Paradise: Maui, Hawaii
Ok folks, one more article looking back at our time in California. While on the West Coast we were fortunate to discover the paradise that is Maui. Vacationing there is just too fantastic to not write about! An easy 5 hour flight from SFO, we found ourselves there 3 times in a year and a half! I am delighted to share all our favorites with you.
We stayed in Wailea which is very picturesque, calm and has the best weather of the island. It is a great spot to make your home base where you can relax with the beach, pools, hotel amenities, shops and many great places to eat all nearby. From there you can make many fun excursions too. I do suggest getting a rental car as you’ll want to drive around and explore. We were also told that further north tends to be very windy – good for surfing, less great for young families.
Where to stay
- Fairmont Kei Lani – We’ve stayed at the Fairmont Kei Lani twice. We went with the Kei Lani because we could get suites and we wanted our daughter to have a separate sleeping area. You can splurge on their villas which will give you 2 large bedrooms (though they are on different levels which may not be as good if you need to visit your little one in the middle of the night) a kitchen, dining table, living room area, washer dryer, outdoor patio with plunge pool (kids will have to be attended), table/chairs and grill. We did that our first time there when we had my sister join us and we got a good deal. The last time we were there we were in one of the larger suites with a living room with pull out bed, a separate bedroom, one large bathroom, a wetbar and a balcony with seating – and fantastic views. It worked perfectly for us. The hotel is beautiful, clean and service is stellar. You can walk to the beach from the hotel, or take advantage of the pools. There is a large pool with a slide, with a small 1 foot deep kiddie pool nearby. There is also an adult only pool but views are not as nice from there! Lots of options to eat right at the hotel (kids under 5 eat free) or nearby places, including the other excellent hotels. Sign up for their free membership as you get some nice perks right away, like free wi-fi and notices of sales, which are sometimes very good.
- I have heard fantastic things about the other 2 large hotels there as well, the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons. If you are up for it, many people also rent out their condos in the area, which might get you a bit more space and probably a kitchen, but you won’t get hotel amenities.
- For a splurge/larger gathering, look into renting a villa. We celebrated some significant family birthdays a couple years ago and rented an fantastic ocean front house that had 4 bedrooms, and every convince of home you could think of, plus a gorgeous pool. Your own private ocean front home experience is hard to beat. Happy to share details on how we found ours with anyone interested.
Places to eat
Wailea (or nearby)
- Monkeypod – a must!! right up the hill from the The Shops at Wailea Mall. Great locally sourced, sustainable food that’s modern yet island influenced. Our favs: Truffle fries, Poke tacos, Saimin (w/o mint and cilantro), fish and chips, macadamia crusted fish. We never make it to dessert until our last time there when they had a special chocolate salted peanut caramel cream pie – which was amazing. I like their pina colada and my husband loves their Mai Tais..lots of good beers too. Get a table outside to enjoy a great sunset and setting. They have a nice happy hour too.
- Sansei – (Kihei) great Japanese food in Kihei, 15-20 min drive from Wailea. Gets really busy.
- Four Seasons Brunch – one of their brunch days they serve pina colada waffles which are so yummy. I ate way too many. We’ve been twice and once they told us there was a special brunch pricing where you get the buffet and all you can drink mimosas and bloody marys – score.
- Nick’s Fish Market at The Fairmont Kei Lani
- Ko at the Fairmont Kei Lani – the lumpia (pork and shrip) are great, as is the seafood stew (forget what it is called) and lobster tempura.
A little further
- Mama’s Fish House (Paia)– A must!! a long drive (30-40 mins), back near the airport but it is so worth it. AMAZING seafood. Make a reservation. We went for lunch twice on our last visit. My favorite on the menu…whatever fish they have prepared with the “Upcountry style with caramelized Maui onion, avocado and baby bok choy.” – so amazing. If they have the spicy mahimahi soup you should share it – really different and yummy.
- Aloha Mixed Plate –(Lahaina – pretty drive out there) If you want a local plate lunch, this place is fun. A far drive though, in Lahaina. Worth it if you are going to check out Front St (kind of a boardwalk with lots of shops).
- Hali’maile General Store – (Up Country) another far one, but yummy if you are up for the drive.
- Ono Gelato – if you go to either Mama’s Fish House or the General Store you’ll drive by Ono Gelato in Paia, which supposedly is great. There are some shops in Paia, worth a little walk if you end up near there. A good natural grocery store there as well.
Things to do
- Beach – I suggest going in the mornings as winds get stronger midday. Polo beach at the Fairmont is a really nice beach with soft sand and tiny crabs which delight everyone young and old when you catch a glimpse of them.
- Pool – We went in the later afternoon in the evening (happy hour pool side!!)
- Luau – A Luau is fun. They host one at the Grand Wailea on certain nights – book your tickets ahead of time. The show is fun, the food is mediocre and the drinks watered down… but still fun to do at least once. I have heard the one in Lahaina is better but it is a long drive from Wailea and with kids we opted to stay closer and not have a long drive afterwards.
- Ask the hotel for good spots to see sea turtles
- The drive to and view from Haleakala is supposed to be amazing, with waterfalls along the way to see. We didn’t go as I would get too car sick.
- Helicopter tour – Pricey but amazing. Though I did get motion sick toward the end, which was less fun.
- Whale watch – during the season. We must have seen 30 whales when we went! Including one calf who put on a great show breaching over and over again. Amazing. We booked with Trilogy and were really pleased. The boat was fantastic and they do not overcrowd it, the crew great as well serving a few snacks and drinks (alcoholic drinks available for purchase in the cabin, which is also where the restrooms are). The crew shared great information at certain points of the tour but then mostly let us relax and enjoy the views and whales. I was a little worried at first as I get sea sick, but at no point did I feel any discomfort on this boat! In fact, it felt quite luxurious to sit on the deck relaxing with the wind in my hair and the gorgeous views. I suggest brining a sweater though, in case it gets a bit chilly. You can book on their website, just print your tickets out for boarding.
- Snorkeling – My husband loved snorkeling! You can rent gear from the hotels and go straight out from their beaches! Or for better viewing book a boat to go to a snorkeling spot. The company above we used for a whale watch does snorkeling trips.
- You can rent all kinds of water vehicles on the beaches, from kayaks to paddle boards to small group boat rides from the beach at the Fairmont Kei Lani (Polo Beach)
- Aquarium – there is an aquarium, but it never made it to the top of this list as a thing to do.
- Sugar Cane train – I have heard this is fun, especially for kids, but we never made it.
- Surfing Goat Dairy – another one we never made it too, but have heard good things.
- Shopping (see below)
- Shops at Wailea – a nice stroll, mostly shops you’d find at home mixed in with a few local ones. I did get a nice pearl ring at a local jeweler and we bought a small sculpture at one of the galleries.
- Front Street – in Lahaina, so it is a drive, but you could hit a restaurant out there for lunch/dinner to make it more worthwhile. Mostly touristy shops with cheap souvenirs. But it is on the water and fun walk down, though it can get very hot in the afternoon. There is also a jewelry shop, I think called the Green Mango, that carries cuff bracelets made with vintage kimono fabric that are super cool. Both my sister and I got one.
- Town of Paia – cute, small downtown with shops and places to eat. You’d be close if you go to either Mama’s Fish house or The General Store.
- Four Seasons Hotel – hosts local artists in their lobby showcasing their creations. We got an amazing wood carving and were very temped by some pottery.
- All of the hotels have a few shops that are fun to poke around in.
- Rent a car. It is easy to drive to many excursions and it is nice to have the freedom. Take a look at a map to orient yourself. Next to Wailea is Kihei which has more shops and farmer’s markets. Further east/north is Lahaina. Head back North from Wailea and you’re heading back toward the hotel and up toward Paia. It is really straightforward.
- My suggestion for most of your days there:
- Beach in the morning before it gets too windy and hot. The mornings offer sunshine, calmer waters and perfect temps.
- Eat lunch away from the hotel and couple it with an excursion
- Chill in your room for a little while to let everyone recuperate a bit
- Head to the hotel pool late afternoon so you and the kiddos can get some more water time in. Also, poolside means poolside services, which means happy parents! I sort of OD on Pina Coladas while in Maui.
- Dinner at the hotel or nearby as everyone will be getting tired (Luckily, there are many great choices!)
- Bring sunblock, especially if you want specific brands.
- Groceries – if you need more than what your hotel can provide, there is a Safeway a short drive away.