Hey Laura, what are some family-friendly activities in Maui?

Michelle writes:

We are going to Hawaii in June - know of any family friendly must-do’s in Maui?

Well, Michelle, I dearly wish I was a true expert on anything about Maui. My first time to Maui (and the Islands in general) was last November. It was lovely and I can’t wait to visit again. I’ll link you to all the things we enjoyed, and hope that other readers can do the same in the comments!

We stayed just north of Lahaina, in Kaanapali, which is basically just a long string of beach resorts and condominium hotels. I’m not a resort-y kind of person and would probably try renting something through VRBO.com, if we go again. (Like, maybe this $220/night, 2 bed/2 bath cottage 200 feet from the beach in Lahaina. Or, if I managed to get away with only my husband, I’d totally rent this little Lahaina studio for only $99/night!)

Anyway, the condo we stayed in was very close to Whaler’s Village, a kind of touristy outdoor mall thingie, that (in addition to a lot of touristy shopping), has free activities every day - hula and lei making lessons, jazz concerts and various dance exhibitions.

The beaches in Kaanapali are very nice and not too crowded. They are public access, but because there are very few access points and the resort hotels and golf courses buffer them from the main road, there weren’t too many non-residents there. You can rent a cabana for around $40 a day, and just hang out on the beach all day. If you’re braver than I, you can pretend to be staying at the Westin and go play in their awesome Pirate Pool. Hee hee!

Hawaii is expensive. Not only do you have to pay wads of cash to get your family there, then you have to feed and house them. Most likely, all that your budget can afford is to play at the beach. Which is really why you came in the first place, right?!

But if you need to diversify your activities, here are some free things we did:

Our most visited destination was to visit the Pot-bellied Piglets at Dan’s Greenhouse - across from the Banyan Tree Park on Lahaina’s Front Street. They have a little fenced off area in the store where the piglets play, into which smaller members of your party can climb and cuddle with the pigs. You can buy a little cup of snacks to feed the piglets, or even a small bottle of milk. You can spend hours here with a kid; believe me, I know. There are also some beautiful parrots and neat bonsai, but really - it’s about the piglets. :)

There are free hula shows at the Cannery Mall in Lahaina. This is great for kids who don’t have the attention span or late bedtime to accommodate the expensive, grownup shows.

The Whaler’s Village Museum is free and a nice way to escape the heat of the day. (Across the way, check out the Totally Hawaiian Gift Gallery. I’m not a big souvenir type, but this shop had one of the most diverse and interesting selections of any of the shops I peeked into.)

Black Rock has the best snorkeling on this part of the island. We had people who’d been on the expensive boat snorkel tours say they preferred Black Rock. It’s very kid-friendly, and there are 4-5 sea turtles who swim right up to you as you’re putting your flippers on. Go early in the morning (just after dawn, if you can) before it gets too crowded.

Go get free cookie samples at the Honolulu Cookie Company. They don’t mind if you come in and taste every single cookie, every single time you walk by the store (I know this from experience, of course!). There’s a cookie shop on Front Street, Lahaina, as well as in Whaler’s Village.

Good Eats
This may be total heresy, but in the land of the ubiquitous shave ice, I really fell in love with Yogurtland (at Whaler’s Village). Think Pinkberry-style frozen yogurt, but with more flavors, and all self-serve. Yeah, basically heaven! Here’s my recipe for delight: Plain Tart yogurt, cheesecake bites, fresh kiwis, fresh raspberries, shaved coconut, and mochi! Mmmm…I miss Yogurtland.

If you must, Ululani’s Shave Ice, on Front Street in Lahaina, is the only place to have shave ice. They make their syrups from scratch (most are actually fruit purees). The quality really shows and the extra expense is worth the lack of artificial colors and flavors.

The Window, in Lahaina, serves great cheap food. I loved the fresh fish tacos and my 4 year old enjoyed the BBQ rice bowl.

Espresso Italiano has the only coffee in Lahaina worth drinking, according to my husband, the coffee snob. :)

The food court in the bottom level of Whaler’s Village actually has quite good, cheap (but not totally junky) food. I’d recommend it over any of the restaurants on the beach front. You’ll definitely get more for your money!

You might want to skip these, this time.
A visit to Haleakala Crater is supposed to be a must-do Maui experience, as is the Road to Hana, but since they both involve a lot of driving, I didn’t think they were kid-friendly enough for our family.

We coughed up the exorbitant entrance fees for the Maui Ocean Center, but I wouldn’t do it again. Unless you have a kid who is massively into undersea life, or you want to make this vacation an educational experience, you would do better to just spend the day at the beach!

Pricey but worth it
The Sugar Cane Train is ridiculously expensive, for what it is. But it’s also pretty fun, especially with a kid who loves trains. I actually had a blast peeking into the backyards of the Lahaina ghetto. Just get a one-way ticket and take the Lahaina city bus back to your car. Even if you don’t ride the train, there is a nice fresh fruit vendor at the Kaanapali station.

Massage at Zensations Spa gave us a great couples massage. It’s not only way cheaper than the beachfront spas, but also much higher rated on Yelp.

Hands down, the best part of our trip was riding the ziplines on the Ka’anapali Skyline Adventure. If you do nothing else, splurge on this!

Remember, Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com are your best friends. I always check reviews and ratings online before I make a time or money commitment - particularly on vacation when both those things are at a premium!

Have a fun trip!

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, what are some family-friendly activities in Maui?

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