It was our first morning in Maui, and a giant green sea turtle climbed onto the beach. Everyone ran to see it as I lay on my lounger by the pool (not fast enough to get back in my wheelchair to go with them) and I thought how amazing it was that something so simple could spark the same excitement, across all ages, in the entire family.
Big family vacations are an excellent way to spend time together. But when your family members span six decades, it is tough to keep everyone happy. With more than a few large family vacations under our belt, we have learned a few important truths:
Individual condos serve us better than one big house.
Occasionally going our own ways for excursions is not a bad thing, and,
Swapping babysitting with your siblings for date nights with your spouses can give everyone a little break.
It is, however, also lovely to find those special places that everyone from the youngest to the oldest can enjoy together, and Maui has many of them. Here are five places that will please everyone in your group.
Coconuts Fish Cafe
If you are looking for unforgettable fish tacos, this is the place to go. The atmosphere is fun and welcoming for families—the bright decor made for a great game of I-Spy—and the surfboard-shaped picnic tables were a huge hit with the kids. The menu is varied and can easily satisfy even the non-seafood-loving kids (or adults) in your group.
Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center is a great place to visit if you want to get an underwater look at Hawaii’s sea life. The Living Reef exhibit not only gives the non-snorkelers a chance to see the coral and many of its inhabitants up close, but the snorkelers in your group will love it for putting names to the species they see in the water; our son even came out with a list of new fish to seek out the next time he went snorkelling. But the highlight of the Maui Ocean Center for everyone in our group was the Open Ocean exhibit with its sharks, stingrays and other large fish. The presentation and feeding at this exhibit is worth the watch if you are there at the right time.
Tip: You can get a week pass for $10 more per person than a day pass. Our accommodation was close by, and we found it to be a great way to get some time out of the sun (or escape the rain).
Hula Cookies & Ice Cream
Hula Cookies & Ice Cream quickly became a vacation favourite with almost all of us visiting twice (and some thrice!) during our stay. It is conveniently located next to the Maui Ocean Center. The cookies here were soft and fresh, with plenty of ice cream flavours to satisfy everyone. But the best part was combining the two into an ice cream sandwich. We bought some of the cookie mixes to bring a little taste of Hawaii home with us.
My flavour recommendation: Traditional Chocolate Chip cookies and Kona Mud Pie ice cream.
We discovered Baby Beach back in 2013, and it was the place I most looked forward to returning to on this trip — so much so that we went three times. The beach is protected by a vast stretch of coral reef which makes the water calm and puts a mom’s nerves at ease. It is shallow all the way out to the reef, and there are pockets of coral scattered around making it a great place to snorkel for little ones just learning the ropes — or the adults like me who find snorkelling a bit intimidating. The thrill seekers in the group won’t want to venture here more than once, but even they enjoyed swimming and relaxing in the warm, shallow water. We often spend a few hours here before driving a few blocks over to Front Street in Lahaina.
Shopping in Lahaina
Front Street in Lahaina is shopping without having to leave the shoreline—you can still see and smell the ocean as you wander down the road. The kids don’t even complain about our shopping trips there, with all of the surf shops and souvenir stores to look around. You can find numerous places for a meal and ice cream or gelato for a treat.
And if you need more shopping when you’re done, the Outlets of Maui are located just at the beginning of the strip.
Vacations are meant to enhance your life, and we all left Maui feeling as though we had done just that. We all found our own fun but also came together often to experience the island as a group. Large family trips add an element of stress, but if everyone is on the same page, the memories and experiences are absolutely worth it.