Maui Family Vacation: Part 2

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Read Part 1 of our 10 day Maui family vacation March 2018 here. Read below for Part 2!

Day 5: Maui Zipline, Maui Tropical Plantation, The Mill House, Hiking the Lahaina Pali Trail

Day 5 of our vacation was definitely the most exciting and adventurous day of our trip. Before we had left for our trip, I had a lot of conversations with my kids (my oldest in particular) about what their top wish list activities would be. I was a bit surprised when my six year old immediately declared that he wanted to go zip lining! I didn’t even know he knew what zip lining was! Apparently he had seen it on one of his YouTube channels and was instantly determined to try it for himself. He talked about it nonstop for months before we went and even searched for places in Maui that had zip lining all on his own! Maui Zipline on the Maui Tropical Plantation seemed like the perfect experience for my son. They advertise themselves as a family friendly introductory course for children as young as age 5. There’s a 45lb minimum weight requirement that my skinny kid just made, but most other courses I looked into didn’t allow kids that young or small. I didn’t book this experience in advance because I wasn’t sure what day we’d want to do this, if at all. I was concerned my son would chicken out and I didn’t want to do it on a day that was too hot or pouring rain. This day was forecast to be overcast and cool with rain on and off, so it seemed like a good day for this kind of activity.  Luckily we were able to purchase tickets just a few hours before we went, and we could have even booked on site if we wanted. Since my younger two kids weren’t able to go, the fact that Maui Zipline is located on the Maui Tropical Vacation made it easy for me to join my oldest while my husband took the younger two walking around and exploring the Plantation grounds, rather than being stuck back at the hotel or having to do an entirely different activity. The zipline course is easily visible from the plantation grounds so Steve and the kids were able to watch us as we went from tower to tower.

The employees at Maui Zipline were fantastic. They made sure to give my son extra attention and one on one directions and instruction before getting started. They also had helmets with attachments for my brand new GoPro Hero 6 that I was very excited to get to use for this activity! It started to sprinkle as we were getting started and they provided ponchos to everyone at no extra charge. I couldn’t believe how excited and fearless my son was during the whole experience. He asked to be the first one up the tower and to be the first one to go on the fist line and the employees were more than gracious to let him go first and made him feel important. The course itself has 5 lines that go around the plantation and provide views of the beautiful grounds and gardens, the west maui mountains, and Haleakala Volcano. This was not my first zip line experience, so if I had gone on my own I would have opted for a more adventurous course, but it was definitely a great experience for my son and for someone new to zip lining. The views and the friendly guides definitely made the experience.

While I was zip lining with our oldest, Steve and the younger two walked around the plantation grounds and watched us from below. My four year old had fun chasing around the nene geese and looking at all of the beautiful flowers. Once we were finished with our zip line adventure, we decided to head to lunch on property at the Mill House Restaurant. OMG what a meal we had! The Mill House is one of the highest rated restaurants on Maui and for good reason. The menu is composed of creative items carefully crafted with ingredients grown on property at the plantation or locally at other farms on the island. Every single thing we ordered was beyond delicious. We started out with hand crafted cocktails with alcohol from local distilleries. For appetizers we got the Swiss chard fritters, which are basically like a savory donut. They were so good that even my incredibly picky son was devouring them and we ordered another plate of them! The kids menu offered an appetizer of farm fresh fruit with yogurt dip. My one year old was in heaven. For our main dishes, I ordered the gnocchi with zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, fried quinoa, and chili butter. It was so fresh and delicious and surprisingly light for gnocchi. My husband got the beef ragu pasta and that was incredible as well. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such a creative, fresh, and delicious meal. If you are visiting Maui, The Mill House restaurant is a hands down must try! I was a bit apprehensive about taking the kids there, as it seemed like a fancier restaurant, but the dining room was completely empty when we showed up for our early lunch and the staff assured us that they have kids in there all the time and that they wouldn’t be bothered by them making noise or running around. They had children’s menus with coloring sheets and crayons, so they obviously do cater to families regularly. That being said, if we were to return I think I’d stick to eating there for lunch with the kids rather than attempt eating there during dinner when it is most likely more crowded.

On our drive home, we decided to stop off at the entrance to the Lahaina Pali Trail directly off of Highway 30 in Lahaina. It was a bit treacherous climbing up the steep rocky path to get to the main path, and the main path was also slim and had steep drop offs, so it made me very nervous with little ones. We hiked about a quarter mile up and the view was absolutely gorgeous. I would have loved to continue on if we hadn’t had the kids with us, but I felt it really wasn’t safe to do as a family.

 

We continued on Highway 30 towards our resort and stopped off at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. Obviously they are known for their dessert pies, but they also offer a full menu of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and savory pies. At almost any time of day, lines can be seen going out the door and around the building. I hopped in line and bought a coconut cream pie, a chocolate hula pie, and a macadamia nut chocolate pie. Most of the pies come in 3 or 5 inch options. I got the three inch options of the macnut and coconut cream, and one large slice of the chocolate hula. They were all worth the wait in line! While the pies were small, they were incredibly rich and I could only eat a few bites at a time, so all three pies lasted us the rest of the week as our nightly desserts. There is a fresh fruit market located on the same property as Leoda’s, offering a great selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables. We did some shopping in the market and then got back on the road.

By the time we got back to our resort in the late afternoon, the rain had finally stopped and we decided to head for a dip in the pool. Steve swam with the older two boys while I walked our sleeping toddler around the property in his stroller and took in all of the natural beauty that Maui has to offer.  For dinner, we cooked food for the kids that we had in our kitchen and decided to get take out for ourselves. We had seen the Maui Fish Market while shopping near our condo, and we had heard good things, so we decided to get some food to go and have a quiet relaxing meal on our lanai. I ordered the seared ahi steak platter and Steve got the seared ahi sandwich. Unfortunately, I was less than impressed. The ahi had zero seasoning and was way overcooked for “seared” ahi. The only good thing about my meal was the home made macaroni salad I got on the side. I definitely wouldn’t order the ahi from there again. They are better known for their fish tacos than their plates, so we had planned to order tacos another day of our trip to compare but we never got a chance. While the food wasn’t the best, being able to sit on our lanai with some local food and beer and watch the sunset while our kids slept inside was heavenly. You just can’t beat a Maui sunset.

 

 

Day 6: Steve’s Birthday! Wailea Beach, Drums of the Pacific Luau

Day 6 of our trip was Steve’s 35th birthday! He had been wanting to get a high quality, authentic ukulele as his birthday gift while we were in Hawaii so we asked around and did some research and Mele Ukulele in Wailea seemed to be the place to go. We packed up our beach gear and made the hour long scenic drive from Lahaina to Wailea in the morning and went to the public area of Wailea beach, located between the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons Maui Resorts. Contrast to our previous beach day in Napili Bay, Wailea is a much more crowded touristy beach destination. Wailea is a big resort area so the resort guests use the same strip of beach as all of the public visitors. There are vendors on the beach offering water sports and many amenities near by. Although it doesn’t have a secluded exotic feel to it, it’s still a gorgeous beach with clear waters and amazing views. The weather wasn’t on our side that day and we only got about 45 minutes of beach time before the rain began. We packed up and headed to the Shops at Wailea for lunch and some ukulele shopping. We sat for lunch at Cheeseburger Grill and Tap Room. It was a pretty standard Cheeseburger restaurant with a good selection of their own brewed beers. The food and beer were good. Nothing overly special but a good choice for a cheap, casual lunch spot. Afterwards I walked around with the boys while Steve picked himself a Ukulele. I wasn’t about to bring three small boys into a shop full of expensive breakable items!

You can’t visit Hawaii and not go to a Luau! My kids were practicing their hula dancing for weeks before we left, and they thought that Daddy’s birthday would be the perfect night to go! I decided to book the Drums of the Pacific Luau for two reason. One, it was very close to our resort, located at the Hyatt Regency Maui on Ka’anapali Beach just 10 minutes from our resort. Two, they were one of the only Luaus I had researched that offered a separate kids buffet with foods that I knew my picky eaters would actually eat. The price was comparable to several of the other big popular Luau’s in the area. We bought Preferred Seating tickets, which was supposed to get us seats at a table in the middle of the second row. But when we showed up most of the tables in that section were full so we got a free upgrade to the front row VIP section! We had such a good time at the Drums of the Pacific Luau. We each received shell Leis and complimentary Mai Tai’s as we entered (fresh juice for the kids), and we got a family photo taken. The buffet had a great selection of Hawaiian food including Kalua pork, lomi lomi salmon, and macadamia nut crusted island fish. The kids buffet had chicken nuggets and pasta, which my kids were thrilled with. Following dinner was a dessert buffet of a variety of brownies, rice pudding, and small bites of assorted pies. The best part of the meal was a free open bar all night long!!!

The show began with the unearthing of the pig before dinner. Following dinner they called all of the children on stage to learn how to dance the hula. Kids younger than 5 had to be accompanied by an adult so I was subjected to dancing on stage in front of the crowd as well, but it was a fun time. The kids loved it and my husband got a few adorable videos of them trying to follow along to the dance routines. The entire show was about an hour long and featured different drum shows, a variety of dance routines of ancient Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, and of course the fire dances and fire eaters at the end. My kids were blown away by the fire dancers and still ask when we can go to another Luau. I would definitely return to the Drums of the Pacific Luau on a future trip to Maui and highly recommend it to anyone, especially other families traveling with kids.

 

Day 7: Haleakala National Park and our Rental Car Nightmare

Well, day 7 of our vacation did not go as planned. We had planned to drive up Haleakala National Park to the Summit, spend a short time up there seeing the views, then head back down and spend the afternoon in upcountry Maui visiting the Surfing Goat Dairy farm and possibly some of the other farms, wineries, and distillery depending on the time. Our day started out just fine as we headed up the mountain and into Haleakala National Park. We stopped at the visitor center upon entering the park to use the bathroom and check out the little shop and information center. That’s when things went downhill. We had been noticing a strange smell during our drive and thought it was from something that may have spilled out in the backseat of the car. But when we stopped my husband noticed some smoke coming from the hood of the car and when he opened it up we saw that the entire car battery was completely corroded. The car wouldn’t start back up again and the battery couldn’t be jumped because of the corrosion and leaking. So we found ourselves stranded at 7,000ft,  90 minutes away from civilization, with three young kids. It took several calls and three long hours of being stuck there, but our rental company was able to send someone up the mountain with a new rental car for us. We transferred our things over and were finally able to continue to the summit. Unfortunately when we got there the cloud cover had become so bad that there was almost zero visibility from the visitor center up top. It was really disappointing after everything we went through to get there that day. Luckily as we headed back down the clouds suddenly cleared and we were able to get some amazing views from the overlook. My oldest is very into space and wants to be an astronaut when he grows up so the fact that he felt like he was on the surface of mars was super exciting for him.

Unfortunately after spending so many hours dealing with our car, it was too late to do anything else and we never got to visit any of the areas of upcountry Maui that we had hoped to see. It was after 6 by the time we finally made it back down and with over an hours drive to our resort and the fact that we were exhausted from the whole aggravating day, we just went back to our condo, made some quick dinner, and went to bed.

Day 8: Family Photo Session, Pool Day, Whaler’s Village and Dinner at Monkeypod

I’m really awful when it comes to getting professional pictures of my kids. The only family photo session we ever did before this trip was when my second son was three months old, over 4 years ago. So when we planned this trip I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some updated pictures in a beautiful setting that has so much meaning to us. I spent months trying to find an affordable photographer with no luck, so I decided to check out the Facebook marketplace and that’s where I found Hannah McFall Photography. She was a great professional photographer who had just moved from Utah to Maui and was offering discounted photo shoots to the first few people to book. For what I found to be a very fair price, we were able to get a nearly two hour session with 75 edited digital images. I have to give Hannah so much credit. Getting my kids to pose and listen is completely impossible and I was skeptical that we would wind up with any decent pictures at all. But I was so pleasantly surprised to see that she worked some serious magic and we wound up with so many incredible pictures! I’m not sure if she’s still located there because their move was only part time, but wherever she may be I highly recommend her!

As bribery to get the kids to behave for the pictures, we promised them another breakfast at Slappy Cakes afterwards (read about our first breakfast review in part 1). Our photo shoot was for the sunrise, so we were done very early and went off to breakfast. We made our own pancakes again for the kids, but this time my husband chose to have an omelet and I ordered the banana bread French toast which was absolutely decadent. You really can’t go wrong with breakfast at this place! After breakfast, we were finally looking at a day with good weather after many days of rain and clouds so we knew we had to take advantage of a fun pool day. It also gave us a nice chance to slow down and relax after so many activity packed days the previous week. As I mentioned before, the pools at the Honua Kai were one of the main reasons I chose this resort. They are perfect for families with small kids. We started the day at the main infinity pool which is right next to Dukes and has a shallow pool area perfect for our toddler. I was able to sit poolside with a lovely adult beverage served in a carved out pineapple and truly enjoy feeling like I was on vacation. After a few hours at the infinity pool we moved over to the big family pool so our big kid could have a few turns down the water slide and we climbed into the sand bottom kiddie pool with the younger two. Everyone had so much fun.

                       

For dinner we chose to go back to Whaler’s Village and try out one of the waterfront restaurants we had heard so many good things about. I checked OpenTable (my favorite app for finding restaurants and booking reservations) earlier in the day and was able to get us an early dinner reservation at the Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman. We got a table along the back wall of the restaurant so we didn’t have the best view of the beach and sunset, but the food was delicious. I started off with their famous Monkeypod Mai Tai with the honey-lilikoi foam and it was the best tropical drink I have ever tasted. The appetizer menu was so enticing that I couldn’t settle on an entree and decided to order several appetizers instead. We shared the shrimp and mushroom potstickers and the lobster deviled eggs, and I ordered the poke tacos appetizer for myself as my meal. Steve got the pork and pineapple pizza and a local draft beer. It was all excellent. The kids menu had a great selection and my older two boys loved their pizza and quesadilla. Something I really really loved about this restaurant was the fact that the chef offers pasta for children under 3 at no cost! The waitress explained that they understand that most toddlers don’t eat much and they don’t feel right charging people for a full meal that will likely go uneaten. I found this to be so amazing. As a mom of toddlers and picky eaters I don’t even want to add up how much money we must have spent over the past few years on kids meals that were never eaten. So of course we went with the pasta for my toddler, which included tomato sauce (not just butter and cheese like a lot of other restaurants in the area charge for). He loved it, I think he ate almost the entire bowl! The restaurant was packed with other families with small children and babies so it’s clearly a great spot for a good dinner with kids.

After dinner we took a walk down the beach and explored a few of the other resorts along the strip. Then we went back to whaler’s village for another round of Shaved Ice and Island Vintage Coffee before heading home to bed.

Day 9: Another pool day, Kid Free Night Out

For the second to last day of our trip, I was really hoping to do another beach day or explore a few more hiking trails, but the weather was just not on our side. The morning was cloudy with occasional sprinkles, so we spent a while being lazy around our condo and trying to decide what to do. We ultimately gave up and decided to just stay at the resort and go back to the pool, it didn’t seem worth it to pack up and head out somewhere just to have our plans rained out. Luckily the rain at our resort let up and we were able to enjoy a few cloudy hours of swimming and relaxing poolside. We ordered lunch to our chairs from Duke’s and the toddler took a nap in the stroller. It was another nice relaxing day in paradise.

While planning our trip, Steve and I were discussing how nice it would be if we could have just one nice night out alone without the kids. So I hopped on some travel forums and asked around and everyone highly recommended The Nanny Connection. They are a nanny service that mostly specializes in helping out tourists with their babysitting needs. They offer nannies for your entire trip, or just as needed. They are expensive, charging a $25 service fee per service, plus $17/hr cash paid to the nanny for the first child and $3/hr per additional child with a three hour minimum required. So for my three kids we were looking at a minimum of $94 for a night out. But the Nanny’s are all experienced, highly screened, and CPR and first aid certified. After a lot of referrals and calling the service to ask a bunch of questions, I felt confident and safe using their service for one evening of our trip so that Steve and I could enjoy a nice night alone to celebrate our anniversary and his birthday. Our Nanny showed up around 4:30 and we headed off for our 5pm dinner reservations at Merriman’s Kapalua.

There were several fine dining restaurants on Maui that I was trying to decide between for our night out, but I decided on Merriman’s for its proximity to our resort and their breathtaking views. The restaurant is located on the oceanfront of the Kapalua Resort and offers stunning views of the ocean and the sunset. I made our reservations for 5pm because they seat on a first come first serve basis, so the first people to arrive get the tables with the best view. They open for dinner service at 5pm and we were one of the first people there, therefore landing ourselves an incredible outside table with the most amazing views. We honestly took forever to order any food because we were so immersed in watching the surroundings. Merriman’s is owned by the same people as Monkeypod which we had eaten at the night before, so we knew we were in for some good food. I started again with the famous Mai Tai with the foam on top (so so so delicious!). We started with the shrimp and pork chow fun noodles, which I personally found to be too spicy but Steve enjoyed them. We followed that with the fresh lobster, tomato, and avocado salad which was delicious. For a main dish I got the filet mignon and Steve got the fish of the day. Both were very good, not the best I’ve ever had especially for the money, but the view and ambiance made up for anything lacking in the food. There was live music playing on the patio and we got to enjoy the full sunset. For dessert I went with the coconut creme brûlée but I was so full I could barely eat it. It was such a wonderful evening, I’d definitely recommend trying to have a meal here for anyone visiting the island. While I wouldn’t recommend bringing children to dinner (even though they do have a kids menu), they do have a more casual Sunday brunch which would be more appropriate for the whole family. I wish we could have gone back there to try it with the kids, so it’s on our list for next time.

 

Day 10: Maui Ocean Center, Ho’okipa Beach, March For Our Lives

On our final day in Maui, we woke up to pouring rain that was expected to last the day. Again we were forced to give up our hopes of having one more beach day or hiking another trail, so we headed out to the Maui Ocean Center. My kids love aquariums and sea life, so the ocean center was something at the top of our rainy day plan list. While it is a great activity to do with small children, I’m not sure it’s an activity we’d do again on a future trip. For one thing, the cost is really high for what is offered. For a single day pass, it’s $30 per adult and $20 per child ages 3-12, so it cost us $100 to get in. While they do have some great exhibits and provide a lot of information about Hawaiian sea life, it’s rather small and you really can do the entire place in an hour or two. We’ve been to several other aquariums that have a lot more to offer for a much lower price. The other downside is that a lot of the exhibits are outdoors, and the exhibits that are inside are spread out requiring you to walk outside to get from one to the other, so on a rainy day like this one we got completely soaked even with our umbrellas. The third thing that made this experience less than ideal was that it’s not very accommodating for strollers or those in wheelchairs. The indoor areas are incredibly tight and crowded making it hard to navigate through the crowds. There are a lot of steps leading into the different buildings and outdoor exhibits, and very few ramps. I found myself having to walk all over the place just to find a ramp for the stroller to get from section to section and I had to skip a few areas, such as the sea turtle observatory, because I couldn’t get my stroller down there. Due to the overcrowding, the rain, and the difficulty navigating with our stroller, our kids started melting down and we rushed our way through and got out of there as quickly as possible.

I had spent our entire trip trying to fit in a visit to Ho’okipa beach to see the sea turtles, so although it was raining we decided to go for it. Ho’okipa is located just past Paia on the Hana Highway. It’s world renowned for windsurfing and is a great spot for watching surfers, kite surfers, and wind surfers. Due to the high waves it’s not a great spot for swimming, and only truly experienced surfers should venture out here. The other thing Ho’okipa is known for is it’s Honu (sea turtles) that can usually be seen coming up on shore and sunbathing close to sunset each day. We got there in the afternoon and were lucky because we got to see a whole bunch of them! It was chilly and raining on and off but it was so worth it to get to see these beautiful animals up close. There’s usually a naturist present to protect the turtles from the crowds and answer questions, but due to the rain there was nobody there on this afternoon. Several locals were on the lookout though and came over to try to help manage the crowds and remind us tourists to back off and give the turtles some space. They are protected and it’s illegal to touch them. Unfortunately we did see some people ignorantly ignoring the advice of the locals and going right up to and touching the turtles, and the poor animals were becoming so overwhelmed that they were turning back to the water. So please, if you ever visit Maui and see a sea turtle, admire from a distance and leave them be.

Living just outside of Parkland, FL, the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018 had a major affect on us. When we found out the date of March for Our Lives, we knew we would be in Maui and we were sad that we wouldn’t get a chance to take part in such an important event. We were very pleasantly surprised to learn about a week before we left that the students at the University of Hawaii Maui had organized a march there. Living so close to this tragedy, my kids knew what had happened and we had to have many serious discussions with them that month about it. My oldest son had heard about the March at school and he had asked to be able to participate. So we spent the last afternoon of our vacation participating in an event that was incredibly personal and important to us. It was heartwarming to see how many people so far away from where this tragedy occurred pouring out their hearts in support. We hadn’t had a chance to make any signs but there were a few other little kids who graciously made extras and gave them to our kids so they really felt more involved. I was so impressed by my kids and their ability to truly understand and comprehend the situation, and actively state their own opinions on it. It was a very special moment I will never forget.

 

For our last dinner, we just had to go back to Maui Brewing Company. The food is just so good and the atmosphere is so fun. If we lived closer, I think it would be one of our top go to places for family dinners out. We then went back to our condo to pack and relax on our last night in this beautiful place. The next morning we had to stop for just one more coffee at Island Vintage Coffee in Whaler’s Village and then we were off to the aiport.

To summarize the second half of our trip, our highlights included:

  • Maui Tropical Plantation
  • Maui Zipline
  • Hiking the Lahaina Pali Trail
  • Wailea Beach
  • Drums of the Pacific Luau
  • Pool time at the Honua Kai Resort
  • Whaler’s Village
  • Ho’okipa Beach

Favorite food spots for family dining:

  • The Mill House (lunch only)
  • Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop
  • Slappy Cake’s
  • Monkey Pod Kitchen
  • Maui Brewing Company
  • Island Vintage Coffee

Favorite food spots for dining without kids:

  • The Mill House
  • Merriman’s Kapalua

Downsides/Things we’d skip or do differently next time:

  • The Lahaina Pali Trail – It was too difficult to do with the kids. I’d love to do it again without the kids, but next time we’ll stick to easier trails that are safer
  • Maui Fish Market –  Just didn’t live up to the hype in my opinion. We had much better fish elsewhere.
  • Haleakala Summit – Our car troubles aside, while I’m glad we finally got to the summit and our kids got to experience it, I don’t think it’s something we’ll do again with the kids. It’s a lot of time spent in the car that could be better spent on other activities and the kids really weren’t all that fascinated by the whole experience.
  • Maui Ocean Center – Was not worth the money

Things I wish we got to do on this trip that we didn’t:

  • More beach time – Unfortunately the weather just wasn’t on our side on this trip, but I have a long list of beaches I was hoping to get to that I’m bookmarking for the future
  • Hiking – I really wish we had make more time for hiking trails and nature sight seeing. There’s just so much to do on Maui it’s impossible to fit it all into 10 days. Weather was a factor in this as well.
  • Snorkeling – I really wish we had time to fit in another snorkel trip to a different location. While Molokini was an incredible experience, I know from experience that there are much more beautiful areas to snorkel around the island. Next time we will skip Monokini and focus on a few other areas instead
  • Road to Hana – Okay, this was something we talked about at length before and during our trip and went back and forth over. The bottom line was we were too nervous to do that winding dangerous road with kids in the car. We were also concerned about car sickness and the kids being bored since they couldn’t see out the windows of the car very well. While I’m confident we made the right decision this time around, the road to Hana is an incredible drive with a lot to do and see along the way and should definitely be on one’s list of things to see and do while in Maui. I look forward to experiencing this when my kids are much older.

Our first big family vacation to Maui was just incredible. While there were definitely challenging moments dealing with the kids and the aggravation of traveling and being so far from home, I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat. We had such an incredible time, we’re still all talking about it months later and are really hoping to plan a return sometime soon. I have no hesitations about recommending a trip to Maui with kids to anyone!

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