Maui is a dreamy destination for families, couples and single travelers. Just a month before the world completely changed and everyone started using “social distancing” in common conversation, our family enjoyed the tropical beauty and island vibes on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Here are five of our suggestions for fun, family-friendly things to do in Maui.
Things to Do in Maui, Hawaii for Families
Maui has gorgeous beaches where you can sink your feet into the sand, smell the fresh, salty air and enjoy the frothy waves.
If you want a kid-friendly, calmer water experience with fewer waves, try Baby Beach. We had family members ranging from 4 – 60+ and everyone enjoyed the location and beginner’s snorkeling experience. For more adventurous snorkeling, you can go out to the Molokini Crater. Molokini is a very small island about three miles southwest of Maui. The old volcano forms a crescent moon shaped wall that protects from large ocean waves, making it one of the best places to snorkel and dive in the area.
If you would rather view the Maui coastline from your car high above the waves, there are many roads with expansive water views and lots of pullouts to slow down and take in your surroundings.
If the pool is your preferred way to enjoy the water, there are a wide variety of pool types; from the resort style with multiple pools including different water features (slides, waterfalls, splash pads, etc.) or something simpler with fewer people and anywhere in between. Doing your research to consider the ages and interest of people going on the trip could be helpful. Regardless, enjoy the pool!
Where to Eat in Maui
After all of the swimming and exploring, you may be hungry and thirsty. Luckily Maui has many delicious options to enjoy during your visit.
Maui Happy Hours
There are many places for happy hours that have discounted food that tastes just as good as when it is full priced during the dinner hour. The Sea House is known for an amazing happy hour food and drink menu as well as a phenomenal beach-side location. While waiting for your food, you can hop down to the sand and wade into the warm waters. They even have a water spigot to rinse off before enjoying your tasty order. Monkey Pod has a vibrant happy hour with their signature Mai tai and delicious food, including kalua pork and pineapple pizza. Kalau pork is traditionally served with sides like steamed rice or cabbage and it tasted amazing on pizza.
Maui Shaved Ice
For sweet flavors, a well-known Hawaiian treat is shave ice. While it deceptively looks like a snow cone, having the ice shaved from an ice block somehow makes it creamy and an exceptionally refreshing indulgence in the warm Hawaiian sunshine. You can add ice cream (at the bottom) and sweetened condensed milk (to the top) which is called a snow cap. Some places have coconut or other toppings to add. You select the flavors that you want for your shave ice and customize your dessert exactly how you prefer. There are many local flavors like guava, pineapple and passion fruit in addition to traditional flavors like vanilla which surprisingly was colored blue.
Our favorite place to get shave ice on Maui was Ululani’s. A local alternative to shave ice is pie, specifically chocolate haupia pie. It is a creamy chocolate coconut milk-based dessert that will make you want an entire piece for yourself.
If you are an early bird or don’t mind waiting in line, a fun breakfast place is the The Gazebo. There is a spectacular view of the ocean, but set aside 20-45 min or more on a weekend. They are known for their fluffy pancakes topped with macadamia nuts and coconut syrup. The Kahlua pork breakfast sandwich was so tender and flavorful, it was hard to share. The staff played silly tricks on some of the customers which made things entertaining while we anticipated our food. The overall Gazebo experience was definitely worth the wait in line (even temporarily in the rain).
It was fun to visit the Maui Brewing Company as their Coconut Hiwa Porter is a favorite back home. On-site at the brewery they have limited release of their brews and we found the Imperial Coconut Porter which added dark chocolate to the mix. Oh my! They certainly know how to-make craft beer.
Whale Watching in Maui
Whale watching in Maui is ideal between November and May. We visited in early February and our timing was perfect, as we saw many adult and baby whales before they headed north for the summer months.
There are multiple ways to whale watch with the easiest way simply spotting them from shore. You can likely see whales from any side of Maui, but the western and southern shores are popular viewing locations.
You can also go on the water to see the whales up close. The closest you can get is in a Zodiac inflatable boat and you also have the advantage of being in a smaller group of whale watchers due to the size of the boat. The downside might be the slightly rocky or turbulent motion depending on the weather and waves, but the upside is well worth the up-close view of the gentle giants beneath the water.
We chose the Pac-Whale Eco-Adventures whale tour, which is a medium-sized boat and good for all ages. Children 0-12 ride free. The tour is two hours long which seemed like the right amount of time when traveling with children. Led by certified Marine Naturalists, the tour not only showcased the unbelievable beauty of the humpback whales, but included education about whales in their natural environment with the unexpected bonus of hearing whale songs on the underwater hydrophones. There is an on-board Jr. Naturalist Program for kids, too. As the top deck is uncovered, don’t forget your sun protection!
Tour boats have to stay a safe distance away from any whales in the water. Our tour stopped the boat and a mom and baby whale swam to within 15 feet of the front of the boat. We watched as the baby played in the water, flipping and flopping around while its watchful mother stayed close between the baby and the boat. We saw multiple whale breaches, including babies who were learning how to complete the move. We were all mesmerized and in awe of these remarkable creatures.
If you are looking for a longer tour that includes a meal and drinks, there are other options on the island that have more inclusive packages. During whale watching season, it is impossible to make a bad choice!
Tropical flowers are vibrant and they provide pops of gorgeous color, almost everywhere you look in Maui. Casual strolls turn into long adventures if you stop and enjoy or take pictures of the local flowers. The yellow hibiscus is the official Hawaii State flower and the Lokelani rose (Maui Rose) is the official island flower for Maui. Flowers garnish tropical drinks and add a lovely local touch to just about anything in Hawaii.
Regardless whether your vacation style is active and adventurous or laid back and relaxing, a stunning sunset may await in the evening. In preparation for this potentially hour-long event, visitors and locals head to the western beaches and settle in for a spectacular show put on by nature. Some prefer lying on a lounge chair or towel while others body surf in the waves as the sun slowly drops behind neighboring islands like Lanai. Even after the golden orb is not visible, its rays cast changing light onto clouds and the display evolves. Evening is a peaceful time on the island, cooler and calmer than the daily routine.
After eating, drinking, exploring and enjoying the gifts of Maui, soaking up the sunset is the ideal way to close out each day of your visit. Aloha!