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It's All About the Beach

Article by Linda Nagata

It's 7:00 am in a rented condo. Outside, only the mynah birds are stirring, but inside, you grow gradually aware of a small voice asking an absurd question, "Mom? Dad? Are you awake? Can we go to the beach?"

Maui Family Vacations

Most kids are inclined to cast a wary eye on the ocean the first time they encounter it – and their instincts are good. The beach can be a dangerous place. Even on calm days, when waves break only a few feet from shore, they can still pack a powerful wallop. Yet these moments of hesitation do not last long, and soon the young daredevils are learning to body surf the shore break...which is why you will need a boogie board. With luck your condo will provide one. If not... expect to be dragged to the nearest store as soon as your kids get a glimpse of the action.

Tip: watch the beach for a few minutes to find the place where the waves sweep the farthest up the sand. If there aren't too many people in that spot (and there usually aren't) that's the place to play. Be cautious! Catch the wave right after it breaks, and ride it as it sluices up the beach – then spin around and ride it back down again.

Be aware that Maui island beaches tend to drop off steeply beneath the waterline. A small swell will roll in unruffled almost to the beach. Then, just a few feet before it reaches the shore, it will rise up in a sharp blue peak, before crashing over in a boil of white foam. If you're on the peak of the wave, you might get tossed "over the falls" with very little water beneath you to cushion the fall. So be careful! There are signs warning against this hazard at some beaches. They look hilarious, but the danger is real.

Be prepared for one of those indelible moments of parenthood when your child suddenly disappears beneath the white foam as a wave gushes back into the ocean. Some kids come up in tears after getting tumbled, others come up laughing. Either way, it's good to outfit smaller kids with floatie vests or water wings. Note the label - "These are not lifesaving devices" - but they can help to pop a wayward body surfer back up to the surface where Mom and Dad can make a rescuing grab. Of course there is no substitute for an alert parent. If your child can't swim, always stay within reach. Even experienced swimmers need to be kept in sight at all times – you never know what they will do.

Do we have to say it? Don't go in (or near) the water when high surf warnings are up. Even when no warnings are posted, it's up to you to decide if the waves are too big to be safe for your children – no matter how they fuss and demand another day in the water.

For most kids, a Maui vacation is all about the beach. So don't be surprised if - when you get back from that day-long tour of Hana, or that trek to Haleakala National Park – the first thing you here as the sun descends towards the Pacific, "Mom? Dad? Can we go to the beach?"

  find more by Linda Nagata