Wailua Falls. Guests looking to explore the area’s falls up close can opt for a Hike Maui tour. Photo Credit: Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority
There's certainly no shortage of terrific activity options on Maui, where travelers can try kitesurfing, swim in remote waterfall pools, hike over volcanic craters or even snorkel with Hawaiian green sea turtles.
And those are just a few of many distinctive options available to Valley Isle visitors. But what experiences actually sell well and capture the interest of clients?
I spoke recently with three agents, all of whom have sold vacations to Maui for years and visited numerous times, and I asked them not only about their best-selling Valley Isle activity products but also which experiences they enjoyed themselves.
"Because they're going to Maui, the water is, of course, usually what they're wanting," Monica Ambriz Misquez, the owner of home-based Travels by Monica, said of her clients.
"So I typically suggest snorkeling trips from Kaanapali Beach," she continued, noting that Trilogy, Gemini and Teralani all offer terrific products, loading customers onto catamarans right from the beach and then heading north to protected bays up the coast.
"They're smaller than the bigger companies that take people over to Molokini Crater, and I really prefer that experience," Misquez said of the Kaanapali operators. "Every time I'm on one of their snorkeling trips I see dolphins, [and] I tell clients you'll see a lot more fish and you won't feel so crowded."
Maureen Dinnocenzo, the owner of Above & Beyond Travel in Arnold, Calif., has a great deal of success selling the Feast at Lele, an oceanfront luau that features a five-course meal.
"The courses are from the different South Pacific islands," she said. "So the first course might be Hawaiian, but the second might be from New Zealand, then the third course could be from Tahiti."
Dinnocenzo said the evening also includes wonderful dance performances, but she noted the presentation isn't as "extravagant" as one might find at a more traditional luau.
"It's something different and unique I like to tell my clients about, especially for people who've been to the Islands before," she said. "And usually about 60% of them book it."
For Ellen McDannel, who owns home-based Diamond Travel of Capistrano Beach, Calif., snorkeling also tends to be a big draw, but her clients are increasingly interested in exploring Maui's small towns and visiting the island's upcountry agricultural attractions on the slopes of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot, dormant shield volcano.
Surfing Goat Dairy "is a great stop," she said. "I always recommend it for families, animal lovers and cheese lovers. For a small fee, you can have a tour of the farm, the milking station and pasteurizing equipment, feed the goats and have a taste. Or you can just stop to pet and shop. There always seem to be kids [baby goats] to pet, [and] their goat's milk soaps and goat cheese truffles also make nice gifts."
Meanwhile, Maui travelers who are short on time but still interested in seeing as much as possible often like the idea of a helicopter tour, according to Dinnocenzo.
One of the most popular is the Hana-Haleakala Tour with Sunshine Helicopters, she said. "You can actually see the huge crater up there along with the Hana rain forest and old Hana town along with all of Haleakala National Park, taro fields and waterfalls you can't otherwise see without hiking."
For those who want to see some of those waterfalls up close, Misquez knows the perfect product: Hike Maui's East Maui Waterfall & Rainforest tour.
"They take you right to the waterfalls and give you enough time to go swimming," she said. "They can also get you on private property that's otherwise inaccessible, [and] there was even one spot that had a rope swing, where you could actually swing through the waterfall."