We couldn’t wait to get our toes back into the sands of one of our favorite places on Earth: Hawai’i! The last time we were there was when we had the not-so-relaxing vacation because of my raving morning sickness. Haha, said no-one ever. I felt awful each and every day on our O’ahu trip at 9 weeks pregnant! Luckily, we have now redeemed those moments by heading to Maui for my best friend’s wedding and tagged on a little family vacation. This was our first ever family holiday – the 3 of us, beaching, eating, sleeping and exploring. As usual, I took plenty of photos to document and bring you our Travel Diary: Maui, Hawaii!
Obviously, there are so many beautiful beaches to explore but we had to find ones that were family-friendly for little Zoe. Maui has some wild waves and the wind is no stranger to these shores. One of our favorite spots was along the Olowalu Shoreline at Papalaua Wayside Park. You can literally back the car up to the tree line and walk a few short steps onto the beach. We found that this particular area was immune to the wind most days, had fun little rock pools here and there, was mainly sand, nice and sunny and calm water. The only thing is that it gets really hot under the sun so bring a LOT of sunscreen and use the trees lining the beach for shade. Check my post on Beach Essentials For A Toddler where I break down everything we take to the beach (including on vacation). We loved that the car was nearby so that we could change, put the ice cooler in the trunk etc. It’s a really family friendly beach with picnic tables and porta-toilets too if you need! On one of our last evenings on the island, a beautiful rainbow came out to play. The sunsets are incredible on this stretch of coastline too! So special!
Down in the bay around Kihei are various big hotel chains and resorts where you can find great beaches with lots of amenities close by. We went to Wailea Beach on the recommendation of our hosts. Ensconced right between the Grand Wailea Resort and Four Seasons, is a little public parking lot (free!) where a short walk brings you to Wailea Beach. It was gorgeous in the morning but the afternoons were chilly and windy (kicking up sand windy!). I don’t know if that’s the norm or just because it was February and the coldest Winter on record there! There are other deserted stretches of beach on the Kihei shoreline which are so worth exploring!
We stayed up on the North Shore and really loved the more wild and free feeling of nature up there. In amongst the surf beaches with shallow reef and big waves, is a little gem called Baby Beach. It sits on the Western end of Baldwin Beach park and even has it’s own tiny car park if you go through the residential area. It’s exactly as described. A beach for babies! There are lots of families with toddlers, babies and young children in tow because this beach is sheltered from the big waves by an exposed portion of reef, creating a protected lagoon of calm and warm water. It’s amazing if you’re up on the North Shore and need a place to take the family and know they’re safe. The breeze flows through up there so it’s a good place to be if it’s a really hot day!
Since we were staying in Makawao, it was a 10 minute drive down to the boho, surfer and laid-back town of Pa’ia. They have the cutest boutiques, cafés and yummy restaurants! Our favorite lunch spot was definitely Toby’s Shave Ice because they serve up a delicious poké bowl. The ceviche was also so good! For something brunch-y or an afternoon treat, head to Café Des Amis. Side note — back at university in Canterbury (UK), I used to work at this café’s first ever location! When we would go in and eat in the Maui location, I’d feel such a familiar vibe until it dawned on me… that this is the same café I used to work in as a college student all those years ago! Apparently, the owners loved Maui so much they opened a Café Des Amis in Pa’ia and there I was dining in it. Crazy. CRAZY.
If you’re looking for delicious beach food in the Kihei area, I recommend hitting up a roadside BBQ stand called Maui Rotisserie Chicken! They serve up a limited roadside menu of chicken plates and they are all flavorful and yummy. We ate here en route to a whale watching tour. If you’re spending the day at the resort beaches, you can either eat lunch in one of the fancy hotels (be ready to spend $30 on a burger!) or swing by Island Gourmet Market at The Shops of Wailea (2 hour free parking). I used to pick up poké bowls, fruit, snacks and water there to put in our ice cooler and head to the beach for the day. Rod and I love to max out our beach time, so we usually picnic! If you’re around Olowalu, there’s the perfect little truck called the Olowalu Juice Truck. It actually has a whole legit farmer’s market in front. We bought loads of fruit for the beach and smoothies from the truck! It was a great stop! If you need a poké fix on that side of the island then head to Tamura’s Fine Wine store (I know… but trust me!) because they have an incredible poké bar in there! When in doubt, ask the locals because they have all the good spots on lock.
We didn’t eat out too much because we’d be up early and out and about all day. When we did, we basically spent all our time at Nuka in the small town of Haiku. This place is delicious. We loved the Kushiyaki grilled chicken skewers as an appetizer. For mains, we went with the famous Haleakala Roll, Spider Roll and Haiku Roll!
+ Things to do
If you’re visiting Maui, you’re probably intending to hit the beach (and who can possibly blame you!?) and chill. But there are a lot of fun in-between things to visit and see on the island. We didn’t get around to doing all of what we had on our wish list but I’ll leave them below anyway!
Road To Hana
There’s a lot to say about this road that leads you along the northern stretch of coast to the town of Hana. It’s winding, scenic, breathtaking, long and somewhat tiring to drive! And there’s 2 ways there. The “normal” way (asphalt) and the “back” road. After reading reviews, we decided on taking the road more traveled! There are some great review guides on where to stop along this road to hike, see countless waterfalls, take photos, visit hidden beaches etc. We drove for about 3 hours (ONE WAY!) with Zoe in tow. It was wild and beautiful. We stopped off for a little picnic and got as far as the Lava Tubes which has a beautiful garden labyrinth to explore also. The drive home was another two and a half hours. We turned back due to tiredness, the time + feeling a little nauseated from the winding roads. Looking back on it, we concluded that an hour-and-then-some drive into the Road To Hana would’ve been enough to know what the rest entailed. It’s a shame we didn’t go off the beaten track to see the wild beaches (and yes, the sea is much rougher out there) but hey, we had Zoe and only so much time to dedicate to it. It’s worth doing this day activity – but just make sure to consider your situation and desire to be behind the wheel for hours on end!
Maui Dharma Center
Hawai’i is a very spiritual place. The energy of nature is palpable, the flow of spirit is able to open up to healing, changing and evolving into whatever you feel you’re needing. I loved this little gem located in Pa’ia. I loved going to see The Great Paia Lha Bab Peace Stupa at the Maui Dharma Center. A symbol of peace and love, the stupa holds within it a giant prayer wheel. It’s a sacred spiritual monument. On the wheel are hundreds and hundreds of prayers, Bhudda’s teachings, that get sent out into the world as you spin this majestic wheel. There’s something so rebalancing and special about this place. I felt so at peace there!
Whale Watching Tour
If you’re visiting Hawaii in the winter months – lucky you! You’re going to be able to go out on one of the many tours and see the gorgeous Humpback whales having a blast. We got a tour from Boss Frog’s in the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops and actually over paid on TripAdvisor (when we got there it would’ve been cheaper to just get a 2 for 1 there.. annoying) but anyway. Shop around for these tours because there are so many and the rates vary a lot. We went out on a catamaran and the guide was really great at giving us information and spotting whales with us.
I can’t tell you how beautiful Hawaiian sunsets are. I don’t have any words for it so I’ll just let the photos do the talking!
Take Lots Of Photos
Ok. Hawaii is obviously an incredible place to be if you love photography (like me)! The mountains are lush, the nature is something precious to behold and beautiful beaches and coastlines to swoon over. There are also lots of spots for fun photos dotted around the islands. One of these is the “surfboard wall” in Pa’ia. This Instagram-worthy spot is off one of the main roads to Makawao. I’ve also decided I’m taking my Fujifilm instant film camera with me everywhere on trips now. It’s so nice to snap along and keep physical memories and photos of the moments on vacation.
Other things that were on the list but we didn’t do because or time or money (haha):
- Visit the Haleakala Crater (apparently you can do a sunrise watch here and it’s amazing!).
- Take a helicopter tour to see remote valleys and waterfalls.
- Visit the bays on the West side of the island.
- Snorkel (because we’re SO dumb and forgot all our gear in LA).
- Get a massage or spa day
- Paddle board or do any of the cool hikes like the bamboo trails, for example.
And that about covers our Travel Diary: Maui, Hawaii! It was a wonderful family vacation. Also a trip I really needed spiritually to disconnect and recharge. Let me know if you’ve been to Maui (or Hawaii) and add your tips for family vacations! See you soon over on Instagram for more fun + adventures!