The Maʻalaea District of Maui is located in Central Maui about six miles south of Wailuku, where the Honoapiʻilani Highway (Hwy 30) reaches the south coast.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy for a full day in Maʻalaea. You can begin with a morning snorkeling or whale-watching cruise followed by an afternoon visit to the Maui Ocean Center.
You can end the day with an evening sunset walk on Maʻalaea Beach and then dinner at one of the harbor area's excellent restaurants.
Formerly a commercial port Maʻalaea Harbor now hosts a marina where many cruise and pleasure boats dock. Among the boats that dock here are whale watching cruise boats as well as those that offer snorkeling trips to Molokini Atol.
The waters and reefs of Maʻalaea are important to many species. Maʻalaea Bay is part of the National Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary - a favorite mating and birthing grounds for the endangered Humpbacks. Green Sea Turtles browse reefs that border the harbor entrance.
Locals Flock to Maʻalaea:
When a robust south swell hits Maui, surfers from far and near head for Maʻalaea to have a chance to experience the tubular perfection of one of the world's fastest rideable waves - the legendary Maʻalaea Pipeline wave.
Beginners learn to surf at Maʻalaea's Buzz's Wharf surf break. Outrigger canoe clubs take shelter and rest on the Harbor's small beach.
Families fish off the harbor wall or spear fish on nearby reefs.
Harbor Improvement Proposal:
For years there have been complaints about the harbor's safety in bad weather, Modifications have failed to relieve the problem.
The State of Hawaii and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed blasting a new harbor entrance guarded by a huge new break wall.
Locals and environmentalists have fought this proposal that would destroy 4.9 acres of healthy reef, disrupt the whale and turtle habitat, eliminate a favorite surf spot and canoe paddler's beach, and forever alter the Maʻalaea Pipeline.
Maʻalaea Harbor Dining:
The area is home to eight restaurants beginning with the highly acclaimed Waterfront Restaurant located in the Milowai Condominium. It has received a 5-star rating from Honolulu Magazine, placed first in the Maui News' annual survey for "best service" and "best seafood."
Buzz's Wharf Restaurant is a local landmark at the harbor's edge featuring excellent and moderately food.
Other options include The Blue Marlin, Bamboo Bistro, Capiche, Maʻalaea Grill and the Maʻalaea Seascape Restaurant.
Maʻalaea Bay is home to nine condominiums all located along Hauʻoli Road just east of the harbor area. Each of the condominiums has different things that will appeal to varying tastes and needs.
An excellent overview of the offerings is found at the "A Room with a View" Maui Condos website.
Maʻalaea Beach is approximately three miles in length and stretches from Maʻalaea Harbor on the west to Sugar Beach on the east. It is not considered a good beach for sunning and bathing due to what are often high winds.
It is, however, excellent for surfing and windsurfing especially when the wind and waves kick up in the afternoon. It is also an excellent "walking" beach.
Maʻalaea Harbor Shops:
After a slow start, the Maʻalaea Harbor Shops have now attracted several excellent retailers and restaurants.
You can now find Maui Dive Shop, Hula Cookies and Ice Cream, and Moonbow Tropics along with the Pacific Whale Foundation's Ocean Discovery Store and the Ocean Science Discovery Center where you'll find a self-guided exhibit area with hands-on activities for adults and children; informational displays, marine artifacts and free educational literature about the ocean.
Kealia National Wildlife Refuge:
This refuge provides 700 acres of some of the last remaining natural wetland habitat in Hawaii.
Kealia Pond is nearly 250 acres when full. The refuge is home to endangered native water birds, and hosts migratory ducks and shorebirds in fall, winter, and spring.
The refuge is adjacent to Kealia Beach, which is a nesting ground for the endangered hawksbill turtle. An interpretive kiosk and boardwalk viewing area found along the beach and refuge mudflats.
Maui Ocean Center:
The Maui Ocean Center rivals the National Aquarium in Baltimore as one of the finest we have seen. Your visit to the Center begins with The Living Reef where you walk through the various regions of a reef and learn about the many and varied creatures that make the reef their home. Don't miss those moray eels.
When you exit The Living Reef you find yourself in an outdoor courtyard, which features such exhibits as Turtle Lagoon, a touch pool, and the Sting Ray Cove.
You then enter into the Whale Discovery Center that is a very interactive means of learning about the humpback whales that spend the winter in Hawaii.
Following the Whale Discovery Center you find an exhibit detailing the importance of the ocean and sea life to the ancient Hawaiians.
You'll also find a wonderful exhibit of jellyfish that has just the perfect light to examine these beautiful and graceful creatures.
The final exhibit takes you past the largest tank in the aquarium and then through a clear acrylic tunnel where the creatures of the ocean swim on all sides of you.
The Maui Ocean Center features a huge gift shop that is worth a visit.