When my parents offered to take us to Maui at the beginning of last December, I was ecstatic! My hubby’s only experience in Hawaii was our very rainy trip to Honolulu & the kids had obviously never been, so I was excited to re-experience my favorite island with them.
I’m lucky that both my parents and my sister are very experienced travelers, and know all the best places to stay and get the best deals on flights & rooms. I’ve picked up some tips from them over the years, and figured I’d share them with you here!
DO Your Research on when to visit Maui
To get the best flight & room deals, I would highly recommend traveling off-season. That might mean taking your kids out of school for a week or two in May or early December instead of going during peak travel times such as over summer holidays, spring break, and winter break. Not only will you save money, but the pools, beaches, and other attractions won’t be as busy.
DO Rent an condo with a Kitchen & a View
This is absolutely important if you don’t want to eat every meal at a restaurant & spend half your budget on food. Instead of staying at a hotel, we rented two suites at the Honua Kai through VRBO: a two-bedroom, two-bath unit for our family of four & my parents to share, and a studio apartment for my sister, her husband & baby.
Because we were going to be eating a lot of meals in our condo, we wanted to make sure that we had a patio with good view of the beach/pools/sunsets. It does cost a little more to get the rooms with the best views, but I believe it is money well spent.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount off the listed price, especially if you are renting more than one unit, going at a non-peak time of year, or it’s a last-minute booking where it would otherwise be empty. All of these applied to us and we got a pretty great discount on our rental.
DO Rent a Car
Maui is a small island and there really isn’t anywhere you can’t get to in under 3 hours… but you need a car to do it. We just got a small 4-door sedan while my sister and parents shared a mini-van. We were tempted to upgrade to a Jeep, but the price wasn’t appealing ($80+ USD a day). There are so many awesome day trips, such as up the Haleakala Crater, so a car is a must!
DO Stock up at Costco
The Costco in Maui is located near the airport in Kaluhui. Great place to get food, snacks, cocktails, clothing (we got my son a rash guard for boogie boarding) and probably the best deal on macadamia nut chocolates to take home. If you are staying in Ka’anapali like we did & get in too late to stop at Costco, there is a 24-hour Safeway on your way through Lahaina in the Cannery Mall.
DO Get out on the Water (Snorkeling & Whale Watching)
By going at the beginning of December, we also happened to arrive during peak whale mating season. We really wanted to take the kids on a snorkeling trip, so we booked a day-trip with the Pacific Whale Foundation that took us out to the Molokini Crater. Even though it wasn’t technically a whale watching tour, on the way out to Molokini we saw TONS of breaching humpbacks, so it really was two trips for the price of one! The kids loved snorkeling, especially when we spotted some turtles. It was a bit chilly, so we rented them wetsuits on board the boat, which was absolutely worth it.
DON’T Do the Road to Hana (or the Kahekili Highway) with Kids
I don’t know about you, but my kids aren’t great in the car. And by that, I mean they get car sick. Easily.
The Road to Hana is absolutely breathtaking and a must-do when in Maui. But the road is narrow and windy and long, which is not a great combo for our kids. We were lucky enough to be travelling and staying with my parents, so we left the kids behind with Grandma and Grandpa at the pool and set off on our own adventure. I would recommend setting aside an entire day for this trip, there are so many little stops along the way. But make sure you bring a map with tips on where to stop – the road isn’t well marked and cell service is hit or miss.
When we decided to hit the beach, we typically wandered down from the Honua Kai further down towards the main Ka’anapali beach. It was a great beach to do some boogie boarding and snorkeling, there were some waves, but they weren’t too dangerous for the kids and the sand wasn’t too rocky.
But, there was a few days where we packed up the car with snacks and beach gear & headed off to check out some of the other beaches on Maui. Two of our favorites were Big Beach and D.T. Fleming Park.
Big Beach is HUGE and probably the best beach I’ve ever been to. WARNING: If you have kids with you, make sure they don’t explore too far and head over to Little Beach, which is a well-known ‘clothing optional’ beach.
D.T. Fleming Park is also very nice. The waves are little bigger, and even though there are some on-duty lifeguards, I wouldn’t let my kids wander too far into the surf. They did a bit of boogie boarding, but really enjoyed watching the surfers and collecting shells and other treasures.
TIP: You definitely should let your kids try boogie boarding, but don’t waste money on buying a boogie board. By the end of the trip we had been given 5 boards by a few other families who had purchased them, but were leaving and couldn’t take them home. When we left, we passed them on to another family we met on the beach who had just arrived.
DO Take Some Time to do Nothing
You know what my kids remember most about Maui? Playing in the pools and on the beach. They didn’t really care about all the day trips or views, as soon as they got up in the morning they just wanted to get their suits on and head down to the pools. So don’t plan an outing every single day, leave some days with no plans and go with the flow.