Hawaii is, without a doubt, an expensive place to take your family. Most popular activities will hit your wallet hard, so it’s good to have a few freebies lined up on your itinerary. Taking a hike is almost always going to cost you absolutely nothing, and it might just be the most memorable thing you do during your trip.
Picking the right trails to explore is key to an enjoyable experience. Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, you will want to limit your hiking to half a day or less to avoid tantrums and breakdowns (anything over 5 miles is probably too much). On our recent family vacation to Maui, we took five easy, kid-friendly hikes that gave us a taste of the islands without making anyone feel too tired. Consider one of these hikes if you plan a vacation to Maui.
1. Kapalua Coastal Trail
This is a 2-mile walk from Kapalua Beach to D.T. Fleming Beach. The highlight here, besides the stunning beaches and wild rocky coastline, is the Dragon’s Teeth area, a unique lava formation that juts out into the water and really does resemble a giant set of dragon’s teeth. Kids could spend an hour alone at this one spot, scrambling over the rocks, watching for sea turtles in the water below, and letting their imaginations run wild. The trail is accessible from several places, but we recommend parking near the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, exploring the Dragon’s Teeth, then heading west toward Kapalua Beach.
2. Iao Valley State Park
This lush, tropical area is home to the famous Iao Needle and was the site of an important battle during King Kamehameha’s unification of the island in the late 18th century. The history and natural beauty make it a great place to hike and learn. Several short trails are available, including a paved path to an outlook, as well as a garden trail that leads you through thick vegetation. It’s nothing more than half a mile. There are picnic tables and restrooms in the park, so take your time and admire the scenery.
3. Twin Falls
These are the first waterfalls you’ll see on the famed Road To Hana, in Ho’olawa Valley on the north shore of the island. Bring your swimsuits and water shoes, because you and the kids will want to take a little dip in the pools at the base of each falls. The first is a 10-minute walk, and the second is another 15 minutes beyond. It’s a little slippery in places, but worth the effort. There are porta potties and a snack stand back at the parking area.
4. Pipiwai Trail
This is the most challenging hike on my list. At 4 miles, it’s also the longest. The reason I found it so challenging is not the trail itself, but the fact that you must drive the entire Road To Hana to get to it. If you can manage that drive, the trail is worth the effort. The first 2 miles are uphill, but kids will love the surprises they find along the way. Highlights include a massive banyan tree, Pipiwai stream, Makahiku Falls, several wooden bridges, a breathtaking bamboo forest and, at the end of the trail, the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. There is so much to see along the trail, you barely even notice you’re hiking. The way back to the parking lot is just as stunning, and all downhill. If your kids can manage a longer hike, this is the one they’ll remember the most.
5. Ka’anapali Beach
This particular hike isn’t really a trail, but it might just be our favorite non-trail trail in Maui. Ka’anapali Beach has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and after visiting it, we know why. The entire beach is about 3 miles long, but we recommend walking the lower mile from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa north to Black Rock at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Park your car at the Hyatt, stroll out to the beach, take your shoes off, and leisurely walk north along the powder-like sand. Just this one mile might take you several hours, because the kids will find so much to see and do along the way. It’s a great place to watch surfers, swimmers, boats, parasailers, snorkelers, and even the occasional drone buzzing through the air. Off in the distance, you can see the islands of Lanai and Moloka’i. If you’re there in early spring, it’s a prime spot to view humpback whales. Once you reach the Black Rock area, you can rinse the sand off your feet, put your shoes back on, and walk back on the boardwalk, where you can gawk at the resort and condo complexes. Stop in at Whaler’s Village for a bite to eat, or some shopping. Ka’anapali Beach is, by far, the most beautiful beach my family has ever had the pleasure to walk on.
— Phil Corless
Phil Corless is an at-home dad of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Since 2004, he has been writing about fatherhood and family at the Idaho Dad blog. He believes the best way for kids to learn about the world is to travel through it.