Story and Photos by K. Pearson Brown
Be sure to book your return flight from Maui, or you may never want to leave. The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands offers a multitude of family friendly accommodations, sites and activities alluring to even the most jaded tourist.
The Fairmont Kea Lani luxury resort on the pristine sands of Polo Beach on Maui’s south side features 22-acres of lush tropical landscaping and three pools, including a swim-up bar, a 140-foot slide, two Jacuzzis and an adults-only pool.
A beachfront concierge shack offers snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddling, scuba diving, bikes, and guided cultural canoe tours. The resort also boasts a 5,500-square-foot world-class fitness center and spa featuring oceanside spa treatments.
The Fairmont’s 450 suites and 37 villas are spacious and beautifully decorated, with superb amenities for the discerning traveler, such as ocean views, dual-sink bathrooms, separate shower and tub, high-speed wi-fi, wide-screen TVs and entertainment centers with DVD players. The accommodations, amenities and service at the Fairmont are impeccable, with every comfort and convenience, down to the complimentary self-service laundry facilities.
The Fairmont’s newly renovated signature restaurant, Ko, Hawaiian for “sugar cane,” is renowned for its plantation era-inspired cuisine, featuring authentic Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese menu items, prepared by culinary master Executive Chef Tylun Pang.
For children age 5-12, Fairmont’s Keiki Lani Kid’s Club offers storytelling, games, arts and crafts – such as building volcanos and hula lessons. Every night children engage in a fun tradition of chasing a torch bearer around the property at dusk as gas lamp posts are lighted.
Road to Hana
The scenic 1800-acre Makena Beach and Golf Resort recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with an extensive multi-million dollar renovation. The resort’s unique A-shaped design allows for each of the 290 rooms and 20 suites to feature ocean-view lanais. An immense open-air lobby and courtyard features a tranquil lush garden, babbling waterfalls and a pond swimming with 300 types of koi fish.
Guests are greeted with shell necklaces, cool hand towels and other welcoming touches as part of the resort’s focus on friendly hospitality or “ohana,” Hawaiian for “family.” Makena’s Paradise Play concierge assists guests in arranging stand-up paddle-boarding, snorkeling, scuba, whale watching, outrigger canoe cultural tours, catamaran snorkeling cruises and evening cultural star gazing experiences.
Makena’s world-class golf and tennis facilities feature Café on the Green clubhouse and an 18-hole course prized for its rugged terrain, rock walls, natural streams, exotic gardens, stunning ocean views. The Makena Kai Day Spa offers massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and other pampering treatments, indoors or in private open-air cabanas on the beach. The resort also features a new fitness center.
The Molokini Bar and Grille at Makena offers a best-on-Maui brunch buffet with stone crab claws and chilled shrimp cocktail to fruit crepes, custom-made omlettes and a dessert spread to die for. The restaurant features fine dining at night with a made-from-scratch menu by Executive Chef Mark McDowell.
West Maui’s enchanting Napili Kai Beach Resort on Napili Bay offers 167 one and two-bedroom suites and studios in 11 two-story buildings nestled in sumptuous gardens of tropics plants. The resort’s spanking new renovated one-bedroom suites are furnished in casual plantation style, featuring flat screen TVs, DVD players, automatic window blinds, and fully equipped kitchens. Other services and amenities include an exercise room, barbeque areas, babysitting, massage treatments, wi-fi hotspots, coin-operated washers and dryers and dry cleaning service.
Each morning the resort hosts a cultural speaker, such as a young spear fisherman who regaled us with stories of near escapes from hungry sharks. Each speaker follows the presentation with a raffle for a token prize, such as a palm leaf basket hand woven by the staff.
Napili Kai includes complimentary children’s activities in season and complimentary snorkeling and water play equipment. Guests of all ages can enjoy swimming in four swimming pools, shuffleboard and an 18-hole putting green. There are also cultural activities, such as Napili Kai Foundation children’s hula dance exhibitions. Activities are low key – no hustle, no attitude. No wonder families come back year after year.
For first-class snorkel sailing, the Ali’i Nui 65-foot catamaran is a diver’s dream. Captain Dennis and his enthusiastic crew aboard this tight ship cater to guests’ every need on sunrise and sunset tours featuring delicious healthy meals.
The Ali’i Nui knows all the best spots where divers can observe abundant sea life, including giant sea turtles. Younger children can snorkel safely with a special viewing window. A professional underwater photographer, Michelle O’Byrne, comes along to capture souvenir video and photos.
Goats, Gardens and Fish
Surfing Goat Dairy is a real dairy farm where kids get to feed the goats and watch the goats get milked. At the tour’s end, guests are offered samples of fresh gourmet goat cheeses.
The fabulously fragrant and beautiful Ali’i Kula Lavender farm, offers walking tours of their various lavender and herb gardens. Guests can sample lavender scone cookies and take home aromatic souvenirs at the one-of-a-kind lavender goodies gift shop.
The Maui Ocean Center, the Hawaiian Aquarium, features an extraordinary collection of some of the most exotic animals of the ocean are displayed in more than 70 vibrant exhibits, such as a tunnel surrounded by 750,000-gallons of water swimming with sharks.
Cirque de Maui
Maui Theatre’s Ulalena is the island’s most entrancing presentation of Hawaiian history and mythology though song, dance and acrobatics that is as beautiful for its vocal performances, costumes and dance as it is educational.
The spectacular Grand Luau at Honua’ula on the oceanfront grounds of Grand Wailea resort is the granddaddy of all luaus. During cocktail hour local artists display their work and culturally costumed hosts play lawn games with kids. Following a buffet dinner of of Hawaiian delicacies, guests enjoy a show of singers, drummers, stilt walkers and hula dancers, with a grand finale of fire dancing with a world-champion of the art.
A Maui Primer
It’s not such a small island after all – you will need a GPS navigation unit. Pack light and shop at Maui’s Costco for beach accoutrements. Take a durablesuitcase which can double as an unofficial ride-on when traveling with exhausted little ones.
Lastly, book a round-trip ticket, or seriously, you may never leave the island.