It wasn’t my daughter talking, though at 20 months, this was still a favorite game of hers.
No, the voice was much higher pitched.
It was Luna, the yellow-crowned Amazon parrot at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali Beach, chirping at the throng of pint-sized guests gazing up at her, eyes wide and mouths agape.
Luna turned her head toward Mai and Tai, two African black-footed penguins stationed underneath her in their sandy enclosure.
“Hi Luna, hi Luna,” she said to the penguins, who liked to congregate together and waddle slowly to the edge of their pond, going one by one into the water for a swim. “Aloha Luna,” my daughter chirped back.
We had met all these friendly faces before on a private wildlife tour the day before with Julia, one of the kind staffers who takes care of all the hotel’s animals. This includes six penguins, 10 parrots and more than 40 garden birds, among them Spike, Ike and Mike — African crowned cranes — along with Ming, the black swan, and Pinky Pie, the Chilean flamingo.
The team also leads private tours, as well as hosts daily public feedings of the penguins (one of the breeds that lives in warm weather) and koi fish.
The immersive wildlife experience is popular with kids of all ages, but it’s just one of several reasons the 40-acre, AAA Four Diamond resort is a favorite for families.
The Pools and the Beach
Of course, the pool scene is an important consideration when choosing a Maui hotel, and Hyatt delivers with a half-acre watering hole made up of six pools, several waterslides, an underground grotto (the site of a lively swim-up bar), multiple waterfalls and an expansive kids’ area that features a splash pad, a small sandy beach, a kids’ waterslide and large figurines (sea turtles spraying water out of their mouths and a large dolphin) for children to sit on and interact with.
Here, I watched my daughter socialize in the sandpit over the construction of a sandcastle, before her imagination went wild “feeding” fistfuls of sand to oversize sea turtles. Usually, she’s not that interested in kiddy pools, but here, she begged to go back to see her turtle and dolphin friends.
It’s clear that guests here spend more time at the pool than in the ocean. But it’s also worth noting that the beach in front of the resort is narrow, so guests looking for a vibrant beach scene might be walking to another stretch of Kaanapali. To make the most of the ocean, reserve one of the daybeds that look out to the water and are steps from the sand (and the pool).
Most of the 810 rooms have been recently renovated and feature a fresh, contemporary look marked by dark hardwood furniture, light blue and tan upholstery, geometric shapes and woven and wooden accents. Our Oceanfront Suite — one of 31 suites — was not the biggest one-bedroom suite we stayed in on Maui, but it had serious perks: We had not one, but two lanais that offered Pacific Ocean views. The lanai from the primary bedroom nearly jutted over the ocean as though we were on a cruise ship, offering superior views of the sunset and a dreamy soundtrack of the ocean’s waves.
The living room featured a pull-out sofa, two small coffee tables, a side table, a bar area and a television. Pulling out the sofa and squeezing in a provided Pack and Play is possible, but cozy. More popular with families with slightly older children is the Connection Rooms option, which offers one king bedroom plus one bedroom with two queen beds for a total of 902 square feet.
Drums of the Pacific Luau
A luau can be a tough event to pull off with a young toddler — they’re long, they’re late and the content can be hit or miss for a fleeting attention span. So, I was quite surprised when my daughter peacefully chowed down on her keiki (kids’) meal — brought quickly upon sitting down — only pausing to tap on the table in sync with the music. Drums of the Pacific Luau featured everything from a traditional imu ceremony to a mix of dancing, singing, storytelling and, of course, a finale of Samoan fire knife dancing.
We never needed to offer our toddler screen time (a desperate last resort) and barely had to walk around mid-meal. In fact, this was our most peaceful dinner during our entire nine-night Maui visit thanks to the quality of the production. It was also a bonus that families can have their own tables and that the meal is not buffet-style. And the intimate size guaranteed that everyone had a great view from their seat.
The Food: Japengo, Swan Court, Ulalu, Honolulu Coffee and Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice
When asking a Maui local for her favorite place to eat on the west side of the island, she replied without hesitation, “Japengo,” not knowing that I was staying at Hyatt Regency and had reservations for the next night.
And I could easily see why this Pacific Rim and sushi restaurant ranks so highly on Maui and has earned numerous awards, including Best Sushi (Silver) and Best Pacific Rim Cuisine (Gold) by Aipono Maui Restaurant Awards.
My husband and I had trouble narrowing down our choices in the vast menu, which ranged from outstanding sushi rolls to seafood yaki udon. Despite how stuffed we all were, I could not resist digging into the Kaanapali Pie, a mixture of macadamia nut ice cream, brownie crust, banana, whipped cream and caramel and chocolate sauce that our lovely server declared, accurately, was “especially for mama.” A recently refreshed cocktail menu is also hard to resist, and pairs perfectly with the sunset views surrounding the open-air restaurant.
In addition to Japengo, we tried out Swan Court for a buffet breakfast that also includes a menu with made-to-order ube pancakes. The open-air setting at the foot of the resort’s swan lake — complete with cascading waterfalls — adds to the ambiance and certainly bought us some time with our toddler. (At dinnertime, Swan Court turns into Son’z Steakhouse, offering steak and seafood.) We stopped by Honolulu Coffee every morning for excellent lattes, and the cafe offers some grab-and-go items ideal for busy mornings or afternoons.
Umalu services the pool area, and made for easy comfort-food lunches of flatbreads, sandwiches, tacos and burgers. Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice — voted one of the best shave ice shops on Maui — is also located near the pool for a tropical midday treat.
Hyatt Regency Maui Is Not All-Inclusive, Unless You Have Club Lounge Access
While it was hard to pass on meals at the resort’s restaurants, having lounge access — which can be added and is also sold as a packaged room type — made our stay with a toddler easier. Busy mornings were a breeze with breakfast service, featuring one egg dish, fresh fruits (such as blueberries, pineapple and strawberries), one hot dish (such as cheese blintzes), sausage, bacon, pastries (such as croissants and guava Danishes) and bread toasted to order, as well as self-serve espresso drinks, coffee, multiple milks, yogurt and more.
In the afternoon, there are cookies and fruit, and come dinner, there is another serviced buffet offering several hot dishes.
We loved stopping by on the way to our room to pick up pre-nap-time snacks such as milk and apples (which the staff so kindly cut for us) and cookies for mom and dad. It was just one of many ways that Hyatt Regency Maui treats both toddlers and parents.