Perhaps best known as the ideal island destination for beginner and experienced surfers, Maui is arguably the most beautiful island of the Hawaiian chain. The wildly varying climates of Haleakala and the towering cliffs of the West Maui Mountains provide two very different environments to explore, each one just as breathtaking as the other.

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala Crater – Sliding Sands Trail

Home to the highest peak of Maui, Haleakala National Park is a unique look at the beauty of this tropical paradise. Rising to over 10,000 feet above sea level, the incredible slopes are imposing to view and make for striking photographs to share with friends back home. The history of the mountain is linked to Hawaiian mythology; it’s believed the demigod Maui slowed the sun down by lassoing it in order to lengthen the day. Considering how gorgeous the terrain is as it sparkles under the midday sun, who can blame him?

A popular spot to watch the sunrise, the Haleakala Visitor Center, located at 9,740 feet, offers unforgettable views of Maui. On clear mornings you can see all the way to the expansive coastline and the waves crashing against it.

While exploring the upper reaches of Haleakala, keep an eye peeled to spot nene, or Hawaiian geese, as they roam across the park.

Iao Valley State Park

Iao Valley State Park, Maui

Gazing on the beauty that is Iao Valley State Park, it’s easy to forget its dark history as the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai, when King Kamehameha I’s forces struck against Maui’s troops as part of his effort to unite the islands. Today, the valley better known as a natural attraction for travelers from all over the globe.

Despite its bloody past, rich greenery gives the Iao Valley its tropical feel while paved pedestrian paths offer easy access to the unbelievable views of Iao Needle, a 1,200’ natural landmark of volcanic rock that looks out over Iao stream.

The park stretches over 4,000 acres and is 10 miles long, providing plenty of space for hiking and sightseeing. If it’s towering peaks and lush green landscape you’re looking for, Iao Valley State Park is a great place to explore.