Best things to do in Maui with kids

Maui ticks all the right boxes for active families. Sure it’s got those golden sand beaches fringing the island, but there’s more to this tropical isle than building sandcastles and boogie boarding. After taking several family vacations to Hawaii, I have some top tips on the best things to do in Maui with kids.  

These are the very best things to do in Maui with your kids
Bucket list adventures are easily achievable on Maui.

Things to do in Maui with kids

If you just want to stay put, many hotels and resorts offer complimentary lei making and hula lessons. Kids enjoy it, but there’s so many other things to do in Maui with kids besides cheesy tourist activities. If you’ve ever been to a luau, you know what I mean. 

For outdoorsy, active families, I recommend hitting up one of these 7 experiences to get a real feel for Maui’s natural wonders. These are by far, the best things to do in Maui with kids and outdoor adventure lovers. And yes, Maui and the other Hawaiian islands can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to do Hawaii on a budget

Maui whale watching tours

One of the top things to do in Maui are its whale watching tours. From January until May, the warm, shallow costal waters surrounding the Hawaiian archipelago are prime breeding and birthing ground for humpback whales. The town of Lahaina, Maui offers several tour options, and we went with Ultimate Whale Watch tour.

The boat they use for these tours is a rigid haul inflatable (like a Zodiac). It’s just like what the Coast Guard uses, so we felt very safe the entire time.

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Best things to do in Maui with kids
You won’t believe how close they come! (Photo credit: Ultimate Whale Watch)

Within two minutes our crew spotted mother and her baby, so we hung out close by (by law you can’t get within 100 yards), for a good 10 minutes as they showed us their fins and some spectacular splashes. Apparently you’ll have better luck seeing the aquatic life in the morning, but we went early afternoon and had no trouble.

Horseback riding Maui

Head to upcountry Maui for horseback riding and to make like a paniolo AKA Hawaiian cowboy. Paniolos are just as much a part of the Hawaiian culture as surfers are. In fact, they’ve been around much longer.

Trail rides at Maui’s Piiholo Ranch take you through a fertile valley that runs through valley parallel to Mount Haleakala. On our horseback riding adventure, we moseyed past herds of deer, nēnē (the Hawaiian state bird) and a family of wild boars! When we needed a bit of cooling off we galloped up to natural pools, before picking guava straight off the tree.

horseback riding with kids maui
Helmets are provided so littles can safely ride.

Getting off the beaten track is one of the advantages of spending time on Maui. If you want to suss out some cool bohemian towns on the north shore, check out these fun things to do in Paia and Haiku.

Rappel down a waterfall

Forget photography tours! The most adventurous way to explore Maui’s waterfalls is to rappel down them. If you’re keen to soak up the natural wonders of Maui, your family will have the time of their lives going backwards down cliffs and sinking into natural spring pools.

Rappel Maui takes families (children over 10-years-old  and at least 70 lbs) into the jungle for in depth safety orientation before descending down ridges. With your safety gear on, you’ll rappel down 60 ft cliffs, learning how to refine your technique before  going through a waterfall. It’s a refreshing experience to say the least and totally rad for older kids and teens.

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rappelling down a waterfal
Yours truly heading down the waterfall. It was seriously cold!

Take surf lessons

There are only five eco-tourism companies in Maui and Hawaiian Paddle Sports is one of them. Why does this matter? Well, surf lessons are so much more than learning how to paddle out, catch the wave and stand up properly.

Hawaiian Paddle Sports does all that in their surf lessons, plus you’ll learn about the surrounding aquatic life and vegetation on Maui. You won’t be charged for the photos they take and you’re sure to remember how great it felt catch your first wave as you cruise into shore with the west Maui mountains as your backdrop.

surf lessons maui
And they’ll take pictures of your family, too!

Submarine rides

Kid’s can’t scuba dive, but in Hawaii, they can still explore the bottom of the ocean floor on submarine rides. Atlantis Submarine adventures submerge your brood down to 127 feet on a real, working submarine.

I thought it would be hooky, and while I could do without the Mission Impossible soundtrack, I became as enthralled as the rest of the tourists, especially as we skulked past several white tipped reef shark, manta rays and a sunken vessel.

atlantis submarine
The portholes reveal a whole new world.

Sea turtles in Maui

This is one activity, you don’t really need to pony up and book an excursion for – if you know where to go. There are several great spots in Maui brimming with coral reefs, interesting fishies and yes, sea turtles.

We spent a ton of time around Kapalua Bay, in front of the Montage Resort. We choose this spot because that’s where the Ritz Carlton takes their guests and there’s a family of sea turtles that live in the rocks right in the very center of the bay. If these sea turtles are around, kids should have no trouble spotting them. Like all beaches in Hawaii, it has public access and there are washroom facilities near its parking lot.

sea turtles maui
You better be quick with your camera when they come up for air!

Throw Net Fishing with Travaasa Hana, Maui

Most people who take the perilous 82 km journey along Maui’s famed Hawaii to Hana, do little more than pull over for postcard-worthy views of the jagged lava coastline. But if you’re hankering to uncover a more authentic side of Hawaii, you’ll want to stop at Travaasa Hana.

Here, guests are invited to try their hand at ancient Polynesian traditions from outrigger canoeing to lei making to throw net fishing. Our family spent a peaceful afternoon knee-deep in the Pacific casting out nets. Apparently throw net fishing is a sustainable way to capture large amounts of fish. Sadly, we only snagged a snorkel mask.

throw net fishing maui
It’s way harder than it looks.

Have you ever been to Maui or any other Hawaiian island? What are your favourite activities to do there?

P.S. You might also enjoy reading

Hawaiian Canoeing with a Hottie

What you need to know before going on a multi-generation trip


About The Author

6 thoughts on “Best things to do in Maui with kids”

  1. This is so great! We actually talked about going to Hawaii soon with the family. People we talked to were so enthusiastic. This blog post really offers some good family activities. Job well done.
    What is according to you the minimum stay in Hawaii? We might consider combining it. Thanks!

  2. Colleen Lanin

    Holy molies! I can’t believe you rappelled down that waterfall! I’ve done the rest of the Hawaii activities you mention, but I’m not so sure I’d be up for the rappelling!

  3. Vacatia Eric

    Great read Jody! My company recently put out a Maui Vacation Guide and I spent months looking at photos and reading articles all about Maui and it has made me want to hop a plane tomorrow and go. Wanderlust is strong! Look forward to reading more from you.

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