This post is sponsored by Maui Marketing. All opinions are my own.
I’ve done it and I’m here to share what I learned from this experience.
May contain affiliate links.In preparation for our upcoming family trip to Maui, I thought I’d reflect on my last trip to Maui back in October.
My Mom lives on Kauai, so we usually try to visit Hawaii once a year.
Last year, however, I thought it might be nice to also check out Maui (after a short visit on Kauai) since they have a lot of things for toddlers to do.
This was my first time flying solo with a toddler (the previous year he was 9 months old) and I learned a lot from this trip.
I extensively researched things to do in Maui with toddlers and came up with a solid Maui itinerary.
Top 10 Lessons Learned While Traveling Solo with a Toddler:
1. BRINGING A CAR SEAT SUCKS
When flying solo with a toddler, it’s very difficult to travel with a car seat. I was already hauling my backpack, a large rolling suitcase AND my toddler.
Then, I needed to transport everything from the airport to the car rental location.
One option is to invest in a car seat cover that’s also a backpack. Or one that will fit on top of your rolling suitcase.
I recommend checking your car seat as soon as you enter the airport and renting a cart at baggage claim to get your stuff to the car rental shuttle.
From there, kindly ask for assistance getting luggage on/off the shuttle bus.
2. PACE YOURSELF
There’s so many fun things to do in Maui that it’s easy to over extend. And when you are traveling solo with toddlers, it’s extra important to pace yourself.
I made sure that we either did nap time on a long drive in our air conditioned car or that we were back in our rental cottage.
We also focused on exploring one area at a time. I told myself that we WOULD be back and we didn’t need to see everything this trip.
Remember that your child is only a toddler once, and it’s okay to explore slowly.
3. THE MAUI OCEAN CENTER IS NOT A DAY TRIP
If you’re looking for things to do in Maui with toddlers, the Maui Ocean Center is listed as a must do in Maui.
It’s located near Kihei. They offer Hawaiian cultural programs throughout the day. Plus, there are hands on opportunities for kids to learn more about Hawaiian sea life.
This Aquarium is a lot of fun and there are many things to do and see. It’s not somewhere to spend a whole day, though.
We were surprised how quickly we walked through the whole Maui Ocean Center. It’s perfect for an hour or two. Or maybe we would have stayed longer if we were with friends or family.
They have a restaurant there as well as a snack shack with yummy treats so you can refuel before continuing on.
4. PLAN A BEACH MORNING (OR TWO OR THREE)
Early morning is the perfect time to head to the beach to avoid crowds and the mid-day sun. It’s still important to sunscreen up, but it’s much more pleasant than the afternoon.
It’s also a great way to wear your toddler out so they might nap in the car while you head to another part of the island.
If you are traveling solo, it can be quick and easy to change into swim suits and head out right when you wake up.
I bought grab and go food for breakfast at the grocery story, so we literally grabbed it on our way out the door to eat at the beach.
5. ENJOY HAWAIIAN FOOD
Local food is awesome because it’s the best parts of many different cuisines! My son is a big fan of noodles, mochi chicken, gyoza, mango, pineapple and of course shave ice!
There’s also macaroni salad with most plate lunches, which will satisfy most toddlers! Plate lunches are big enough to share with your toddler, so no need to order a kids meal.
6. BRING BUG SPRAY TO IAO NEEDLE
Iao Needle is such a cool place on Maui to bring toddlers!
It’s a very easy walk up to the top and there are lots of stairs with handrails. My toddler was able to climb all the stairs by himself and was so proud when he got to the top!
There are guard rails everywhere and the scenery is simply stunning.
However, I didn’t realize how buggy it would be and I got eaten alive (and I usually rarely get bitten). Most of the bugs were near the parking lot.
I’d recommend using lots of bug spray and wearing mosquito repellent wrist bands. Another option would be to wear long pants and sleeves in cooler months.
7. DO THE TRAM RIDE AT MAUI TROPICAL PLANTATION
Maui Tropical Plantation is located in Waikapu, between Kahului and Kihei in central Maui.
The Maui Tropical Plantation Tour takes you through the private grounds of the Plantation. You’ll see a variety of native Hawaiian plants, tropical fruits, and fields of row crops.
The tour also provides a live coconut husking demonstration.
My son loves all vehicles, but especially trains. When he saw we were going to sit down on the tram, he was beyond excited!
This tour slowly drives through the Plantation, stopping every once in awhile to point out the different fruits growing there. It’s very slow, which is a great speed for toddlers.
8. BRING A JACKET TO HALEAKALA
As you will read everywhere, Haleakala is very chilly.
I just wrapped my toddler in his blanket because I only planned to be there for 10 minutes just to get the gist.
If we were going to stay longer, we would have changed into long pants and jackets.
It would be a fun place for toddlers to explore (as long as they were bundled up), but you might want to hold their hand since it’s very rocky terrain.
One of the most popular times to visit Haleakala is at sunrise.
If you are visiting Maui with toddlers and coming from the Mainland, chances are you’ll be up well before sunrise, at least your first few days. So why not take advantage?
While I haven’t done it yet, this Haleakala Sunrise Tour is high on my list. The drive itself is gorgeous and it would be so relaxing to sit back and enjoy the view.
It comes with breakfast plus coffee, tea and cocoa when you get to the top.
Plus, they have USB ports so you can make sure your phone is fully charged so you can take tons of photos and video of your toddler at Haleakala!
9. ULUPALEKUA IS A GREAT REST STOP
I’m a hula dancer and I’ve danced to the song Ulupalekua for years without ever stepping foot there. That was the main reason we stopped here.
It’s a great second stop after exploring Haleakala with kids.
The rolling hills of bright green grass and the view of the deep blue ocean are breathtaking! They have a ranch store that offers yummy freshly made meals, bottled drinks, and souvenir stuff.
There is also a winery offering locally made wine.
My toddler enjoyed running around in the fields and looking at some of the artwork in the gardens.
They also have fun wooden horses that toddlers love climbing on!
10. THE ROAD TO HANA IS BEAUTIFUL
I did a lot of research about driving the Road to Hana with toddlers and the advice was completely mixed.
I’m the expert on my toddler and I figured he’d be okay for the drive and he was. It wasn’t nearly as twisty turny as we had been led to believe. But, I’m also used to driving curvy roads in the Pacific Northwest.
There are many available stopping points along the drive.
I highly recommend stopping at the Garden of Eden because it’s a great place to get out of the car, walk around a bit and take some gorgeous photos.
There’s also the Halfway to Hana sign that makes a great photo op. You can grab a hotdog or pick up some homemade banana bread to eat there or in the car.
There are a lot of opportunities to stop or head back, so don’t think you have to drive all the way to Hana if you aren’t sure your toddler can handle it.
In hindsight, I wish we would have done this cool Road to Hana tour. It’s kid-friendly and I would have been able to sit back and really take in the scenery while someone else drove.
And my toddler would have had a blast getting to ride in a tour bus!
Plus, it would have been a great way to talk to other adults!
Traveling solo with a toddler can be a bit isolating, so it’s nice to meet other traveling families and share tips and tricks!
Where to Stay in Maui with Toddlers
I look for a few things when figuring out where to stay on Maui with toddlers.
First, I try to make sure that my toddler has an area to sleep/nap while I am awake. That could mean there’s a separate bedroom or just a decent lanai where I can sit outside.
Second, I like to check out the parking situation. It’s important to me that I’m able to easily walk to and from the car, especially if my toddler falls asleep and I have to carry him.
Third, I like to be somewhere that I can walk to restaurants or shops.
For this trip, we stayed in an AirBnb in Kihei. The location is hard to beat anywhere on Maui.
It’s pretty easy to get to/from the airport, head to Haleakala crater, do the Road to Hana, and all the other fun things to do in Maui with toddlers.
There are also fabulous beaches right in Kihei and lots of easy dining options.
Kihei is my pick of places to stay in Maui with little kids.
If you really want to stay up in Kaanapali, the Honua Kai Resort & Spa is a lovely resort for families.
We’ve stayed there a few times. They have several pools that are perfect for toddlers and they have a nice beach in front.
So, would I travel solo to Maui with a toddler again? Absolutely!
We made a lot of special memories and it was a really nice bonding experience. The most important thing to remember is to set realistic expectations.
I only planned one activity each day and kept the rest of our schedule flexible in case we needed to take a break or wanted to go back to the beach.
Other than that, have fun and enjoy this time with your toddler in Maui!