Ages 4–7: Waterwomen & -Men in Training
Frolicking in the shore break is the perfect way for littles to begin their wave knowledge; the trick here is finding a beach that is safe, yet sufficiently fun. Often eager to exert their budding independence, this age group lives by a credo of “Let me do it myself.” They charge into situations like the big kids they see themselves as, which can be terrifying if combined with too rough an environment.
The subtle slope and thick, soft sand of Maluaka Beach in Mākena is always my top choice. There’s no steep drop-off, and the ocean delivers endless rollers that wash ashore soft and crumbly. Kids love the sensorial experience of getting tumbled in the unpunishing shore break, and if you let them, they’ll naturally begin to find the timing and rhythm of the waves. (Of course, the lesson of never turning your back to the ocean is always in order.) If there’s a light south swell, and your kids are comfortable with it, get them on a boogie board and listen to them squeal as they catch their first free rides to shore. It’s a stoke they’ll never outgrow.
Avid swimmers may be ready to explore beyond the shore. If so, grab the mask and snorkel — there are plump coral heads to examine not too far out. Adventurous snorkelers (with parental supervision) can kick out to the rocky point on the south end for quite an underwater viewing treat.
South Maui’s generally calm wind, sunshine, and clear blue water make Maluaka worth hauling all the toys out for. Mākena Beach Resort, currently closed for renovations, maintains this beach park, which includes clean public restrooms, showers, and a grassy area. Shade may be in short supply, so bring an umbrella. Munchies, too: Aside from a food truck or two down the road, there’s no food for purchase for miles.