For many travelers, a Hawaii vacation conjures up the image of lots of time sitting on the beach in a lounge chair with a tropical drink in hand. Those of us who are family travelers, however, know that even tropical trips are rarely quite so relaxing. Keeping the kids occupied and engaged is important too. Luckily, a Hawaiian vacation in Maui with kids can be full of lots of activities to keep families busy and entertained.
I recently returned from a trip to Maui to the Ka’anapali Beach area and discovered a wide variety kid-friendly things to do there and around the entire island. Whether your family wants to taste local food, experience Hawaiian culture, or dive into a few outdoor adventures, you can find something that fits both the interests of the kids and the adults in your family in Maui.
Here are 11 of the best activities and things to do in Maui with kids.
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Things to do in Maui with Kids
1. Visit Haleakalā National Park
National parks are on the radar of many more families in recent years, thanks to the centennial in 2015 and the Every Kid in a Park (now Every Kid Outdoors) program. This program makes national park entrance fees free for families with 4th graders.
On Maui, Haleakalā National Park is well worth a visit, even with younger kids. The most popular tour is to arrive at sunrise, but a 3 am hotel transfer probably isn’t advisable for families with little ones. Consider a day visit instead, where you can hike, visit the summit, look out for nēnē (Hawaiian goose) or spot ‘ahinahina (giant silversword plants). The fee is $25 to enter. Consider an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) if you plan to visit other NPS sites in the year. My family always more than breaks even on entrance fees every year with ours.
Check out for my guide to Haleakalā National Park for more information.
2. Take an Outrigger Canoe Ride
For an active outing with the kids, book a paddle tour aboard a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe. It’s active without being too strenuous for the little ones.
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Maui was the trip I took with Ali’i Maui Outrigger Canoes around Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach. Our group lucked into an up close dolphin experience and learned a lot of Hawaiian history (and the occasional tall tale) from our friendly guides.
3. Watch a Luau
Attending a luau is a must-do for most families on any Hawaii vacation. A luau combines both dinner and evening entertainment in one setting, making for easy logistics with little kids. Most of the Maui luau offerings are on the Ka’anapali and Lahaina side of the island at the major resorts there, although the Grand Wailea has one as well.
On my most recent trip to Maui, I watched the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui. With bright costumes, fire dancers, and authentic (but also kid-friendly) food, it worked well for families with nearly any age child. For families with younger kids, I especially appreciated that kids ages 3 and under are free. Although the luau is pricey, consider upgrading to VIP tickets ($100 more per table, regardless of party size) which include no lines to enter, premium seating closest to the stage, photo, and souvenir (note that some of the usual benefits have been modified in 2021 due to limited capacity and health regulations).
4. Go Parasailing
If you have an adventurous kiddo, parasailing is one activity that is not to be missed. UFO Parasail on Ka’anapali Beach is one of the best-known operators in Maui with an excellent safety record. I was truly surprised to find that they take children as young as 3 years old! Once you are up in the air, however, you realize why. Parasailing is extremely peaceful and relaxing – not an extreme sport at all.
5. Explore Under the Ocean at Maui Ocean Center
Most kids are too young to scuba dive but that doesn’t mean they can’t explore beneath the ocean’s surface on a vacation in Maui. The Maui Ocean Center is an aquarium where kids can get up close and personal with marine life. The center has sharks, turtles, stingrays, tropical fish, corals, and more. It is centrally located to both the Lahaina/Ka’anapali area resorts as well as the ones in Kihea/Wailea. Buy tickets online in advance for more savings – there’s a four pack that is perfect for many families.
6. Eat Pie at Leoda’s
The hallmark of any good family vacation is enjoying great local food. Maui certainly has plenty to try, but a highlight for families is undoubtedly Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop near Lahaina. There’s plenty of Hawaiian comfort food on the menu for the main meal, but always save room for dessert. Pie varieties include apple crumb, olowalu lime, banana cream, macadamia nut chocolate, coconut cream, and many more.
7. Play (and Shop and Eat) at Whalers Village
Whalers Village on Ka’anapali Beach is a destination where most families will – and should – end up at some point on a vacation on that side of the island. The open air shopping center has a number of local stores where I could have spent a lot of time and money, but we all know the kids can’t shop for long.
Take a break at the playground there or plan to visit on Tuesday nights when the mall offers free movies under the stars. The three sit down restaurants in Whalers Village – Hula Grill, Leilani’s, and Monkeypod – are all kid-friendly places for dinner as well where parents can still enjoy quality local food.
8. Snorkel ’til Ya Drop!
My husband and I are scuba divers but we are still a long way away from being able to dive with the kids. Fortunately in places like Maui, the snorkeling is almost as good as the diving, so you can get younger kids in on the action. Even toddlers can often participate with a good life jacket and boogie board to help them stay afloat.
Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach offers some excellent snorkeling right off the beach – nothing but mask and fin rental required. Or, book a snorkel tour with your family. Tour operators know some of the secret spots and can monitor local conditions to give you the best experience on the day of your trip.
9. Devour a Dole Whip or Sample Shave Ice
I don’t know about you, but I treat the kids on vacation with more than their fair share of local goodies. Maui has plenty to try.
Disney fans are probably familiar with the world-renowned frozen pineapple treat that is the Dole Whip. Dole Whips can be found in a number of locations in Maui. I spotted them at Hilo Hattie in Lahaina, and have heard that Lappert’s Ice Cream carries them as well.
Why just stop at a Dole Whip when there are other frozen treats to be tasted? Shave ice is a favorite Hawaiian snack for all ages, so plan an outing to try the treat as well. Where should you go to get the best? Ululani’s is the gold standard of shave ice on Maui. You can find a somewhat secret location within the Hyatt Regency Maui near the pool where lines are usually short. Or opt for the main locations in Lahaina or Kihei.
10. Whale Watch
Huge numbers of humpback whales flock south to Maui from Alaska in the colder months, making it one of the best spots for whale watching in the world. You can spot the majestic creatures as early as October, with the season ending some time in April. Peak months are usually January, February, and March.
While it’s often possible to spot the whales from the beach, a number of local boat operators run whale tours seasonally.
11. Hit the Beach and the Pool
Last but certainly not least, make sure to plan plenty of down time on your Maui vacation at the beach and at the pool. With younger kids like mine, it’s the best – and cheapest – thing to do on a Hawaii trip.
For that reason, it’s important to do your research to choose a Hawaiian resort with the right pools and on the right beaches as you plan your vacation. Some pool scenes are busy and active with grottos, waterslides, splash pads, and other features – likely the right fit for families with school age kids who can swim competently. If you are visiting with a baby or toddler, you might want a lower key pool scene, or at least a resort that has a dedicated area for the little ones to safely play in the water.
Bonus: Where to Stay on Maui with Kids
Speaking of hotels, I was able to see a lot of them on my last trip to Maui and have some recommendations for families. I toured 12 hotels and resorts on Ka’anapali Beach and spent several nights in two of them: the Hyatt Residence Club Ka’anapali Beach Maui and the Ka’anapali Ali’i. The stretch of beach they are on is beautiful, separated by Black Rock at the dividing line between north and south.
Both Hyatt Regency Maui and Hyatt Residence Club worked well for families. The properties are adjacent to one another and share pools and other resort privileges. The Residence Club has luxurious condo accommodations and is a little quieter. The Hyatt Regency is a traditional upscale hotel experience with some fun extras like the resort’s famous animal residents, including seven African blackfooted penguins that are amazing to watch. Both hotels have water slides, small splash and play areas, and poolside restaurants/bars. I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
Families with younger kids wanting more solitude would appreciate the Ka’anapali Ali’i’s lower key scene. With a shallow zero entry walk down ideal for younger kids and a few choicely-placed pool waterfalls, it offers more serenity. The condo style accommodations work well for families, but there isn’t as much to do on site as some of the big brand resorts may offer.
I also was a big fan of both the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas and Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas for families. These properties are also condo accommodations with vibrant pool areas and excellent on-site dining.
More Advice for Maui & the Hawaiian Islands with Kids
Traveling to Maui or elsewhere in Hawaii with kids? Check out these resources:
- My friend Marcie of Hawaii Travel with Kids has an amazingly detailed Maui with Kids travel guide available for purchase on her site. This guide will take a lot of the planning and guess work out of your trip.
- Our family also adores Hawaii’s Big Island – it’s the island we visit most. Check out my guide to Hawaii’s Big Island with kids.
- Many families have Disney’s Aulani Resort on O’ahu on their family travel bucket list. See my tips for the best splurges at Aulani.
Disclosure: The Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association and several of its member hotels, restaurants, and activity providers hosted me on my most recent trip to Maui. As always, all opinions are my own.