Rain or Shine: Oahu and Maui Indoor Activities

Rain or Shine: Oahu and Maui Indoor Activities

You’ve spent weeks, perhaps months, researching the best beaches and outdoor fun for your Hawaiian vacation. Now you’re here and it’s raining. Whether you’re visiting in Hawaii’s rainy season (traditionally from November to March) or not, when storm systems pass through the islands, you could face a full day or more of the wet stuff. But paradise with precipitation is still paradise. To keep dry and your aloha spirits high, counter any Hawaii rain with this roundup of “plan B” rainy-day and indoor activities on the islands of Maui and Oahu.

Maui


Arriving

Centrally located on the island’s north coast, Kahului Airport is where you’ll land and pick up your Maui car rental. The town of Lahaina, the de facto center of the West Maui resort coast, lies about 25 miles west of the airport via state highways 380 and 30. Wailea, at the heart of the South Maui resort strip, is about 17 miles south of the airport by way of state Highway 311.

Explore Maui Ocean Center

Rain may be clouding up the snorkeling waters, but aquarium tank visibility is always crystal clear at this excellent indoor facility, located roughly midway between the West Maui and South Maui resort areas. Spend two or three hours ogling sharks, turtles, rays, jellies and reef fish in every color of the rainbow before grabbing a bite at the adjacent Seascape Restaurant, serving up incredible views of Ma’alaea Harbor alongside its island-inspired dishes like Pacific Rim chowder.

Moray eels Admire moray eels, broad stingrays and scalloped hammerhead sharks at the Maui Ocean Center. Photo by Jon Konrath, Flickr.


Learn About Hawaii’s History in Lahaina

Though many tourists think of the area as a shopping and dining hotspot, Lahaina also has a fascinating history ripe for exploration. Located inside the island’s oldest standing house, the Baldwin Home Museum presents a snapshot of what missionary life was like in a Hawaiian village during the early 1800s. Or, in the old courthouse building next to Banyan Tree Park, discover the area’s rich history as a whaling town and a former royal capital through interactive exhibits at the Lahaina Heritage Museum. Drive just a half-mile north for another engaging experience at the indoor Maui Theatre, where you and your family can settle in for “Ulalena,” a top-notch live show that interprets Hawaiian history via music and dance.

Baldwin Home The Baldwin Home’s high ceilings and 24-inch-thick walls — made of coral, sand and lava rock — keep the inside of this historic house cool. Photo by Rick Obst, Flickr.


Browse the Boutiques in Wailea

In the South Maui resort area, The Shops at Wailea are a choice spot for a rainy-day splurge on brand-name finds from Prada, Gucci, Billabong and Quiksilver, plus a handful of island-based shops. Procure an aloha shirt from local designer Blue Ginger, or channel your inner Don Ho with a purchase at the Mele Ukulele shop. The mall is an outdoor affair, but there are enough covered walkways to keep you dry while still letting you breathe some fresh island air.

Relax at an Island Spa

There’s nothing like a massage to melt away stress over bad weather. Lucky for you, Maui has a wealth of hotel spas waiting to whisk you away for a day of body therapies, facials and mani-pedis. Head toward Maluaka Beach and stop at the Grand Wailea resort, home to Hawaii’s largest spa, the appropriately named Spa Grande. Here you can spend the morning indulging in treatments, from a traditional deep tissue massage to the spa’s signature chakra energy facial.

Oahu


Arriving

Fly into Honolulu International Airport, about a 6-mile drive northwest of downtown Honolulu via Interstate H-1.

Discover Natural History at the Bishop Museum

Set aside the better part of a soggy day to fully absorb the “Big Kahuna” of Hawaii human and natural history museums. In addition to more than 24 million artifacts, there’s a planetarium and an interactive, kid-geared science wing (including molten lava demonstrations at noon and 2:30 p.m. daily) to keep your keiki smiling for hours on end, whether you’re visiting Hawaii in sunshine or rain.

Go Under the Sea at the Waikiki Aquarium

On the shores of Waikiki Beach, next to a living reef, this nifty little aquarium has enough jellyfish, giant clams, seahorses, sea turtles and tropical fish to chip away an hour or two of a water-logged day. Afterward, grab a casual lunch at Tiki’s Grill & Bar or Lulu’s Waikiki, each about a 10-minute walk (under your umbrella, of course!) north of the aquarium along Kalakaua Avenue.

Waikiki Aquarium Featuring coral, masked angelfish and Hawaiian morwongs, the Waikiki Aquarium’s Northwestern Hawaiian Islands exhibit gives visitors a chance to explore one of the world’s most isolated ecosystems. Photo by incidencematrix, Flickr.


Find Island Attire and Eats at Ala Moana Center

The state’s biggest shopping mall has it all — from the brand-name shops you know back home to dozens of local outfits. Browse Hawaiian Island Creations or ABC Stores for souvenirs like locally made perfumes, or pick up a pair of Freaky Tiki Tropical Optical sunglasses for when the storm passes. For a bit of Far East flavor, check out the center’s bustling Shirokiya Japan Village Walk area, packed with more than 40 Asian food kiosks and bistros.

Spend a Royal Afternoon Roaming Iolani Palace

An 1882 Italian Renaissance-style royal palace in tropical paradise? Believe it or not, yes! Once a residence for the last ruling monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii, this lavish spread loaded with exquisite antique furniture and art offers interesting guided and self-guided audio tours that you might’ve skipped if the sun were shining.

Iolani Palace Inside Iolani Palace and spanning its entire width, the impressive Grand Hall features a dramatic staircase crafted out of Hawaiian koa wood, plus portraits of Hawaiian kings and queens and art from India, Europe and Asia along its walls.


Explore World War II History at the Pacific Aviation Museum

Usually combined with a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial (about a 1-mile drive northeast) and a must for WWII and aircraft buffs, the museum offers buy one, get one free admission and displays more than 40 vintage warplanes and helicopters, most housed in two fully covered hangars on Ford Island. Reflecting on the incredible, heroic effort it took to win the war, you’ll forget all about the raindrops outside in Oahu.

Pacific Aviation Museum Tour two hangars full of vintage aircraft, including the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (top) and the North American Aviation F-86E Sabre, at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Photo by Pacific Aviation Museum, Flickr.

About the Author

Eli Ellison is a California-based travel writer who frequents the Hawaiian islands. On Kauai, he once experienced six consecutive days of nonstop rain … and feels your pain.