Last August, John and I were invited to the Ka’anapali Fresh Festival on Maui, which celebrated locally-grown ingredients prepared by local chefs at a variety of unique beachfront events. On top of the festival, we toured MauiGrown Coffee, had a beer pairing lunch with Maui Brewing, and even managed to fit in a volcano sunrise.
We took plenty of photos and I posted a festival roundup and I finally have got around to writing about our accommodations…
Ka’anapali Beach is a resort destination with a number of hotels and resorts just north of Lahaina on the west side of Maui. As this was a media trip we were put up at three very distinct accommodations, spending two nights at each. All are within walking distance of each other in the resort area (about 2-5 minutes apart) so we got to make use of common areas like the shops and restaurants at Whalers Village and of course the smooth sandy beaches.
The Luxurious Escape
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The resort: As you can see from John’s photos, the property is a polished, tropical oasis with plenty of activity. Take a dip in one of the many pools, explore the artwork in the gallery just off the lobby, and enjoy a luau with dancers and a fire show in the evening. For those traveling with kids, there is a full day kids program (Keiki) with fun and educational activities that introduce unique Hawaiian cultures and traditions through dance, arts, crafts, language, and games. This gives parents some free time to soak in the an adult-only pool, relax in the spa, or head out for a round of golf.
The rooms: We have stayed in several Westin hotels around North America and when I asked John what his comments were he said that when he walks into one, he knows “there’s a nice bed here, and it’s mine.” I agree, it’s tough to beat the awesome Westin beds. I don’t know their secret but between the soft aromatic scents (like white tea) in the lobbies and the pillow-tops on the Heavenly® Beds, consistency is appreciated with this reliable top-notch chain.
The extras: This was one of the only places we saw guests wearing stiletto heels in the lobby and around the pool area and having only brought flats and flip flops, we felt a little under-dressed sitting at the cafe. However, this is where we attended our first (and only) luau and it was a great experience. The Wailele Luau is open to anyone, not just guests, and we actually attended while we were at The Whaler and we just walked over. Dinner is served family-style at large tables and we sat with other couples, a few were even from the Vancouver area as well. The evening’s entertainment includes a spectacular production that features traditional costumes, music, and dances from around Polynesia.
Specialty cocktails are refilled and the energy on stage seems magical, especially when you get to the fire dancing. Newlyweds are called out, comedic elements provide light entertainment between costume changes, and “oohs and ahhs” flow from the audience with each masterful manoeuvre on stage. With the local food, the free-flowing drinks, and the spectacular entertainment, this luau was far from cheesy and is something we’d most likely book again.
Home Away from Home
Aston at The Whaler on Ka’anapali Beach
The resort: Aston at The Whaler is a collection of luxury condos with all the comforts of home (full kitchen, full bathroom, living room, televisions, microwaves, free WIFI, you name it) in rooms that range from 640 to 2,000 square feet. There is immediate beach access, tennis courts, a private pool, and a barbecue area for guests and tenants to use for cookouts. There was no lobby inside the condo building itself (it is just across the garden) leaving nothing between your room and the slice of paradise that was right outside the door (except for the eager descent of the elevator).
The rooms: Our room was bigger than our house back in Vancouver. It had high ceilings, plush carpet in the living room, beautiful local artwork, and a giant balcony with 180 degree views. There was also plenty of storage and cupboard space should we have wanted to stock up at Costco and cook at home during our stay. The only part that made you snap back to the reality that you were staying in a resort (and not in your own tropical condo) was the maid service.
The extras: Aston at The Whaler is definitely best suited for an extended stay or for a larger group. It’s somewhere my sister could bring her family of seven, stay for at least a week or two, cook meals in the room or outside in the barbecue area, and really have that home away from home. For a longer stay, we would consider it as well in the future and would save money by shopping at the grocery store and cooking in. This time around we just walked downstairs and over about 300 meters to Whalers Village for dinner and Mai Tais, which isn’t a bad way to go either.
Two great things about the Whalers Village: There is a $1 shuttle into Lahaina where you can explore the historic town (formerly the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom) and there’s also the Museum at Whalers Village where history buffs like me can soak up even more information.
Kaanapali Beach Hotel
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The resort: I first met Kalani Nakoa, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kaanapali Beach Hotel, in Vancouver at a Maui media event and he had me hooked on his hotel from the start. Voted Maui’s “Most Hawaiian” Hotel, it doesn’t have tiled plazas, water slides, and a collection of pools that lie between your room and the beach. Instead it has a grand, exceptionally well-kept lawn with groves of trees, flowers, and fallen coconuts that dot the landscape.
The rooms: Rattan and wicker, bright patterns, and watercolour paintings decorate the lobby and guest rooms. While our room didn’t have a kitchen (just a small fridge in the closet, big enough for a bottle of Old Lahaina Dark Rum) or a grand living room, that was fine by us. We just needed a place to rest our sun- and sand-soaked bodies at the end of the day.
The extras: Endless sparkling wine at brunch while we eat fresh slices of pineapple and enjoy live outdoor (and indoor) entertainment. Chopped up spam hash for breakfast. Gourmet Pacific fusion for dinner on the Tiki Terrace. Tossing the Frisbee around on the grass as tropical birds serenade us from the shade-providing trees. Every so often you’ll hear John and I make a fond comment about “The KBH” as we recall these fond memories and moments.
The experience here wasn’t about the rooms or the amenities, really. It was walking across the lawn and heading out for an outrigger canoe adventure with Maui Paddle Sports. It was meeting people who were celebrating their 30th anniversary by coming back to the place where they had their honeymoon. Even from our second floor balcony we could see and hear the ocean as Somewhere Over the Rainbow was played on a ukulele down at the Tiki Terrace. That was our KBH experience. It was an immediate emotional connection to a place we’ve never been but would love to return to when we celebrate our 30th anniversary (or preferably sooner).
All three of these hotels/resorts were convenient and comfortable in their own way, perfectly suited for the type of traveller you might be — if you’re looking for long-term or family travel, luxury with events and activities, or an authentic Hawaiian hotel experience.
If you’re planning on visiting the Ka’anapali region of Maui (near Lahaina) be sure to connect with the Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association on Facebook and Twitter. They’re incredibly nice people who are ready and willing to share all of the great things that are happening around Maui, from culinary adventures and outrigger canoe trips to social media workshops, scenic hikes, and snorkelling.