Maui with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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Maui with Kids: A Family Vacation

Alamy

Thoughts of Maui evoke visions of beautiful beaches, the feel of rain-forest mists and the swish of grass skirts. Its unique mix of adventure, culture and leisure creates the perfect recipe for a tropical family vacation with young children.

Like most families with children, you will want to go when you can avoid long lines, overbooked flights and shoulder-to-shoulder sunbathers when all you want to do is build a sandcastle. If you want some of Maui to yourself and the kids, October and November are great times to go; but avoid Lahaina during Halloween since it can get pretty crazy. Temperatures will range from high 60s to mid 80s, so bring sunscreen and hats and don't plan too many intense activities for one day.
To get a taste of all that Maui has to offer, in one perfect family vacation day with kids, try the following:


Morning


Start the vacation day at the Gazebo Restaurant at Outrigger Napili Shores Beach Resort (5315 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Lahaina; 808-669-5621). This small oceanside restaurant is a hidden gem. You can't see it from the road since it is located at the back of the resort, so don't miss it. And even though they have typical breakfast fare -- eggs any way you want them, omelets, breakfast burritos, etc. -- you really should plan to order their specialty, macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup (breakfast and lunch from $5).

Insider tip: It opens at 7:30AM and you will want to get there early because there will be a line, but it is worth the wait. My kids were entertained by the life-size chess/checkerboard with carved monkey coconuts located outside on the lawn and you can't beat the view. Once you are inside, the ocean-inspired decor will keep the kids occupied as they spot the interesting array of creatures strung across the gazebo ceiling.

Next, head to the Maui Ocean Center (192 Ma'alaea Road; 808-270-7000; $25.50 for adults $25.50, $18.50 for children 3-12) for a morning of discovery. Learn about Hawaiian marine life from the shore to the reef and beyond. Touch tanks, aquarium tunnels and outdoor lagoons give everyone an up-close view. Don't miss the exhibits on the remarkable achievements of the seafaring ancient Hawaiians and have fun shopping in the Ocean Center gift shop.



Afternoon


When it is time for lunch, head to the outdoor Iao Valley Nature Cafe (808-269-2940;) behind the Hawaii Nature Center (875 Iao Valley Road, Wailuku; 888-244-6500). My son was thrilled to find peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit smoothies on the kids' menu and my mahi mahi sandwich was excellent (from $5.50).

Insider tip: The cafe only takes cash, so be sure to have some on hand.

Following lunch, walk next door to explore the Kepaniwai Park and Heritage Gardens (870 Iao Valley Road, Wailuku; 808-270-7232) or find a shady spot in the park for a nap There are public restrooms, picnic pavilions and walking paths with architectural features commemorating the various cultures of Maui's immigrants. Once your kids are ready to move on, head to Iao Valley State Park for an easy, self-guided hike into the rain forest to the Iao Needle (Located at the end of Iao Valley Road. The .6-mile paved pathway to view the Needle makes an easy hike that kids will enjoy in Maui. An exploration of the ethno-botanical garden along the stream is a great way to finish the visit.



Evening


Old Lahaina Luau (1251 Front Street, Lahaina; 800-248-5828; $96 for adults, $65 for children 3-12, free for kids 2 and under sitting in a parent's lap) is one of the best on Maui. It offers a variety of tasty food, a peek at the pig coming out of the underground oven, educational demonstrations on creating leis, grass skirts and other artwork, as well as a phenomenal Polynesian dance show that will mesmerize parents and kids alike.

Insider Tip: All seats are by reservation only. Make a reservation for the luau as soon as you decide to go to Maui – it can be difficult to get in if you wait until you get there.

My 3-year-old son was enthralled from the minute we arrived. He couldn't get enough of the pre-dinner musical entertainment and stood in front of the stage and danced to the music of the band, while I admired the work of the Lauhala weaver who created everything from fish to butterflies out of leaves. This luau is great for kids because the extensive buffet (with short lines) will please even the most picky young eaters, and there is plenty of room for little ones to wiggle along with the show, which ends around 8:15PM.

As the final drum beats of the luau echo through the night, take a deep breath, look up at the stars and take one last walk along the beach to complete your perfect family vacation day in Maui.

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