It’s full-on winter at my house in Colorado: This morning I woke to 12-degree temperatures and a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. While I’m not one to relocate and become a snowbird (yet!), I do admit I tend crave toasty temps, sunny skies, sandy beaches, and warm ocean water when the thermometer starts to drop. Thus, today I’m dreaming about a family vacation in Maui. If I had my druthers, here’s how I’d spend a fun-filled day on this tropical island:

Early morning: Wake up at our Wailea-area hotel and start the day with a walk along the Wailea Beach Path, a 1.5-mile paved oceanfront walkway. This is one of my all-time favorite pastimes when I’m staying in the area; I naturally rise early on Maui (with the time change) and like to watch the resort area wake up with a stroll along this palm-tree-lined path that stretches from the Andaz Maui in the north to the Fairmont Kea Lani in the south. Now, I’d be happy to bring my entire family to either of these resorts, or bunk at the upscale, sprawling, activity-filled Grand Wailea — all are fab oceanfront resorts. But I’m also intrigued by the slightly inland, new Residence Inn Maui Wailea, which offers suites with multiple bedrooms and fully equipped kitchens — great for the family to spread out and also easily store breakfast and picnic fixings.

Oceanfront Wailea Beach Path on Maui

Oceanfront Wailea Beach Path on Maui

Morning: Go SCUBA diving! My husband and I are certified to dive through PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), the world’s largest scuba diver training organization, with more than 136,000 trained PADI Professionals dedicated to introducing new divers to the thrill of scuba diving and enhancing the skills of experienced divers at over 6,300 dive centers and resorts worldwide. On our very first visit to Maui in 1997 we dove around Molokini crater, a volcanic atoll off the coast of Maui that is beaming with colorful fish. In my dream world (remember, I’m fantasizing here), my teens, ages 14 and 16, would already be PADI-certified as well, so they could join us on a half-day trip with Lahaina Divers or Maui Dreams Dive Company. (I’m partial to PADI-based instruction because the organization offers a wide range of scuba certification courses that allow beginners to take their first breath underwater, to advanced specialty courses designed to build skills and enhance an experienced diver’s love of the oceans and aquatic environments.) Some popular diving spots on the island include:

  • Black Rock Point—Located in Kaanapali on Maui, this is an ideal shore diving excursion. You can swim out along the face of Black Rock, then backtrack to your beach starting point. During your dive, you’re likely to encounter some unique sea creatures, including spotted eagle rays, whitetip reef sharks, and eels.
  • Carthaginian II—This whaling-vessel replica rests at 95 feet and was sunk on Dec. 13, 2005 to serve as an artificial reef for marine life such as turtles and stingrays.
  • Molokini Crater—Volcanic atoll off the south coast of Maui that is great for snorkeling and diving. Humpback whales can be spotted in the spring!

An important tip: Divers should not go to an altitude (fly) within 12 hours of completing a single dive or 18 hours when doing multiple dives (where possible wait 24 hours). You can learn more here.

Molokini Crater is a popular dive site on Maui.

Molokini Crater is a popular dive site on Maui.

Colorful coral and fish abound underwater off the coast of Maui.

Colorful coral and fish abound underwater off the coast of Maui.

Late afternoon: After spending a large chunk of the day in the water, I bet my brood would want to explore Lahaina on land a bit. We’d take some time shopping for souvenirs, including locally made crafts, and browsing the fine-art galleries in this harbor town that is often teeming with tourists. One photo-stop that’s a must do is a pose by one of the town’s giant banyan tree; it was planted in 1873 when it was just 8 feet tall, and now it looms large with more than 16 main trunks.

Unusually big banyan tree in Lahaina

Unusually big banyan tree in Lahaina

Evening: It’s time for a luau! I rarely travel to Hawaii without taking in one of these traditional and festive evening events that feature roasted kalua pork and dozens of savory accompaniments and sweet cocktails, plus traditional song and dance, including exciting knife or fire dances, as well as hula — during which there are often opportunities for audience participation! There are several options for luaus on Maui, including the Old Lahaina Luau and the Feast at Lele, and many large resorts have their own luau celebrations.

Fire dance at a Hawaiian luau

Fire dance at a Hawaiian luau

This post is sponsored by PADI; photos from Shutterstock.

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