This post is in collaboration with visitmaui.com
Maui is an island paradise that offers a wide range of activities and attractions for families with kids. From stunning beaches and water activities, to scenic hikes and cultural experiences, there is something for everyone on this beautiful Hawaiian island. Whether you’re a family of adventure seekers or just looking for a relaxing vacation, Maui is the perfect destination for a family getaway. In this post, I’ll share some of my favorite things to do and see in Maui with kids, and provide tips and advice for making the most of your trip. So, pack your sunscreen, grab your kids, and let’s get ready to explore one of the world’s most beautiful destinations!
1. Snorkelling at Baby Beach in Lahaina
This beach is protected by a reef and has perfect calm, clear waters for snorkeling. You’re guaranteed to see many turtles, lots of fish and maybe even some harmless reef sharks! It’s just a few minutes away from Lahaina Harbor and has lots of parking.
This was the first beach our kiddos snorkeled in on their own and they felt very calm since they could see the bottom and stand up (on the sandy parts) if they got scared. They loved swimming with the turtles and just hanging out by the beach.
Keep in mind that turtles are protected in Hawaii and you need to stay at least 10 feet away from them!
2. Whale Watch tour
This is hands down my favorite thing to do on this island and the biggest reason I wanted to return to Maui on our second trip to Hawaii. Humpback Whales come to the islands of Hawaii between December and April to mate and they put on quite the splashing show!
During whale season, you can see whales breaching right from shore (and from your lanai if you’re lucky to be staying right on the beach!). The pop up every few minutes to either take a breath, swim, jump, splash or whatever other interaction they feel like. You’ll see many beachgoers come to the beach with binoculars just to get a better glimpse – I was one of those 🙂
If you want to get an even closer look at these magnificent creatures, I highly recommend taking one of the many whale watch tours available from Lahaina Harbor or Maalea Harbor. I’ve gone many times and tried many different tours – they’re all very similar and I would recommend just going with the one that has availability for the time you need. I particularly liked Makai Adventures and Hawaii Ocean Rafting. The latter was extra fun since you’re much closer to the water on the raft and can stick your underwater camera into the water if a whale happens to swim under!
Keep in mind that whales are also protected in Hawaii and boats must remain 100 yards away from the whales. In many cases the tour boats will go out into the ocean and turn off the engine and wait. This way they’re not disturbing the whales and if you’re lucky you might get a close encounter!
3. Discover Molokini Sail Tour
Molokini Crater can be seen from the west shores of Maui. It’s just 3 miles away from Makena Cove and has some of the clearest waters for snorkelling! There are several companies that run snorkelling tours here, but we went with Sail Trilogy and had a really great time.
4. Kanapali Beach
Kanapali Beach is the perfect destination for families with kids looking to enjoy sun, sand, and surf in Maui. Located on the western coast of the island, this iconic beach features crystal-clear waters, soft sand, and a range of water activities. We saw entire pods of sea turtles while snorkelling right from shore and saw lots of whales breaching in the distance. Danny loved the surf here and said it was one of the best beaches in Maui to catch some waves! The beach is also home to several popular resorts, making it a convenient and comfortable place for families to stay.
5. Lahaina Old Town
Old Town Lahaina in Maui is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the rich history and culture of Hawaii. Located on the western coast of the island, this charming historic district offers a glimpse into the island’s past, with well-preserved buildings, museums, and cultural landmarks that provide a window into the life and times of old Hawaii. From street performers and local shops, to historic landmarks and world-class restaurants, Old Town Lahaina has something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture lover, or just looking for a fun and unique experience, a visit to Old Town Lahaina is sure to be a highlight of your Maui vacation. So, come explore this charming and historic district, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Road to Hana
Road to Hana is one of the most spectacular road-trips in the US. This road takes you along the western side of the island and curves around the cliffside with incredible views of the ocean and lush rainforests. This post has a much more detailed overview of what you can expect from a road trip to Hana with Kids.
6. Take part in a Malama Program
Several organizations on the islands of Hawaii offer Malama opportunities for visitors to pay it forward during their vacation. These include programs like beach clean-ups, native tree planting, and more. I highly encourage anyone who’s staying in Maui for a week to consider participating in one of these! We participated in a self-led beach cleanup throughout our stay, through Pacific Whale Foundation. This was extremely easy to do – we picked up a cleanup kit (a large trash bag, gloves, and a checklist) and kept it in the back of our car. Whenever we went to any beach, we brought this trash bag with us and cleaned up whatever beach we ended up hitting that day! It was extremely low effort and the kids got super passionate about leaving the place cleaner than we found it. By the end of our trip we had a full trash bag collected which we dropped off at the closest PAC Whale Foundation in Maalea Harbour.
7. Haleakala National Park
This national park offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural significance, and outdoor activities that are perfect for children and adults alike.
One of the most popular attractions at Haleakala National Park is the summit of the volcano, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and the Pacific Ocean. The park also features a number of trails that are great for hiking, including the Sliding Sands Trail, which leads visitors through a landscape of cinder cones and colorful volcanic landscapes.
In addition to its natural wonders, Haleakala National Park is also home to a rich cultural heritage. The park features several historic sites and cultural monuments, including the Pu’u Ula’ula Red Hill, which is a sacred place for the Hawaiian people.
If you’re planning a visit to Haleakala National Park with kids, be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and snacks, and to wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes. The park is open 24/7 and you need a National Park Pass to get in. A pass can be acquired at the entrance or online in advance.
Note that as of 2021, the park requires reservations if you plan to enter for sunrise between the hours of 3-7am. Sunrise reservations are released 60 days in advance, and a small subset of tickets are released at 7am, 2 days in advance. It is almost impossible to reserve sunrise tickets 2 days in advance – I tried almost every day at exactly 7:00:00am for two weeks straight and no luck! Another option is to go with a tour.
All that being said, sunrise is not the only ideal time to see Haleakala! Sunset is just as beautiful and has similar intense cloud inversions. A bonus of coming for sunset is staying past sunset to see the night sky! There is an observatory at the top of Haleakala for a good reason – there is barely any light pollution at 10k feet in the middle of the Pacific 🙂
Overall, visiting Haleakala National Park with kids is a unique and unforgettable experience that will provide lasting memories for families for years to come. Whether you’re hiking, exploring, or simply taking in the breathtaking views, this national park is sure to be a highlight of your Hawaiian vacation.
8. Maui Ocean Center
If you have kiddos who are too little to snorkel or scared of going in the ocean – Maui Ocean Center is a great alternative to get up close and personal with marine life. The girls loved watching all the fish and corals in the large aquariums, touching some of the starfish and even getting to see whales in 3D! This ocean center is conveniently located right next to Maalea Harbour and makes for a perfect relaxing afternoon after a morning boat excursion.
9. Makena Cove State Park
Just south of Wailea is a gorgeous wide stretch of a white sandy beach called Makena State Park. This beach is perfect for enjoying the gorgeous views, boogie boarding and talking a leisurely stroll along the beach. The currents here can be strong so make sure to check the surf forecast. There’s a small fee to enter the state park and a large parking lot, facilities and life guards on duty.
Where to stay in Maui with Kids
There are three main regions where tourists stay when they come to visit Maui; northwest area (Lahaina, Kanapali, Napili), southwest area (Kihei, Wailea) and the north area (Kahului).
Northwest Maui accommodation
Lahaina area is in the North-West part of the island and has a wide variety of high-end resorts including Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Resort Lanai, and the Ritz Carleton Kapalua.
There are also lots of great Airbnb options in both Lahaina and all the way up to Napili. This Airbnb in Napili was an absolute gem during our first trip to Maui with kids. There’s a small private beach for residents, turtles swim up on shore every evening, you can see whales breaching from the balcony every evening, and the sunsets from the lanai were outstanding. It’s also just far enough away from the crowds of Kanapali and Lahaina to get some quiet, but also close enough to everything you might need!
Southwest Maui accommodation
Kihei is probably the most affordable town to stay in, as most of the accommodations are across the road from the beach and not directly on the beach like in Wailua or northwest Maui. Kihei has a lot of great airbnb options, just make sure to understand how far away from the beach a condo might be. Some say “ocean view” – and while you *can* see the ocean, it’s actually quite far away. Staying far from the ocean isn’t an issue here however, as most beaches in Kihei have really great parking even during high season. Kihei has three really great beaches; Kameole 1, 2 & 3, all of which have perfect sandy beaches, waves perfect for boogie boarding, snorkelling by the rocks, and SUP rentals.
Northern Maui accommodation
We’ve personally never stayed in Northern Maui because it was far from the places we wanted to visit. The benefits of staying in northern Maui is that it’s super close to the airport, there’s some really nice beaches with beautiful views like Baldwin Beach Park, and it’s super close to the start of Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park. It’s also quite affordable since it’s a lot less touristy!
Here are some great options in Kahului.