Today I am sharing where we stayed, where we ate, and what we did with our kids in Maui! This is our second year in a row doing this trip- last year they were 7 months and 2.5, and this year they were 21 months and almost 4.. so I am calling this My Guide to Maui for Kids 0-4✌🏼
We are definitely not experts but I was so overwhelmed when I was planning the trip last year.. I had been to Maui before but it was yearsss ago and not with kids so it was a whole new ballgame. I did a ton of research for our trip last year and we ended up having the most amazing time that we just repeated the same trip again this year, with a few tweaks.
I wanted to share in case you are debating doing a Maui trip with little ones and are overwhelmed of where to start with planning. We find it so easy to travel to Hawaii (nonstop flights and have always been less than 5 hours!) and the time zone is easy to adjust to and I just think it’s really easy to travel somewhere tropical with kids where all you need is a swimsuit, sundress, and bucket and shovel and you are good to go😅
Small disclaimer though that I am by no means an expert on Maui travel. My recommendations come from a place of “I tried this, loved it, and it is worth recommending” rather than a place of “this is the best of the best in Maui!” There is so much to enjoy about this beautiful island and I hope one day we will be in a place where we can explore it all! But for now, this is a great starting point if you need some recs:)
Where we stayed:
Kaanapali Beach Hotel: I cannot express how much I love this hotel. It is located right in the heart of Kaanapali Beach, nestled between fan favorites The Sheraton and The Westin. Their motto is “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” and that is totally the vibe that you get! It is just simple, sweet, small, and absolute perfection. It has the most beautiful lush grounds with grassy lawns sprawling everywhere, a pool that is AMAZING for small kids (a huge portion of it is 2-3 feet!). And the location is perfect- right in the heart of Kaanapali Beach surrounded by tons of restaurants and other hotels with a beach front sidewalk that connects everything and makes it easy to walk from place to place. Most importantly, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel opened a brand new beachfront restaurant in 2020 and it is just outstanding. The food is incredible, the view is outrageous, they have live music everyday and every evening, hula dancers every evening, it is so beautifully decorated.. it is just the coolest restaurant. This hotel is extremely affordable compared to most of the others and you just get so much bang for your buck, in my opinion. I really enjoy staying somewhere so simple and authentic and really enjoying the beauty that Maui has to offer and this hotel is it.
Where we ate:
Mama’s Fish House: Located in Paia (near the airport) this restaurant is our favorite place to go right off of the plane to kick off our trip. It is tucked into this little tropical hideaway in Northeast Maui, off of Hana Highway. It is fancy and expensive which is not usually my thing when we have the kids along, but this is different. It is such a special little place and although considered “fine dining”, shorts and flip flops most definitely make the cut. Do check out the menu and prices beforehand to make sure this is going to fit within your budget for the trip, because this place is very expensive, even by LA standards. This is an amazing spot for photos so bring a tripod if that’s your thing to get that special family pic. There is also a tide pool and beach area right below the restaurant that is perfect for young kids. Change them into their suits after eating and let them go to town. We have even see sea turtles at this spot! Insider tip: it is really hard to get a reservation here- they book out 18 months in advance. We were able to get lunch reservations twice by persistently calling and getting on the waitlist. Sounds like a hassle and usually not my thing… but again.. it’s worth it!
Cliff Dive Grill at The Sheraton: This poolside bar and grill has a decent menu with decent food, but is a really fun sunset spot. Super casual- everything served out of plastic since you are technically sitting on the pool deck. But what makes this place so special is their nightly sunset torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony. So fun and always a good time and great place for an epic sunset.
Kimo’s: A short drive from Kaanapali Beach to Lahaina, but so worth it! This is an oceanfront restaurant with incredible views and great food. Don’t miss out on the hula pie for dessert!!
Island Vintage Coffee/Shave Ice: Great açaí bowl, coffee, and shave ice
Monkeypod Kitchen: Located in Whaler’s Village- so great views of the ocean if you can get a table up front towards the water. Food is fantastic. Fish and chips is the best I’ve ever had!
Mala Ocean Tavern: Sweetest little restaurant about a 5 minute drive from Kaanapali Beach before you get to Lahaina. Right on the water. Local vibes. Incredible views. Amazing food.
Leoda’s Pie Shop: Cafe with sandwiches and more and famous for their pies! This get crowded with long lines so get there close to opening if you can. Great place to grab lunch after the animal farm or pickup to go for a picnic at one of the beaches along Hwy 30. Nestled in with a farmer’s market, juice/smoothie truck, and butterfly farm.
Cafe Cafe Maui: Super small and casual little spot with local vibes to grab an açaí bowl, coffee, or quick breakfast.
Hui Hui: Restaurant at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel (where we stayed). One of my favorite restaurants I’ve ever been to! It has a gorgeous design, the most incredible views, ocean breeze, great food, live music, hula dancers. We eat several meals here throughout our trip, it is our absolute go to!
What we Did:
Snorkling at Black Rock: This is an area on the northern end of Kaanapali Beach. A 5 minute beach walk from where we stayed, and a short walk from most hotels along Kaanapali Beach. Bring your snorkel gear and head out right off the beach to see tons of fish, coral, sea turtles, and even reef sharks! Sailor (almost 4 at the time) is a strong swimmer and would go out with my husband, wear her regular pool googles(she did not like the feeling of the snorkle mask) and hold onto my husbands back while she stuck her face in the water to see everything. It was such an amazing experience for her, and now she is so stoked on snorkeling! We will definitely look forward to doing a full snorkeling cruise in the next couple of years, but for now this was perfect!
Lahaina: A little town about 10 minutes south of Kaanapali Beach with shops and restaurants. Worth the visit to eat at one of the restaurants on the water or get a souvenir at one of the local surf shops. Very cool historic and gigantic Banyan tree located on Front Street is worth seeing if you are in the area!
Trilogy Sunset Cruise: Always one of the highlights of the trip! Two-hour cruise at sunset with all you can drink and plated appetizers. Departs right off of the beach in front of Kaanapali Beach Hotel. This is a great option if you have older kids or can lock down a sitter for date night. For younger kids, there are glass-bottom boat options out of Lahaina or even a daytime snorkeling trip offered by this same company.
Maui Animal Farm: Short drive from Kaanapali (less than 20 minutes) in the hills of West Maui sits this sweet little farm that offers 90 minute daily tours. Hold a bunny, brush the goats, and feed the pigs and tortoises. Breathtaking views and a great break from the beach. Great for all ages. Wear the babies!
Launiupoko Beach Park: Best beach for kids! Small tide pool forms creating the perfect place for kids to play safely. Still gets little waves so it is super fun for them, but rock wall protects them and it is very shallow. Tons of shade and picnic tables.
Whaler’s Village: This is an outdoor center with tons of shops and restaurants in the middle of Kaanapali beach. Not really anything mind-blowing (especially coming from LA where those are our specialty 🙂 but worth noting because it is super convenient if you are staying in the area. We love to grab coffee, Acai bowls and shave ice at Island Vintage, Monkeypod is so great, Hula Grill and Leilani’s are both wildly popular, and there are tons of surf shops, souvenir shops, etc. Also a great place to get a more quick/casual bite like poke bowls or pizza.
Maui Tropical Plantation: This gorgeous farmland is set inland on the island and is full of native tropical plants, flowers, fruits, and veggies. There is a lagoon with fish to feed, a tram tour (40 min tour of the property that includes a coconut husking!), a great restaurant, a country market, an art studio, ziplining (ages 5+), and great views of the Maui countryside. This is a nice break from the beach (it is often cooler/rainier here) and is a perfect activity going to or from the airport!
What we didn’t do:
These are a few activities that I researched and would love to do at some point, when the kids are older or when we have a longer stay on the island. Thought I would include them because maybe they will work for you!
Road to Hana: I cannot think of anything I would rather *not* do than be in the car, taking the kids in and out of their car seats, all day. I look forward to the day we can do the Road to Hana, but today is not that day.
Explore: There are so many gorgeous parts of the island- volcanoes, waterfalls, black sand beaches, etc. But something that I really value on vacation and try to honor is as little car time as possible, so I was happy to enjoy the beach and everything that was in walking distance.
Maui Ocean Center: Simply because we have such a great aquarium located so close to home. If we had a longer trip I would consider it because my girls love aquariums!
Traditional Hawaiian Luau: These can get super pricey and most places you have to pay for a full price ticket even for babies. We feel like the live music and hula dancing we enjoyed at Hui Hui was sufficient until the girls are older!
Ioa Valley: This is what I landed on after doing research about the best nature walk/area to explore with little kids but it was unfortunately closed during the time we were visiting! Check for the conditions before you go if you may be interested.