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Maui for the active family with teens. Our oceanfront condo was in North Kihei - very centrally located for all these jaunts.
The best snorkeling we did all week was at this site, at the recommendation of our outfitter Boss Frogs. A 30 to 40 m inute drive from our condo in North Kihei, it was worth it. A little hard to find, it is off the main road you travel on several miles north of Kaanapali Beach area, a little past the Kapalua Plantation golf resort - a windy two lane road. Around mile marker 32 off of Rt 30, you will come upon private cars parked alongside the road on the LH side - if you find yourself walking down steps, you are at Slaughterhouse Beach - I didn't go there - but meant to - keep driving and when you get almost to MM 33, you will see more cars - just along road - no parking lot - stop, park, secure car/valuables well in trunk at someone's suggestion - and just follow path down to the rocky bed of the bay.. It is a rock scamble to get down to the water, which is coral filled even at shallow depths - be careful not to touch with hands.. But the snorkeling on the LH side was just very incredible - better than Grand Caymen. At least on the mid-July day that we were there. Private Trilogy boats were there, but we had the satisfaction of knowing we hadn't spent $100 per person to do the same thing!! My 3 teens loved it.. Water shoes are a must.. The walk down is lovely as well - lots of trees and unusual looking foliage..It is a natural marine preserve... Note: We were told the breakfast at the Plantation Resort was less expensive than you might think, but did not try it.
We went on a paid excursion to Molokini later in week - but we all looked at each other and wondered why we had spent that money - it was crowded, fish not nearly as plentiful, but the water was crystal clear. If you want to see clear water, and some fish - and you've never snorkeled before, you might be impressed - but we weren't - save some money and find your own spots.
I hear there are other spots in South maui - we didn't even get to them.. do some research.
Easily, the most entertaining spot for all three of my kids.... A few miles north of Honolua Bay - up on Rt. 30... about 1/2 miles past the 38 mile marker - park at a wide turnout backed by rounded boulders (as per Maui Revealed instructions). You walk down a 1200 ft. path with stunning views Nakalele Bay - be careful not to slip.. It is like a water geyser - every few minutes or so, water erupts from this hole in the ground - you just have to see it. People make markers/memorials of lava rock and you can see this on the way down.. We were told about this by a fellow Hokie fan we met at the crater - who had made a Hokie memorial (Va Tech - where my son attends) - He was thrilled to see that of course. We stayed there close to an hour.. READ THIS - DRIVING SHORT DISTANCES NORTH OF HERE ARE AT LEAST 3 OR 4 MORE SITES I MISSED AFTER READING MAUI REVEALED CLOSER - GET MAUI REVEALED AND READ PAGES 58 - 62!!
My older teens weren't particularly interesting in stopping at every random waterfall off the road right away and I was concerned about traffic - so our strategy was go to the end first and work our way back - I think that was a good idea - we got on the road around 8:30 (try earlier) as we passed lots of busy spots with spotty roadside parking along the way, which didn't look so crowded on the way back. - so we headed for the biggest first - the Waimoku Fall on the Pipiwai Trail just past Hana. Took about hour to get there - not too bad. You park at the lot at Oheo Gulch (7 sacred pools) and then walk across the street from the lot to begin the hike. It is about an hour hike ONE WAY (with fast walking kids and mom, maybe 1.5 hours at a more leiisurely pace) - the hike itself is interesting if you've never seen a bamboo forrest - kind of spooky but we had fun taking pics with our heads poking through the reeds - when wind blows through them you hear them crackling - odd. It was very dry when we went, but if it's been raining you might be able to see a smaller waterfall on the way up - for us it was straight to the end and the reward of the most awesome waterfall I have ever seen - lots of water gushing down a 400 ft. rock wall. It was loud - it was beautiful.. You need a special camera lens to pick it all up. Wear water shoes - some scambles through creek beds to get there -
We spent some time at the Oheo Gulch, but it was very very crowded - spend less time there and get back on the road to enjoy some more sites.
Loved it - but I'll tell you what we'd do differently. We left on the 9:30 ferry out of Lahaina City (buy in advance if its high season or you want early ferry) with our own rented snorkel gear, and first went to the beautiful Hulopo'e Beach for recommended snorkeling - but we got there area right as the winds were picking up and my kids were a little afraid to venture out to snorkel .. I did.. Leave on the earliest ferry , and skip snorkeling at the first beach if you already have that planned in your schedule elsewhere - this will leave you plenty of time to really tool around the island and do some off roading in your jeep. We ran out of time, spending too much time at the beach and the snorkeling was not that awesome when we got there.. Definitely rent a jeep from Adventure Lanai - I believe it was just 149 total, including tax. Talk to Michelle - she is great!! She arrives at the Bay with jeep, map, rental agreement, and is patient with tourists who ask too many questions! If you want to rent boogie board, etc - they'll have it. Prices are good. After snorkeling at the first beach, it was already lunch time, and we drove into Lanai City, eating at Blue Ginger Cafe- very nice - but again - spent too much time there.. Rest of the day was the most fun - riding around the island in our jeep - the views heading to Shipwreck Beach were beautiful - the road was really bumpy but kids loved it - we saw our first sea turtle at the beach and my two teen boys enjoyed walking around looking for more. We were on a schedule as my kids wanted to get back to Lahaina City for dinner earlier - so we had to get back to the harbor for the 4:30 ferry. We had no time to explore the two other road trips Michelle had pointed out - including Garden of the Gods - which I've heard is very interesting - If you have more time, you can actually plan to snorkel or boogie board at some of these spots - and I would definitely do that the next time..
We did make quick visits to the two beautiful resorts on the island - walk to the back of the one just outside of Lanai City - the gardens are just very beautiful - Japanese pagoda, etc. The other resort closest to the beach you arrive at - also quite stunning.. the pool area is worth a quick peek.
Again - try to schedule an entire day there - take th earliest ferry, take the latest ferry back.. I believe you'd probably catch the sunset while on the ferry if you did this.
As for the ferry - we all thought it was fun - ride on the way back, due to winds, is quite a bit bumpy and you may even get wet with waves splashing on deck.
I don't think my kids are yet able to truly appreciate fine food - therefore, I found it hard to justify the expense of eating out at Mama's Fish House, etc. with them - save for another trip sans teens... so..
Our favorite place was open air dining was Kihei Cafe - the portions are tremendous. My 13 year old got a breakfast burrito and it was larger than he was almost. Breakfasts are popular - get there early. Nothing fancy at all. But incredible food at great family prices!
1945 South Kihei Road, Kihei, Maui, HI 96753
Another fun spot for dinner - which we took after our long day on the Road to Hana, was Paia Fish Market. It was very casual, and the fish tacos were really good. Perfect stop to relax and watch locals, etc. Also would be fun to roam around Paia.
Fun casual stop for lunch in South Maui - south of Wailea, after the road narrows to two lane, about 4 miles past the Wailea Shops (as per Maui Revealed book instructions) - there is a local food stand on the LH side of road - great fish kabobs, cold sodas, and such.. She also has some 8x10 color reprints of various Maui scenes on sale - wished I had grabbed one as prices were comparably better than anywhere else.
The boys, ages 13 and 19 were most interested in boogie boarding - after watching some locals surf off the Road to Hana in what looked like trecherous water to us, they weren't inclined to take lessons..
We only made it to two beaches with good boogie boarding - i'm sure there are more, but I'd recommend:
1) Big Beach - by far the most typical east coast looking beach - wide, not as many lava rocks, etc. Lots of older teens there, families. Good waves for boarding. (Take a stroll over to your right, facing the water) and up the lava rock hill, and check out the clothing optional beach "Little Beach" if you have a sense of humor..
2) Po'olenalena Beach - large beach in Wailea, but least used per Maui Revealed. Taking their advice we found easy parking at a somewhat obscure lot - about two miles past the Wailea shops (heading south), you come upon the Makena Surf Resort - smallish sign - right pat that is a driveway, looks like to a private residence, but not - you will see a tiny sign that says something to affect of public beach parking. Each resort has to set aside a small lot for this so I am told. Easy to drive by this lot.
If surf's up - (we were there around 10:30 a.m), boogied boarding great at LH side. Snorkeling can be good too on either side. This lot puts you right at the LH side.
Found the Luau at Wailea Marriott Resort to be entertaining and very convenient to our Kihei locaiton. Pay the $10 extra to get premium seating - front row, and you will be almost on top of the stage for a decent show.. This one has an amazing fire dancer (champion of some sort) - and if for nothing else, it entertained the teens more so than the typical Hawaiian dancers - who were beautiful by the way. It didn't matter to me that fire dancing isn't authentically Hawaiian. Sunset was amazing as well.
The food was deemed to be "just ok" by the kids.. I'm not sure you are going to get amazing food at any buffet style event but perhaps the Old Lahania Luau which comes highly recommended is better. For us, I'm sure this was fine, plus we didn't have to drive 30 minutes to Lahaina.
Found some discounts for tix online - compared to booking directly. We went with
Shawn Blackwell, Activities 4 Less, tollfree, 866-888-6284....
Money saving tip: If you time it right, you can park somewhere near the resort, and stroll along the sidewalk behind the resort and see the show, from the side.. I saw several people trying to be non chalant doing this!! Not the best view, but it might be enough if money is tight and/or you'd rather spend $85ish per person doing something else. If you have never done a luau though, and money isn't a problem,I would definitely do it. I was only surprised they dont' give out real flower leis.
You read all about it - have to do it once.. Don't underestimate how cold it is and watch what the kids pack - I warned mine and one still didn't pack what I suggested -layering - a sweat shirt, long sleeve tshirt underneath, short sleeve under that, and a light to midweight jacket, plus ear muffs or acrylic hat and gloves - wind is biting. Had to bring blankets from condo.. The kids got a kick out of the random cows all over the place on the drive back down - and how warm it got quickly - layers came off - we almost ran into a cow sticking its head over the roadside while dozing on the side of the road... Considered the bike ride down adventure, but decided to skip it in favor of spending more money elsewhere... but that could be fun.
Could be fun to do some hiking while there - especially upward a few more feet to the highest point- which i read about after i got back - but mine were always rushed to do something else.. I would hike some myself next time - down into the crater..
We only had 5 minutes of this on very last moments of our trip - went to Kanaha Beach Park about noonish on a Wednesday and lots of locals there taking advantage of the winds - they were ripping through the water - we were all amazed by it.. I hated to leave. This is a good last day activity due to its very close location to the rental car returns at the airport. Also nice green grass grounds and picnic tables..
On another day, go to Ho'okipa Beach near Paia - where there is world class wind surfing - I missed getting to this...
1) Find more snorkeling sites on our own - especially in south Maui - the marine preserve at the south end is supposed to be amazing.
2) Get out the door earlier for snorkeling - winds do pick up late morning making it more choppy and difficult.
3) Skipped Molokini trip.
4) More just beach time - more boogie boarding at Big Beach..
5) Skipped IAO Needle on last day and watch wind surfers instead at Kanaha Beach Park longer - just 3 minute drive for rental car return at airport!!!! How convenient.. airport.. Awesome speed - beautiful sails.
6) Been ok with the late evening flight home on last day - would have given me more time on last day!! Instead I opted for 2:30 flight home, not realizing how much there was to do!
7) Stop at more places on Road to Hana - spend less time at Oheo Gulch to do this.. Leave around 7 to get on Road, not 8. .. should give plenty of time to hike the big falls and stop more on your ride back.
8) Build time to see the wind surfers at the Ho'okipi Beach - past Paia. on way back from Road to Hana.
9) Not wrecked rental car two hours after arrival in maui.. Let the kids review directions when you are drviing, as difficult as that sounds..!! May prevent rear end accidents and air bag injuries.
10) Seen Black Sand Beach off Road to Hana - we somehow missed turn coming back and then didn't want to turn around.. The so called Black Sand Beach in south Maui isn't the same.. more grey sand