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Last updated on March 27th, 2019 at 12:22 am

This post is sponsored by Maui Marketing. All opinions are my own.

Are you wondering if you should even try to take your toddler to Maui by yourself? There’s so many things to do in Maui with toddlers that it’s understandably appealing.

I’ve done it and I’m here to share what I learned from this experience.

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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.

The Maui Ocean Center is a top thing to do in Maui with kids.
Visitors enjoy Maui Ocean Center exhibit. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Fallas

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.

READ  Maui Ocean Center Tips & Review

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.

Enjoying a Maui beach is one of the best things to do in Maui with toddlers
Maui beaches are the perfect playground for toddlers, with lots of supervision!

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.

My favorite places to eat on Maui with kids include: Da Kitchen, Coconuts Fish Cafe, and Ululani’s Shave Ice.

READ  7 Reasons Why the Feast at Lele is the Ultimate Maui Date Night

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.

Hiking Iao Valley State Park is a top thing to do on Maui with kids.
Blue skies over Iao Valley State Park on Maui. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

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.

The tram ride at the Maui Tropical Plantations is a must do in Maui with toddlers.
My toddler LOVED this tram ride at Maui Tropical Plantation. Photo credit: Maui Tropical Plantation

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.

Haleakala is one of the coolest things to do in Maui. The views are incredible!
Haleakala is a must do activity on Maui!

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.

The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui with kids.
Northern shot of Hana Road. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder

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!

READ  A Week in Maui: Itinerary for Families with Toddlers

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.

KIHEI

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.

Some kid-friendly Kihei options include: Kohea Kai, Aston at the Maui Banyan, and Kamaole Sands.

Kihei is my pick of places to stay in Maui with little kids.

KAANAPALI

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.

There’s also the Westin Maui Resort & Spa, the Hyatt Regency Maui, and the Kaanapali Beach Club.

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!

Fun Things to Do in Maui with Kids:

A Week in Maui: Tips & Itinerary for Families
Maui Ocean Center Tips & Review
Four Winds Maui Family Snorkel Trip
Complete Guide to Maui with Kids
Which of These 12 Maui Luaus is the Best Luau in Maui?

Tips and tricks for exploring Maui with toddlers on a Hawaiian vacation.

Author

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.

29 Comments

  1. I’m extremely surprised that you recommend renting a car seat. This is not safe advice at all, as a car seat should be used on the plane, and any car seat you rent will have an unknown history. Especially if you are driving the road to Hana, you should want your child to be safe at all times, right?

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Hi Alexa,
      Thanks so much for your comment. Having done both (renting a car seat and bringing our’s from home) while flying by myself with a toddler and all our stuff, I would still leave the car seat at home. It’s definitely a personal decision and you should make the choice that feels right for your family.

  2. How I have managed with 2 toddlers during long travels! Wish I had a good handy list like this then. 🙂
    Special kids meal always and some times non perishable packed food from home. The bug spray an absolute must.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, I feel like more snacks is always the right answer!

  3. This is an excellent post! By next year I might also be traveling with a kid, so this is perfectly timed post for me.
    First of all, I didn’t know we could rent a car seat! Thanks for that info! Thanks for the tip about the bug spray!
    I’m just stunned and surprised that you managed such a lovely solo trip with your toddler!

    • marciecheung Reply

      It was a bit of work, but it’s getting easier and easier to travel solo with him as he gets older and is more self-sufficient.

  4. There are some useful tips here for traveling solo with a toddler, which I have found is super fun! The special seat in the car is very important and don’t those seats look super comfy too. The road to Hana sounds an interesting ride with a toddler, glad to here it wasn’t too curvy, my girl used to sleep most of the time in the car, especially on country roads.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, my son was rear-facing and chowing down on banana bread for the ride to Hana. Then, he slept on the way back. It can be done!

  5. My friend travels solo with the cutest little angel. She would love this post. Ulupalekua and Ioa Needle definitely sound like must dos, armed with the bug spray of course.

    • marciecheung Reply

      Yes, don’t forget the bug spray! It’s seriously the only time we’ve needed it for our son and he’s now 3.5 years old.

  6. These are great tips. I am yet to do my first solo trip with Travis but I am sure it will happen soon enough. We found the same problem in the aquarium here in Scotland. We walked the whole thing in about an hour

  7. Abhinav Singh Reply

    My maternal aunt lives close to Maui. She keeps sending me pictures and it has piqued my curiosity. I will use the tips shared by you when I finally visit Maui. I agree with you. Early morning is my favourite time when around a beach.

  8. That first image of Owen is so cute! I don’t have any kids (yet!) so I am always impressed that people manage to travel with young children – I don’t know how they do it. I’m incompetent at travelling just on my own! Some of these tips for Maui are great for people travelling without kids too!

  9. Oh great tips for travelling with a toddler. We don’t have kids but are amazed at the multifaceted things you need to consider when travelling with a small human being. I’m impressed that you did this solo!

  10. You make it sound so simple when it comes to travelling with a toddler. The list looks very helpful and I can definitely pass it to my friends who plan to travel with kids. Maui sounds like a beautiful place.

    • marciecheung Reply

      With enough prep, you can minimize the stress of traveling with a toddler.

  11. Wow, it looks incredible! Great advice on the car seat, I’ve also seen some in the airport that have rollers on them and you can put your toddler in it almost like a stroller!

  12. Do you have any recs for the best beaches with toddlers (aka with the calmest waters)? What is the name of the beach in your title photo?

    • There’s baby beach up north near Paia that my kids like. Otherwise, we usually spend time at the beaches in Kihei because the water seems pretty calm and they can splash in the waves.

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