As two former backpackers, my wife and I are usually more adventurous; but, having a girl and a boy (ages 6 and 3) has changed how we approach a vacation. On this trip, my first to Maui, 6th or 7th to Hawaii overall, we didn't do too much.
Some things that stuck out to me about Maui:
Long sandy beaches - I don't recall other islands having this many long ribbons of sand. Kauai has lots of great little "pocket" beaches, but nothing, other than isolated Polihale, as long as Ka'anapali, Kahekili, Big Beach, etc...
Views of other islands offshore - I suppose i knew they'd be there, but it really is cool being able stare right at Moloka'i and Lana'i at the same time.
Wind - Ka'anapali was steadily windy. Not just "breezy", but downright windy. South Maui is less so, I hear?
Frogs - luckily, we brought two small flashlights. Watching my son and his cousin, both 3, chase and catch frogs, absolutely screaming they were laughing so hard....that alone was worth the price of airfare.
Variety - Maui has a little bit of everything that the other islands have individually - great scenery, great beaches, cultural sites, very good snorkeling, good food/nightlife/shopping, good outdoor activities.
Other islands may do some of these things better than Maui, but they don't have all of them together, like Maui does.
Stars - With my wife, laying on a lounge chair near the beach at night, under a couple of swaying coconut palms, with little white clouds whisping by, Hapa playing in the background, gazing at a gazillion stars....the moment was so "Hawaii" that my wife and i actually laughed.
'Iao needle - We never had any plans to go here, but it ended up being one of my favorite days in Maui. The kids played in a clear mountain stream while the wifey and I soaked up the scenery..it was great.
Kahekili Beach - I was impressed with the coral here, lots of it. Not a ton of fish, but a decent variety. The beach had good sand, pretty good swimming, some shade.
Food - Didn't do much high end dining this trip. I've learned not to treat Hawaii as a "dining vacation". It's never lived up to it, imo.
That said, Maui was very good overall. Especially compared to Kauai and the BI, where food costs the same but isn't of the same quality.
The meal we had at Hula Grill was excellent.
We also ate at the Ma'alaea Grill twice. Once when we went to the Maui Ocean Center, and once on our way back to the airport. We thought it was pretty good relative to the price.
Maui Ocean Center - This was great for the kids. If you go, make sure you get to watch the feeding of the sharks. Ma'alaea is uber-windy, but you're mostly inside there, so that was OK. If you're into gift shops, this place has a tremendous example of one.
A bit about where we stayed:
Westin Ocean Villas - Although it's not really my type of resort, I can't really say anything bad about it. Sure, it's a mega-resort, but everything is clean, the landscaping is prolific and maintained, the staff were nice, etc.
I had no negative experiences there, and if you have a family and don't want to ever have to leave your resort, then this place should do the trick.
Our kids loved the water slide, the pirate ship, all the pools (which weren't any deeper than 4 feet). There's also a kids' activity center, but we didn't use it.
Things i didn't do - It was my first trip to Maui, and i'll be back, so maybe i'll catch one of these activities next time around...
Road to Hana
Haleakela National Park
Explore South Maui
In the end, Maui was fantastic. We had some amazing experiences as a family, and we can't wait to return.
When i told my daughter that we'd go back to Kauai
next year, she corrected me and said, "No Daddy, Maui".
Mahalo for all the tips