KidTripster Teen: Top 5 ways to ensure a great family vacation in Maui
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Maui several times, and it’s always a blast! There are so many fun things for families to do, and the weather is always great. Whether your family likes to hike or just lounge on the beach, Maui won’t disappoint.
1/Westin Kā'anapali Ocean Resort Villas
On my last trip to Maui, my family and I stayed at the Westin Kā’anapali Ocean Resort Villas. As a fairly frequent hotel guest, I must say that I prefer staying in a villa which is basically a hotel room with a kitchen. We didn’t have to stick to any restaurant reservation schedules, and after a long day, we could just relax and eat in our room or grill out by the pool. In the morning, we could wake up early or late, make breakfast, and head out whenever it was convenient. This Westin property has two awesome pools and a great beach. It offers complimentary snuba (snorkeling + scuba) demos and a variety of activities from Hawaiian language classes to laser tag at night.
2/Snorkeling at Black Rock
The Kā’anapali area has terrific beaches. The water, warm and clear, is ideal for snorkeling. There’s a great place to rent snorkel gear called Snorkel Bob's. Cost: Youth (12 and under) $22/week; Adult $35/week. Once you have your gear, head to the beach. Just about any place in Kā’anapali is good, but the closer you get to Black Rock, the better the snorkeling becomes. Near the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, Black Rock is a huge outcropping of volcanic rock that you can jump off and swim around. You’ll likely get to snorkel with a sea turtle!
KidTripster Tip: Snorkel Bob’s is a big chain in Hawaii, and you can find the shops everywhere. If you really want local tips, try a smaller family-owned shop, like All About Fish. The employees rent snorkel equipment and give lots of local advice about off-the-beaten-path spots.
When you find yourself all snorkeled out and want to spend some time on land, Lahaina is a great place to go. It’s a small town, located very near Kā’anapali; most hotels even have free shuttles that will take you there. There are a ton of seriously interesting shops, where you can find cool little oddities and souvenirs. My favorite is Whaler’s Locker, which is more like a museum than a store. When the Hawaiian sun heats up, head to this spectacular shave ice vendor called Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, right in the middle of Lahaina. All the flavors are made with natural ingredients and no high-fructose corn syrup. My personal favorite is a combination called Coconut Lovers. Lahaina has great restaurants, too. Skip the chains and eat at Aloha Mixed Plate for local Hawaiian food, served right next to the ocean on its patio.
Haleakala has been dormant since the 1700s, but given the volcano’s eruption history, the USGS predicts that it’ll be active again. For now, this national park is worthy of a day trip. It takes about 1-1/2-hours to drive there from Kā’anapali. On the drive up, you may see people riding bicycles down. Vendors offer bicycle tours, where they drive you up at 4 a.m., so that you can watch the sunrise and then cycle down. While I didn’t actually try this, I think that going up in the dark is a missed opportunity; you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the incredible vistas as you ascend the mountain. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch how the plant life changes from sea level all the way to 10,000 feet. The extremely rare Haleakala Silverswords start to appear at 8,500 feet. Once you do get to the top, the view is incredible. Looking down through the clouds, you can see all of the island below. On a clear day, you even can see to the Big Island of Hawai’i. The landscape up here looks just like Mars; in fact, NASA has a Mars testing facility on the top, which is really cool to see, as well. You can choose to hike trails, ranging from 30-minutes to all day. Know that if you plan to catch the sunrise, the park service now requires you to make reservations in advance because of the limited parking; reservations open two months in advance. Read more about the process here.
I suggest making a day trip out of it and afterwards head to Paia. There you’ll find a restaurant called Mama’s Fish House, which is absolutely extraordinary. When you look at the menu, it lists the names of the boats that caught the fish that you’re about to order. Warning: it’s very, very expensive, and you need a reservation. Alternatively, you could try going for lunch or an early dinner. The restaurant sits facing the ocean, so as you’re waiting for dinner, you can take a stroll on the beach.
KidTripster Tip: I must advise you to wear warm clothes to the volcano. You might think that it can’t get cold on Maui, but the wind at 10,000 feet is incredibly strong. Know that there aren’t any great places to buy extra clothing on the mountain, so purchase your souvenir sweatshirt before you go.
KidTripster Tip: Pack lots of water, because it’s incredibly dry.
While Snorkel Bob’s is a great place for snorkeling gear, if you drive down the road a little farther, you’ll find another awesome shop called All About Fish. In addition to snorkeling gear, it rents fishing poles and sells tackle and bait. The employees are eager to share their local fishing knowledge. Personally, I had a blast fishing off of Kā’anapali. I managed to catch a huge Pufferfish, which was very cool. However, Puffers are extremely poisonous and are not to be eaten. Another intriguing activity is spear fishing. At All About Fish, you can hire a spear fishing instructor to show you how it’s done. I ended up getting a portable travel spear and snorkeling around with that. While I caught nothing, it’s an awesome souvenir.
KidTripster Tip: If you decide to purchase something like this, make sure to pack it in your checked luggage to avoid any possible problems.
If you’d like something a little faster-paced than fishing or snorkeling, try jet skiing. You have to be 15 to drive with an adult or at least 16 to drive on your own, but kids any age can ride with their parents. We rented with Maui Water Sports at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Kā’anapali. You ride in a little boat out to a large platform in the ocean and then jet ski from there. Cost: $119/hour; $109/hour, if booked online.
KidTripster Tip: You can book the early bird special and save $10 per hour, if you go between 8 and 10 a.m., which is easier to do at the beginning of your trip, before you’ve fully adjusted to Hawaiian time. Also, if you really love to jet ski, Maui Water Sports offers a three consecutive day rate, where you can ride for an hour each day for a total of $238.
For more ideas for your Hawaiian vacation, click here.
Jackson Keene is a high school junior, who lives with his family in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys spending time outdoors, as well as blacksmithing in his grandparent's’ backyard.