Maui is a great place to vacation with kids, with enough activities to please everyone in the family. Where to begin? Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. The beach. Let's get the obvious one out of the way: kids can't get enough of Maui's sand and surf. In addition to beach mats, towels and snacks, pack sand toys for little ones, and pick up a cheap boogie board on island to entertain older kids. A few beach parks are protected by reefs, making them especially good for babies and toddlers who may be scared by waves. Try "Baby Beach" just north of Lahaina.
2. Sugar Cane Train. Little ones seem to love the experience of riding in the open-air cars behind a century-old steam locomotive. The diminutive engine and cars, once used for hauling sugar cane on local plantations, almost seem like a toy train come to live. The six-mile journey between Kaanapali and Lahaina isn't the most scenic part of the island, but the real fun is riding in the train itself. www.sugarcanetrain.com.
3. Maui Ocean Center. Maui's world-class aquarium is a great place to get an up-close look at the tropical fish, turtles and other marine life found in the islands. Favorite attractions are the otherworldly jellyfish tank, touch pools, and baby turtles. You can also walk in an acrylic tunnel through the aquarium's 750,000-gallon open ocean exhibit where you'll be surrounded by sharks, rays and fish. The Maui Ocean Center is also a great activity for a rainy day. www.mauioceancenter.com.
4. Whale watch. From October through April, hundreds of humpback whales arrive on Maui to have their babies and find a mate. While you can catch a glimpse of them spouting and frolicking from shore, by far the best way to see these magnificent animals is on a whale watch boat. Numerous companies offer tours leaving from Lahaina and Maalaea small boat harbors. Federal law makes it illegal for boat operators to approach humpback whales, but the animals are so numerous in Maui waters during the winter months that you are almost guaranteed to get a good view, and the curious creatures will often approach the boat to get a better look at you!
5. Iao Valley. There's more to Maui than beaches, and a lot of kids love to explore the island's rugged mountains and tropical forests. Iao Valley is a state park above the Central Maui town of Wailuku. The short hike through the lush, cool forest is easy enough for even little kids, and visitors of all ages will be in awe of the steep cliffs and towering pinnacle at the back of the valley. There are also exhibits of native plants and taro. If you bring a swimsuit, kids can cool off with local children in the mountain stream that runs through the park.