As a local Maui native, born and raised on the island, I know all too well how expensive Maui life can be. Between the cost of living, delicious dining venues and the awesome attractions, $20 does not get you very far, especially when you’re here on vacation. That’s why I wanted to share with all of you my “top” budget-friendly activities that are perfect for your trip to the island while visiting or for the locals alike. Maui offers so many great attractions or things to do that are not only affordable, many are free. In this list, I will share with you some of my free favorites as well as a few that you will need to pay a little, but it’s worth it for sure. With a little patience and planning, you and your family can have a blast. Let’s chit chat about those options, shall we?
*Please note that this list is in no particular order. I think all of my selections are fun and exciting and while visiting or looking to take part in a little Maui stay-cay (if you live here), these are all great options to check out.
#1 – The Maui Swap Meet
The Maui Swap Meet is a local favorite and one of the best places to try out a variety of Maui food flare or to pick up souvenirs. Admission to the Swap Meet is just $0.50 a person (12 and older) and children 11 and under are free. With free re-entry and free parking, it’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. There are usually over 200 vendors on any given day and you can find everything from fresh produce to local food, arts, and crafts, sweet treats like Hawaiian shaved ice and jewelry galore. I also love that you can get handmade soaps and candles or a great 10 minute (or more massage). If you want to try fresh fruit and vegetables, you’ll get every type there – including delicious Maui Gold Pineapples. My favorite to grab while at the swap meet is a fresh coconut with sweet coconut water and then coconut spoon meat after I’m done drinking. If you are here on vacation, this is a great place to stop and pick up souvenirs for your family and friends.
*What is spoon meat? It’s when the coconut meat is so soft and tender that you can scoop it out of the coconut shell with a spoon. It’s the best way to eat coconut in my opinion.
A few notes for your day at the Maui Swap Meet – Be prepared with your own bag (recycle tote, etc.) to easily carry your purchased goods. Since it’s often hot, make sure to have water or something to drink to keep hydrated while walking around. Be prepared with cash as most vendors (vegetables and food especially) do not accept cards. Many jewelry vendors do accept credit cards so it’s best to ask if they offer that option but be prepared with cash. Most of the vendors are definitely willing to bargain on the cost of products, but I suggest looking around before buying since some of the vendors further away tend to be cheaper.
#2 – Experience Maui Food Fare at Local Food Trucks
Food Trucks are becoming all the rave around the world but they have been a popular thing here on Maui since I was a little girl. I remember going to Makena Beach as a teen and eating from a few local food trucks back in the day. Nowadays, you can find food trucks selling every type of food pretty much everywhere on Maui, stationed all over the island.
Food trucks are a great way to experience a variety of different local eats for half the price of most sit-down restaurants. They are a great way to grab a quick bite to eat or stop and fuel up after a day playing in the ocean. Some of the food trucks on the island have specific lots where they are located (Kahului Food Truck Lot across from Costco Gas Station) or you can find them in places like the Maui Swap Meet, along Kahului Beach Road at Kahului Harbor or different shopping centers. You can easily spot a food truck everywhere on island, making it a go-to for locals and visitors alike. And, did I mention the type of food you can find at these trucks? Well, the options are endless but include Local Hawaii food and plate lunches, shrimp, Thai food, desserts and ice cream, hamburgers, tacos, Mediterranean food, poke or fish and so much more.
Some of our favorite food trucks are:
Thai Me Up – Kahului Food Truck Lot (across from Costco) and Up Country Kulamalu Shopping Center by Longs
Maui Freeze – Kahului Harbor
Geste Shrimp – Kahului Harbor
Mediterranean Grill – Haiku
Wraps To Go – Up Country Kulamalu Shopping Center by Longs
Dino’s Gourmet On-The-Go – Kahului Food Truck Lot (across from Costco)
#3 – First Fridays on Maui
A great way to experience Maui, in a nutshell, is to attend one of the First Fridays. There is a town party each and every week of the month that is hosted in each town throughout the island. Each town has their own type of celebration and you can expect to have a grand time no matter what First Friday you attend. It’s a fun way to experience Maui nightlife without breaking the bank.
Maui First Fridays are free to attend and most of the parties offer free parking. Bring your appetite and make sure you have cash on hand so you can experience local food and entertainment all in one place. This is a great place to check out awesome vendors that sell everything from food to local crafts and artwork. But, local stores and establishments also stay open and often times offer discounts for the festivities. I love the entertainment that you can experience while walking around (many local artists perform during First Friday parties). This is a great way to experience local artisans, live music and a ton of food vendors.
A few notes if you’re planning to attend: Like I said, it’s a great family event, but be prepared as it gets really busy. Be sure to have a stroller or keep your children nearby as it can get so packed that children get lost easily. I suggest to also have a bottle of water on you as there tends to be a lot of walking around and it’s a great way to stay hydrated.
A favorite thing for my family to do each year during our winter months is to watch the whales. Maui is the winter home to thousands of whales that make the journey from Alaska to the Au’au Channel located in West Maui. The humpback whales come to breed and nurse their young every year from December to May. These beautiful creatures can be found swimming around and playing in our warm waters and it’s a beautiful experience to watch them while they’re in play.
Whale watching tours are actually reasonably priced considering you get a ride on a boat and get to experience our world’s wonders. I would definitely search different companies to use and compare prices accordingly. But, my family and I love watching whales at no cost from our favorite shorelines or lookouts.
Honoapi’ilani Highway, at the Pali Lookout, has a great scenic lookout area that you can pull over and park at to watch these whales at play. My family and I also love to watch them from the shoreline at Maui’s famous Ka’anapali Beach fronting the Westin Maui resort. You can stand on the shoreline and watch the whales play for hours.
*A few tips – if you spot a whale at play while driving, please be sure to pull over off of the road safely. Many visitors spot the whales while traveling along the Pali road and it is dangerous to stop in the middle of the road due to blind turns. Pull off the road completely and do not block traffic.
#5 – Snorkeling on Maui
I grew up with having Maui’s surrounding ocean as my playground so I just had to suggest this awesome activity. Snorkeling in our pristine waters and viewing all of the beautiful sea life is definitely something I suggest while visiting or even if you live here. The waters are crystal clear most of the year so it makes for ideal viewing of turtles, eels, sea urchins and a ton of different species of fish.
You can easily rent snorkel gear from a local dive shop, but if you plan to spend more time in the water, I definitely suggest picking up your own snorkel set. There are a ton of different stores that sell them locally and many of them affordable in cost: ABC stores, Target and Walmart all have different styles. But, our favorite place to pick up snorkel gear is at our local Costco in Kahului (near the airport) because you’ll get a really good one for an affordable cost point. Make sure you grab a dry snorkel (that’s important) because it automatically closes when you go underwater so that you don’t have to worry about getting water down your snorkel.
There are so many locations to view underwater life so we have listed a few favorites for all of you to check out:
Black Rock – Kaanapali Beach (ocean side of Sheraton Maui resort)
Ho’ikipa Beach Park (check weather conditions are the waves can get really big here, especially during the winter months)
*A few tips: It is very important to remember that while you are snorkeling, do not step on the reef. These rocks are living creatures and you can injure and harm the home of many living organisms. Also, make sure that you are using an all natural sunscreen that is zinc-based to protect from sunburn but also to protect Maui’s very important ecosystem. Make sure that if you are going to hang out at the beach after your snorkel that you take with you an rubbish or items that you brought. This is the best way to keep our oceans and ocean friends safe and unharmed.
#6 – Experience Maui’s Beautiful Beaches
I guess you could say this goes along the line of snorkeling, but it’s definitely different. Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – if you don’t believe me, ask Conde Nast – lol. The beach is one of the best things to do on Maui because it’s free and all beaches are open year round (weather permitting, of course). Grab a beach mat or blanket and stop by a local store to grab some lunch and spend the day sunbathing or playing in the water. Most of the year the water conditions are absolutely ideal for swimming.
What’s great about our beaches is most of them are open to SUP or Stand Up Paddle Board, Kayak or body boarding. While those things all cost money (for rental or purchase), they are also other options for enjoying the beaches surrounding our beautiful island.
*A few tips for spending the day at the beach. Don’t forget about that all natural sunscreen I mentioned earlier, but make sure you have it because a sunburn can be brutal. Remember, anything you bring with you to the beach, take with you – like trash, etc. Leaving it at the beach can cause issues with the sea life, but we also want to make sure we are taking care of our beaches so others can enjoy them. Ask your concierge (if you’re a visitor) about beaches that they suggest for the type of activity you’d like to do. And, don’t forget to check the weather, tide and water conditions before getting into the ocean. A local saying here on island is – “When in doubt, don’t go out!”
#7 – Catch a Hula Show or Learn How to Dance Hula
Hula dancing is a huge part of the Hawaiian Culture and a beautiful art form of the Hawaiian people. There are several hula shows on the island that you can attend and for those of you looking to try it out for yourself? Well, you can also find free hula lessons as well. Check with your concierge to see what is available or check out my list below for options that you can take part in.
Keiki (children) Hula Show – Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 pm at Lahaina Cannery Mall. (Free)
Free Hula Lessons – Thursdays at Lahaina Cannery Mall at 5 pm
Napili Kai Foundation’s Weekly Keiki Hula Show – Every Tuesday at 5:30 pm at Napili Kai Resort ($10 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, children 5 and under are free). Proceeds benefit the Napili Kai Foundation.
Polynesian Dance Show – Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 pm at The Shops at Wailea. Free one-hour performance of Polynesian Dances and Hula.
*Check with your resort’s concierge to also see if your hotel/resort has hula lessons on property. It may be complimentary or available for a small fee.
#8 – Tasting Maui Food Tours
When I travel, I love tasting foods that are locally grown or created in the place that I’m visiting. So, I thought the best way to really get to know Maui is by tasting the food that was created here. We have a list of some of our favorite places that are not only reasonably priced but definitely worth checking out.
Surfing Goat Dairy – Probably one of my favorite tours and most cost-efficient compared to the others.
Daily Casual Tour – $12/adults and $8/children. Tours are run every hour from 10:00am to 3:00pm and 10:00am to 1:00pm on Sundays. This casual 20-minute walking tour takes you through their working Dairy and Farm. You can meet the working dairy goats, dogs, cats and their pot belly pig named Charlie. You can view the modern milking machines and view the inside of the Dairy operations. Some goats are able to be pet and of course, it’s an opportunity to take lots of photos and have fun.
Surfing Goat Dairy also offers their Evening Chores & Milking Tour which is $17 for adults and $14 for kids.
Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm – You can book the following:
Guided Walking Tour $12/person – reservation recommended. Times are: 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:00, 2:30pm daily and last about 30-40 minutes.
Guided Cart Tour $25/person – reservations are required. Tour times are 10:30 am and 2:00 pm and last one hour.
Gourmet Picnic Lunch $26/person and includes a basket tailored to your liking with choice of chicken Ceasar wrap, ham & cheese wrap, Caprese sandwich, chicken bacon club, Italian sandwich or garden salad. Lunch includes gourmet chips, a decadent lavender-infused dessert and your choice of beverage. Reservations are required.
Maui Pineapple Tours – You can book the following:
Maui Gold Pineapple Fields & Facility Tour plus lunch at Hali’imaile General Store ($90 / person). This is probably one of my favorites out of all the tours offered as it provides lunch from one of my favorite restaurants – Hali’imaile General Store. It’s the best selection for the money and I highly suggest it. The tour includes a tour of the farm to experience a working pineapple field and operation. You’ll learn about the growing cycle and cultivation techniques, tasting states as you learn about each of them. You also get a Free Pineapple with every tour.
Pineapple Tour – $65/adult and $55/child.
Pineapple Tour & Distillery Tour – $75/adult
Pineapple Tour with Lunch + Distillery Tour – $100/adult
Maui Chocolate Tour & Workshop – $59/per adult and $25/per child 7-12. This is a working farm and is not able to accommodate people with physical disability due to elevation and mobility. Learn how the cacao grows and post-harvest practices to develop the flavor. Join in on hands-on processes and a unique guided tasting. *For more info: Maui Chocolate Tour
#9 – Tour a Brewery, Distillery or Winery
Many visitors don’t realize that we have several awesome distilleries, a few breweries and a winery on the island. If you are visiting local stores like Whaler’s General or ABC Store, even Walmart or Target and Costco offer local favorites when it comes to wines and other beverages. But, many of these options can be found where they are made and these places also offer tours.
Maui Brewing Co – 605 Lipoa Parkway, Kihei. Tours offered at: 11:30am, 12:15am, 1:00pm, 1:45pm, 2:30pm and 3:15pm. *Public Tours are $15 per person and a private tour is $300 (groups of 1-16 people) For more information: Maui Brewing Company
Kohola Brewery – 910 Honoapiilani Highway, Ste. 55, Lahaina. Tours are 30 minutes long. *Tours are $10 per person – ages 21 & older only. Tipping is recommended. For more information: Kohola Brewery
Hali’imaile Distilling Company – 883 Hali’imaile Road, Haili’imaile. Tours are $10 per person and children under 12 are free. Reservations are required and tastings of products are available to guests 21 and over. Each tour operates daily and lasts about 30-45 minutes. Maximum reservation is for 20 people so if you have a larger group, contact the distilling company for options. You can get more info or reserve your space online at: Hali’imaile Distilling Company
Ocean Organic Vodka – 4051 Omaopio Road, Kula. Tours operate 7 days a week 9:30am to 4:00pm. A gift shop is also open from 9:30am and closes at 5:00pm. The tour is approximately 500+ yards so you must be mobile to be able to do the tour. Sampling area is restricted for those age 21 and over. Tours take place every half hour. Cost is $12/person for those 21 years and older ($27 including a lunch meal – reservation required 24 hours in advance). Includes a sampling with take-home souvenir Ocean Vodka shot glass. Get all of the information for this tour: Ocean Vodka Tours
Maui Wine (formerly Tedeschi Vineyards) – 14815 Piilani Highway, Kula. Tours are offered at: 10:30am and 1:30pm and are 30 minutes long. No reservations are required for groups of less than 8. Tastings are $12 – $17 per person for a flight of 5 wines. Tours are complimentary. There are several other tastings available, including the “Old Jail Tasting” which is my favorite. It is a 40 minute experience and costs $35.00 per person. For more info: Maui Wine Tasting Tours
#10 – Take a Drive to…
Whether the road takes you on a journey to the west side of the island, the east side of the island or up a mountain, I definitely suggest spending a day exploring the island by car. Whether it be driving the winding road to Hana and experiencing the lush landscapes along the way or traveling up to the Haleakala crater to experience the views (sunrise or sunset – both are awesome), you can easily experience Maui in all of its beauty without paying a dime, well – with exception to gas and the cost of your rental, of course.
A few of our favorite places to drive to and through and experience the beauty of Maui include:
The infamous windy road drive to Hana – be sure to stop along the way and take lots of photos. Remember that the road is definitely narrow and winding, so be sure that if you stop, pull off the road and be cautious. The road is dangerous so be mindful of the surroundings and where you are.
The road to Haleakala Crater – while the crater is definitely a must-see, the road leading up to the crater is definitely just as breathtaking. A winding road the whole way up – there are definitely great places to stop along the way to experience the views from way up high. I would use this opportunity to capture photos of the entire island from the skies, dance in the clouds and feel the cool air on your face. Don’t forget to stop off at Kula Lodge or Ali’i Kula Lavender farm on your way down
Drive through Up Country Maui. Whether your drive takes you through Kula to visit the beautiful Jacaranda trees in the Spring or through Pukalani and Makawao to visit the old Paniolo (Cowboy) town, you’ll surely find something beautiful in the cool crisp upcountry air.
Take a drive to the west side. Watch the surfers hang ten or see the whales breach in the blue waters. A drive around the west side of the island will open your eyes to a variety of water sports available on Maui.
They say the best things in life are free. I believe that it’s not the “free” aspect that makes it the best part, I believe it’s the memories you make while doing these things that make it the best. I wanted to provide all of you a full list of things that you could do on Maui, most of these are free or definitely cheap, with a few options to upgrade your experience. As a local girl, born and raised on Maui, I still love taking part in the island experience that Maui offers and I wanted to share these with all of you.
Don’t worry – this is just a small handful of things we love and enjoy here. You can expect to see more posts like these that include favorites of a variety of Maui island things to do and experience. Just remember to enjoy your time with whatever it is that you decide to do and don’t forget to have lots and lots of fun.
This is an informational post and no sponsorships or collaborations took place in exchange for featuring these businesses in this post. Affiliate links may be listed throughout.