Want to truly experience the Aloha spirit? Seek out these 6 activities that are authentically Hawaiian.
You know what they say, “When in Rome…” The same goes for the Hawaiian Islands. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite, kid-friendly things to do on Maui that are unique to Hawaii. The whole family will gain a deeper understanding of Hawaiian culture while creating memories to last a lifetime!
Photo courtesy: Visit Maui
1/Paddle an outrigger canoe
Here’s a Hawaiian history lesson and ocean adventure all in one! A cultural canoe tour at the Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond at Kalepolepo Park in Kihei is a meaningful activity that the whole family will enjoy! While you work together to paddle an outrigger canoe, a knowledgable guide will lead you on a 90-minute tour through the nearshore waters, teach you Hawaiian phrases, and educate your group on island culture and history. Keep an eye out for “honu” (Hawaiian for sea turtle) that live in and around the fishpond. This is a hands-on, one-of-a-kind, authentic Hawaiian experience! Cost: Youth (8-12) $40; Adults $70. Reservations are required; kids must be at least 8 years old to participate.
2/Strum a ukulele
The one musical instrument synonymous with Hawaii is the ukulele. The art of playing the ukulele (Hawaiian for “jumping flea”) is alive and well in Hawaii. In fact, each island has its own ukulele festival each year. But you don’t need to attend a festival to learn how to strum a tune on the popular 4-stringed instrument. Ukulele lessons are held throughout the year all over Maui. The Maui Ocean Center offers ukulele lessons on Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; they’re free with admission. Lahaina Cannery Mall holds free ukulele lessons every Tuesday evening from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Whalers Village near the ABC Stores has free ukulele lessons every Monday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. And many hotels offer free ukulele lessons, too!
3/Learn to hula
With each sway of the hips and hand gesture a story unfolds. The ancient art of the hula is a Hawaiian symbol known around the world. Many Maui hotels and shopping malls offer free hula lessons. Our favorite hula show is the delightful Keiki Hula Show, the longest running children’s hula show in Hawaii. Since 1966, the Napili Kai Foundation has preserved Hawaiian culture by teaching Maui’s children songs, dances, language, and history. Local boys and girls present a whole program full of hula styles from Hawaii, Tahiti, and New Zealand with a live band on Tuesday evenings at Napili Kai Beach Resort. They invite visiting kids on stage to learn the hula during the performance. Our kids loved wearing real flower leis, which can be purchased for a modest fee before the show. Hula show cost: Youth (under 6) Free; Youth (6-12) $5; Adults $10; Free for Napili Kai guests.
Photo courtesy: Napili Kai Foundation
4/Be entertained by fire dancers
Maui’s longest running show is the exciting Drums of Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort. The beachfront show features authentic dances from across Polynesia. The show features both female hula dancers and male fire dancers and tells the story of how the island of Maui became what it is today. There’s an open tiki bar, all-you-can-eat buffet, and dessert bar. And don’t be shy when the dancers ask for volunteers to come on stage to learn the hula. Cost: Youth (6-12) $70; Adult $115. Yes, it’s pricey, but our KidTripster families felt that it was worth the expense.
KidTripster Tip: Make your luau reservation in advance to make sure you get a good table for the show.
Photo courtesy: Drums of the Pacific Luau
5/Catch a wave
With gently breaking waves and plenty of surf schools, Maui is an ideal place for learning to “hang ten.” Ka’anapali Surf Club has several locations on Maui. Grommets (lingo for young surfers) learn the basics, including water safety and surfing etiquette, on dry land before practicing their new skills in the ocean. Our KidTripster teens describe the surf club’s coaches as “very friendly and helpful.” All lessons are 90 minutes. Surfboards and equipment, such as water shoes and rash guards, are provided. Group lesson cost: $85/person; students 10 years old and younger must be booked as a private class.
Photo courtesy: Ka’anapali Surf Club
6/Tour a working plantation
A tropical adventure awaits in Central Maui at the Maui Tropical Plantation, located on over 1500 acres in the beautiful Waikapu Valley. There's no admission fee to visit the gardens, but we recommend hopping aboard the plantation’s Tropical Express tram for a 45-minute tour of the plantation, a working farm that is home to more than 40 crops and native plants. You’ll ride past pineapple fields and under palm tree canopies, see live coconut husking and opening demonstrations, and finish with a taste of fresh, tropical fruit. There’s even a kid-friendly zipline on site. Stop in for lunch by the lagoon at the fabulous farm-to-table Mill House restaurant, one of the best restaurants in the state. Or grab an ice cream cone at The Scoop and soak in the view. Tram cost: Youth (under 3) Free; Youth (3-10) $10; Adults $20.
Wendy Thies Sell is a former television news anchor, freelance writer, emcee, and mom of two, based on California’s Central Coast, conveniently close to wine country and the beach.