So after a week of exploring Maui with our son and my dad, I thought I would summarize what we did, because a lot of it isn’t really what families with young children do when they go to Hawaii. In fact, few families even go to Maui, as it’s generally seen as a honeymoon/romantic type of destination. But we actually found there was a ton of stuff to do, even with a 4 year old!
We stayed Lahaina, near the “Baby Beach” in a beautiful apartment at Puunoa Beach Estates that was right on the water. It definitely wasn’t cheap, and I’m not sure if there are much more affordable places to stay there, but the beach was free (as are all beaches in Hawaii) and open to the public. So if you CAN find more affordable accommodations, you can still get most of what we had. The beach itself was perfect. With a beautiful view of Lana’i across the way and reefs a few hundred feet out, the waters were calm, shallow, and serene. During the day, corals would rise above the water line so it was line snorkeling without the snorkel equipment. Perfect place to bring a small child or to relax yourself. I was literally able to sit on the ground with most of my body submerged but my head above the tiny waves. So relaxing.
Lahaina itself proved to be a pretty good staging ground, although it was a bit far from the main attractions we wanted to see that started in Central Maui. The town had supermarkets though, which allowed us to buy food for breakfast and occasional lunches at home when we didn’t want to spend tons of money on restaurants. There’s also a very charming and walkable downtown area with excellent restaurants, some of which are family-style, and others perfect for a date night. We really enjoyed Lahaina Fish Company as a family and Lahaina Grill for when Ariel and I got a night to ourselves. Really both places wowed us.
For entertainment, aside from relaxing on the beach in the morning and watching the sun go down in the evening, we had two epic adventure days. One of which was an incredible sunset experience at Haleakala which I wrote about at length here. The other day we did the Road to Hana and the “forbidden” Piilani Highway on the way back, which I wrote about in detail here and here. Both days were amazing, and both were good for a small child – although obviously your kid needs to be prepared to spend many long hours in a car (especially the Road to Hana day which involved about 11 hours of mostly moving around).
We spent another evening going to a really fun Luau at the Hyatt in Kaanapali. It wasn’t a purely authentic Hawaiian Luau (for that apparently the way to go is the “Old Lahaina Luau”) but we had already gone to a Hawaiian-only luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. The “Drums of the Pacific” Luau in Maui was a lot of fun, and featured performances from many different Polynesian traditions. They had a haka, which we are always interested in anything that reminds us of our time in New Zealand. They also had performances of dances from Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, and a three-person Samoan fire dance, which we had missed out on in Oahu. Also, as per the name, lots of drums, which I really liked. It was a really great show, Jacob loved it, and I highly recommend it – as long as you also do a “true” Hawaiian luau during your time there. I would think of it as more of a Polynesian night than a luau, where you’ll see a little bit of everything.
Another day we spent driving up the coast on highway 30 to the Nakalele Blowhole. On the way there, we stopped at the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua to take a short walk to the Dragon’s Teeth at Makaluapuna Point. We also took a short time to do the charming Kapalua Labyrinth. The Dragon’s Teeth trail was really cool, and the labyrinth was cute too. Even though it’s private property, you can still park there for free and walk down to the overlook. The blowhole, wasn’t uh… blowing, unfortunately when we got there so that was a little bit of a bust, although the scenery and landscape were really cool.
From there we actually continued onto the Kahekili Highway, as I’m generally quite against backtracking for any reason. There were a lot of warnings not to do this, although not nearly as many as said not to take the Piilani highway, but we went on anyway. The road was very scenic, but unlike Piilani, I would actually advise against going this way. Like the Road to Hana and the “Forbidden Road” back, there are a lot of one-lane areas for two-way traffic. Unlike Piilani or the Road to Hana though, these stretches are MUCH longer and are often right up against a barrier-less cliff with a sheer drop into the ocean. There was one stretch that was about 1.5 miles and another stretch that was about 2.5 miles. That may not sound like a lot, but at 5-10 miles per hour it’s an eternity. And unlike Piilani (which I DO endorse driving if you’re careful), there are few, if any, pullouts and many more blind turns. At one point while driving, I was taken aback by an incredibly striking rock formation that rose out of the ocean and as a result took a little longer than I should have to slow down on a turn. It wasn’t dangerous or anything, but as I made the turn, I noticed one of those cross memorials right there where someone else had apparently gone over the edge. It was a little chilling because I could definitely see how it could have happened.
That rock formation was really the only thing that was really very impressive (and there’s a nice/safe overlook just a few hundred feet past that turn), although apparently there is also an exceptional banana bread place on the road as well. But the banana bread place had a huge line, so we didn’t stop there, and really no banana bread is worth an hour of death-defying curves. Apparently several cars have gone over the cliffs, and there are some terribly tragic stories out there, so I would say avoid this road — not worth it. Also the locals really don’t want you there as this is their only way in/out of their homes. They don’t need you clogging things up for them.
Anyway – after getting to the end of this stretch we stopped at the Iao Valley State Monument, which was very nice, but we were a little drained by the drive so we just walked up a bit to get a quick look at the “needle” and then left for our final destination of the day – the Maui Kosher Farm. I’m hoping to do a full write up on just this because it was really special, unexpected, and delicious. And you don’t need to take the Kahekili Highway to get to either place… sometimes backtracking IS warranted.
On our last full day we took a trip to the Maui Ocean Center. This aquarium was really nice – make sure you watch the 3D IMAX humpback whale presentation. Lots of nice fish and stuff to see, and some interesting history of the indigenous population of Maui. Overall a good option if you need a break from doing a lot of moving around – just keep in mind that some of it is outside, including moving between all the exhibits – so probably not the best rainy day activity.
Finally just a quick shout about the Olowalu Petroglyphs, also in Lahaina. Cool location, not so easy to get to (or even see when you get there), but worth taking the 20 minutes or so to check them out.
And that was pretty much that. We had an incredible time in Maui and did a lot of things that aren’t the “typical” family things to do. We didn’t really spend much time relaxing, but that’s just par for the course with us so why try and change now??