Family-Friendly Activities in Maui

Hana at Dawn

Maui is the best Hawaiian Island for adventurous families. Compared to the other islands, it has not only the wild landscape of Kauai, but also the amenities of the very developed Oahu. Maui is also more moderate and digestible in size than the Big Island, making it the island where you can take in the best of what makes Hawaii amazing.

After several visits to Maui, we’ve figured out how to balance the island’s two sides: the “luxury and relaxation” of Wailea resorts and the “wild side” of Hana’s native landscapes. Here are our tips, tricks and suggestions for making the most of your own Maui adventure while having a family travel experience you’ll never forget. 

Halfway to Hana stand Halfway to Hana stand


Planning a Trip to Maui

The many regions of Maui can all be seen in a single trip if you plan before you arrive. This will let you hit the ground running.

Organizing Your Trip

  1. Long Flights and Travel Days: Depending on how long your flight is, divide the time between screen time, nap time and snack time. Bring an extra layer for cold planes that can double as a pillow or blanket. Preflight, plan out your lunch spot near the airport so you can get some local food fast to combat any hangry tendencies.
  2. Car Rental in Maui: Reserving your rental car and car seat ahead of time is key. Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) is easy to navigate with a tram that carries visitors from baggage claim right to the Alamo Rent A Car location. For most visitors, an SUV will be enough for your family and luggage.
  3. To start acclimating to the new time zone, immediately change any watches to the new time zone and look to place your bare feet on sand or grass to help you connect to the earth. If your restaurant pick happens to be near a beach or park, let everyone play or run around for a bit before getting back in the car.
  4. There are two key areas to visit, especially if this is your first trip: Hana and Wailea (the resort area).
  5. Our personal preference is to structure your trip to make Hana the first stop on vacation. This allows the adventure to begin almost immediately, getting you and your family miles away from the ordinary. Within 45 minutes of landing at Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG), where you can pick up your Alamo Rent a Car, visitors can be hiking to Twin Falls Waterfall, rubbing their fingers across the bark of an ancient tree or biting into some local banana bread from the Half Way to Hana Roadside Market.
  6. When you return to civilization, the entire second part of your trip is spent relaxing at your ideal resort in Wailea. When it’s time to leave, you will be only 25 minutes from Kahului Airport, where you can drop off your rental car.
Waiʻanapanapa State Park blowhole Waiʻanapanapa State Park blowhole


Hana, Hawaii

The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is everything it seems to be on social media. Along the famously curvy route there are waterfalls, amazing hikes, black sand beaches, blowholes and delicious food. The best way to experience it is to take your time, stopping along the way to explore new sights. We love breaking it up into at least two days, with an overnight stay in Hana. Some stands and food stops take credit cards but plan ahead and bring cash.

Road to Hana Sights

  • Twin Falls
  • Hana Lava Tubes
  • Seven Sacred Pools (‘Ohe’o Gulch)
  • Honokalani Black Sand Beach
  • The Half Way to Hana Stand, known for its banana bread and shaved ice

Places to Stay in Hana

While so much of the landscape can be experienced on the scenic drive, there’s an element to being in Hana that can only be felt by stopping and spending time there. There are several B&Bs and AirBnBs, but our favorite place to stay is Travaasa. It has huge rooms and lanais that look more like a summer camp cabin than a traditional hotel in a wide-open natural setting. When you stay here, visitors can enjoy sights that day trippers miss, like the massive array of stars that come out after sunset and spectacular sunrises.

Hana Highlights

Traveling West to Hawaii from anywhere in the U.S. means that waking up at what would usually be ‘sleep-in’ time is still early in Maui. With its prime east facing beaches, Hana is the perfect place to walk out to see the sun rise. If you stay in Travaasa, you can do sunrise yoga or just stand on your deck with a fresh mug of coffee to take in the view. Wai'anapanapa State Park is also an excellent spot to watch the sunrise, with natural stone arches, lava caves and hidden blowholes.

Hana, Hawaii, at dawn Hana, Hawaii, at dawn


Wailea, Hawaii

Wailea Highlights

This part of the trip is devoted to resort life in Wailea on the west side of Maui. We’ve found that the Fairmont Kea Lani offers the perfect mix of scenery, amenities and opportunities for splurging. The moment you step out of your rental car, you are greeted with a lei, a fruit drink refresher and are transported to another world.

Wailea Resorts

Right off the shore from the Fairmont Kea Lani is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui. You can rent all the snorkel gear from the hotel’s activities center and just walk into the water – no boat or private tour needed. After only five minutes in the water, I found myself sandwiched between two giant sea turtles. We also joined in on a sandcastle contest and watched the sun dip below the ocean from the shore nightly. Make sure to take advantage of in-room dining at the Fairmont Kea Lani. Their guest’s services will design the most beautiful dinner overlooking the ocean on the lanai, guaranteeing one of the most memorable sunset dinners of your life. Additionally, make a reservation at Ko and order the Ahi on the Rock – it was our favorite dish during our entire Maui trip.

Kid-Friendly Activities in Wailea

To be completely honest, it took having a daughter to convince us to give free resort activities a try, and I’m so glad we did. We found that Fairmont Kea Lani offerings let guests connect more to the history and life of the island and the state, all in an accessible setting. Highlights for us were lei making, ukulele lessons and Mahakihi games. The biggest event for our daughter was a nighttime ghost crab hunt. There are also great excursions offered onsite for most resorts. Our favorites to date are Hawaiian canoeing, scuba lessons and (of course) the luau.

Fairmont Kea Lani Fairmont Kea Lani


Popular Maui Attractions

  1. Sunrise Haleakala: Watching the sun rise over the clouds on top of Haleakala is one of the most popular experiences in Hawaii and, like all of Maui, it lives up to the reputation. There is also the option to go up for sunset, but sunrise at the peak is so epic and feels like a much larger experience. Before you go, keep these things in mind: First, make reservations on the official National Park Service Site, as they can sell out. You can reserve up to 60 days out. Bring an extra sweatshirt to stay warm. Finally, get there early. The parking lots can fill up, so arrive before dawn to have the easiest experience.
  2. Whale Watching in Maui: Maui is a great destination to see humpback whales. The whale watching season stretches from mid-December to mid-May (though peak time is January to March). There are lots of tours (some are usually available through your hotel), and many can often be found for a discounted rate off-site. When planning your tour, keep in mind that mornings are often smoother seas in Maui, but there are some studies that suggest humpback whales surface more when conditions are choppier.

With this guide, you are all set to embark on the best family vacation to Maui. Remember to bring your reef-safe sunscreen and your camera and have a blast!

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About the Author

Jade Broadus and her husband Bob are the founders of the travel blog, Vagabond3. Jade originally hails from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and now lives in Los Angeles with Bob and their spunky 4 year old daughter. With over 250 trips under their belts as a family, they aren’t stopping anytime soon.