Maui: Island of Adventure

By Ellen Parlapiano

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Things To See And Do On Maui

Drive to the Top of Haleakala (www.nps.gov.hale): This dormant volcano soars 10,000 feet into the clouds and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. You can also see several of the other Hawaiian islands from Haleakala’s summit. It’s absolutely breathtaking at dawn, although you’ll have to wake up by about 2:30 a.m. in order to make it up the mountain for sunrise. (And we learned that getting teens out of bed at that hour is an adventure in itself!) If that’s not your idea of fun, try sunset instead, which is equally dramatic. You can drive up the curvy mountain road yourself (allow at least two hours from bottom to top; entrance fee is $10 per car) or book a guided van to transport you in style. We opted to leave the driving to Temptation Tours (www.temptationtours.com), which picked us up at our hotel. Our driver provided us with dozing time and interesting commentary, and fueled us with morning coffee and pastry on the way up the mountain. He even brought extra jackets to distribute at the summit -- where temperatures can plunge into the 30’s --though we also suggest you wear long pants and lots of warm layers. On the way back down the mountain, we were treated to a full breakfast at the quaint Kula Lodge. (Temptation Tour rates are $179 per person, includes breakfast at Kula Lodge and park entrance fees; excludes gratuities.)

Zipline Through the Rainforest. Another way to see Haleakala National Park is by zooming Tarzan-style through the trees, safely harnessed on a zipline. After a safety lesson and introduction to the equipment, Skyline Eco-Adventures (www.skylinehawaii.com) leads on you on a short hike into the woods, over a swinging bridge, and onto a heart-pumping adventure that will have you soaring over gulches and waterfalls. There are five zipline crossings in all -- and the final one is more thrilling than any roller coaster you’ve ever conquered. This adventure is best for daredevils, ages 10 and up. ($79 per person.)

Explore Lahaina: This historic town was once a rowdy whaling port. Now it’s where you’ll find the century-old banyan tree plus funky shops and family-friendly eateries (kids will love the mini cheeseburgers and live music at Cheeseburger in Paradise). Our family spent many nights strolling along lively Front Street and checking out the clothing and music memorabilia stores. One special evening we sent the kids to The Hard Rock Café for dinner, while we had a date night at Io, a stylish restaurant specializing in Pacific Rim cuisine. Then we met up at the Roselani scoop shop for dessert—authentic Maui-made ice cream from a recipe that’s generations-old. Try the Mango and Cream, Banana Mac Crunch, and Kona Mud Pie flavors—though even the plain vanilla and chocolate are to die for!

Go Snorkeling. Some of the best Maui sights are underwater! Get up close and personal with the marine life on a snorkeling or scuba excursion. Trilogy (www.sailtrilogy.com) offers several sailings on its catamarans. Among your choices are: Snorkeling trips to the Molokini crater, a crescent-shaped reef teeming with colorful fish ($110 for adults, $55 for children 3 to 15, including breakfast and lunch); scuba diving off the coast of Lanai ($139 per person, must be at least 12 and a certified diver to participate); and all-day combination snorkeling, jeep safari and rafting adventure trips to Lanai ($239 for adults, $119.50 for children 3 to 15, including breakfast, lunch and free camera). With Maui Eco Tours (www.mauiecotours.com), you can even snorkel with sea turtles (beginner trips start at around $54 per person, for ages 12 and up; $27 for ages 5 to 11.)

Hang Ten. With a surfing lesson or two, you’ll be riding the waves with ease. These local companies are renowned for their confidence-boosting teaching methods and success in getting you up on your board:

  • Goofy Foot Surf School: The emphasis is on safety, ocean awareness and surfing fundamentals. And the owner guarantees you’ll stand up on your board by the end of the lesson—or it’s free. Two-hour beginner group instruction costs: $55 for one person; $110 for 2; $165 for 3; $220 for 4; $275 for 5. Two-hour private lessons cost: $125 for one person; $200 for 2; $275 for 3; $275 for 4. If you’re more experienced, ask about the Surfing Safaris to prime surfing spots (these are a favorite with celebrity client Jimmy Buffet). www.goofyfootsurfschool.com
  • Maui Surfer Girls: This company specializes in lessons for gals, but guys and other family members are welcome too. Two-hour lessons cost: $65 for groups of 3 or more; $75 for 2 people; $100 for private, one-on-one session. You can also arrange day-long family excursions that include surf instruction, a picnic lunch, and afternoon adventure, like windsurfing, ziplining, or hiking to nearby waterfalls. www.mauisurfergirls.com
  • Rivers to the Sea: Brothers Tide and Kiva Rivers will show you how to catch the perfect wave. These genuine Maui-born surfer dudes have taught celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal and Adrien Brody how to hang ten. Two-hour lessons cost: $75 for groups of 3 or more; $220 for semi-private groups of 2; $160 for private, one-on-one sessions. www.riverstothesea.com

Celebrate at a Luau or other Cultural Show: You can’t leave Hawaii without going to a luau, and the Old Lahaina Luau (www.oldlahainaluau.com) is one of the most authentic on Maui. The beachfront show starts with a dramatic reenactment of the Polynesian migration to new land, with performers paddling in on open-hulled canoes at sunset. As you enjoy the drumming, chanting and hula dancing, you’ll feast on roasted pig (cooked in a pit in the sand) and other traditional Hawaiian specialties. ($89 for adults; $59 for children, includes all food, beverages and entertainment; gratuities and tax are additional.) If haven’t had your fill of Hawaiian dance and music, check out the Ulalena show (www.ulalena.com) at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina. This creative, Cirque de Soleil-style show tells ancient Hawaiian stories through artistic dance and song, exciting acrobatics, and rousing Polynesian percussion—and was a particular favorite of my teenage drummer. (Tickets start at $49.50 for adults; $29.50 for children.)

Ellen H. Parlapiano is an award-winning writer who has covered family travel for magazines such as Family Circle, Parents, Child and Working Mother. She lives in Eastchester, New York with her husband and two children and has traveled extensively with her family.

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