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Forget Romance and Relaxation - This is Maui with the Family
by James Ross
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

"Why not just sit down?"

I thought it was a reasonable question, but it created quite a stir. The other people taking the lesson with me stopped and stared. I was attempting to master Stand Up Paddle Boarding - a dad trying to keep up with his active children in Maui - but no sooner had I uttered my inane remark then my board slid forward from under me. I landed hard on my back with an exhalation of air, and then slowly rolled into the ocean. My sympathetic family cheered me on. I pulled myself from the water, raised my body unsteadily, smiled meekly at the instructor, and then fell forward toward the bow of the board, tumbling once more into the salty surf, with my mouth half open in a subdued screech. I surfaced sputtering and coughing.

"Whenever you're ready," said the petite instructress sarcastically. I clambered apprehensively to a standing position and tried in vain to maintain my balance. She was showing the group the proper paddling technique, while I wobbled back and forth creating my own waves. I attempted a paddle stroke, missed the ocean all together, fell sideways, and, in doing so, sent my board bouncing across the surface of the aqua waters like a flat skipping stone. It sliced the feet out from under the instructor, sending her and her fancy Lycra paddling suit into the sea. My lesson was over.

While I sat on the beach in shame, my family grabbed the big boards and joined in. In no time at all, my well-balanced wife and our four keiki had mastered this new sport, paddling out on the distant swells, and then back in with relative ease. They spun the boards around their paddles, and were soon trying to ride the breaking waves near shore.

Maui is known for its laid-back island culture. For the romance and relaxation Hawaii's second largest island offered, my wife and I had made it our honeymoon destination exactly 20 years ago. We had enjoyed sunset strolls, sandy beaches, and evening luaus. We had ventured up Haleakala for sunrise, and had driven the Hana Road, stopping often on route to swim in jungle pools.

Now, for whatever reason, we had thought it prudent to return with our four children, the relaxing vacation was no more - sunset strolls and picturesque drives were boring. Maui was a place for activity and fun. Our days are filled with jungle treks, snorkelling, scuba diving, horse riding, sailing, ziplining, surfing and wave riding.

Horse Riding: Sitting on a horse is much easier than standing on a surf board. Since the late 1800's, horseback-riding paniolo have been wrangling cattle in Maui's wide-open upland fields. I somewhat redeem myself on a family horseback-riding excursion at the Piiholo Ranch in Makawao. I don't fall off my steed, and stay dry while enjoying sweeping views down to the sea.

Zip lining: I don't know why I do this to myself; I guess it's just family pressure, but here I am hanging from a cable in a nylon harness zipping along at 60 km an hour, some 300 metres above a lush tropical canyon at Piiholo Ranch. I win all races on the side by side line it must be the extra weight.

Rain Forest Hike: This sounded romantic, a rainforest trek into some picturesque waterfalls, until my family had me jumping off ten metre cliffs into jungle pools.

Outrigger Canoeing - I'm dating myself, but I did annoy my kids when I kept breaking into the old Hawaii Five-O theme music as we paddled our eight-man outrigger canoe in on the swells. It is a fun and traditional Hawaiian activity, and free to do. Book it Danno!

Scuba Diving: My wife and I are licenced divers, but during an exciting sailing trip aboard the luxurious Alii Nui, the whole family gets to dive to 30 feet, swimming with a flock of sea turtles. Then, we finally are ready to relax in the sunshine, aboard the 65 foot custom built catamaran.

My family has decided that visiting Maui should become a family tradition. Memories are built around its island culture, legendary sunsets and tropical storms, as well as its action-packed beaches and water sports; including surfing and the new rage - stand up paddle boarding.


Where to Stay: The Grand Wailea - "Grand" is no exaggeration for this opulent 40-acre resort on Maui's sun-drenched South Shore. It has nine pools on six levels and water features that kids adore; including slides, caves, a Tarzan swing, waterfalls, a canyon river, a water elevator, hot tubs, and, most importantly, a swim-up bar for dad. We took part in the SUP boarding, while the kids enjoyed the intro to scuba program.


Alii Nui Sailing Charters -
Ziplining and Horse Riding -
Jungle Trekking with Hike Maui -
Outrigger Canoeing -
General -

Photos: by James Ross

1. Riding the Waves
2. Having Fun in the Maui Surf - a Landlocked Canadian Family Meets the Ocean!
3. Swimming in a Tropical Waterfall
4. Under the Deep Blue - Learning to Dive
5. Forced to Relax - A Tropical Storm
6. The Grand Wailea

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