Surefire ways to get your sweet teens off their smartphones

The fun part about taking your teens on vacation is that they’re old enough to take part in more active trips that require complex motor functions (horseback riding, cycling, hiking) which expands your trip’s options exponentially, AND they’re finally at an age where their brains can commit the whole amazing trip to memory—an event that will hopefully be the first of many Best Family Vacay Evers for your family.

The resounding piece of advice for parents packing teenagers, is that the sooner you get them involved in the trip, the better. Let them help you weigh the options and offer their opinions on whether they’d rather see creepy bugs at the botanical gardens or feel a different kind of adrenaline rush at the amusement park. Here are seven activity ideas to help you plan the perfect Maui trip for you and your teens.

Kaanapali Beach

This sheltered medium-sized bay of golden sand and turquoise water offers a host of options for whatever mood you find your family in. Feel like going for a snorkel? There’s a whole activity centre on the beach that rents out all the flippers and masks you need to track down tropical fish on a big gentle reef in the shallows. Swimming, of course, is an option and the surf is gentle here and visibility is great—you’ll easily be able to keep an eye on the brood from the comfort of your umbrella-ed lounger. There’s even a Merriman’s restaurant just past the beach if you want to go somewhere nice with a great view for lunch or dinner.

Surfing Lessons

Talk about a bonding experience. Watching the kids ride their first wave (after trying all morning) is such a sweet victory to share as a family. And everyone’s going to love those memories of dad taking some epic wipeouts. You could do a group lesson, or just take a private lesson as a family, but either way you’ll learn the basics, get out there in the water with professional instructors and pick up a new vacation hobby. The conditions on Maui are perfect for beginners, thanks to plenty of protected coves and instructor-selected surf spots in Kihei and Lahaina.

Professional Photo Shoot

Time and time again families tell us how special it was to see their kids come out of their shell on a Flytographer photo shoot. Your photographer is also like getting a local guide, who can take you around to some of their favourite off-the-beaten-track places, capture precious photos of your whole family together at this special moment, and you get to see the experience build confidence in your teens, too. It can be a short session you fit in somewhere between lunch and a beach afternoon, or a longer walk-around that’s almost like a private Maui tour. Whatever the session, you and your kids won’t ever forget it. (Here’s a list of our Maui photographers.)

The Maui Ocean Center

A visit to the Maui Ocean Center is a great way to get up close to the region’s local marine life. This highly rated activity centre is the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere and includes exhibits on coral reef habitats, sharks, humpback whales and more. The ocean centre even has a sea turtle lagoon, a clear tunnel open-ocean habitat, an area where teens can learn about Hawaiian culture and the sea—plus the centre offers one-hour behind the scenes tours where your kids could actually get to feed some of the marine animals. Learn about the fish and the local habitats and then get out into your swimsuits and see them yourselves! 

Road to Hana

Can a highway be an activity? Oh heck yes it can. The Hana Highway, which stretches about 52 miles (84 kilometres) from Kahului to the historical town of Hana in east Maui, is an epic route for scenery (lush tropical forests, bridges, ocean views), but the best part are the stops you’ll make along the way. There are jeep and ATV tours that can take you up to see Instagram-famous waterfalls and viewpoints, or down to the shore for a swim at a tucked-away black sand beach—or you can rent a car yourself to complete a part, or all, of the 2.5-hour drive and explore scenic pit stops by map.