A Parents' Guide to Visiting Maui, Hawaii With Kids

Here’s what you need to know about getting there, where to stay, what to do, and the importance of traveling intentionally when you visit the Valley Isle with kids.

Mother and two daughters at the beach

wendy laurel / Stocksy

Thanks to its more than 30 miles of gorgeous beaches, delectable eats, natural wonders, and year-round warm, cozy temperatures, Maui is a special, magical destination rich with history, culture, and beauty—all of which is truly a treasure to behold. While the second largest island in Hawaii has always been a hot spot for honeymoons and babymoons, it also happens to be a premiere destination for parents and keiki (kids in Hawaiian). From attractions like the Maui Ocean Center to noteworthy cultural programs and educational experiences offered at kid-friendly hotels like the Four Seasons Maui and the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, the island offers endless possibilities for learning and making memories as a family. 

Here’s what you need to know about getting there, where to stay, what to do, and the importance of traveling intentionally when you visit the Valley Isle. 

Getting to Maui 

If you’re flying to the Aloha State from the mainland, there are more flight options than ever before, with most major airlines featuring daily routes to Hawaii. United Airlines, in particular, has recently committed to making travel to Hawaii easier than ever by adding new nonstop flights from major U.S. airports. For travelers coming from the New York City metro area, in 2021 the airline debuted a new nonstop flight from Newark International Airport (EWR) to Maui (OGG). United operates the flight on their premium Boeing 767-300ER that normally flies between New York and London, Geneva, and Zurich, and features Polaris Business class suites, Premium Plus premium economy, Economy Plus, and standard Economy seats.

United also flies direct to Maui from Denver once daily, Los Angeles twice daily with additional Saturday flights, Chicago five times a week, and San Francisco two to three times daily.

Where to Stay in Maui 

When it comes to choosing the best accommodation on Maui for your family vacation, a variety of properties cater to a range of price points. Many hotels are located in Kaanapali, on the Western side of the island, and Wailea, which is located in South Maui. A few particularly family-friendly options:

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Located in Wailea, the Four Seasons Resort Maui is a must-visit destination if you’re budgeting for a five-star property. The 383-room oceanfront property caters to travelers of all ages, offering world-class dining options and three pools overlooking the Pacific, including one that’s particularly family-friendly and specifically designed with amenities for little ones, like a playpen option. The property also offers beach toys and personalized touches, like a stuffed animal for kids upon arrival.  

Complimentary family amenities for little ones include strollers, baby monitors, baby bathtub and organic bath amenities, high-chair and baby spill mat, pop-up tent, playpen, bottle warmer, diapers and swim diapers, singing baby swing, rocking chairs, and more.

And for kids 5 and over, the resort offers activities like:

Ocean Aloha: In the springtime, 5 to 12-year-olds can discover Maui’s marine life through an interactive experience led by a Maui Ocean Center Marine Naturalist, including an Ocean Explorer Live Touch Pool with sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. 

Hawaiian Star Stories: Great for older kids (ideally 9+) and parents alike, Star Stories is led by Hawaiian navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka, who recounts the history of Polynesian wayfinders, who used the stars, wind, and currents to journey to the Hawaiian islands. "Families and young travelers will learn how star knowledge is applied to understand our knowing of direction as well as some of the cultural stories preserved within the stars and what important cultural understandings they teach us," she notes.

Kids for All Seasons program: The property offers a complimentary camp program year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for children ages 5 through 12. Keiki will participate in activities like tennis, snorkeling, and swimming all while having the opportunity to immerse in Hawaiian culture and learn from the world around them. They can also take advantage of the games room, which features an array of video games as well as foosball.

Light the Night: Kids can shadow a torchbearer in full garb as they run throughout the property to light over 50 torches in a nightly ritual. 

Andaz Resort in Maui

Maressa Brown

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

Also located on the Southern part of the island, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort sits on 15 beachfront acres and has direct access to Mokapu Beach. 

From hula lessons to an outrigger excursion, guided kayak tours, standup paddleboard lessons, ukulele lessons, and lei-making classes, the modern luxury property offers activities for everyone in the family. The resort’s activities, developed by Kalikolehua Storer, Andaz’ Hawaiian culture and training specialist, all pay homage to the beautiful island of Maui, explains Dena Roady, area vice president, Hyatt Hotels Hawaii general manager. “We uphold a commitment to providing extraordinary guest experiences that are rooted in intentional travel,” she notes. 

A highlight sure to make an impression: the Feast at Mokapu, the Andaz’ exclusive luxury luau, which takes place on the grassy lawn between the resort and Mokapu beach. The show inspires and educates audience members with an awe-inspiring story of Hawaii’s Polynesian ancestors arriving to Maui. While an 'ohana style meal of 15 locally-inspired dishes are served, dancers and storytellers celebrate Hawaiian values that focus on the love of, connection to, and kuleana (responsibility) to the land.

Storer hopes the experience will offer guests greater insight into the heart of Hawaiian people. "Our hope is that they would see past the sunsets, rainbows, mai tai, and hula skirts, but really lean into what is shared and respond with Aloha for all people, not just Hawaiians," she notes. "Take the sense of Aloha they feel and pay it forward on the airplane, standing in line at the grocery store, etc."

Kaanapali Beach Hotel

Located on the western side of Maui, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel allows families to stay right in Lahaina, a part of the island that offers lots of shopping and sightseeing, such as the Whalers Village and Lahaina Cannery Shopping Center, as well as West Maui Parasail. You can also take advantage of hiking/biking trails, ecotours, and scuba diving offered near the resort. 

Family Activities to Check Out on Maui

Whether your family tends to be comfier on land, in the water, or are happy exploring any kind of terrain, Maui is replete with fun, educational activities for everyone. A few to consider:

Learn About Local Butterflies  

Head to the Maui Butterfly Farm, located next to Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (a delectable destination for anyone with a sweet tooth), to get a hands-on tour and learn about the benefits of butterflies and how your family can do their part to stop them from disappearing throughout the islands and the U.S. mainland. 

Meet Alpaca

At the Maui Alpaca Farm, visitors are treated to history, farm education, and a walking tour during which they’ll meet and get feeding and photo ops with the property’s alpaca and bunny ohana. 

Become a Mermaid

Located in Kihei, which is in South Maui, Hawaii Mermaid Adventures offers big keiki the chance to take a mermaid swimming lesson with an instructor who is Lifeguard/CPR certified as well as a certified marine naturalist. The experience also includes education around marine life and storytelling around mermaid myths and mysteries.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Documenting your family’s trip to Maui is a must, so you might consider carving out time for a professional photo shoot. Check out Love and Water Photography, owned by married couple and parents of two Shawn and Adam Ravazzano who specialize in intimate Hawaii weddings, portraits, and underwater photography. They’re best known for dreamy, ethereal images that come out in poetic, pastel hues, thanks to timing their shoots just right to a stunning Maui sunrise or sunset. 

Shop for Local Goods

Skip the mass-produced T-shirts and keychains and go for artisan goods at farmer's and flea markets like the Maui Swap Meet. You might also find that it’s an opportunity to learn about local produce, such as breadfruit or lilikoi, or Hawaiian traditions like lauhala weaving. 

Explore the Maui Ocean Center

Committed to fostering understanding, wonder, and respect for Hawaii’s marine life, the Maui Ocean Center is a must-visit destination for families when they’re on the Valley Isle. Located about 13 miles northwest of Wailea and 19 miles south of Kaanapali, keiki will be treated to presentations and feedings and loads of educational experiences hosted by roaming Marine Naturalists.

Tour a Cacao Farm

At the Ku’ia Estates Chocolate Factory in Lahaina, the largest chocolate factory in the state of Hawaii, families can roam around a private cacao estate that features more than 20 acres of cacao trees. Sign up for an interactive, educational tour and learn about the trees and fruit harvesting before tasting award-winning chocolate. 

Volunteer with Maui Cultural Lands

Head to the Maui Cultural Lands and give back (in Hawaiian, you’d say kokua) to the island by helping remove invasive species of plants. You’ll also get tips on sustainability and learn that Aloha is more than a greeting. It’s a system involving sharing, touching, loving, and showing compassion that visitors and residents alike practice. 

The Importance of Traveling Intentionally in Maui—and How to Do It

In recent years, the Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) has created a new strategy around new levels of tourism to the islands that have spurred concerns about the impact of tourism on the land, intrusive visitor behavior, and discussion around how tourism in Hawaii can benefit both residents and visitors. For that reason, it’s more important than ever for families and all tourists visiting Maui and all of Hawaii to travel intentionally by recognizing and respecting the islands’ natural resources, Hawaiian culture, and community. 

Learn More About the Hawaiian Language

In the state of Hawaii—and on the island of Maui—there are two official languages: Hawaiian (‘ōlelo Hawai‘i) and English. You might also find you hear Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and many other languages spoken on Maui as well as a Hawai‘i Creole English or “Pidgin” language that resulted from the blend of Hawaiian and immigrant languages during the sugar plantation era, according to the HTA, which adds that Pidgin should not be confused with ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Ahead of and during your stay in Maui, you and your child can learn ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i by using an app or website like Duolingo or Google Translate

Make Sure Your Sunblock Is Reef-Safe

Coral reefs—aka ‘āpapapa in Hawaiian—are a fragile ecosystem that are under threat as a result of beach goers damaging and removing living coral. Thankfully, coral and rocks where marine life reside are protected by state law, and in 2021, the state enacted a ban on the sale of sunscreen containing avobenzone and octocrylene, chemicals that contribute to coral bleaching, which causes stress and damage leading to potential mortality. That said, be sure that when you step outside, you and your child are guarding against UV rays with a reef-safe sunblock

Practice aloha ‘āina

Aloha ‘āina translates to “love of the land.” You could volunteer with the Maui Ocean Center and attend a beach cleanup event as a family. You might also check with your hotel about charitable activities they offer. For instance, guests of Four Seasons Maui can participate in a Malama Hawaii volunteer experience that allows guests to discover Maui's storied past through hands-on processing of historic artifacts and documents at Lahaina Restoration Foundation.

Additional reporting by Julia Dennison

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