Sports in Maui
Maui is one of the world's prime destinations for all kinds of outdoor activities. This certainly is our main reason to be in Maui. In fact, there is no way for us to list all the different options available, but we can tell you about the things we like to do. Here's a list:
If you are a windsurfer, you don't need to be told about this. Maui is the world's number one windsurfing destination. There are numerous spots around the island. In fact, one of them is right in Kihei. You could probably windsurf right from the beach across the street, but it is generally better to go a little further up north in Kihei. Especially when a southernly swell is coming in, there are some good times to be had there. (The water can be shallow though, so be careful during low tide!)
Most of the time however, we take the 20-30 minute drive up to the North Shore. Kanaha is probably the best place for the average-to-very-good windsurfer. If you feel you are beyond that level, you can play with the pros in Ho'okipa, which is just a few minutes further past Paia. Be aware, however, that Ho'okipa is not for the faint of heart. This spot can literally kill you, with double-mast-high waves and often more. However, it is worth stopping by and watching the world's top windsurfers. Ho'okipa is almost set up like a natural stadium. It's by far the best place to watch windsurfers I have ever seen. Make sure to bring your camera!
I recommend Kanaha as the top windsurfing destination. You get large waves breaking over a reef, but the reef is a few hundred yards out, so you get an easy start and you are not washed into the cliffs if you mess up, like you would be in Ho'okipa. You can also sail around the break and the way the reef is set up (deeper on one end than the other), means you can pretty much pick the size of waves you want. Be aware, however, that the waves can get very large even in Kanaha and, as everywhere that has waves breaking over a reef, the water is relatively shallow. Not fin-killer shallow, but if you get washed over the reef or mess up a high jump, you may touch bottom, which can be painful. It is usually not a problem if you are aware of it though.
To get to Kanaha, drive to the airport and continue through the airport as if you were to go to the rental car places. However, instead of turning into one of the rental car lots, continue straight on until you hit a beach park. Hang a right if you want to windsurf (kite surfers should take a left at that point to get to "kite beach").
Unless you brought your own gear, you will have to rent. I have used Neil Pryde for rentals before (for Neil Pryde sails and JP and Starboard boards). I hear Windsurfing Maui also has good gear. There are a few other places that rent as well, but I have no personal experience with them. Generally, all rental places are in Kahului. Just like when going to Kanaha, head towards the airport. Once you get into Kahului, it is relatively easy to find the rental places. If you are looking to buy gear, I recommend Goya. Go to the main Goya shop in Haiku. They have by far the best boards (all the pros sail Goya, even though their boards may have different paint jobs and logos... there's a dirty little Maui secret for you...). If you are lucky, you can even borrow or try gear there, but it is somewhat unlikely.
Kite surfing is a popular option in Maui as well. You can kite surf in all the places listed above. Usually, kite surfers try to stay separated from windsurfers though. Kanaha has a special "kite beach" a little further down leewards. Most kiters in the Ho'okipa area also start a little further down the lee side.
You can't think of Hawaii without thinking of surfing. Everyone does it. And you should try it to. If you are seriously into surfing, you know you want to take the short trip up to the North Shore and surf the best spot based on the day's conditions. If you are not as good, or just want to try it, you can do so right on our beach. Or pretty much anywhere else around the island. Our beach is pretty good though and it is not as shallow as some of the "beginner spots" near Lahaina. (Shallow means there are hard reefs you are likely to fall into, which can be very very painful). So stick to our beach. You can even rent boards just around the corner at The Cove. It's easily walking distance. Just head north/right as you walk out of the condo complex and walk around the first bend.
SUP (stand up paddle) is the new thing! Or is it really? It's now been so well established, it is hard to say. Either way: If you have never done it, you must try it! It's like surfing, but you stand on a board that is a bit larger than a normal surf board. You can ride waves or you can just paddle around for fun. Entire families can do it together. It is easier than surfing in general, and it is also the easiest way to start riding waves. Not to mention a great exercise! If you ask me, it's the best way for people to get in the water, explore the island, and enjoy the ocean without needing a high degree of skill. Plus, for those worried about sea creatures, it is less intimidating because you are out of the water. It's good fun all around! You can rent boards at The Cove, and our beach is one of the best places to SUP!
Hawaii may not be a prime destination for scuba diving as things are a bit less predictable than elsewhere, and the reefs are not the world's greatest. However, that doesn't mean that Hawaii isn't worth diving. We are avid scuba divers, and we have enjoyed all our dives. You will likely see huge turtles. Beyond that... well, it could be anything! However, nothing is guaranteed. You can dive various locations around the island. Most operators operate right out of Kihei, although some operate from Lahaina.
Molokini is one of the prime destinations for divers (I recommend the back wall more than the inside), and it is generally tackled from Kihei. If you are lucky, you can see large marine creatures such as sharks or Manta Rays, which are generally the main attractions. However, there are other things worth seeing there as well for those who take the time to look. We saw our first bright-yellow frog-fish there. Dive operators will also take you to various other locations near Kihei. Other things of interest include lava tube dives in Lanai, or Hammerhead Shark dives and lots more. There's always a chance to see a Tiger Shark and some people have even seen Great Whites at the right spots. Unfortunately, these sightings are rare and unlikely, so I do not want to get your hopes up. You can also do night dives in Maui. We have never done those ourselves (although a night dive is on our list). Depending on where you do them, they can be pretty straightforward dives or, especially if done as a blue-water dive, they are rumored to be the scariest dives you can do, but intensely rewarding. How amazing would it be to see a large Manta Ray at night in open water? Well, I suppose it isn't for everyone. :-)
You'll find numerous dive operators on Maui. We have used Ed Robbinson in the past (right in Kihei a little north of our condo) but I couldn't say whether this operator is better than others or not. We were happy with them. They leave right from the Kihei boat ramp, which is just around the corner from our condo to the south. They seem to be the operator that comes most recommended. Most of the dive operators leave early and that is what we would recommend too, because you do not want to dive once the trade winds pick up during the day, since it ruins underwater visibility.
Not quite ready for the full-on scuba experience? Not to worry! Snorkeling is pretty amazing too, and just about everyone can do it. You can do it right at our beach and at many other beaches nearby. There also are a few places on the road to, and past Lahaina. Black Rock is well known for snorkeling. Oh, and in Lahaina, you can also go on a tourist submarine, which is a cool thing to do if you don't actually scuba dive. Plus, you can easily take the whole family.
If you want to play an unforgettable round of golf, you have come to the right place! Maui has many golf courses. There is something for every taste and expense category. You'll find several courses very near to our condo in the Wailea area (Wailea starts just a few blocks south from out condo). The Wailea courses are spectacular, but they are also expensive. They are definitely in the "must play if you can" category. If you are looking for a less expensive alternative yet you still want to get the "play along the ocean" feel, we recommend the Waiehu Municipal course. The facilities are pretty crappy, but the course is spectacular (although not always as well maintained as the Wailea courses... you get what you pay for, I guess). If you want to play up the side of one of the mountains, I recommend the Pukalani course. There are tons of other courses too, which we are trying to play one by one. A good starting point for a list can be found here. Golf-Maui.com seems to be a pretty good resource for golfing in general and we have used them for that purpose before.
Several operators around the island organize various forms of bike trips. Being driven up Haleakala by car and riding bikes down at high speeds seems to be a popular thing to do. Personally, I enjoy riding up myself (although going all the way to the top of Haleakala is out of reach of most hobby-bikers... including us).
Maui has some cool hikes. You can hike along beaches and you can hike the jungle. I love driving down the road to Hana and stopping at one of the canyons and hike to the end (which usually has a waterfall). There are no dangerous animals (well, there are wild boars I guess, but I never saw any). The island has no venomous snakes or similar animals. Another cool thing to do is hike the crater of the Haleakala volcano. Get up early and drive to the top. Bring warm clothes. Get a hiking map first. I hear people tend to get lost in the crater, and fog can move in quickly at times.
Is this it? No, not by a long shot. This is just a list of things we like doing, and it isn't even complete for that. You can go kayaking. I have thought about joining a canoe club (I hear they welcome visitors, but I haven't had a chance to check it out myself yet). You can go rafting. You can water ski and jet ski. Sailing, swimming, boogie boarding, shelling, fishing, playing tennis, and much more, is always popular and easily accessible. I recommend you also check in with the concierge desk for more ideas.