Tag Archives: Hawaii Nature Center

Three Travel Secrets: Maui

It’s no secret that Maui is a popular family vacation destination. But there are some hidden places families may often overlook when planning their itineraries. Lucky for them, I’m not good at keeping secrets. Here are three of my favorite places in Maui.

1. Kahekili Beach Park

This became one of our favorite beaches in Maui, by default. We gave up trying to find free parking at the more popular Kaanapali Beach nearby, so we drove on to Kahekili Beach Park instead. We loved that this beach was quieter, but still had the conveniences of a bathroom, picnic tables, barbecue pits, and a parking lot. When you’re traveling with young kids, these are all a godsend. The snorkeling is also good and it makes the best location for a sunset dinner. And by sunset dinner, I mean a picnic of take-out food from Maui Tacos.

2. Upcountry With Kids

I put off a visit to the upcountry region of Maui, because I wasn’t sure if was going to be to my son’s liking. I had read about the pineapple wineries and the rolling countryside, but it didn’t sound like kiddie paradise. I loved to be proved wrong. We spent a very relaxing Sunday afternoon at the Alii Kula Lavender Farm and the Kula Botanical Garden. Both places had plenty of activities to keep kids busy: scavenger hunts, poi fish to feed, brownies to eat. I truly wish I could spend more Sunday afternoons walking in fields of lavender, through bamboo tunnels and sitting pretty while I sip my lavender tea and gaze out over the Pacific Ocean.

3. Hawaii Nature Center

I’m a sucker for a good education center, so of course I loved the Hawaii Nature Center. On the way up to Iao Valley State Park, most people will drive past this place. They shouldn’t. Kids (and parents) can get a bit more out of their Hawaiian vacation than boogie boards and shave ice. At this center, they learn about the flora and fauna of Hawaii with hands-on, engaging exhibits.

This post was inspired by Lorraine at Keeps Me Smiling, who gave me a little shoulder tap in a game of blogger tag that began with Katie at Tripbase. Lorraine shared her secrets learned while on a trip to Novia Scotia with her family and inspired me to go. She then tags me and other bloggers to share their travel secrets. Now I’m ready to tag a few more fellow bloggers because I can’t wait to read what they have to share. I’ll keep this post updated with my tags as well.

Tagging Sharlene from Double Adventure: She shares all the wild O.C. secrets.

Tagging Mara at Mother of All Trips: She shares family travel wisdom.

Kihei Family Travel Tips

Hawaii Nature Center of Iao Valley

HNCMost people don’t envision themselves spending a lot of time in nature centers while they’re in Maui, but I guess I have a different vision for a vacation in paradise. We took a break from the beach, long enough to take in the beautiful vistas at Iao Valley, and make a Geek Stop at the Hawaiian Nature Center.

Smarten Up

This a small museum with about 30 exhibits. One of the first exhibits is about bird migration to Hawaii, where kids have to try to land some balls (birds) into a hole (Hawaiian islands) in the middle of the blue sphere (ocean). I tried to explain that concept to my four-year-old, but he was only focused on throwing the balls in. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy the awesome views of the Iao Valley mountains in the solarium, while I waited for him to land a bird on the island. He then got to zoom over a creek, by laying face down on the dragonfly flight simulator (kinda hard to explain this one). There was also a touch pool, aquarium tanks, and exhibits highlighting Hawaiian plants and animals. 

Fund the Cause

When you visit the center you get a chance to spend your money at a non-profit attraction whose mission it is to educate Maui’s kids about their natural environment and how they can protect it. My motto always is: Keep the Geek Stops Alive! 

Useful Tidbits

There were no restrooms open to the public at the center when we went. This was kind of a bummer. The closest bathrooms are either at the Heritage Gardens or at Iao Valley State Park. The Nature Center is located on the same road that leads you to Iao Valley State Park, and right next to Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens. Although we didn’t have enough time to do it, you can take the guided rainforest walk. It is only suitable for kids 5 years or older, and you have to call ahead to make reservations. If you are visiting Honolulu, you can make a stop at the Hawaiian Nature Center there.