Maui is my favorite place on Earth. Hands down. I grew up going to Kaanapali as a kid…we spent every Christmas there. My parents both came from cold weather states. Neither was interested in being in the snow for Christmas. So, we went to Hawaii…every year…for at least 12 years in a row.
The first time my parents took my husband and me together was in 2000, and he and I ended up buying a time share at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. I felt like such a sucker after we did so! Only tourists buy timeshares! Over the years there have been times I have regretted the purchase. These moments usually coincide with when the maintenance bills arrive. However, every time we go there, we feel like we are home. It has become our family place and our favorite vacation.
We have really grown to love our beach. Some years storms leave less sand, but we always find a spot and start digging for sand crabs and making all sorts of creations. The girls have really taken to snorkeling. You don’t even have to put your head in the water to see the fish…just standing in the water is a treat. But a short distance from shore, the coral is beautiful and the fish are plentiful. People come from other resorts to snorkel where we stay (although Black Rock is also top notch). You can go to the Kahekili Beach Park (65 Kai Ala Drive) right next to the Westin Villas and access the exact same beach. (Don’t tell people!) There is a big parking lot there, bathrooms, picnic tables and a barbecue. I do not recommend going there on weekends or holidays…it gets crowded!
If you go to Maui, the Humpback Whales are really the stars of the show. If you are lucky enough to be there during their mating season (when they hang out in the channel between Maui, Lanai and Molokai), you can sit on the beach in Kaanapali and just watch them from shore. No whale watching boat required. According to mauiwhalewatching.com, whale season is technically November – May, but the best sighting is January – March. Unfortunately for us, it has been many years since we have been there during the height of whale season. If you can swing it, you will not be disappointed.
Over the years, our family has tried many activities and restaurants. So many of our favorites are gone! Glow Putt bit the dust. The used bookstore Book Emporium closed. Longhis is a bit past its prime (oops, don’t get mad). But we keep trying new things. We evaluate everything with a “thumbs up, middle or down.” Here are The Funtrips 5 Thumbs Up:
Maui Surfer Girls: In Spring 2015 I had to really push my girls to take surfing. I figured that if they could try the sport in Hawaii with the lovely temperatures and the shaka attitude, maybe the love of the sport would translate to colder weather. (Although many don’t consider Southern California waters cold, we are pretty wimpy). Full disclosure that this is the only surf school I have tried in Hawaii. However, after my experience, it is the only surf school I will go to. We loved it so much the first day that we booked a second day (and my husband joined the kids). Each day we actually surfed a different spot because MSG texts you the morning of the lesson so that you can meet where waves are best. We hiked down to a beach one of the days and that gave us the full surfer effect! (except we didn’t carry boards) But the waves both days were perfect! They start with lessons on land…balancing on the board, body position, etc. Then, they give you rash guards and lead you to the water. We did a semi-private lesson (two kids and husband, one instructor) because I wanted someone to be close to them in the water. The girls and hubby paddled out with the instructor and she gave them a push when the set was right. They all stood up on the first wave! Amazing! The instructors were fun, super encouraging and very safe. They are equal opportunity for boys and girls and even have a few token male instructors. Check them out! www.mauisurfergirls.com
Dukes at the Honu Kai: The appetizers here are good, and I enjoy the happy hour quite a bit. The girls love all of the fruity (non-alcoholic) drinks and the Hula Pie. But, the view is the reason to return, again and again. It’s much less chaotic than the Barefoot Bar at the Hula Grill (which is run by the same restaurant company), and if you’re like us and stay at the Westin Villas, Dukes is only a short walk away! Don’t be fooled…Dukes on the mainland does not compare! www.dukesmaui.com
Ono Gelato: Ok, seriously, I am shocked to meet people who have traveled to Maui and have not visited this place! They use fresh island ingredients (even the milk from Maui cows) to make the most delicious gelato and sorbet you can imagine! There is one store in Lahaina and there used to be one in Paia (did it close?), but my research shows there may be one in Kihei as well. Sorry I don’t have a photo…you’ll just have to go and experience it yourself! www.onogelatocompany.com
Maui Zipline: This company doesn’t advertise as much as others do. For that reason, I thought they may have closed! We tried this several years ago when my eleven-year-old daughter was much younger. I was looking for a Zipline experience that was catered toward families and that would take peanut-sized kiddos. At the time I think their weight requirement was 50 pounds (it’s 45 pounds now). My husband put his cell phone in my daughter’s pocket so that she would make the cut! (In all seriousness, they were super safety conscious and told us that the real requirement was 45 pounds, and they just advertised 50 pounds for caution.) Our family had a blast and there was plenty of thrill for me…I didn’t need the “adult” version. I felt very safe and the instructors were fun and professional at the same time. Great day had by all! www.mauizipline.com
Honu Seafood and Pizza: Our last trip in the Spring, we ate here three times. It is that fantastic. And the view is killler! The Ahi Bruschetta is literally addicting (hence our three visits). The balsamic they use is sent straight from Italy and it’s like candy syrup. And the Ahi is just about the best you will ever taste. After you have the appetizer, order anything else you want on the menu. It’ll be delicious, but you’ll be in such food heaven from the Ahi, you could eat the fork and be happy. I do recommend the brussel sprouts as well…just no bechamel for this lactose intolerant girl. My not-so-adverturous (culinarily speaking) kids think the pasta, burgers and pizzas are awesome. Make reservations or come early…I’m not the only one who thinks this place is rad! www.honumaui.com
Leave us your comments on your favorite Maui experiences. We would love to try them out (or bond in our love for them). Aloha!