In late August, my husband and I stumbled upon some crazy cheap airline tickets to Hawaii – $400 from Atlanta to Maui – um, YES PLEASE.
We quickly searched for rentals and decided it was too good to pass up. You see, in September, when all the kiddos go back to school, the prices on tourism driven places drops significantly. We snagged a beautiful two bedroom condo right on the beach for half off. Tucked on the Maalaea Bay, away from the popular tourist filled hotels, we found our own little slice of paradise. It was less than a mile from the aquarium and a great place to base out of for our daily excursions.
Booking so last minute gave us the crazy idea to keep our trip a surprise. So we researched and planned and NEVER told the kids. Then on Sept 19, we woke them at the crack of dawn.
“Do you guys want to skip school today?”
(half asleep) “yeaaaa”
“Great, you have ten minutes to pack a bag, we’re heading to the airport.” and then we walked out of the room.
The night before we had packed our one suitcase for our family of 5 and were ready to roll out. When we arrived at the airport, we gave them a folder with riddles and activities. In order to discover our destination, they had to complete the puzzles. The kicker is we flew to San Fransisco first and with a 7hour layover, decided to spend the day exploring. After lunch, we had the kids complete one more activity which told them we were going back to the airport and heading to MAUI! ❤ ❤ ❤
With our condo directly on the beach and our bodies wired for EST, we woke early every morning to sunrise on the beach and were ready to crash not much after sunset on the beach. We got our beach fill that way (and stayed sunburn free) and spend the rest of the days exploring the amazing wonders of the island.
Day 1: arrive at 7:30pm. RUN to Costco, stock up, head home to crash. Costco is your best bet for inexpensive grocery shopping and it is a mile from the airport, making access super easy. There is also a food truck market across the street. If you arrive during the day, stop by. There are so many great local eats with amazing pricing. Everywhere else on the island is pricey.
FUN GF costco items: Kona dark chocolate macademia nuts and Teriyaki Pork Jerky
Day 2: Drive around the area, enjoy the pool, and head to the movie theater to meet The Bucket List family at the Smallfoot premiere. THIS was a major highlight for my kids since they dream of their own bucket list. If you don’t already follow this family, be sure to check them out on youtube or instagram. Their videos are such a great way to introduce your own kids to different parts of the world while encouraging bravery and kindness.
Day 3: Iao Valley (easy, friendly hike for all ages) and then we spent the afternoon wandering around Lahaina, checking out the big banyan trees, and eating all the yummy Pork and Fish tacos at the Fish market.
Day 4 (sat): We stopped at the Swap meet over by the University and fueled up on coconut water and the most delicious Brazilian Cheese bread. This swap meet is a must for anyone looking for souvenors. The vendors supply to a lot of the retail shops, so you can shop here and save a lot of money. The kids found $1 bracelets for their friends and beautiful Hawaiian outfits for their American girl dolls.
We then worked our way over to the Wai’hee Ridge Valley Trail.
Now unlike Iao Valley, this is a moderate hike. Roughly 4 miles round trip, I would highly recommend lots of water and some snacks. We made it about 3 miles because we didn’t want to break the kids and it was worth every.single.step of the journey. 7,000 foot views allow you to see down into the ridge and out over the ocean. It was truly remarkable. We had a rule for the kids, no whining. If they had a problem, they could say it IF they also had a solution.
Ex. I’m tired, can I take a nap.
I’m hungry, may I have a snack.
This magical rule changed the hike and we all made it ❤
Day 5: Haleakala – Don’t complain – just set your alarm early, make the 2 hour drive and enjoy sunrise 10,000 feet up in the clouds. DRESS WARM. You are in the clouds and that high of elevation means a massively different climate than down below.
Be sure to grab a pass ($1.50) to get in, as the park no limits visitors at sunrise so everyone can enjoy the view. Passes sell quickly but at 4pm each day they release more tickets online for 48 hours out. Its a national park, so bring your annual pass or pay $25 for admission. If early mornings aren’t your thing, don’t worry, Haleakala is beautiful all day! On your way down, be sure to stop at the first overpass for a closer look into the crater.
Head into the Ranger station and let the kids experience becoming a junior range.
Afterwards, we head into Kihei where the boys enjoyed beer and we enjoyed the outside cornhole sets and then we headed to Coconuts for some seriously delicious Fish Tacos. This was one of my favorites and so gluten free friendly.
Day 6: Road to Hana
There is so much to see, so download The Shaka Guide app on your phone. Based on GPS, he’ll talk you through all the highlights, give history on the area, and help you time out your trip to maximize your experience. He told us about some gems, we surely would have driven past, such as the Gulch.
Day 7: We decided to take it easy on our final day and let the kids choose our activities. They wanted a beach day, so we did a quick costco run for souveniors and a gas fuelup and grabbed the most amaaaazing Kalua Pork from Da Kitchen. This restaurant is a popular one, so we ordered our food to go and enjoy it at home.
Maui was everything and so much more than I ever imagined it could be.
We wanted to make sure the kids knew our choice to travel during the school year was not a reflection of our disregard for education but rather a way to enhance it. They had many activities to complete, but with the beauty of the island we had many discussions on the types of rocks, we scouted our igneous rocks, and climbed the now dormant volcano, Haleakala. We kept an eye out for native animals and plants and fell in love with the sight of turtles, manta rays, three horned chameleons, and much more. In addition to our schooling, the kids completed a daily journal and brought along both fiction and nonfiction books to further experience Hawaii. These were great for the long days in the car, the flight, and downtime between activities.
BOOKS : NONFICTION
1. Kids travel journal
2. Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii
3. Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever
4. Magic Treehouse: High Tide in Hawaii
5. American Girl Series: Growing Up with Aloha
6. Junie B Jones: aloha-ha
GLUTEN FREE FAVORITES:
1. Fish Market in Lahaina – fish and kalua pork tacos (not pictured because I inhaled it like a fatkid)
2.Da Kitchen – Kalua Pork, DO IT!
3. Coconut’s Fish Tacos covered in coconut milk slaw and mango salsa
4. Poke bar in Foodland (spicy poke and seaweed salad) – NOT ALL pokes are gf
We tried (twice) but never made it inside Maui Brick Oven – 100% gluten free but operates on weird hours