Updated March 18, 2018 with additional information.
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.
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Top 10 Lessons Learned While Traveling Solo with a Toddler:
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 Hawaii carry on backpack, a large rolling suitcase AND my toddler. Then, I needed to transport everything from the airport to the car rental location. Originally, I recommended renting a car seat on Maui. However, now I suggest checking a car seat and using a cart to haul everything to the car rental shuttle.
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.
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.
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.
ENJOY HAWAIIAN FOOD
Local food is awesome because it’s the best parts of many different cuisines! Owen 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.
My favorite places to eat on Maui include: Da Kitchen, Coconuts Fish Cafe, and Ululani Shave Ice.
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. 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 wearing lots of bug spray and wearing mosquito repellent wrist bands. Another option would be to wear long pants and sleeves in cooler months.
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.
BRING A JACKET TO HALEAKALA
As you will read everywhere, Haleakala is very chilly. We just wrapped my toddler in his blanket because we 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.
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.
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.
Where to Stay in Maui with Kids
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. Plus, lots of easy dining options. Kihei is my pick of places to stay in Maui.
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.