Aside from the actual sunset itself—where the sky is ablaze with fiery fingers of red, orange, and pink—perhaps the best part of sunset in Maui is the variety of ways to enjoy it. Surfers flock to their favorite break to register one last wave, and hundreds of people watch the show from the deck of a sunset cruise. It’s a time when locals bring beach chairs and coolers to the nearest county beach park, and the sound of conch shells trumpets bellows from every beachfront resort. You can drive to the top of Haleakala and watch the stars come out, or go for a sunset stand-up paddle off the calm shores of Lahaina. However you choose to enjoy the show, at some point during your island stay, two absolute musts are a sunset cruise and a sunset oceanfront luau.
When cruising the waters off of West Maui, you’re met with a view of Mauna Kahalawai exploding up from the sea. It’s a powerful, pause-inducing, perfect panorama you simply can’t get from shore—and when paired with the sounds of slack-key guitar, it’s a moment that’s tough to beat. In the hour before sunset, this deeply eroded, 5,700-foot mountain is festooned in a patchwork of shadows, and is often backed by the soft glow of a pink and purple sky. While standing on the decks, you turn around and face west toward the distant island of Lana’i. The clouds parked on the western horizon explode with a fiery glow, but the show gets better even after the sun has gone down. In the winter months, the scene takes place to the soundtrack of spouting whales, and there’s even the chance of spending sunset with dolphins splashing off the bow.
Back on shore, at an oceanfront luau, the vibe is cool, calming, and just as festive as a cruise. Arrive early to enjoy traditional games such as ulu maika—or lawn bowling—or watch as the pig is ceremoniously unearthed from the steaming underground imu. As the first flecks of sunset start piercing the sky, you migrate west toward the sandy beachfront that’s lined with flickering tiki torches. You snap a photo or 10—since there’s a good chance it will end up being the front of next year’s Christmas card. As the light slowly fades on the western horizon, and the tradewinds gently decrease, you finish the night by enjoying a musical, magical Polynesian journey.