1. Head to Baby Beach in Paia (Great for kids of all ages)
Baby Beach was a locals’ secret, but the word got out and now tourists and locals intermingle here. This beach is wonderful because it is protected by a reef. The reef creates a pool-type environment good enough for lap swimming. The only negative is it can be quite windy, so be sure to check the forecast! (Also, observe the no-parking signs. Although tempting, I have seen more than one car get ticketed.)
Pro Tip: Buy a beach wagon at Costco right when you arrive because Baby Beach (and many other beaches on Maui) are a bit of a walk from where you’ll park your car. You do not want to haul all your beach gear plus your kiddos your entire vacation. It will stress you out! Do this. I promise it will make your vacation so much easier.
2. Enjoy Organic Locally Made Artisan Ice Cream
After Baby Beach, skip the sugar-rush snow cones, and go for the Artisan Ice Cream. It’s locally made in small batches and they have both vegan and dairy options. This place is super cute, squeezed next to Cafe Des Amis (a delicious French Indian Restaurant), and is very unassuming. My kids consider it a big treat! Open daily 1:30-8:30 pm.
3. See Whales and Snorkel with Turtles at Turtle Town
Our family loves the snorkeling boat tours that Maui has to offer because they are great for everyone. Most boats have water slides, jumping-off boards for the older kids, BBQ lunches, and multiple snorkeling stops. The fish are also very friendly and will swim up very close to you. And of course, there are always a ton of turtles
We suggest snorkeling boats over whale-watching boats because if it’s whale season you are almost guaranteed to see a whale (or ten!) on the snorkeling boat — and with the snorkeling boat you get to jump in the water. On Whale Watching tours you are stuck on the boat the entire time.!
Pro Tip: Although the boat will provide some, we suggest bringing a good quality snorkel for your little ones to make sure they have a great time. The ones on the boat never fit my kiddos properly and they end up futzing with the mask the whole time rather than enjoying the fish.
4. Go Zip Lining
What kid wouldn’t love flying through the air through tropical rainforests?! Ziplining is an epic way to experience parts of Maui that are harder to see on foot. For smaller kiddos, we suggest Maui Zipline and for older ones Skyline Hawaii. Just be sure to check the age and weight limits before you book.
5. Eat Pie for Breakfast
Being a health-conscious mama of two, I wouldn’t normally make this suggestion… but it might just be one of the most memorable meals you will have on your Maui vacation. Leoda’s pies are to die for and they start serving them as early as 10 am. So, if you are looking for a late breakfast, or just craving a lemon meringue pie on your way back from Lahaina… they’ve got you covered!
6. Swim at a Waterfall
My kiddos learned to swim at Twin Falls. It’s an amazing and easily accessible waterfall that’s excellent for the whole family. Go on off hours (not too early) because it gets a lot of traffic from folks heading to Hana, and parking can be limited.
Pro Tip: In order to most enjoy your waterfall experiences I highly suggest bringing travel towels over bulky beach or hotel towels. The rocks can be slippery and you don’t want to be juggling a bunch of gear. Another pro tip is to buy cheap spring suits. Tourists are usually freezing on the falls, while our family swims comfortably because of the extra layer. You can also use the spring suits for snorkeling as it’s not uncommon to get chilly even in the warm Maui waters.
7. Experience Hana
If your kids are into Jurassic Park, the road to Hana is an experience they will never forget. It’s like traveling into another world with massive trees and cliffs that drop straight into the ocean. There are endless great waterfalls and places to stop and enjoy the view on the way. Bring your camera — and your motion sickness patches! — because the drive can be both beautiful and a bit tummy-turning for those of us who suffer from motion sickness.
8. Swim at “Shark Pit” Beach
Despite its name, Shark Pit Beach is not at all dangerous! It’s a great family beach with shallow waters and almost no wind. Right on Front Street, it’s also not far from the action. So make a day of it!
9. Food Truck It!
Food trucks are a fantastic way for a family to eat well on Maui without breaking the bank. There are so many options from Vegan, to Killer Sushi, to authentic Thai, to the best burgers I have ever tasted. My kiddos adore these food trucks — and almost every truck is situated food truck park, which means each family member can pick their favorite cuisine from the many options. The parks also have cute picnic-type seating, so you can sit back and enjoy your meal, right there, comfortably.
10. Learn to Surf
Who can think of Maui without thinking of surfing? Don’t be intimidated because even the smallest kid can start learning on the right-sized wave. My 4-year-old surfs tiny waves at the right breaks (with help from dad of course.) It’s a great activity for the whole family, and with the proper instructor, it can be extremely fun. We recommend this surf school because they specialize in helping grommets (a.k.a. young surfers) get their sea legs.
11. Visit Mt. Haleakala
Star-gazers, this one’s for you. Many people wake up quite early and drive hours to experience sunrise from 10,000ft atop Mt. Haleakala. It’s a truly unique experience, but one I recommend for older kiddos in the teen range who can wake up at 3 am without having it throw off their entire vacation.
For younger families, I recommend heading up for sunset and star gazing. If it’s a clear night, it feels like you are on another planet, nearly touching the stars in front of you. Your family will love it, and the best part is the small ones can fall asleep on the drive down the mountain and still have an early bedtime.
If your family loves hiking, go a few hours before sunset for hikes with jaw-dropping views — but just be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen because there are no stores at the summit.
Pro Tip: It’s REALLY cold up there. So, if you are planning on visiting Haleakala around sunrise or sunset, bring down coats, closed-toe shoes, socks, and hats. It can get below freezing sometimes at night — and if you are in your beach gear your family will not have a pleasant time!
12. Go Bodyboarding
Perfect for the older kiddos who can handle bigger waves, Paia Bay is known as an epic bodyboarding break. If your littles are small or not the strongest swimmers, this isn’t the spot for you on days when it’s “working.” But, for the adventurous type — bring your board, a picnic, and have fun!
13. Take a Dip in Iao Valley’s Streams
Iao Valley is so special. The waters are considered sacred by the Hawaiian people and you can really feel it. There are many different points to bathe in the stream, and storms and currents change where the best places are — all part of the adventure! Just be aware, the rocks can be slippery, and if you plan to take a dip, bring a travel towel instead of a big fluffy beach towel because you will likely need to walk a bit over some slightly unstable terrain to find a good spot. My little ones love playing on the banks and going for a dip with Mommy or Daddy.
14. Become a Mermaid
For you mermaids out there, this mermaid school is a fun family adventure! Get glammed up for a photoshoot and then learn to swim like a real life mermaid. I can’t think of a more blissful bonding experience.
15. Experience a Lava Tube
Step into the belly of Maui Mother as you explore how lava moved beneath the earth. The tour is self-guided and not long or tedious and flashlights are provided so you can see all of the details of the cave. After the long and windy road to Hana, this is a great place to rest ad even have a picnic as the grounds around the tube are beautiful and peaceful. My kiddos have spent hours exploring this Lave Tube, and we’ve done it multiple times.
Exploring Maui with kiddos can feel extremely effortless. There are endless things to do but often the best days are spent simply slowing down from the busy pace of the mainland. Don’t underestimate how awesome and entertaining mother nature on Maui is; my kiddos can spend an afternoon just playing on trees at the beach while we relax.
My main piece of advice is to be sure to pack enough water, and snacks, and always check the weather. The island has so many different micro-climates that Kihe can be sunny, while the North Shore could be pouring rain.
The wind is another variable to prepare for with young ones, as the sand can sting or even get in the eyes if it’s really gusty. My suggestion is to be flexible and have plans that could change at the drop of a hat if the weather chooses to unexpectedly swing.
Lyric is an accomplished poet, best-selling author, award-winning screenwriter (studied at NYU film school), amazing chef, singer/songwriter, and mommy of two amazing little kids! After growing up in Hollywood she decided to delve into a profound spiritual journey and became a yogi-monk for almost a decade. She enjoys helping Asher conduct research, writing for our blog, and loves traveling the world (Paris is her favorite city), and sharing her experiences with you!