Photo: Ka'anapali Beach | Ryan Siphers
You could probably get away with spending your entire time on the beach, and still feel like you got your money’s worth. There are loads of adventurous thing to do on Maui, don’t get me wrong, but the soft sand, perfect 70-80s weather, boogie board-sized waves, and warm water with tropical fish, are enough to occupy most of your family vacation.
Photo: Boogie boarding on Napili Bay | Ryan Siphers
That said, if you never left the beach, you’d miss out on rainforests, moon-like volcanos, up-close encounters with humpback whales, luau parties, street festivals, the taste of pineapple wine, golfing over the ocean, lomilomi massages, sunset cruises, delicious fish, and touring the art capital of the Pacific, to name a few must-dos.
Our Maui Family Vacation Guide consists of insights and writings from dozen of locals on the island — all with the goal of helping you plan your next family vacation. From chefs and food critics to journalists, boat captains, a marine biologist, and local parents who have sought out the best things to do on Maui with their families.
Where to Stay on Maui
Photo: Honua Kai Resort & Spa
Finding where you want to stay is half of planning your vacation. Some people want to be in the action, others in a peaceful cove, some within walking distance to great restaurants, others next to coral reefs and snorkeling.
As you will see in this vacation guide, most Maui resorts are located on two parts of the Island, West Maui and South Maui.
Home to the renowned Ka’anapali Beach, a mile-long stretch of perfect sand and calm waves, West Maui is slightly wetter, lusher, and has lots to do and eat in the historic town of Lahaina.
Lahaina: Historic town with art galleries, shopping, and dining – Known as the “Art Capital of the Pacific,” the former whaling village, is home to dozens of art galleries, restaurants, and the harbor where you can catch a snorkeling or whale watching tour.
Photo: Downtown Lahaina next to Aina Nalu Resort
Top Lahaina Resorts:
- Aina Nalu: Walk to downtown Lahaina
Ka’anapali Beach: Gorgeous beach in the heart of the action – The beach really does live up to the hype. Two sections of perfect sand stretch for miles, uninterrupted in both directions, split by Black Rock in the middle, a great place for snorkeling. There’s lots of shopping and beachside dining at Whalers Village and you’re close to the historic town of Lahaina to the south.
Photo: Marriott's Maui Ocean Club
Top Ka'anapali Beach Resorts:
- Westin Ka'anapali Villas: Tons of fun pools by the beach
- Honua Kai: Family luxury on the beach
- Aston Ka'anapali Shores: Right on Ka'anapali Beach
Kahana: Peaceful family beaches – Just north of Ka’anapali Beach, Kahana is a lot quieter and has a family neighborhood feel. The beach may not be as big as Ka'anapali, but you won’t have to worry about the crowds.
Top Kahana Resorts:
- Hololani: Refreshing vibes of peace and paradise
- Sands of Kahana: Tons of family activities on the beach
Napili Bay: Hidden gem on an intimate beach cove – This small beach bay has an intimate, community feel. There’s great boogie boarding, snorkeling, and it’s home to Maui’s best brunch. You’re also next door to golfing and shopping in Kapalua to the north.
Photo: Napili Kai
Top Napili Bay Resorts:
- Napili Shores: Hidden gem on a secluded cove
- Napili Kai: Excellent snorkeling and boogie boarding
Kapalua: Luxury and world-class golfing – It’s a little off-the-beaten path, far north in West Maui. In Kapalua you’ll find rugged lava rock cliffs and quiet beach coves, mixed with luxury resorts and stunning golf courses.
Photo: The Plantation Golf Course near Montage Resort at Kapalua
Top Kapalua Resorts:
- Montage Resort Kapalu at Kapalua Bay: Luxury on a lava rock cove
South Maui gets less rain, can be quieter, and is closer to Haleakala Volcano.
Kihei: Surf town with local beaches – Most surf lessons happen here at a local beach park. Kihei offers lots of great beaches to choose from, mom n’ pop restaurants, and easy access to nearby adventure in the highlands, North Shore, and the rainforests of Hana.
Photo: Mana Kai
Top Kihei Resorts:
- Mana Kai: Family fun on a stunning beach
- Maui Sunset: Huge beachside lawn and playspace
Wailea: 5-Star beach resorts, PGA golfing, and designer shopping – As the island’s most luxurious destination, Wailea has the nicest Maui beach resorts, three stunning golf courses, fine dining, designer shopping, and of course a fantastic beach.
Photo: Hotel Wailea
Top Wailea Resorts:
- Hotel Wailea: Couples getaway overlooking the ocean
- Wailea Grand Champions: World-class golf course at your front door
What to do on Maui
Beach, beach, beach, beach, and beach. Did I mention the beach?. So, here are the other must-do’s on the island.
1. See Whales up Close – From November to May, nearly 20,000 whales make their journey to the Hawaiian Islands to mate. And their favorite spot? It's none other than the narrow channel just off Maui. You can watch them on the beach, or book a tour to see them up close.
Photo: Sailing Trilogy
2. Hike on a Volcano – Mt. Haleakala is a dormant volcano that offers one of the most spectacular views on Earth. From the top you can see rainforest, ocean, dessert, and even the Big Island, all at once. It’s an alien land with plants that look like robots, and valleys that seem like the surface of the moon.
Photo: Sliding Sands Trail (Keonehe'ehe'e) on Haleakala Volcano | Allison J Baird via Flickr
3. Brave the Road to Hana – The three-hour drive on windy roads is well worth it. You’re rewarded with black-sand beaches, bamboo forests, lava tubes, and pools of fresh water fed by waterfalls.
Photo: Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach | Aussie Assault via Flickr
4. Snorkel with Sea Turtles – You can see sea turtles all along the coast, but the best spot is Makena Landing, better known as Turtle Town, where you can witness hundreds of these guys munching on their favorite food: seaweed. Here's a list of the best snorkel beaches in Maui where you can explore spectacular sealife without booking an expensive tour.
Photo: Makena Landing aka Turlte Town | Flickr
5. Zipline through the Jungle – Zip through the forest and into ponds that overlook the ocean. There are a few great zipline tours in Maui to choose from.
Photo: Zip Line Adventures
6. Walk on Water or Surf – Stand up paddle is the closest you can get to walking on water. Paddle over coral reefs, sea turtles, and among whales. If you want something even more thrilling, you can learn to surf on endless sets of calm rolling waves. Check out recommendations on the best places to stand up paddle on Maui.
Photo: Stand up paddling off South Maui | Surf Shack
7. Golf over the Ocean – Maui has some pretty spectacular courses, many of which offer views of the Pacific and surrounding islands. Hole No. 5 on The Bay Course even plays over the ocean.
Photo: Wailea Golf Club
8. Indulge in a Lomi Lomi Massage – The traditional Lomi Lomi massage, has been adapted in the spas throughout the island into a delightful form of pampering.
Photo: Massages over the ocean | Ryan Siphers
9. See a Luau – There are plenty of Luau’s on Maui where you can get a taste for whole roast pig and Hawaiian specialties, with hula and fire-knife dancing in the background.
Photo: Old Lahaina Luau | Luke H. Gordon via Flickr
And of course, be sure to use our Maui Family Vacation Guide to learn about the island's best beaches.
Photo: Big Beach (Oneloa) in South Maui | Philip via Flickr
Photo: Mana Kai Maui