31 Cheap & Free Things to Do in Maui on a Budget

Maui can be expensive, it’s true, but we were pleasantly surprised by the number of budget-friendly things to do on this beautiful island. From exploring stunning landscapes to attending free cultural events, Maui on a budget is possible for travelers of all ages and interests.

If you want to hike the mountains, chase waterfalls, or get on the water, it’s easy to explore Maui’s natural side for free or very low cost. More interested in the cultural side? See a hula show or learn to play the ukulele for free!

Finding free and cheap things to do on Maui is easier than you think!

We’ve compiled a list of exciting attractions and activities that cater to different interests, so keep reading for all the best things to do in Maui on a budget!

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The 10 Best Things to Do in Maui on a Budget

While we’ve got a comprehensive list below that covers dozens of cheap and free things to do in Maui, we also have our favorites.

Everything on our big list is a good idea, but these listed in our top 10 qualify as must-do’s in our book.

If you’re looking for the quick list, or just the ones we liked the best, here are our top 10 favorite free and cheap things to do in Maui.

  1. Haleakala Sunrise
  2. Snorkeling during Whale Season
  3. Whale Watching Boat Tour
  4. Trying ALL the Banana Bread
  5. Strolling the Wailea Boardwalk
  6. Admiring Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
  7. Exploring a Black Sand Beach
  8. Relaxing on any beach
  9. Check out Nakelele Blowhole
  10. Hiking to an excellent view

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The black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana in Maui

Fun & Free Things to Do in Maui

Enjoy the Beach

One of the biggest reasons to go to Hawaii is to visit its magnificent beaches. Maui has some of the coolest in the state.

Whether you want to stretch out on soft tan sand, wander along a pebbly or jagged rock coastline, or marvel at a famous black sand beach, Maui has got you covered.

All beaches are public in Hawaii, so while you should be respectful of private residences, there is usually a public access point nearby.

You might have to pay for parking if you use a lot, but visiting beaches is the best free thing to do in Maui.

Good to Know: The exception to the free beach rule is the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park in Hana. It was so overrun with tourists that they had to limit the number allowed to visit per day. Book your reservation for your timed entry ticket well before you arrive in Maui. They sell out fast.

Spot Whales from Shore

If you’re fortunate enough to visit Maui during whale season (December to April), then you’re in for a treat!

Tens of thousands of humpback whales come to Maui each winter to breed and as a layover on their journey north to Alaska for the summer feeding.

The best part is you don’t have to be on a boat to whale watch! Do it from the shore!

Bring a pair of binoculars if you plan to watch from beach level, or choose an elevated spot at an overlook.

Papawai Point is a popular overlook for multiple reasons, but it’s a good spot for whale watching from shore because you can see both the whales chilling in the bay and the whales cruising along the deeper channel between the islands.

Catch a Hula Dancing Show

Believe it or not, we’re recommending you visit a shopping mall on your trip to Maui. Why? Because many of them have free hula dancing performances.

The Outlets of Maui, Lahaina Cannery Mall, and The Shops at Wailea all host free hula shows a couple of days per week, usually in the afternoon/early evening.

This is a free option to enjoy the beauty and tradition of Hawaiian dance and storytelling. Luaus include hula dancers, too, but those are an expensive bucket list check you’ll want to budget for ahead of time.

Find Nakelele Blowhole

Driving up the West Maui coast, about 30min north of Kaanapali, you’ll stumble upon the Nakelele Blowhole, a naturally occurring water feature in the rugged coastline.

As the waves crash against the coast, water is forced through an underwater tube in the old lava rock and shoots into the air like a fountain, spraying the area with seawater.

It’s a fun sight to see and worth the beautiful drive along the hilly coastline.

Pro Tip: Keep a respectful distance from the blow hole. You can walk down the slope for a closer view, but you absolutely shouldn’t be near the hole itself because it’s slippery and you can fall in and get trapped.

Waves can crash over the rocks, too, and sweep you out to sea. There have been fatalities in the past. If you’re on a wet rock, you’re too close.

The Lahaina Banyan Tree's enormous limbs cover the entire square as people take a break on benches in its shade, one of the best things to do in Maui on a budget.

Visit Lahaina & Hawaii’s Largest Banyan Tree

Historic Lahaina has been an important town for much of Maui’s modern and ancient history.

The native Hawaiian chiefs built a settlement here centuries before it became a popular whaling town after the Europeans arrived in the late 1770s.

Strolling through town you’ll find shops, eateries (Honolulu Cookie Company and dole whips!), and a few historic homes you can tour.

Lahaina’s most famous spot is the Banyan Court, home to Hawaii’s largest and oldest banyan tree. This enormous tree provides canopy cover over the entire square. It’s certainly something to see!

Be mindful of the many local chickens and pigeons that like to hang out here, eating scraps from the locals and tourists that eat their lunches on the benches under the shade of the tree.

Watch the Sunset

Nature is always a safe bet for good, free things to do in Maui.

Pro Tip: Be on the west side of Maui for sunset every day. The sunsets are stunning.

More hues of orange, yellow, and pink than you knew existed. If there are clouds, you’ll get purples and blues, too.

Under the right conditions, you might even see the fabled green flash as the sun disappears! (Yes, it’s a real thing. Not made up from Pirates of the Caribbean.)

Maui’s sunsets are breathtaking and free to enjoy. Grab a blanket, find a spot on the beach or at an overlook, and take in the vibrant colors as the sun dips below the horizon.

Our favorite spots were from the Wailea Boardwalk and Papawai Point.

Sunset blurred behind clouds turns the sky red orange as seen from Haleakala's summit

Take a Hike

There’s nothing like a tough hike to make you appreciate a great view!

Waihe’e Ridge Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails on Maui. It’s not flat or easy, but the views just get better and better the higher you climb.

The West Maui Mountains are the best free spot for hiking in Maui, but don’t rule out trails inside Haleakala National Park.

The park charges an entry fee, but you can get in for free with an America the Beautiful National Park Annual Pass or on certain fee-free days throughout the year.

Pipiwai Trail in the Kipahulu District and Sliding Sands Trail in the Summit District are two of the most popular hikes in the park.

Discover Maui Friday Night Town Parties

Every Friday, different towns in Maui host a Friday Night Town Party with live music, local food, and entertainment.

It’s a great way to experience the local culture and atmosphere. Enjoy the free party or support a local business and buy a souvenir or food.

Watch the Surfers at Ho’okipa Beach Park

Known for its excellent surfing conditions, Ho’okipa Beach near Paia is a great spot to grab a seat on the beach and watch the local pros surf.

The current can be dangerous for amateurs, so stick to watching if you’re not a confident surfer.

We unfortunately watched someone be air-lifted off the beach when we were there one January…

Learn to Play the Ukulele

One of the most fun free things to do in Maui is learn to play the ukulele! Lahaina Music hosts free lessons open to the public.

Get to the Lahaina Cannery Mall on Thursday afternoons or the Royal Lahaina Resort on Friday mornings. (Days and times may change so confirm ahead on the Lahaina Music website.)

They provide ukuleles and group instruction for free to learn your first basic chords. If you’re really interested, you can rent a ukulele for the week from Lahaina Music and practice throughout your vacation.

The Road to Hana's green forested cliffs surround a bay of blue and aqua as they crash on the black rocky coast.

Drive the Road to Hana

Take a journey on the famous Road to Hana and wind through lush rainforests, past cascading waterfalls, and along the picturesque coastline.

Bring a camera, your sense of adventure, and some patience. 

Driving the route won’t cost you anything more than gas for your vehicle, but fill up before you start. It’s a hugely popular route and thousands of people travel this route every day.

Fair warning: there’s a reason the souvenir shops all have “I survived the Road to Hana” shirts. This is a narrow, winding route that clings to the cliffside and includes dozens of one-lane bridges.

It’s still worth it. Just read all our Road to Hana tips and tricks for what to expect and how to survive before you go.

Chase Waterfalls

The best place to chase waterfalls on Maui is along the Road to Hana. Some are roadside stops while others require a short hike through the rainforest.

It’s a great free thing to do in Maui as most of the waterfalls don’t charge entry fees. The ones in state or national parks, though, usually require a park entry fee.

Admire Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Mother Nature shows off her whimsical side with these multicolored trees! The trunks are actually every color of the rainbow.

It’s worth a stop and a photo to admire these beautiful trees!

Three rainbow eucalyptus tree trunks show off their colorful bark of brown, yellow, pink, and purple.

Visit the Keanae Arboretum

Explore a free botanical garden showcasing diverse plant species found on Maui. Wander through garden pathways and learn about Hawaii’s unique flora.

Dare to Drive the Back Road to Hana

Another free-but-for-the-cost-of-gas adventure, but this one’s for the bold and confident explorers.

Instead of approaching Hana along the traditional Hana Highway on the eastern coast of Maui, come at it from the west instead.

Driving counterclockwise around Haleakala to Hana is known as the Back Road to Hana, and it’s controversial, to say the least.

For those that are properly prepared, we don’t consider the Back Road to Hana to be dangerous. The views are completely different than the traditional drive, and it’s more remote, but overall, it’s no more dangerous than the front route.

Good to Know: There are some unpaved sections on this route, so avoid this during and right after a rain shower.

Visit the Maui Honey Bee Sanctuary

One of the best unique things to do in Maui is visit the honey bee sanctuary in the Upcountry!

You couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous location, and you’re allowed to take a self-guided tour through their garden to soak up the views as long as you want.

Make time for a free honey tasting and to peruse their selection of Made in Maui souvenirs.

Stroll the Wailea Boardwalk or the Kapalua Coastal Trail

Enjoy a stroll along the coast for a free way to explore Maui’s beaches and oceanfront views.

Wailea Boardwalk has some stunning sunset views if you time it right on the northern end of the trail.

If you stay long enough, you’ll also catch glimpses of the resort’s luaus as you walk back to your car.

Kapalua Coastal Trail follows Maui’s northwestern coastline, connecting Kapalua Bay Beach to DT Fleming Beach, passing by resorts and the Ritz in the process.

Both of these trails are open to the public even though they pass through resort and residential areas.

You can’t park in a resort parking lot for free, but the beaches and trailheads all have free public parking.

A fiery red orange sun sits just above the horizon with clouds and sky shades of pink, orange, and green at sunset on Maui

Cheap Things to Do on Maui that You Won’t Regret

Visit Haleakala National Park

One of our top 3 must-see attractions in Maui! The views from the top are worth the drive up the side of an almost dormant volcano.

Bonus: you can hike into the crater of this majestic behemoth and get a true sense of just how massive this volcano is.

The park has a $30 entrance fee which is good for three days, so if you don’t see everything you want in one day, you can always come back at no extra cost.

Pro Tip: Time your visit for one of the NPS Fee-Free Days and make this a free activity!

A bright orange sun sends out its rays over the Haleakala crater as the sun rises above the cloud bank

Watch Sunrise (or Sunset) from the Haleakala Summit

For a $1 fee, you, too, can experience this amazing event. This isn’t just another sunrise; this is ‘The House of the Sun,’ an important location in native Hawaiian culture.

Rangers will share the Hawaiian history and mythology of this location, and they also perform the traditional welcoming the sun Hawaiian chant.

It’s a truly special event to behold as the sun breaks through the cloud cover!

Tickets sell out, often within minutes during peak season. There are two releases: 60 days ahead and 2 days ahead.

Getting to this amazing event is a super early morning wake up call, though.

You’re probably staying at a hotel on or near a beach in Lahaina or Wailea. That means an 1.5-2 hour drive just to get to the park entrance, and you want to be early so you get a parking spot at the summit, which is another 30 minute drive up from the entrance.

The park recommends leaving up to 3 hours before sunrise, to account for slow drivers in the dark.

If that’s all too early and/or too much work, go for sunset.

Tickets aren’t necessary or sold for sunset because the crowds are significantly smaller than at sunrise. It’s a different view, too, so maybe you want to see both.

We have a full comparison of Haleakala Sunrise vs Sunset here.

Try All the Banana Bread

While Aunt Sandy’s off the Road to Hana is the most famous, numerous stands sell this local treat around the island.

Finding the best banana bread on Maui is half the fun! Stop at every one you find and try them all!

Whale Watching Boat Tours

If you visit Maui between December and April, don’t miss the opportunity to go on a whale watching boat tour! It’s one of our top things to do in Maui in the winter!

Watching from the shore is cool, but cruising around on a tour boat is worth the splurge for how close you can get to the whales.

You’ll get stunning breaching photos as well as hear the whales talking to each other when the tour lowers a microphone into the water.

We booked day-of for an afternoon whale watching tour, which isn’t as popular as morning tours, but we still saw a ton of whales.

In fact, we saw all three major whale events: breaching, waving, and tail slapping.

A baby humpback whale breaches from the ocean off the shores of Maui

Overeat at the Food Trucks

Save money on dining out by visiting food trucks spread across the island. Enjoy local specialties like poke bowls, Hawaiian barbeque, and interesting fusion dishes.

There’s a huge Asian population here, dating back to the agricultural heyday when workers were needed to run large plantations before modern machinery took over.

The eclectic fusion dishes served on Maui are some of the best dishes on the island.

Explore Iao Valley State Park

Visiting The Needle is one of the top unique things to do in Maui but most tourists come for the photo and then leave.

Instead, take a minute to learn the history. This is actually the site of one of the worst battles from the unification of Hawaii under King Kamehameha the Great.

Take the time to hike a trail and admire the beauty of nature that’s redeemed the area from its terrible past.

Marvel at the Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park

You’ve probably seen this beach on Instagram. It’s so beautiful; everyone wants their own photo of it.

It’s internet fame, though, was overwhelming the park, so the state park now requires visitors to purchase timed-entry tickets to visit its famous black sand beach.

Keep in mind, there are a lot of other things to do at this park, too. See the sea arch, admire the cliffs, and take a hike!

Enjoy a Dole Whip or Shaved Ice

When in Hawaii, one must get a dole whip! Pineapple flavored soft serve is the base of all good dole whips, but there are lots of variations.

Get it in a cup or a cone or pineapple, add toppings, or, my personal favorite, get it as a drink to go.

Shaved ice is another cool treat worth a stop when you can’t find a dole whip stand. Go to a local store, rather than a stand, and the flavor combos are endless with their machines!

A single surfer crests a wave off the coast of Maui

Rent Water Sports Gear: Snorkel, SUP, Surf

We’re big fans of bringing our own snorkel gear, but surf boards and paddleboards just don’t fit in our suitcases. Rent the bigger gear from your hotel or from a beachside rental kiosk.

You can even swim or snorkel from the beach and end up finding sea turtles not too far from shore.

It’s a much more relaxed and peaceful experience (for you and the turtles) compared to taking a tour boat out to Turtle Town.

Partake in Happy Hour

Take advantage of happy hour deals and save a small fortune on drinks and appetizers in restaurants and bars across the island.

Food is always more expensive on an island, so use these daily deals to keep your costs down.

Admire the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

Turns out, France isn’t the only place with gorgeous lavender farms. Get your purple fix on a visit to Ali’I Kula Lavender Farm, on the edge of Maui’s Upcountry.

A small fee or donation to the Maui food bank gives you access to wander the colorful fields, and thanks to Maui’s year-round warm climate, there’s always something in bloom, even in winter.

Ali’i Kula grows several varieties of lavender. Summer is peak bloom with the most variety of blooms, but fall also has quite a few blooms.

Unique to Maui, winter and spring also see French lavender in bloom!

Even if you visit in winter when the farm isn’t in full bloom, the gift shop has all the amazing lavender-scented souvenirs you could ask for.

A lavender field with purple blooms in Maui's Upcountry under a blue sky

Try Cheeses and Milk a Goat at Surfing Goat Dairy

One of the cutest and most unique things to do in Maui is to milk a goat at the Surfing Goat Dairy in Maui’s Upcountry.

Tickets are required, but it’s one of the more affordable things to do on Maui, and it’s a great way to take a break from the beach for an afternoon.

Buy cheese and souvenirs from the shop, and go enjoy a sunset picnic.

Get Pie from Leoda’s

A must-visit Maui institution, you gotta stop for a pie from Leoda’s.

They’ve got both sweet and savory options, including flavors you’ve never heard of or tried before.

We recommend a stop earlier in the day, though, because popular flavors will sell out.

The banana cream, pineapple macadamia nut, and chocolate macadamia nut we tried were all good!

Drink Pineapple Wine at Maui Wine

Maui’s Upcountry is an awful lot like wine country in other places, and MauiWine is the most popular spot on the island for its pineapple wine.

They, of course, offer more traditional wines as well.

Enjoy stunning Upcountry views while enjoying a flight or tasting.

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There are Plenty of Things to Do in Maui on a Budget. Enjoy Your Trip!

Whether you want to enjoy soft sand beaches, climb to new heights, or enjoy unique sites, there are plenty of things to do in Maui on a budget! What will you do first?

Looking for more? Here’s all our resources to help you plan your Hawaii trip!

More Hawaii Travel Resources

Happy travels!

Headshot of Rachel Means at Clingmans Dome in Smoky Mountains

About the Author: Rachel Means

With six-figure student loan debt and only 10 PTO days per year, Rachel started traveling the world. A decade later, she’s paid off her loans, changed careers, and been to 38 US states and 17 countries. She’s an expert at planning and budgeting for travel and loves to help others do it, too! Read her full story here.

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