(I thought a strong Mai Tai was the appropriate first image to go with that title ?)
We got back from a sun-drenched, nine-day trip to Maui a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been delayed again and again in posting about it but really wanted to share the adventure before Christmas completely takes over.
We planned this vacation with two other couples who also each have kids under five, for a total of seven small children in cahoots. As soon as we arrived, I overheard a harried mom say, “traveling with toddlers is not vacation, it’s relocation”, which is a pretty hilarious way to sum up the chaos and water-hazard stress I had mentally braced for.
No one prepares you for the anxiety that comes with kids. The constant niggling fears every time they go to school, get a cough, climb a high play structure. I don’t know if it is just experience helping me chill out a bit, or being around very easy-going friends, but I was able to exhale more in those nine vacation days than I have really in the past two years.
I know my trip-mates are reading this thinking “hmm, so that was chill Jenn?” as they relive the blood-curdling screams every time kid or husband (NONE OF THEM can swim!) got within a kilometre of a wave.
That was level two, friends. I have twelve levels.
It helped a lot that two in our group were doctors and a third was previously a beach lifeguard in South Africa. I felt moderately confident that we would all survive.
Happily, even with my fast, fearless little one (“no mama hand!” – as he tears towards the surf/hot tub/deep end), the pack of toddlers, babies, preschoolers, and one kindergartener was not nearly as wild as my imagination had prepared me for. It was a wonderfully (shockingly) relaxing trip that totally re-filled my cup.
We stayed in Ka’anapali at the spectacular Westin Nanea Ocean Villas. It was actual paradise, complete with near-daily rainbows and sea turtles.
(I would like to thank Westin for the kind hospitality and beautiful memories made, and for sponsoring many experiences of the trip!)
The Westin Nanea has a stunning lagoon-style pool with beautiful faux islands, two kiddie pools (one with sand!), a water-slide perfect for the 2- to 5-year-old crew, two fun splash pads, and several hot tubs.
The property is beachfront, with a beautiful path that meanders along the water. I went for a couple of morning jogs – the most gorgeous runs ever – while the family snoozed away, and we all went for lots of afternoon strolls.
Theo likes to forage on our walks. He brought along a sand pail and filled it with treasures – shells, rocks, fallen flowers, even oranges, lemons, limes and a baby banana. We like to keep moving on our vacations. Scavenging is a great way to keep little ones entertained on long foot journeys.
The Nanea offers access to other Westin properties – including the one next door that has an amazing one-foot-deep pirate pool with a pretend ship to climb on and small waterslides.
We could actually all relax by that pool, as even the two-year-olds were fine to play with parents on the sidelines. The kids had an absolute blast.
My 4-year-old Theo could barely float when we arrived, and by the end he was swimming underwater with goggles. There were lots and lots of families, it is a very tot-friendly spot.
We had a few meals on the property – I really enjoyed the Inu pool bar with the yummy Hawaiian snacks (I particularly liked the poke bowl) and the delicious cocktails. I took it upon myself to sample Mai Tais from several hotel bars, and ours was the best.
We were hosted for a lovely dinner at Pulehu, an Italian grill on the sister Westin property – it was a delicious menu with a balance of classic Italian and local seafood offerings.
Our suite had a full kitchen, a large island, and a big outdoor dining table (plus common outdoor grills) so I prepared most of our meals at home. I like to eat out occasionally, but truly I enjoy cooking at home even on vacation.
Conveniently, there’s a grocery store two minutes from the hotel – but Maui regulars typically stock up at Costco by the airport en route to their accommodations.
We explored some local beaches. Black Rock was a favourite, and very close by. It’s a little cove with great snorkeling (the hotel offers snorkel gear to rent by day, or you can find small snorkel shops who rent hourly).
Baby Beach in Lahaina is a favourite for families with it’s gentle waves. We also drove a little way to Kahana beach which was gorgeous and had good snorkeling.
I managed to escape and spend a blissful afternoon at the Spa Helani where I was rubbed down with tropical oils and massaged with smooth shells filled with lava in a Nanea Ritual. By the time it was finished I was so relaxed that I couldn’t remember where I was.
It is pretty ideal to move in herds when most of your tribe is pint-sized. Group travel really eases the combined load on the parents. The kids entertain each other, relieving grown-ups of that constant duty. While the littlest ones are napping, one mom can escape with another mom to go play in the waves stress free. The adults can take turns making meals. Everyone lingers over dinner while the children have their own adorable conversations under the table.
We had such a wonderful getaway. I’ve never had such a hard time coming home from vacation. I have an almost homesick feeling when I reminisce.
I don’t like to use the word “blessed”, because to me it implies being favoured in some way. I prefer to be just very grateful. I am so grateful to be able to take these kinds of vacations with my friends and family – we didn’t have the means to when I was a kid (but I do have lots of equally fond memories of camping trips).
I’ve got another post about Hawaii here if you’re planning a trip – such a great place to go with kids.
I’ll wrap up with a shot of each of the two beautiful families we travelled with. Thanks for inviting us on your trip, Durkins and Kritzingers!