Maui: Island of Adventure

By Ellen Parlapiano

When choosing a Hawaiian island for your next family vacation, say aloha to Maui. Our family vacationed there this past summer, and Maui delivered everything two work-weary parents and two active teens could want in an island getaway. My husband and I logged hours of lounge-chair time on the beautiful beaches and reveled in the peacefulness of the place. At the same time, our restless teens still found plenty to do there. Magical Maui was able to meet our divergent needs by offering the perfect balance of relaxation and action.

Resorts To Suit Your Style

Each area of Maui has its own special tempo, so our family stayed at a few different resorts to experience all that the island offers. These shorter stays also allowed us to sample some higher-end resorts without breaking the bank.

Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa

Our first stop was Grand Wailea Resort in South Maui. “Grand” is certainly an understatement: This place is huge -- 40 bustling acres and 6 different restaurants, all beautifully landscaped with lush palms and tropical flowers. The resort’s centerpiece is the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, a water park with slides, lagoons, rope swing, a water elevator and baby beach. Picture a theme park in paradise and you’ll have the right idea. Be sure to nab a shady spot early in the day, as kids will want to spend most their time at this action-packed pool. Right behind the water park area is a calm stretch of beach, featuring a water trampoline, windsurfing lessons, and kayaking tours for an extra fee.

The Camp Grande children’s club for 5- to 12-year-olds is a great back-up if you need some kid-free time. It offers half- and full-day sessions, as well as evening programs. (Morning session, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm including lunch, is $75; afternoon session, from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm, is $45; full-day session, from 8:30 am to 4 pm with lunch, is $105; night camp, from 5 pm to 10pm including dinner, is $75.)

As your children make new friends and discover cool crafts and sports in a supervised setting, you’re free to wander the pathways and admire the resort’s extensive collection of modern art. Keep your eyes peeled for Picassos, and check out the whimsical Botero bronzes in the open-air atrium. Save some time for a workout in the spacious and ultra-luxurious fitness center, equipped with an impressive array of cardio and weight machines, and flat screen TVs. Cool down with a chilled towel and fruited ice water. Then head to the spa, for one of their signature Sea Shell massages, Volcanic Ash Facials, or hydrotherapy treatments. (Helpful tip: Be sure to book your spa treatments before you leave home, as slots fill up fast.) The spa also has children’s and teen treatments, in case you want to you’re your pampering a family affair.

Rates: Double rooms start at around $605 per night, plus $20 daily resort fee.

For More Information: Visit the resort’s website at www.grandwailea.com.

Napili Kai Beach Resort

The mood is more low-key up at Napili Kai, on Maui’s northwest end -- though the hotel still has a luxurious feel. The resort is tucked into a cove that shields you from the high-rise buildings that seem to be sprouting up everywhere on this side of the island. Because the beach is on a protected inlet on Napili Bay, the water is quite calm, making this a great choice for families with younger children, but even older kids will be happy here. Mine were content to snorkel along the shore, or rent skim boards to ride like skateboards on the slick sand. There are also four swimming pools, a grassy central play area, and two putting greens (one for adults and one for kids). The beachfront snack bar serves fast food; while the spacious sit-down Sea House Restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner) has a more varied menu, and will box your lunch if you want to tote it to the beach.

What we liked best about this resort were the spacious suite-style accommodations, with a full kitchen, and ocean-view lanais. Our teens had a room and a TV to themselves, and for three blissful days we did not care that their stuff was strewn all over their space. (What you don’t see won’t hurt you, so the saying goes.)

Napili Kai Resort prides itself on having no hidden fees, offering many programs on a complimentary basis. This includes the Keiki Club for children ages 6 to 12, a 2-hour program offered daily during summer and holidays. Hula lessons, lei-making, Hawaiian games, nature walks and putting contests are among the Club’s activities. The resort also offers extra special touches, like free coffee and tea served early each morning and in the late afternoon in the lobby. At 10 a.m., you can hit the Beach Cabana for more of their great java, along with juice, iced tea, lemonade and fresh fruit -- a refreshing mid-morning treat. If you’re looking for a beverage with a bit more kick, check out the adults only pool-side Mai Tai party offered later on in the day. Throughout the week there also many free cultural presentations for families to participate in, from coconut husking to palm frond weaving.

Rates: Family studios start at $275 per night; one-bedroom suites start at $415 per night; and 2-bedroom suites start at $600 per night.

For More Information: Visit the resort’s website at www.napalikai.com.

Kaanapali Beach Hotel

Our last stop was Kaanapali Beach Hotel, on Maui’s west end. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like ohana -- the Hawaiian word for family. The spirit here is warm and welcoming, and within a few days staff members will be greeting you by name.

Kaanapali Beach Hotel has been called Maui’s most Hawaiian resort, because it offers outstanding cultural programs, all free of charge to its guests. At check-in, children ages 3 to 12 receive an “Aloha Passport for Kids”: a cute booklet featuring various “destinations” located throughout the resort. Each time kids visit one of the “destinations,” their passport is stamped with a Hawaiian word, and they receive a special keepsake. Infants and toddlers get a passport card personalized with their Hawaiian name as well as a baby bucket full of goodies. Throughout our stay, we could choose from complimentary hula or ukulele lessons, ti leaf skirt making, leaf printing and weaving, or sand art. And we loved winding down at the free sunset hula shows, staged every evening in the courtyard near the restaurant. The resort has three eateries on site. The Tiki Terrace serves breakfast and dinner in an open-air setting; the poolside Tiki Grill is for take-out lunch and snacks; and the Kaanapali Mixed Plate restaurant has all three meals covered with an all-you-can-eat buffet that is a favorite with locals.

The Kaanapali Beach Hotel’s property is intimate, so that families can move about easily and older kids can have the independence to roam the grounds on their own. Accommodations are grouped in low-rise buildings, clustered around the courtyard and sprawling lawn, and are just steps from the beach. Kids can challenge each other to checkers on the life size game board or cool off in the whale-shaped pool. Our teens spent most of their time on the beach, where they had a wild time boogie boarding and snorkeling at the reef area known as Black Rock.

An unexpected perk was that the resort is within walking distance of Whalers Village, an open-air mall with many of our teens’ favorite stores. When they needed a break from the sun (or from us!) they could simply stroll over and spend a few hours there. It’s also home to one of our favorite Maui restaurants, The Hula Grill, where you can sample specialties like Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi or Kiawe Wood Grilled Ono as you watch the sun set over the Pacific. Make sure you cap off your meal with a decadent Hula Pie -- macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with fudge and whipped cream. It’s sized for sharing, so dig in!

As with most vacations, our time in Maui passed too quickly. But Kaanapali Beach Hotel has a lovely tradition that makes saying goodbye a bit easier. On your last full day at the resort, you’re invited to a farewell ceremony, where the staff sings you a special departure song and gives everyone a kukui nut lei. First-timers get one that’s all brown; but you’re invited to bring the lei back on your next visit, when the staff will add a white nut. As we looked around us, we saw that many of the guests had white nuts in their leis, and we vowed that we would return again someday for ours.

Rates: Double rooms with lanais and mini-fridges start at around $195 per night, and the resort also offers many specials throughout the year.

For More Information: Visit the resort’s website at www.kbhmaui.com.

Next Page: Things To See and Do on Maui

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