AARP MEMBER DISCOUNTS SEE MORE

Body Boarding and Bodysurfing

Bodysurfing and "sponging" (as body boarding is called by the regulars; "boogie boarding" is another variation) are great ways to catch some waves without having to master surfing—and there's no balance or coordination required. A body board (or "sponge") is softer than a hard, fiberglass surfboard, which means you can ride safely in the rough-and-tumble surf zone. If you get tossed around (which is half the fun), you don't have a heavy surfboard nearby to bang your head on, but you do have something to hang onto. Serious spongers invest in a single short-clipped fin to help propel them into the wave.

Best Spots

In West Maui, D.T. Fleming Beach offers great surf almost daily along with some nice amenities: ample parking, restrooms, a shower, grills, picnic tables, and a daily lifeguard. Caution is advised, especially during winter months, when the current and undertow can get rough.

Between Kihei and Wailea on the South Shore, Kamaole III is a good spot for bodysurfing and body boarding. It has a sandy floor, with 1- to 3-foot waves breaking not too far out. It's often crowded late in the day, especially on weekends when local kids are out of school. Don't let that chase you away; the waves are wide enough for everyone.

If you don't mind public nudity (officially illegal but practiced nonetheless), Little Beach on the South Shore is the best break on the island for body boarding and bodysurfing. The shape of the sandy shoreline creates waves that break a long way out and tumble into shore. Because it's sandy, you only risk stubbing a toe on the few submerged rocks. Don't try body boarding at neighboring Big Beach—waves will slap you onto the steep shore. To get to Little Beach, take the first entrance to Makena State Beach Park; climb the rock wall at the north end of the beach.

On the North Shore, Paia Bay has waves suitable for spongers and body surfers. The beach is just before Paia town, beyond the large community building and grass field.

Equipment

Most condos and hotels have body boards available to guests—some in better condition than others (beat-up boards work just as well for beginners). You can also pick up a body board from any discount shop, such as Kmart or Longs Drugs, for upward of $30.

Auntie Snorkel. You can rent decent body boards here for $5 a day or $15 a week, and paddleboards for $35 a day or $150 a week. 2439 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–6263. www.auntiesnorkel.com.

West Maui Sports and Fishing Supply. This old country store has been around since 1987 and has some of the best prices on the west side. Surf boards go for $15 a day or $70 a week. Snorkel and fishing gear, beach chairs, and umbrellas are also available. 843 Wainee St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–6252. www.westmauisports.com.

Parasailing

Parasailing is an easy, exhilarating way to earn your wings: just strap on a harness attached to a parachute, and a powerboat pulls you up and over the ocean from a launching dock or a boat's platform. Parasailing is limited to West Maui, and "thrill craft"—including parasails—are prohibited in Maui waters during humpback-whale calving season, December 15 to May 15.

Lessons and Tours

UFO Parasail. This cheekily named company offers single, tandem, and triple rides at 800 feet ($75) or 1,200 feet ($85). Rides last from 8 to 12 minutes, depending on headcount. It's more fun to take the "dip" (when the boat slows down to let the parachute descend slowly in the water). You'll get a little wet, though you'll probably catch more water while on the boat watching the others take flight. Observers are welcome aboard for $35. Trips leave from Kaanapali Beach, which fronts Whaler's Village shopping center. 12 Ulupono St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–7836. www.ufoparasail.net.

West Maui Parasail. Soar at 800 feet above the ocean for a bird's-eye view of Lahaina, or be daring at 1,200 feet for smoother rides and even better views. The captain will be glad to let you experience a "toe dip" or "freefall" if you request it. Hour-long trips departing from Lahaina Harbor and Kaanapali Beach include 8- to 10-minute flights and run from $75 for the 800-foot ride to $85 for the 1,200-foot ride. Observers pay $35 each. 675 Wharf St., Slip 15, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–4060. www.westmauiparasail.com.

Rafting

The high-speed, inflatable rafts you find on Maui are nothing like the raft that Huck Finn used to drift down the Mississippi. While passengers grip straps, these rafts fly, skimming and bouncing across the sea. Because they're so maneuverable, they go where the big boats can't—secret coves, sea caves, and remote beaches. Two-hour trips run around $50, half-day trips upward of $100. Although safe, these trips are not for the faint of heart. If you have back or neck problems or are pregnant, you should reconsider this activity.

Tours

Blue Water Rafting. One of the few ways to get to the stunning Kanaio Coast (the roadless southern coastline beyond Ahihi-Kinau), this rafting tour begins conveniently at the Kihei boat ramp on the South Shore. Dolphins, turtles, and other marine life are the highlight of this adventure, along with majestic sea caves, lava arches, and views of Haleakala. The Molokini stop is usually timed between the bigger catamarans, so you can enjoy the crater without the usual massive crowd. If conditions permit, you'll be able to snorkel the back wall, which has much more marine life than the inside. Kihei Boat Ramp, S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–7238. www.bluewaterrafting.com. From $55.

Ocean Riders. Start the day with a spectacular view of the sun rising above the West Maui Mountains, then cross the Au Au Channel to Lanai's Shipwreck Beach. After a short swim at a secluded beach, this tour circles Lanai, allowing you to view the island's 70 miles of remote coast. The "back side" of Lanai is one of Hawaii's unsung marvels, and you can expect to stop at three protected coves for snorkeling. You might chance upon sea turtles, monk seals, and a friendly reef shark, as well as rare varieties of angelfish and butterflyfish. Guides are knowledgeable and slow down long enough for you to marvel at sacred burial caves and interesting rock formations. Sit toward the back bench if you are sensitive to motion sickness. Tours include snorkel gear, a fruit breakfast, and a satisfying deli lunch. Mala Wharf, Front St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–3586. www.mauioceanriders.com. From $139.

Redline Rafting. This company's raft tours begin with a trip to Molokini Crater for some snorkeling. If weather permits, the raft explores the crater's backwall, too. There's a quick stop at La Perouse Bay to spot dolphins, and then it's off to Makena for more underwater fun and a deli lunch. The rafts provide great seating comfort and shade. Whale-watching excursions are $40, and snorkel trips are $125. 2800 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/757–9211. www.redlinerafting.com.

Deep-Sea Fishing

If fishing is your sport, Maui is your island. In these waters you'll find ahi, aku (skipjack tuna), barracuda, bonefish, kawakawa (bonito), mahimahi, Pacific blue marlin, ono, and ulua (jack crevalle). You can fish year-round and you don't need a license. Because boats fill up fast during busy seasons, make reservations before coming to Maui.

Plenty of fishing boats run out of Lahaina and Maalaea harbors. If you charter a private boat, expect to spend in the neighborhood of $700 to $1,000 for a thrilling half day in the swivel seat. You can share a boat for much less if you don't mind close quarters with a stranger who may get seasick, drunk, or worse: lucky! Before you sign up, you should know that some boats keep the catch. Most will, however, fillet a nice piece for you to take home. And if you catch a real beauty, you might even be able to have it professionally mounted.

You're expected to bring your own lunch and beverages in unbreakable containers. (Shop the night before; it's hard to find snacks at 6 am.) Boats supply coolers, ice, and bait. A 7% tax is added to the cost of a trip, and a 10% to 20% tip for the crew is suggested.

Boats and Charters

Finest Kind Sportfishing. A 1,118-pound blue marlin was reeled in by the crew aboard Finest Kind, a lovely 37-foot Merritt kept so clean you'd never guess the action it's seen. Captain Dave has been around these waters for about 40 years, long enough to befriend other expert fishers. This family-run company operates four boats and specializes in skilled trolling. Shared charters start at $150 for four hours and go up to $195 for a full day. Private trips go from $800 to $1,500. No bananas on board, please; the captain thinks they're bad luck for fishing. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 7, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–0338. www.finestkindsportfishing.com.

Hinatea Sportfishing. This family-run company has built an excellent reputation. The active crew aboard the 41-foot Hatteras has one motto: "No boat rides here—we go to catch fish!" Charters go from $150 to $210 for a shared boat and from $850 to $1,100 for a private charter. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 27, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/667–7548. www.fishmaui.com/hinatea.

Jayhawk Charters. This ultraluxe, 48-foot Cabo is available for private charters and takes a maximum of six passengers. It's equipped with air-conditioning, two bathrooms, a salon, and three comfy staterooms with the latest music, video, and satellite TV channels. For serious anglers, the boat also has Shimano rods and reels, a black-box sonar, and the latest in fish finders, GPS, and chart plotters. Rates are $700 an hour, and a full day runs up to $5,600. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 63, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/870–6994. www.mauisportfishingcharters.com/jayhawk.

Kai Palena Sportfishing. Captain Fuzzy Alboro runs a highly recommended operation on the 33-foot Die Hard. Check-in is at 1:45 am, returning around noon. He takes a minimum of four and maximum of six people. The cost is from $150 for a shared boat to $1,175 for a private charter. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 10, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/878–2362. www.diehardsportfishing.com.

Start Me Up Sportfishing Charters. With more than 20 years in business, Start Me Up has a fleet of seven boats, all impeccably maintained. These 42-foot Bertram Sportfishers offer some of the most comfortable fishing trips around. The company provides an ice chest, tackle, and equipment. A two-hour shared boat is $109 per person, while a private charter runs from $399 for two hours to $1,199 for eight hours. There's a six-person maximum. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 12, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/667–2774. www.sportfishingmaui.com.

Strike Zone. This is one of the few charter companies to offer both morning bottom-fishing trips (for smaller fish such as snapper) and deep-sea trips (for the big ones—ono, ahi, mahimahi, and marlin). Strike Zone is a 43-foot Delta that offers plenty of room for up to 16 people. Lunch and soft drinks are included. The catch is shared with the entire boat. A six-hour trip is $168 per person for a pole; spectators can ride for $78. Four-hour charters are offered on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Six-hour trips leave at 6:30 am, while four-hour trips depart at 7 am. Maalaea Harbor, Slip 40, Maalaea, HI, 96793. 808/879–4485. www.strikezonemaui.com.

Kayaking

Kayaking is a fantastic and eco-friendly way to experience Maui's coast up close. Floating aboard a "plastic Popsicle stick" is easier than you might think, and allows you to cruise out to vibrant, living coral reefs and waters where dolphins and even whales roam. Kayaking can be a leisurely paddle or a challenge of heroic proportions, depending on your ability, the location, and the weather. Although you can rent kayaks independently, we recommend hiring a guide.

An apparently calm surface can hide extremely strong ocean currents. Most guides are naturalists who will steer you away from surging surf, lead you to pristine reefs, and point out camouflaged fish, like the stalking hawkfish. Not having to schlep your gear on top of your rental car is a bonus. A half-day tour runs around $75.

If you decide to strike out on your own, tour companies will rent kayaks for the day with paddles, life vests, and roof racks, and many will meet you near your chosen location. Ask for a map of good entries and plan to avoid paddling back to shore against the wind (schedule extra time for the return trip regardless). Read weather conditions, bring binoculars, and take a careful look from the bay before heading in. For beginners, get there early in the day before the trade wind kicks in, and try sticking close to the shore. When you're ready to snorkel, secure your belongings in a dry pack on board and drag your kayak by its bowline behind you. (This isn't as hard as it sounds.)

Best Spots

Makena Landing is an excellent starting point for a South Shore adventure. Enter from the paved parking lot or the small sandy beach a little south. The shoreline is lined with million-dollar mansions. The bay itself is virtually empty, but the right edge is flanked with brilliant coral heads and juvenile turtles. If you round the point on the right, you come across Five Caves, a system of enticing underwater arches. In the morning you may see dolphins, and the arches are havens for lobsters, eels, and spectacularly hued butterfly fish.

In West Maui, past the steep cliffs on the Honoapiilani Highway, there's a long stretch of inviting coastline that includes Ukumehame Beach. This is a good spot for beginners; entry is easy and there's much to see in every direction. Pay attention if trade winds pick up from the late morning onward; paddling against them can be challenging. If you want to snorkel, the best visibility is farther out at Olowalu Beach. Watch for sharp kiawe thorns buried in the sand on the way into the water. Water shoes are recommended.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Kelii's Kayak Tours. One of the highest-rated kayak outfitters on the island, Kelii's offers kayaking trips and combo adventures where you can also surf, snorkel, or hike to a waterfall. Leading groups of up to eight people, the guides show what makes each reef unique. Trips are available on the island's north, south, and west shores, and range from $69 to $160. 1993 S. Kihei Rd., Suite 12, Kihei, HI, 96753. 888/874–7652 or 808/874–7652. www.keliiskayak.com.

South Pacific Kayaks. These guys pioneered recreational kayaking on Maui, so they know their stuff. Guides are friendly, informative, and eager to help you get the most out of your experience; we're talking true, fun-loving, kayak geeks who will maneuver away from crowds when exploring prime snorkel spots. South Pacific stands out as adventurous and environmentally responsible, plus their gear and equipment are well maintained. They offer a variety of trips leaving from both West Maui and South Shore locations. 95 Halekuai St., Kihei, HI, 97653. 800/776–2326 or 808/875–4848. www.southpacifickayaks.com. From $65.

Kiteboarding

Catapulting up to 40 feet in the air above the breaking surf, kiteboarders hardly seem of this world. Silken kites hold the athletes aloft for precious seconds—long enough for the execution of mind-boggling tricks—then deposit them back in the sea. This new sport is not for the weak-kneed. No matter what people might tell you, it's harder to learn than windsurfing. The unskilled (or unlucky) can be caught in an upwind and carried far out in the ocean, or worse—dropped smack on the shore. Because of insurance (or the lack thereof), companies are not allowed to rent equipment. Beginners must take lessons and then purchase their own gear. Devotees swear that after your first few lessons, committing to buying your kite is easy.

Best Spots

The steady tracks on Kanaha Beach make this North Shore spot primo for learning. Specific areas are set aside for different water activities, so launch and land only in kiteboarding zones, and kindly give way to swimmers, divers, anglers, and paddlers.

Lessons

Aqua Sports Maui. A local favorite of kiteboarding schools, Aqua Sports is conveniently located near Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, and offers basic to advanced kiteboarding lessons. Rates start at $225 for a three-hour basics course taught by certified instructors. 111 Hana Hwy., Suite 110, near Kite Beach, Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/242–8015. www.mauikiteboardinglessons.com.

Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques. Pro kiteboarder and legendary windsurfer Alan Cadiz will have you safely ripping in no time at lower Kanaha Beach Park. A "Learn to Kitesurf" package starts at $255 for a three-hour private lesson, equipment included. Instead of observing from the shore, instructors paddle after students on a chaseboard to give immediate feedback. The company is part of Hi-Tech Surf Sports, in the Triangle Square shopping center. Triangle Square, 425 Koloa St., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–5423 or 800/968–5423. www.hstwindsurfing.com.

Kiteboarding School of Maui. One of the first kiteboarding schools in the United States, KSM offers one-on-one "flight lessons." Pro kiteboarders will induct you at Kite Beach, at the west end of Kanaha Beach, providing instruction, equipment, snacks, and FAA guidelines. (Seriously, there are rules about avoiding airplanes at nearby Kahului Airport.) Rates start at $240 for three hours. KSM is the only school that offers retail gear as well as instruction. Customers get a 10% discount on gear from Adventure Sports Maui, located in the same shop. 400 Hana Hwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/873–0015. www.ksmaui.com.

Sailing

With the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Molokini a stone's throw away, Maui waters offer visually arresting backdrops for sailing adventures. Sailing conditions can be fickle, so some operations throw in snorkeling or whale-watching, and others offer sunset cruises. Winds are consistent in summer but variable in winter, and afternoons are generally windier throughout the year. Prices range from around $40 for two-hour trips to $80 for half-day excursions. You won't be sheltered from the elements on the trim racing boats, so be sure to bring a hat that won't blow away, a light jacket, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Boats and Charters

Paragon Sailing Charters. If you want to snorkel and sail, this is your boat. Many snorkel cruises claim to sail but actually motor most of the way; Paragon is an exception. Both Paragon vessels (one catamaran in Lahaina, the other in Maalaea) are ship-shape, and crews are accommodating and friendly. Its mooring in Molokini Crater is particularly good, and tours will often stay after the masses have left. The Lanai trip includes a picnic lunch on Manele Bay, snorkeling, and a quick afternoon blue-water swim. Extras on the trips to Lanai include mai tais, sodas, dessert, and champagne. Hot and cold appetizers come with the sunset sail, which departs from Lahaina Harbor every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Sunset sail starts at $59, snorkel at $99. Maalaea Harbor, Maalaea, HI, 96793. 808/244–2087 or 800/441–2087. www.sailmaui.com.

Scotch Mist Charters. Follow the wind aboard this 50-foot Santa Cruz sailing yacht. The sunset sail, four-hour snorkeling excursion, and two-hour whale-watching trips usually carry fewer than 18 passengers. Two-hour sunset sails start at $70 and include soft drinks, wine, beer, champagne, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 2, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–0386. www.scotchmistsailingcharters.com.

Trilogy Excursions. With more than four decades of experience and some good karma from their reef-cleaning campaigns, Trilogy has a great reputation in the community. It's one of only two companies that sail, rather than motor, to Molokini Crater. A two-hour sail starts at $69. The sunset trip includes appetizers, beer, wine, champagne, margaritas, and mai tais. Boarding the catamaran from shore can be tricky—timing is everything and getting wet is inevitable, but after that it's smooth sailing. Tours depart from Lahaina Harbor; Maalaea Harbor; and, in West Maui, in front of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. 207 Kuopohi St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/874–5649 or 888/225–6284. www.sailtrilogy.com.

Private Charters

Hiring a private charter for a sail will cost you more, but it's one way to avoid crowds. Although almost all sailing vessels offer private charters, a few cater to them specifically.

Cinderella. This swift and elegant 51-foot Peterson costs $400 per hour for regular charter and includes beverages and light appetizers (two-hour minimum), while a snorkel sail with lunch is $1,800 for the day, roughly five hours. Sunset sails run at $900 for two hours. The yacht takes up to six passengers. HI. 808/244–0009. www.cinderellasailing.com.

Island Star. This 57-foot Columbia offers customized trips out of Maalaea. It's equipped with a galley for on-board food preparation and a master stateroom with a king-size bed. The rate is $600 per hour with a minimum of two hours. Maalaea Harbor, Slip 42, Lahaina, HI, 96767. 888/677–7238. www.islandstarexcursions.com.

Shangri-La. A 65-foot catamaran, Shangri-La is the largest and most luxurious boat catering to private charters. This gorgeous yacht can accommodate up to 49 guests, with a starting hourly rate of $1,533 for a group of 24 or less. A chef and premium alcohol are available for additional fees. Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/665–0077. www.sailingmaui.com.

Scuba Diving

Maui, just as scenic underwater as it is on dry land, has been rated one of the top 10 dive spots in the United States. It's common on any dive to see huge sea turtles, eagle rays, and small reef sharks, not to mention many varieties of angelfish, parrotfish, eels, and octopuses. Most of the species are unique to this area, making it unlike other popular dive destinations. In addition, the terrain itself is different from other dive spots. Here you can find ancient and intricate lava flows full of nooks where marine life hide and breed. Although the water tends to be a bit rougher—not to mention colder—divers are given a great thrill during humpback-whale season, when you can actually hear whales singing underwater.

Some of the finest diving spots in all of Hawaii lie along the Valley Isle's western and southwestern shores. Dives are best in the morning, when visibility can hold a steady 100 feet. If you're a certified diver, you can rent gear at any Maui dive shop simply by showing your PADI or NAUI card. Unless you're familiar with the area, however, it's probably best to hook up with a dive shop for an underwater tour. Tours include tanks and weights and start around $130. Wet suits and buoyancy compensators are rented separately, for an additional $15 to $30. Shops also offer introductory dives ($100 to $160) for those who aren't certified. Before signing on with any outfitter, it's a good idea to ask a few pointed questions about your guide's experience, the weather outlook, and the condition of the equipment.

Before you head out on your dive, be sure to check conditions. Check the Glenn James weather site, www.hawaiiweathertoday.com, for a breakdown of the weather, wind, and visibility conditions.

Best Spots

Honolua Bay, a marine preserve in West Maui, is alive with many varieties of coral and tame tropical fish, including large ulua (jack crevalle), kahala, barracuda, and manta rays. With depths of 20 to 50 feet, this is a popular summer dive spot, good for all levels. High surf often prohibits winter dives.

On the South Shore, one of the most popular dive spots is Makena Landing (also called Nahuna Point, Five Graves, or Five Caves). You can revel in underwater delights—caves, ledges, coral heads, and an outer reef home to a large green–sea turtle colony called Turtle Town. Entry is rocky lava, so be careful where you step. This area is for more experienced divers.

Three miles offshore from Wailea on the South Shore, Molokini Crater is world renowned for its deep, crystal clear, fish-filled waters. A crescent-shape islet formed by the eroding top of a volcano, the crater is a marine preserve ranging from 10 to 80 feet deep. The numerous tame fish and brilliant coral within the crater make it a popular introductory dive site. On calm days, the back side of Molokini Crater (called Back Wall) can be a dramatic sight for advanced divers, with visibility of up to 150 feet. The enormous drop-off into the Alalakeiki Channel offers awesome seascapes, black coral, and chance sightings of larger fish and sharks.

Some of the southern coast's best diving is at Ahihi Bay, part of the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. The area has been closed for several years to allow the coral to recover from overuse. At the time of writing, the closure continues. The area is best known for its "Fishbowl," a small cove right beside the road, next to a hexagonal house. Here you can find excellent underwater scenery, with many types of fish and coral. Be careful of the rocky-bottom entry (wear reef shoes if you have them). The Fishbowl can get crowded, especially in high season. If you want to steer clear of the crowds, look for a second entry ½ mile farther down the road—a gravel parking lot at the surf spot called Dumps. Entry into the bay here is trickier, as the coastline is all lava.

Formed from the last lava flow two centuries ago, La Perouse Bay brings you the best variety of fish—more than any other site. The lava rock provides a protective habitat, and all four types of Hawaii's angelfish can be found here. To dive the spot called Pinnacles, enter anywhere along the shore, just past the private entrance to the beach. Wear your reef shoes, as entry is sharp. To the right, you'll be in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve; to the left, you're outside. Look for the white, sandy bottom with massive coral heads. Pinnacles is for experienced divers only.

Equipment, Lessons, and Tours

Ed Robinson's Diving Adventures. Ed Robinson wrote the book, literally, on Molokini. Because he knows so much, he includes a "Biology 101" talk with every dive. An expert marine photographer, he leads Wednesday dives to south Maui and the back side of Molokini Crater. Night dives are available from the shoreline for $80, gear included. There's a discount if you book multiple dives. Prices start at $129.95, plus $20 for the gear. 165 Halekuai St., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–3584 or 800/635–1273. www.mauiscuba.com.

Lahaina Divers. With more than 36 years of diving experience, this West Maui shop offers tours of Maui, Molokini, Molokai, and Lanai. Big charter boats (which can be crowded, with up to 25 divers per boat) leave daily for Molokini Crater, Back Wall, Lanai, Turtle Reef, and other destinations. Breakfast pastries and deli lunch are included. For uncertified divers, there's a daily "Discover Scuba" lesson off one of the Turtle Reef sites or the Mala ramp wreckage, depending on conditions. 143 Dickenson St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/667–7496 or 800/998–3483. www.lahainadivers.com. From $129.

Maui Dive Shop. With seven locations island-wide, Maui Dive Shop offers scuba charters, diving instruction, and equipment rental. Excursions go to Molokini, Shipwreck Beach, and Cathedrals on Lanai. The West Maui manta ray dives have a 70% success rate. Intro dives are done offshore. Night dives, scooter dives, and customized trips are available, as are full SSI and PADI certificate programs. 1455 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–3388 or 800/542–3483. www.mauidiveshop.com.

Mike Severns Diving. This company has been around for more than 33 years and takes groups of up to 12 certified divers with two dive masters to both popular and off-the-beaten-path dive sites. Boat trips leave from Kihei Boat Ramp, and go wherever conditions are best: the Molokini Marine Life Conservation District, Molokini Crater's Back Wall, Makena, or beyond La Pérouse Bay. Rates start at $154 for a two-tank dive. A private charter costs $1,560. Kihei Boat Ramp, S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–6596. www.mikesevernsdiving.com.

Shaka Divers. Since 1983, owner Doug Corbin has led personalized dives, including great four-hour intro dives, refresher courses, scuba certifications, and south shore dives to Ulua, Nahuna Point or Turtle Town (also called Five Caves or Five Graves), and Bubble Cave. Typical dives last about an hour. Dives can be booked on short notice, with afternoon tours available (hard to find on Maui). Shaka also offers night dives and torpedo-scooter dives. The twilight two-tank dive is nice for day divers who want to ease into night diving. 24 Hakoi Pl., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/250–1234. www.shakadivers.com. From $69.

Tiny Bubbles Scuba. Owner and dive master Tim Rollo has led customized, private shore dives along West Maui for 17 years. He'll take only four to six divers at a time, and can cater to the most novice diver. Intro dives cost $109 and include gear, air, and shuttle service. Night dives, scooter dives, and scuba certifications are also offered. 104 Kaanapali Shores, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/870–0878. www.tinybubblesscuba.com.

Snorkeling

No one should leave Maui without ducking underwater to meet a sea turtle, moray eel, or the tongue-twisting humuhumunukunukuapuaa—the state fish. Visibility is best in the morning, before the trade winds pick up.

There are two ways to approach snorkeling—by land or by sea. Daily around 7 am, a parade of boats heads out to Lanai or to Molokini Crater, that ancient cone of volcanic cinder off the coast of Wailea. Boat trips offer some advantages—deeper water, seasonal whale-watching, crew assistance, lunch, and gear. But much of Maui's best snorkeling is found just steps from the road. Nearly the entire leeward coastline from Kapalua south to Ahihi-Kinau offers opportunities to ogle fish and turtles. If you're patient and sharp-eyed, you may glimpse eels, octopuses, lobsters, eagle rays, and even a rare shark or monk seal.

Best Spots

Just north of Kapalua, the Honolua Bay Marine Life Conservation District has a superb reef for snorkeling. Bring a fish key with you, as you're sure to see many species of triggerfish, filefish, and wrasses. The coral formations on the right side of the bay are particularly dramatic, with pink, aqua, and orange varieties. On a lucky day, you might even be snorkeling with a pod of dolphins nearby. Take care entering the water; there's no beach, and the rocks and concrete ramp can be slippery. The northeast corner of this windward-facing bay periodically gets hammered by big waves in winter. Avoid the bay then, as well as after heavy rains.

Minutes south of Honolua Bay, dependable Kapalua Bay beckons. As beautiful above the water as it is below, Kapalua is exceptionally calm, even when other spots get testy. Needle and butterfly fish dart just past the sandy beach, which is why it's sometimes crowded. The sand can be particularly hot here; watch your toes!

Black Rock, in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at the northernmost tip of Kaanapali Beach, is great for snorkelers of any skill level. The entry couldn't be easier—dump your towel on the sand and in you go. Beginners can stick close to shore and still see lots of action. Advanced snorkelers can swim to the tip of Black Rock to see larger fish and eagle rays. One of the underwater residents here is a turtle whose hefty size earned him the name Volkswagen. He sits very still, so you have to look closely. Equipment can be rented on-site. Parking, in a small lot adjoining the hotel, is the only hassle.

Along Honoapiilani Highway there are several favorite snorkel sites, including the area just out from the cemetery at Hanakaoo Beach Park. At depths of 5 and 10 feet, you can see a variety of corals, especially as you head south toward Wahikuli Wayside Park.

South of Olowalu General Store, the shallow coral reef at Olowalu is good for a quick underwater tour, but if you're willing to venture out about 50 yards, you'll have easy access to an expansive coral reef with abundant turtles and fish—no boat required. Swim offshore toward the pole sticking out of the reef. Except for during a south swell, this area is calm and good for families with small children. Boats sometimes stop here (they refer to this site as "Coral Gardens") when conditions in Honolua Bay are not ideal. During low tide, be extra cautious when hovering above the razor-sharp coral.

Excellent snorkeling is found down the coastline between Kihei and Makena on the South Shore. The best spots are along the rocky fringes of Wailea's beaches—Mokapu, Ulua, Wailea, and Polo—off Wailea Alanui Drive. Find one of the public parking lots sandwiched between Wailea's luxury resorts (look for a blue sign that says "Shoreline Access" with an arrow pointing to the lot), and enjoy the sandy entries, calm waters with relatively good visibility, and variety of fish. Of the four beaches, Ulua has the best reef. You may listen to snapping shrimp and parrotfish nibbling on coral.

In South Maui, the end of the paved section of Makena Road is where you'll find the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. Despite its lava-scorched landscape, the area was so popular that it had to be temporarily closed in 2008. At this writing, it is scheduled to reopen on August 1, 2016. It's difficult terrain and the area did sometimes get crowded, but it's worth a visit to experience some of the reserve's outstanding treasures, such as the sheltered cove known as the Fish Bowl. Be sure to bring water: this is a hot and unforgiving wilderness.

Between Maui and neighboring Kahoolawe you'll find the world-famous Molokini Crater. Its crescent-shape rim acts as a protective cove from the wind and provides a sanctuary for birds and colorful marine life. Most snorkeling tour operators offer a Molokini trip, and it's not unusual for your charter to share this dormant volcano with five or six other boats. The journey to this sunken crater takes more than 90 minutes from Lahaina, an hour from Maalaea, and less than half an hour from the South Shore.

Equipment

Most hotels and vacation rentals offer free use of snorkel gear. Beachside stands fronting the major resort areas rent equipment by the hour or day. Don't shy away from asking for instructions; a snug fit makes all the difference in the world. A mask fits if it sticks to your face when you inhale deeply through your nose. Fins should cover your entire foot (unlike diving fins, which strap around your heel). If you're squeamish about using someone else's gear (or need a prescription lens), pick up your own at any discount shop. Costco and Longs Drugs have better prices than ABC stores; dive shops have superior equipment.

Maui Dive Shop. You can rent pro gear (including optical masks, body boards, and wet suits) from seven locations island-wide. Pump these guys for weather info before heading out—they'll know better than last night's news forecaster, and they'll give you the real deal on conditions. 1455 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96732. 808/873–3388. www.mauidiveshop.com.

Snorkel Bob's. Here you can rent fins, masks, and snorkels, and Snorkel Bob's will throw in a carrying bag, map, and snorkel tips for as little as $9 per week. Avoid the circle masks and go for the split-level ($25 per week) or dry snorkel ($43 per week); it's worth the extra. Napili Village Hotel, 5425 Lower Honoapiilani Hwy., Napili, HI, 96761. 808/669–9603. www.snorkelbob.com.

Tours

The same boats that offer whale-watching, sailing, and diving also offer snorkeling excursions. Trips usually include visits to two locales, lunch, gear, instruction, and possible whale or dolphin sightings. Some captains troll for fish along the way.

Molokini Crater, a crescent about 3 miles offshore from Wailea, is the most popular snorkel cruise destination. You can spend half a day floating above the fish-filled crater for about $80. Some say it's not as good as it's made out to be, and that it's too crowded, but others consider it to be one of the best spots in Hawaii. Visibility is generally outstanding and fish are incredibly tame. Your second stop will be somewhere along the leeward coast, either Turtle Town near Makena or Coral Gardens toward Lahaina. On blustery mornings there's a good chance the waters will be too rough to moor in Molokini Crater and you'll end up snorkeling some place off the shore, which you could have driven to for free.

If you've tried snorkeling and are tentatively thinking about scuba, you may want to try snuba, a cross between the two. With snuba, you dive down 20 feet below the surface, only you're attached to an air hose from the boat. Many boats now offer snuba (for an extra fee of $45 to $65) as well as snorkeling.

Snorkel cruises vary—some serve mai tais and steaks whereas others offer beer and cold cuts. You might prefer a large ferryboat to a smaller sailboat, or vice versa. Be sure you know where to go to board your vessel; getting lost in the harbor at 6 am is a lousy start. Bring sunscreen, an underwater camera (they're double the price on board), a towel, and a cover-up for the windy return trip. Even tropical waters get chilly after hours of swimming, so consider wearing a rash guard. Wet suits can usually be rented for a fee. Hats without straps will blow away, and valuables should be left at home.

Alii Nui Maui. On this 65-foot luxury catamaran, you can come as you are (with a bathing suit, of course); towels, sunblock, and all your gear are provided. Because the owners also operate Maui Dive Shop, snorkel and dive equipment are top-of-the-line. Wet-suit tops are available to use for sun protection or to keep extra warm in the water. The boat, which holds a maximum of 60 people, is nicely appointed. A morning snorkel sail (there's a diving option, too) heads to Turtle Town or Molokini Crater and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and postsnorkel alcoholic drinks. The three-, five-, or six-hour snorkel trip offers transportation from your hotel. Videography and huka (similar to snuba) are available for a fee. Maalaea Harbor, Slip 56, Maalaea, HI, 96793. 800/542–3483 or 808/875–0333. www.aliinuimaui.com. From $165.

Gemini Sailing Charters. One of the main draws of this snorkel excursion is its affordable rates. The vacation-friendly check-in time of 10:30 am is another plus. Honolua Bay is the primary destination, but Mala wharf in Lahaina and Olowalu are possible options in case of choppy waters. The hot buffet lunch of lemony ono and tender chicken teriyaki is catered by the Westin Maui Resort & Spa. You can find the company on Kaanapali Beach near the Westin's activity desk. Westin Maui Resort & Spa, 2365 Kaanapali Pkwy., Kaanapali, HI, 96761. or 808/669–0508. www.geminicharters.com. From $120.

Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventure. Few things could qualify as a more authentic Hawaiian experience than paddling in a sail canoe with this family-run outfit. Get a deep sense of history and mythology as you listen to your guide pray, chant, and bestow a wealth of knowledge about ancient Hawaii during this intimate excursion. The canoe makes a snorkel stop at a nearby reef. Refreshments and snorkel equipment are included. You meet at Polo Beach in front of the Fairmont Kea Lani. Fairmont Kea Lani, 4100 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea, HI, 96753. 808/281–9301. www.mauisailingcanoe.com. From $99.

Maui Classic Charters. Hop aboard the Four Winds II, a 55-foot, glass-bottom catamaran (great fun for kids), for one of the most dependable snorkel trips around. You'll spend more time than other charter boats at Molokini Crater and enjoy turtle-watching on the way home. The trip includes optional snuba ($59 extra), continental breakfast, barbecue lunch, beer, wine, and soda. With its reasonable price, the trip can be popular and crowded. The crew works hard to keep everyone happy, but if the trip is fully booked, you will be cruising with more than 100 new friends. For a more intimate experience, opt for the Maui Magic, Maalaea's fastest PowerCat, which holds fewer people than some of the larger vessels. Maalaea Harbor, Slips 55 and 80, Maalaea, HI, 96793. 808/879–8188 or 800/736–5740. www.mauicharters.com. From $98.

Queen's Treasure. This catamaran on the west side gets kudos for its attentive crew, who will nudge you to "walk the plank," a fun diving ledge off the side of the bow. Pricing is slightly lower than most half-day charters in Kaanapali. The spread includes a light breakfast, deli lunch, and an open bar (for an extra fee) for postsnorkel merriment. Check-in is in front of Hula Grill. Whalers Village, 2435 Kaanapali Pkwy., Kaanapali, HI, 96761. 808/667–2469. www.queenstreasure.com. From $89.

Teralani Sailing Charters. Choose between a standard snorkel trip with a deli lunch or a top-of-the-line excursion that's an hour longer and includes two snorkel sites and a barbecue-style lunch catered by chef Paris Nabavi, a popular local restaurateur. The company's cats could hold well over 100 people, but 49 is the maximum per trip. The boats are kept in pristine condition. Freshwater showers are available, as is an open bar after the second snorkel stop. A friendly crew provides all your gear, a flotation device, and a quick course in snorkeling. During whale season, only the premier trip is available. Boarding is right off Dig Me Beach at Whalers Village in West Maui. 991 Limahana Pl., Kaanapali, HI, 96761. 808/661–1230. www.teralani.net. From $100.

Trilogy Excursions. Many people consider a trip with Trilogy Excursions to be a highlight of their vacation. Maui's longest-running operation has comprehensive offerings, with seven beautiful multihull 50- to 64-foot sailing vessels at three departure sites. All excursions are staffed by energetic crews who will keep you well fed and entertained with local stories and corny jokes. A full-day catamaran cruise to Lanai includes a continental breakfast and barbecue lunch, a guided tour of the island, a "Snorkeling 101" class, and time to snorkel in the waters of Lanai's Hulopoe Marine Preserve (Trilogy Excursions has exclusive commercial access). The company also offers a Molokini Crater and Honolua Bay snorkel cruise that is top-notch. Tours depart from Lahaina Harbor; Maalaea Harbor; and, in West Maui, in front of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. 207 Kuopohi St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/874–5649 or 888/225–6284. www.sailtrilogy.com. From $119.

Educational Excursions

Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, housed at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, presents more of an educational excursion than a regular tour. The 2½-hour beginner’s snorkel class and underwater photography session, held in Kapalua Bay, is especially great for kids; cost is $89. An extensive youth program includes whale-watching, stargazing, and more, with all sessions led by naturalists who link Hawaiian culture with conservation. For information, call 808/665–7292.

Surf Report

Before heading out for any water activity, be sure to get a weather and wave report, and make sure the surf report you get is the full face value of the wave. "Hawaiian-style" cuts the wave size in half. For instance, a Hawaiian might say a wave is 5 feet high, which means 10 feet if you're from New Jersey or Florida. For years, scientists and surfers were using different measurements, as Hawaii locals measured waves from median sea level to the crest. These days, most surf reports are careful to distinguish between the two.

Stand-Up Paddling

Also called stand-up paddle surfing or paddleboarding, stand-up paddling is the "comeback kid" of surf sports; you stand on a longboard and paddle out with a canoe oar. While stand-up paddling requires even more balance and coordination than regular surfing, it is still accessible to just about every skill level. Most surf schools now offer stand-up paddle lessons. Advanced paddlers can amp up the adrenaline with a downwind coastal run that spans almost 10 miles from North Shore’s Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor, sometimes reaching speeds up to 30 mph.

The fun thing about stand-up paddling is that you can enjoy it whether the surf is good or the water is flat. However, as with all water sports, it's important to read the environment and be attentive. Look at the sky and assess the wind by how fast the clouds are moving. Note where the whitecaps are going and always point the nose of your board perpendicular to the wave. Because of the size and speed of a longboard, stand-up paddling can be dangerous, so lessons are highly recommended, especially if you intend to surf.

Lessons

Maui Surfer Girls. Owner and bona fide waterwoman Dustin Tester is known as Mama D to the girls she mentors. The company started with surf camps, and now also offers co-ed stand-up paddle lessons. Locations vary, depending on wind conditions, but you'll most likely go to beginner-friendly Ukumehame Beach or Thousand Peaks at mile marker 12. The lesson includes some history of the ancient sport, gear, and refreshments after the paddle. Lessons begin at $100, with an extra $20 charge for instruction by Dustin, who is accompanied by her dog, Luna. Private lessons are $175. 808/214–0606. www.mauisurfergirls.com.

Stand-Up Paddle Surf School. Maui's first school devoted solely to stand-up paddleboarding was founded by the legendary Maria Souza, the first woman to surf the treacherous waves of "Jaws" on Maui's North Shore. Although most surf schools offer stand-up paddling, Maria's classes are in a league of their own. They include a proper warm-up with a hula-hoop and balance ball and a cool-down with yoga. The cost is $165 for a group, $199 for a private session. Locations vary depending on conditions. 185 Paka Pl., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/579–9231. www.standuppaddlesurfschool.com.

Surfing

Maui's coastline has surf for every level of waterman or -woman. Waves on leeward-facing shores (West and South Maui) tend to break in gentle sets all summer long. Surf instructors in Kihei and Lahaina can rent you boards, give you onshore instruction, and then lead you out through the channel, where it's safe to enter the surf. They'll shout encouragement while you paddle like mad for the thrill of standing on water—most will give you a helpful shove. These areas are great for beginners; the only danger is whacking a stranger with your board or stubbing your toe against the reef.

The North Shore is another story. Winter waves pound the windward coast, attracting water champions from every corner of the world. Adrenaline addicts are towed in by Jet Ski to a legendary, deep-sea break called "Jaws." Waves here periodically tower upward of 40 feet. The only spot for viewing this phenomenon (which happens just a few times a year) is on private property. So, if you hear the surfers next to you crowing about Jaws "going off," cozy up and get them to take you with them.

Whatever your skill, there's a board, a break, and even a surf guru to accommodate you. A two-hour lesson is a good intro to surf culture.

You can get the wave report each day by checking page 2 of the Maui News, logging on to the Glenn James weather site at www.hawaiiweathertoday.com , or calling 808/871–5054 (for the weather forecast) or 808/877–3611 (for the surf report).

Watching Surfers

Even if you aren't a surfer, watching is just as fun (well, almost). Near-perfect waves can be seen at Honolua Bay, on the northern tip of West Maui. To get here, continue 2 miles north of D. T. Fleming Park on Highway 30 and take a left onto the dirt road next to a pineapple field; a path leads down the cliff to the beach. In addition, Hookipa Beach Park, just outside of Paia, gives you the perfect overlook to see pro surfers, windsurfers, and kiters.

Best Spots

On the South Shore, beginners can hang 10 at Kihei's Cove Park, a sometimes crowded but reliable 1- to 2-foot break. Boards can easily be rented across the street, or in neighboring Kalama Park’s parking lot. The only bummer is having to balance the 9-plus-foot board on your head while crossing busy South Kihei Road.

For advanced wave riders, Hookipa Beach Park on the North Shore boasts several well-loved breaks, including "Pavilions," "Lanes," "the Point," and "Middles." Surfers have priority until 11 am, when windsurfers move in on the action. Competition is stiff here. If you don't know what you're doing, consider watching.

Long- or shortboarders in West Maui can paddle out at Launiupoko State Wayside. The east end of the park has an easy break, good for beginners.

Also called "Thousand Peaks," Ukumehame is one of the better beginner spots in West Maui. You'll soon see how the spot got its name—the waves here break again and again in wide and consistent rows, giving lots of room for beginning and intermediate surfers.

Good surf spots in West Maui include "Grandma's" at Papalaua Park, just after the pali (cliff)—where waves are so easy a grandma could ride ’em; Puamana Beach Park for a mellow longboard day; and Lahaina Harbor, which offers an excellent inside wave for beginners (called "Breakwall"), as well as the more advanced outside (a great lift if there's a big south swell).

Equipment and Lessons

Surf camps are becoming increasingly popular, especially with women. One- or two-week camps offer a terrific way to build muscle and self-esteem simultaneously.

Big Kahuna Adventures. Rent soft-top longboards here for $20 for two hours, or $30 for the day. The shop also offers surf lessons starting at $60, and rents kayaks and snorkel gear. The company is across from Cove Park. 1913-C S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/875–6395. www.bigkahunaadventures.com.

Goofy Foot. Surfing "goofy foot" means putting your right foot forward. They might be goofy, but we like the right-footed gurus here. This shop is just plain cool and only steps away from "Breakwall," a great beginner's spot in Lahaina. A two-hour class with five or fewer students is $65, and you're guaranteed to be standing by the end or it's free. Owner and "stoke broker" Tim Sherer offers private lessons for $250 and will sometimes ride alongside to record video clips and give more thorough feedback. A private two-hour lesson with another instructor is $150. 505 Front St., Suite 123, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/244–9283. www.goofyfootsurfschool.com.

Hi-Tech Surf Sports. Hi-Tech has some of the best boards, advice, and attitude around. It rents even its best surfboards—choose from longboards, shortboards, and hybrids—starting at $25 per day. All rentals come with board bags, roof racks, and wax. 425 Koloa St., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–2111. www.surfmaui.com.

Maui Surfer Girls. This highly reputable company immerses adventurous young women in wave-riding wisdom during overnight one- and two-week camps. It also offers daily surf lessons that take place away from the big crowds of Lahaina or Kihei. HI. 808/214–0606. www.mauisurfergirls.com.

Maui Surf Clinics. Instructors here will get even the shakiest novice riding with the school's "Learn to Surf in One Lesson" program. A two-hour group lesson (up to five students) is $78. Private lessons with the patient and meticulous instructors are $165 for two hours. The company provides boards, rash guards, and water shoes, all in impeccable condition—and it's tops in the customer service department. 505 Front St., Suite 201, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/244–7873. www.mauisurfclinics.com.

Outrageous Surf School. If you're not too keen on shore lessons (which usually have you spend 30 minutes simulating surfing instead of doing the real thing), Outrageous Surf School might be your best bet. A short instructional video is followed by a quick demo, and down to the Breakwall you go. Lessons start at $60 for a group, $85 for semiprivate, and $120 for a private lesson. Repeat lessons are $40. 640 Front St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/669–1400. www.youcansurf.com.

Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy. Owner Kimo Kinimaka grew up rippin' it with his uncle, legendary surfer Titus Kinimaka, so it's no wonder his passion translates to a fun, memorable time at the novice-friendly Lahaina Breakwall. Private lessons are $150, and group lessons cost $65 per person. Rash guards and shoes are provided. 113-B Prison St., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/276–7873. www.royalhawaiiansurfacademy.com.

Second Wind. Surfboard rentals at this centrally located shop are a deal—good boards go for $20 per day or $130 per week. The shop also rents and sells its own Elua Makani boards (which means "second wind" in Hawaiian). Although the staff doesn't offer lessons, they will book you with the best surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding lessons on the island. 111 Hana Hwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–7467. www.secondwindmaui.com.

Whale-Watching

From December into May whale-watching becomes one of the most popular activities on Maui. During the season all outfitters offer whale-watching in addition to their regular activities, and most do an excellent job. Boats leave the wharves at Lahaina and Maalaea in search of humpbacks, allowing you to enjoy the awe-inspiring size of these creatures in closer proximity. From November through May, the Pacific Whale Foundation sponsors the Maui Whale Festival, a variety of whale-related events for locals and visitors; check the calendar at www.mauiwhalefestival.org.

As it's almost impossible not to see whales in winter on Maui, you'll want to prioritize: is adventure or comfort your aim? If close encounters with the giants of the deep are your desire, pick a smaller boat that promises sightings. Those who think "green" usually prefer the smaller, quieter vessels that produce the least amount of negative impact to the whales' natural environment. For those wanting to sip mai tais as whales cruise by, stick with a sunset cruise ($40 and up) on a boat with an open bar and pupu (Hawaiian tapas). Afternoon trips are generally rougher because the wind picks up, but some say this is when the most surface action occurs.

Every captain aims to please during whale season, getting as close as legally possible (100 yards). Crew members know when a whale is about to dive (after several waves of its heart-shape tail) but rarely can predict breaches (when the whale hurls itself up and almost entirely out of the water). Prime viewing space (on the upper and lower decks, around the railings) is limited, so boats can feel crowded even when half full. If you don't want to squeeze in beside strangers, opt for a smaller boat with fewer bookings. Don't forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a light long-sleeve cover-up, and a hat you can secure. Winter weather is less predictable and at times can be extreme, especially as the wind picks up. Arrive early to find parking.

Best Spots

The northern end of Keawakapu Beach on the South Shore seems to be a whale magnet. Situate yourself on the sand or at the nearby restaurant and watch mamas and calves. From mid-December to mid-April, the Pacific Whale Foundation has naturalists at Ulua Beach and at the scenic viewpoint at Papawai Point Lookout. Like the commuting traffic, whales can be spotted along the pali, or cliff side, of West Maui's Honoapiilani Highway all day long. Make sure to park safely before craning your neck out to see them.

Windsurfing Tournaments

In March the PWA Hawaiian Pro-Am Windsurfing competition gets underway at Hookipa Beach. In June the Da Kine Windsurfing Classic lures windsurfers to Kanaha Beach, and in November the Aloha Classic World Wave Sailing Championships takes place at Hookipa.

Maui Race Series. For windsurfing competitions featuring amateurs as well as professionals, check out the Maui Race Series, six events held at Kanaha Beach in Kahului in summer. Kanaha Beach, Kahului, HI, 96732. www.mauiraceseries.com.

Boats and Charters

Gemini Sailing Charters. Morning and afternoon whale-watching trips off the Kaanapali coast are available on this well-maintained catamaran staffed by an experienced and fun crew. The cost is $60 per person for the morning trip and $70 for the afternoon trip. You can find Gemini on Kaanapali Beach near the Westin Maui resort's activity desk. Westin Maui Resort & Spa, 2365 Kaanapali Pkwy., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 800/820–7245 or 808/669–0508. www.geminicharters.com.

Maui Adventure Cruises. Whale-watching from this company's raft puts you right above the water surface and on the same level as the whales. You'll forego the cocktail in your hand but you won't have to deal with crowds, even if the vessel is at max with 36 people. The whales can get up close if they like, and when they do it's absolutely spectacular. These rafts can move with greater speed than a catamaran, so you don't spend much time motoring between whales or pods. Refreshments are included. Prices are $45 for adults and $35 for kids 5–12 years old; children under 4 years old are not admitted. Lahaina Harbor, Slip 11, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–5550. www.mauiadventurecruises.com.

Pacific Whale Foundation. With a fleet of 10 boats, this nonprofit organization pioneered whale-watching back in 1979. The crew (including a certified marine biologist) offers insights into whale behavior and suggests ways for you to help save marine life worldwide. One of the best things about these trips is the underwater hydrophone that allows you to listen to the whales sing. Trips meet at the organization's store, which sells whale-theme and local souvenirs. You'll share the boat with about 100 people in stadium-style seating. If you prefer a smaller crowd, book their eco-friendly raft cruises instead. 612 Front St., Lahaina, HI, 96793. 808/249–8811. www.pacificwhale.org.

Trilogy Excursions. Whale-watching trips with Trilogy Excursions consist of smaller groups of about 20 to 36 passengers and include beverages and snacks, an onboard marine naturalist, and hydrophones that detect underwater sound waves. Trips are $49 and depart from Lahaina Harbor, Maalaea Harbor and West Maui's Kaanapali Beach Hotel. Kaanapali Beach Hotel, 2525 Kaanapali Pkwy., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/874–5649 or 888/225–6284. www.sailtrilogy.com.

Windsurfing

Windsurfing, invented in the 1950s, found its true home at Hookipa on Maui's North Shore in 1980. Seemingly overnight, windsurfing pros from around the world flooded the area. Equipment evolved, amazing film footage was captured, and a new sport was born.

If you're new to the action, you can get lessons from the experts islandwide. For a beginner, the best thing about windsurfing is that (unlike surfing) you don't have to paddle. Instead, you have to hold on like heck to a flapping sail as it whisks you into the wind. Needless to say, you're going to need a little coordination and balance to pull this off. Instructors start you out on a beach at Kanaha, where the big boys go. Lessons range from two-hour introductory classes to five-day advanced "flight school."

Best Spots

After Hookipa Bay was discovered by windsurfers four decades ago, this windy North Shore beach 10 miles east of Kahului gained an international reputation. The spot is blessed with optimal wave-sailing wind and sea conditions, and offers the ultimate aerial experience.

In summer, the windsurfing crowd heads to Kalepolepo Beach on the South Shore. Trade winds build in strength, and by afternoon a swarm of dragonfly-sails can be seen skimming the whitecaps, with the West Maui Mountains as a backdrop.

A great site for speed, Kanaha Beach Park is dedicated to beginners in the morning hours, before the waves and wind really get roaring. After 11 am, the professionals choose from their quiver of sails the size and shape best suited for the day's demands. This beach tends to have smaller waves and forceful winds—sometimes sending sailors flying at 40 knots. If you aren't ready to go pro, this is a great place for a picnic while you watch from the beach. To get here, use any of the three entrances on Amala Place, which runs along the shore just north of Kahului Airport.

Equipment and Lessons

Action Sports Maui. The quirky, friendly professionals here will meet you at Kanaha Beach Park on the North Shore, outfit you with your sail and board, and guide you through your first "jibe" or turn. They promise your learning time for windsurfing will be cut in half. Lessons begin at 9 am every day except Sunday and cost $89 for a 2½-hour class. Three- and five-day courses cost $240 and $319, respectively. 96 Amala Pl., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–5857. www.actionsportsmaui.com.

Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques. Considered Maui's finest windsurfing school, Hawaiian Sailboarding Techniques brings you quality instruction by skilled sailors. Founded by Alan Cadiz, an accomplished World Cup Pro, the school sets high standards for a safe, quality windsurfing experience. Intro classes start at $89 for 2½ hours, gear included. The company is inside Hi-Tech Surf Sports, which offers excellent equipment rentals. Hi-Tech Surf Sports, 425 Koloa St., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–5423. www.hstwindsurfing.com.

Second Wind. Located in Kahului, this company rents boards with two sails for $55 per day. Additional sails are $10 each. Intro classes start at $89. 111 Hana Hwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–7467. www.secondwindmaui.com.

Aerial Tours

Helicopter flight-seeing excursions can take you over the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala Crater, or the island of Molokai. This is a beautiful, thrilling way to see the island, and the only way to see some of its most dramatic areas and waterfalls. Tour prices usually include a DVD of your trip so you can relive the experience at home. Prices run from about $175 for a half-hour rain-forest tour to more than $400 for a 90-minute experience that includes a midflight landing at an exclusive remote site, where you can enjoy refreshments along with the view. Generally the 45- to 50-minute flights are the best value; discounts may be available online or, if you’re willing to chance it, by calling at the last minute.

Tour operators come under sharp scrutiny for passenger safety and equipment maintenance. Don’t be shy; ask about a company’s safety record, flight paths, age of equipment, and level of operator experience. Generally, though, if it's still in business, it's doing something right.

Air Maui Helicopters. Priding itself on a perfect safety record, this company provides 30- to 65-minute flights covering the waterfalls of the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala Crater, Hana, and the spectacular sea cliffs of Molokai. Prices range from $188 for the"Maui Lite" tour, to $499 for their "Zip and Fly" tour (two hours), which includes a parallel zipline experience at Kapalua Ziplines. Discounts are available online. Charter flights are also available. Kahului Heliport, Hangar 110, Kahului Airport Rd. and Keolani Blvd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 877/238–4942 or 808/877–7005. www.airmaui.com.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. Since 1985 this company has provided aerial adventures in Hawaii and has been integral in some of the filming Hollywood has done on Maui. Its A-Star and Eco-Star helicopters are air-conditioned and have Bose noise-blocking headsets for all passengers. Flights are 30 to 120 minutes and cost $169 to $563, with considerable discounts online. Charter flights are also available. Kahului Heliport, Hangar 105, Kahului Airport Rd. and Keolani Blvd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–8844 or 800/745–2583. www.bluehawaiian.com.

Sunshine Helicopters. Take a tour of Maui in Sunshine's FXStar or WhisperStar aircraft. Prices start at $260 for 40 to 50 minutes, with discounts available online. First-class seating is available for an additional fee. Charter flights can be arranged. A pilot-narrated DVD of your actual flight is available for purchase. Kahului Heliport, Hangar 107, Kahului Airport Rd. and Keolani Blvd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/270–3999 or 866/501–7738. www.sunshinehelicopters.com.

Biking

Long distances and mountainous terrain keep biking from being a practical mode of travel on Maui. Still, painted bike lanes enable cyclists to travel all the way from Makena to Kapalua, and you’ll see hardy souls battling the trade winds under the hot Maui sun.

Several companies offer guided bike tours down Haleakala. This activity is a great way to enjoy an easy, gravity-induced bike ride, but isn’t for those not confident on a bike. The ride is inherently dangerous due to the slope, sharp turns, and the fact that you’re riding down an actual road with cars on it. That said, the guided bike companies take every safety precaution. A few companies offer unguided (or, as they like to say, "self-guided") tours where they provide you with the bike and transportation to the mountain and then you’re free to descend at your own pace. Most companies offer discounts for Internet bookings.

Haleakala National Park no longer allows commercial downhill bicycle rides within the park’s boundaries. As a result, tour amenities and routes differ by company. Ask about sunrise viewing from the Haleakala summit (be prepared to leave very early in the morning), if this is an important feature for you. Some lower-price tours begin at the 6,500-foot elevation just outside the national park boundaries, where you will be unable to view the sunrise over the crater. Weather conditions on Haleakala vary greatly, so a visible sunrise can never be guaranteed. Sunrise is downright cold at the summit, so be sure to dress in layers and wear closed-toe shoes.

Each company has age and weight restrictions, and pregnant women are discouraged from participating, although they are generally welcome in the escort van. Reconsider this activity if you have difficulty with high altitudes, have recently been scuba diving, or are taking medications that may cause drowsiness.

Best Spots

At present there are few truly good spots to ride on Maui, though this is changing.

Makawao Forest Reserve. A 5.2-mile romp under a dense canopy of trees within the reserve is in store here for mountain bikers. Kahakapao Rd., Makawao, HI, 96768. To get here from Piiholo Road, turn left on Waiahiwi Road and then right on Kahakapao Road.

Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area. Mountain bikers have favored the remote Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area for its bumpy trail through an unlikely forest of conifers. Polipoli Spring is often closed following heavy storms due to fallen trees and other damage. Check the Hawaii State Parks website prior to making the drive up there. End of Waipoli Rd., off Rte. 377, Kula, HI, 96790. www.hawaiistateparks.org.

Thompson Road. Street bikers will want to head out to scenic Thompson Road. It's quiet, gently curvy, and flanked by gorgeous views on both sides. Because it's at a higher elevation, the air temperature is cooler and the wind lighter. The coast back down toward Kahului on the Kula Highway is worth the ride up. Kula Hwy., off Rte. 37, Keokea, HI, 96790.

Equipment and Tours

Bike It Maui. Small and family-owned, this company offers two guided sunrise tours down Haleakala each day. The price of $140 includes transfers from your hotel, a sunrise van tour of the summit, a guided 28-mile bicycle ride down the mountain, and a full sit-down breakfast at Cafe O'Lei at the Dunes in Kahului. Riders must be at least 12 and weigh no more than 260 pounds. Kula, HI, 96790. 808/878–3364 or 866/776–2453. www.bikeitmaui.com.

Cruiser Phil's Volcano Riders. In the downhill bicycle industry since 1983, "Cruiser" Phil Feliciano offers sunrise tours ($150) and morning tours ($135) that include hotel transfers, continental breakfast, a van tour of the summit, and a guided 28-mile ride down the mountain. Participants should be between 13 and 65, at least 5 feet tall, weigh less than 250 pounds, and have ridden a bicycle in the past year. Feliciano also offers structured independent bike tours ($99) and van-only tours ($125). Discounts are available for online bookings. 58-A Amala Pl., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/893–2332 or 877/764–2453. www.cruiserphil.com.

Go Cycling Maui. Serious cyclists can join an exhilarating group ride with Donnie Arnoult, a fixture on the Maui cycling scene since 1999. Routes include Haiku to Keanae, Kula to Kahikinui, and the ultimate Maui cycling challenge: Paia to the top of Haleakala crater. Rides are $140 per person ($150 to go to the crater). You bring your own cycling shoes, pedals, and clothes, and Donnie provides the bicycle, helmet, gloves, water bottle, snacks, and energy drinks. His shop is also a full-service cycling store offering sales, rentals, and repairs. 99 Hana Hwy., Unit A, Paia, HI, 96779. 808/579–9009. www.gocyclingmaui.com.

Haleakala Bike Company. If you're thinking about an unguided Haleakala bike trip, consider this company. Meet at the Old Haiku Cannery and take the van shuttle to the summit. Along the way you can learn about the history of the island, the volcano, and other Hawaiiana. Food is not included, but there are several spots along the way down to stop, rest, and eat. The simple, mostly downhill route takes you right back to the cannery where you started. HBC also offers bike sales, rentals, and services, as well as van tours. Tour prices range from $75 to $135, with discounts available for online bookings. 810 Haiku Rd., Ste. 120, Haiku-Pauwela, HI, 96708. 808/575–9575 or 888/922–2453. www.bikemaui.com.

Island Biker. Maui's premier bike shop for rentals, sales, and service offers standard front-shock bikes, road bikes, and full-suspension mountain bikes. Daily rental rates range from $50 to $75, and weekly rates are $200 to $280. The price includes a helmet, pump, water bottle, cages, tire-repair kit, and spare tube. Car racks are $5 per day (free with weekly rentals). The staff can suggest routes appropriate for mountain or road biking. 415 Dairy Rd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/877–7744. www.islandbikermaui.com.

Maui Downhill. If biking down the side of Haleakala sounds like fun, Maui Downhill is ready to pick you up at your resort, shuttle you to the mountain, help you onto a bike, and follow you as you coast down through clouds and gorgeous scenery into the town of Pukalani. There is also a combination bike and winery tour that includes a visit to Maui's Winery at Ulupalakua Ranch, and a Bike N' Zip tour that includes a zipline experience at Skyline Eco-Adventures. Treks cost $129 to $260 and include a simple continental breakfast. 199 Dairy Rd., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/871–2155 or 800/535–2453. www.mauidownhill.com.

Maui Mountain Cruisers. Guided sunrise and midday bike trips "cruise" down Haleakala to Makawao, where you get back on board the van for a tour down to Paia. The cost is $155 for the sunrise tour; $135 for midday tours. Meals not included. 381 Baldwin Ave., #C, Paia, HI, 96779. 808/871–6014 or. www.mauimountaincruisers.com.

West Maui Cycles. Serving the island's west side, West Maui Cycles offers cruisers for $15 per day, hybrids for $35 per day, and performance road bikes for $60 per day. Per day rates ae discounted for longer-term rentals. The shop also rents baby joggers and car racks. Sales and service are available. 1087 Limahana Pl., No. 6, Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–9005. www.westmauicycles.com.

Extreme Sports

Rappel Maui. If the idea of walking backward down waterfalls appeals to you, this company stands ready, willing, and able to accommodate. Their friendly, knowledgeable guides encourage and assist you literally every step of the way. You must be at least 10 years old to participate, have a waist size between 24 and 54 inches, and weigh no more than 250 pounds. Rappelling is a fairly strenuous activity, so be prepared for a workout that includes hiking and swimming in addition to rappelling. The tour price of $200 includes all gear, lunch, bottled water, mosquito repellent, and transportation to and from the site from their pickup point in Central Maui. Non-rappellers can go along for $150, and can either swim or simply sit on a rock and take in the action. The pick-up spot is at the intersections of Highways 310 and 30. Hana Hwy., 10600, Haiku-Pauwela, HI, 96708. 808/270–1500. www.rappelmaui.com.

Golf

Maui’s natural beauty and surroundings offer some of the most jaw-dropping vistas imaginable on a golf course; add a variety of challenging, well-designed courses and it’s easy to explain the island’s popularity with golfers. Holes run across small bays, past craggy lava outcrops, and up into cool, forested mountains. Most courses have mesmerizing ocean views, some close enough to feel the salt in the air. Although many of the courses are affiliated with resorts (and therefore a little pricier), the general-public courses are no less impressive. Playing on Lanai is another option.

Greens Fees: Golf can be costly on Maui. Greens fees listed here are the highest course rates per round on weekdays and weekends for U.S. residents. (Some courses charge non-U.S. residents higher prices.) Rental clubs may or may not be included with the greens fee. Discounts are often available for resort guests, for twilight tee times, and for those who book online.

Resort courses, in particular, offer more than the usual three sets of tees, so bite off as much or as little challenge as you like. Tee it up from the tips and you can end up playing a few 600-yard par 5s and see a few 250-yard forced carries.

Discounts and Deals

Maui Golf Shop. Discounted tee times and club rentals are offered here. 1215 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/875–4653 or 800/981–5512. www.golf-maui.com.

Maui Golf Tournaments

Maui has a number of golf tournaments, most of which are of professional caliber and worth watching. Many are also televised nationally.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Held in January on Kapalua's Plantation Course, this tournament is an attention-getter—the first official PGA tour event. 2000 Plantation Club Dr., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/665–9160 or. www.kapalua.com/golf/hyundai-tournament-champions.

Ka Lima O Maui Celebrity 100. Every May, self-proclaimed "lunatic" golfers play from sunrise to sunset in Wailea's annual Ka Lima O Maui Celebrity 100, a fund-raiser for a local charity. 100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/875–7450. www.kalimaomaui.org.

Kapalua Clambake Pro-Am. A clambake feast at the Ritz-Carlton tops off the Kapalua Clambake Pro-Am each June. 300 Kapalua Dr., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/665–3759. www.kapaluamaui.com.

West Maui

Kaanapali Golf Resort. The Royal Kaanapali (North) Course (1962) is one of three in Hawaii designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., the godfather of modern golf architecture. The greens average a whopping 10,000 square feet, necessary because of the often-severe undulation. The par-4 18th hole (into the prevailing trade breezes, with out-of-bounds on the left, and a lake on the right) is notoriously tough. Designed by Arthur Jack Snyder, the Kaanapali Kai (South) Course (1976) shares similar seaside-into-the-hills terrain, but is rated a couple of strokes easier, mostly because putts are less treacherous. 2290 Kaanapali Pkwy., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–3691 or 866/454–4653. www.kaanapali-golf.com. Royal Kaanapali (North) Course, $249; Kaanapali Kai (South) Course, $205. Royal Kaanapali (North) Course: 18 holes, 6500 yards, par 71; Kaanapali Kai (South) Course: 18 holes, 6400 yards, par 70.

Kapalua Resort. Perhaps Hawaii's best-known golf resort and the crown jewel of golf on Maui, Kapalua hosts the PGA Tour's first event each January: the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. On this famed course, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore (1991) tried to incorporate traditional shot values in a nontraditional site, taking into account slope, gravity, and the prevailing trade winds. The par-5 18th hole, for instance, plays 663 yards from the back tees (600 yards from the resort tees). The hole drops 170 feet in elevation, narrowing as it goes to a partially guarded green, and plays downwind and down-grain. Despite the longer-than-usual distance, the slope is great enough and the wind at your back usually brisk enough to reach the green with two well-struck shots—a truly unbelievable finish to a course that will challenge, frustrate, and reward the patient golfer.

The Bay Course (Arnold Palmer and Francis Duane, 1975) is the more traditional of Kapalua's courses, with gentle rolling fairways and generous greens. The most memorable hole is the par-3 fifth hole, with a tee shot that must carry a turquoise finger of Oneloa Bay. Each of the courses has a separate clubhouse. Kapalua, HI, 96761. www.kapalua.com/golf.

Kapalua Golf Academy. Along with 23 acres of practice turf and 11 teeing areas, an 18-hole putting course, and 3-hole walking course, the Kapalua Golf Academy also has an instructional bay with digital video analysis. 1000 Office Rd., 96761. 808/665–5455 or 877/527–2582. www.kapalua.com/golf.

Bay Course (300 Kapalua Dr., 96761. 808/669–8044 or 877/527–2582. www.kapalua.com/golf. $215. 18 holes, 6600 yards, par 72.).

Plantation Course (2000 Plantation Club Dr., 96761. 808/669–8044 or 877/527–2582. www.kapalua.com/golf. $295. 18 holes, 7411 yards, par 73.).

The South Shore

Maui Nui Golf Club. Formerly known as elleair, Maui Nui Golf Club is an exacting test. Fairways tend to be narrow, especially in landing areas, and can be quite a challenge when the trade winds come up in the afternoon. The course is lined with enough coconut trees to make them a collective hazard, not just a nutty nuisance. 1345 Piilani Hwy., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/874–0777. elleairmauigolfclub.com. $89. 18 holes, 6404 yards, par 71.

Wailea. This is the only Hawaii resort to offer three different courses: Gold, Emerald, and Old Blue. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. (Gold and Emerald) and Arthur Jack Snyder (Old Blue), these courses share similar terrain, carved into the leeward slopes of Haleakala. Although the ocean does not come into play, its beauty is visible on almost every hole. Remember, putts break dramatically toward the ocean.

Jones refers to the Gold Course at Wailea (1993) as the "masculine" course. It's all trees and lava, and regarded as the hardest of the three courses. The trick here is to note even subtle changes in elevation. The par-3 8th, for example, plays from an elevated tee across a lava ravine to a large, well-bunkered green framed by palm trees, the blue sea, and tiny Molokini. The course demands strategy and careful club selection. The Emerald Course (1994) is the "feminine" layout with lots of flowers and bunkering away from greens. Although this may seem to render the bunker benign, the opposite is true. A bunker well in front of a green disguises the distance to the hole. Likewise, the Emerald's extensive flower beds are dangerous distractions because of their beauty. The Gold and Emerald share a clubhouse, practice facility, and 19th hole.

At Wailea's first course, the Old Blue Course (1971), judging elevation change is also key. Fairways and greens tend to be wider and more forgiving than on the Gold or Emerald, and run through colorful flora that includes hibiscus, wiliwili, bougainvillea, and plumeria. Wailea, HI, 96753. www.waileagolf.com.

Gold and Emerald Courses (100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., 96753. 808/875–7450 or 888/328–6284. www.waileagolf.com. Gold Course, $235; Emerald Course, $235. Gold Course: 18 holes, 6653 yards, par 72; Emerald Course: 18 holes, 6407 yards, par 72.).

Old Blue Course (100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., 96753. 808/875–7450 or 888/328–6284. www.waileagolf.com. $170. 18 holes, 6765 yards, par 72.).

Central Maui

The Dunes at Maui Lani. Robin Nelson is at his minimalist best here, creating a bit of British links in the middle of the Pacific. Holes run through ancient, lightly wooded sand dunes, 5 miles inland from Kahului Harbor. Thanks to the natural humps and slopes of the dunes, Nelson had to move very little dirt and created a natural beauty. During the design phase he visited Ireland, and not so coincidentally the par-3 3rd looks a lot like the Dell at Lahinch: a white dune on the right sloping down into a deep bunker and partially obscuring the right side of the green—just one of several blind to semiblind shots here. 1333 Maui Lani Pkwy., Kahului, HI, 96732. 808/873–0422. www.dunesatmauilani.com. $112. 18 holes, 6841 yards, par 72.

Kahili Golf Course. The former Sandalwood Course (1991) was completely redone in 2005 by Robin Nelson and is now one of two 18-hole courses—one private (King Kamehameha) and one public (Kahili)—that make up the King Kamehameha Golf Club. Course holes run along the slopes of the West Maui Mountains, overlooking Maui's central plain, and feature panoramic ocean views of both the North and South shores. Consistent winds negate the course's shorter length. 2500 Honoapiilani Hwy., Wailuku, HI, 96793. 808/242–4653. www.kahiligolf.com. $59. 18 holes, 6570 yards, par 72.

Waiehu Golf Course. Maui's lone municipal course and undoubtedly the best bargain on the island, Waiehu is really two courses in one. The front 9, dating to 1930, feature authentic seaside links that run along Kahului Bay. The back 9, which climb up into the lower reaches of the West Maui Mountains through macadamia orchards, were designed by Arthur Jack Snyder and opened in 1963. 200 Halewaiu Rd., Wailuku, HI, 96793. 808/243–7400. www.mauicounty.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/157. $55; $20 for golf cart. 18 holes, 6330 yards, par 72.

Upcountry

Pukalani Golf Course. At 1,110 feet above sea level, Pukalani (Bob E. Baldock and Robert L. Baldock, 1970) provides one of the finest vistas in all Hawaii. Holes run up, down, and across the slopes of Haleakala. The trade winds tend to come up in the late morning and afternoon. This, combined with frequent elevation change, makes club selection a test. The fairways tend to be wide, but greens are undulating and quick. 360 Pukalani St., Pukalani, HI, 96768. 808/572–1314. www.pukalanigolf.com. $63. 18 holes, 6962 yards, par 72.

Hang Gliding and Paragliding

If you’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to fly, hang gliding or paragliding might be your perfect Maui adventure. You’ll get open-air, bird’s-eye views of the Valley Isle that you’ll likely never forget. And you don’t need to be a daredevil to participate.

Equipment and Lessons

Hang Gliding Maui. Armin Engert will take you on an instructional powered hang-gliding trip out of Hana Airport in East Maui. With more than 13,000 hours in the air and a perfect safety record, Armin flies you 1,000 feet over Maui's most beautiful coast. A 30-minute flight lesson costs $170, a 45-minute lesson costs $230, and a 60-minute lesson is $280. Snapshots of your flight from a wing-mounted camera cost an additional $40, and a 34-minute DVD of the flight is available for $80. Reservations are required. Hana Airport, Alalele Pl., off Hana Hwy., Hana, HI, 96713. 808/572–6557. www.hangglidingmaui.com.

Proflyght Paragliding. This is the only paragliding outfit on Maui to offer solo, tandem, and instruction at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area. The leeward slope of Haleakala lends itself to paragliding with breathtaking scenery and air currents that increase during the day. Polipoli creates tremendous thermals that allow you to peacefully descend 3,000 feet to land. Tandem instruction prices are $95 to $185. Solo paragliding certification is also available. Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, Waipoli Rd., Kula, HI, 96790. 808/874–5433. www.paraglidemaui.com.

Hiking

Hikes on Maui include treks along coastal seashore, verdant rain forest, and alpine desert. Orchids, hibiscus, ginger, heliconia, and anthuriums grow wild on many trails, and exotic fruits like mountain apple, lilikoi (passion fruit), and strawberry guava provide refreshing snacks for hikers. Much of what you see in lower-altitude forests is alien, brought to Hawaii at one time or another by someone hoping to improve on nature. Plants like strawberry guava and ginger may be tasty, but they grow over native plants and have become problematic weeds.

The best hikes get you out of the imported landscaping and into the truly exotic wilderness. Hawaii possesses some of the world’s rarest plants, insects, and birds. Pocket field guides are available at most grocery or drug stores and can really illuminate your walk. If you watch the right branches quietly, you can spot the same honeycreepers or happy-face spiders scientists have spent their lives studying.

Best Spots

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala Crater. Undoubtedly the best hiking on the island is at Haleakala Crater. If you're in shape, do a day hike descending from the summit along Keoneheehee Trail (also known as Sliding Sands Trail) to the crater floor. You might also consider spending several days here amid the cinder cones, lava flows, and all that loud silence. Entering the crater is like landing on a different planet. In the early 1960s NASA actually brought moon-suited astronauts here to practice what it would be like to "walk on the moon." On the 30 miles of trails you can traverse black sand and wild lava formations, follow the trail of blooming ahinahina (silverswords), and witness tremendous views of big sky and burned-red cliffs.

The best time to go into the crater is in the summer months, when the conditions are generally more predictable. Be sure to bring layered clothing—and plenty of warm clothes if you're staying overnight. It may be scorching hot during the day, but it gets mighty chilly after dark. Bring your own drinking water, as potable water is only available at the two visitor centers. Overnight visitors must get a permit at park headquarters before entering the crater. Moderate to difficult. Haleakala Crater Rd., Makawao, HI, 96768. 808/572–4400. www.nps.gov/hale.

Oheo Gulch

A branch of Haleakala National Park, Oheo Gulch is famous for its pools (the area is sometimes called the "Seven Sacred Pools"). Truth is, there are more than seven pools, and there's nothing sacred about them. A former owner of the Travaasa Hotel Hana started calling the area "Seven Sacred Pools" to attract the masses to sleepy old Hana. His plan worked and the name stuck, much to the chagrin of many Mauians.

The best time to visit the pools is in the morning, before the crowds and tour buses arrive. Start your day with a vigorous hike. Oheo has some fantastic trails to choose from, including our favorite, the Pipiwai Trail. When you’re done, nothing could be better than going to the pools, lounging on the rocks, and cooling off in the freshwater reserves. (Keep in mind, however, that the park periodically closes the pools to swimming when the potential for flash flooding exists.)

You can find Oheo Gulch on Route 31, 10 miles past Hana town. To visit, you must pay the $10 per car National Park fee, which is valid for three days and can be used at Haleakala's summit as well. For information about scheduled orientations and cultural demonstrations, be sure to visit Haleakala National Park’s Kipahulu Visitor Center, 10 miles past Hana. Note that there is no drinking-water here.

Kahakai Trail. This quarter-mile hike (more like a walk) stretches between Kuloa Point and the Kipahulu campground. It provides rugged shoreline views, and there are places where you can stop to gaze at the surging waves below. Easy. Trailhead: Kuloa Point, Hana, HI, 96713.

Kuloa Point Trail. A half-mile walk, this trail takes you from the Kipahulu Visitor Center down to the Pools of Oheo at Kuloa Point. On the trail you pass native trees and precontact Hawaiian sites. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit and a towel if you're planning a dip in the pools—but exercise extreme caution, as no lifeguards are on duty. Stick to the pools; don't even think about swimming in the ocean. The park periodically closes the pools when the potential for flash flooding exists. Easy. Trailhead: Kipahulu Visitor Center, Hana Hwy., Hana, HI, 96713.

Pipiwai Trail. This 2-mile trek upstream leads to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls, pounding down in all its power and glory. Following signs from the parking lot, head across the road and uphill into the forest. The trail borders a sensational gorge and passes onto a boardwalk through a mystifying forest of giant bamboo. This stomp through muddy and rocky terrain takes around three hours to fully enjoy. Although this trail is never truly crowded, it's best done early in the morning before the tours arrive. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent. Moderate. Hana Hwy., near mile marker 42, Hana, HI, 96713.

Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area

A hiking area with great trails for all levels—and something totally unexpected on a tropical island—is the Kula Forest Reserve at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area in Upcountry Maui. During the Great Depression the government began a program to reforest the mountain, and soon cedar, pine, cypress, and even redwood took hold. The area, at an elevation of 6,200 feet, feels more like Vermont than Hawaii. It’s cold and foggy, and often wet, but there’s something about the enormity of the trees, quiet mist, and mysterious caves that makes you feel you’ve discovered an unspoken secret. Hikers should wear brightly colored clothing, as hunters may be in the area.

To reach the forest, take Route 37 all the way out to the far end of Kula. Then turn left at Route 377. After about ½ mile, turn right at Waipoli Road. You’ll encounter switchbacks; after that the road is bad but passable. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended, although standard cars have been known to make it. Use your best judgment.

Boundary Trail. This 4-mile trail begins just past the Kula Forest Reserve boundary cattle guard on Polipoli Road and descends into the lower boundary southward, all the way to the ranger's cabin at the junction of the Redwood and Plum trails. Combine them and you've got a hearty 5-mile day hike. The trail crosses many scenic gulches, with an overhead of tall eucalyptus, pine, cedar, and plum trees. Peep through the trees for wide views of Kula and Central Maui. Moderate. Polipoli Spring is often closed following heavy storms due to fallen trees and other damage. Check the Hawaii State Parks website prior to making the drive up there. Trailhead: Polipoli Campground, Polipoli Rd., Kula, HI, 96790. www.hawaiistateparks.org.

Redwood Trail. This colorful hike winds through redwoods and conifers past the short Tie Trail down to the old ranger's cabin. Although the views are limited, groves of trees and flowering bushes abound. At the end of the trail is an old cabin site and three-way junction with the Plum Trail and the Boundary Trail. Easy. Polipoli Spring is often closed following heavy storms due to fallen trees and other damage. Check the Hawaii State Parks website prior to making the drive up there. Trailhead: Near Polipoli Campground, Polipoli Rd., Kula, HI, 96790. www.hawaiistateparks.org.

Upper Waiakoa Trail. Start this scenic albeit rugged trail at the Polipoli Access Road (look for trailhead signs) and proceed up Haleakala through mixed pine and past caves and thick shrubs. The path crosses the land of Kaonoulu to the land of Waiakoa, where it reaches its highest point—7,800 feet. Here you'll find yourself in barren, raw terrain with fantastic views. At this point, you can either turn around, or continue on to the 3-mile Waiakoa Loop for a 14-mile journey. Other than a cave shelter, there's no water or other facilities on these trails, so come prepared. Difficult. Polipoli Spring is often closed following heavy storms due to fallen trees and other damage. Check the Hawaii State Parks website prior to making the drive up there. Trailhead: Polipoli Access Rd., Kula, HI, 96790. www.hawaiistateparks.org.

Horseback Riding

Several companies on Maui offer horseback riding that’s far more appealing than the typical hour-long trudge over a dull trail with 50 other horses.

Going with a Guide

Mendes Ranch. Family-owned and run, Mendes operates out of the beautiful ranchland of Kahakuloa on the windward slopes of the West Maui Mountains. Morning and afternoon trail rides lasting 1½ hours ($110) are available. Cowboys take you cantering up rolling pastures into the lush rain forest, and then you'll descend all the way down to the ocean for a photo op with a dramatic backdrop. Don't expect a Hawaiian cultural experience here—it's all about the horses and the ride. 3530 Kahekili Hwy., Wailuku, HI, 96793. 808/244–7320 or 800/871–5222. www.mendesranch.com.

Piiholo Ranch. The local wranglers here lead you on a rousing ride through family ranchlands—up hillside pastures, beneath a eucalyptus canopy, and past many native trees. Two-hour rides ($120) are offered twice daily. Their well-groomed horses navigate the challenging terrain easily, but hold on when axis deer pass by! You must be at least eight years old and in good physical condition to participate. Small groups (no more than six riders) make it a more personal experience. End of Waiahiwi Rd., Makawao, HI, 96768. 808/270–8750. www.piiholo.com.

Pony Express Tours. This outfit offers 1½- and 2-hour rides ($95 and $125) on the slopes of the Haleakala Ranch, the largest working cattle ranch on Maui. Kula, HI, 96790. 808/667–2200. www.ponyexpresstours.com.

Tennis

Most courts charge by the hour but will let players continue after their initial hour for free, provided no one is waiting. Many hotels and condos charge a fee for nonguests.

Best Spots

Kapalua Tennis Garden. Home to the Kapalua Tennis Club, this complex has 10 courts (four lighted for night play) and a pro shop. The fee is $14 per person per day. Private and group (3–4 persons) instruction is also available. Kapalua Resort, 100 Kapalua Dr., Kapalua, HI, 96761. 808/662–7730. www.kapaluatennis.com.

Lahaina Civic Center. The best free courts are the nine at the Lahaina Civic Center, near Wahikuli State Park. They all have overhead lighting for night play and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 1840 Honoapiilani Hwy., Lahaina, HI, 96761. 808/661–4685.

Makena Tennis Club. This club features six Plexipave courts, two of which are lighted for night play. Private lessons, ball machines, racquet stringing, and daily clinics are available. Rates are $35 per hour. 5415 Makena Alanui Dr., Makena, HI, 96753. 808/891–4050 Ext. 4050. www.makenagolf.com.

Wailea Tennis Club. Featuring 11 Plexipave courts (two lighted for night play), this club also offer lessons, rentals, and ball machines. Daily clinics help you improve your ground strokes, serve, volley, or doubles strategy. The daily court fee, which guarantees one hour of reserved time for singles and 1.5 hours for doubles, is $20 per player. 131 Wailea Ike Pl., Wailea, HI, 96753. 808/879–1958. www.waileatennis.com.

Tournaments

Kapalua Open Tennis Tournament. Over Labor Day weekend, the Kapalua Open Tennis Tournament calls Hawaii's hitters to Kapalua's Tennis Garden. 100 Kapalua Dr., Kapalua, HI, 96761. 808/662–7730. www.kapaluatennis.com.

Wailea Open Tennis Championship. This annual championship is held at the Wailea Tennis Club in May. 131 Wailea Ike Pl., Kihei, HI, 96753. 808/879–1958. www.waileatennis.com.

Zipline Tours

Ziplining on one of Maui’s several courses lets you satisfy your inner Tarzan by soaring high above deep gulches and canyons—for a price that can seem steep. A harness keeps you fully supported on each ride. Each course has its own age minimums and weight restrictions, but generally, you must be at least 10 years old and weigh a minimum of 60–80 pounds and a maximum of 250–275 pounds. You should wear closed-toe athletic-type shoes and expect to get dirty. Reconsider this activity if you are pregnant, uncomfortable with heights, or have serious back or joint problems.

Flyin' Hawaiian Zipline. These guys have the longest line in the state (a staggering 3,600 feet), as well as the most unique course layout. You build confidence on the first line, then board a four-wheel-drive vehicle that takes you 1,500 feet above the town of Waikapu to seven more lines that carry you over 11 ridges and nine valleys. The total distance covered is more than 2½ miles, and the views are astonishing. The price of $185 includes water and snacks. You must be able to hike over steep, sometimes slippery terrain while carrying a 10-pound metal trolley. Waikapu, HI, 96793. 808/463–5786. www.flyinhawaiianzipline.com.

Kapalua Ziplines. Begin with a 20-minute ride in a four-wheel-drive van through pineapple fields to the Mountain Outpost, a 3,000-square-foot observation deck boasting panoramic ocean and mountain views. If you're on the 7-line zip ($199), you'll climb even higher above the Pacific Ocean in a Polaris Ranger to experience 2 miles of parallel zipping plus lunch. The shorter 4-line zip ($169) and Sunset Zip Tour ($119) are great if you're on a time budget. 500 Office Rd., Kapalua, HI, 96761. 808/756–9147 or. www.kapaluaziplines.com.

Piiholo Ranch Zipline. Two zipline courses are on this gorgeous 900-acre family ranch. The original course consists of five lines—one quadruple and four side by side. Access to the fifth and longest line is via a four-wheel-drive vehicle to the top of Piiholo Hill, where you are treated to stunning bicoastal views. Guides do a good job of weaving Hawaiian culture into the adventure. You must be able to climb three steep suspension bridges while hefting a 12-pound trolley over your shoulder. Prices range from $140 for four lines to $190 for five. The zipline canopy tours keep you in the trees the entire time ($90 to $135). For the ultimate adventure, try the Zipline/Waterfall Hike ($229), for which the company has partnered with Hike Maui, the oldest land company in Hawaii. Piiholo Rd., Makawao, HI, 96768. 800/374–7050. www.piiholozipline.com.

Skyline Eco Adventures. The first company to open a zipline course in the United States, Skyline operates in two locations on Maui: the original course on the slope of Haleakala (five lines ranging from 50 to 720 feet) and its west side venue at 1,000 feet above Kaanapali (eight lines ranging from 50 to 1,000 feet). Tours at Haleakala range in price from $120 for the five-zipline tour, to $250 for the Haleakala Sunrise Bike N' Zip tour, which combines a downhill bicycle safari with a 5-line zip. Tours in Kaanapali range in price from $150 for the 8-line tour, to $180 for the Zip & Dip tour, which combines a dip in a natural mountain pool with an 8-line zip. Advance reservations are suggested, and discounts are available for online bookings. Original Course, 8303 Haleakala Hwy., Kula, HI, 96790. 808/878–8400 or 888/864–6947. www.zipline.com.

Stargazing

Tour of the Stars. For nightlife of the celestial sort, children and astronomy buffs can try Tour of the Stars, a one-hour stargazing program on the roof or patio of the Hyatt Regency Maui. The Romance of the Stars version of the program provides extra twinkle for adults; it's held Friday and Saturday nights at 10 pm and Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are served. Check in at the hotel lobby 15 minutes prior to starting time. Lahaina Tower, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, 200 Nohea Kai Dr., Kaanapali, HI, 96761. 808/661–1234. www.maui.hyatt.com. $25–$45. Nightly at 8, 9, and 10.