Ready to venture to Hawaii? We recommend Maui, an island with gorgeous scenery and plenty to do but few crowds. Here’s how to do it family-style.
Pick Your Resort Wisely
Hotel hopping can be fun, but when you’ve traveled this far (two six-hour flights from New York), you deserve rest and relaxation. Most hotels are stocked with pools, beach fronts, family activities, and kid-friendly food. Why pass up this good stuff?
There are two clusters of big resorts on Maui. One is in Wailea, a stretch of calm beaches peppered with occasional rock formations. There’s a walking path along the coastline that’s perfect for early morning runs and sunset strolls. It’s close to restaurants and Haleakala Crater, the volcano many people visit to see the sunrise.
We stayed at the enormous and fully loaded Grand Wailea Resort, a lushly landscaped property that’s pitch-perfect for kids. It’s all about the pools here, which include a 2,000-foot-long, 770,000-gallon extravaganza with nine pools on six levels. There’s a Tarzan pool with rope swing, a whitewater rapids slide, caves, and an infant pool. You can get a free SCUBA lesson or try paddleboarding. If your kids are active and energetic, this is the resort for you.
There’s another strip of hotels and golf courses in Kaanapali, which is well-situated near Lahaina, where you’ll find the crazy-popular Old Lahaina Luau (details below), restaurants, and stores.
Up a few miles is Kapalua, a divine area set apart from the pack by an expansive landscape, stunning vistas, snorkel-perfect bays, and an escape from crowds.
The crown jewel is the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, an upscale resort with A+ service and an instant relax-and-rejuvenate vibe. It has a three-tiered pool with killer views of the Pacific, a kiddie pool, and a mellow beach front.
It also has something other local resorts don’t: Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program. It’s an assortment of nature activities, like outrigger canoe rides, whale watching, and underwater photography snorkeling lessons. We tried a coastal walk and tide pool exploration, where we picked up sea cucumbers, spotted sea urchins, and learned how to use a white berry to de-fog snorkel masks.
If you want to explore local sites like snorkeling beaches hello, sea turtles! and visit a pineapple plantation, Kapalua is a prime location. If your kids are fascinated by nature, and you want to feel like you’re truly on vacation, the Ritz is for you.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, Maui, HI 96761
3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, HI
Pick Your Adventures
We love resorts, but it’s impossible to experience Maui’s beauty and culture without venturing off road.
Road to Hana
This two-and-a-half-hour, twisty route with 600 curves and 54 bridges hugs the mountains far up from the sea and may cause a lump in your throat. But it’s worth it for the lush, tropical landscape you enter into. Pull off at any number of stops to walk hiking trails, swim in waterfall pools, and play on black sand beaches. –Gohawaii.com
Snorkel Near Sea Turtles
There are snorkel opportunities all over the island. We like Kapalua Bay and Honolua Bay, where locals say seeing sea turtles is a sure thing. You can also ask your hotel for recommendations.
Sunrise Atop the Volcano Prepare to wake up early and dress warmly to see the always-popular sunrise from the top of Haleakala Crater, 9,740 feet up. Drive there yourself or take an excursion. –Akinatours.com
From January through April, so many humpback whales gather in the channel between Maui and Moloka’i that locals call it "whale soup." You can see, and sometimes hear, whales from land but why not take a boat and get up close? –Pacificwhale.org
Do a Luau
It’s a bit touristy, but oozes the flavor of the 50th Lahaina Luau, which brings in hundreds of tourists every night to enjoy a pig roast, buffet feast, hula dancing, and a show with Hawaiian dancers and music. Reserve online early, as it sells out, in spite of its hefty price tag. –Oldlahainaluau.com
Discover Hawaiian Culture
Many Hawaiians have a deep spirituality and connection to ancient traditions. There are legends explaining everything from why Hawaiians named the points that jut out into the sea to why it’s bad luck to take hardened lava rock off the island. For Brady Bunch fans, it conjures images of the idol taboo; and that’s a good thing.