Favorite Maui Family Hot Spots and Activities

Genie Davis February 26, 2011 No Comments

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We love all the Hawaiian islands, and it’s hard to pick a favorite for our family to explore. But it’s relatively easy to find favorite adventures and fun times to share with other families on each of the islands. 

Maui is both lush and green, and peaceful and a tourist destination of resorts and condos. The island has history and the island has nature; its neither as rural as much of Kauai or the Big Island, nor as urban as Oahu. The contrasts on this island are smaller than those between volcano and lava drenched sea scape on the Big Island, but equally pleasurable to discover and enjoy. One of our favorite discoveries on a recent trip was a beautiful, soft sand beach in South Maui

Nearly hidden between the condo community of Kihei and the resorts of Wailea, Keawakapu is a lovely half mile white sand crescent with waves gentle enough for the smallest tot. It also sports free parking along South Kihei road, and mansion-gawking for parents not privy to a majorly upscale lifestyle. We like this mellow beach with its soft fine sand more than other equally pristine beaches on South Maui because of its uncrowded atmosphere and those clear, shallow waves. We spent a wonderful afternoon here, and brought picnic fixings from a nearby Kihei grocery store, Foodland. A great deli there, with plenty of vegetarian sandwiches along with tasty cold cuts for the carnivores. 

Kahanu Garden Maui

We loved the flowers and the temple at Maui's Kahanu Garden

 

You’ll find a different kind of Maui treasure at the very lovely Kahanu Garden, which is one part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Located off the tourist path and not far from Hana Airport, this beautiful garden is best viewed when combined with a drive on the Hana Highway or a stay in Hana, rather than making a special trip just for the garden, as interesting and pretty as it is. The garden has both local, indigenous plants and botanical wonders from other islands brought by Maui’s Polynesian ancestors. There are pleasant, easy paths to stroll and many interesting examples of island flora and fauna. The garden also houses the very impressive Piilanihale Heiau, which is Maui’s largest ancient temple, in fact the largest ruin in all of the Hawaiian islands. This sacred spot features an enormous rock wall. While the rocks are plentiful, don’t be tempted to take a souvenir, legends and guide books relate stories of tourists who took a rock home, had bad luck, and sent them back to the temple. No bad luck ensues from admiring the impressive wall though, or letting your kids run the length of the temple area. 

In Central Maui, there’s fantastic bird watching to be had at the seven hundred acre Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, just off Highway 311. This large wetland is also a bird sanctuary, and we spent a wonderful morning watching stilts, herons, coots, and migrating sea birds. Bring binoculars or don’t – you’ll see plenty of feathered friends. 

For a fun time that has nothing at all to do with nature, try Wailea’s Matteo Pizzeria. This may very well be the lowest priced meal available in South Maui, but the most excellent pizza would be a great find at any price. Locals love the place, and so do the tourist’s who’ve discovered the thin crust crispy pizza. Now pizza isn’t health food, but we always look for the maximum of fresh and local ingredients and a minimum of sodium in ours, and we found both in the delicious thin-crust margherita pizza made with fresh mozzarella. This is not elegant spot, you place your order at the counter, and then take a table with a lush golf course view. The prices are so reasonable you can head over to the upscale Wailea mall for a decadent desert or two at Tommy Bahama’s. 

Another low budget food find is Grandma’s Coffee House. This cute coffee shop is near the town of Kula in upcountry Maui, located in the village of Keokea. This is a good stop if you are bound for a look at the Haleakala volcano or returning from a visit. There’s fresh made fruit juice or fruit plates for the tots and Maui grown organic coffee for the adults. Best of all there are amazing views if you sit out on the wooden deck. It’s a great way to start or complete a morning trip to this part of the island. If you prefer to cut your own fruit, hit the nearby Kula Farm Stand. We found guavas, mangos and pineapples here. 

Maui Ocean views

So many favorite beaches in Maui.

 

Pricier but delicious – and very kid friendly, with ingredients carefully monitored upon parental request – is Merriman’s Kapalua which operates inside the Kapalua Resort. Organic, local, delicious, and ocean front. Great views of Molokai. We loved the fresh fish, and the kids filled up on reasonably priced corn chowder. 

Back in South Maui, we enjoyed just spending some time hanging out at the Four Seasons, although we were staying down the beach. Lunch on the patio is elegant and relaxing; or stay for just the thin, crispy french fries. Best of all the art work in the lobby is extensive and makes a pleasant introduction to artistic endeavors for small children. The collection features many local Hawaiian artists whose works you would not otherwise see outside of a museum. Naturally the beach here is lovely, too. 

One more favorite Maui activity: watching liquid glass spin into the shapes of waves, fish, jellyfish, and flowers at Hot Island Glass in the cowboy village of Makawao. The kids were riveted by the work of the glass blowers and the red flames of the furnace that heats the glass. Best of all, sometimes the craftsmen will offer discarded pieces of colored glass to be handled and treasured. 

We love all these Maui stops and hope you’ll enjoy discovering them and making them some of your favorite destinations too.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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