Maui Vs Honolulu for Family Vacation? An honest comparison to HELP you Decide!!

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Maui vs Honolulu for family vacation? Many people confront this same dilemma when they plan a family vacation to Hawaii.

Both Maui and Honolulu are well-known family vacation destinations. Thousands of families visit these two destinations each year for family vacations and return with wonderful memories.

In reality, both Maui and Honolulu are excellent family holiday destinations, but they are very distinct from each other and provide very different experiences.

If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan vacation with magnificent family-friendly beaches, premium shopping centers and restaurants, and a plethora of cultural and historical attractions, pick Honolulu over Maui for a family vacation. If you’re looking for a real tropical holiday away from the city, where your family can explore the abundance of adventure activities and breathtaking natural scenery, consider Maui over Honolulu.

Maui vs Honolulu for family vacation?

Why you should choose Honolulu for a Family vacation?

Waikiki beach Honolulu
Waikiki beach and Diamond Head, Honolulu, Oahu Island

If you’re seeking a vibrant urban vacation experience where your family may participate in an endless array of tourist activities ranging from stunning beaches to high-end shopping centers and dining in multiple cultural and historical sites, consider Honolulu over Maui for your family vacation.

Honolulu is an excellent family holiday destination for those who enjoy urban getaways and lively beaches.

Why you should not choose Honolulu for a Family Vacation?

Honolulu is Hawaii’s commercial hub, like New York and Miami, it is a heavily commercialized city. It is not an ideal location for families seeking a relaxing vacation away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Another major issue in Honolulu is the city’s packed beaches. Honolulu is Hawaii’s most populous and visited city, which explains why its beaches are more crowded than those on Maui.

Why you should choose Maui for a Family vacation?

Maui beach

If you’re looking for a true Hawaiian experience, complete with lovely calm beaches, luxury resorts, fantastic snorkeling experience, magnificent scenery, fewer crowds, and an abundance of adventure opportunities, Maui is a better family vacation destination than Honolulu. Maui is more tranquil, romantic, and less crowded than Honolulu.

As compared to Honolulu, Maui has great beaches, stunning landscapes, and plenty of outdoor activities. Honolulu is more populous and metropolitan, while Maui is more Hawaiian. So, for a tranquil family holiday, choose Maui over Honolulu.

Why you should not choose Maui for a Family vacation?

According to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority, Maui is the most expensive of the Hawaiian islands, while Honolulu (Oahu) is the least expensive of the islands. If you’re on a tight budget, Maui is not a good option.

Maui Vs Honolulu: Who has family-friendly beaches?

Maui and Honolulu are neck and neck in terms of family-friendly beaches. Even though both Maui and Honolulu feature some of the best family-friendly beaches in Hawaii, they provide quite a different experience. So, it finally boils down to what kind of beach experience you want for your family vacation.

Honolulu

Oahu beach
Waikiki Beach

Honolulu is home to Waikiki Beach, which is recognized as Hawaii’s most family-friendly beach. Waikiki Beach features calm waters, making it perfect for families with little kids. Furthermore, the presence of multiple lifeguard stations on Waikiki Beach provides families with a sense of security.

Honolulu, on the other side, is the most inhabited and visited city in Hawaii, hence its beaches are highly commercialized and crowded. Honolulu’s beaches are bordered by commercial malls, hotels, and restaurants.

Maui

Maui black sand beach
Waianapanapa State Park, Maui Black Sand Beach

Maui’s main advantage is its less congested beaches. As a result, Maui’s beaches have a serene and calming atmosphere. Furthermore, Maui’s beaches are known for their calmer waters, making it a perfect place for family holidays. Because of their exceptionally tranquil waves, the beaches of Wailea and Keawakapu, in particular, are perfect for family holidays.

Winner: Maui. Although both Maui and Oahu have family-friendly beaches, Maui’s are less congested, more tranquil, and hence more suited for family holidays

🏖 Suggested Read: Is Maui worth Visiting? 9 Good Reasons Why You Must!

Accommodation

Now, let’s compare Maui and Honolulu on the basis of accommodation. The below table shows, the Average Daily Rate for Hotel rooms in Waikiki (Honolulu) and Maui in May 2021

IslandsAverage Daily RateAverage Cost for
6 Nights and 7 Days
Waikiki $229$1374
Maui$596$4172
(Source: The Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Average Daily Rate for Vacation Rentals (July 2021)

IslandsAverage Daily Rate
Waikiki $259
Maui$282
(Source: The Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Maui is considered the most costly island in Hawaii, whereas Oahu (Honolulu) is the least expensive. As a result, it’s predictable that Honolulu has less expensive lodging than Maui.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the average daily rate for hotel rooms in Maui is $596 while in Honolulu is $229. The same data indicates that the average cost of a hotel stay in Maui or in Honolulu for six nights or seven days is $4172 or $1374 respectively. Maui, as you can see, is over $2500 more expensive than Honolulu. This is a huge difference.

Winner: Honolulu. Honolulu offers far cheaper accommodation as compared to Maui

🏖 Suggested Read: Is Maui Expensive? How much does a Vacation to Maui Cost?

Activities

Again, it depends on what kind of activities your family wants to explore. If you want cosmopolitan or urban activities then definitely Oahu is the place for you but if you want to explore the abundance of adventure activities and beautiful natural landscapes then unquestionably, Maui is a better option than Honolulu.

Honolulu

Honolulu’s diversified urban activities appeal to a wide variety of visitors. Honolulu offers the best urban holiday experience with its world-class shopping malls, restaurants, theatres, and museums.

Oahu activities

Additionally, it has the most nightclubs and bars on any Hawaiian island. You can visit the Bishop Museum, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and Iolani Palace in Honolulu if you’re interested in culture and history. When it comes to water sports, Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach is unmatched. Waikiki Beach offers a variety of sports, including surfing, snorkeling, parasailing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. It is perhaps best known as a surfing destination.

Maui

Maui is a haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts. Maui’s rich green forests and mountains provide a variety of opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Road to Hana
Road to Hana, Maui

If you’re a nature lover seeking adventure, make your way along the iconic “Road to Hana.” The “Road to Hana” passes through some of the most stunning scenery in Hawaii and offers a variety of adventure opportunities for families with an adventurous spirit.

Haleakala national park
Haleakala national park

You can also go hiking in Haleakala National Park with your family to experience the park’s beautiful desert-like terrain and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Maui, like Kauai, offers a diverse array of water sports activities, including scuba diving, kayaking, kite surfing, and whale watching.

Snorkeling, in particular, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Maui. The joy of Snorkeling with your kids in Maui’s crystal clear water is unparalleled.

Winner: Tie. If you’re looking for cosmopolitan activities, head to Oahu; if you’re looking for adventure activities, head to Maui

Natural Scenery

Maui snorkeling
Snorkeling with turtles, Maui

Maui is unquestionably the winner when it comes to natural beauty. Honolulu, like New York and Miami, is a heavily commercialized city, which is why it lacks the vibe of a tropical paradise. While there are some lovely green places, like Diamond Head and Manoa Falls, the majority of the city is dominated by high rises and shopping complexes.

On the other hand, Maui is graced with breathtaking natural beauty. It truly oozes Hawaii’s tropical charm. Maui’s beautiful green forests, mountains, and waterfalls make it the ideal island for discovering Hawaii’s natural splendor.

The Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park are two of Maui’s most popular tourist destinations for nature and adventure aficionados. The Road to Hana, in particular, features some of Hawaii’s most magnificent natural scenery. This picturesque 50-mile drive passes through beautiful landscapes, lush green jungles, waterfalls, and beaches.

Winner: Maui

Things to do for Families in Maui and Honolulu

Honolulu

  1. Swimming with Dolphins at the Kahala Hotel
  2. Waikiki Aquarium
  3. Waikiki Starlight Luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village
  4. Try Oahu’s famous Matsumoto Shave Ice
  5. Visit Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Maui

  1. Take a drive to Road to Hana
  2. Whale-Watching
  3. Snorkeling with Turtles
  4. Helicopter Tour of Maui
  5. Visit Maui Ocean Center

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Top Five Family-friendly Beaches in Maui and Honolulu

The beaches listed below are our top picks for a family vacation in Maui and Honolulu.

Honolulu

  1. Waikiki Beach
  2. Magic Island
  3. Kahala Beach
  4. Ala Moana Beach
  5. Diamond Head Beach

Maui

  1. Baby Beach, Lahaina
  2. Kapalua Bay
  3. Napili Bay
  4. Keawakapu
  5. Launiupoko Beach Park

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About the author
Chetan Patil
Hello there, wanderlust. I've been traveling around the world with my friend Aditya for the last three years since finally quitting my job, and life has been a thrilling roller coaster ride so far. Traveling is a spiritual experience for me, not just something I do for fun. Traveling has taught me that "the only certain thing about life is uncertainty." So, embrace uncertainty and make the most out of every moment.

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