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Bring Old Hawaii to Life With Hands-On Activities at Maui Nei Native Expeditions

Bring Old Hawaii to Life With Hands-On Activities at Maui Nei Native Expeditions

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For my regular blog readers, you know that we love to expose our kids to people and their cultures from around the world.

My Mom lives on Kauai and I’ve been visiting the Hawaiian Islands since I was a kid. Maui is a fantastic blend of activities and gorgeous landscapes.

Last year, we explored the Maui Ocean Center and did the Four Winds Maui snorkeling boat ride and had a blast! Two years ago, I took my oldest on the Road to Hana, Haleakala, and I`ao Needle.

As this was my 3.5-year-old’s third trip to Maui, I was looking for a deeper connection to Hawaiian culture than our previous activities. We wanted a fun thing to do in Maui with kids.

Thankfully, Maui Nei Native Expeditions offers authentic Hawaiian cultural tours and I knew that’s what we needed to do.

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Discover Old Hawaii Tour

Maui Nei Cultural Tour is one of the best things to do in Maui with kids.

Our guide Keoki showed us native plants that were used for medicinal purposes. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My family decided to try the Discover Old Hawaii Tour by Maui Nei because we feel the best way to understand a place is through its culture.

This tour is 3.5 hours and incorporates a bit of history, geography, and hands-on cultural crafts.

We immersed ourselves in Hawaiian cultural arts and skills while listening to stories of Lahaina’s sacred sites and learning a traditional way of life.

According to the official description of the Maui Nei Discover Old Hawaii Tour, “At each sacred site, a Maui Nei kumu (teacher/guide) will show you how to make a cultural item, using traditional methods of old Hawaii while explaining the background of his or her special skill and the history of its uses.

You’ll also hear stories about significant places in Lahaina’s history as you’re guided from site to site.”

Our guide Keoki was fantastic! I like to think of him as the host of our tour, as he escorted us to each cultural educator throughout the morning. Not only was he knowledgeable about what he was talking about, but he was passionate about sharing that with us.

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Hawaiian Cultural Activities

Maui Nei is one of the top things to do in Maui for families.

Each bamboo stamp was handcrafted and are used to tell each guest’s story. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

One of the major draws of this tour for families is all the hands-on activities.

I was thoroughly impressed with how well each station was set up and featured a different guide who had extensive knowledge about each activity.

It would be perfect for kids who have never-ending questions about everything they do! It’s one of the most fun things to do in Maui with kids!

My oldest is 3.5-years-old and he participated in each activity. We brought along some little toys to keep his hands occupied while the Maui Nei guides explained the activities. Our 10-month-old baby only participated in the activity involving food!

‘Ohe Kapala Bamboo Printing

Maui Nei Cultural Tour is one of the top things to do in Maui with kids.

Maile meticulously set up this bamboo stamping area and it was amazing to see the different handmade designs. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

After hearing a bit about how the Hawaiians used to make tapa cloth from bark, we got to try our hand at stamping our own prints. One of the most fascinating parts was to see how the ink was made.

Our guide Maile scraped some bright red dirt from the mountain before our tour. She poured a bit into a porous stone bowl and ground up the dirt. Then Maile ground up some Hawaiian salt (to set the paint) and added some oil and a bit of water.

After stirring it around, we were ready to stamp!

Bamboo Stamping at Maui Nei Cultural Tour is what to do in Maui, Hawaii with kids.

My son loved choosing his stamp and carefully painting the ink on it with the all-natural brush. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Each stamp was handmade and the shapes represented things like the sun, wind, mountains, family structures, and more. Maile encouraged us to choose a stamp (or two or three) that represented where we come from.

So, I chose the stamp that looked like wind to represent how my life with two little kids feels like a whirlwind.

However, my 3.5-year-old promptly painted over it with his brush, which is an even better representation of my life with little kids!

Poi Pounding

Poi Pounding at Maui Nei Cultural Tour is what to do in Maui, Hawaii.

This was my 10-month-old’s favorite activity we did on Maui! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

This was such a cool experience and my boys loved it! My family enjoys eating poi and I can say with authority that we’ve never had poi so fresh!

I loved that our guide Wainani set up this station with a bench for us to straddle, water to wash our hands, and had all the tools we needed.

Wainani started with taro that had been steamed and peeled. We chopped it into small pieces and then mashed the taro with a stone pounder.

My oldest thought that we were going to pound the taro with a hammer, so he was a bit confused when I started grinding with the stone tool.

Poi pounding at Maui Nei Cultural Tour was one of our favorite things to do in Maui with kids.

My baby couldn’t get enough of the poi! He even ate the entire baggie of poi we brought back after the tour. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Our favorite part was eating the poi! The taro we used was very mild and since it was so fresh, it wasn’t fermented. Our 10-month-old started eating it as my husband was still pounding it and couldn’t get enough!

At the end, we were able to bag up what we made to take with us. It’s one of my top things to do in Maui with kids!

Lauhala Weaving

Hawaiian lauhala weaving on Maui was one of the best things to do in Maui with kids.

I had no idea weaving was used to make Hawaiian weapons like this! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

I thought this was the most relaxing of the activities. We sat in the shade of a hale as we watched our guide Kalapana show us a Hawaiian weapon he crafted out of lauhala.

I had never seen anything like it before, but apparently it’s similar to what they used in biblical times.

Lauhala weaving on Maui is a top thing to do in Maui with kids.

I was impressed that my 3.5-year-old really tried to make his bracelet without any help. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Kalapana was very patient with us and he helped us individually twist the lauhala to make rope bracelets. Once we had enough for a bracelet, we were able to adorn it with a kukui nut or shell.

Our guide told us that they repurpose these from kukui leis and shell decorations.

Overall Impressions of Maui Nei Native Expeditions

Maui Nei Native Expeditions is one of the best things to do in Maui with kids

My family was really impressed with each of our Maui Nei Native Expeditions guides. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

I highly, highly recommend these tours to families looking for a bit of culture in their Maui vacation. It’s one of my top things to do in Maui with kids.

I’ve visited the Hawaiian Islands more than 30 times and have studied hula for more than 20 years.

However, I was impressed with how much new information I learned. The activities reminded me a bit of the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, but with much more information and personalized attention.

Even if you don’t think you are interested in Hawaiian culture, meeting the Maui Nei guides might change your mind. They are so welcoming and present their information in a way that is easy for children and adults to understand.

We felt less like a tourist and more like we were sitting in someone’s back yard just talking about life.

Additionally, they seemed truly thankful that we dedicated part of our day to learning about the culture that makes Maui such a wonderful place to visit.

Maui Nei Native Expeditions provided us with a complimentary tour for my family. All opinions are my own.

Fun Things to Do in Maui:

How to Choose the Best Luau in Maui
7 Reasons Feast at Lele is the Ultimate Date Night
A Week in Maui: Tips & Itinerary for Families
Maui Ocean Center Tips & Review
Honua Kai Maui Resort Review
Four Winds Maui Snorkel Trip
10 Tips for Traveling Solo to Maui with a Toddler

Maui Nei Native Expeditions

Maui Nei was the best thing to do in Maui with kids.

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Mimi & Mitch

Tuesday 29th of August 2017

It's amazing when destinations arrange activities that are friendly to the whole family, mostly for the kids. We went to Maui, beautiful place. Hope y'all enjoyed your time there as much as we did!


Thursday 24th of August 2017

I've always wanted to visit Hawaii! I have a friend who often goes to Maui to scuba dive, so I always see pictures and hear about it. Poi pounding seems like fun but also a lot of work! I think it's great that you were able to experience some native traditions.


Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

Your little one looks like he really enjoyed the poi pounding! I remember learning about bamboo printing for a brief turn in art class when I was in school, I found it so interesting back then and still do to this day.

This tour sounds incredible! The fact that there's so many activities and things to keep busy as opposed to just learning by watching is so great! I get bored on tours with too much talking and not enough action haha. Btw I am super jealous you've been regularly visiting Hawaii since you were a kid!! It's definitely one of my dream destinations.

Parnashree Devi

Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

This is absolutely incredible. I loved to spend time with locals and learn new things. I am so glad that you and your family love doing the same. It's so adorable to see your kids enjoying the local experience. I really like the way your son is making the bracelet. I would love to take Discover Old Hawaii Tour someday.


Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

I'm hoping to find experiences of this caliber other places we travel in the next few years!

Abhinav Singh

Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

It is so heartening to see someone inculcating good valued in the kids by engaging them in a meaningful way. I have not heard of poi before. Sounds interesting. Lauhala weaving seems complicated to me. Though I am intrigued that it dates back to biblical times. Thanks for giving me useful ideas to plan trip with my nephews.


Tuesday 22nd of August 2017

Lauhala weaving can be simple! But, it can also get super complicated!

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