Among the most beautiful places in the world, Hawaii is somewhere at the top of that list. Tropical beaches, palm trees, perfect temperatures, a wondrous culture and beautiful people – the list of reasons to love Hawaii could go on endlessly.
Of the Hawaiian islands, Maui is one of the most popular. With 120 miles of shoreline and 80 beaches in hues ranging from eggshell to ebony, there’s plenty for families to love about Maui. And don’t forget about the fascinating volcanic crater at Haleakala National Park. Maui, and Hawaii, for that matter, aren’t exclusively meant for couples on romantic holidays. Here’s our nine-item list of what to do in Maui with kids.
Gaze into a Volcano
Haleakala National Park is a literal highpoint of a visit to Maui: Rising 10,000 feet above sea level, it’s the world’s largest dormant volcano (if you plan to go before 7 a.m. to catch a sunrise, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time). Once you’ve gazed into the crater and taken in the views over the entire island, there’s plenty to explore in the otherworldly park filled with fascinating rock formations, making it one of the best Maui family activities.
Bring a jacket (it can be chilly up there), and stop at the ranger station as soon as you arrive for a free junior-ranger activity booklet. Kids can complete the fun games based on sights around the park. Return to the ranger station when your kids are done, and they’ll be sworn in as junior rangers, complete with a badge, the ultimate souvenir and proof of a day spent in the clouds.
Take a Flowery Scavenger Hunter
While you’re Upcountry, amid the lush, green slopes of Haleakala, visit the lovely and fragrant Alii Kul Lavender Farm. A free scavenger hunt will keep “keikei” (kids) busy wandering through the flowers and fruit trees – the reward for finishing its complimentary lavender cookies. Parents will love the gorgeous views and a relaxing stroll through the colorful grounds.
Pet a Goat
When thinking of Maui activities for kids, goat-petting probably doesn’t immediately come to mind. Near the lavender garden is the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm, offering behind-the-scenes looks at goat-care, cheese-making and goat “meet-and-greets.” While the goats don’t actually surf, you can still feed and pet them and even sign up for a late-afternoon milking tour.
Enjoy an Authentic Luau
You’ll want to arrive early for the popular Old Lahaina Luau, when traditional artisans demonstrate crafts such as palm-weaving and wood-carving. Here, your family can also learn how to hula and play traditional instruments.
The luau kicks off with the unveiling of the kalua pig that roasts all day in an underground pit. Then the night unfolds, as the sun sets, with live musicians and dozens of costumed dancers. Expect a massive, all-inclusive buffet where you can sample local tastes like poi, pork and poke, plus kid palate-friendly items, including fried rice and barbecued “Moa” chicken.
Go on a Whale-watching Tour
Hit the seas with the marine biologists at Pacific Whale Foundation during humpback whale season (November through April) when nearly 10,000 of the mammoth mammals travel from Alaska to mate and give birth in the warm Hawaiian waters.
Spotting a car-sized tail shooting out of the water or witnessing an acrobatic, out-of-water breach is the kind of spectacle your kids will remember for a long while. PWF offers a Junior Naturalist program for children on their sailings, making it one of the most fun things to do in Maui with kids.
Sea Sharks at the Aquarium
Are your kids not ready for a boat adventure but still want to see amazing marine life? The Maui Ocean Center has a colorful Living Reef exhibit where you can spot unique swimmers like Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumu nukunuku apuaa. You can also see sea turtles, visit touch tanks and walk through a 750,000-gallon tank filled with sharks.
Soak Up the Sun at Kaanapali Beach
There’s a Maui beach to suit every mood, and, of them, Kaanapali is a top spot for families, especially the section just south of Black Rock, a landmark from a torch is lit and a diver plunges into the sea at sunset every night.
Rent snorkeling equipment, and, within seconds, you’ll spot tropical fish. Grab a bite to eat at the open-air Whaler’s Village shopping center that has access right from the beach walkway. Plan to stay in the quieter area of North Kaanapali, north of Black Rock, where the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas offer multi-bedroom suites with full kitchens, laundry machines, a fabulous lagoon pool, cultural activities, a kids club and communal grills.
Explore the Largest Banyan Tree
The historic town of Lahaina is filled with original buildings from the 1800s when it was a bustling whaling town. The biggest attention-grabber for kids is the massive, 60-foot banyan tree (the largest in the United States), which has branches that extend across an entire block. There’s always shade under the tree, making it the perfect spot to savor a tropical, syrup-infused shaved ice from one of the shops nearby.
Take a Road Trip
The Road to Hana is legendary: 50 miles of hairpin turns and one-lane bridges that test a driver’s mettle, even without a car full of kids who might succumb to motion sickness. Instead of plunging down the entire drive, turn it into a road-trip exploration that suits your family.
Going just a third of the drive (less than an hour without stops), you can have lunch in the funky beach town of Paia (kids love the pizza at Flatbreads), watch the windsurfers at Hookipa Beach, feel the cooling spray at Twin Falls, take a mini hike at Waikamoi Ridge Trail and stop to see the colorfully painted eucalyptus while enjoying fresh fruit at Garden of Eden. Then, turn around, and head back to the beach.