It’s no wonder the name Maui has become synonymous with paradise. Near-perfect weather year-round (at least from a Canadian standpoint), grand views where the sky and the ocean are an almost perfect match, the comforts of a U.S. state on a remote, serene island — and all of it wrapped in Aloha — makes for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
Unlike other destinations where travellers rarely venture outside their all-inclusive comforts, Maui is an island that is calling to be explored. And on a recent visit that is exactly what we did. Here are three top family attractions we loved!
Trilogy Excursions Lahaina Whale Watch Tour
Maui’s whale watching season is without a doubt one of the islands’ most special yearly events. The season begins each year around the month of November and lasts until sometime in May (roughly) with the peak of the season taking place around January-March. There are so many Kohola (whales) from the Central North Pacific stock migrating to Maui to give birth and mate in warm Hawaiian waters during peak season (thanks to strict conservation efforts) that the word often used to describe it is whale soup.
Whale watching from your lanai (balcony) or right from the shores of the beach are both viable options for observing these majestic creatures but for an even closer look we chose Trilogy Excursions — one of the oldest, family-operated, sailing businesses on Maui. We took off on a 35-50 person catamaran on an early Maui morning and within in twenty minutes of being out on the water we were observing a group of seven humpbacks, some breeching repeatedly out of the water.
With the help of Trilogy’s on-board whale naturalists we learned that this group was most likely made up of males, coming together to show off for a female somewhere close by.
While watching in awe on a calm Maui morning, we enjoyed drinks and breakfast and the company of our small group (a treat compared to much larger whale-watching excursions). This experience alone could be the tipping point in any sales pitch to a client considering Maui and a definite itinerary suggestion to make a lasting memory for travellers already booked.
Trilogy Excursions offers daily, two-hour whale watch tours, leaving from Lahaina Harbor at 8:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 pm. Tours leaving from other Maui locations are also available. Price is US$59/adult, $44.25/teenager (13-18) and $29.50/child (three to 12) and free for infants (up to two years old). Visit sailtrilogy.com for more.
Royal Lahaina Luau
The Hawaiian Luau is perhaps the ‘must-do’ travellers to Hawaii will think of first when they are ready to start planning their vacation activities, but with so many luaus to choose from it can be difficult to decide which to book.
The Royal Lahaina Luau has deep roots on Maui as the island’s longest running Hawaiian party. It was here that we were able to experience a luau in just the way we imagined it would be – with an oceanfront setting, communal seating (as opposed to the auditorium style many luaus now feature), local style cuisine and a Polynesian show that brings the audience together before it pulls out all the stops. This is definitely a great luau for families with children, who can take part in Maori style face-painting and traditional Hawaiian bracelet making and a hula lesson on stage – all while the sun is setting.
Getting to know some of Maui’s other visitors attending the show while enjoying the buffet and drinks (included in the ticket price) is another fun-filled opportunity.
Then, after night falls, when the performances begin, it is a true Hawaiian luau experience to watch the various Polynesian cultural dances under a sky covered in the same stars Hawaii’s ancestors once used to navigate and find these treasured islands long ago. The fire-dancers close the Royal Lahaina Luau for a no-holds-barred finale that will leave guests talking about it all night. Current ticket price is $90/adult and $35/child. Visit royallahainaluau.com for more.
Maui Ocean Center
Even on Maui there will be days when your clients may want to spend a few hours away from the beach and in the shade. Families with young children may also be looking for an activity to do that doesn’t require too much planning ahead but still offers some awe-inspiring vacation moments.
Maui Ocean Center was the perfect way for us to spend part of the day, enjoying the underwater sea life found on Maui that, with a young child in tow, we wouldn’t be able to see for ourselves snorkeling or on a scuba dive.
From Turtle Lagoon, to Hammerhead Harbor, to the 750,000 gallon saltwater aquarium featured in the Open Ocean exhibit, watching kids jumping with excitement over each exhibit may have been just as much fun as enjoying the different aquariums as adults.
With ample opportunity for visitors to reach out and touch some of the sea life as well, it really did give us our ocean enthusiast fix. For hungry visitors there are snack bars and cafés as well as Seascape Maʻalea Restaurant for an open-air restaurant experience overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Ticket prices range from $27.95/adult and $19.95/child (three to 12). Children under three are free. Visit mauioceancenter.com for more.