As completely and utterly clichéd as it sounds, Maui truly is a place for everybody. It's an island where honeymooners can make the first memories of the life they're beginning together, and an island where parents who's children are grown can take the long relaxing break they deserve. It's an island where you can raise your children in a safe, healthy environment, and an island where athletes and adrenaline junkies have the ocean and waves as their playground. It's also an island where thousands of families consistently visit each year, and many of the island's most popular activities—whether it's surf lessons, sailing, or flying down a zipline—involve experiencing the beauty of the great outdoors. For visitors researching their next trip to paradise, here are just a handful of some of our favorite family activities on Maui.
1. Spend A Day At The Beach
With over 30 miles of beautiful beaches this shouldn't come as a surprise. Maui is gloriously rung by beaches, from Kihei's procession of golden sands to the jet black sands of Hana. For families, however, some beaches can definitely be considered better than others for an enjoyable day in the sun. In Pa‘ia, the western end of Baldwin Beach is known to locals as "Baby Beach", due to the formation of a natural swimming pool that is formed by a barrier reef. This is the perfect spot for young children to wade and splash in the water, and teenagers will love bodysurfing the waves towards the entrance of Baldwin Beach Park.
In Lahaina, Pu'unoa Point is another spot with a protected saltwater lagoon, and this area next to Mala Wharf is also referred to as "Baby Beach." Weekends get hopping at Launiupoko Beach Park about 2 miles south of Lahaina, and this grassy beach park is a local favorite for BBQ's, surfing, and stand up paddling.
Then, of course, there is Ka‘anapali, where there is an activity that is sure to please every single family member. Ka‘anapali Beach offers everything from snorkeling and boogie boarding to cliff jumping and volleyball, and it's easy to rent gear or grab a quick lunch at the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel. Farther north, Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay offer calm snorkeling in the summer, and in South Maui, Charley Young Beach and Maluaka Beach are both Kihei and Makena favorites. Finally, Wailea Beach and Ulua Beach front some of the nicest resorts on the island, but the beaches themselves are open to the public and are perfect for swimming and sandcastles.
2. Take a Hike
For families who want to hit the trail, Maui boasts a number of hikes that are perfect for families of all sizes. The 1.75-mile Kapalua Coastal Trail begins on the sands of Kapalua Bay and runs along the coastline to D.T. Fleming Beach Park. Along the way it passes hidden Oneloa Beach, as well as the outcropping of Hawea Point where you can watch sea turtles surface for air. In Central Maui, the Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetland Preserve is a gorgeous hike along an undeveloped shoreline that weaves past remnants of ancient Hawaiian villages.
If spending a day on the Road to Hana, take a break from the twists and turns by hiking the trails at Twin Falls. Or, once past Hana at the Pools of Ohe‘o, the 4-mile trail through sun-obscuring bamboo leads to 400' Waimoku Falls. In South Maui, families with an edge for rugged adventure (and lots of bottles of water!) can set out on foot across the jagged lava fields of the ancient Hoapili Trail. The trail begins where the road ends at La Perouse Bay in Makena, although be sure to wear hiking boots and leave early in the day since there is frightfully little shade. Or, if you'd prefer to have a guided hike, Hike Maui will do a fantastic job of leading you out on the trail.
3. Go Snorkeling at Molokini Crater
As avid snorkelers and divers are aware, one of Maui's most popular playgrounds sits three miles out at sea. Molokini Crater is a volcanic caldera that nearly always has 100 ft. visibility, and over 200 different species of fish can be found swimming and nibbling on the coral.
Trilogy offers Molokini snorkeling tours that leave from Ma'alaea Harbor, and when combined with the chance to swim with sea turtles along the nearby shoreline of Maui, it's one of the best half-day excursions that families can enjoy while in Maui.
4. Enjoy a Luau
Whether it's the unveiling of the pig, the hand carved crafts, the sumptuous food, or the tropical entertainment, luaus in Maui have different components that appeal to travelers of all ages. Some luaus, however, are better suited for families, while others have performances and traditional story lines that are better for couples and adults.
In West Maui, luaus such as the Royal Lahaina Luau and the Drums of the Pacific have portions of the show for young children, whereas the Feast at Lele, Old Lahaina Luau, and Wailele Luau at the Westin are better suited for teenage-aged families or couples traveling on their own. In South Maui, check out the Te Au Moana Luau at the beachfront Wailea Marriott.
5. Spend a Day in Hana
We know what you're thinking: A day in the car driving 150 miles doesn't sound like the idea of a good time. When constructed correctly, however, a day in Hana can be the best activity your family will do in Maui. The key is to allow an entire day (or better yet, two days by spending the night in Hana), and remember to make stops every 20-30 minutes to enjoy the roadside sights.
For families spending a day in Hana, stop and grab breakfast in the town of Pa‘ia before setting out on the road. Hike at Twin Falls or any of the roadside waterfalls, and stop to grab banana bread and fruits from local farmers who set up stands on the roadside. Once in Hana, it's important to choose only a couple activities since you simply can't do them all. Older children might like the Ka‘eleku Caverns, whereas all ages can appreciate the black sands of Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Grab a bite from a Hana town food truck , or load up for a picnic at Hamoa Beach where you can bodysurf and play in the waves. Continue on towards the Pools of Ohe‘o for some rock jumping, hiking, and swimming in the pools, and rather than driving back the way you came, continue around the backside of the island, provided it isn't raining.
Most importantly, however, take it easy, take it slow, and devote an entire day to the experience so you can give Hana the time it deserves.
6. Visit the Maui Ocean Center
Again, we know what you're thinking: Why would I go to an aquarium in Maui when I can go snorkeling right from the beach? The reason, of course, is because the Maui Ocean Center is much more than just an aquarium. The informative displays detail everything about the marine life you're likely to find here in Hawaii, and the hands-down highlight for kids of all ages is the underwater tunnel beneath the shark tank. Small children will love how curious fish will press their faces against the glass, and teenagers will love the tiger sharks and eagle rays that go soaring above their heads. Also, when visiting the Maui Ocean Center as a family, be sure to buy the family pass in order to save a few bucks.
7. Go Whale Watching
If you've ever wished (jokingly, of course) that your children could be quiet for just one single moment, then the sight of a breaching, 40-ton humpback is guaranteed to render them speechless. From December 15-May 15, the ocean teems with thousands of humpbacks who are visiting the islands for the winter, with the most sightings occurring from January-March along the leeward shore of the island.
Here, in the protected waters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, you'll encounter the greatest concentration of humpback whales found anywhere in the entire world. Together with the family, see how many humpback whale maneuvers you can spot over the course of your vacation. There is the time-stopping power of breach off the bow, the curious playfulness of a close-range spyhop, and the rhythmic consistency of tail-slapping and pec-slapping to ensure that every whale watch is different.
Add in the potential of "getting mugged", and this awe-inspiring display of nature's beauty provides an unforgettable experience.
8. Go parasailing
If, however, you happen to be visiting in summer and the whales have left for the season, parasailing in Maui is a summer activity that begins when whale season ends. From May 16-December 14, the colorful canopies off of Ka‘anapali and Lahaina provide the island's best perch for viewing West Maui's beauty.
For families, opt to enjoy a tandem tour where you can drift through the sky together, and the combination of silence and sharing a nervous moment can create an unbreakable type of bond.
9. Enjoy a sunset sail
For children who love to be on the water, enjoying a Maui sunset sail is a great end to a vacation. Listening to the hum of the slack key guitar, feeling the tradewinds tickle your face, and watching the sun set the sky ablaze as it sinks towards the Western horizon—all are moments that can be instantly recalled long after you've returned back home.
Then, of course, there is a the palpable excitement of racing along with the wind, and children can sprawl on the forward trampolines and watch as the ocean goes rushing below.
Finally, while there are no shortage of activities for families, oftentimes it's the ones with a greater purpose that tend to resonate deeper. Vacation can be a chance to educate your children on an aspect of the environment or culture, and instill a sense of stewardship and responsibility for helping take care of the island. For families interested in volunteering during their stay here in Maui, there are a large amount of Maui volunteer opportunities where you can help our beautiful island.
Here at Trilogy, our Blue‘Aina reef cleanup program is a way that families can join us on the water to help clean our island reefs. It's a chance to snorkel with eco-conscious locals and enjoy food from island restaurants, and we always welcome an island non-profit to give talks about their organizations.
These, of course, are just a few of the activities that families can enjoy on Maui, and with so many different fun-filled activities in such a conveniently compact area, it's no secret why this beautiful island is one of the popular islands in the world.