After many family vacation trips with our own, I’ve finally put together our favorite things to do in Maui with kids! While we all visit for the welcoming Maui ocean, the island offers many more options for your family friendly time.
#12 Sunrise at Haleakala
This is one of the things to do in Maui with kids that has divided reviews from my girls. One says YES! The other says, “Are you kidding?” But I have to keep it on my list because it is a one in a lifetime experience (usually) and is completely amazing.
Haleakala, meaning “house of the sun”, is a national park and the east volcano on Maui. At over 10,000 feet high, the peak provides an incredible view. Sunrise on Haleakala means watching from above the clouds as the sky slowly lightens. When the edge of the sun peeks into view, its rays flood the skyline. It is an awe-inspiring sight that will likely be once in a lifetime.
A few important notes before you load up to see it:
- If you are coming from the continental US, I recommending doing this your first or second day. Take advantage of still being on home time-zone to help the early departure.
- Double check both sunrise time, and your drive time to get there. Ask your concierge to help make sure you head out early enough, and ask if the hotel provides any towels/blankets to take with you. Because…
- It’s breathtakingly COLD on Haleakala before sunrise! The morning we went it was 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius), so bundle up!
- The drive up to Haleakala is twisty and turning like I’ve not seen anywhere else. It’s not hard to find, but the road switchbacks its way up the mountain.
- Consider your specific kids… We had one who immediately went into the little shop, curled up by the window, and refused to be out in the cold. Our other wrapped up in blankets and stood there by the rail with us and laughed as the sun peek over the clouds.
Check out the National Park Service Site for visiting Maui at sunrise or sunset to get you started.
#11 Jet Ski! (and other watersports)
This is one of the things do to in Maui with kids that you may have done elsewhere. BUT, did you ever jet ski in the ocean?
It’s our preference to visit Hawaii during whale season (see below). However, if you are on the island and it isn’t whale season, there is a significant upside: power motors on the water! When the Humpback whales migrate in, the laws restricting the use of power motors kicks in so as to avoid disrupting the whale mating behavior. But when the whales aren’t around you have a host of activities to choose from that aren’t there otherwise. Try out Jetskiing or parasaling. We often stay at Ka’anapali beach and there are a number of places right on the water that will get you a time slot and let you get some adrenaline going!
One of the Things To Do in Maui with Kids When Surf’s Up!
#10 Check out Jaws! (Not that one…)
One visit to Maui a few years ago there happened to be some epic waves rolling in. So much so that there were a number of beaches that were closed for swimming and the buzz was that some big names in surfing were headed our way. We weren’t sure what to do with this information, so just started to strike up conversations with the locals when we were out and about. That pointed us toward Jaws!
Three miles east of Pa’ia (a great stop on your way through the amazing views on the Road to Hana, btw) there is a surf break that was nicknamed Jaws by surfers back in the 1970s. The sudden condition changes and times that the waves crested over 60 feet high earned the spot the nickname. The biggest wave surfed in the year has been at Jaws more than any other location in the world. Today, tow-in surfing springs up in this spot anytime the waves are cooperating, and big names your surf-lover knows can be found here.
Note: This is definitely a place to WATCH surfing and not participate unless you are one of those Big Names in the game. As is said in the article linked below, “Worst-case scenario at Jaws is definitely death.” This is also completely dependent on nature to cooperate, and the really big stuff only happens a few times a year. Ask about the north shore surf conditions to know if it’s worth a trip.
This ESPN article has some amazing photos and great information on a huge wave time back in 2016.
Maui Guide Book’s site has scary-awesome video of huge waves being surfed, as well as google map information on how to find the lookout.
Ok, in all honesty, this makes nearly every ‘To Do’ list I write. Which probably says more about and me and my family than anything else! Each visit, we head to the same breakfast spot in old Lahaina, Longhi’s. Longhi’s has been around since 1976, and the french toast and pancakes are amazing. Just go.
If you like seafood, this is the island for you. And if you don’t like seafood, you have to try it in Maui. Seafood fresh from the ocean, prepared by chefs whose menus are largely seafood focused, is so different from the majority of what is available back home. Our two favorite restaurants for a guaranteed delectable (though pricey) meal are Merriman’s, and Mama Fish House.
And you can not visit Maui and not have shave ice. It’s not allowed, and your trip just won’t count if you don’t give it a try. Shave ice (not shaved, shave) is vastly superior to the icee or snow cone you may get back home, being a softer, almost powdery snow covered in multiple syrups. If you want to truly be traditional, you will also have yours with either vanilla or coconut ice cream in the bottom of your cup.
#8 Marvel at the Banyan Tree
In the heart of old Lahaina is a tree that is remarkably able to sneak by unnoticed, considering it’s the largest tree in the United States! It’s not the tallest, don’t think a redwood here. It is large, meaning one tree shades three-quarters of an acre, nearly the entire Banyan Tree Park. When you see the tree you may at first think it is just a park with a bunch of trees creating the canopy. But in reality, the central, thickest trunk is the true trunk of the tree. The rest of the ‘trunks’ were actually created when off-shoots dropped back to the ground, rooted, and grew to support the spreading greenery.
The park is a great place to stop in the shade and enjoy a treat. Our favorite time to visit the Banyan tree is at Christmas though, when the underneath of the tree is strung with so many lights that the whole park glows.
Educational Things To Do in Maui with Kids
#7 Learn about the Local Wildlife at Maui Ocean Center
Maui Ocean Center is one of the top 10 aquariums in the world. With the mission to inspire understanding, wonder, and respect for Hawaii’s marine life, a visit it not only beautiful and fun, but also educational.
The brand new exhibit on Humpback whales is so recently opened (yesterday!) that we haven’t seen it, but take a look at the video on the website to get an idea. That’s going to be a must do on our next visit!
Note: This is one of the great things to do in Maui with kids when it’s raining, or when you need to get more out of the sun! (We’ve all been there on beach vacations.)
Visit Maui Ocean Center’s Website for more information on exhibits as well as directions and even a live cam.
#6 Helicopter or Small Plane Ride
Looking for things to do in Maui with kids who are adrenaline junkies?Well, this one will get them completely revved up! There are a number of companies that run helicopter and small plane tours of Maui and the surrounding islands.
The helicopter tours really show you the birds eye view of the island, and scope of the beauty. Photos don’t do the views justice, it’s something you have to see.
Small planes travel between islands and can give you views you can’t get any other way. We took this tour one year because the volcano on the big island was particularly active. The small plane tour gave us a tour around Maui, and then headed to the Big Island where we saw lava bubbling in the caldera, and lava rivers flowing down the sides. The scope of the lava flows was unlike anything I expected.
Note: You see how thrilled my younger daughter looks in that photo? Yeah. That’s because this is also where we learned that she gets motion sick easier than anyone else in the family. The small plane set off her motion sickness much more than the helicopter had. That grin is her ‘I made it without tossing my cookies!’ face.
#5 Chill at the Beach
Hopefully this is one of the more obvious things to do on Maui with kids: You are on Maui! Don’t forget that most kids can spend days just hanging at the beach, chasing waves, finding shells, and building… whatever this thing is my girls built at Fleming beach. The only additional outlay of cash is your sunscreen, and you have a whole day of fun and laughter.
There are countless beaches to choose from on Maui, so set out and find your favorites. Ask for recommendations. This site has a great video with key information on 15 beaches in Maui. We spend most of our time at Ka’anapali Beach for its fun-but-not-dangerous surf (generally), stretch of resorts, restaurants, and beach activities that makes it easy to hang out all day. Fleming Beach is another favorite of ours because it has more active surf when things are calmer at Ka’anapali.
One of the Things To Do in Maui with Kids that created amazing memories:
#4 Snorkel or Snuba
For years we have snorkeled around Maui. There are many places and day cruises you can take for the experience, Molokini being one of our favorites. One of the things to do on Maui with kids that will stretch the snorkel experience, is SNUBA.
If you aren’t familiar, SNUBA is a hybrid of snorkeling, and SCUBA. With SNUBA, your air tank floats in a raft on top of the water, while you have 20-25 feet of air tube to swim below. Because of this set up, you cannot go deeper than approximately 20 feet, making SNUBA significantly safer than SCUBA, and not requiring the same intensive lessons. However, you can stay below water much longer than snorkeling giving you the chance to really explore.
On Maui, we tried SNUBA with our kids right on Ka’anapali Beach. Black Rock is a rocky outcropping in front of the Sheraton with some nice snorkeling and SNUBA. We liked learning here because we could get a private lesson and SNUBA session with just our family. Plus, it’s a walk-out location. Our kids could go as slowly as they wanted getting used to it and working into deeper waters. Turns out, they were the little fish they always are, and loved every minute!
SNUBA Black Rock, visit Shoreline SNUBA’s website for more information.
Hawaiian Heritage Things To Do in Maui with Kids:
#3 Attend a Luau
If you are visiting the island, you really have to attend a Luau at least once. The term Luau was first used in the early 1800s when King Kamehameha II broke with the tradition of separate male and female dining. His large special meals that hosted men, women, and children were the first to be referred to as a “Luau.”
A Hawaiian Luau will usually include traditional foods including a roasted pig (a caution to my vegetarian and vegan friends), as well as traditional dance and story telling for entertainment.
The Old Lahaina Luau is a favorite on the island and consistently gets good reviews, as does the Drums of the Pacific Luau held at the Hyatt on Kaanapali beach.
#2 Whale Watching
Maybe one of the most impressive things to do is go on a whale watching tour in Maui. Officially, the season for Humpback whales on Maui is December 15th-May 15th. However, the population is significantly lower at the beginning and end of that season that at the middle. If you really want to see whales, a visit in February or March is your window.
There are many rules during whale season that are designed to protect both you and the whales, and we highly recommend you follow them. So that means that, no, you cannot get in the water and swim with the whales, and your boat captain will not approach too close.
The restrictions don’t take away from the wonder of seeing these gentle giants in their natural habitat. Humpback whales splash, dive, and poke their heads up for a look around. and if you are really lucky, one will breach for you. A breach is when a whale swims from deep in the water, straight up, launching its entire body out of the water. You will never look at a whale the same again.
(Yes, I know that center pic is not a whale! That is a spinner dolphin and if you go whale watching, you will likely see these, too. )
#1 Things To Do in Maui with Kids: Take Time to Relax
I just listed a bunch of fun things to do in Maui, but this is an important one. Maui is gorgeous, and you are on vacation. Slow down! Relax. Put your feet up, let the kids play. It’s hard to find a more beautiful place to get that down time you were hoping for when you decided to visit Maui. Be sure not to run from thing to thing and miss out on the beauty!
Have older kids and looking for a truly unique and educational experience? How about visiting the old leper colony? Hop over to this post about how to visit the Leper Colony of Moloka’i.
Need some help packing? Here’s your guide to what to pack for Maui!
While you’re in Maui, check out this post about Things to do in Lahaina, Maui!
And if you are looking at island ideas, how about Things to do on Isla Mujeres?
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