7 Days of Family-Friendly Outdoor Adventure on Maui

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Advisor - Katie McAvoy
Curated By

Katie McAvoy

  • Domestic Travel

  • Hawai'i

  • Maui

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Family Travel

  • Local Culture

  • Hiking

  • Snorkeling

Body of water next to cliffs and green mountains during daytime
Curator’s statement

Maui is magic. There is so much natural wonder to explore, both above and below the water. Swim in waterfalls. Watch sunrise or sunset above the clouds. Snorkel in crystal clear water right off the beach. Play in the waves. Explore and swim in tide pools. Family adventure opportunities abound. At the same time, Maui has outstanding restaurants, shopping and resorts. You can enjoy active Maui days and then relax with a top notch dinner and sleep at a fantastic hotel. Create lasting family memories on Maui. This guide is geared toward a West Maui stay, but staying in South Maui/Wailea is also amazingly beautiful, and may actually be a better choice if your priorities are Haleakala and the road to Hana. But we LOVED Ka’anapali, so West Maui is the focus of this guide. You really cannot go wrong as Maui has a seemingly endless string of perfect beaches.

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Day 1: Arrive on Maui

Aerial view of body of water next to beach and palm trees during daytime

Arrive, get your rental car and head along the coast to the turtle’s head! If you can’t go a week without a Costco run, I sympathize. Stop before you leave Kahului. Traffic on the one road to Ka’anapali can get a little slow (and is 45 minutes at best!), so enjoy the ocean views and watch the surfers if you’re not the driver. The Olowalu Farmer’s market is a nice stop on the right if you need a break.

ABC stores are everywhere and quite useful. Stop in to grab some Hawaiian flavor Hi Chews or fresh pineapple, buy a boogie board or replace a broken flip flop. This might be the only cheap store on Maui.

Check into your hotel and hit the pool! Accept your instacart delivery, and settle in. Have an easy, poolside dinner tonight and go to sleep early.

Day 2: Ka’anapali and Lahaina

Woman holding pineapple filled with shave ice during daytime

Start off your day with an acai bowl from the Fruit Ninja, if you can find him. If he appears near you, it is worth the wait.

Grab snorkeling gear and head to the beach! Walk off ka’anapali beach and into a beautiful coral garden. We saw eels, huge turtles and so many beautiful fish! Pro tip: BYO snorkeling gear, or buy it at ABC. You’ll spend more to rent it once from a hotel, so even if you hand it off to another family at the end of the trip, it is worth it.

Walk down the beach or along the paved beach walk to Black Rock. If you’re feeling daring you can jump off! Snorkeling can be good here too.

In the afternoon, head to Lahaina for a submarine excursion. Park as soon as you find a spot, and expect to walk a bit. Check out the Banyan Tree Park - yes, that is ONE tree - and square before you board the boat to the submarine. Descend and watch for sharks and turtles. Cooler even than touring the German U-boat at the Chicago MSI (which is also awesome and so is Chicago! Obviously I’m biased, but it’s an exceptional place to take kids.)

Back on shore, get a Dole whip at Lappert’s. My personal favorite is the one with the Tajin and the hot sauce. If you have time before dinner, explore the shops and galleries. The art there is cool enough that even the kids found it interesting.

Have a dinner reservation in advance for one of the amazing restaurants around here. Kimo’s is a family favorite.

Day 3: Road to Hana

Three people standing in body of water next to a waterfall during daytime

This may be the only controversial activity on Maui! Some people love the road to Hana and others do not. A very early departure, dramamine and planning ahead can lead to one of your best days on Maui. The road to Hana is full of waterfalls to swim in, pools to discover and black sand beaches.

Stop at the Ke’anae peninsula for our family’s favorite banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s. Buy two loaves - trust me. Explore a bit and when you’re back on the main road stop at Halfway to Hana for more banana bread - you owe it to yourself to taste them all.

Hamoa beach has fun body surfing waves, if they aren’t too huge. Respect the ocean and stay toward the center.

Swim at Ching’s pond and in various waterfalls. If you can find Venus Pool or Waioka you can jump off rocks into a pool while the waves crash into the adjacent beach. Hands down our favorite stop.

Reserve a time slot in advance for Wai’anapanapa Park to swim at the volcanic black sand beach. Don’t miss the pretty coastal hike or the cave on the right as you enter the beach.

At the seven sacred pools, swimming and even walking around them was prohibited at the time we went. It also comes after one of the most difficult driving sections. I’d skip it and focus on the better, earlier stops.

Day 4: New Beaches and Whaler’s Village

Body of water next to rocky beach during daytime

Head north to explore some new beaches this morning. Snorkel at Kapalua. Take the Coastal Dune hike. Oneloa beach in particular is a hidden gem. D.T. Fleming beach next to it is also scenic and fun, with restrooms. All beaches have free beach access parking. The trick is finding it!

For lunch, walk over to the Burger Shack at the Ritz. Enjoy a mai tai - they make our favorite, hands down.

Later that day, walk around the mall that is Whalers Village while you wait for your table at Monkey Pod for dinner.

Day 5: Haleakala

Boy standing on dark rock above the clouds during daytime

Haleakala National Park is one of the places on Maui that feels especially magical. It is sacred to Native Hawaiians, and it is easy to see why. Prepare to ascend 10,000 feet as you drive up to the summit.

Seeing the sunrise at the summit is an extremely popular activity. So popular, in fact, that when we went advance permits were required. To see the sunrise you have to leave in the middle of the night. Since waking the family up at 2am to see sunrise sounded like a form of punishment to me, we opted for sunset instead.

This is the one place on Maui you’ll be freezing - pack hats and gloves! Wear pants and jackets! You’re going to be very cold, so be prepared.

Plan two hours driving time from Kaanapali to the summit of Haleakala. To enjoy the journey, leave extra time and head out midday at the latest.

Stop in Pa’ia for a cool, local town experience. Grab dinner from Mana Foods to bring up Haleakala with you. It’s a grocery with an exceptional ready to eat section.

Head up with plenty of time as the lines for entering the park can be slow, and parking at the summit is limited. Don’t worry if it looks cloudy on the drive in. That’s actually a good thing! The clouds add to the other-worldly experience, since you are above them.

Stop at Ali'i Kula Lavender farm on the way up for a beautiful garden and views. Great lavender products, and scones.

If you have time before sunset, hike the Keoneheʻeheʻe (Sliding Sands) Trail. It’s out and back, so go as far as you like while enjoying the unbeatable crater views.

Head up to the summit for your picnic dinner. Take a bunch of top-of-the-world pictures, and huddle for warmth as you wait for sunset. The stars are unreal and feel close enough to touch.

Day 6: Catamaran Snorkeling, Shave Ice and Lu’au

Aerial view of body of water with boat next to land with mountains during daytime

Take a catamaran snorkeling tour. Unless you have some serious snorkelers, the breakfast cruise is just right for families. The boat ride itself is fun and beautiful - yes, you can ride in the nets at the front! Many boats have a stairway to help enter and exit the water for snorkeling, and the captains know the best spots that day. You have a 3 hour morning activity and then can nap (adults) or chill (kids) as needed.

Later that day head back to Lahaina for shave ice and shopping. Head directly to Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. The wait for Ululani's is worth it. The vanilla ice cream scoop is a must. Head back away from the water for shade and restrooms.

A Lu’au is a classic Hawaiian must-do, and the Old Lahaina Lu’au is the best one. Reserve when you make your hotel reservation and be ready to settle in for dinner and the show in your fresh flower lei.

Day 7: Past Kapalua

Pool of water next to body of water with people swimming during daytime

Head to Honolua beach for outrageously awesome snorkeling and a cool jungle walk down to the beach.

Continue around the top and stop at Nakalele Blowhole. If the ocean is cooperating, water shoots high into the air with explosive force.

A little farther along the road, hike down to Olivine Tide Pools, an area with natural lava tide pools, many of them deep enough to swim in! Just be sure to get out of there well in advance of high tide.

If you’re in luck that day, someone will be selling Julia’s banana bread at one of these stops. It is the hands-down champion. Buy several loaves before heading home. The next day, shed a little tear as you depart paradise.

Favorite kid memories about Maui, months later:

10 year old: “Snorkeling off the boat and off the beach. The fish and turtles were super cool. Surfing was really fun, and like a cool experience. The lobster on top of the fish [at Kimo’s] was outstanding - very flavorful [mom note - not sure where this food critic child came from. He orders chicken nuggets consistently on the mainland]. The lobster deviled eggs [at Monkeypod] were nearly as good, or maybe better. Drinking six fruit punches at the lu’au with my cousin and saying ‘I think we’re going to regret this in the morning!’”.

9 year old: “The weather is awesome, you can swim, snorkel and have a lot of fun. Also eat the pineapple because it is amazing, and really all the fruit. Try the papaya because it’s not like it is anywhere else. I loved the fun waves at the Hamoa black sand beach [road to Hana].

6 year old: Being tossed over the net in the pool like a volleyball [by his uncles / cousins], eating ALL the banana bread and jumping off the rocks into the Venus pool [road to Hana]. The mudskipper things [at the Olivine tide pools] were just like in Octonauts! Also the vanilla ice cream with the shave ice [at Ululani’s in Lahaina]”.

Need to Know

Advisor - Katie McAvoy

Travel Advisor

Katie McAvoy

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