01/16/2013 07:14 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2013

The Questionable Decision To Take The Kids To Maui (VIDEO)

Maui is for honeymooners.

You can see them holding hands in Lahaina, cuddling in a private cabana at the Four Seasons, and getting up early to see the sunrise on Haleakala.

And let's be honest: the last thing these newlyweds want is for everything to be ruined by someone else's kids.

We know, because we took our family travel adventure to Maui. We took the kids shopping in Lahaina (our first mistake) visited the Four Seasons (our second) and then explored Haleakala (numero tres).

I'm kidding. But there were a few moments when we felt as if our kids -- who are not known for being quiet and demure -- were in the wrong place. As it turns out, that wasn't quite true.

It is a fact that finding things to do with kids in Maui, an island with a well-deserved reputation for being exclusive and expensive, isn't always easy. Even the attractions you'd assume would appeal to the little ones are not really ideal for children, especially very young kids.

For example, don't even think of taking your toddler to the waterfalls at the lower Kīpahulu entrance of Haleakala National Park. It requires hiking boots, a good sense of balance and swimming skills. I almost lost my balance a few times, trying to negotiate the slippery rocks.

Upscale -- and that's the way they like it
Maui is one of the most beautiful Hawaiian islands. If you don't believe me, take a drive along Highway 360, which runs from Kahului to Hana, on the eastern side of the island. Around each hairpin turn, you'll see impossibly beautiful seascapes, lush rainforests and waterfalls you thought only existed in the movies.

But if you have young children, you'll need a stiff drink once you reach Hana. Want to make a rest stop to buy banana bread from a food truck? Better keep an eye on your youngsters or they could slide down a steep embankment into the Pacific.

Our kids didn't worry about any of this. But we did.


It's not that Maui doesn't try. We dropped by the Four Seasons to visit a friend, and the hotel offered not only a children's menu in its restaurant, but also a menu for teens. Very impressive. Among its "kid-friendly" amenities were a game room and goodie bags for kids when they check in. They even had a kids' pool, which the children loved. But you couldn't escape the stares of the other guests -- the ones that said, "You brought your kids here?"

Is there anything for children?
In fact, Maui does have a few kid-friendly attractions. The Maui Ocean Center, for instance, is well worth an afternoon with the little ones. It teaches them about local marine life and is conveniently located near restaurants that serve yummy soft cookies and shave-ice. On our last visit to Maui, we also went horseback riding in the upcountry and felt right at home and welcome.


But this time we stayed in Lahaina, on the southern side of the island, which is an historic but hopelessly touristy town that reminds us a lot of our hometown, Orlando. Again, we were practically surrounded by honeymooners and passengers who had disembarked from a nearby cruiseship in search of souvenirs. Not a person under 21 to be seen, except our children. We probably should have known better than to take them into an art gallery, and we shouldn't have been surprised when a gallery owner scolded our son for being too loud.

The tepid welcome continued as we walked through town. Some merchants on Maui are crystal-clear about their preferences: they have signs outside their stores, warning parents to attend to their children or, the more lighthearted version, which promises unsupervised kids will be issued "an espresso and a kitten." (If such an offer were made to one of our kids, they would gratefully accept.)

Just as we were about to give up on Maui and spend the balance of our visit doing homeschool lessons and visiting the pool at our vacation rental, we heard about the Keiki parade on Halloween. The Hawaiian word for child is Keiki, and at first we could hardly believe there were enough kids on Maui to hold an event like this.

But oh, do they ever!

Suddenly, downtown Lahaina was overrun by kids in Halloween costumes, and some of the same merchants who held a puppy and a cup of coffee at the ready, were offering them candy. Our kids marched right alongside them, and they didn't hesitate to climb up on stage to receive a bag of candy from Maui's mayor. (Hey, it's free candy, right?)

Had we not seen the Keiki parade with our own eyes -- and been a part of it -- we wouldn't believe Maui could be so child-friendly. But once you get past the tourist traps and dodge a honeymooner or two, this place really loves kids.

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