In February, we headed to Maui with the kids for a much-needed family vacation! Thanks so much to my generous in-laws (and my mom for watching our 13-year-old dog 😉), the boys were able to enjoy Hawaii for the first time. They had high expectations, but even those were exceeded and we can’t wait to go back again next year!
It takes about 12 hours to get to Hawaii from the East Coast, so we opted to spend a night in San Diego on both legs of the trip. After traveling with 3 kids ages 3, 7 and 9, I would definitely recommend spending a night on the West Coast if you’re headed to Maui with kids. Not only did it break up the 12 hours of flight time, but it also helped them with transitioning through so many different time zones! Depending on daylight savings time, coming from the East Coast means the time in Hawaii will be 5 or 6 hours earlier!
Since the writing of this post, we have been back several more times and have stayed for a few days on the West Coast on the way back and I can’t recommend it enough. The few days in the Pacific time zone really helped the boys get back to their normal schedule a bit more gradually.
But back to Maui with kids– we arrived on a beautiful sunny Wednesday afternoon and spent the balance of the day outside, swimming and walking around the grounds of the Napili Point Resort (where our condo was located). After two days of travel, the boys were more than excited to spend every minute outdoors and that’s exactly what we did! Depending on the length of your trip, you may want to plan at least a day or two to hang around your resort or condo to let the kids acclimated to the time change and their new surroundings.
When you’re ready to venture out, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Maui with kids, but here are a few of our favorites:
Maui Ocean Center ~ Perfect for the Whole Family
On Thursday it rained (February falls in Hawaii’s rainy season), so we headed for a visit to the Maui Ocean Center. We were definitely not alone, as the Maui Ocean Center is the island’s most popular attraction on rainy days. With a gorgeous oceanfront location, there were so many things to see and do at the Ocean Center. We could have stayed for an entire day!
Of the different attractions, the boys especially loved the Open Ocean exhibit– a 750,000-gallon aquarium complete with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel. They sat mesmerized for quite a long time! Other exciting exhibits to visit are the Living Reef, Turtle Lagoon, and the Marine Mammal Center. There are touch tanks and a lot of different interactive activities for kids (and adults) of all ages.
We ended our visit with a delicious lunch at the Seascape Restaurant (we got to sit right next to the Living Reef aquarium) and stopped off at the Maui Ocean Treasures gift shop. I was really impressed with the variety of items they had at the store (including lots of Hawaiian made items), and the boys, as usual, were more than excited to pick out souvenirs!
Snorkeling with the Turtles in Honokeana Bay
One of the things I love about staying at Napili Point is that it has some of the island’s best snorkeling right outside your door in Honokeana Bay. All you have to do is walk down the slope and dive in to see sea turtles and hundreds of different Hawaiian reef fish. There are usually about 10 sea turtles that call this bay home and you see them resting on the ocean floor, sunning themselves on the cove’s rocky beach or swimming right by you! Just remember not to ever touch them (even though they will come very close) as all sea turtles are protected by federal and state law.
You will fall in love with the turtles (Honu in Hawaiian) as they gracefully swim by and if you’re lucky you might see a younger one (we did on our latest trip!). If you are coming from the continental US, you will likely wake up early when you arrive, so you can head down to the shore and find the turtles slide along the reefs, feeding on algae and seaweed. Grab a strong up of Hawaiian coffee and sit on the beach while the kids play and enjoy looking for turtles!
There are plenty of places to rent snorkel gear on Maui, so don’t bother bringing your own gear– unless of course, you have room to bring your own and want to save some cash. It’s not too expensive though, and it’s worth it in my opinion to rent for the family. We went to the snorkel place right next door to our condo (and have also rented from Snorkel Bob’s) and they had everything we needed for adults and kids. We did a week-long rental so we could snorkel every day!
Pacific Whale Foundation Whale Watch
If you are visiting Maui with kids, a whale watch should definitely be on your list. Our trip fell right at the peak of whale season in Hawaii and there was no shortage of humpback whales to see. You can actually sit on your lanai and watch for blowholes or see whales breaching! We chose to work with the jet lag and do a sunrise whale watch, and I would 100% recommend it. We had beautiful weather and it was so clear that morning that we could actually see the Big Island in the distance.
We chose to head out on a Pacific Whale Foundation boat, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them. I had made our reservations online and made a mistake when choosing the harbor we would be leaving. I called and immediately spoke to someone who fixed the mistake for me AND informed me that she would be refunding me for the kids since they were all FREE!
The boys definitely listed the whale watch as one of the highlights of the trip, and we will definitely be going on another one when we return next year. Getting to see humpback whales in close proximity is such a gift and not an opportunity to be missed!
Kaanapali Golf Course (Playing the Royal Course)
A visit to Maui wouldn’t be complete without some golf! My husband, father-in-law and I snuck away from the boys for 18 holes of golf on the Royal Ka’anapali course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. This course is BEAUTIFUl and starts at sea level before rising to the West Maui Mountain foothills. I loved being able to see such a diverse landscape over the 18 holes.
Thankfully the weather cooperated for us and we finished the round right before the rain started. I only wish we had had more time to enjoy lunch at Roy’s before we had to head back to the kids…I am very much looking forward to returning to play there again on my next trip, and of course, I stopped at the Pro Shop to pick up a souvenir golf shirt to bring home for play here on Cape Cod!
If you don’t golf and want a fun, family outing footgolf is a great option at Ka’anapali. You can take advantage of the family package which is $50 for two adults and up to two kids (regularly $15 per player).
Mini Hike to Dragon’s Teeth and Swimming at DT Fleming Beach
We were hoping to do a little more hiking during our vacation, but after traveling to Maui (with kids) from the East Coast, the last thing we wanted to do was drive anywhere! Thankfully Kapalua and Dragon’s Teeth were a short five-minute drive from the condo, so we headed over to check out the beautiful views (and some more whales) from the lava outcroppings along the shore. Dragon’s Teeth is named for the peaks that formed when the hot lava from the West Maui volcano flowed down and met with the surging waves. The lava immediately cooled in peaks that resemble dragon teeth.
We spotted DT Fleming Beach on our hike and headed there the following day for some boogie boarding and body surfing. This beach is located right at the foot of the Ritz Carlton resort, so if you get hungry after having fun in the water, you can grab a bite to eat the Burger Shack.
You’ll definitely want to get there in the morning, as it gets VERY crowded as the day goes on and there is limited parking. It can also get a little windy in the afternoon. While the beach is staffed with lifeguards, the beach gets some decent North swells (there is a special area for surfing), so it’s best to be cautious if it’s a high surf day! We had a great time at Fleming and stayed until lunch time when the wind started to pick up.
Strolling around Lahaina
Now that the boys are a bit older, they love going into Lahaina (about a 10-minute drive from Napili) to grab a shave ice and walk around. Parking is definitely at a premium near downtown Lahaina, but there are a number of lots sprinkled throughout the area.
You can visit the Banyan tree, enjoy a cocktail and live music, walk along the waterfront and shop to your heart’s content. If your kids are into Vans, definitely check out the Vans store in Lahaina for some great finds for all ages! There are plenty of places to eat and get shave ice or ice cream, so enjoy a beautiful Hawaiian evening in Lahaina during your stay.
Some of Our Favorite Family Dining Spots on Maui
There is no shortage of unbelievable places to eat on the island of Maui, and many are located in Lahaina, about 10 minutes from our condo. We snuck out for two dinners out and enjoyed the rest of our meals at our condo, since dining out on the island with a family of five can get REALLY expensive…
We were very lucky to get a night out on our own thanks to my in-laws, so my husband and I headed out on a rainy night to the Hula Grill Kaanapali. Since it was thundering and lightning outside along the water (and it was really crowded on a Saturday night!), we opted to eat inside at the Barefoot Bar. The beauty of eating in the Barefoot Bar is you can order off the Hula Grill menu OR the Barefoot Bar menu, which I loved! I had a delicious macadamia nut encrusted Mahi and my husband had ahi.
A few nights before we left we went out as an extended family to Duke’s Beach House in Kaanapali. Named for Olympic swimmer and surfing pioneer, Duke Kahanamoku, Duke’s allows you to dine right on the water and enjoy a beautiful Hawaiian sunset while dining on top notch and locally sourced Hawaiian foods. You’ll love the atmosphere at Duke’s Beach House, so I would definitely recommend enjoying a meal and some live music there while on Maui!
We always make a trip to Sansei for a family dinner and to enjoy the wonderful service and sushi. Located in Kapalua, this restaurant gets crowded– especially around 5:00 for their Kama’aina Early Bird special which is 50% off food and sushi (on Sunday and Monday)! I would definitely suggest making a reservation if Sansei is on your list.
Our first trip to Maui as a family was AMAZING and we can’t wait to head back next year (update, this summer 2021 we are visiting in August and I will be getting PADI Open Water Certified)! Visiting Maui with kids presents so many opportunities for adventure– it’s one of our favorite places in the world and we encourage everyone to make a trip there at some point!
What are your favorite things to do in Maui with kids?