Beyond the musts: 3 free sites off the beaten path in Maui

Lahaina Jodo Mission in Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii, features one of the largest statues of Buddha outside of Asia. It’s free to visit the site, and donations are welcomed.


By DANIELLE L. KIRACOFE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2018

If you’re visiting Maui, a few sites are musts. You must visit Haleakala. You must enjoy the dancing — and the food — at the Old Lahaina Luau. You must walk through the branches of the Banyan Tree in Lahaina. And don’t drive past the Maui Ocean Center, especially if you love turtles.

My husband and I had two weeks on the island paradise, so we could afford to indulge in some of the sites less traveled. Once we’d seen the “must” places, we dove deeper into the island’s history and wildlife. 

The town of Lahaina is a destination for most visitors to Maui — make sure to stroll First Street, eat Dole Whip, a tasty frozen soft serve pineapple-flavored dessert, and then stop in at the Lahaina Heritage Museum. But if you have the time, make the short drive away from town to stop in at Lahaina Jodo Mission.

This Japanese temple is near the ocean and features one of the largest statues of Buddha outside of Asia. Installed in 1968 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of immigrants from Japan, the statue is 12 feet high. The site also has a towering pagoda.

The grounds midweek were tranquil. We walked through the site quietly, enjoying the peace.

While free to visit, donations are accepted and, in our case, gladly given. You’ll only need about a half-hour, and ample parking is located across the street.

On our way back from a Saturday morning roaming the Maui Swap Meet (another must-do when visiting Maui that is also free), we stopped in at a long pink building halfway up the hillside: the King Kamehameha Golf Club. It was built from the plans for a house that famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1949, but never built.

A Wright building? In Maui? Yep. It’s a lovely modern building, with curves easing out of the hillside.

Even if you don’t know the history of the building and its plans, you can still appreciate the uniqueness of the architecture. You’ll drive up the green hillside, and if you’re as lucky as we were, pass a site set up for a wedding. We wandered around the building, inside and out, taking in the details. The stained glass, the round and half-round windows and the distinct pattern of wood and glass in the double entryway doors need to be seen both from inside and outside the building.

Inside, enjoy the collection of original art. Also make sure to enjoy the views from the window — the golf course and beyond the green and blue island, to the Pacific Ocean and Haleakala mountain. The trade winds blew in when we visited, and the wind picked up. 

We loved how we could pick out the huge pink building while traveling the island. We also could see it from our base in the town of Kihei. 

The site is free, and will take you about 30 minutes to see.

Between the golf club and Kihei, we stopped at Kealia Coastal Boardwalk on the way back from the golf club. We also stopped the morning of our last day on Maui. It’s a walkway through wetlands beside Maalaea Bay on the south edge of Maui’s central valley. It’s right off the main road, but far enough away from it to allow you to enjoy more peace and quiet and the nature at this beautiful spot.

The flat, easy-to-walk boardwalk isn’t long — 2,200 feet — but it features incredible views of wetlands and beaches, and interesting interpretive exhibits to help visitors learn more about the birds that visit Maui or call it home. The signage helped me identify birds I’d never seen. I saw a lot of birds; apparently October is a great time for bird-watching. I was amazed at how close some of them were to the boardwalk. There were quite a few people there on Saturday morning — photographers with huge lenses to capture the birds, and people strolling in the warmth.

The site is free and has some parking, but no restrooms. Like the other two sites, it’s totally worth the stop.


Know & Go

Address: Ala Moana St, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761

Address: 2500 Honoapiilani Hwy, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793

Address: Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, Kihei, Hawaii 96753

The main building at King Kamehameha Golf Club was crafted using designs by Frank Lloyd Wright. The pink building can be seen from around Maui.