An Insider Guide to Maui with Kids

The waves at Hookipa Beach are perfect for windsurfing and other adventures. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

This is a guest post from Sarah Burns, a California native and mom blogger who traded traffic-filled freeways & the cold West coast waters for a beach house in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Sarah, along with her husband and two children, now calls Maui home and shares her parenting dispatches from paradise on her site The Ohana Mama

Kaanapali Beach, Maui with Kids
Ka’anapali Beach is one of the best not only in Maui, but in all of the U.S. Photo by Anne Taylor Hartzell

There’s no shortage of things to do on Maui, and the best part is that some of the most fun and adventurous outings are free. From famed beaches like Ka’anapali and Makena, to hiking trails, to free walking tours of our historic towns, you can have fun and not break the bank. We also have tons of paid activities like parasailing in the summer and whale watching in the winter. Getting bored on Maui is hard to do.

Family-Friendly Things to Do in Maui with Kids

Gazebo Restaurant: The Ultimate Kid-Friendly Breakfast Spot

Start an action-packed Maui day with breakfast at The Gazebo restaurant overlooking breathtaking Napili Bay on the west side of the island. Note that they do not take reservations and you must line up for a table. Fear not, however, the time goes quickly and there are activities to keep the kids at bay while you wait. The Gazebo offers coffee for patrons in line and has a life-size checkerboard nearby where the kids can use halved coconuts as their markers. Not into checkers? No worries — there’s plenty of green grass to romp around and get the energy out, and of course you can spend the time taking beautiful pics of the bay. Once seated, the absolute best part, other than the excellent food, is that your breakfast will arrive at your table less than 5 minutes after when you order. That’s a grand slam for parents.

TIP: Up early due to the time difference? Arrive before 7 am and you are sure to be one of the first seated.

Sugar Cane Train, Maui with Kids
All aboard the Sugar Cane Train! Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Take a Ride on the Sugar Cane Train

A true classic, The Sugar Cane Train in Lahaina Town is a must-do with the kids. Go for a ride back in time as you get a scenic tour of Lahaina and Ka’anapali along the same rails that were used to transport sugar cane to the old Pioneer Mill in Lahaina in days past. As you ride along, the friendly conductor teaches you all about Lahaina, Maui and the islands of Lanai and Molokai, which sit directly off the Kaanapali coast. Bring snacks or purchase a snack pack when you buy your ticket. The ride runs about 90 minutes.

TIP: Grab a tourist magazine at any grocery store or activity center to find coupons for The Sugar Cane Train and other Maui adventures. Also, purchase tickets online in advance for a discount.

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Reef Dancer, Maui with Kids
Get an up-close look at sea creatures via the Reef Dancer boat. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Under the Sea

The Reef Dancer departs out of Lahaina Harbor and takes you on an underwater tour where you’ll learn about all the reefs and sea life that hides beyond the beaches of West Maui. Divers on the boat bring up sea creatures such as octopus to give you an up-close look at these magnificent animals. The Reef Dancer isn’t a real-deal submarine; it’s a glass-bottom boat with air-conditioning in the cabin and full views underwater from both sides. For those with children, this can be a godsend, as you aren’t stuck underwater should anyone need air. Simply head upstairs where you can enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and maybe spot a whale or two.

TIP: Get there early so you can check out one of the world’s largest banyan trees and the historic Lahaina courthouse; both stand just across from Lahaina Harbor. Look in the activity books and online for coupons and discounts.

Baby Beach, Maui with Kids
Baby Beach in Lahaina. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Baby Beach

The name says it all. This gorgeous slice of Maui coastline is aptly named Baby Beach because, you guessed it, it’s perfect for the keiki (that’s children, in Hawaii). Baby Beach is situated just off Front Street in Lahaina and has gently rolling waves so that kids feel comfortable splashing away. It’s close to the major grocery chain, Safeway, as well as the local Foodland store. Grab a sandwich, a bag of chips, some fruit and water, and you have yourself the perfect beach picnic.

During low tide you can take a closer look at the reef and watch tiny schools of fish swim in and out with each wave of (be sure not to step on the reef or you’ll damage it — a big no-no). If you’ve forgotten your beach umbrella, head north toward Mala Wharf, where you can sit on the grass under the trees mere steps away from the water. Take a stroll to the far north end of Baby Beach to visit Lahaina’s Buddhist Jodo Mission; the larger-than-life Buddha statue is amazing.

TIP: There are bathrooms located at the very north end of Baby Beach near Mala Wharf, although they can be dirty.

Hookipa Beach, Maui with Kids
The waves at Hookipa Beach are perfect for windsurfing and other adventures. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

Windsurfers, Kiteboarders and Pizza, Oh My!

On the other side of the island, take a drive past historic Paia Town to Hookipa Beach. This high-wind beach offers the perfect location for windsurfers and kiteboarders to show off their best tricks. You can park high above on the cliff for the optimal vantage point. Kids are sure to be amazed at the fanciful flights of these Maui athletes. It can be a bit cooler here due to the winds, so do bring a sweater.

After building up an appetite watching the action, stop at the Flatbread Company in Paia. This all natural, organically conscious pizza joint features a huge wood-burning oven right in the middle of the restaurant. Most ingredients are organic and locally grown or raised. They offer the keiki pizza dough to play with while you wait for your oven-baked pie; it’s super fun and extremely kid-friendly. My favorite pizza is the Kalua pig pizza with goat cheese, local pineapple and barbecue sauce on a crispy flat dough. They also serve a ton of vegetarian options for those who walk on the green side.

TIP: Try and request one of the large booths in the front of the restaurant. This allows kids to keep an eye on what’s happening outside and offers plenty of room for everyone to spread out, or even for a little one to take a nap.

Road to Hana, Maui with Kids
A lush, secluded bay along the Road to Hana, one of Maui’s most spectacular drives. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson

When to Go

The weather on Maui is warm all year. Winter brings more rain showers (and rainbows) along with cooler temps, while summer is generally hot and dry. Either way, Maui is perfect year-round for those who love the outdoors. Whether it’s relaxing on a white sand beach or trying out your surfing skills in the warm Hawaiian waters, there’s something for everyone! Just be sure to pack the sunscreen for a fun-filled vacation the keiki will never forget.

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly accommodations and things to do in Hawaii on Ciao Bambino

Hawaiian island hopping 101

Tropical reef snorkeling right outside your door at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Splash! 5 favorite ocean adventures in Oahu

Kidding around Kauai: Why the Garden Isle is a dream for families

 

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3 Comments
  • Thank you for listing the activities for kids. I need some advice,about choosing the hotel.Is Kaanapoli area better than Wailea? I have a 5yrs old and 7 yrs old daughters,we have been to Oahu last year,we stayed at Hilton. Someone told me that Kaanapoli area is more like Waikiki Beach and Wailea is very quiet. I am considering 4 hotels Westin,Sheraton,Grand Wailea and the Fairmont. I am open to any other opinions,but I am not too interested in condo style because we usually do not cook on vacation.

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