ridge Trail
Let's kick off this Central & North Maui itinerary with an optional hike on the northwest coast of Maui. Head to the Waihee Ridge Hike, which overlooks Waihee Valley. Access the Waihee Ridge Trail from central Maui via Highway 3400 to Highway 40, heading north. As one of the finest trails on Maui, many still enjoy this strenuous trail. If you instead not take this trail, consider the alternatives below.
Waihee Ridge Trail
Waihee Ridge Trail, in northwest Maui, takes you up the spine of Waihee Valley. The journey provides a Kauai-Esque scenery through an intense climb (especially at first). Kauai, the oldest and westernmost central island of Hawaii, resembles the picture here.
When you reach the top, the views are surreal if clouds are evident. Many consider the experience as a mystical experience. We recommend sitting in silence and focusing on Maui's mana (energy).
This is one of our favorite hikes on the island. On account of the steep incline, many bypass this trek. We recommend that the moderately fit and adventurous reconsider this fantastic hike.
Stop # 2.) 'Iao Valley State Monument
'Iao Valley State Monument, including the 'Iao Needle and nearby hiking paths
After enjoying the Waihee Ridge Trail, head to the 'Iao (EE-ow) Valley State Monument. Iao Valley is one of the most popular attractions on the island. It's straightforward to access.
However, please note before your visit that a new reservation system is now being implemented to reduce congestion and diffuse parking and crowding issues.
Advanced reservations to enter ‘Iao Valley State Monument are now available online. All Hawaii State Parks day-use reservations can be made at https://gostateparks.hawaii.gov/iao-valley. The parking fee is $10 per vehicle. The additional non-resident entrance fee is $5 per person, with no charge for children under three years of age. There are separate fees for commercial vehicles.
'Iao Valley State Monument & 'Iao Needle
Nestled in the lush greenery of the 'Iao Valley, find the natural rock formation called the 'Iao Needle. The green-covered stone protrudes from the valley floor. The volcano remnant forms its core. The 'Iao Needle' stands 2,250 ft above sea level.
A lovely walkway and tropical garden surround the 'Iao Needle. Surrounded by the Pu'u Kukui Crater, it was the site of one of the most famous battles in Hawaiian history.
History of Iao Valley
In 1790, King Kamehameha I defeated the Maui army in his quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands. After the battle ended, the stream turned red with all its bodies. Hence, the people named the site Kepaniwai, "damming of the waters." Nearby in the valley, you'll find the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens.
Finding Your Way
Take Highway 32 (Kaahumanu Road) west out of Wailuku. This road turns into Highway 320, which leads directly to the 'Iao Valley State Park. Those looking to enjoy the scenic park must follow social distancing measures and wear protective face masks for the duration of their visit.
Park gates open from 7 am to 6 pm. A non-resident must pay $5 for walk-ins and $10 for cars. According to DLNR, as of April 19th, 2021, all non-Hawaiian residents must purchase an entrance and parking ticket to 'Iao Valley State Monument. Children 3 years old and younger are free. For example, if there are two (2) passengers in your one (1) vehicle, you will need to purchase two (2) entry reservations and 1 (one) parking. Pay for your reservations at the pay station in the parking lot. Hawaii resident visitors' admission and parking are free with Hawaii ID or Driver's License.
Stop # 3.) Choose from various Central/North Maui highlights
Select from H.A. Baldwin Beach Park, the Maui Tropical Plantation, or Maui Ocean Center
After you've finished exploring the lush 'Iao Valley State Monument area, you'll have a decision to make. Do you want to spend the rest of the afternoon beach bumming at Baldwin Beach Park? Or would you prefer to take a stroll around the Maui Tropical Plantation? Alternatively, visit the Maui Ocean Center? We consider each of these Maui attractions as unique and worth a visit. If time permits, you may decide to do these suggested activities below.
Stop 3: Option 1: H.A. Baldwin Beach Park
H. A. Baldwin Park, a tribute to Harry A. Baldwin for his contributions to Maui, is more than just a beach. There are fields for soccer and softball as well as several picnic pavilions and barbecues.
The beach is lovely for swimming but can get a bit windy in the afternoons for sunbathers. This is a family beach popular with the locals in Pa'ia, so you may want to try and steer clear of this park on the weekends. Baldwin offers restrooms, showers, drinking water, and an on-duty lifeguard.
Head east on highway 36 through Pa'ia along the coast. The beach is located just past the golf course on the north side of the highway.
Stop 3: Option 2: Maui Tropical Plantation
At the Maui Tropical Plantation, visitors tour the plantain on a tram. The tour exposes visitors to growing sugarcane & pineapples. Out of the many tours offered at the Maui Tropical Plantation, we recommend the 'Tropical Express Tour.'
According to their website, the Tropical Express offers visitors an overview of Hawaii's favorite fruits and plants. Loop around the lagoon and cruise through parts of the Plantation accessible only to passengers aboard the Tropical Express. The tour includes a 15 to 20-minute coconut husking demonstration. Smell the flowers, see the fresh fruit, hear the stories, and ask questions! This 40-minute tour is ideal for families or visitors to check off their tropical bucket list.
The tour cost is $25 for adults, $12.50 for kids ages 3-12, and free for children under 3. Maui Tropical Plantation tours run Tuesday - Saturday from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM HST.
- Ideal for families or travelers who want an overview of Hawaii's famous fruits and plants.
- The 40-minute tour caters to a kid-friendly attention span.
- A great break from the beach.
- Coconut husking demonstration.
- Convenient, Free parking.
Stop 3: Option 3: Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center is an aquarium and oceanography center located in Maalaea, Hawaii. The island opened it in the March of 1998. Today, the three-acre facility is the largest living tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere; some 750,000 US gallons (2,800,000 liters)! The Maui Ocean Center has six main exhibits that focus on reef fish, deep water animals, Hawaiian culture and history, a Humpback whale exhibit, and more.
A visit to the Maui Ocean Center, best done in the afternoon hours to avoid the crowds, typically takes 2-2.5 hours, but you can enjoy much of what they offer in a shorter time. As of this writing, operating hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm HST. Advance online ticket purchases and reservations are required. The Maui Ocean Center is conveniently located at Ma'alaea Harbor, just south of the North Kīhei Road and Honoapi'ilani Highway junction.
As of this writing, tickets cost $38.59 for adults, $27.55 for children ages 4-12, free for kids under four, and the discounted price of $35.28 for seniors. Prices are subject to change; please check their website below for the latest information. Please also note that those travelers will find children under age three (3) will not be able to partake in the Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit and Sphere, as it is not suitable for children three years and younger due to high volume levels.
Central & North Maui Final Suggestions & Thoughts
May you find our expert travel tips resourceful for planning your trip to Central & North. To support your endeavors, we covered all the significant features. Get ready to have a great time exploring this portion of Maui.
Remember, each of our Maui Day-By-Day Itineraries is used as a grab-and-go resource for 'mapping' your trip. We provide daily itineraries for mixing, shuffling, and re-ordering them according to your taste. Please don't feel obligated to do everything listed on our daily itineraries. We mean them as suggestions. Ultimately, only select the options you find most favorable.
Guides For Your Planning:
Are you a hiker, backpacker, or adventure seeker? The Central & North Maui in a Day Guide covers all the best hiking trails and attractions in Central & North Maui. It's a must-read for anyone who loves to go on adventures. Are you looking for the best Maui offers? This guide will take you through Maui Tropical Plantation, Baldwin Beach Park, Iao Valley, etc. Whether you're looking for high-mountain adventures, long-distance hikes, or just relaxing walks in the park, this guide is perfect! Click here to learn more about Central & North Maui in a Day! We offer more insight into other regions of Maui. Get started with planning your tour today! Click here to view our exceptional itinerary: Maui Day-By-Day Itineraries, East Maui, West Maui, South Maui, North Maui, and Haleakala & Upcountry. Click here for guides of Maui regions, more information about Maui, and the best lodging locations in Maui. Start planning your Maui vacation today!