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Whether you’re looking for an active family vacation or a sedate, relaxed holiday, Maui offers much more than just amazing sunsets and white sand beaches. The Valley Isle is one of the most popular Hawaiian islands, and is a perfect multigenerational family travel destination. Family members of all ages can participate and enjoy a wide variety of activities, both on land and at sea. Here are 8 amazing and active things to do in Maui with kids.

8 active things to do in Maui with kids

Kihei Beach outrigger canoes in Maui
Makena Beach, Maui (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority, Tor Johnson)

Enjoy the beaches

Plan for some memorable family beach days on one (or more!) of Maui’s incredible white sand beaches. If you’re staying in the popular resort area of Wailua, the local Wailua beach is beautiful and busy, which lots of options for SUP rentals and restaurant amenities.

Also in the south Maui area is Makena Beach, with a mile of orange and white sand washed by brilliant blue and green waves. On the western side of Maui, Kapalua Beach is one of the most beautiful on the island, with great swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Be cautious during the winter months for the high swells.

At the resort area of Ka’anapali, the beach is long and wide, with calm waters for swimming. At nearby Black Rock, you’ll often see sea turtles and cliff divers. If you drive over to the Eastern side of the Island, look for the black sand beach of Honokalani at Wai’anapanapa State Park. It won’t be nearly as busy as the resort beaches, and the volcanic caverns are really interesting.

couple walking on beach in maui

Find a hotel or short-term rental on Maui

Visit the Maui Ocean Center

If you need a break from the beach, the Maui Ocean Center in Wailuku will entertain everyone with over 60 marine life exhibits and hands-on activities for the kids. You’ll be surrounded by a 750,000-gallon water tank filled with amazing sea creatures, and can walk through the acrylic tunnel admiring manta rays and sharks swimming overhead.

There’s an interactive Marine Mammal Discovery Center, where kids and adults can explore the world of dolphins, humpback whales, monk seals, and learn more about Hawaii’s unique ocean habitat. The Center is also home to the largest collection of living coral in the United States.

Ocean Fish of Maui (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kirk Lee Aeder)
Ocean Fish of Maui (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority, Kirk Lee Aeder)

Explore Haleakalā National Park

No matter when you choose to visit this sacred and special place, ensure you spend one day of your Maui itinerary at Haleakalā Crater and National Park. Depending on where you start, it can take up to two hours to drive up to the summit of Halakala.

If you want to watch the sunrise from the summit, that means a very early-wake up call, and note that you won’t be the only one and the road and park entrance could be busy.

Sunset at Haleakalā (Credit: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Linda Ching)
Sunset at Haleakalā (Credit: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Linda Ching)

Bring along some extra, warm clothes, as the temperature plummets the higher you go and the summit is located at 10,023 feet above sea level.

If you want to explore more of the extensive 30,000 acre National Park, don’t miss its numerous hiking trails, including the moderate Pipiwai Trail that wanders through a bamboo forest and to the Waimoku Falls.

And check out the Pools at Oheo. The tiered swimming pools are fed by mountain waterfalls, and you can access the Pools on your own or via on a Tour Maui guided tour.

Learn to surf

Earn bragging rights back home by claiming you learned to surf on Maui. Okay, it may not be that easy, but you should certainly give it a try when visiting Maui with kids. With patient and knowledgable instruction, the surfing dudes at Hawaiian Paddle Sports will help younger and older kids get the hang of it before you do.

Head to Honolua Bay if you want to watch the pros do their stuff. They’ll show you the ‘sport of kings’ during the big waves of the winter months. You can find calmer waters at the beaches in Kaanapali, Lahaina and Kihei. Book some surf or stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) lessons.

Remember to be sun safe. Apply reef-safe and water-proof sunscreen or wear SPF surf shirts and swimsuits before heading out on to the water. And don’t forget the bottoms of your feet. Just trust me on that.

Getting up on a surf board is tough but so worth it! (Credit: C. Laroye)
Getting up on that board is tough but so worth it! (Credit: C. Laroye)

Snorkel or Scuba at Molokini Crater

The waters off of Maui and the tiny island of Molokini are perfect for novice and experienced snorkelers and scuba divers. You can rent snorkel gear at your resort and walk (backwards) into the ocean at your home beach, or book a boat tour for a half or full day on the water. 

Pride of Maui offers a longer, more exclusive visit to the crescent-shaped island of Molokini, off the southwestern coast of Maui. If you’re snorkeled in Oahu with kids before, this experience may well top that!

The rich variety of coral reefs and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles in Turtle Town will amaze everyone in the family. You can use flotation devices with built-in portholes and PFDs (life-jackets).

Even nervous swimmers (young or old) can enjoy being just under the sea. Snorkel and scuba tours can be accessed in the harbors of Kihei. Or enjoy snorkeling and other activities in Lahaina on Maui’s western shore.

molokini crater near maui
Molokini Island off of Maui (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority, Ron Garnett)

Drive the road to Hana

One of the most famous and breathtaking roads in the world can be found on Maui – the road to Hana. It’s 52 miles of winding roadway, following along the lush Maui coastline.

The Hana Highway connects Kahului to the tiny town of Hana. Along the way, there are waterfalls, lookouts, and the Hana Lava Tube. Don’t miss the Pools of Oheo and the Wai’anapanapa State Park (remember that Black Sand Beach?).

Perhaps you may find that driving that distance and the 617 hairpin curves yourself is intimidating. Leave the driving to the professionals at Tour Maui and book a guided tour in a cruiser van.

Whether you drive yourself or enjoy a chauffeured tour bus, plan to spend a day of your Maui vacay enjoying this amazing road trip.

The winding road of the Hana Highway in Maui (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Japan)
The winding road of the Hana Highway (Credit: Hawaii Tourism Japan)

Whale watching

The warm, shallow waters off of Lahaina, West and South Maui offer some of the best whale watching opportunities in the world.

The winter whale watching season is at its best from December to March. That’s when large North Pacific humpback whales can be seen breaching, tail slapping and blowing spouts in the air. You can observe these incredible sea creatures from land of course.

But heading out to sea for a closer (but not too close) look is the ideal way to marvel at the annual winter migration. Sightings during whale watching tours are pretty much guaranteed during peak tour season.

Humpback Whale breaching off Maui Coast (Credit: iStock)
Humpback Whale breaching off Maui Coast (Credit: iStock)

Ride the Sugar Cane Train

Who doesn’t love a train ride? For over 45 years, the historic Sugar Cane Train has travelled the 6 miles from Lahaina to Ka’anapali in West Maui.

The train tour offers amazing views of the ocean. In the winter months, a perfect viewing opportunity to see humpback whales breaching below. Kids will love the train ride. Everyone will enjoy learning the interesting history of the sugar cane industry on the Island.

Pin for Later

waves hitting beach in maui

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Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks Pride of Maui for sponsorship of this post.

Have you enjoyed some Aloha time in Maui? Share your experience below.

Claudia Laroye
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