Hotspots in Maui, HI
This is Hawaii as you dreamed it would be. Take a break from big resorts and mammoth hotels when you step into your own tranquil bungalow on the beachfront. Each bungalow comes with beautiful ocean and sunset views. Choose from ten ocean front or garden view units just steps from the beach, each named after a tropical plant. Spacious one- and two- bedroom units feature full kitchens, telephones, TV, barbecues, picnic tables, hammocks and the amazing Ke Iki Beach. Your hosts, Greg Gerstenberger and family, will welcome you will open arms.
The desserts at Mama's Fish House (known as "the most Hawaiian of restaurants") range from simple homemade sorbets to fancier concoctions like the silky creme brulee made with fresh liliko’i (passionfruit). Our particular favorite is the Banana Macadamia Nut Crisp: ripe local bananas tumbled with brown sugar streusel and macadamia nuts, served warm and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. As delicious as it is, the presentation does not inspire the oohs and ahhs heard when the restaurant’s signature dessert, the Polynesian Black Pearl, is served. Talk about a jewel setting: an oyster-shaped pastry seashell opens to showcase a “pearl” of chocolate mousse and liliko’i cream enrobed in more chocolate. The delicate, lemony-orange passionfruit offsets the mousse brilliantly, making this not only the most spectacular dessert on Maui, but one of the most delicious.
Ululani (oo-loo-LAH-nee) means “heavenly inspiration,” and there is no doubt that this tiny shave ice shack on Lahaina’s busy Front Street is divinely sent. It’s tucked away, but you will find it – the sometimes hour-long lines will be the clue you’re near. What makes it worth the wait? This is the best shave ice on Maui, and easily rivals the best on Oahu. Every syrup is made from real fruit sweetened with cane sugar, and they are layered over the fluffiest, flakiest, most carefully-shaved ice in the state. The result is bright, genuine flavor that surprise before melting to nothing (bonus: no artificial flavors means no funky aftertaste). Each is delicious, but try the Haleakala: coconut and dulce de leche syrups topped with sweetened condensed cream. Another favorite: Sunset Beach: guava, mango, and passion orange syrups. Each treat is guaranteed: if you lose flavor before you reach the bottom of your gigantic serving, they’ll top it off.
What’s cool about helicopters is they hover, and you definitely want to hover in the nooks and crannies of Kauai. And, yes, it’s worth it to land at Jurassic Falls. The 400-foot falls, featured in the colossal movie, generates an incredible mist. A waterproof camera is ideal, but any camera will survive — and you want pictures in front of this one. But Jurassic Falls is just the beginning. We’re talking an unforgettable flight of a lifetime. Allow reds, browns and greens in Waimea Canyon to open your eyes anew. Venture into the wettest spot on earth, and soak in long, white lines dripping down steep green walls. The Na Pali Coast is a completely different experience by air than by sea. Island Helicopters threads you into the eye of the needle, then lets you dangle over the edge. But don’t worry: The ride always remains smooth and safe.
Mysterious underground lavascape makes these cave adventures true to their name. Families with kids of all ages can enjoy self-guided tours, while families with kids ages nine and older can participate in a fun-filled two-hour cave exploration in Maui. We love this specific cave adventure because it will take you off the beaten path to explore caves that are away from the typical tourist stops. Get the creepy crawlies about small dark spaces? Don't worry -- the caves are actually huge and spacious, once you get inside. Those looking for an above-ground adventure can make their way through the Red Ti Botanical Garden Maze.
Want to experience an exciting hula show without the luau? Check out the free hula show at the Lahaina Cannery Mall, featuring adult hula dancers during the week (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm) and child hula dancers on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm). For the younger travelers in your family, this option works best for shorter attention spans than the full luau experience and is also a nice break from the sun! We also love that you are really up close to the dancers, rather than sitting at a table too far away to see the action.
The Maui Ocean Center is a hidden gem! Located on the south end of Maui in a strip mall, people are always so pleasantly surprised at all this family-friendly aquarium (and more!) has to offer. Not only are there tropical fish that your little ones won't get a chance to see until their old enough to snorkel, but the Ocean Center also has sharks, a cool underwater tunnel, turtles and a coral rehabilitation center. Don't miss the restaurant at the aquarium, which is fantastic, and the huge gift shop!
There's more than just pineapples at this plantation. Take in a train ride on the Pineapple Express, stroll around the garden tour and learn about how pineapples are grown at the Dole Plantation. Or wander through the Guinness Book of World Records-declared world's largest maze, which is stroller-friendly and spans more than two miles of paths between 14,000 Hawaiian plants. Be sure to indulge in some pineapple ice cream or a pineapple whipped drink before you go, but be warned, the gift shop can be overpriced.
Take a guided tour through Maui to the top of Haleakala, which is an active, but not currently erupting, volcano. Depending on the ages of your family members, you can experience the crater by foot, bicycle, horseback or car. But, if you venture to the top during sunrise, be sure to grab a jacket because it tends to be chilly in the morning! There is a $10 fee per car to enter the park, but that pass is good for three-days, so you can make the most of it. Kids ages 7-12 can become Junior Rangers at Halekala -- stop by the Ranger Station for more details!
Sit outside with a slushy margarita and your puppy at this hopping Haleiwa establishment. Lookers-on may try to woo your dog, and the hostess may scratch behind his ears, but the thing your pup might enjoy most is the leftovers! Cholo's is on the North Shore which means prices will be uppity, and it's in Hawaii which means the food won't really be "homestyle Mexican"--few locals will catch on, and few "in the know" tourists will bother to complain, because the portions are huge and the food is flavorful. Just the nachos will feed two hungry stomachs a full dinner. Plentiful parking. Official Website.