Beyond Tourist Maui – Exploring the island with (or without) kids

In my last post, I talked about the beautiful Kaanapali Beach and how I can spend weeks there without entering a car – how it’s a great vacation spot for families (or couples), and a true relaxing Hawaiian experience.  However, it’s definitely a ‘tourist’ destination – and if you’re looking to travel and explore, there is lots to do on Maui!

The icon of the island is the volcano Mt. Haleakala, which is a dormant shield volcanic crater that is a sight to see (the science teacher in me is coming out 😉 ).  A windy road leads to the top of the crater and the Volcanic National Park, where there is a visitor’s center and plenty of great photo opportunities.  If you’re adventurous, you can visit the crater at sunrise (it’s an early drive from Kaanapali or elsewhere on the island!) , or even bike down the volcano for a thrill!  Mr. CT  stretched himself this trip and backpacked up to the top from sea level with our brother-in-law. He got some amazing photos! We look forward to taking our kids in just a couple of years to explore the wonder of this spot and study the science as well!


The magnificent crater of Haleakala


Lava rock on a hike! 


Amazing hike views on the way up to the crater


Happy backpackers 

Another highlight of Maui is the Road to Hana.  This windy, 2.5 hour drive is all about the journey, and less so the destination. You can stop many times at the mile markers for scenic photos, waterfalls, food stands, and more on this famous scenic drive. That being said, we once spent 9 days out in Hana at a rental home of friends, and it’s on the top of our list for best travel stays ever.  You get to enjoy the quaint town without the daily influx of tourists, and it’s a very close-knit community. We loved playing on the black sand beach with quiet waves, and visiting the scenic Hamoa Beach and more rustic red sand beach as well.  The locals often put up EZ Ups for impromptu plate lunch sales that are amazing!  If you go to the local Travaasa Hotel, you will see many locals of the community and not just your typical Maui tourist. For the more adventuresome, Hana Lava Tube is a great attraction (flashlights required) to experience some Earth History at it’s finest (and darkest).  We also journeyed beyond Hana for a tremendous hike from the Seven Sacred Pools or Pools of ‘O’heo(which are sadly closed due to rockside risk at the time of this writing).  The bamboo forest and waterfalls are truly incredible.  Hana and the surrounding area is truly an authentic Hawaiian experience in Hana, and somewhere we hope to return to someday.


The majestic falls at the Seven Sacred Pools 


Black Sand Beach Bliss


The amazing Hamoa Beach 


Inside the depths of Hana Lava Tube 


Bamboo Forest on our hike


Waterfall reward! 


Dancing with the locals in Hana! 

On the way to Hana you can experience Paia, a small “hippie” town with funky shops, tattoo parlors, and incredible food including a local fresh Fish Market. We have stopped here for lunch on the way to the airport, and also used it as a stopping point to/from Hana.    Further down, the famous Mama’s Fish House is one of the best dinners we’ve had especially in the islands.  The fish is truly caught that day, and prepared in ways that even the most squeamish eater will enjoy – it’s a gorgeous setting too, very romantic (though again plenty have taken their kids and had a great time).  We’ve also visited a local plumeria farm in Wailuku in this general area, which was an awesome experience and a great place to learn about how to keep our own local plants happy and healthy here in Southern California.   If you’re up for a short hike, the Needle is a neat local spot and easy walk to see some of the more lush scenery in Maui.  We also like the Pukalani Superette for some great poke and other local Hawaiian cuisine, if you are willing to go beyond Costco and Target deals in Kahului on your way into town on the island. 🙂


The Famous Mama’s Fish House is worth a visit! 


Exploring a local Plumeria Farm 

Finally, let’s focus on the other beaches and Resort areas of Maui. Kapalua is just north of Kaanapali, and boasts some great condos, restaurants, shopping, and even the Ritz Carlton at the Northern part of the island, which is absolutely beautiful.  Lahaina, the hip town just south of Kaanapali, also has great shopping, dining, and the amazing Old Lahina Luau which is one of the best in the state!  We loved it!   Wailea is another Resort area down on the Southern part of the island, with famous hotels such as the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea, as well as a protected Resort community.  The local town here is Kihei, another small community with plenty of restaurants and shopping. Many Guests like to split their time between Kaanapali and the Wailea area.   Makena Beach is another famous hot spot, closer to the snorkeling mini-island of Mokolini where great tours are available!


Mokalini the Mini Island 


Old Lahaina Luau


Views from Wailea Hotel 

For the families, the Maui Ocean Center is a great spot on the way to the tourist destinations we never visited until we brought our kiddos.  It’s a beautiful aquarium with an audio tour and great information about the local marine wildlife, with awesome exhibits.  It’s very environmentally conscious and a great way to support the local community.  I would definitely recommend it for families, or even those without kids who like to learn more about the local marine life!


Exploring Maui Ocean Center With An Audio Tour 🙂 


Great Photo Opps for All! 



All of these places are ones you can visit with kids – or without!  Maui holds a special place in my heart and I would love to help you plan your stay when you are ready! Contact me today! 🙂  Much Aloha!  

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