A toddler-friendly trip to Maui


We did it. We had a very successful trip to Maui with our 2 babies - ages 2 1/2 years and 16 months. I think the kids both really enjoyed it - I know my husband and I did. Since we tried really hard to find ways to make this trip totally kid-friendly - I want to share what we did - what worked and what didn't.

First our flight. We flew direct from Sacramento on Alaskan Airlines and had a great experience. We only got 3 seats because Gus is technically a lap baby - and that is probably the only thing I wish we had done differently. He was not happy that he didn't have his own seat. He even pushed his big sister off her seat a few times. He didn't want to sit on a lap or next to us. But he really did o.k. despite that.

Alaskan gave the kids coloring books and they have little video devices you can rent (which we did on the way there but not on the way back.) Lucille is old enough to be distracted by a video - Gus wouldn't keep the headphones on. The best way to distract Gus ended up being with food and I was pretty impressed with the Alaskan Airline food too.

Next our hotel. We stayed at the Aston Kaanapali Shores and had a great stay. They are currently renovating one of their pools (which we were aware of before we got there) but this didn't really impact us at all. The one pool that was open was fine for us - and the kids honestly preferred the beach. The service was professional and the price was great. I'm sure it was a little lower than normal because of the construction - but it was about 1/2 the price of other similar locations. We called ahead of time to request a crib and it was already in our room when we arrived. Oh, and kids eat at the restaurant (lunch and dinner) for free.

If you want to see some pictures of the places that I mention below - check out this stellar guide.

Before we arrived I had read about a "Baby Beach" in Lahaina - that had calm water - perfect for little ones. The first time we drove up (it was pretty early - maybe 7am) my husband wasn't too sure about the location. It's hidden and looks a little private and local. But we went and ate breakfast and came back and saw other families with young toddlers too. This place really was perfect for the kiddos. They could play in the water without any real fear of big waves. We saw turtles on numerous occasions too. On our last day we rented a boogie board from our hotel and they had a blast sitting and laying on it in the water. A really low key place and if you have littles that are under 4 - I'd highly recommend checking it out.

Here are some of the food places we tried.

First, we stopped at Costco near the airport and bought some snacks, diapers and other things that we would need. My husband made fun of me for this - but it seems like common practice - and it worked fine for us. I even bought a sundress and changed in the parking lot. I mean - we were going from cold, rainy Sacramento to sunny, warm Hawaii.

We went to Slappy Cakes (a chain that I hadn't heard of before) one morning breakfast - and it was pretty good - but Lucille wasn't as entertained with making her own pancakes as I had expected.

At the Whalers Village - we had dinner at both the Hula Grill and Leilani's. Both were fine - a little long on the wait for food - but at Hula Grill they had live music and sand on the ground so some distraction.

During our kids nap time we went multiple times to the Geste Shrimp truck on Kahului Beach Road. Our routine for the day would be grab some breakfast - do something fun with the kiddos - grab some lunch and then they would pass out in our van. The we would just explore the island a bit while they slept. So Geste's was perfect - even if we had to wait for the shrimp. We literally had nothing else to do.

We had an early lunch at the Paia Fish Market one day - which was great! The kids did pretty good and the food was AMAZING. It filled up quickly so if you want to sit comfortably with your family get there early.

At the Lahaina Outlets we ate at Pi Artisan Pizzeria which was good and not too busy.

Our key for dinner ended up being crossing the street to some of the little mixed plate stops and bringing food back to the hotel and making mac 'n' cheese and fruit for the kids. Gus ate loads of fresh pineapple. It was super helpful having the kitchen in our room.

As far as things to do - there are plenty. On our really rainy day we took the kids to the Maui Ocean Center. We pulled up and the line was around the building - because of course EVERYONE else was doing the same thing. But they had a side line for members and people we prepaid online - so I just hopped on my phone and paid online and we didn't have to wait. Not sure why more people didn't figure that one out. It was a perfect experience for a rainy day and the kids loved it.

The Ioa Valley State Park was a GREAT trip with the kids. The paths there are paved and easy for the little ones to handle. I put Gus in the carrier on my back and he loved it. Lucille has a slight obsession with bridges so she was so excited to run across the on here.

The same day we did the Ioa Valley State Park - we visited the Maui Tropical Plantation. The Tropical Tram Tour was a little much for my kids. They just don't have the attention span. It was fine - but for little kids that are super active - I'd say skip the tram tour and just explore the property and buy some food to feed the ducks. Its cheaper and way more exciting. We ended up having lunch here too and it was yummy. Also a great place to buy some gifts.

We had gelato where ever we could and enjoyed it especially at One Gelato in Lahaina on Front Street - because we got to watch little crabs run across the sand on their back patio.

Our drive to Haleakala National Park was long. We made it just within the park borders - stopped at the first place we could and just took a short walk around - and pretty much headed back out. Gus is not a fan of being stuck in a car - so any longer wouldn't work. But we have a national park pass - so it was free to get in - and it was a beautiful little walk.

After Haleakala we drove to Makawao and had a great time exploring this little town. Seems like we missed the memo on the Market Fresh Bistro - it was packed and looked yummy and kid-friendly but we were post-breakfast pre-lunch... and the timing was off for us. Maybe next time.

The whole trip was amazing. We are seriously thinking about going again - but of course we want to explore other places too. Thinking about Alaska this Summer. Stay tuned for more guides as our tots become world travelers.

Ellen Martin

I'm a west-coast mama of two little ones, 15 months apart. This is our family story with reviews and recommendations along the way. Thanks for joining our journey.

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