Maui with Kids Vacation Guide: What to Do and Where to Stay in Maui

by | Apr 25, 2021 | places | 0 comments

So, we recently got back from Maui and I have not stopped talking about it. When I’m not talking about it, then I’m just sad that I’m not there anymore. Maui is a magical experience and there is something special for every type of person. We went for our honeymoon in 2015 and I was excited to go back with our two sons and the rest of my family. We had pushed it back a couple of times due to COVID but couldn’t push it any longer. So, we put on our masks and went!

Both times were amazing, even though they were for completely different reasons. And Maui with kids is so great. The whole island is kid-friendly—the accommodations are amazing, there are endless things to do with them, all of the activities are free for 3 and under, plus the locals are so sweet with kids. So, if you’re looking to go to Maui (which I think you should), keep on reading.

 

One important note: As we all know, travel guidelines change often. Make sure you review the most current COVID regulations in Hawaii while planning your trip and just before you go.

BEST TIME TO GO TO MAUI

Maui is great any time of the year. The weather is pleasant all year long with only a bit of difference between seasons. But the best times to visit are the shoulder seasons (the time before or after high season)—mid-April to June or September to mid-December. The summer and spring break times are still a great time to go, but just know that you’ll be paying a bit more and it’ll be crowded. Plus, since COVID regulations still have some restaurants, events, and excursions temporarily closed (or even shut down completely), and the ones that are open have to limit capacity or hours, there will be more competition on all of those things.

GETTING TO MAUI

Maui’s major airport is the Kahului Airport (OGG). Flights from the west coast are roughly 5.5 hours there, and 4.5 to 5 hours coming back. Read my 17 need to know tips for flying with a baby to get you through the long flight. 

Hawaii in general is pretty expensive to fly into most of the time. Because of COVID and their new regulations, the flights are way less expensive (for now)—we snagged our direct flights from Sacramento for less than $150 each! Keep a look out on flight deals from the airlines.

When booking, I always check Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Kayak. You can choose to watch prices and receive email notifications on all of them too. And check Southwest Airline’s website for a comparison since they don’t show up on those sites. If possible, check nearby airports to fly out of for cheaper fares than your home airport.

HOW TO GET AROUND MAUI

If you’re planning on staying at the resort or rental area the whole time and want to book tours that are within walking distance (or have shuttle service), you won’t need a car. Options like Uber and Lyft are available for short trips as well. But if you want to explore the rest of the island (which I recommend!) you’ll need to rent a car.

Try rentalcars.com to look at prices from tons of different companies. And book ASAP. As soon as you book your tickets, book your car. Rental cars are always pricey in Hawaii. Try Turo (car sharing app) as a second choice.

WHAT TO WEAR IN MAUI

Think comfortable and casual. No matter which region of the island you stay in, get ready for warm days but cool mornings and evenings.

  • For the beach or pool, bring swimwear/rashguards, coverups or board shorts, and flip flops or swimming shoes.
  • For daytime activities or hanging around the resort, bring casual tops and light shorts, sundresses or rompers, and sandals. Don’t forget your favorite sun accessories like sunhats and sunglasses.
  • For morning activities or breakfast on the lanai, bring sweatshirts or sweaters.
  • For evening, bring pants and shirts, skirts, dresses, or jumpsuits with a light sweater or cardigan to layer on. Wear your more comfortable sandals, flats, or low heels if you plan to walk around.
  • If you decide to go upcountry to Haleakala Crater (it can get down to 40 degrees!), bring thick sweaters, jackets, thick pants, socks and closed toe shoes.

Don’t fret if you forget something, Maui has amazing shopping for the whole fam so you’ll be able to find whatever you need there! On the west side, check out Whalers Village or Lahaina Town for shopping options. In the Wailea area, head over to Shops at Wailea

WHERE TO STAY IN MAUI

The major areas of the island are West Maui (Kaanapali and Lahaina) and South Maui (Kihei and Wailea) and they have all types of lodging—resorts, boutique hotels, cottages, Airbnbs, villas, or rental homes or condos.

West or South Maui – What is the best area to stay in Maui?

On the west side of Maui: Kaanapali and Lahaina will give you a more lively, walkable experience. 

These areas are resort communities (they’re roughly 10 minutes away from each other) that have enough attractions that you won’t even need to leave the area. There are a lot more resorts in this area and Lahaina has an adorable downtown area full of shops and restaurants.

Suggestions on where to stay: We’ve stayed at the Sheraton Maui and Honua Kai on Kaanapali Beach and loved both of them. We’ve also had friends stay at the Westin Maui and the Hyatt Regency Maui also on Kaanapali Beach and raved about them. You won’t be disappointed with any of those choices.

On the south side of Maui: Wailea lets you really unwind on an upscale, quiet beach retreat. 

Wailea is a luxurious resort town that has a hefty price tag. But the laid-back feel, countless amenities, and beauty are worth it. There aren’t many activities around town, and all of the resorts have restaurants in them, so stay in this area for the ultimate relaxing vacation where you won’t have to move around much.

Suggestions on where to stay: The Grand Wailea is well known for being one of the best Maui resorts. The Four Seasons Resort and Andaz Maui are well recommended too.

Also on the south side of Maui: Kihei lets you experience Maui like a local with a lower price tag.

Kihei is a relaxed local beach town that doesn’t have the big resorts the other towns do. It’s quieter and offers more accommodations for those on a budget (but still has some of the best beaches in Maui!) This is somewhere you’d get a great deal on a condo, AirBnB, or cottage.

Suggestions on where to stay: A couple of options are Kamaole Sands or the Kihei Akahi. There are great beaches just a short drive away, and delicious restaurants and shops within walking distance from each other.

Types of accommodations 

When traveling with a family, I prefer spending a bit more and booking a condo, house, or hotel suite with a kitchen. It’s convenient to have a place to make your own food (especially breakfast) and also cuts costs. I had to bring bags of frozen breast milk to Maui so I needed a freezer and somewhere I could wash bottles—that wouldn’t have been possible at most hotels. Additionally, with younger kids, it’s nice to have a kid-friendly resort with a pool and beach access for the days you just want to relax resort or for the afternoons after naptime. Having a restaurant on site always helps as well, it’s easy to pick up food at the on-site restaurant and eat on the lanai.

For older kids that can handle many excursions during the day and aren’t going to get cranky at dinner, a VRBO or AirBnb will work great since you won’t need the extra amenities. Or if you just need a place to sleep and are fine with snacks and drinks in your room and are eager to eat out for most meals, try a hotel away from the action for a lot less a night (then you can spend more on all the delicious food!). So, where to stay in Maui really depends on your family needs and vacation expectations.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN MAUI

With kids, try not to overbook yourselves. You won’t be able to do it all. I know you don’t want to hear this, especially if this is your first trip with your kid. But I’m going to say it again, please don’t overbook yourselves! You won’t be able to get to it all, you’ll be disappointed, and you need to RELAX a day or two. 

After that word of warning, here are some of my favorite activities: 

 

Lounge at the beach:

Obviously, this is going to be my first suggestion! The beaches in Maui are amazing and there are so many of them.

 

West Maui

The best beaches for smaller kids in Maui are Kapalua Bay and Napili Bay in Kapalua.

Since they are on the bay, they are shielded from the winds so the waves are calm. They are both crescent shaped with soft, white sand, and the water is warm and so crystal clear you can easily snorkel right off the shore. They are adjacent from each other and you can walk between them along a paved walkway.

Amenities:

  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Free parking; lot or street
  • Food nearby
  • Equipment rental nearby

Resorts and hotels in the Kaanapali Beach area will have it right at their doorstep. Beach access from hotels makes it easy to walk to (and helpful because the parking lots near the beach fill up quick.) There’s an added bonus on Kaanapali Beach—if you’re staying near Black Rock at Kaanapali (closest is the Sheraton Maui hotel), you can snorkel right off the shore and jump off the cliff! (Tip: Because so many people snorkel in the waters near the Sheraton hotel, go on the other side of the Black Rock and you will experience REALLY amazing snorkeling. I saw every single color of fish when we did this on our honeymoon. So worth it!)

Amenities:

In Kapalua, DT Flemming Beach is secluded, and the beach is ruggedly beautiful. It has plenty of amenities plus there is also a restaurant at the neighboring Ritz you can walk to for a delicious, fresh lunch. And if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a really interesting lava rock formation that you access via the Ritz. You have to walk through the golf course to get to it, but it’s a short and easy trip. Climb up the rocks and out to the point for views of the ocean. You can easily stay at this beach all day!  (We did!)

Amenities:

  • Lifeguard
  • Picnic tables
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Food nearby
  • Free parking

 

South Maui

Wailea Beach, the resort beach for the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons, has an added air of elegance as its often covered in cabanas. But don’t get too comfortable sitting because the soft, fine sand makes it great for sand activities, there are rocks that you can jump off of into the water, and the waves are perfect for boogie boarding.

Amenities:

  • Free parking
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Picnic area
  • A park

Mokapu Beach has shallow reefs that are great for snorkeling. It connects to Ulua Beach, a well-known dive spot for beginners. Ulua Beach also gets the least wind of all Wailea beaches so it’s perfect for the little ones. Both beaches are comprised of two nice stretches of white sand separated by a bridge of rocks. You can walk between the two on a paved path.

Amenities:

  • Free parking
  • Restrooms
  • Showers
  • Dive racks 

Also in Wailea, Makena Beach (called Big Beach) is huge— over a mile long and almost 100 feet wide. The waves are strong here, so if the surf is up, make sure only your experienced swimmers get in the water. Or If you’re there with little ones, just enjoy the sand activities. (Next door is Little Beach which is frequently used as a nudist beach.)

Amenities:

  • Free parking
  • Porta-potties

Tips: Whichever beach you choose, just check the wave reports before you head out. And try to leave early because the parking lots and spaces to lay out fill up quick!

Get on a boat:

Since you’re on an island, getting on a boat is a must. Especially in Maui, the view from the water is gorgeous. There are numerous excursions you can take to get on the water:

  • Whale watching (December-March is whale watching season and our tour was about $35pp),
  • Snorkel tour (you can go on a 3-hour tour for about $50pp or a longer one for closer to $100pp)
  • Relaxed sunset dinner or cocktail cruise (~ $100pp.)

Check Viator or Get Your Guide  for options on each of these. 

Road to Hana:

Taking young kids on the Road to Hana is a debated topic, but we did it and I’m so glad we did. It’s about 60 miles of windy, tight roads with numerous stops to see waterfalls, beaches, cliffs, botanical gardens, look out points, and lots of yummy food. Each view of the lush rainforest is better than the last. It’s a looonnng day so be warned, but if your kids sleep in their car seats and you make enough stops to get their legs moving a bit, it’s well worth it to see that breathtaking beauty. It went well for us until about halfway on the ride back to our condo, and by that time even the adults were over it. If you’re adventurous and want to spend more time in Hana, check out the Hana-Maui hotel (it’s the only hotel there AND it has all-inclusive options).

Check out all the Road to Hana sights here.

Start on the Hana Highway and make your first stop in the small town of Paia to get some breakfast and for an Instagram pic in front of the many surfboard fences. There’s a public bathroom (i.e. a bunch of port-a-potties) and a lookout point about a mile away as well. You’ll get an amazing view of a beautiful beach.

Once you get some food and a bathroom break, get ready for a long and windy road through tropical heaven on the Hana highway. You can check roadtohana.com to see all of the stops and which mile marker they are to plan your day. There are also many audio guides you can buy to lead you through (which I wish we would’ve purchased!) You will probably lose service once you get far into the drive so expect on having internet the whole time (this is why some type of travel guide is essential).

Tips: don’t be a dummy and wear flip flops like me. The day we went to Hana was on and off rain so there were parts that were muddy. You’ll need to get out and walk (or slightly climb) at the stops so wear something you’ll be able to walk around freely in. Hiking shoes or sandals (or something like that) will work best. Wear something comfy and if you think you’ll want to jump into the water at one of the beaches, wear your swimsuit underneath.

Stops are easy to miss, so have someone be on the lookout for the mile markers. We missed out on a couple and there just isn’t an easy way to go back. Also, some stops just come out of nowhere and there will be nowhere to park- skip it. The road is very tight so there just isn’t anywhere to stop—you don’t want to block traffic or worse, create a dangerous situation.

Visit Lahaina Town:

This is the downtown area on the west side and it has everything you need. Lots of shops, restaurants, dessert options, right on the water. The most famous shave ice on the island, Uluani’s is here and there is alllllways a line. There’s also the most beautiful Banyan tree that you have to see in person. The pic below doesn’t even do it any justice. The thing is huge, it goes on and on!

Tip: If you want to eat at any of the restaurants here, it’d be a good idea to call for reservations first! They get full fast and you’ll have to wait a while for a table.

Attend a luau

It’s Hawaii, a luau is THE thing to do, right? The delicious food, the fire shows and dancing, the history… it’s a perfect Hawaiian evening. The ones we WOULD’VE went to are Old Lahaina (most well-known) or Feast at Lele (Drums of the Pacific is a great less expensive choice). But because we had two rambunctious 2 year-olds and an 8 month old with a 7:30pm bedtime, we just didn’t think it was the best idea. We wouldn’t have made it halfway through with those crazy but adorable monsters!

If your kids are a bit older, I would definitely recommend attending one for the ultimate Hawaii experience. (~$125+ for adults and ~$65 for kids 6-12.) Check luau options for your dates here.

Tip:  Book EARLY (like at least 3-4 weeks early).

 

Maui Ocean Center

Maui’s aquarium, voted one of the top 10 aquariums in the world, features all kinds of beautiful fish, corals, sea turtles, sharks, and even cultural experiences.

Reservations are required now and it’s $38.59 for adults, $27.55 for kids 4-12 (such specific prices right?). Since it is indoors, masks are required on everyone 2 and older and guests have to stay six feet away from each other.

Learn more or make your reservations here. 

 

For the adults or families with older kids:

These activities might be too much for younger kids, so if you have someone that can watch the little ones while you can escape, try these excursions for some unforgettable fun.

Check Viator or Get Your Guide  for options on each of these. 

  • Snorkel Molokini Crater and Turtle Town (~$100pp)
  • Ziplining (~$100-200pp)
  • Hike I’ao Needle (entrance to park is $25 per vehicle)
  • Hike Haleakala Volcano at sunrise or sunset (entrance fees to park $30 per vehicle, tours are ~$200pp)
  • Helicopter tour ($250-350pp)

WHERE TO EAT IN MAUI

There are still restaurants that are temporarily closed and seating is limited at the ones that are open, so make reservations. The famous places (like Mama’s Fish House) need to be booked 3-4 weeks early.

Here are a few of my favorites and some that my friends rave about:

Just reading over this makes me want to go back already! What are your favorite things to do on Maui? Let me know in the comments!

    need help booking your trip? use my favorite resources!

    FLIGHTS
    I always start with Kayak when I book flights. It searches hundreds of travel sites for the lowest prices plus the flexible calendar tells you which days are the cheapest to fly. you can also set price alerts for a specific flight.

    LODGING
    My favorite booking site is booking.com. It's easy to use and gives options for all types of lodging. When I know I want a big rental house, I use VRBO.  

    RENTAL CARS
    My first stop for rental cars is rentalcars.com. It scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.

    ACTIVITIES
    I love searching Get your Guide and Viator for activities. You can search for a specific activity, or just see everything that is available at your destination. 

    Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page

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    MEET BESA

    Mama & Traveler

    Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple baby boys in tow – and I want to help other parents do the same.

    I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, tricks for scoring deals, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation spots.