Maui's Kaanapali Caters to All

One of the first of Hawaii's planned resort areas, Kaanapali still holds appeal for travelers

By: By Marty Wentzel

The Details

Kaanapali Beach Resort Association

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When the Sheraton Maui opened in 1963, curious travelers from around the country paid $36 per night to give it a try. Not only did it help turn the Valley Island into a viable vacation alternative to Waikiki, but it also called attention to Kaanapali Beach Resort, Hawaii’s first master-planned resort community.


Kaanapali Beach Resort takes up 600 acres in northwest Maui. // © 2009 KBRA

Today, Kaanapali Beach Resort remains a highly desired destination with five hotels, six condominiums and/or vacation ownerships, an expansive shopping village and 36 holes of golf within its 600 northwest Maui acres.

The beauty of Kaanapali Beach Resort lies in its diversity. Energetic clients dive into its watersports, golf, tennis and super pools. Culture buffs follow its historical trail, while indulgent clients dine, shop and hit the spas. Kaanapali’s wide-ranging accommodations line three miles of white sand presided over by near-constant sunshine, and adjacent Lahaina town adds an extra attraction to the mix.

With so many stories to tell, the resort launched the Kaanapali Beach Resort Association (KBRA) in 1973 to deliver a unified message.

“We promote Kaanapali as a multi-faceted resort,” said KBRA executive director Shelley Kekuna. “We work closely with all of the members to keep our communication consistent.”

As the destination’s information portal, KBRA’s Web site helps travel agents hammer out the details of their client’s visit, including the timing. Its online calendar keeps agents in step with Kaanapali’s annual events such as Wendy’s Champions Skins Game in January; the Maui Onion Festival in May; a Hawaiian sailing canoe experience in June; and, in November, a children’s hula festival and the Maui Invitational basketball tournament.

Meanwhile, as Kaanapali’s members constantly enhance their facilities and programs, KBRA’s Web site keeps agents informed of their news. For instance, a current renovation at the Kaanapali Alii condominium is wrapping up in mid-December, after which clients can enjoy a second freshwater swimming pool and whirlpool spa, enlarged children’s pool, pool deck extension and fitness center.

Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas has done its part to improve the guest experience. The property’s new oceanfront pool beckons with a jet spa, kiddie pool with cascading swim-through waterfalls and a pool deck with tiki torches and decorative umbrellas.

An exterior makeover at The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach has graced its garden courtyard with a waterfall and koi pond, tropical flora, wider pathways and an oceanfront pool deck with new pavers, lounge furniture, poolside cabanas and a jet spa.

Meanwhile, the Sheraton Maui Resort is now known as the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa, referring to the March 2009 inauguration of the Spa at Black Rock. The spa occupies the entire first floor of the Hale Nalu building and features secluded indoor and outdoor relaxation areas and seven treatment rooms.

The latest news from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa includes the opening of Umalu, a poolside lunch and dinner venue serving contemporary Hawaiian cuisine; and the June 2009 debut of “Cirque Polynesia,” with aerial acrobats, illusionists and masters of balance.

August 2009 brought the new Alii Suite to the Westin Maui Resort and Spa. Set atop the Ocean Tower, the unit offers two bedrooms, a large living area and ocean views. Also new to the Westin is the Halawai Lounge on the Beach Tower’s highest floor.

The Royal Lahaina Resort just expanded its romance center, which coordinates weddings, receptions and vow renewals. The property’s existing Emporium store, now going through a major renovation, is opening as the Kaanapali Trading Co. on Nov. 14.

Among this year’s changes at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas is the reinvented Pulehu restaurant, now an Italian grill. Its health and wellness center, specializing in unique Hawaiian healing rituals, now goes by the name of Spa Helani, A Heavenly Spa by Westin.

In early 2009, Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club added 71 two- and three-bedroom Napili Villas, where guests have access to a new pool area with a pool bar, sports court, expanded fitness center and barbecues.

On the golf front, Kaanapali now offers children’s tees on its Kai Course, while its Royal Course recently earned high marks from Golfweek’s Best Tour Course You Can Play list. For diners, the Whalers Village retail center welcomed Cane and Taro, the brainchild of popular island chef D.K. Kodama. Also new to the village is Tia Juana’s Beach Cantina, a 7,000-square-foot Mexican eatery.

In the middle of it all, the KBRA provides a reliable touchstone for agents.

“We offer so many choices in a self-contained area,” said Kekuna. “We’re a great fit for any traveler.”

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