Maui - NO KA OI
Having lived on Maui for ten years, I often get asked to recommend hotels, beaches, restaurants. Although the restaurants change every few years, the beaches do not. I try my best to keep up on the changes by visiting yearly :)
Here are some tips for Maui, if you’re planning a vaca to the Valley Isle this winter.
Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen.
When you get off the plane and get your car, consider going to Costco on the left if you’ll be making meals in a condo. It’s cheaper than Safeway on the West side.
Kmart is also a great stop for beach shoes, towels, snacks and snorkel stuff too.
We always make these two stops to load up.
Whale Season is January to March, not usually before or after, no matter what is said. Whale watches are usually successful. They are out there jumping, breeding, birthing but you can catch awesome glimpses of them from the Pali (cliffs) on the drive from the airport to the west side of Maui. Just don’t stop all traffic trying to turn left on that twisty road. Another great place to view whales is on the far north side of the island before the road gets treacherous to navigate.
Beaches for young kids
Westside Baby Beach – Lahaina - Off north front St. is beach access (look for the blue sign) near “Jesus Coming Soon” Sign. Park on street and walk in to a sheltered long, beach facing Lanai. Very calm, shallow with nice view of Lahaina harbor and Lanai. Not good snorkeling but at high tide it’s possible. No toilets or tables but there is a shower. All beaches in Hawaii are public and must have access. This is a great map of the west side.
Baby Beach – Sprecklesville – near Kahului Airport. Take road to Paia/Hana but just before Paia turn left before big, modern sub-division. This will be after turn to go up Haleakala. Drive down road towards ocean and turn right to parking behind beach. The beach is in front of Maui Golf and Country Club and parking is a bit tricky to find but it’s a good secluded beach for kids if the wind is blowing off shore. There is a natural jetty that protects the shoreline from waves.
Wailea beaches are good too on most winter days. Try next to the Intercontinental Hotel where there is a public beach access sign and excellent parking. Good snorkeling in there and restrooms. (I once took a young woman scuba diving there who had no use of her arms and legs! It was tricky but rewarding!)
Kapalua Bay has a lovely little beach but you must get there before noon to get parking. The access is north of the Napili Kai Beach club. Good parking and restrooms. The best snorkeling is on the right side of the protected bay, just as the rocks start to disappear on the surface. Experienced snorkelers will love going around point to the north in amongst the rocks. It’s a long way but gorgeous if the visibility is good. Turtles hang in here.
Airport Beach, north of Kaanapali is now called something Hawaiian but it has great parking, rest rooms, showers and a good enough stretch of coral parallel to shore to snorkel. Just north of Black Rock, across from the Sugar Cane train station, turn towards the ocean. This beach can have surf but on a calm day it’s wonderful.
Black Rock is wonderful because of the sea turtles who seem to hang there daily. If the surf is crashing in on Kaanapali Beach in front of the Sheraton, don’t bother going in.
Try parking at the 12 free spots just north of the valet parking for Kaanapali Beach Hotel.
Mile 14 marker at Olowalu can be very good snorkeling although the beach is close to the highway.
Tide differences in Hawaii are only 2-3 feet so low tide isn’t really an issue.
Restaurants – These change with the seasons but we like the Hula Grill on Kaanapali Beach at Whalers Village (lots of paid parking). The kids can play in the grassy area if you get a table on the edge. The Barefoot Bar next door has a sand floor which is fun too and you can get good pu pus (appetizers) there. Sunset is visible and they have live music.
Go to Kaanapali Beach Hotel for a drink and appetizers. The hula show at 7 is free and super fun. Friday night is kids’ hula. Very cute to watch. This hotel is a wonderful throw back to the old Hawaiian style. Love it. The restaurant is very good too.
Hailiimaille General Store if you are over near Kahalui or Sprecklesville at lunch. It’s out of the way but renowned and a fun, funky place. If you’re over on that side go watch the surfers past Paia .
Avoid Front Street for meals if you can – it’s really pricey. Although Cheeseburger in Paradise is fun if you don’t mind paying $12 for a burger. Longhi’s is world famous for pasta.
Hard Rock Café or Bubba Gumps is good for kids at the north end of Lahaina at Front St.
Thai restaurants on Maui are good too. I like Siam Thai Cuisine in Wailuku if you’re over there at the Iao Valley. I like the walk around the Iao Needle. It shows you the true Hawaiian foliage and jungle feel of the islands. Wailuku is most like old Hawaii and the Iao Theatre is a fabulous old theatre featuring plays, on Market street.
If you’re in Makawao or upcountry at lunch or dinner Poli’s Mexican is great food and kid friendly. Makawao is a cowboy/ artsy town with lots of art in galleries. Like Kirkland without the lake and smaller.
Kihei has a Poli’s too - at Sugar Beach (north Kihei).
For finer dining and a real treat we love the Plantation House Restaurant on the Kapalua Golf Course – go at sunset. Food is exceptional and kids are welcome.
Drinks at the Grand Wailea in Kihei, The Ritz in Kapalua, or The Hyatt Hotel is fun.
The Hyatt pool is fabulous for kids and adults!! Take the kids to see the penguins and flamingos and let them swim in the kiddie pool while you have a Mai Tai. Parking at the back of the hotel is free.
Parasailing just off Kaanapali Beach in front of Leilani’s at Whaler’s Village is great. It’s a happy face parachute. Not scary at all. They have a tandem set up so you can go with your child.
I think Condos are essential with kids
Look online for deals
We like Lahaina side because that’s where I lived. The weather can be nicer, depending on time of year. North of Lahaina (Kaanapali to Kapalua) April-October sunny and nice but rainy in winter. Recently I’ve stayed at Maui Eldorado which I found online somewhere. We stayed in a beautiful 1 bedroom looking at one of the 3 pools and facing the ocean. You have to walk through the golf course to get to Whalers village and the beach but we loved it and the price was right.
Napili is kind of secluded and too far away from stuff we like to do but cooler for sleeping and more quiet than anything in Lahaina.
Kihei is the other tourist side - down south and has lots of good condos. Families love Kihei for the beaches.
Kamaole Sands condos are clean and nicely appointed. Few are actually on the ocean side of the road. You’ll go to the beach every day and be out in the car anyhow so ocean view may not be essential.
A rental car is absolutely necessary. Public transportation is poor at best.
If you’re staying in Kaanapali at one of the large hotels, there is a nice boardwalk along the beach connecting to Whaler’s Village.
Sharks – There are none to worry about in Hawaii.
Do an introductory scuba dive while there! Off a boat is more fun, easier and cost effective than off a beach.
Souvenirs at Hilo Hatties or ABC stores. Cheaper.
The trip to Hana is fantastic but difficult with small children because of the long drive. It’s very winding and twisty and car sicky. There are lots of pullouts and waterfalls to look at along the way. Start very early and zoom on through or be prepared to be on a long string of cars trying to get to Hana. Visit the general store while in Hana. George Harrison used to live a few miles down the road. If you save the sightseeing for the way home, you’ll beat everyone else.
Go the extra few miles to Oheo Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools and if you have time I highly recommend the hike up to the waterfall through the bamboo forest. The black sand beach is interesting at the Black Sand Beach Park with a nice walk along the cliffs.
Don’t drive the southerly back way to Kihei even though it looks shorter. It’s not. The road is very bad and a rental car company will not come if you have a breakdown.
If you love to hike –Haleakala Crater is wonderful! Try to get as far as you can into the crater so you can really experience the desolation inside. Sturdy shoes necessary as well as warm clothes. Two months before going, enter your name in the monthly lottery to get a cabin (very, very rustic) in the crater. There are 3 cabins in the crater that hold about 12 people on bunks and are found through the park service. Sleeping bag necessary.
The Ocean Center in Maalaea is a good rainy day activity with kids.
Have fun and try not to do too much while on Maui. Relaxing is as important as seeing everything.
By the way, many of these places are mentionned in my newly published mystery, The Dream Jumper's Promise. (Set on Maui)
Author of The Dream Jumper's Promise
Available on amazon Kindle