Maui with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Maui with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Maui's easy pace is perfect for tweens, who will enjoy the Garden Isle's wide sandy beaches, easy hikes and thundering waterfalls. Maui is a tropical paradise that will give you the chance to relax while your kids enjoy the incredible activities the sand and surf in Hawaii can offer. Here is some advice for planning family travel in Maui with tweens.

If you have a membership at the national wholesale chain Costco, (540 Haleakala Highway, 808-877-5248) stop at the local store in Maui with your tweens. The store is just seven minutes (3.39 miles) from Kahului Airport, so you can swing by on your way to your resort or hotel. Buy everyone the mask, fin and snorkel set, priced at $20. It's more convenient and cheaper than renting, and you'll use them throughout your Maui vacation with tweens. Stock up on local snacks for the beach – my son and his cousins love Japanese rice crackers called kakemochi, Hawaiian Sun drinks (especially guava and passion fruit), papayas, honey-roasted macadamia nuts and Ani's Hawaiian Sweet Bread. If you're staying in a condo or hotel where you have a kitchenette, snacks and breakfast food will come in handy. The Costco store is open Mon-Fri 10AM-8:30PM, Sat 9:30AM-6PM and Sun 10AM-6PM.

Practice using the snorkel, mask, and fins in your hotel pool prior to going into the ocean. This will even get older kids used to using the equipment so they'll feel more confident in the ocean.

Most hotels include breakfast, which is a good thing because on a family vacation in Maui with tweens, they're sure to wake up hungry. If you're staying at a condo, though, and you stopped at Costco (or any food store), you can eat like the locals: half a papaya, Ani's Hawaiian Sweet Bread and a glass of cold milk.

Kaanapali Beach (off Ka`anapali Parkway, or State Highway 30) is three miles of picture-perfect, warm white sand. Your tween will swim in naturally protected clear water and see fish, sea turtles and marine life. Black Rock, a stretch of black lava rocks at the north end of the beach, is great for snorkeling. They'll come out of the water every hour or two for snacks and drinks, so make sure to pack a cooler with all of the essentials. The beach is monitored by lifeguards, which gives you a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the Hawaiian paradise around you. There are no public restrooms, so use the facilities at one of the many hotels at the beach or at Whalers Village (2435 Ka'anapali Parkway, 808-661-4567), a shopping center that also offers restaurants and boutiques with souvenirs. Whalers Village is open daily 9:30AM-10PM.

Parking tip: The public parking lot on the ground level of the Sheraton Maui Resort (2605 Ka'anapali Parkway, 866-716-8109), the last hotel at the north end of Ka`anapali Parkway, is the closest to Black Rock. You have to arrive in the morning if you want to get one of the free parking spots.

It takes 40 minutes to drive the 26 miles from Black Rock Beach to Da Kitchen (425 Koloa Street, 808-871-7782), but with hungry tweens on a family vacation in Maui, the drive is well worth it. The restaurant serves unique dishes not found in any other state, including fried Spam Musubi ($4.50), Da Saimin ($8.25), and Honolulu-style fried noodles with vegetables and teriyaki beef ($8.99). My tween could pack away a Loco Moco plate lunch ($9.99), which includes a grilled burger topped with two eggs, onions, mushroom and gravy served with two scoops of rice and Potato Mac salad. My son garnishes it with lots of ketchup, like many of the locals do. Try the kalbi ribs, Korean chicken or teriyaki plate for a great lunch in paradise. Da Kitchen is open Mon-Fri 11AM-8:30PM and Sat 11AM-5PM, closed Sun.

No trip to Maui with tweens would be complete without looking for humpback whales. After a long day of family travel in Hawaii, spend a relaxing evening gazing at the ocean and looking for whales. The humpback whales stray far from the shores of Maui from November through May, so the best times to see them are from January through April. Watch for mother whales that bring their calves very close to shore. Stop on Highway 30 at any lookout over the ocean to get a good vantage point. Be patient, though – if you catch a glimpse of a majestic whale, it will be a memory your family will cherish forever.

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