Hello, Hawaii: Five Kid-Friendly Endeavors on Maui
Kids and parents alike will be experts on Pacific marine life after a visit to the idyllic island of Maui, the second-largest in the Hawaiian archipelago. Spend your days relaxing on beaches and admiring creatures like sharks, humpback whales and Hawaiian green sea turtles from a variety of vantage points. Plan your visit during the spring or fall, when the island is less likely to be crowded, rates are most reasonable and you have the best chance of pleasant weather.
Take a Beach Break
Chances are it was the promise of sand and surf that drew you to Maui, which offers 30 miles of beaches. Kid-friendly options include Launiupoko Beach Park (Rte. 30, mile marker 18, Lahaina, HI) in West Maui, where natural features have conspired to created a calm pool perfect for tiny tots to get their toes wet. You'll also find grills and picnic tables for an impromptu family barbecue. In South Maui, consider Kamaole III Beach Park (2800 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, HI), which has a playground and a grassy area. You can feel comfortable about letting the kids swim here too, so long as they don't venture too far out.
Meet the Mano at the Maui Ocean Center
Mano, or sharks, play important roles in the culture and ecology of Hawaii. Introduce the kids to these predators at the Maui Ocean Center (192 Ma'alaea Rd., Wailuku, HI), open 365 days a year. Several shark species—hammerhead, sandbar and reef—inhabit the Open Ocean exhibit where the kids can also marvel at stingrays and eels. Visit the Turtle Lagoon to see endearing honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtles. When hunger strikes, head to the Seascape Restaurant, where you can enjoy the stunning views of Ma‘alaea Harbor while little diners peruse the kids' menu. Admission to the aquarium is $28 for adults and $20 for children between the ages of 3 and 12. Residents of Hawaii are eligible for a discount. If you're spending a few days on Maui, consider getting a weekly pass, valued at $38 for adults and $25 for children. For an additional $15 per person, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium.
Lend Humpbacks an Ear on a Whale Watching Tour
Every year, between December to May, humpback whales loiter in the waters around Maui. For an opportunity to view—and hear—these majestic creatures in their natural environment, take a two-hour Whalewatch tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation. You'll receive underwater hydrophones that will allow you to listen to whale vocalizations and a marine poster to keep as a memento. Tours depart from the Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Store (300 Ma'alaea Rd., Wailuku, HI) in Ma’alaea Harbor. Adults pay $39, while kids ages 5 through 12 pay $20. Children ages 4 and under are free, while one child between the ages of 5 and 12 is free per paying adult. You can also save 10 percent by booking online. Whale sightings are guaranteed; otherwise, you can take another tour for free within a year.
Venture into the Deep in an Air-Conditioned Submarine
No SCUBA certification is required to explore beneath the surface of Maui's waters. As long as you are at least 36 inches tall and able to climb and descend a 10-step ladder, you can go for a tour with Atlantis Submarines. The two-hour adventure takes you more than 100 feet below the surface, where you can see schools of colorful fish and coral reefs. With a bit of luck, you might catch a glimpse of a shark, ray or endangered monk seal. You'll also get to see the Carthaginian, a vessel that was purposely sunk to create an artificial reef. Atlantis Submarine tours depart from the Pioneer Hotel (658 Wharf St., Lahaina, HI) and cost $105 for anyone over the age of 13. Younger children pay $38. You can buy a combo ticket for one adult and one child for $115.
Tour the Maui Tropical Plantation
Get acquainted with Hawaii's exquisite flora on a tram tour of the Maui Tropical Plantation (1670 Honoapiilani Hwy., Wailuku, HI). Learn how to identify not only a variety of rare plants, but also native fruit and crops. The coconut-husking demonstration is particularly alluring for kids. The plantation is also home to a zip-line tour suitable for visitors as young as 5. Tram tour tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children between the ages of 3 and 12; the zip-line tour costs $110 per person. Before you leave, stop by The Scoop and treat the kids to locally-made ice cream or smoothies made with fresh tropical fruit grown on the premises.
- Maui Ocean Center: Explore
- Frommer's: Especially for Kids in Maui
- Go Hawaii: Maui Beaches
- Go Hawaii: Maui Whale Watching
- Pacific Whale Foundation: Whalewatch Ma'alaea
- Fodor's: Launiupoko Beach Park
- Go Hawaii: About Maui
- Atlantis Adventures: Atlantis Submarine Tour Maui
- Frommer's: Atlantis Submarine in Maui
- Frommer's: Beaches in Maui
- County of Maui: Facilities - Kamaole III
- Maui Zipline: Pricing
- Frommer's: When to Go in Maui
- Maui Tropical Plantation: Tropical Tram Tour
- Maui Tropical Plantation: The Scoop
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.