Surfs Up! Paddle boards and Pipsqueaks: Nibble+squeak’s Guide to Maui

Maui has a reputation as being the most luxurious island in Hawaii... but it's also surprisingly family/ kid-friendly.

Sun, sand, surf… Hawaii is one of our favorite family-friendly places to visit. There is definitely a laid-back vibe to all things when you’re living on island time. Not only is the food delicious (yet super casual), there are plenty of activities for everyone and all ages. We’ve rounded up just a few of our favorite eats, stays and things to do.  

WHERE TO EAT

Hawaiians are becoming more and more proud of the local cuisine and Maui is no exception. The chefs take such pride in creating and serving delicious authentic dishes that reflect the native terroir, exploring local restaurants is a real treat for everyone in the family.

Nuka

A local’s favorite, Nuka is a sleek Japanese venue with diverse (and delicious!) small-plate list, sushi & specialty rolls, plus range of drinks.

Star Noodle

If your family likes noodles, then you’ll want to check out this Maui local’s spot.The ramen, udon, Singapore noodles, pad thai, and garlic noodles are all well-executed. There is also a nice selection of shared plates, like tempura shrimp, Vietnamese crepes, and yakitori.

Hali’imaile General Store

Acclaimed destination for Hawaiian regional cuisine features a pineapple plantation-styled setting.

Hali'imaile General Store

Source: Hali’imaile General Store

Merriman’s

Dine at one of the most breathtaking oceanfront settings in Maui. A pioneer in the “Farm to Table” concept, Chef Peter Merriman serves only the freshest products, at least 90% of which are locally grown or caught, using only sustainable methods. The dining room and menu are dressed up fine but without pretension, making it perfect for a nicer family meal.

Merriman's Kapalua

Source: Merriman’s Kapalua

The Mill House

Located within the Maui Tropical Plantation, The Mill House is a sophisticated venue for refined, locally sourced New American cuisine in a picturesque setting.

Leonda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is the epitome of casual family style dining in a comfortable plantation era atmosphere. Their menu features an assortment of hand-crafted sandwiches, salads, baked goodies, daily specials and of course, sweet and savory pies.

Paia Inn Café

The Paia Inn Café is a relaxing outdoor oasis serving classic gourmet brunch dishes and a selection of organic, made to order juices, smoothies and coffee beverages. Dine at an outdoor patio or order fresh juice and a meal to go — perfect for grabbing something before hitting the road to Hana.

Paia Inn Cafe Maui

Source: Paia Inn Cafe

WHERE TO STAY

There are a number of great options to choose from on Maui island.  We like a balance of family-friendly and luxurious getaway retreat when selecting accommodations and these are a few of our favorites on Maui island. (Note that house/ condo rentals is also great option when traveling in a large group but not covered in this post.)

Ka’anapali Beach Hotel

Perfect if you’re looking for a kitschy, camp Hawaiian vibe – think hula dancing, a whale-shaped pool, tiki bars, umbrellas in your drinks, etc., the Ka’anapali is great for families and really well-priced. The resort has won numerous awards and has been voted one of Maui’s best family-friendly hotels. Bonus: Kids 5 and under eat free.

Lumeria Maui

Come here if you’re number one goal is to relax and surround yourself in lush, tropical gardens. Providing an alternative to conventional Maui resort vacations, Lumeria presents a range of immersive yoga, spa, adventure and educational offerings for visitors and kama’aina alike – with a focus on wellness and mindfulness.

Four Seasons Maui at Wailea

You get all the usual Four Seasons amenities, but it’s the Hawaiian extras that make this resort extra special for kids and adults alike. Their Kids For All Seasons program, and thoughtful little touches like complimentary swim diapers by the pool, make family vacationing truly delightful. Bonus: Kids 5 and under eat free at two on-site restaurants.

Four Seasons Maui

Source: Four Seasons Maui

Andaz Wailea

The new Andaz Maui is a modern and welcome changeup from other Wailea beach big-hitters (Four Seasons, Fairmont, etc.). The resort is super contemporary and the food is delicious! Ka’ana Kitchen has a great breakfast spread and Morimoto is here, too. There are five pools, daily hotel amenities and lots of beachside activities, all of which are included in your resort fee.

Montage Kapalua Bay

This lavish, 24-acre beach-front resort is luxury defined: there’s a golf course, camps for both kids and teens, tennis, plenty of pools and beach activities, and really good on-site restaurants. The property is all suites, with many multi-bedroom options for families.

Montage Kapalua Bay

Source: Montage Kapalua Bay

WHAT TO DO

While most resorts are fairly all-inclusive, some of the most amazing experiences can be had outside of the hotel. If you’re looking for a break from the pools and beach, we suggest hitting up some of these family-fun activities!

  • Discover the local flora and fauna: Nestled against the Waikapu Valley and greater West Maui Mountains, Maui Tropical Plantation has something to offer the entire family as it is home to a variety of experiences and bonus – there is no entrance fee! Walk the gardens, tour the grounds on our Tropical Express, dine on the lanai, or sit next to the lagoon. For more adventurous visitors, there is also zip-lining on the property (family-Friendly Zip Line course welcoming children as young as 5 as well as more extreme lines available).
Maui Tropical Plantation

Source: Maui Tropical Plantation

  • If you’re looking for a low-key or rainy day activity, look no further than Maui Ocean Center: With one of the largest collections of live Pacific corals in the world, 20 daily presentations by marine naturalists, outdoor tide pools, and a 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit with a 240-degree view acrylic tunnel, MOC provides guests an understanding and appreciation of Hawaii’s marine environment and local culture.
  • Driving the Road to Hana: Some say this is the best way to see the “real Hawaii” so be sure to stop along the way to see Maui’s magnificent coastline, rich rainforest landscapes, waterfalls cascading into blue pools, tropical foliage. As the adage goes, it’s about journey right? A couple of recommended stops –

Twin Falls From the side of the famous Road to Hana, this seems nothing more than a parking lot—until, of course, you exit the car and enter the jungle’s playground. This verdant wedge of East Maui is live with dozens of waterfalls; a short hike along a bumpy dirt road leads back towards two of the most popular. Note: This is a great outing for travelers who don’t want to drive all the way to Hana but still want to experience hiking and waterfall swimming in Maui.

Pipiwai Trail The hiking directions for this Kipahulu trail seem like a treasure map from a fairy tale: Hike past the towering banyan tree and its radiant network of branches, then cross the bridge to a forest with bamboo so dense it blocks out the sun. At the end of the nearly two-mile trail lies 400-foot Waimoku Falls, the most captivating cascade you’ll find on the drive to Hana. When finished, cool off in the nearby Pools at Ohe‘o.

Pools at Ohe’o Known as “Seven Sacred Pools,” the Pools at Ohe’o are the visual crescendo of driving the Road to Hana. As long as water levels aren’t too high, splash in one of the refreshing pools cascading their way towards the sea.

Ono Farms Located five minutes past the Pools of Ohe’o in the village of Kipahulu, Ono Farms has been organically farming since long before doing so became a trend. This 50-acre farm is certified organic and harvests nearly 3,000 pounds of bananas every week. Take an Exotic Tropical Fruit, Coffee and Chocolate Tasting tour (Tuesdays only, by reservation) and walk through groves of exotic produce such as ‘awa, durian, Suriname cherries, and 60 other species of fruit.

  • Haleakala Crater at Haleakala National Park: Haleakala is more than a sight—it’s a legendary spot on the Earth. This frosty, multi-hued, cinder-coned summit, where the demigod Maui famously snared the sun, is a site of mythology and magic; visitors can still see a magical show at sunrise and sunset each day. While most travelers visit for sunrise, all times of day are prime for exploring the landscape—whether it’s hiking the network of backcountry trails or watching the stars come out.
  • Sailing Trip to explore Maui and the surrounding area: As Hawaii’s longest-running catamaran tour, Trilogy Excursions has mastered the art of crafting the perfect day on the water. Choose from an all-day tour to Lana’i with snorkeling at Hulopo’e Bay, or embark on a journey to Molokini, Honolua, or Olowalu. Embark on a whale-watching tour (seasonal) with an exceptionally knowledgeable crew, or watch the sun submit to the sea on a sunset sail down the coast.
  • Dive 100 feet below the surface and experience Maui’s marine mysteries: Atlantis Adventures is proud to be recognized as one of the largest providers of tourist attractions on the Hawaiian Islands. Our spectacular island setting plays host to our flagship tourist offering — the Maui Undersea Adventure. Featuring the most technologically advanced vessels of their kind, this absolutely real submarine carry up to 48 passengers to depths of 100 feet and beyond.
Atlantis Adventures

Source: Atlantis Adventures

  • For the littlest keikis, a glass-bottom boat is another oceaneering option: The Reef Dancer started operating over 20 years ago. While there have been other glass bottom boats on Maui for a long time, Olapa Ko’a Charters brought the island it’s first semi-submersible. One of the more popular reef viewing tours on Maui, you get the opportunity to see fish, coral, turtles, and perhaps even octopus! – with the option to stay on top or hang out in the air-conditioned underwater cabin.
  • Visit Visit ‘Iao Valley State Park: This is the only West Maui valley that’s easily accessible by car. It is also the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai, in which King Kamehameha famously conquered the kings and forces of Maui (your kids can learn some history while on vacation!). When visiting ‘Iao Valley today, a short hike on a paved walkway leads to a valley overlook, which also offers exceptional views of famous “‘Iao Needle.”
  • And we couldn’t forget about one of our favorite foodie expeditions, O’o Farm Luncheon: You might call lunch at this Upcountry venue “table-to-farm”—guests actually dine at the farm itself. Wander the 8-acre grounds and pick your own produce for salad (great activity for kids), then give your ingredients to an on-site chef. Much of the produce in your meal has traveled a few hundred feet in total, and it’s paired with locally caught fish or chicken and French-pressed coffee from the farm. Dine beneath a vine-covered trellis that looks all the way down to the ocean, and bring a bottle of wine (perhaps from a local vineyard) to enjoy along with the meal.
O'o Farm Maui

Source: O’o Farm Luncheon

These are just a handful of ideas… there really is so much to explore on the island that we encourage you to get out and create your own family adventures! And report back to let us know your pipsqueak favorites!