We just got back from a very fun (and way too short!) trip to Maui and I thought I’d write up some of our favorite activities and some things I would do differently next time.
This is actually my second trip to Maui- the first time we went in 2007 to celebrate finishing grad school–that was before children and I went with my (now) husband and my family.
This trip was very different because we took our 7 and 5 year old girls with us so the activities and such were all family oriented.
So here are some things I wanted to share:
I was looking forward to the flight to Maui and getting a lot of work done so I could relax on our vacation. Wrong! Turns out there is no WI-FI service over the ocean- so during our 5 hour flight from California to Maui and back I really couldn’t get very much done. Not a big deal for everyone but just a note if you do intend to work on the flight.
There are usually two schools of thought on accommodations on the island. Some people like to get hotel rooms and some like to rent condos. Typically renting a condo for a week can be significantly cheaper and you have the luxury of a washing machine and a full kitchen. We rented condos the first time we stayed in Maui. I think this might be a good option if you plan to do a lot of your own cooking, you plan to stay for a longer vacation or if you prefer to do a lot of excursions and such on your own. In the condo I got a little bored because it really is up to you to figure out your entire day. At the hotel there are a lot more activities you can join in on and things to do without getting in the car so for us it was just easier.
For this last trip, we stayed at the Hyatt in Ka’anapali. We had credit card points which made the hotel affordable and I was very happy with the Hyatt. There was a beautiful pool, fitness facility, spa and lots of amenities. The view from our room was stunning and the grounds were extremely clean. There are a ton of things they offer from penguins in the lobby of the hotel (no really- my kids loved it!) to rooftop star gazing. We left the sliding glass door open every night and had gorgeous views and sounds from the ocean- really spectacular.
They also have a wonderful luau and depending on where your room is located, we actually saw many people sitting on a balcony overlooking the luau that we attended. Fun right? There is also a Westin and a Marriott hotel right next to the Hyatt and they all looked very nice- and literally right on the golf course and the beautiful beaches.
The cons to the Hyatt- with the exception of breakfast- I didn’t find the food to be that good. It was VERY expensive (1 yogurt topped with granola and berries and 4 pineapple spears from the cafe was $18.95!) The room was clean and had a fridge and coffeepot (and I am crazy particular when it comes to hotel rooms)- but the bathroom was nothing to get excited about. After a day on the beach it would have been nice to have a lovely bathroom with soaking tub or a spacious shower and our room definitely had neither.
The Swan Restaurant located in the hotel has stunning views and was my favorite place to eat. They do a huge breakfast buffet and while is pricey for adults ($25 a person)- for the kids it was a STEAL at $1 per year of age. So my 5 year old got the entire giant buffet for just $5 including drinks and my 7 year old was $7. (You don’t have to do the buffet- I ordered pancakes one morning to the tune of $16 and oatmeal another morning to the tune of $9.) Really not bad at all considering Starbucks microwave sandwiches would have been about the same price. I did eat dinner at the restaurant one night and the food was really bad– hopefully your experience is better than mine.
The gym at the Hyatt is really nice and they offer several free exercise classes. I took boot camp one morning and yoga another and it was literally on the stunning beach and couldn’t be more perfect. Great way to jump start your day.
I also enjoyed a massage at the spa (a treat from my husband) and thought it was just OK. Probably not worth the money to be honest but a lovely way to spend the morning for sure. The spa is really nice inside and you have access to it all day- so you can sit in this beautiful relaxation room and look at the ocean to your heart’s content or go in the steam shower or sauna. For about $4o more I could have had a massage at the Grand Wailea hotel and from what I hear that is truly an experience. So if you are out for a little splurge you might consider which option is best for you- next time I will shell out the extra $40 and make the trek to Wailea 😉
There are many things to do on the island but what the guidebooks and travel articles don’t always mention is the cost. It is just crazy expensive so we had to really decide what was most important to us to do and narrow things down.
ROAD TO HANA: So I remembered the Road to Hana from our prior trip. My husband and I made it half way and felt so car sick we quit and came back. Hana is supposed to be like Eden and a bucket list experience so I wanted to try again this time around. Well it turns out the side of the island Hana is on is the rainy side– that is important to note if you go during a rainy time of year. We left gorgeous sunny Lahaina in the early afternoon and found gross, gloomy, rainy weather. After driving an hour it was getting worse and very windy and we realized we wouldn’t enjoy any of the stops anyway and we quit and went back to Kaanapali and found perfect beautiful sunshine at the beach. When you are in paradise, it is a massive bummer to waste your precious time and we wished we would have just gone to the pool when we read the weather forecast of possible rain. Maybe my 3rd trip to Maui I will actually make it to Hana 🙂
SNORKELING: We went snorkeling at the Molokini Crater. This is about an hour boat trip and you get some pretty lovely snorkeling in for another 1-2 hours and then back. They feed you and we found the time just flew by. This was really fun and both my 5 and 7 year old loved snorkeling- Mom was actually the only one that was a little bit of a scardey cat. The staff took great care of us and I totally recommend this activity- it was a highlight of the trip for sure.
If you do take this trip- the boat ride can be rough on little ones. We had to be very careful as my little 5 year old kept falling over from the strong winds and of course with little ones they want to constantly explore and move around. We saw tons of whales which was awesome and the photographer on board got some beautiful photos (for $20 we got a CD with photos of sea life and the whales and photos of our family snorkeling). We rented the special underwater camera too and that was a waste as all our pictures were really bad 😉 Next time I won’t fuss with it and I’ll let the pro handle the photos.
SUBMARINE TRIP: We did the Reefdancer out of Lahaina. I personally did not find this fun- the tour guide was Ok but we didn’t see a ton of sealife and well.. I found it boring. My children on the other hand loved this and said it was the highlight of the trip. So it was worth it and I just spent most of the time enjoying the gorgeous views from the top deck of the sub- not a bad way to spend the afternoon at all. The dock is right next to the Banyan Tree in Lahaina so the kids will LOVE climbing all over this crazy tree.
LUAU: We did the luau at the Hyatt and it was fun. The dancers were great and they kept the show going so it was never dull- it is a long night. Try to get as close to the stage as you can- we did preferred seating but VIP is the best to get the best view of the dancers. The people behind us with regular tickets couldn’t see much at all and they really pack that place in. For our night there was apparently a cruise ship that docked and they had something like 640 people. The food was just OK in my opinion as a buffet and it is an open bar. They load you up with Pina Coladas and Mai Teis and such. It actually rained a bit and was pretty cold that night but we still had fun and the Hyatt passed out ponchos. We grabbed some large beach towels at the pool for our girls to use as blankets and they were happy.
NAKALELE BLOWHOLE: This was cool- we had one overcast day and decided to take a trip to see the blow hole and the heart. You can drive to the cliffs and then hike down to see both the blowhole and the heart. My girls love to hike and we climb cliffs like this all the time in California but it is a long way down and on a drizzly day it can be very slippery and muddy. You need to be extremely careful if you want to do this and we did see lots of people climbing in flip flops. I totally do not recommend that. Stay on the rocks as you climb down as the smooth areas are extremely slippery. The blow hole is about 40 feet away from the heart- turn your back on the blowhole and you will see the heart carved into the cliffside. We couldn’t see the heart without climbing down but you can sort of see the blowhole from the roadside- so you don’t actually need to climb all the way down. I did actually slip a tiny bit on the rock that is directly above the sea and adjacent to the blow hole and just about had a heart attack. So be very alert and careful and you will be fine 🙂 They have signs all over reminding people it isn’t a water park and you can apparently get sucked into the blow hole.
BEACHES: We heard that Kaanapali is where all the tourists will stay and lots of other beaches were recommended to us. I have to say the beach right in front of the Hyatt was gorgeous and we stayed there the entire time. We had the beach to ourselves most of the time – with perfect soft, sandy beaches, warm water… everything you dream of. I did not find crowds or congestion at all and I do encourage you to explore a bit. Go in one direction from the Hyatt and you can walk all the way to Lahaina and go the other direction and we found hammocks and there are tons of chaise lounges you can rent for the day or cabanas… so gorgeous and relaxing.
Some other things we didn’t get a chance to do but that might be of interest to you–we didn’t want to be tightwads on the trip but I do always like to get a good value for the money. There were many activities that might have been amazing but when we looked at the cost it just didn’t seem worth it and of course our time was limited.
Pineapple Tour- I wanted to do this but for a family of (4) it was $240 just for the tour and not including lunch. Careful if you do this because there are regulations about taking fruit/vegetables on the plane home. The pineapple in Hawaii is absolutely incredible though- easily the best I have ever had. I sat by a Maui native on the plane ride and she said often the pineapple shipped is picked very, very green and it won’t taste the same so you might investigate before you plunk down money for these yummy little things.
Maui Golf and Sports Club– we drove all the way to this place because several blogs recommended it for kids. We got there and it was a small-ish miniature golf place in the middle of a large parking lot. We looked around and the price was pretty high and we decided not to stay.
Oh boy the food! We didn’t have great luck with dinner in Maui but we did for sure have some excellent food.
ULULANI’S SHAVED ICE: I had heard this was a must try and Uluani’s is very popular for shaved ice. They have stands all over Maui- including one right at the Hyatt with darling little picnic tables. I wasn’t too excited about shaved ice because my experience has always been big chunks of ice and a sweet Torani syrup over the top. No, no my friends this is nothing like you have had before. The ice is soft like fresh snow and not icy (read- you won’t get brain freeze). They use fresh fruit purees that are heavenly and you can choose from a zillion combinations. The big choice is to have it with leche (sweetened condensed milk) or not. We got one with and one without and it was the tastiest thing I have had in ages. Don’t miss out 🙂
DOLE PINEAPPLE WHIP: So I have heard about the amazing Dole Pineapple whip treats that are served in Disneyland and DisneyWorld for years… Sadly I have never actually had one. Apparently the only other place to get a pineapple whip is at the Dole Plantation on Oahu. I was thrilled to an embarrassing level when we walked by Hilo Hattie’s (sort of a Walmart for Hawaiian souvenirs) and saw the sign advertising these things. The one we went to was in Lahaina and the mix is the same used in Disneyland (so to be clear the fresh pineapple whip on Oahu is apparently heavenly but we could not find it anywhere on Maui). It is just a pineapple soft serve made from a mix but it is just delicious. Tangy, refreshing– worth the $4 or so and the trip inside Hilo Hattie’s. So glad I got to taste this stuff!
WOW WOW LEMONADE: Wow Wow has two lemonade stands – one of which is right by the airport. I thought the drinks were utterly delicious. You can choose from a zillion varieties- we got Sparkling Limeade and Starfruit Mint- and they are about $5 for a 24oz size. These are unlike anything you may have had before because they are made with fresh fruit and worth every penny 🙂 I am ruined forever to canned Limeade drinks after tasting the fresh and zippy Wow Wow version. You can get the cutest mason jar cup for $9.50 filled with lemonade and then each refill is just $5. I have dreams about the yummy Wow Wow lemonade although I will say we went twice and both times the service was really dreadful- like the brattiest teenagers they could find. I imagined myself in a Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld. So just bring a little patience and grace with you and you will be rewarded with a delicious drink and a snarl 😀
WHALER’S VILLAGE: This is a short walk from the hotels on Kaanapali and they have some souvenir shops and regular shops like Banana Republic and such. If you are on the lookout for inexpensive and easy food options they have a quick pizza place and a Subway sandwich. You can walk in just a few minutes over to Whaler’s Village and pick up food to take with you or stay and there was live music when we were there. I would not say the food was great or anything but a good option on the way home from the beach or whatever.
PI ARTISAN PIZZA: I know it seems crazy to have pizza in Maui what with all the fresh seafood and such but we had an emergency hangry situation and every restaurant had a wait of 30-60 minutes. Just seconds before I was going to sit on someone’s lap at Bubba Gump and eat their french fries, we stumbled upon this pizza place. The pizza was great- you wait in line like Subway and customize your pizza and then sit down and they deliver it from the wood fire oven. Another great option for something quick and easy should you also have a hangry emergency.
THE GAZEBO: So I mentioned wanting to try coconut syrup and macadamia nut pancakes and the Gazebo was recommended to me countless times. We went on a Friday morning and this place is literally a Gazebo on the edge of the ocean- beautiful views- right next to a not so wonderful looking apartment complex or hotel or something. Anyway the wait to get seated is crazy– I’d say we stood in line 60 minutes. It isn’t too bad to wait as they have little games for the kids to play and you can walk onto the beach and we saw huge sea turtles. I don’t know that I would go again and wait that long but it was fun– my breakfast (Spinach and Veggie Eggs Benedict) was just OK and could have served about 5 people. Our girls got the White Chocolate Macademia pancakes though and while they are crazy sweet- they really were delicious. I am going to try and recreate the recipe for Easter. Oh we did see some people just order to go and eat their breakfast on the patio of the hotel/apartment next door so that is another option.
A few other things you might find helpful on your trip:
COSTCO: Costco is located right by the airport (and Wow Wow Lemonade) and is a great stop for affordable food and souvenirs. You obviously have to grab large quantities but if you have a big family or a long stay this is much more affordable than the grocery stores. (At Foodland in Lahaina for example I noticed a stack of 10ct Capri Sun boxes for $4.99 on sale!) We got a case of water, tortilla chips, fresh salsa and a 6pack of Chocolate Covered M academia Nut boxes was $13. The same boxes at an ABC store or something were closer to $5 each.
If you need anything else there is a Kmart next door to Costco- we forgot goggles and picked them up there. The Kmart is nasty so I’d skip it unless you really need something.
And that is about it! I can’t wait to hear from those of you that have also been to Maui– what were your favorite restaurants and activities? Any other tips you want to mention?