Ahihi-Kina’u offers one of the healthiest reefs we’ve ever seen, and in turn, some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever experienced.
- More about your oliver guide: Nichole Rowles
- Trip type: Family, Beach
- Activity level: easy
- Ideal length of trip: ONE WEEK
to & from
Many of the US’ major airlines fly directly into Maui, including United, Delta, American and Virgin. We’ve found the best rates on Alaska and Hawaiian, and one benefit of flying Hawaiian Airlines is that meals are still served on the flight — a perk that can prove especially helpful if traveling with kids.
Where to Stay
Most hotels are clustered in the West Shore (around Ka’anapali) or in the South Shore (around Wailea). Wailea tends to be less windy than Ka’anapali, and depending on the time of year, sunnier, too.
The Fairmount Kea Lani in Wailea is a luxury resort, to be sure, but the hotel often offers a special in which guests get their fifth night free. The Kea Lani is an all-suites hotel, so parents can enjoy the privacy of a private bedroom while kids sleep on a pull-out couch in the living area. The hotel has an adults-only pool as well as a pool with a 140-foot long water slide. Try renting a “sea scooter” in the kid-friendly pool or take a lesson in using scuba diving gear!
Where to Eat and Drink
- Our favorite kid-friendly restaurant in Maui is Star Noodle in Lahaina. The location is hidden among some buildings that look like warehouses, but Star Noodle offers scrumptious Asian-fusion cuisine.
- Tin Roof, near the airport and open only for lunch, is a new addition by Top Chef Sheldon Simeon.
- Flatbread Company in Paia. Good pizza and good craft beer selection. It’s not air-conditioned, though, and there can be a wait for dinner, so go for lunch.
- Even the locals rave about the loaded (17 ingredients!) fish tacos at Coconut 's Fish Cafe in Kihei (South Shore). Go for the fish tacos as the rest of the menu items didn't impress.
- Best shave ice on the island: Peace Love Shave Ice in Kihei. Peace Love Shave Ice offers that super flaky shave ice that Hawaii is known for, and the serving is bigger than your head. They offer all natural shave ice; any flavors with artificial colors are noted.
What to Do
- Snorkel! Many of Maui's beaches offer vibrant reefs surprisingly close to shore. We saw sea turtles at Makena Landing in the South Shore and at Black Rock Beach and Kapalua Beach in the West Shore. And our best snorkeling was at Ahihi-Kina'u. (See "Inside Scoop.")
- Drive 6 to 7 miles past Paia to Twin Falls and patronize the food truck in the parking lot. Try the pressed cane juice with lime and other refreshing tropical treats. Buy a bag of peeled sugar cane sticks to gnaw on and enjoy a new cultural experience!
There’s a little-known marine preserve south of the big resorts in Wailea called Ahihi-Kina’u. Because it’s a marine preserve, no sunscreen is allowed. Ahihi-Kina’u offers one of the healthiest reefs we’ve ever seen, and in turn, some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever experienced. From the parking lot, walk out onto a black lava flow. The “beach” is rocky and a little hard on the feet, but as soon as you enter the water, you will see hundreds of fish!
- The road to Hana. The drive is slow-going with many one-lane bridges and more than 600 curves. The drive easily induces carsickness!
- Molokini snorkeling tour. When you go on a boat tour of Molokini, you will likely be snorkeling with a crowd, or at least a group. What's more, we found the snorkeling to be just as terrific at beaches around the island (see above).