Maui with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Planning a family vacation in Maui with teens couldn't be easier. You will find your vacation itinerary chock full of activities your teens will love, from watching a spectacular sunrise from the summit of a volcano to getting heart-pumping thrills through the rainforest or tumbling in the surf while they learn about Hawaii's culture, history, and precious ecosystem.
The best family vacation in Maui starts with sunrise at Haleakala, "The House of the Sun." Rising 10,023 feet above sea level, Haleakala is the highest elevation on Maui. Temperatures can drop below freezing, so be sure to wear your warmest clothes and jackets, and even bring blankets from your hotel. Come to the summit at least a half hour before sunrise, and come armed with a thermos of coffee, bottled water and snacks to help during the wait. Be sure to call the Haleakala National Park to verify weather conditions and sunrise. Your teens may groan when you wake them up early enough to view the sunrise, but they will be so awed by the view that they will forget how early it is! The park rangers will guide you to the best parking. Wrapped in your blankets, head for the rim of the crater and secure a spot at the rail which protects the delicate ecosystem. You can also watch the sunrise from the glass-enclosed ranger station.
Just before sunrise, one of the rangers will welcome all visitors and explain what you are going to see. When the ranger chants the mele oli, everyone hushes in what we locals call a chicken-skin moment. You will hear about this legend of Haleakala. Long ago, the Sun was so fond of sleeping he would race across the sky, giving the land only a few hours of daylight. The god Maui captured the Sun at Haleakala with a rope of coconut fiber and made him promise to slow down.
After sunrise, your teens will proudly get their National Park Passport stamped with the Haleakala National Park stamp in the ranger station, where you should be sure not to miss the exhibits. We found much to explore as the sun rose, revealing the desolate landscape of the crater. Hike the short trails to get a closer look at the towering cinder cones and the shimmering rare silversword plants which grow only in Haleakala.
Haleakala National Park, 808-572-4400
Hours: open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round
Admission: $10 per car
Kula Lodge, just minutes from the summit, for a hearty breakfast and to view the breathtaking coastline of Maui. I recommend the stacks of big, fluffy pancakes with sausages or the French toast made with buttery Hawaiian Sweet Bread. The endless cups of Kona coffee will have you ready for the next adventure.
Kula Lodge, 15200 Haleaka Highway, Route 377, Maui, HI 96790, 800-233-1535
Hours: 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
What Maui family vacation with teens would be complete without ziplining through the rainforest? We thought this was expensive and extravagant when we read about it. However, it was worth every cent! Take a wild ride through the rainforest with Skyline Eco-Adventures. Each zipline crossing gets longer and more exciting. The views grow more spectacular. We all screamed our way through the rainforest. Afterwards, our teens thought we were so cool! A photo of the family in crash helmets, zipline rigs, and harnesses made a memorable Christmas card.
Haleakala Skyline tour with Skyline Eco-Adventures, 808-878-8400
Hours: Tours run from 8:30AM until 3:30PM, see website for all start times. Tours last 1.5-2 hours
Cost: $95 each (some discount for booking online); book at least 2 weeks in advance
Hookipa State Park attracts the best world-class windsurfers. Their spectacular feats and aerobatics kept us glued to the waves for at least an hour. You'll hear French, Spanish, German, and many other languages on this sandy beach. The headlands are great for spectators, and the beach is perfect for sunbathing and napping. And, of course, family vacations to Maui must include this much needed beach time!
Directions from Kula: head towards the sea to the coastal Hana Highway 380. Hookipa is 2 miles past Paia going East.
The locals frequent the long sandy beach of H.A. Baldwin State Park, a few minutes away from Hookipa. Although the waves and currents can be hazardous due to strong afternoon winds, there are lifeguards and a shallow area protected by reefs. Your teens will enjoy bodyboarding and swimming here. Shady areas, restrooms, and showers are available.
Everyone knows that of all the things to do in Maui, a Luau is an absolute must for your vacation. Whether you head back to your hotel to shower or you head over straight from the beach, you simply must take your teens to Old Lahaina Luau, the most authentic Hawaiian luau on the island. When the runners blow their conch shells, the air is filled with visible tension. No matter how many times we've seen this, we're always excited to watch as they unearth the kalua pig, accompanied by billows of fragrant smoke from the imu pit, the traditional Hawaiian underground oven. Guests have the opportunity to learn from the locals about local culture before the luau feast, which features many traditional Hawaiian foods as well as steak, chicken, and fish, so even a picky teen doesn't go hungry. When the sun sets, the show begins. Be captivated by the drummers and chanters explaining the history of the islands, the primal rhythm of the traditional Hula Kahiko, and the graceful, modern Hula Auwana celebrated by King Kalakaua, our Merrie Monarch. You'll never get enough of the dancers! No one wants to leave when the cast comes out to bid you their final "ALOHA!"
Old Lahaina Luau, 1251 Front Street, Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761, 808-667-1998
Hours: Starts nightly at 5:15PM or 5:45PM, depending on the time of the year
Cost: Adults: $92.00, Children (12 and under): $62.00
If your teens still have energy, walk the wooden sidewalks along the Lahaina wharf. Imagine what it must have been like from 1825 to 1860 when British and European whalers harpooned humpback whales in these Pacific waters. The fresh ocean breeze and trade winds will soon be swaying your family to sleep after a very full day in Maui, the Garden Isle.
Pam Chun's award-winning first novel, The Money Dragon, was named one of 2002's Best Books in Hawaii. Born and raised in Hawaii, she has been featured on NPR and has spoken at the Smithsonian. Read her blog on Red Room.
- Overview:Maui Travel Guide