Escape from the mainland and enjoy the gorgeous scenery, relaxed attitude, and abundance of island activities at welcoming prices.
By Ellen H. Parlapiano
Active, nature-loving families can venture beyond the beautiful beaches to hike the sacred Iao Valley or the moonlike crater of the dormant volcano Haleakala. Take a drive to Hana; the road is dotted with hidden waterfalls and swimming holes. And watch for wintering whales splashing offshore through May—they can be spotted from just about anywhere along the water.
Free for all: Locals are passionate about preserving their land and culture. On Saturday mornings join them in restoring an ancient archeological site in Honokowai Valley on Maui's west side; meet at the Pu'ukoli'i Sugar Cane Train Station at 8:30 a.m. (mauiculturallands.org). On Tuesday and Thursday evenings Polynesian dancers perform at Lahaina Cannery Mall; at dusk, a torch-bearing cliff diver leaps from Black Rock into the Pacific, reenacting the athletic feat of a legendary Hawaiian chief. Watch from the public beach by Kaanapali Beach Hotel. In mid-April, kids can learn Hawaiian drumming, chanting, and crafts at Ritz-Carlton's Celebration of the Arts Festival—open to all visitors (celebrationofthearts.org).
Adventures in Paradise: Spot rays, sea turtles, and rainbow-colored fish on Sail Trilogy's six-hour snorkeling excursion to Honolua Bay; it includes breakfast (homemade cinnamon rolls) as well as a lunch barbecued by the captain ($110, adults; $55 for kids under 16; book at sailtrilogy.com for 10% off). View sunrise or sunset from Haleakala's 10,000-foot summit, $10 per car; or zipline along its slopes with Skyline Eco-Adventures, $80 (zipline.com). The Upcountry region around the volcano is a great place to sample homegrown fare, like chili and burgers at Ulupalakua Ranch or goat cheese from Surfing Goat Dairy. Teens will love shopping in the whaling port of Lahaina, with its funky Front Street shops and weekend crafts fair under the banyan tree.
Where to Stay: Napili Kai Beach Resort is set on a serene and secluded bay—great for skim-boarding—and features free morning refreshments on the beach and lei-making. Accommodations include standard rooms, and studios or suites with kitchenettes; nightly rates start at $250 (napilikai.com). Kaanapali Beach Hotel is one of Maui's most authentically Hawaiian resorts. Join the staff for free nightly hula shows; workshops in music, dance and local lore; a welcome buffet breakfast and a farewell lei ceremony. But be sure to save time for snorkeling at Black Rock Reef. Nightly rates start at $179; check website for specials (kbhmaui.com). For a feel that's more residential than resort, try a fully equipped condo in south Maui's Kihei and save money by eating in. One-bedroom units that sleep four start at $135 a night from April to mid-December (two bedrooms start at around $200; cleaning fee for all is $100 to $150). Book through Condominium Rentals Hawaii (crhmaui.com) and ask about seventh-night-free specials. Also check mauiaccommodations.com for more deals.