Oh Maui, where do I begin. The awesome beaches, the rainbows, the snorkeling, the marine animals and so much delicious food all make this one of the best places to travel to with your kids. We have been going every year since Hudson was a baby and always have the best time. We make adjustments to our trip based on the kids ages, but find that we are still able to pack in tons of fun and adventure. Back pre-kids, we used to venture to the other side of the island more for things like Haleakala and the Road to Hana, but with kids we prefer to limit long car rides and find there is still tons to do on the West Side of Maui. Here are some of my favorite places to eat and favorite things to do. 🙂 If you have anything to add to this list, please let me know in the comments below.
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Snorkeling – My husband and I absolutely love diving and snorkeling. We have been taking the kids out in the ocean since they were babies and every year we get closer and closer to actual snorkeling (hopefully someday they will want to dive with us too).
Around age 3, we start using the Sea Window Snorkeling Raft. This raft is so awesome. Hudson has been able to see coral, tropical fish, turtles and even swam with a pod of spinner dolphins using this raft (to see a clip of the spinner dolphins check out my instagram). We have also used this raft to take out my grandma and mother-in-law. So many people have used it to experience the amazing magic under the ocean that wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. (One tip, I highly recommend that two adults hold onto either side of the raft while in use as strong winds can blow it over. We also always put our children in vests while using the raft.)
This year was the first year both boys tried real snorkel equipment. Luc only looked under water a few times, but Hudson did great. I recommend practicing in the pool first to get comfortable and if your kid isn’t ready for a snorkel, swim goggles are also awesome for looking under water.
Swimming – This is an everyday activity for us while in Maui. We usually head to the beach in the morning, then spend the afternoons in the pool. Pretty much every resort has awesome pools to enjoy and you just can’t beat the giant “salt water pool” 😉
Boating – In my opinion, there is just something so special about being out in the ocean on the water. It is a different experience than going to the beach and with all the marine life in Maui you never know what you will see. Over the years we have seen huge pods of spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, pilot whales, green sea turtles, galapagos sharks and reef sharks.
There are tons of boating companies to choose from. Hawaiian Ocean Rafting has zodiac boats so you can go out in a smaller group and be closer to the water. Obviously this is a different kind of trip than a large cruising boat (usually no amenities) so keep in mind your kid’s ages and if they have prior experience on the water. The Pride of Maui has larger boats that might be more comfortable with small children and you still have a great chance of seeing spinner dolphins and whales during whale season and you still will be taken to some awesome snorkeling spots. Our boys have always loved being on boats, but every kid is different and you know your kids best, but if at all possible, I would try to book a boating trip.
The Beach – The beaches in Maui are so great and even in winter when the waves are much bigger there are still tons of kid-friendly beaches.
Kapalua is our absolute favorite. They have a parking lot, although it can sometimes be hard to find a spot, the walk in is easy and it is one of the prettiest, best protected beaches on the west side of the island. Kapalua is also great for taking the kids out swimming and snorkeling.
Black Rock (Ka’anapali) is one of the most crowded beaches on the island, but for good reason. It is in front of tons of hotels and near Whalers Village, which has great shopping and dining. It also has a protected area to swim and snorkel (just watch out for the people jumping off the rock). Black Rock is very popular with a pod of spinner dolphins too so keep your eyes peeled!
Napili Bay Beach is another favorite with our kids. Parking can be a challenge, but it is a fun beach and usually pretty protected. We have never snorkeled here this time of year, although right around the corner is one of our favorite spots to see sea turtles. We usually spend our time making sand castles and splashing in the waves. You may want to bring your snorkel gear along though, because if the conditions are good, this has a reputation for being an awesome snorkel spot.
Honolua Bay usually has surf competitions happening in the winter months, which is fun to watch. During the summer, it is an amazing snorkel spot. We have only ever snorkeled the bay by boat, but it is one of our favorite spots and another popular spinner dolphin location. Honolua Bay is one of the most internationally famous surf spots on Maui and probably worth a glance for that reason alone. This area is quite cliffy though, so unless visiting by boat, we try not to bring the kids along.
Ka’opala Beach is just off the Lower Honoapliilani Road and when we visited we had the whole beach to ourselves. There is space to park along the side of the road and stairs lead down to the beach. I would recommend going at low tide because it looks like the beach may disappear during high tide. This was a great spot for swimming and we even saw a few sea turtles even though the visibility wasn’t great because it was very sandy. This was our first visit to this beach and we already can’t wait to go back.
The Park – We didn’t make it to the park this year, probably because the kids are getting older so they are able to handle the beach and boat trips better, but for young kids the comfort of the park can’t be beat. Napili Park is where we go on the west side of the island.
The Aquarium – The Maui Ocean Center is our go to rainy day activity. We didn’t make it this year, but we have gone the last few years and the kids always love it. We have even seen a Tiger Shark, which was a huge hit with the kids.
A Luau – I always recommend the Old Lahaina Luau for your first visit to Hawaii. Once you have been to a luau though, you probably don’t need to do it again. I particularly like this luau because it is traditional and authentic. Hawaiians don’t do fire dancing so you won’t find that here, which is a deal breaker for some, but I prefer to experience the dancing and traditions of the Hawaiian islands.
The Sugar Cane Train Holiday Express – If you are in Maui from November 24th – December 25th this is a must! I grew up riding the Sugar Cane Train so this is total nostalgia for me. Then you add in the holiday factor and it is a great evening for adults and kids alike.
Restaurants – Maui has so many amazing restaurants that you could easily eat out every night and be blown away. With kids though, we try to limit our nights out so this list is our absolute favorites.
Hula Grill – We love heading to Black Rock in the morning to hang out at the beach and snorkel. Then we head to Hula Grill for lunch. They have tables in the sand with live Hawaiian music and the best Lava Flows on the island (in my humble opinion).
Sansei – Ideally make a reservation for opening (5:15pm). They have happy hour prices, it is relatively noisy so kids aren’t a problem and they get you in and out quickly. My top recommendations are: Panko Crusted Fresh Ahi Sashimi, Cajun Seared Walu Sashimi, Sansei’s Shrimp Dynamite, Matsuhisa Style Miso Butterfish, Sweet Onion Tempura Rings and the Apple Tart.
Roys – Roys wouldn’t seem like a kid friendly restaurant, but they bring out little appetizers for the kids keeping them occupied with food for longer. I think in all it ends up being 4 courses: cheese quesadillas, fruits and veggies (carrots and celery with ranch and apple slices), the main course and dessert. My boys also always seem to really like their meals from Roys. The chocolate souffle is the highlight of the meal for me and not to be missed (ask for an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream – trust me it needs two scoops!).
Kimos – I have been going to this restaurant since I was a little kid. It has a great menu, great lava flows and a stunning view (what more could you want?) It has become tradition for Nic and I to go for a date night to celebrate our anniversary, but this restaurant is very kid friendly as well (most places in Maui are since it is such a popular family destination). My favorite preparation is the parmesan crusted fresh fish and Nic’s is the Kimo’s Style. The fish is caught fresh so every night they inform you which type of fish goes with each preparation. Also, when you make your reservation and when you check in ask about a table with a view. They can’t guarantee it, but usually are able to accommodate that request. The sunsets from Kimos are always stunning so it is well worth it. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary they also give you a complimentary Hula Pie which is enormous and delicious.
Lahaina Grill – This restaurant is not kid friendly in my opinion, but it is one of my favorites. If you can, get a babysitter for a night and splurge on this restaurant. I know all the hype is about Mama’s Fish House (which is on the other side of the island), but I would chose Lahaina Grill over Mama’s every day of the week. The bread and butter alone are worth it! I also love the cake walk trio appetizer, which is lobster and crab cake, an ahi tuna cake and a white shrimp cake. Then for my main course I always get the special which is usually a panko crusted white fish with a homemade risotto (it is always slightly different, but always amazing!).
When traveling with kids, a relaxing meal out can quickly turn into a nightmare with little kids. We try to grab take-out as much as we can and save the dinners out for a few select restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites – Joey’s Kitchen (the short ribs and brussel sprouts are amazing), Maui Tacos (we always get the pulled pork nachos), The Coffee Store (the ice blended banana mocha is amazing!), aa Roots (vegan restaurant with delicious acai bowls, smoothies and curry), Ohana Tacos (the fish and shrimp tacos are both delicious) and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (this one involves a bit of a drive, but the banana cream pie is the best I have ever had! You can also stop at the Oluwalu Juice Stand for a smoothie and awesome photo ops).
Whaler’s Village – I’m not a big shopper, but I do like taking a peak at the stores in Whaler’s Village. My favorite stop is Honolua Cookies to grab the most delicious pineapple shaped white chocolate peppermint cookies for the holidays. Yum! There is also a fun mural wall at Whalers Village, so be sure to stop there for the perfect Instagram pic.
Lahaina Outlets and Front Street – If you are in Maui for Thanksgiving and want to take part in Black Friday, Lahaina Outlets is a great place to head to. They offer free parking on Black Friday and if you get bored with the main shopping center a walk along Front Street is always fun.
As you can see, there are tons of fun things to do with kids on Maui. As I was writing this post, I looked back at the past few years of vacations to Hawaii and was really impressed with how much we did each trip. It truly is one of the best family-friendly destinations and the perfect mix of amazing food, adventure and relaxation (well as much relaxation as is possible with little kids around, lol.) If you decide to visit Maui, I hope you love it as much as our family does. Aloha!