A Local’s Guide to Maui
In the tradition of surfers everywhere, Adventure IO’s Matthew Murasko spent his youth chasing waves all over the world. In the mid 90ʻs Murasko met Laird Hamilton and Buzzy Kerbox competing in the 32-mile Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach paddleboard race. Kerbox invited Murasko to visit Hawaii - the island of Maui, to be exact - and soon after it would become his new home. Through Kerbox, Murasko enjoyed the Maui life with several of Buzzyʻs fellow watermen - Dave Kalama, Laird Hamilton, Archie Kalepa and Victor Lopez.
Maui is paradise for watermen who crave the challenge of giant surf, and the North side of Maui provides three epic big wave spots: Pier One outside Kahului Harbor, Sprecks outer reef just before Paia, and the world famous Peʻahi aka “Jaws". Hoʻokipa Beach Park is the world-renowned windsurfing and surf break. Kanaha Beach Park is a mecca for kitesurfers, foilboarders and wing foilers. From Kanaha to Hoʻokipa, there are plenty of opportunities to share the waves and wind with some of the world’s most talented watermen and waterwomen, while honing your own skills at the same time.
Murasko, who has been living on the North Shore for the past 17 years, has a firm foothold in the community, a deep knowledge of popular activities and an insider's take on what makes this island so special – volunteering with non-profit Maui Cultural Lands in Honokawai Valley, to SUP and OC-1 paddling on the famed Maliko to Kanaha downwind run, big wave OC4 canoe surfing with Hawaiian legend Ross Kaa, hiking into Haleakalā crater at 10,023 feet (above the clouds) to exploring the jungles and waterfalls on the road to the town of Hana. As they say on Maui, “Maui No Ka Oi” ... Maui is the Best! Read on for an insider’s guide to one of Hawaii’s best Adventure locales.
WHERE TO STAY
The Montage Resort - Kapalua Bay
“The North Shore is at the heart of Maui’s water sports scene, you can surf and ride alongside of some of the best watermen and waterwoman in the world. But it’s not known for its hotels. The land here is all pasture, fields and ranches, though you can find some decent Airbnbs if you’re set on the area.
I recommend visitors stay on the South Shore. It’s a drivable distance from the North Shore action but the ocean is calmer and the sunset views are out of this world. The South Shore is where you find luxury resorts like Montage Kapalua Bay (which has multi-room villas that are ideal if you’re traveling in a group) and the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.”
UNMISSABLE EATS AND DRINKS
Lunch or dinner ... Mama's doesn't disappoint.
If you’re looking to make reservations for a special meal during your stay, definitely check out Mama’s Fish House. It’s the kind of place that books up months ahead of time but it’s worth the effort to get a seat.
Farm-to-table cuisine is huge in Hawaii, and two destination restaurants that do it well are Chef Bev Gannon’s Haliimaile General Store and Merriman’s Kapalua – an oceanside spot overseen by Chef Peter Merriman.
For a more low-key dining experience, you can’t go wrong with heading into Lahaina and visiting Star Noodle, Paia Bowls (a little cafe owned by a Red Bull surfer named Ian Walsh), or Fleetwoods on Front Street – a British pub-style restaurant and music venue owned by Mick Fleetwood, the drummer from Fleetwood Mac. Look out for all his old touring memorabilia downstairs and settle in for a performance by Mick and his on-island band. If you’re really lucky, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler might even keep him company on stage.
Finally, I’d definitely recommend grabbing a meal from a food truck. You’ll see them all over Maui selling everything from vegan cuisine to poké bowls. The food is great and you’ll be supporting the local community.
Find your island onboard the Ohana Nui
Maui’s North Shore is a Mecca for surfing, but even those with a lot of experience could use some guidance to navigate the island’s famed giant waves. Join local instructor Kody Kerbox for a tour of the best spots and pick up some advanced tips along the way.
Only the bravest and most skilled surfers in the world dare to tackle Jaws - one of the world’s most gigantic waves. Watch the pros up close on a Jaws boat trip captained by water safety specialist and kiteboarding professional Brett Sheerin. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Whether you’re training for something specific or just want to keep your fitness up while on vacation, a private beach workout session with professional SUP ocean athlete Suzie Cooney will push you in the best way. Work up a sweat, then jump in the ocean to cool off.
For a view of Maui most tourists never get to see, join SUP champion Connor Baxter for a day spent paddleboarding to hidden spots. Connor grew up exploring these waters and is the best imaginable guide.
If you’re feeling fancy, charter the Ohana Nui yacht for a personalized half or full-day trip around the island. You can go whale watching from November to May, and the boat also comes with standup paddleboards and snorkels.
BEST-KEPT LOCAL SECRET
AIO Guide Julia Wiltschko knows her way around the Haleakalā National Park
On your way back from a day of surfing at Wailea, stop by Maui Brewing Company’s headquarters in Kihei. Visit the tap room, sample a flight, and eat a great meal.
Haleakalā National Park – a huge volcano crater – is one of Maui’s most beautiful places, which also makes it one of the most popular. Tourists get up at the crack of dawn to watch sunrise from the top, and to prevent overcrowding you now have to make a reservation. My friends and family go at sunset instead. Bring a warm jacket, a blanket, wine and cheese and watch the sunset over the islands. If there’s a full moon it’s extra epic because the moon is rising on one side as the sun is setting on the opposite side. Don’t forget to look out for the silversword - a cactus-looking plant that only grows on Maui, at altitude.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Sunscreen is vital in Maui because we are close to the equator, but make sure you use a reef-safe formula. As of 2022 no harmful, chemical sunscreens will be allowed in the state of Hawaii as a conservation measure to keep our coral reefs thriving.