Many families visiting Maui will likely spend their days swimming at the pool, building sandcastles at the beach and roaming around the playground — and there’s no shame in taking it easy from the comfort of one of the island’s many hotels. But because Maui offers so many enriching toddler-friendly experiences, parents should consider adding one excursion per day to make their Maui vacation even more memorable.
Maui Ocean Center
As the largest, most remote island chain in the world, the Hawaiian Islands are also home to unique coral reefs housing marine life only found in this part of the Pacific Ocean. So, no, the Maui Ocean Center is not like your local aquarium: Its exhibits are specifically tailored to immersing visitors in Hawaii’s marine ecosystem.
And because most toddlers are not able to go snorkeling, visiting Maui Ocean Center — and walking underneath its shark- and stingray-filled acrylic tunnel — is the best way for young ones to come face to face with Hawaii’s ocean life. Maui Ocean Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and kids under the age of 3 receive free admission.
Surfing Goat Dairy
Sign Up for Our Monthly Family Getaways Newsletter
For weeks after our Maui trip, our 20-month-old toddler shared that feeding the goats at Surfing Goat Dairy was her favorite experience. During a walking tour of the upcountry farm, participants visit goats and feed them handfuls of “chocolate,” aka savory grasses.
It’s hard to tell which “kid” is more excited during the feeding — it’s quite the scene. Parents, on the other hand, will probably prefer the goat cheese tastings available for purchase after the tour, while kiddos run around the farm’s sandy playground. Daily Casual Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and children under 3 receive free admission.
Peak whale-watching season is from mid-January to March, but on our December cruise with PacWhale Eco-Adventures, we spotted breaching humpback whales thanks to the eagle eyes of our naturalist guides.
The cruise — which takes off from Lahaina or Maalaea harbor — promises a whale sighting, or visitors can go again. We loved that the ship had plenty of space to spread out, and that the covered lower deck was practically empty for when our toddler needed to expel energy. Kiddos ages 0-4 sail free, but parents should note that rough waters may cause seasickness in children.
Drums of the Pacific Luau
Luaus are long and go late, so they’re not always great for tots. Pro tips for families include booking a luau later in the trip (when young kids are more adjusted to the time change) and avoiding both “hanger” and long lines.
Fitting the bill for us was Drums of the Pacific — located at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali — which quickly serves plated keiki (kids’) meals, and where most groups sit at their own tables. The intimate size of the luau means that everyone has a good view of the performance, which is engaging enough to capture the attention of even the most hyperactive toddler. Kids under the age of 4 attend the nightly luau for free.
Families who travel should capture the achievement — and the fact that kids are rapidly changing — with a professional photoshoot from Flytographer, a platform that connects travelers with vetted photographers all over the globe, including Maui.
Within minutes of our session with Taena, an affable local, our toddler was cheesing for the camera and asking to hold her hand. Indeed, while the shoot was done out of necessity — it would otherwise be impossible to get a good photo of our trio together — it doubled as a fun evening exploring a beach at sunset with a new friend. Flytographer pays commission, and pricing for a one-hour shoot begins at $385 and includes an online gallery delivered within days of the session.