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Maui Family Vacation

July 2, 2011 4:46 PM

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kaanapali from sheration Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Ka’anapali Beach on the island of Maui is truly a natural paradise. Although it’s been adorned with a strip of hotels and resorts, those companies have not spoiled the pristine beach and they take great care to provide every luxury and adventure opportunity for visitors. A family getaway from Los Angeles involves a direct flight and a 45-minute ride from Kahului airport. And then you never have to leave Ka’anapali because there’s so much to see and do right there.


sheraton maui Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

2605 Ka’anapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
(866) 500-8313
More Info

The Sheraton at the north end of Ka’anapali Beach is literally built into Black Rock, a promontory of volcanic rock that juts out into the ocean. It’s the oldest hotel on the beach, and in past years it has undergone a costly renovation to keep up with the modern amenities and decor offered by its competitors. A sprawling, 508-room property, the Sheraton wraps its different buildings (deliberately kept at 5 floors so as not to obstruct the view) around a large pool and bar area that is just steps from the beach. Free activities are scheduled daily, and the towel kiosk can arrange to send umbrellas and beach chairs out to the sand for your family. A water-play kiosk at the very end of the beach by the rock rents out snorkel and boarding gear and can provide stand-up paddle and surfing lessons.

As a full-service resort, the Sheraton has two large restaurants, the small Black Rock Spa, and a Connectivity Lounge where folks can hang out together and surf the internet. Tucked in the corner is a take-a-book, leave-a-book shelf filled with old-school paper books where visitors can deposit finished titles and pick up a new-to-them paperback left behind by a previous guest. The hospitality here – as in everywhere in the resort area, really – makes you feel like ohana.

westinmaui Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Westin Maui Resort and Spa

2365 Ka’anapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-2525
More Info

A short walk down the beach is the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, where the lobby’s backdrop is an exotic waterfall that is also called home by flamingos and tropical birds. If you dine at the outdoor restaurant here, your meal may be interrupted by earth-shattering screams. No worries – it’s just the macaw.

The Westin is a hotel tower with 9 floors of rooms and suites. The rack rates (for any of these hotels) may seem imposing, but a savvy traveler can use a combination of discounts and hotel promotions to score a stay here at a significant reduction. The hotel’s original owner was Asian, and the property’s current managers have kept the theme true to its roots – Asian accents are visible everywhere.

Heavenly Spa is on the property and is large enough to provide a jacuzzi hot tub in the ladies’ locker room. If you visit the spa don’t miss the coconut cookies and lavender lemonade served in the “quiet area” with views of the ocean.

westinvillas Maui Family Vacation


The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas

6 Ka’i Ala Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-3200
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If you take a short drive north from the Black Rock area you will find the massive Westin Villas resorts – an all-suite lodging option that is great for families and folks staying for a long vacation. Each suite has a full kitchen, making this a low-cost dining opportunity. For higher-cost luxurious dining, there’s always Pulehu restaurant, a sort of Italian-Hawaiian fusion where the Mai Tai’s are quite possibly the best in the area.

Because these three hotels are all part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a shuttle bus runs back and forth among all of them and you can also charge your meals at any of the three back to your own room if you are staying in one as part of their “Stay At One, Dine at All” feature.


firecircle Maui Family Vacation


Cliff Dive Ceremony and Luau

Sheraton Maui
2605 Ka’anapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
(877) 846-5554
More Info

Every hotel in Ka’anapali seems to have an evening entertainment extravaganza of some sort. At the Sheraton, a traditional luau is produced on the ocean lawn three times a week. For the ticket price of $99 ($52 for children 6-12), guests get a full Hawaiian meal of Kahlua pig smoked in the ground right there in the corner of the lawn, and all the famous sides. The open bar serves Mai Tai’s and anything else you desire. The hula show gets guests involved, and the evening is capped off by a flame dancer. Hawaiian crafts are sold before the show, and guests can purchase a photo snapped by a pro as they entered the party.

The entertainment portion of the evening is heralded by the Sheraton’s nightly Cliff Dive ceremony, in which a diver runs around the resort with a torch lighting all the tiki lamps, and then bounds up the volcanic rock face of Black Rock to light the torches at the top, then throws all his stuff in the water and dives in. This dive is impressive, and anyone along the beach or at the Sheraton’s poolside bars can watch for free.

sawing Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Ka’anapali Beach Hotel/Neo Mystic Productions)


Ka’anapali Beach hotel
2525 Ka’anapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI
More Info

It’s dinner. It’s magic. It’s dinner magic! This Tuesday – Saturday show at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel stars magician Jody Baran and his wife/lovely assistant Kathleen, who take the audience through a retrospective of major illusions performed by the most famous magicians in history. Interspersed throughout the show are energetic hula dances by local performers. Baran delivers the entire show with a wry smile and a sidelong glance, and his repartee with audience members engages the crowd, who are mostly visitors from afar. Every seat in the house affords a great view, and the illusions are so convincing that even the most bored teenager gets into the show. The show’s finale has Baran squeezing his wife through what looks like a giant pasta machine, spitting out a paper version of her that is displayed outside the theater after the show where the performers will autograph your program. Dinner service happens before the curtain rises, so fidgety toddlers might find the event a bit long, unless the roving card trick guy gets to your table before dessert goes flying. Reservations are required and include a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert, and unlimited Mai Tai’s. The photos taken as you walk into the theater get digitally manipulated to make it look like you are the magician, and are of course, available for purchase after the show.

wheel of death 2 Maui Family Vacation


Cirque Polynesia

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
200 Nohea Kai Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-4540
More Info

A special permanent Cirque stage exists on the grounds of the Hyatt at Ka’anapali Beach, where Cirque Polynesia is performed Monday through Friday nights. This show combines death-defying acts of extreme human physical performance with kick-ass hula dancing. It truly must be seen to be believed. Not only do the flying Wallenda family members do their high wire balancing act, but they also perform an amazing acrobatic routine 40 feet in the air that includes mother Rietta spinning at high speeds, connected to the earth only by her neck. The finale of the show features the Wheel of Death, in which producer Enrique Valencia himself balances atop a spinning wheel and even does forward and backward flips that seem to defy gravity. “Not only does Enrique perform the infamous Wheel of Death – he is also the architect and engineer who built the 33-foot-high metal apparatus from scratch,” says the website’s press info. Interspersed throughout the acts are astounding displays of strength by two young male gymnasts who show just how killer their abs are. These guys can be spotted in the local park, doing gymnastic tricks just for fun on their days off. After the show, the performers wait in the audience area to greet guests and thank them for coming. After all, this is Hawaii, where tourists are part of the family.

waa kiahaki Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Canoe Rides

Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association
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During the summer months, the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association hosts a series of sailing canoe races between islands called the Wa’a Kiakahi. Racers are volunteers from every walk of life – doctors, educators, professionals of every sort, who are enthusiasts of the ancient skill of Hawaiian outrigger canoe sailing. On each island that hosts them, the racers hold a community event started off by a Hawaiian holy man who blows a conch shell to start off his meaningful blessing. Part of the reason they sail, says Leimomi Keikina, one of an all-woman sailing crew that participated in the event on Maui in June of 2011, is to celebrate and educate people about how this method of sailing brought ancient Polynesians all the way to Hawaii from as far away as Tahiti. “The ancient sailors were experts at navigating by the stars, and they knew how to ‘read’ the currents and the winds,” she says. “It’s called ‘wayfinding.’ They could actually feel the direction of the current in their feet and body.” Today’s canoes are made of wood and fiberglass, something that certainly wasn’t around back then, but they are constructed in exactly the same way as the ancient vessels. Spectators are treated to free rides in the canoes (or wa’as) after signing a release waiver – it’s even safe for kids. “It’s a great way to share our culture,” says Keikina.

parasail 2 Maui Family Vacation

souvenir photo


UFO Parasailing
Ka’anapali Beach
Lahaina, HI 97676
(800) 359-4836
More Info

Look! Up in the air as high as 1200 feet above the ocean! It’s a human floating on the wind, attached to a parachute, being pulled by a speedboat! It’s almost like flying. UFO Parasail gathers riders on the beach to sign waivers and give them life vests, and then transports them out to the tow boat in a dinghy. Most para-sailors choose the tandem option which attaches two riders to the chute at a time. After a brief safety presentation, (in which the first mate explains that if the line breaks, you will simply be parachuting, and not to worry because you’ll land eventually, ha ha!) pairs of guests are hooked up to the chute and sent off into the skies for a 7-14 minute ride. You can choose different heights – 1200 feet is the highest and most expensive – and you can also choose to be dipped into the water. Up that high, there are no noises besides the rustling of the wind in the chute fabric, and the beating of your heart – and your partner’s. It’s a wonderful way to see the islands – from Ka’anapali beach you have a great view of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. Children as young as 3 years old can enjoy this experience with a responsible adult alongside. For an extra fee, the boat crew will take photos of you and give you a storage card with the images on it before you even get out of the boat.

banyan tree park Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Banyan Tree Park

649 Wharf St
Lahaina, HI 96767
More Info

For a free, shady afternoon of rest for Mom and Dad, and an opportunity to burn off the shave ice sugar for the kids, go to Banyan Tree Park in the heart of Lahaina. It’s like the rain forest canopy has descended to street level. One tree covers an entire city block with twelve trunks and provides endless climbing opportunities and shelter from the blazing Maui sun. This park gets crowded, so if you’re into it for the photo op, visit early in the morning. On the weekends there is a craft fair featuring local artisans (pick up a hand-made tiki or ocarina for under $50) and musicians.

honokawai park pic 1 Maui Family Vacation


Honokowai Park

Lower Honoapiilani Highway
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761
More Info

If the beautiful resort beach area of Ka’anapali is just too crowded and luxurious for you and you’re interested in a more “local” experience, head north on Honoapiilani Highway just a few minutes and follow some easy directions to Honokowai Beach Park. This is a short stretch of coastline that is a bit rocky, but it’s more sheltered than Ka’anapali and there are trees and a grassy park to change it up a little. The surf is much calmer here so it’s a great place for younger kids to play, although the coral reefs are very close to shore so you’ll want to be careful to put water shoes on the children or forbid them from climbing the rocks and reefs altogether. The park has bathrooms and an outdoor shower nearby, and there is a grocery store across the street. And free parking!

moonbow Maui Family Vacation


Moonbow Tropics

612 Front Street
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-7998
More Info

All along front street in Lahaina there are things to see, places to shop, food to eat, excursions to purchase, and more. It’s a quaint area for tourists to do a little strolling and hunting for souvenirs. If you want to bring home some quality threads from your trip (read: this is not a “7 T-shirts for $10” type joint) head into Moonbow Tropics, where you can get reproductions of vintage Hawaiian shirts from the 30’s and 40’s and beyond. The staff is super kid-friendly and will even engage the kids while Mom is shopping. (Smart.)

pirateship Maui Family Vacation

Kids’ pool outside Kids Club at Westin Villas (credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Kids Club

Westin Maui and Westin Villas
More Info
More Info

Both Westin properties in this area have Kids Clubs on site. For a fee, your child can hang out with other kids in this safe, fun environment. Staff are delighted to play with the kids – depending on how long their visit is, the kids can come back to the hotel with you with their arms full of crafts they made and even a sand crab in a habitat, scored during a big group sand crab hunt. Each kid is also given his own branded backpack which contains a water bottle, a disposable camera, and a “passport.” This is a great choice for parents who wish to have a more adult experience for a little while, and for the whole family to get a little time to miss each other after all this togetherness.


ono ahi tuna salad Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

’OnO Bar and Grill

Westin Maui
2365 Ka’anapali Parkway
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-2525
More Info

Ono means delicious in Hawaiian, and at a beach resort area, there is no excuse for food that is not so. This outdoor restaurant does not disappoint. The seared ahi tuna salad was fresh and colorful as was the fish taco plate, and you can’t go wrong with a giant bowl of chocolate, no matter what you call it. Weekend brunch is a delightful array of options, and in keeping with the hotel’s Asian theme, there is a whole section of the buffet that features Asian breakfast options. Do not miss the miso soup that is presented with a well-stocked fixings bar.

cool cat cafe Maui Family Vacation


Cool Cat Cafe

658 Front St. #160
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-0908
More Info

Ask your friends on Twitter where the best burger in Lahaina is and this is the answer you get. Located on the second level of a shopping center in the heart of town across from the park, Cool Cat Cafe is staffed by colorful characters adorned with tattoos and piercings and a great attitude. Kids are challenged to draw their own version of the Cool Cat logo while they wait for their food. The standard burger is delicious and satisfies an appetite worked up after a long day at the beach, and they serve the largest hot dog I’ve ever seen. Which means the kid eating it won’t be whining “I’m hungry” 30 minutes after lunch.

annies shave ice Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Annie’s Island Shave Ice

113 Prison St
Lahaina, HI 96761

We found this place quite by accident, because it is right across the street from the public parking at the eastern end of front street. On a crowded day, that’s where you wind up because all the street parking along quaint and shop-heavy Front Street is taken. If your kid is old enough to read, you won’t make it past any place that has SHAVE ICE written on its sign. We were delighted by the vast variety of flavors at Annie’s, and having sampled shave ice from other locations in Lahaina, we decided this was the best option for value and taste. It’s a simple one-room store with a counter and a few bar tables, but don’t go for the atmosphere – go for the well-made snowy concoction. Counter servers will even customize your order and make something special for you that’s not on the menu if they have all the right ingredients.

leilani ext Maui Family Vacation

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


On Kaanapali Beach at Whalers Village
2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Bldg. J
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 661-4495
More Info

At happy hour this bar and restaurant is packed but there is a good reason. Great prices on drinks and an awesome menu item – gourmet sliders for $4. You can choose from 6 options like curried chicken salad, Kahlua pig, and good old beef. The Mai Tai here is pretty good and comes in a tiki mug. Rowdy beachside dining makes this a festive option, and the kids’ menu offers a good variety beyond grilled cheese or hot dogs.

lcm Maui Family Vacation


Tacos SuperMex

at Lahaina Cannery Mall
1221 Honoapiilani Highway
Lahaina, HI 96761 (808) 661-1150
More Info

The humidity and heat can be a bit much sometimes, and if you’re running around to have the Best Vacation Ever, you might need a break from all that adventure. Try a pit stop at Tacos SuperMex, a little storefront inside Lahaina Cannery Mall, “Maui’s only fully enclosed, air-conditioned shopping destination.” Here you can find a good old quesadilla and chips and salsa, which can be a blessing if you have children who are picky eaters. This restaurant is inexpensive and fast, and afterwards you can pop into the ABC Store or Longs Drugs to pick up essentials not offered by the luxury hotels.

Kim Tracy Prince spent five days in Ka’anapali with her 6-year-old son and thinks it wasn’t nearly enough. She blogs at House of Prince and ShePosts.

View Comments
  • Alyssa

    Great article. Makes me want to go to Maui! Love the “Shave Ice”.

  • Jessie States

    Love it. Great job capturing the best of Ka’anapali!

  • Christine

    If you like Chinese food, try Star Noodle. Very good! 286 Kupuohi Street in Lahaina.

  • Chris

    Try Okazuya in Honokowai. 5 minutes North of Ka’anapali and well worth it!

  • Eric

    Lotus Heart crystals and healing gifts. Readers and local artist’s hangout. Haiku, Maui, HI.

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