Enjoy beach days, over-the-top culinary experiences, and so much time to relax
Family vacations are always worth it. Especially when they involve the sandy beaches and warm tropical breezes at some of our favorite family-friendly destinations. But if we’re being honest, they’re not always easy. After all, stuffing rowdy toddlers and tweens—who want nothing more than to sleep late on vacation (can you blame them?)—into a cramped hotel room, is less than ideal. Get the space (and extras) you need, without reserving adjoining rooms, when you book your next island getaway at one of two spectacular Maui resorts where suites and villas are standard.
What’s the catch? While membership certainly has its privileges, families can book these spacious spots, and enjoy all the benefits that come with them, even without a membership.
Marriott’s Maui Ocean ClubAllison Sutcliffe
The suites at Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club comfortably sleep four (or more), with room to spare. A kitchen, a bath and a half, a dining area, and a spacious living room mean you can spread out and truly feel like you’re on vacation in Maui. The décor in each room reflects relaxed island vibes, and the lanai (accessed either from the living space or the bedroom) is where families can enjoy those cool ocean breezes and the sound of crashing waves even when they’re not at the beach.Allison Sutcliffe
Pools & Beaches
Three different pools dot the property, but the one families will want to know is at the center of it all. Discovery Cove is where kids of all ages can enjoy a water-themed pirate ship, slides (both big and small), and live shows and music. It’s that winning family combo that’s hard to beat. Head down after breakfast to reserve your spot, and plan to stay for the whole day—trust us, the kids will not want to leave.
Discovery Cove is flanked by two “quieter” pools: the Lahaina and Napili pools. Both have waterfalls, hot tubs, and space to swim with or without kids. If morning yoga is on your list, you’ll find the class along the grassy area at the Napili pool. Our tip? Sneak out early while the kids (and your partner) are still sleeping to get your stretch on. Both of these pools have palapa-shaded chairs and quiet cozy spots to reach.
If you’re traveling with a group of friends or want a guaranteed shady spot, there’s no easier way to make it happen than to book a cabana. Some have ocean views, some are set back from the pool, and these coveted, covered spots accommodate anywhere from two to twenty people.Allison Sutcliffe
Take a break from the pool and head to the beach—it’s more than just a place to see stunning sunrises and sunsets, after all. During the day, families can score a shady spot under a tree and spend hours digging holes and building sandcastles before wading out into the water. Bigger kids will love body boarding and wave jumping; and if you’re feeling adventurous, book a surf lesson for yourself or your family. It starts on the lawn and ends in the calm waves of the resort’s sandy shores.Allison Sutcliffe
If you want to get a workout in during your stay, find all the equipment that you need at the Fitness Center. If a class is more your speed, stop by the Thrive Fitness Studio to sign up for any number of instructor-led classes (hint: it’s where you can sign up for a morning yoga session).
You don’t have to look too far to find those self-care perks that make a family vacation that much better because Spa by the Sea is on the property. Book a Lomi Lomi massage, a mini facial, or a scrub to rejuvenate during your trip. Our suggestion? If you book a massage, make sure it’s oceanside. You’ll have complete privacy, but the warm breezes and crashing waves make it that much more relaxing.Allison Sutcliffe
Feeding the fam is easy at Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club. Not only will you find a number of on-site restaurants, but you can also prepare food in your room or at one of the many outdoor grills stationed around the property.
When it comes to iconic Maui restaurants, Longhi’s is an original. What Front Street lost in 2019, Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club gained. Families will now find this iconic Maui spot in their new home on the property. Make a reservation for dinner or brunch at least once during your stay, and do try the Fish Longhi Style—it’s what they’re known for. If you want to grab something poolside, there are lots of options to choose from, and all are situated at Discovery Cove so you don’t have to go too far to get fed. The build-your-own poke or Buddha bowls from the Lokelani Pool Bar hit the spot anytime, and a slice or two from Pizza Cucina is an easy crowd-pleaser, too. One of our other favorite places to grab a bite is at the Kealani’s Juice Co. food truck, a colorful VW parked on the lawn by the Napili Tower. There’s no better way to start your morning than with one of their fresh juices, and if you’re feeling indulgent, try a slice of the homemade sweet bread to go with it.
This resort is best for: If you’ve got younger kids this is the spot for you. It’s hard to beat the fantastic kiddie pool, live shows in the afternoon, and easy extras (like giant board games) that entertain toddlers during that 30-minute window between the end of pool time and the start of dinner.
Westin Kā’anapali Ocean Resort VillasAllison Sutcliffe
The spacious villas at Westin Kā’anapali Ocean Resort Villas make you feel welcome from the moment you walk in through the door. Families are greeted by a full-size kitchen, stocked with everything you need to cook during your stay, a comfortable living space that includes a sleeper couch, and a spacious bedroom and bathroom that may have you reconsidering your own design choices at home. Modern elements mix with comfort in the 900 square-foot space (for a one-bedroom) or 1,360 square foot space (for a two-bedroom). Villas overlook everything from the pool to the ocean, and they come with those thoughtful touches you’ll find at every Westin property.Allison Sutcliffe
Pools & Beaches
Find pools-a-plenty at this luxe resort. But no matter where you plan to spend the day, get there early to reserve your spot close to the action. Find a shallow play area for kids, a waterslide, and shaded chairs surrounding the main pool off the south tower. It’s definitely a hot spot for families. But if you really want to impress the kids, head to the pool that is just for them. Centered around an oversized pirate ship, it’s the ultimate spot for families. The covered playground means the kids can play out of the sun whenever they need to cool down. And the three-hole mini golf course is right there too, because sometimes you need to change up your pool routine a bit. When hunger strikes, the little food truck that sells hot dogs and other kid favorites will save you.Allison Sutcliffe
While pools may be the focus here, beyond the hedges lie the crystal clear waters of North Ka’anapali Beach. And along with it comes some of the easiest snorkeling around. Rent gear from the resort (at the same spot you grab your towels) and head out to find sea turtles in the coral reefs that run along the property’s shoreline. They’re not too hard to spot, although it does take a bit of luck and a clear day. But even if you don’t see a honu while snorkeling, count on spotting more colorful fish than your kids will know what to do with. Our tip? Remember to pack reef-friendly sunscreen (or buy some when you get there). Reef recovery is one of the island’s priorities.Allison Sutcliffe
Cultural Classes and Activities
One of our favorite aspects of this resort is the classes and activities offered through the Cultural Center. If you want to learn more about Hawaiian culture, there’s no better spot to do it. The resort’s Cultural Director has brought his years of experience as an educator to create engaging family programs. Sign up to take a Hawaiian language class, learn to play ukulele, string a fresh-flower lei, or even learn a few hula moves (and their meanings). Trust us, it’ll be the highlight of your trip, creating memories to last a lifetime. And let’s be honest, so much better than bringing home a t-shirt as a souvenir. It’s just one of the many ways traditional Hawaiian culture is highlighted here. We’re also big fans of the nightly conch shell blowing and torch lighting. It’s another perk that’ll light up your kids’ imaginations.Allison Sutcliffe
While you can certainly cook up a feast in your villa kitchen, why bother when you’ve got great eateries like Auntie’s Kitchen and the Pailolo food truck just a short walk away? Both are on-property and offer all kinds of inventive dishes to get you through the day. Most families sit down at Auntie’s for breakfast where you can simply grab a cup of coffee or a hearty açaí bowl. Afternoons and evenings at Pailolo are easy too. With casual fare all cooked in a small food truck, it’s the shady spot that welcomes hungry guests after a tough day of pool play. And did we mention, they have sports playing here? If there’s a big game you don’t want to miss, chances are you’ll find it on the big screens here.
This resort is best for: Families with older kids will find what they need here. The on-site culture classes, waterslide, and sea turtle sightings right off the beach are a big sell for tweens and teens who are ready for a heavier vacation lift than their younger sibs.
Online: marriottvacationclub.comAllison Sutcliffe
Both Resorts Offer:
1. Suites and villas come with full, apartment-size kitchens, so you’re not eating out all the time. Stock your fridge with kid-favorite breakfast and lunch items to save money. Remember, those poolside room charges add up quickly.
2. One of the things we love about these two resorts is that each Kids Club is focused on family activities. While you can’t drop your kids off, you can sign up for activities that promote together time, like beach totes, soap making, and candy lei-making. Hawaiian language classes, ukulele lessons, and other activities where Hawaiian culture is front and center are offered at the Westin.
3. Visit the concierge desk at either resort to help arrange childcare or babysitting services if just-for-two time is what your family vacation needs.
4. Both resorts are within walking distance of Whaler’s Village, an outdoor shopping mall where you can find souvenirs to bring home, restaurants, and locally made products. The Westin has a shuttle that runs between the property and the Village every 20 minutes.
5. Rent any gear you need, book tours and rides, and generally find all the watersports activities your family can handle along the beach walk behind both resorts. Just look for the little shops. They are not associated with the resorts, but they’re conveniently located so you don’t have to look far to find adventures off-site.
What to Do on Maui with Kids
Families looking for authentic experiences that highlight Hawaiian culture and promote sustainable tourism should definitely make time for these activities and experiences.Allison Sutcliffe
Feast at Lele
Locals will tell you the Feast at Lele in Lāhainā is the best in town. We’re not going to argue with that. Hosted on the beach where the royal family of Maui used to entertain, it’s a multi-sensory tour across four Polynesian islands where food and dance are the medium. Although the feast is long (it’s about three hours from start to finish), the quick pacing keeps kids engaged. And if all else fails, they can build sandcastles at the beach beneath your feet in between sets.
After being greeted with a lei and escorted to your seat, breathe and enjoy the view. With Lanai as the backdrop, sailboats, kayakers, and Maui’s gorgeous sunsets are on display as cocktails are served. Once the sun sets, the show’s about to begin. Starting in Hawai’i with traditional kalua pua’a (pork cooked in an underground oven) and other tasty dishes, the dinner then moves onto Aotearoa, followed by Tahiti and Samoa, before finishing the experience with an island dessert medley.
Dancers in elaborate dress take the stage after each course is served, delighting all your senses. Your kids will be mesmerized by it all. The quick movements and intricate costumes bursting with color combine pageantry with tradition. And that’s all before the fire dancers come out—just in time to keep kids’ eyes open a few minutes longer. It’s always good to end an evening like this with pure excitement.
Good to Know: Children 2 and under are free, as long as they’re in your lap or a high chair. No strollers are allowed.
Online: feastatlele.comAllison Sutcliffe
Maui Off-Road Adventures
If you’ve got older kids, we highly recommend a two-hour Lahaina ATV trip with Maui Off-Road Adventures. During the wild ride, you and your little thrill-seekers will climb 2,000 feet up the mountain to find spectacular views that highlight a different side of Maui. Gone are the island’s relaxing beach vibes—they’ve been replaced by rutty roads, muddy goggles, and enough bumps and jumps to get your heart pumping.
But this ride is more than just a chance to get outside and test your mettle. Maui Off-Road Adventures is working to restore the land of an abandoned pineapple farm high atop the mountain. After racing to the summit, riders get out, plant a tree, and learn about the area’s fragile ecosystem and how they can make a difference, before hitting a few more epic views on the way back down. It’s that educational twist you weren’t expecting that makes this ride one that families definitely need to know.
Please note: Kids must be at least 7 years old to ride.
Good to Know: Bring a towel on this adventure. You’ll need it to wipe the dust off your face, clothes, and goggles at each stop.
Online: mauioffroadadventures.comAllison Sutcliffe
Ka’ui Estates Chocolate
If you’re looking for an atypical Maui experience, this one’s for you. The story behind this chocolate factory is almost as good as the chocolate they make—almost. Owner Dr. Gunars Valkirs thought he was retiring as a bioscientist. Little did he know, he was just changing careers. What started as a hobby back in 2013, is now a full-time job producing high-quality cacao on-island as sustainably as possible.
There are two ways to experience Ka’ui Estates Chocolates, and both are great for families. If your kids are old enough to handle a 90-minute cacao farm tour and chocolate tasting, add it to your island itinerary. You’ll learn about the chocolate-making process, from bean to bar, at the West Maui mountain farm. Or keep it short with an hour-long exclusive chocolate tasting where you’ll get to sample nine delicious chocolates and learn how to pair them. Trust us, it’s the coolest party trick in town.
Online: mauichocolate.comAllison Sutcliffe
A farm-to-table dinner at an open-air restaurant with live music playing in the background—what’s not to love about dinner at Merrmian’s? The Maui outpost of Chef Peter Merriman’s restaurant enterprise, built around locally sourced regional Hawaiian cuisine, is worth the Uber ride over. Start with their signature maika’i (a Mai Tai topped with a honey-liliko’i foam) plus the smoked taro hummus and end with the dessert trio and no matter what you sandwich in between, you won’t be disappointed. That leaves you plenty of space to fill in the dinner blanks. There’s really no wrong way to order here, but we know it’s hard. If you can’t decide, choose a combination of two entrees to make it easy on yourself.
As for the kids, they’ll find lots of recognizable favorites on the Keiki menu. It’s filled with things your kids will actually eat like fresh-caught fish, homemade pasta, and a virgin maika’i that’s just as tasty as the grown-up version.
Good to Know: If Merriman’s is a little too formal for your crew, try Monkeypod Kitchen in Whaler’s Village, Merriman’s casual counterpart. You’ll find the same focus on locally sourced ingredients and commitment to simple (yet outstanding) cuisine as the original with a laid-back vibe.
More Things to Do on Maui
- You can always count on miles of spectacular shoreline in Maui where you can snorkel, surf, or just play in the waves. But families are particularly fond of Kapalua Bay, Napili Bay, and Baby Beach, where—you guessed it—you’ll find plenty of young families with babies (or toddlers) taking advantage of the calm, protected waters.
- Walking Maui’s beaches is one of our favorite family activities on the island. No matter where you go, kids will find something to capture their interest. But if you want to hit a specific trail, the Kapalua Coastal Trail tops our list. Looking for a hidden gem? Try the Olivine Pools Trail.
- No matter how many times you’ve been to Maui, a trip up to the summit at Haleakalā National Park is always fascinating. Hiking into the volcano’s crater feels other-wordly, and it’s the only place in the world you can find silversword plants.
- If the kids need a sun break, head to the Maui Ocean Center to experience Maui’s native ocean inhabitants up close. The Humpbacks of Hawai’i exhibit and sphere will leave your kids wanting more.
Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by Marriott Vacation Club, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.