We started to come to Maui three years ago and haven’t hesitated since. We are certainly not experts on the island but are happy to share some of our favourite things and stuff we have found useful or helpful!
I should first say the recommendations I make are based on the fact that we are traveling with three little kids (Ages 1,3 and 4). There are so many things we wish we could do just the two of us, or that we have on a bucket list for next year when the kids are a little older. That being said our recommendations are for families with little kids!
I have so much more to share about Maui but will start with where we stay and why, some activities we like (or wouldn’t rush back to do) and of course where to eat.
I have only ever stayed in Kihei and Kapalua but I definitely prefer Kihei for weather, beaches and overall proximity to attractions. That being said I have yet to find an area of Maui I don’t love and wouldn’t want to try and stay.
Reasons we love KIHEI
- Central for us to be able to do fun driving day trips all around the island
- Close proximity to kid friendly beaches and a great park
- See whales and turtles regularly just at the beach in front of our condo
- Walkability to restaurants and shops
- Price, as Kihei tends to be cheaper than most other areas on the island
I do have a little wish list of places I would like to stay though and it includes a couple of nights in Hana. They have a few hotel/condos and then lots of VRBO’s and I think staying there allows you to explore a bit better than a one day adventure.
I also LOVE the mountains of Maui and would love to rent a house in one of the mountain towns (Kula or Makawao are two I would love). I can only imagine the views from some of these places but would do it for only part of our holidays knowing it is a bit of the ways from the beach.
Pa’ia has my heart and I think a night or two over there would give time to try out some of the great restaurants and get in some good shopping. It is small and not much to offer for family friendly beach or resort type accommodations but I love the vibe.
We stay at Kamaole Sands in Kihei and we love it. It has sentimental value to me because my Aunt and Uncle came her for many years and so it always makes me think of them. Although it is an older complex (1983) I find the exterior and amenities very well cared for. We love the fact that the pool area has a Keiki Pool that is 2 feet deep. Fraser loves the Weber BBQ’s and how well maintained they are. We also find the courtyard and gardens really pretty and love the large layout of the two bedroom units. Our first year we stayed in a one bedroom and it was also well laid out.
We do not have much to compare to as we haven’t tried staying anywhere else in Kihei, I do think there are pros and cons to all the different complex’s and once you are in Hawaii you cannot go wrong with any of them, you are in Hawaii and regardless of where you stay the beach is the beach and thats what you come for!
Like many complexes the condos are all different inside and some have major renovations and come with lots of extras (coolers, strollers, cribs, sand toys, beach chairs, boogie boards, etc). It is nice to find a condo with “extras” because it saves you from renting or buying these items.
***BUDGETING Recommendation Try to avoid booking through Airbnb or VRBO and find an owner direct rental. It saves the owner money and fees and means they can offer you a better rate. They often offer discounts if you stay a month or longer. Book as far in advance as you can (minimum a year) to save, the longer you leave it the higher the rates.
If you are travelling with kids you may want car seats, a wagon, stroller, toys, high chair… the list is endless and so are the rental possibilities. I do recommend renting for a short trip as it is convenient and makes for a more enjoyable airport experience when you do not have to pack so much stuff.
For pricing and more info check out Maui Baby Rentals. We have used them and were very happy.
However, for us when we come for a month the cost of the rentals adds up quickly. So, we bring all of our car seats. The kids actually sit on them inside the airplane and this is something we have found makes for a much better flight. Once they are buckled in they stay in and it is just easier. Car seats should be mentioned at check in and they must have a special sticker on them. We have also found they will let you load first on the plane so you can install and set up easily.
***Check with your airline to make sure your make and brand can fit (we travel with Diono and they are slim and fit well).
Strollers are easy as well, you can take them all the way to the gate. When you arrive they are often already unloaded when you get off the plane (especially if you are loading up car seats and getting organized inside the plane), we are often the last to get out. Sometimes it takes a bit to wait for strollers but just don’t go all the way to the baggage without the strollers or you will have to do a bit of work to locate them! We know because we have done it.
Family Favourite spot to go. This could be a day trip or just a stop on your way home from somewhere else. We never miss an opportunity to stop here. There are always so many turtles to see which is super cool, on a good day lots of surfers which is fun to watch, plus the fruit stand is great here (bananas, fresh coconut and locally grown tropical fruit). Plus often there are little trinket shops set up and smoothie truck (Very good!!!).
Fun place to shop, variety of stores! Love that this shopping centre is on the beach and is a nice place to see Ka’anapali if you aren’t staying there. Probably not something we need to do every year. Great kids shop, has toys but also really nice kids clothes (carries some brands like Splendid kids that aren’t found everywhere). Cinnamon Girl is also a great shop for little girl dresses (and you can even get Mom a matching one). There are a couple of restaurants along the beach here too, we haven’t eaten at them before but they are chain style and look to be a good spot to eat.
North Loop Coastline
We drove from Kahului around to Lahaina and it was beautiful. Definitely windy and lots of single lane or tiny roads, so you need a good driver that day. We loved it! Stopped and got Julia’s Banana Bread and Guava lemonade. Best banana bread we have had on island and yet to find anything that compares to it. Definitely take time to stop and explore a little on the drive. Kids loved climbing on rocks and looking over at the blowhole. Plus when you make the turn towards Kapalua side of the island it is really neat to see Molokini so close to Maui. Great drive and lots to see, plus it isn’t nearly as long of a commitment as the Road to Hana. So, you can still make it back to the beach in the afternoon.
Friday Block Parties
Every Friday Maui has rotating block parties in different towns. We did the Kihei party last year and loved it. SO many food trucks, food smelt so good, lots of fun and cheap activities for the kids including bouncy castles and water activities, plus local vendors to shop at. This year Fraser took the girls down expecting the same thing but rain had vendors shut down and closing up so they didn’t get to do much. We attempted the following Friday in Wailuku and I am sad to say we got there only to find out it had been canceled that Friday. It is really too bad because Wailuku looked like such a great party! I definitely want to check out Wailuku towns Main Street as they seemed to have some great shops along there. We might go to tomorrows Chinese New Year inspired Friday Block Party in Lahaina, I think its gonna be great.
Iao Valley & the Needle
Highly recommend checking out the mystical Iao Valley, it may be rainier here but it just adds to the beauty. I love how Maui has so many microclimates. When you drive up to the needle it is $5 to park and then you can take the 133 steps to the lookout and it is beautiful. Definitely an easy trail, all of our kids could do the stairs and it was a fun adventure without much effort.
I would probably suggest skipping the Flea Market, in my opinion it is extremely hot and not a lot of shelter for stuff you can find at many stands through out the island. Plus depending on where you stay in Maui it is a bit of a drive into Kahului and it is only on the weekend so you are missing out on possibly another fun weekend activity. Not something I would rush back to do.
LOVE LOVE LOVE Pa’ia town. This hippie hipster surfer town is everything I want and love. The shops here are my favourite the vibe is so laid back and great and tons of options for yummy food. Leave the hubs and kids at home and bring the cash and cards…
Captain Woody’s Charter Tours
Highly recommend having Captain Woody talk you and the family out. This tour maxes out at 6 guest and comes with your own Captain who felt more like a friend and one crew member. What we loved is this was completely tailored to what we wanted to do and see. You let him know what you want. We were able to shorten the day (which was only because we didn’t know how the kids would do out on the boat). 2.5 hours was perfect for our kids but defiantly not long enough. We saw pods of whales so close it I was so cool but he is also able to take you fishing, snorkelling, to swim with turtles or really whatever you desire. Loved Woody and loved the boat and loved the tour. Would definitely do again.
Spa at The Grande
LOVE. So again the Grand Wailea is one of my favourite spots. I just love it an the spa is no exception. The amenities are so nice and relaxing you could stay all day. The baths are included with any service and I do recommend a scrub, Vichy shower and massage. My whole treatment was incredible and smelt so good. Plus vacationing is tough and so is laying on beaches and sleeping in hotel beds, everyone NEEDS a massage on vacation. This truly is a must. The spa itself isn’t modern or much to look at in terms of appearance but the treatments leave you feeling like a queen. This is a MUST do! Don’t look at the bill, just go for it and while you are at it treat yourself to something from their spa gift shop:)
So we have done the crater twice now and thank goodness Fraser told me to try it a second time. The first time we went up it was very cold and dreary day and you couldn’t see a thing! The next time we went up temperature wasn’t nearly as cool (plus we dressed warm, think top of a mountain) and it was clear all the way to the big Island. No kidding you could look out and see the Big Island, a local pointed Kona out to us. The view and trail from Leleiwi Lookout was as cool as the summit so make sure you stop! This was a great trail for our kids to get out and stretch their legs plus you literally felt like you were walking on and above the clouds. Our next time we do the crater we want to try it at night and see the stars! Fraser did this on a motorcycle and loved the ride. Just make sure you dress warm and bring gloves.
Road to Hana
It took us three years to decide to do the Road with the kids and it was perfect. We packed the night before and left early (7:30am). We also had been watching the weather, and waited for a day when it had been nice the day before as well, we picked perfectly.
We had just past Jaws beach (which is the very beginning of the road, not even at the first waterfall yet) and Grace got car sick. We were prepared with lots of wipes, garbage bags and changes of clothes. Good thing Grace is a puke and rally kinda girl because our first stop was just a pullout on the side of the road that lead us into the bamboo forest.
It was so muddy and we think it lead to a waterfall but got too tough to take all the kids down and we turned back. It was very dark in the bamboo forest and for us best done barefoot but so cool! The pathways were narrow, slippery and some were a bit of an incline.
We had done a lot of reading and used our Maui Revealed Book for ideas. I would suggest marking out some of the stops ahead of time where you want to go, I am really glad we did that as the road doesn’t have tons of places to pull over or turn around it. We still left room to be spontaneous and stop at stuff that came up but it also meant we didn’t miss things we wanted to see.
We stopped at The Garden of Eden and it was beautiful with lots of good lookouts and views and was easy for the kids. I would definitely say we altered our stops and what we did because of the kids. They weren’t great for a long or difficult walk but they loved getting in and out of the car and really wanted to swim at a lot of the stops which was unexpected and great. They even all attempted to swim at the waterfall which was awesome.
We did the full circle for driving around Hana and I am so glad we did. The unpaved Road was narrow and bumpy but nothing our old “07 Hyundai mini van couldn’t handle. Only once did we find a stop we couldn’t make because it required 4X4 and just for fun I would love to rent a Jeep and do the road again. I would also suggest spending the night or a couple of nights in Hana to be able to enjoy and explore a bit more.
I loved the road home from Hana as much as the road to Hana and like all Maui this area did not disappoint. It was so diverse and so beautiful. It made for a long day (home around 6pm) but so worth it! I think everyone liked our Trip to Hana.
Our own “Baby Beach”
So we have a little beach we call Baby Beach but it is just north of the official Baby Beach near Pa’ia.
Friends of ours took us here last year and we have recommended it to others who love it as much as we do. You can often see turtles on the beach or swimming but don’t expect to see many tourists and don’t go on a weekend because it is full of locals.
The beach itself is more coarse than the beaches in Kihei but it has a reef protecting the little pool from all the big waves and is the perfect spot to snorkel or let the kids play and swim. We love it.
Turn left on Stable just after the airport, you may see a sign saying “Farm Market” keep going and stay to the left. You will drive along a dirt road that has the airport directly on the left side. Turn right down one of the dirt roads (pick one), there are a few with yellow gates that get locked and may have a sign posting park hours. It is not fancy or well marked but it is private and perfect.
This is an area I don’t have much to say because we don’t take the kids out much. That being said we do do take out and this year we have attempted a few more restaurant visits than normal and they have gone pretty good. Here are some of our spots:)
BEACH STREET MAUI SHAVE ICE. It’s a walk up spot in Rainbow Mall just offering hot and cold breakfasts, açai bowls and some breakfast sandwiches as well as shaved ice. I love the Paniolo Açai Bowl and the kids love the Hawaii Rainbow Shave Ice and not just because it is so colourful but because when you get to the bottom there are gummy bears!
CINNAMON ROLL PLACE. These guys are open early and are always serving up warm and gooey cinnamon buns. They had me sold when I found out they make them all without raisins which I hate in cinnamon buns and I love all the “extra” toppings. You put on your own icing and I always add Mac Nuts.
KIHEI CAFE. This place is really good and extremely busy. We love that one of us can go and order while the other one takes the kids to the park across the street to play. Then we eat at the park! Everything from the fresh squeezed juice to the delicious Banana Mac Nut Pancakes are amazing. Great family friendly meal out!
Still to try… BELLE SURF CAFE, SIP ME
808 DELI. Great selection of made to order hot and cold sandwiches as well as salads! So close to the beach its easy to grab and take down with you or pick up on your way back to your room. Don’t have a favourite because I always want to try something new.
FORK & SALAD. This is a favourite spot of mine, they now have two locations one in Aztec Mall in Kihei and one right by Target and Starbucks in Kahului. Everything is sourced as local as they can, they have a large selection of salad suggestions but you can also make your own and their salad bar options are limitless! Bonus you always feel good after eating here. We do this one for our first meal in Maui because we always know it will be good and is fast and easy!
PA’IA FLATBREAD COMPANY AMAZING! When we were here they mentioned they have a location and Whistler and we would go just to eat there. The unusual topping combinations sound odd but taste incredible. Crust is not too thick and is great! Plus if you cant make up your mind you can do half and half. Family friendly too! A must do when in Pa’ia.
MONKEY POD Food is amazing, Happy Hour is extremely Happy! Kid friendly (ours loved their Lava Flow drinks and of course hand cut truffle fries!) and lots of seating, first come first serve for the patio and you will definitely want to make reso’s or be prepared to wait a while! The pizza here was so good, but I am guessing there wasn’t a bad option on the menu. Super cheap especially for Hawaii if you hit them up during Happy Hour.
FOOD TRUCKS at Kihei Station. If you want someplace easy and fast with a variety of options try the Food Trucks at Kihei Station behind Aztec Mall. We had fish and chips and fish tacos. Kids liked the fish and chips (a little on the greasy side), and we loved the fish tacos. We also tried the Thai place and it was good and fresh. This may not be the best of what Maui has to offer but is convenient and easy. Lots of seating and really fast for dining with cranky or busy kids.
BAILEYS CAFE- local Gourmet Food Truck in Haiku. INCREDIBLE. We had a mixed plate with locally grass fed steak, lemon butter prawns, green salad and of course Mac salad. Plus the kids got their fried rice. I am still dreaming of this amazing food, I think my favourite food truck in Maui! So fresh and so delicious.
OUTRIGGER PIZZA I guess we got a thing for pizza. This one is really good plus super cool how they run it out of a parking lot in a tiny food truck pizza oven. Even better if you want delivery you can use Hopper and have it brought to you. I personally think this pizza is best eaten fresh.
BRICK OVEN PIZZA Entirely Gluten Free restaurant which is pretty unique. Was good, but since we don’t have to eat GF and there are so many GREAT pizza places we might try somewhere else first. Kids loved the bread sticks and I loved the chocolate lava cake.
MERRIMANS Hands down best restaurant. Location and setting is incredible and the food is just as good! Love it here wish it wasn’t so far from Kihei. IF you are staying in the Ka’anapali/ Napili/ Kapalua area you must go here.
FLEETWOODS Well they had us sold with the name and suggestion that we could see Mick the owner possibly playing. The night we went we had reso’s for rooftop dining and sunset ceremony but it was raining. Didn’t matter a spot beside the stage meant wonderful live music, a really beautiful sunset ceremony with traditional Hawaiian traditions and a bagpiper and delicious food. Beautiful restaurant. Something for everyone. Maybe next year we can find a sitter and go hear Mick play!
HUMUHUMU Amazing. Like everything Grand it was just that. I love being at the Grand Wailea and HumuHumu restaurant is no exception. The setting is stunning, we were there after sunset so you couldn’t see around but it is a Polynesian inspired thatched roof series of huts with cool larger party dining areas. The seats were so comfy Rowen fell asleep in them and they cater to families. Dining out is expensive in Maui, this restaurant was considered on the pricer end, we would disagree. First, you get what you pay for but second kids eat for free and the kids meals were delicious. The steak, veggies and rice would have been a great adult meal and the chicken strips and fries pleased everyone. Our service was top notch and she was incredible at making sure the kids were happy, fast food, stuffed animals for each kid and ice cream too! I had the catch of the day and it was great, Fraser had the Wagyu Beef and it was good, portions were huge neither one of us could finish and we didn’t even have room to order dessert.