Family Fun in Maui
A South Carolina family is going to Maui, Hawaii, in search of snorkeling, volcano hikes, and whale-watching, as well as a luau complete with hula dancers and a kalua pig.
We'd love to hike around up there.
There are roughly 40 miles of trails throughout Haleakala National Park, but the altitude—10,023 feet—is serious stuff, so it's wise to stick to the moderate hikes. For a phenomenal view, follow the White Hill trail, a half-mile round trip that begins just outside the visitors center and leads to the top of a hill. If your kids are into plants, Hosmer Grove Nature Loop, a bit farther down the mountain at mile marker 10.5 on Highway 378, is a shady, 30-minute hike that leads through both nonnative forest and native Hawaiian shrubland, with interpretive signs to help you tell the difference. The National Park Service has information and a map for all the park's trails (808/572-4400, nps.gov/hale, $10 per vehicle).
Any advice on where to eat on the way back down to the hotel?
This is the perfect chance to go to Hali`imaile General Store, in the town of Haliimaile. The restaurant is run by Beverly Gannon, one of the pioneers of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, and her food—a mix of Asian, Hawaiian, and mainland American—is some of the best on the island. The kalua pork wontons with goat cheese are the perfect end to a day on the mountain (900 Haliimaile Rd., 808/572-2666, bevgannonrestaurants.com, lunch from $8, dinner from $22).
The kids can't wait to go whale-watching. Are there any companies that use smallish boats?
It doesn't get smaller than Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures: The company limits its excursions to six customers. The boats are modern versions of the traditional Hawaiian canoe—40 feet long, with a fiberglass hull and an outrigger on each side, and powered by the wind (and an occasional volunteer paddler). The route for each two-hour tour depends on the wind and the waves that day, but there's always a pause for snorkeling midway through. The best part? If you mention Budget Travel, you'll get $10 off each ticket (808/281-9301, mauisailingcanoe.com, adults $99, kids $79).
Pacific Whale Foundation, which runs whale-watching tours on ecofriendly, highly stable catamarans, is another great option. There are sailings throughout the day, but the two-hour sunrise ride is prime time for spotting whales—and offers the best deal. If you book online, it's $18 for adults and free for kids 6 and under. And if there are no whale sightings on your tour, you'll receive a coupon to go another day at no extra charge. All the tours are led by certified marine naturalists, and you get the added karmic benefit of supporting a nonprofit that conducts marine research and education and conservation programs (800/942-5311, pacificwhale.org, adults from $18, kids 7–12 from $15).