Inside: How the Busy Toddler family did Maui with Kids in May 2022.
Welcome, friends, to my little guide to Maui with kids. We took our 9-, 7-, and 5-year-old for a week-long vacation to Maui and it was fantastic.
It’s Hawaii… how could it not be?
I’ve learned on vacation with kids is that I don’t do great without a plan. I need to have an idea of what we are doing each day, even if I come up with those ideas just the night before.
For me, there’s nothing worse than being on vacation with hungry children staring at you while you try to figure out where/how to eat when it’s already lunch time. I’m not saying you need to have a military-esque schedule of events, be beholden to the clock, or running like a factory system on vacation… but when you have kids with you, having a plan of attack can be the difference between melting down and effortless fun.
More memories get made with a little extra planning.
Here’s my absolute top tip for Maui with kids:
Be prepared beforehand – and that goes for both parents AND kids. Orient yourselves with the island, read travel blogs, talk to friends, scroll hashtags on Instagram: do your homework before you go.
Make lists, take notes, and start understanding driving times, locations, and all the best places on the island.
Get the kids ready to go too.
Instead of the vacation being a surprise event, let kids learn about the location beforehand. Here are some things we did to prepare for our trip to Hawaii:
- Watched YouTube videos as a family
- Checked out Hawaii books from the library
- Talked to friends/family who had visited
- Looked at Hawaii maps together
- Did a deep dive into Polynesian culture and the settling of Hawaii to have context for things we would see/experience
One of my favorite travel bloggers and a must follow is Preethi from Local Passport Family. Preethi emphasizes teaching children about the culture and land of those indigenous to your travel location. We took this to heart, which led to our deep dive on Hawaii.
Why take all these extra steps before a trip?
Surprises and the unknown are scary for kids. They like what is known, they like what is comfortable, they like what they have context for.
Studying and learning about Hawaii beforehand meant my kids were looking for state birds, flowers, and fish. They had ideas of the food they’d see and eat, and knew beaches/adventures/tourist destinations they wanted or hoped to see.
This is one of my best tips for all vacations, new adventures, shows, movies, anything: Kids will get more out of the experience when they aren’t starting from zero on their knowledge of it.
RELATED: See how we got our kids ready for Disneyland – and made that trip so wonderful!
Let’s get to our travels: How we did Maui with kids (the Busy Toddler edition)
I’ll break down each category of travel, what went well, what we’d change, how things worked, etc., etc. I sincerely hope this gives you a great jumping off point for your Maui vacation, and gives you ideas for your family.
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Airport and air travel tips
Bring a wagon:
My kids are out of stroller age, but families need a lot of gear especially when each day of vacation involves hauling beach gear to and from a car. Pack your collapsible wagon.
Some airlines let you gate check your wagon just like a stroller. Some airlines make you check it like luggage. Contact your airline before hand so you are prepared. Even if you can’t use the wagon through the airport, having it for the beach is an absolute must.
Our vacation days were made 1000x easier because we brought The Wagon.
Best Kid Suitcases and Packing:
We are in love with these rolling suitcases, and so glad we bought them (our kids are 5, 7, 9). This was our first air travel vacation with these and we’re really happy with them.
Inside the luggage, we used the packing cube system – again 10/10 for making travel with kids easier. We use these on every vacation, from grandma’s house to Disneyland.
Travel car seats:
Our kids are older so we used these collapsible, travel booster seats. It was cheaper for us to buy these and pack them, then rent from the car agency (and renting car seats isn’t something Child Passenger Safety Technicians like Safe in the Seat recommend).
RELATED: Need help with travel and car seats? Check out this post from Safe in the Seat.
We stayed in a condo at Honua Kai – a fantastic resort in Kaanapali. We booked through VRBO (check on AirBNB too). Each unit has a full kitchen so eating breakfast in, making lunches, and grilling up simple dinners is a snap.
Honua Kai has multiple pools, a water slide, restaurant, general store, beach access, and an easy central location to west Maui tourist stops. We will never stay anywhere else on Maui.
It was ideal, epic, everything we were ever looking for in a Maui condo. Rates for Honua Kai vary based on units and time of year – the more flexible you can be, the better (we got a screaming deal going the second week of May).
Best Beaches for Kids
Here’s a list of the best beaches we visited with our kids, and a few notes about each. These are ones you’ll want to check out.
- Baby Beach: A reef protects this beach making is calm and gentle for kids to play. There’s also decent snorkeling here.
- Kapalua Bay: Large beach that’s great for snorkeling and kid play. No strong breaks or currents here.
- Napili Beach: If you have snorkelers, this beach is a must have. The drop off at the edge of the sand makes it a little harder for small swimmers, but the beach play at the immediate shore is fantastic.
Snorkeling? Read these tips:
Snorkel Bob is the best place for rentals, but there one extra rental that’s not to be missed with kids: the clear bottom boogey board (called the Looky board)
If you have kids who aren’t snorkel age yet but want to see the fish, rent a clear bottom boogey board to tow them out with you (you don’t even need to snorkel to tow them – just swimming near the reefs is enough).
Water safety is NO JOKE especially when snorkeling with kids. Having a good snorkel life vest for yourself is the right thing to do. My husband had this one (and kid sized versions for our big kid snorkelers).
Our favorite restaurants on Maui with Kids
- Slappy Cakes: Tables have a griddle in the middle for “make your own” pancakes as one menu option. The kids loved this. I loved the Dragon Fruit Chia Bowl and my husband still can’t stop talking about the Banana Bread French Toast.
- Cheeseburger in Paradise: Touristy? Yes. Delicious? Also yes. The location in Lahaina is perfect.
- Burger Shack: Burgers, hot dogs, and shakes all outdoors on a cliff overlooking the ocean. This isn’t a cheap lunch (yikes) but it was a great memory spot for us.
- Belle Surf Café: Bagels, smoothies, banana bread. It was simple and a hit.
- Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop: Best pies and best sandwiches you will ever have.
- Honoapiilini Food Trucks: This is walking distance from Honua Kai, and we went three times in our week. It was perfect for our family to run wild, not make a reservation, and let every one get a little of everything.
- T’s Island Café: This coffee truck is in the Hoanoapiilini Food Truck parking lot and open from 6 am to 11 am. It was life. Croissant sticks, bagels, banana bread, and the most amazing papaya granola bowl of my life. Take me back. This made for an easy breakfast on our way out each day.
Best attractions on Maui for kids/families
Without kids, I’m inclined to just stay at the beach or pool all day while I’m in Hawaii. With kids, we opted for a few adventures so they could have some amazing experiences and memories.
This was a truly magical and lovely aquarium. This especially pairs well with books you read at home before the trip on the ocean life of Hawaii.
Also: the 15-minute 3D movie in the aquarium’s Sphere on humpback whales was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.
This is a 45-minute up close and personal experience on butterflies and their life cycle. If your child has any background knowledge on butterflies (from preschool, elementary school, or a home butterfly kit), this was excellent.
Reservations are required.
It isn’t a cheap experience, especially given that it’s “only” 45 minutes, but we viewed it as a donation to saving the endangered butterflies on Hawaii (they really are endangered!).
It’s been a month since our visit, and my kids keeping talking about everything they learned at the butterfly farm.
Mini golf, bumper boats, and rock climbing isn’t something our kids get to experience in our hometown/state. When my kids saw this fun park from the highway on our first day, it went to the top of their list.
We did this the same day as the aquarium (they’re almost next door to each other) and everyone had a blast.
I’ve been to a few Luaus in my life and they’re always such a disappointment. Even still, I figured for our first trip, we should take the kids to one… and IT WAS INCREDIBLE. I would totally do it again.
The style, service, food, and atmosphere: it was all spectacular.
The show also aligned with the learning we’d done of Polynesian culture and the settling then colonizing of Hawaii. It was very well done.
Other Places to Visit
Here’s some of the other spots we visited on Maui:
- Nakalele Blowhole: This was REALLY cool. It was also super cold in the morning, a pretty long drive from our condo, and we hadn’t dressed the kids right at all. Learn from our mistakes.
- Lahaina Banyan Court: The largest banyan tree in the United States is located here and it is really something to see. Definitely make sure this is part of your visit.
What else would you add? Comment below.
What other Maui stops are tops on your list? Add them to the comments since we definitely didn’t do everything (there’s still so much on our list for next trip) and I’d love to make this as comprehensive a list as possible for others preparing for their trips.
Share other family friendly spots below.