I recognize that this is actually partially answered here but I thought this was worth asking on its own for an answer that addresses it directly.

Maui is stuck on an island for a thousand years. We also know that he is an expert wayfinder and seaman. I'm not saying that necessarily makes him an expert boat builder, but after a thousand years you would think he would have been able to build something reasonably seagoing. Perhaps during that time he tried and was always pushed back by the sea somehow as punishment for actions, and so he knew he needed to wait until the gods showed their forgiveness by giving him a boat as a sign that he was finally allowed to leave, but that wasn't shown in the movie at all. So are there any behind the scenes info or cut scenes or anything like that which indicates why he didn't just leave the island?

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    The sea appears to be keeping him on the island. This presumably includes steering large pieces of driftwood away from him – Valorum Jun 6 '17 at 11:44

The "making of" artbook is quite instructional. Maui isn't just marooned on his island, he's been positively imprisoned there by the ocean, presumably until he's learned.his.lesson (or at least until the ocean finds a suitably photogenic girl to teach him that lesson).

Note the use of language; Maui is trapped. His island is like Alcatraz, etc.

Maui’s island, explains art director of environments Andy Harkness, is “a sun-baked, desolate place with no trees. There’s nothing big enough on it to make a boat to escape.” Maui has been trapped on this lonely sandspit for thousands of years, with only a cave to live in.

The Art of Moana


Maui’s Island is a stark rock in the middle of the ocean, almost like Alcatraz. It’s not close to anything and too small to even create a cloud system over it, although there is a cave in which Maui can shelter from storms.

The Art of Moana

This would strongly imply that the ocean is intentionally preventing Maui from gathering the materials needed to make a boat.

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