Back To Maui... With The Kids
By Jamie Ross
Climbing Kilimanjaro, paddling the
Amazon, getting lost in the jungles of Borneo - a risky venture is needed for a
wild traveller’s tale. When I told my friends of my next daring escapade, they
looked at me like I was planning to navigate Cape Horn on an air mattress, or
sled to the north pole pulled by a team of Basset hounds. I was going back to
Maui, the island paradise where my wife and I had honeymooned ten years
previous. True, we were not alone this time, we had unwittingly added four keiki
to the clan. Would we ruin the memories of romance? Well ... Duh!
Ten years earlier we had trekked up
Haleakala braving a chilly wind to watch the sun rise over the crater, enjoyed
evening strolls along the white sand beaches and candlelight dinners oceanside.
I won’t go into all the honeymoon details, but one of our most memorable
excursions was driving the meandering Hanna road along Maui’s north shore in a
sleek red convertible, stopping to swim in roadside waterfalls. The sea to our
left crashed over jagged black rock. To our right was the lush, green jungle.
Once again we set off for Hanna, in a
boxy, seven-seater rental van, with an ongoing ruckus in the back seats. Having
barely passed through the hip surfer’s community of Pa’ia, the kids begin
complaining of heat and nausea, so I take a fresh-air break at Ho’okipa Beach,
and we hike down the black lava rock to watch the surfers battle gigantic waves.
Back on the road, our oldest daughter’s tan pales further with each switchback -
and it’s off to the shoulder. Then it is the youngest’s turn, though too late
this time. Amidst a clamour of complaints, the sour smell of breakfast fruit has
us turning for home. The island’s beauty remains the same - it is our holidaying
tactics that must adapt.
We fall into a routine of spending
mornings at the beach, before the afternoon breeze whips up the surf. The
children love to challenge the modest waves, body surf on the whitecaps, and
tumble into the frothy breakwater. They build their castles against the sea,
bury their bodies in the wet sand, and snorkel with us around the beach’s rocky
borders. In the early afternoon we return to the condo to shower out the sand,
eat some lunch, and do some school-work Hawaiian style - sitting out under the
shade of a palm.
The activities we plan are also learning
experiences for the children, land-locked Canadians who know little about the
ocean. Over 2,000 miles from any continent or major island group, the Hawaiian
islands are the most isolated island chain in the world. Being so isolated, it
is no wonder that nearly one-third of Hawaii’s marine life can be found nowhere
else in the world.
The Maui Ocean Centre, at Ma’alaea
Harbour, offers a curriculum of intriguing educational programs. A glass tunnel
boroughs directly through the 750,000 gallon aquarium, allowing for a
fascinating face to face meeting with sharks, stingrays, and hundreds of
tropical fish. In the exhibit’s viewing area, the children can interact with a
scuba diver inside the tank. Most questions centre around the sandbar, blacktip,
whitetip, grey reef, and tiger sharks.
A trip down 150 feet aboard an Atlantis
Submarine in Lahaina allows for an up-close look at Maui’s under-sea life. An
onboard naturalist gives a very humourous and informative presentation, while
huge stingrays wing past, garden eels wave their slender necks in the ocean
current, and thousands of colourful fish dart amongst the corral.
At Ulua Beach in Wailea the family
enjoys the unique opportunity to snorkel with a naturalist from the Pacific
Whale Foundation, who puts names to the vast variety of tropical fish and the
urchins that live on the coral. Snow flake eel peer from small holes in the
rock. Puffer fish swim with us through schools of Racoon Butterflyfish, Sailfin
Tang, Spotted Boxfish and Surgeonfish. We are able to hold Red Slate sea
urchins, their fleshy spines wavering and their underside gripping our palms.
We venture out on the PWF’s Ocean
Odyssey to do some snorkelling at Molokini and turtle watching at Turtle Town.
These excursions have the reputation of being great for kids, even taking them
aside during the voyage for an educational talk, with the chance to become a
certified Junior Marine Naturalist.
Not all of our activities are
underwater. From Lahaina, we travel to Ka’anapali aboard the Pacific Railroad’s
Sugar Cane Train. At one time, when sugar was king, the steam train hauled cane
from the fields to the mills. Now, the 1890 locomotive chugs down the narrow
gauge track, while a singing conductor gives information on sites along the way.
A Luaus at the Wailea Marriot is a must.
The main course is a kalua pig, which is a whole pig cooked in an imu or
underground oven, then unearthed in a short traditional ceremony, shredded, and
served with many side dishes that include sweet potatoes, poi, lomi-lomi salmon,
fresh fish, salads and fruit. After the feast comes the entertainment, a
Maui is a paradise, best suited to the
innocence of children. Their inquisitiveness does not allow for complacency, and
their energy does not allow for laziness. At times I wish only to sit by the
pool with a cold drink and book, but I’m needed for a game, a diving lesson, or
to simply act as lifeguard.
Our day of departure comes too soon and
I return our van, parking at the end of a long queue. The attendant pulls
herself from the car in front, muttering about the smell of spilled beer and
cigarette smoke. “Nothing like that here,” I smile. She plumps herself into the
driving seat and her nose begins to twitch. I scamper off to the airport
shuttle, thinking about how life changes ... mostly for the best.
Where to Stay:
If you plan to stay at a resort, there
are lavish and elegant hotels in the Wailea area on the southeastern shore. This
resort area has a water-side pathway, popular for strolling and early morning
runs. Resort living is great for kids -- lots of activities, the ability to meet
other children and time for adults to enjoy the holiday as resorts offer plenty
of helping hands.
With four children, the Kamaole Sands in
Kihei is our choice for accommodation. Perfect, practical, and economical for
families - condos surround a grassy courtyard filled with palm trees, lush
gardens, and a bolder-strewn waterfall. There is a beautiful pool area,
restaurant, and information centre hedged by stone walls, tropical plants, and
flagstone decking. The views from the terra cotta, villa style condos are always
south to the sea, for an early sunrise, or a spectacular Maui sunset. Fresh fish
or Maui ribs can be prepared, and an elaborate outdoor picnic set, at one of the
six barbecue areas. This saves on expensive restaurant visits! For the
energetic, there are the resort’s tennis courts, or miles of superb white sand
beaches to walk or run. (www.CastleResorts.com)
Attractions and Adventures:
The Maui Ocean Center
The 20 million dollar, state of the art facility opened in 1998 as the largest
tropical reef aquarium in the western Hemisphere. It provides information, tours
by marine naturalists, and exhibits on thousands of indigenous fish, sharks,
turtles, stingrays and other fascinating marine animals. The three acre marine
park strives to foster understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii’s ocean
life, while also teaching visitors about Maui’s natural history and cultural
The Maui Tropical Plantation
Pacific Whale Foundation
The Maui Dive Shop
Photography: All images by Jamie Ross