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Maui may be widely renowned as the Honeymoon Capital of the world, but the second largest Hawaiian Island is just as legendary for catering to kids. Indeed, with its abundant sunshine, warm water, and family-friendly activities, it’s as much of a wonderland for children as it is for adults.
11 Things to Do in Maui with Kids
In the fourteen years I’ve lived on Maui, I’ve had every kind of experience. From being in a new relationship, all the way to having two kids. What goes into “FUN” has changed quite a lot. That’s why I’m thrilled to say there are a million things to do on Maui with kids.
Happen to be heading to the Valley Isle with your little ones in tow? Here’s what we love doing on our days off. Keep in mind, our kids are 4 and 7.
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1. Get Some Air
Great for all ages (they have a toddler zone)
Boys, girls, toddlers, teens. If there’s one thing they can all agree on, it’s the unparalleled joy of leaping in the air. Ultimate Air Trampoline Park has got us covered when on Maui with kids. My kids were huge fans of this freshest addition to the island’s kid scene, where multiple trampoline playing zones—with guests separated by age and size to avoid injuries—abound throughout the 25,000 square foot indoor park.
Dodgeball, basketball, foam pits—even massage chairs—are also offered, making it the perfect option for a rainy day in paradise (and a wise way to help my kids burn off antsy energy). Bonus points: The park welcomes people of all sizes, ages, and physical capabilities, while their snack bar helps fuel the fun of the day.
2. Feed the Ducks
Great for all ages (if this bores older kids, we send them ziplining)
My children took a ton of delight in the elemental nature of Maui—a place where the sand, sea, flora, and fauna are a constant presence and an endless source of interest. A few venues around the island take this a step further by allowing my little ones to get in touch with Maui’s wildlife (Kula’s Surfing Goat Dairy, for one) but Maui Tropical Plantation proved to be one of my kids’ favorite attractions. The botanical oasis—furnished with two zip lines, an on-site restaurant, shopping, tram tours through their organic farm, and more—features a lagoon brimming with ducks my children can feed while we get restored with a cup of joe from the plantation’s Mill House Roasting Café.
Economical (we can buy food for the ducks for $2), super convenient (Maui Tropical Plantation is centrally located), and undeniably pretty, this day trip turned out to be an excellent way to get my kids away from their electronic devices and reacquainted with nature. End it all with a cone of Coconut Pineapple ice cream—or a bowl of Sandy Beach gelato—at the plantation’s ice cream stand, The Scoop. It’s a must-do on Maui with kids!
3. Celebrate Culture
Great for all ages, though going with a fussy baby is not a great idea
Watching a performance on Maui with kids is always such an enlivening experience. That infectious enthusiasm, those unrelenting grins, that ability to be swept away…..seeing the world through my child’s eye, if only for a night, reminds me of the magic of life.
Such is the case when I book seats at the Royal Lahaina Luau: Myths of Maui. Presented by the Royal Lahaina Resort on the uber-glorious Ka’anapali Beach, this celebration of Hawaiian culture is sure to please even the teeniest member of our ‘ohana. My children were tickled from start to end, what with the aloha shell greeting, imu ceremony (where they watched a roasted pig unearthed from the ground), Samoan fire dance, and the island’s only keiki-friendly buffet (a huge boon for picky eaters like mine, who only want to dine on familiar, tasty food).
This is the longest-running Polynesian show on the island for a reason: It’s timeless, great fun, and rich in local flavor. It’s a great location not far from the heart of Lahaina, and many go shopping on Front Street and visit the Banyan Tree beforehand. If you get there early enough, you can go for a snorkel at Black Rock or take a drive up to Kapalua.
If you’re on the south side, The Grand Wailea Luau is incredible!
4. Sail Away
Keep in mind, this charter has a beach entry, so for those with disabilities or the very elderly should consider staying on shore.
Riding on a boat—particularly as the sun descends beyond the horizon—was one of the highlights for our whole family. Charters abound across the island, but we went for the long-running, South Side-based Kai Kanani. Whale watching and snorkeling boat by day, the 65-foot catamaran goes luxe come night with its Adventure Sunset Sail. It launches from Maluaka Beach, a cove in Makena that features bathwater-warm, tranquil waters that were easy for my children to navigate. Then it heads across the channel. This is one of our top three favorite Maui beaches.
Along the way, we heard the melodies of Maui musician Brother Dwight, dined on an extensive menu of baked, three-cheese pasta, grilled ribeye, fresh salads, and scrumptious desserts, and laughed until our faces hurt. The Captain was especially cool—so cool, in fact, that he let my son steer the boat for a while, and brought out a pirate costume for another child. We also counted our lucky stars when we passed by a school of spinner dolphins.
If you come between December and May, you may also see surface behavior from humpback whales. February is the money month for these incredible creatures!
5. Drive to a Real-Life Jurassic Park
Great for all ages
My kids have been a fan of dinosaurs since they were in diapers, so imagine their awe and surprise when we took the kids past the set of Jurassic Park (or, at least, where the opening sequence of the film was shot). The location, the ever-enchanting Garden of Eden, was just one of many heart-stopping spots on the Road to Hana, a striking, serpentine route (as in more than 600 curves and too many waterfalls to count) to the eastern coast of the island.
For our second trip along the Road to Hana, rather than heading out solo as a family, we decided to book a tour with Valley Isle Excursions, a company I was drawn to because they’ve been serving the island for over twenty years (and their reviews are terrific). The 12-passenger custom cruiser was super comfy. Its extra-large windows and elevated seats (which helped my kids see over the guardrails) allowed us to take in as much of Hana’s beauty as possible. My husband and I also loved the additional leg room.
They serve a light continental breakfast as well as a picnic lunch—and with our eating, driving, and sightseeing taken care of, all we had to do was enjoy ourselves. Mom to mom: It’s worth every penny. They also offer trips out to Iao Valley and Haleakala.
6. Snorkel with Turtles
More fun for all ages
We’ve taken our kids when they were two and five, and it was great. The two year old used floaties without snorkel gear, and our five year old began learning how to snorkel while we took turns doing our own adventures around the coral reefs.
Hawaiian green sea turtles are the stuff of legends in the islands—chosen by some as their ‘aumakua (the spirit of a deceased loved one, which often manifests as an animal) and featured on everything from bumper stickers to t-shirts. I wanted to give my children the chance to see them, and chose to do so with Redline Rafting.
There’s much to love about this lively company. They’re based in Kihei, which is where we spent the first half of our vacation. Getting to the boat was a breeze. Their 35-foot customized rafts make for an intimate experience (and everyone else on the boat was wonderfully friendly), the staff is super fun and knowledgeable, and they took us to the hubbub of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles—a snorkeling spot in Makena aptly known as Turtle Town.
Here, we learned a number of things about honu, as they’re called in Hawaiian. Who knew these creatures can live up to eighty years? We were also given lessons about how to interact with them safely and respectfully. No feeding or touching, just admiring—which we could have done for days. It’s worth looking into their Molokini snorkeling tours for extra adventure.
7. Dive In (Without Getting Wet!)
Great for all ages
One of my fondest memories of Maui is snorkeling with my son at Ahihi-Kinau. The waters are shallow and brimming with protected sea life and vibrant corals. But snorkeling around Maui with kids can be challenging (if not unrealistic), particularly if they’re young or new to the water. Our solution? Maui Ocean Center.
Situated centrally in Maalaea—rendering it a reasonable drive from nearly all points on Maui—The Aquarium of Hawai’i features a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit (complete with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel that’s perfect for kids to meander through), twenty daily presentations, outdoor tide pools, the chance to talk story with naturalists, a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle sanctuary—and that’s just my getting started.
Their exhibits are topnotch. Their newest, Humpbacks of Hawaii Exhibit & Sphere, was especially a hit with my daughter and son. Available through the Aquarium PLUS package, the Sphere marries technology and marine observation in an unprecedented way, allowing my kids and I to get up close and personal with the beautiful behemoths that migrate to Maui annually. (And what child won’t love donning a pair of 3D active glasses to see the 4k imagery?)
Meanwhile, Maui Ocean Center’s collection of all things spiny and mysterious, from five species of sharks to numerous sting rays, kept my children riveted—no snorkeling mask required.
8. Play Ball
Great for all ages
Skee-Ball, that is: After one too many days in the sun—and the need to do some souvenir shopping—we trekked to Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. As Maui’s largest mall, it boasts a number of unique stores, from Blue Ginger (which has adorable dresses) to Ho’omana, a Polynesian boutique where I picked up a Maui-designed tunic for my sister. Yes, you’ll also find some shops you’d expect on the mainland, but we’re also blessed with some unique designers and entrepreneurs that mainly sell their products in Hawaii.
After rescuing our daughter from Claire’s, we had a casual lunch at Maui Tacos Mexican Surf Grill (their Baja Fish Bowl was superb, while their keiki menu features everything from chicken nuggets to crispy tacos) before heading into Fun Factory. This must-do destination for anyone on Maui with kids has been around since 1977. It is jam-packed with all sorts of fun for kids, from Space Invaders and basketball to that maddening giant claw machine (my daughter, surprisingly, scored a stuffed bear). My husband also had a blast playing the digitized games he’d loved as a child. We ended our indoor day with an afternoon showing of Captain Marvel at the mall’s on-site theater.
9. Witness a Phenomenal Sunrise
Great for all ages
Convincing kids to rise before dawn is no easy feat—unless, that is, we put a sense of adventure in it. So that’s what we did. We discussed several of Haleakala’s features the night before, from the fact that it’s one of the most massive shield volcanoes in the world to the belief that it was dubbed “House of the Sun” because Maui the demigod trapped the sun to extend the day for his mom. (No hidden agenda or anything.)
After bundling up, we were picked up by the fine folks at Haleakala EcoTours , an outfit that prides itself on their forward-thinking ethos. On the drive, the NAI Certified Guides provided our children—and the group as a whole—with even more fascinating information about Haleakala. They’re some of the only folks in Hawaii providing these certified guides as well as creating programs to train the most akamai guides. Additionally, they’re one of only four tour companies permitted to enter Haleakala National Park. We then disembarked to see the most astonishing sunrise we will likely experience in this lifetime.
After the spectacle, we took some time exploring the park, peering into the immense, seven-mile-wide crater, inspecting the strange but lovely silversword (a plant that grows nowhere else on the planet), and watching Hawaii’s state bird, the nene goose, totter by. Both kids couldn’t stop talking about the experience for months.
10. Soar through the Sky
Age 10+, 80-260 Pounds
While several of our children’s friends have raved about zip lining in places both exotic and nearby, I’ve never had the guts to do it. Which is a shame, in retrospect—I’m convinced I had more fun than my kids and husband did! We ultimately went with Skyline Ka’anapali, in part because it was voted the #1 zip line experience by readers of Hawai’i Magazine.
Given that it was our first time rocketing through the air, we selected their 8-line course. Unspoiled land, miles and miles of the seemingly-endless Pacific, beach after beach – it was, in a word, amazing. Besides the spectacular views (and the exhilaration of zipping), we also loved bouncing from place to place along the western coastline; each spot, from Panaewa to Olowalu, has a captivating backstory. The staff was accommodating and caring too, easing our pre-zipping jitters and making us laugh continuously. (There’s some walking involved, and while cold water is provided at every station, be sure to eat well and hydrate before going.)
Two weeks after we returned home, my son turned to me and said, “Can we do the 11-line course next time?” But of course, I told him. We were already planning our return to the island.
11. Trek through a Jungle
Great for all ages
Many are under the impression that the majority of Maui’s beauty rests along its picture-perfect coastline. The beach is as stunning as the photos suggest, to be sure. But we were just as thrilled with the landscape when we traveled upcountry.
On our way to Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, we stopped at the Makawao Forest Reserve. This hidden gem, comprised of 2,093 acres, is akin to stepping into a fairy tale. The fragrant eucalyptus, the towering trees, the peaceful ravine, the flowering ginger, the singing birds – it was precisely what we needed to unplug.
The Kahakapao Loop Trail turned out to be just right for our family – long enough to absorb nature and get a good workout, but not so long that the kids got tired or lost interest. Rumor has it the trail is slick and risky after rains. Be sure to pack appropriate shoes for your children.
More Tips For Visiting Hawaii with Kids
TravelingMom Tips: A Hawaiian Glossary
Akamai – Bright, knowledgeable
Imu – Earth oven used to slow cook meats such as Kalua Pork
Keiki – Children
‘Ohana – Family, or detached second home for in-laws
Talk Story – Friendly chatting
Natalie is the mother of rascals on the beautiful island of Maui. Her main profession is shooting photography at weddings and engagements around the Hawaiian Islands. She also contributes her photos and writing to MauiGuide.com. She feels there’s no shortage of exploratory opportunities in her own backyard. And she loves sharing the day to day on the Valley Isle and beyond!