Quick stops and short detours that will enrich your Maui vacation..and let you justify skipping school..

Vacation confession: on our most recent trip to Maui my kids missed two days of school. The teacher side of me felt extremely guilty about my kindergartener extending his spring break by two days because as a teacher I know how this can ultimately make more work for the teacher. But the parent side of me wanted to save hundreds of dollars in airfare by returning home a few days after spring break. Needless to say the parent side won and we basked in the Maui sun for a couple extra days. However as a compromise to my teacher side we made a point of dedicating a portion of our vacation to learning about the history, culture, and geology of Maui.

Iao Valley State Monument

This park shows up on just about every list for kid friendly places in Maui. There’s a .6 mile paved path up to a spot where on a day with decent visibility you can take pictures of the unique Iao Needle formation. There’s also a little botanical garden with native plants and signs that describe how the plants were used by Hawaiians in the past . On a hot day there are a few swimming holes along the river where adventurous families can cool off.  Overall, the scenery and the walk are pretty but don’t expect to spend more than an hour or so here. For us it was the signs describing the rich history of the area that give this popular state park value and interest.  Cost: $5 per car. There’s also a few free parking spots right before the entrance to the park

iao needle maui
Hearing about the warriors that lived in this sacred spot will excite young imaginations
iao needle path maui
It’s an easy .6 mile walk to the Iao Needle viewpoint

Lava Tube on the Road to Hana

This was a huge hit with my boys! It was raining on our drive to Hana so we thought that if we stopped at the Lava Tubes it would be a chance to explore without getting drenched. We quickly discovered that even deep underground you still need an umbrella  to stay dry, and that lava tubes are pretty incredible. After parking, check in at the office and pay the entrance fee. You will be given a flashlight and a brief overview of the lava tube. As you descend the steps into the cave, channel you inner Indiana Jones, and venture into the dark, seemingly endless tunnel. There are numerous signs along the 1/3 of a mile of lava tube that is accessible to visitors. The signs provide snippets of information about the history of the lava tube, how it was formed, and some of the strange creatures that live in it. It’s worth it to take the time to read the signs! Cost: Adults $12. Kids under 5 are free.

lava tube maui
An umbrella is useful rainy day lava tube exploring equipment (don’t worry the office has complimentary ones for visitors)
lava tube maui
What better place to learn about volcanic activity then from inside a lava tube?

Old Town Lahaina

We stopped by Lahaina when we were driving through the area for a quick ice cream and to show the kids the huge Banyan tree.  In part because it wasn’t too hot, and because we wanted the kids to burn off the ice cream sugar, we unexpectedly ended up following the historical trail through parts of the town. The kids enjoyed peering in through the windows of the historical houses and hearing me read the signs describing the lives of the people who once inhabited Lahaina. Out along the water they pondered how the cannons worked and watched crab battles on the rocks below the rock wall. Somehow amongst the t-shirt shops and tourists taking overpriced family photos with parrots we found a little slice of Hawaiian history and some quiet moments.  Cost: Free. Entrance to historical houses is extra


Lahaina rock wall
Slow down and take in the views from the rock wall or simply watch the crabs below


  • We play games like “find the sign” to keep it interesting for the kids
  • Don’t try to read the signs to younger children, rather paraphrase and tell the history in a way that’s interesting and relatable to the ages of the group that you’re with.
  • I like to “get the wiggles out” at the beach in the morning and end the day with educational excursions. It’s also more enjoyable to have an impromptu history lesson when it’s not scorching hot.
  • Don’t forget to call the school and excuse your kid’s absences. Learning Hawaiian history is a great excuse to miss school, right?




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