Last updated 14 August 2022
Mum and her three kids on their Maui adventure
“You should try this Mum,” came the challenge call from one of my kids.
We’re on Kaanapali Beach near the Sheraton Maui resort. My three lads had met up with some of their friends (also from Australia) and they wanted to follow what their friends had been doing and cliff jump off Black Rock.
Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock) on Maui’s western shore, is a rocky outcrop formed from ancient lava flows. These jagged rocks jutting out from the ocean are surrounded by a coral reef, and are accessible from the sandy shore in front of the Sheraton Hotel. According to local legend, Maui chiefs would dive into the ocean from the top of the cliffs to enhance their spiritual strength – giving Black Rock its status as an Hawaiian sacred site.
Not concerned about my spiritual strength, I was happy enough to take on my kid’s challenge to jump with them. However, standing atop the rocky outcrop looking down to the water below (about seven metres) I wondered why I was the only person of my vintage contemplating the leap?
Just do it
My thought process went like this: it’s Hawaii and our timeline is short. I watched a few jump before me and saw them come to the surface safely. Despite the young girl in front of me changing her mind at the last minute and deciding not to jump, I made my way carefully to the front of the edge (the volcanic rock was not easy to walk on). I did not stand for long (delaying only prolongs the anxiety) and leaped off the cliff face. I felt the sun on my face for a few seconds, before plummeting into the cool Pacific Ocean.
It was so much fun – I made the awkward rock scramble to the top and did it again, then again!
With ten days and three kids (all boys) in tow I wanted our first family holiday to Hawaii to be a “slice” of the best Hawaii has to offer. Mindful of our criteria having to suit our testosterone heavy family, I knew if the ‘slices’ of Hawaii I chose rated highly with them, there was every chance we’d be returning for more Hawaii adventures at a later date.
The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands was our first stopover. Prior research said Maui was less populated than Oahu and driving around the island was easy (taking a friend’s advice who’d visited before.) Keen to explore some of the Island, I organised a hire car from the airport. The boys pressured me into choosing the Dodge from the dozens of cars in the rental car park. This large Yank tank was much bigger than what I was used to driving in Australia, but would be ideal for cruising to our selected activities, including paintball; ziplining; snorkelling; mountain exploring and for Mum: outlet shopping and dining out.
Where we stayed in Maui
Our chosen Maui accommodation was Aston Kaanapali Shores. I selected a two-bedroom apartment (or condo as the Americans call it) because the fully equipped kitchen – including a washing machine and dryer – would be handy for our family and the space wouldn’t go astray with three boys.
Although I’m not a big fan of cooking when on holidays, a kitchen meant easy access to breakfast and lunch (if we happened to be at the hotel.) We stocked up at the Safeway supermarket on the way to the resort. A fun experience for all of us – the boys were intrigued by what was on the shelves (new supermarket goodies, always an eye-opener for tourists.) And should we need any additional groceries, there was a large supermarket within walking distance from our hotel. The boys happily took advantage of this – indulging in late-night dessert runs!
Aston Kaanapali Shores has 463 rooms and 10 acres of land and direct access to the beach. After our warm Aloha greeting at reception and being handed our Kuki nut leis (the Kuki nut tree symbolises enlightenment, protection, guidance and peace) it was time to find our condo. The hallways seemed to go on forever until we found our ocean view suite . The master bedroom was large, but the second bedroom with twin beds was on the smaller side. From the we had a superb view of Kaanapali Beach. On the afternoons we were at the resort, that balcony was where you’d find me, cocktail in hand.
The kids spent hours in the two swimming pools – one in the centre of the grounds (the smaller pool) which was un-fenced (at the time of our stay in 2014) and the larger pool close to the beach.
As with most larger resorts, one must follow lounge etiquette ‘reserve’ a lounge. This requires arriving fairly early in the morning to lay your towel down (I found this a bit perplexing.) I preferred the beach to the pool anyways, and because my boys were old enough to swim in the pool unsupervised, the lounge wasn’t something I needed to reserve. The boys would come down to the beach in during the day . And that is where we spent most of our time when we were at Aston Kaanapali.
The boys usually took a night swim after dinner in the larger pool. Then they’d head to the smaller pool’s warm spa – as the night air was on the fresher side.
I booked our ziplining adventure In Australia choosing Skyline Eco-Adventures. They offer two ziplining adventures: one in Kaanapali and the other in Haleakala. Because we had a couple of lightweight kids in our group (the rules say you must be a minimum weight of 60lbs = approx 30kgs) we could only zipline in Haleakala. From our resort the drive to Haleakala National Park was 1 hour 20 mins – a stunning coastal drive initially which changed to rural landscapes as we drove inland.
Known as the house of the sun, Haleakala is a popular place for watching the sunrise (if you’re keen to rise very early and hike to the summit in the dark.) There’s a number of hiking trails around this dormant volcano which peaks at 3,055 metres (10,023 feet) above sea level.
Despite me being a keen hiker, my boys were not so much, so after the ziplining we took a 35-minute drive to the summit. (We loved the many hairpins turn, James my eldest hanging out the window, filming with his GoPro.) As we entered the National Park a ranger came out from the hut and asked how long we were staying (there is a fee for entering the park.) We informed her we were only taking a quick look and weren’t stopping! I was keen to go hiking but three against one – I was outnumbered!
Despite the lack of enthusiasm to walk around the summit, we were excited by the 360-degree views of Maui (stopping at a few lookouts on the way down.) For some reason we had a small blown-up party balloon in the car (one of the boys picked it up from somewhere.) The balloon swelled with the altitude on the way up – that kept the boys amused and wondering if it was going to explode! (They know how much their mother hates the sound of balloons popping.)
On the way back to our resort, I was looking forward to watching the sunset over Kaanapali Beach – with a well-earned cocktail in hand. Unfortunately, we were caught up in a monumental traffic jam. (We later found out was the result of a motorbike accident.) There is only one road from Maalaea into Kaanapali and we discovered when looking closely at the map (in very fine print) it indicates, this stretch of road is 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 a Maui highlight!
Outlet Shopping at Laihana
The historic seaside town of Laihana located on West Maui, approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Kahului airport, was the first capital of the kingdom of Hawaii and a major whaling centre. Outlet retail shops, art galleries and restaurants have replaced the now (thankfully) redundant whaling industry. According to Panda online: the whaling industry saw its final demise when petroleum replaced whale oil as a fuel in the 1870s. By 1925, whaling ships were almost entirely obsolete.
A few days earlier, I took advantage of the boys being occupied at paint-balling with some of their Aussie friends and their father to supervise (and be shot at), and drove to the outlet stores (900 Front Street.) When the shop assistants heard I was from Australia, the regular response was, “most Australians can’t get over how much cheaper things are here.” They were right and it was my kind of fun: shopping. My issue was paintball was going to finish soon and I wasn’t ready to go back!
I suggested to the boys we make a quick detour into Laihana and head to the Town Centre for some shopping. But the boys wanted to return to our accommodation – I was out voted again!
Check out Kaanapali beach
Kaanapali Beach stretches for a few kilometres, but if you enjoy a long beach walk (as I do) your walk will be hampered by barriers. Instead of being able to wander freely on the beaches it appeared the different hotels and resorts had ‘ownership’ of the beaches out in front. Walking past our resort boundary I came across notices indicating I was about to enter private property – “no trespassing“.
Australia has spoilt me with the long expanses of “uninterrupted” beaches that allow me to wander for a few hours!
On reflection my thoughts about Maui
Maui felt less commercial and less crowded than Oahu (the island we flew to after Maui.) There are tourists, but not the hordes that flock to Waikiki (our stop after Maui.) I met 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.)
I’m so happy I booked an ocean view room in advance. There’s nothing I love more than hearing the sound of waves crashing on the beach when falling asleep. Our condo on the oceanfront allowed me this indulgence.
I hoped to see more of Maui, but the actual travel distances were deceiving from a time point of view. I am disappointed we didn’t get to travel the Hana Highway – a scenic drive in the island’s north. From Kaanapali it’s an almost two-hour drive to the start of the Hana Highway. Add on the actual drive (approximately three hours) it becomes a full day. A group of Canadians on our zip line tour drove the Hana Highway the day before and said it was fabulous. But when they said they arrived back at their hotel room at 10 pm, I realised that road trip is not easily achieved with kids on your own who don’t behave in the car on longish road trips.
Another Maui holiday to plan and with adults I’m thinking.
My wish is to return to Maui
Author Mark Twain wrote, “I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five.”
My wish was to be like Mark Twain and return for more than five days to explore more of this magical island.
Hana hou Maui – until we meet again.
(In Hawaiian, “hana hou” means “one more time!”)
3445 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Lahaina HI 96761
The writer travelled on her own and paid a media rate at Aston Kannapali Shores. All opinions expressed are her own. The family flew Hawaiian Airlines and the writer cannot wait to utilise the FF points she earned to return.