Mum, her three kids and their Maui Adventure!
“You should try this Mum,” came the challenging call from one of my kids. On Ka’anapali Beach near one of Maui’s ritzy resort areas, my three kids had hooked up with some friends (also from Australia) for the popular activity known as “jumping off Black Rock”. Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock) is a rocky outcrop – lava fingers formed from ancient lava flows – jutting out from the ocean as jagged cliffs, surrounded by a coral reef. This is a Hawaiian sacred site, easily accessible from the sandy shore in front of the Sheraton Hotel. According to legend Maui chiefs would dive into the ocean from the top of the cliffs to enhance their spiritual strength.
Not concerned about my spiritual strength, I was happy enough to take on my kids and their challenge. However standing atop the rocky outcrop looking at the drop (some 7 metres below) I wondered why I was the only person of my vintage contemplating the leap?
My thought process went like this: it’s Hawaii and our timeline is short. I watched a few others jump before me and come to the surface safely. Despite the young girl in front of me deciding at the last minute not to jump, I leapt off the cliff face spiralled in the air for a few seconds, before plummeting into the cool Pacific Ocean. It was so much fun – I climbed the awkwardly rocky outcrop and did it again, then again!
With ten days and three kids in tow I wanted our first family holiday to Hawaii to be a “slice” of the best Hawaii has to offer. Mindful of our particular criteria (family friendly and boy-orientated activities,) I knew if the slices of Hawaii I chose rated highly, we’d be returning for more Hawaii adventures at a later date.
Maui – the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands was our first stopover. Research indicated Maui was not as populated as Oahu and driving around the island was easy (friend’s advice.) Keen to explore parts of the Island, I organised a hire car from the airport. The boys pressured me to select the Dodge from the stack of cars in the rental car park. A large Yank tank – ideal for cruising to our selected activities including paintball; ziplining; snorkeling; mountain exploring and for Mum: outlet shopping and dining out.
Our Maui accommodation was Aston Ka’anapali Shores. A two bedroom apartment (or condo as the Americans call it) with a fully equipped kitchen including a washing machine and dryer – handy facilities for our family.
Although I’m not a big fan of cooking when on holidays, having a kitchen made it easy to whip up food for breakfast and lunch. The rental car meant stocking up at the Safeway supermarket on the way to the Resort was easy and a fun experience for all of us (new supermarket goodies, always an eye-opener for Tourists.) A large supermarket is in walking distance from our hotel – the boys happily took advantage of this to indulge in late night dessert!
Aston Ka’napali Shores has 463 rooms spread over 10 acres of land. The master bedroom in our Condo was large but the second bedroom with twin beds was on the smaller side. The lounge area offered a grand view of Ka’anpali Beach. Love the sound of the ocean when falling asleep. Our room locale on the ocean front allowed me this indulgence. Two swimming pools, one in the centre of the grounds (the smaller pool) which was un-fenced and the larger pool close to the beach – kept the kids happy.
As with most resorts of this size, you must arrive fairly early in the morning to lay your towel on one of the many lounges to reserve your “spot”. My boys would usually take a night swim after dinner in the larger pool. They made good use of the warm spa attached to the smaller pool as the cooler night air was fresh.
I booked our ziplining adventure from Australia choosing Skyline Eco Adventures. They offer two ziplining adventures: one in Ka’anapali and the other in Haleakala. Because we had a couple of light weight kids in our group (have to be a minimum weight of 60lbs = approx 30kgs) we could only do the ziplining in Haleakala. From Aston Ka’anapali Shores the drive to Haleakala National Park is 1 hour 20 mins – a stunning drive.
Known as the house of the sun, Haleakala is a popular place for watching the sunrise (if you are keen to rise very early and hike to the summit in the dark.) This now dormant volcano rises 3,055 metres above sea level and offers a number of hiking trails. Despite me being a keen hiker, my boys are not, so after the ziplining I settled for a 35 minute drive to the summit (filled with many hairpins turn – aka Top Gear.) As we drove into the National Park, the ranger greeted us but we informed her we were only taking a quick look and weren’t stopping! A reminder of what its like to travel with my kids (on my own) and their apparent lack of interest in nature!
Despite the lack of enthusiasm to walk around the summit, we were all excited by the 360 degree views of Maui (pulling into a few lookouts on the way down.) This and the balloon (not sure how that got in the car) which swelled with the altitude on the way up, made for a memorable Maui road trip adventure!
On the way back to our Hotel, I was looking forward to watching the sunset over Ka’anapali Beach – with a well earned cocktail in hand. Unfortunately we were caught up in a monumental traffic jam. There is only one road from Ma’alaea into Ka’anapali and as the map informs (in very fine print) this is a stretch of road renowned for its “share of accidents.” Crawling in traffic for three hours (a trip normally taking 30 minutes) with three very bored boys and no electronic devices to distract them was NOT one of our Maui highlights!
If only we were closer to the town of Lahaina we could have made a detour and headed in to the Town Centre for some outlet shopping or stopped for a shaved ice. Lahaina was the first capital of the kingdom of Hawaii and was once a major whaling centre. In Lahaina I had discovered the Outlet shopping (900 Front Street) whilst the boys were occupied with paint-balling (a few days earlier.) The shop assistants when asking where I was from would generally respond “most Australians can’t get over how much cheaper things are here.” I know – just finding the time to shop was my challenge!
Ka’anapali Beach stretches for a few kilometres, but if you enjoy a long beach walk (as I do) it will be hampered by hotels with their perimeters on the actual beach front. Walking past our Hotel boundary I came across notices along the beach indicating I was about to enter private property – “no trespassing”. It was discouraging and a reminder of how spoilt we are with our long expanses of “uninterrupted” beaches in Australia!
Maui has less commercial feel, there are tourists but not the hordes of them we witnessed in Waikiki. I came across more Americans from the mainland, Canadians and Australians, although it was interesting to hear comments from shop keepers and café owners telling us they loved our accents (assuming this meant they didn’t hear our accent often.)
My wish was to see more of Maui – but the actual travel distances were deceiving from a time point of view. I am disappointed we did not get to see the Hana Highway – a scenic drive on the north of the Island. From Ka’anapali it’s an almost two hour drive to the start of the Hana Highway. Add on the actual drive (approximately three hours) equals a very full day. A group of Canadians on our zip line tour did the drive the day before and said it was fabulous. But on hearing they arrived back at their hotel room at 10pm, I realised that is not easily achieved with kids on your own, unless you have infinite patience and well behaved kids in the car. Which ain’t us! Another holiday and with adults maybe?
Author Mark Twain said, “I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five.”
I wish we had more than five days to explore this magical island.
Aston Ka’napali Shores
3445 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Lahaina HI 96761