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Family Travel Ink
United States: Mother Maui Looks after Kids in Hawaii
“Mother Maui either accepts you or she doesn’t,” warned a woman on the Hawaiian island of Maui. “If she doesn’t, you have to move on.” Dire predictions indeed. Luckily, when it comes to families and kids, Mother Maui opens her arms with welcome. In fact, this Magic Isle, about a half hour flight from Honolulu, is shaped like a woman cradling a baby.
Add to that 220 miles of ocean coastline with more swimmable beaches than any of the other Hawaiian islands, wonderful weather tempered by soft trade winds, activities ranging from whale-watching to biking the “world’s steepest downhill ride” to family moonlit hikes and tons of water baby activities, and it’s no wonder that readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine consistently vote Maui their Number One Favourite island in the World.
Yes, it can be expensive. But it’s also home base for all kinds of residents from hippies and New Agers to surfers, from marine biologists to cowboys. So you can find affordable condo lodgings or reasonable hotels and restaurants that serve pizza or terrific fish with chips. Whatever the budget, there’s no doubt that Mother Maui will provide. For families setting out to explore this special island, here’s what not to miss:
HALEAKULA VOLCANO: On a clear day, drive up through the clouds to the 10,000-ft. summit of the world’s largest dormant volcano. Or join the crowds who gather up top in the dark to watch the sun come up over the crater, “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed,” remarked Mark Twain. Hotel pick-ups begin around 3 a.m. Many still believe that the ancient site where the mischievous demigod Maui lassoed the sun, contains powerful spiritual energy. Today, families can also hike or ride horses through this vast moon-like surface big enough to swallow Manhattan. It’s an awesome sight. Call 808-572-9306 or visit www.nps.gov/hale.
This U.S. National Park also offers sleeping cabins (book well in advance) and nighttime walks during full moon. Older kids can join a bike company to make the two-hour group descent with a guide. But caution: don’t take lava rocks. Park rangers verified that rocks are mailed back weekly by souvenir hunters suffering bad luck. Bring lots of water to prevent altitude queasiness and jackets and mittens if you’re planning a sunrise visit. On the way up, listen to the local radio station—Crater 96.
WHALES: Until the end of April, humpback whales from Alaska arrive in the warm waters off Maui to have their babies. Book a catamaran trip with Trilogy Excursions ($42 US adults, $21 US kids) to hear their mournful cries on Hydro Phones and learn about whales or watch for the creatures from shore. Two free museums—the Whale Center of the Pacific and Whaler’s Village Museum—offer more whale tales.
SNORKELLING: At any time of year, sign up with Trilogy or Pacific Whale Foundation for early morning snorkeling trips to the nearby reef. With crystal clear waters teeming with fish, the kids will feel as if they’re floating in a tropical aquarium. Naturalists can identify species and help with masks and fins.
MAUI OCEAN CENTER: This hands-on ocean aquarium boasts terrific exhibits of moon jellies, friendly octopi and other local aquatic creatures. Kids can frolic under sting rays and sharks in the walk-through tunnel, watch creatures being hand fed, or examine specimens in the touch tanks. Call 808-270-7000 or visit www.mauioceancenter.com.
WATERSPORTS: It’s not unusual to see “Gone Surfing” signs. Many surf and windsurfing schools offer lessons that guarantee success. Wailea Watersports Surf School is just one establishment. Even if you’re not keen for your kids to challenge waves, it’s fun to visit the lookout at Ho’okipa Beach near Paia to watch surfers and kite-surfers ride the 15-ft. waves. Visit the funky Mama’s Fish House in nearby Paia for excellent fish lunches.
LAHAINA: Don’t miss this former whaling town. With boats coming and going from the town wharf, internet cafés, hip clothing outlets, art galleries, a cinema and lots of young energy, it’s reminiscent of Whistler, BC. Substitute surfers for skiers and boarders. Teens will feel right at home. The Cirque du Soleil-like performance called ‘Ulalena tells the story of Hawaii.
LODGING AND EATS: Even top resorts like Fairmont’s serene beachfront Kea Lani Maui hotel cater to families. The elegant one-bedroom suites with kitchens and CD players start at $325 per night. Kids under 18 sleep free. Tel. 808-875-4100 or visit www.fairmont.com. For budget-priced hotels like the Best Western Pioneer Inn in Lahaina, (about $125 US per room), or the Aston condominium properties offering family rooms for under $100 U.S., contact the Hawaiian Visitors and Convention Bureau at 1-800-525-MAUI or visit www.visitmaui.com.
HOW TO GET THERE: For direct flights from Canada to Maui from Sunquest or Sun Fun Vacations, contact your travel agent. Then get ready to say Aloha!
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