02 Jul Dining at Kā‘anapali Resort Dazzles with Maui-Grown Flair and Fun
The Hawaiian word ‘aha’aina (a-ha-eye-na), meaning feast, combines two smaller words—’aha, a gathering or meeting, and ‘aina, the meal. It’s the idea of gathering, of getting together that comes first. Though the food may be delicious, the true purpose of ‘aha’aina is communion—time together well spent. Dining at Kā‘anapali is always about the getting-together, whether that means a village-sized lu’au or a secluded dinner for two.
Expect swans. No matter where you dine at Kā‘anapali Beach Resort, Maui’s essential destination community, you can expect theater and even spectacle as a matter of course. It will be swans—specifically, at Swan Court (Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa) where the birds glide past your table in the burbling of a languid waterfall—or something else just as dramatic.
Even if you’re just eating a burger by the beach at Whalers Village, you’re sitting at the center of an amazing show. The temperature is perfect, the breeze is ruffling the coconut fronds, the clean sand and intensely blue sea are right at hand, the island of Lāna‘i casts its long dome on the horizon, and boats of every description ply the channel. You might catch the spouting of whales. The coast is lined with superb examples of luxury hotel architecture and swimming pools that rival any water park. Inland, the sun is shining on steep mountain slopes sliced by deep ravines and topped with a crown of clouds. This is Maui, for gosh sake.
It’s like being in the press box for the seventh day of creation.
If you wanted, you could stay at Kā‘anapali and avoid all the razzle-dazzle of its restaurants. Just choose one of the resort’s five condominium or villa properties. That’s like renting a luxury seaside home with a kitchen and all the utensils at hand. There you can cook for yourself, just like back in Omaha.
Ka’anapali Ali’i Grill Master- Image via La Jolla Mom
In fact, many Kā‘anapali visitors opt for the autonomy and informality of a condominium over the service and ease of hotel living. For a lot of people, the barbecue grill is synonymous with relaxation—socializing, cooking, being outdoors. Translate that experience to West Maui, for example at the Kā‘anapali Ali’i, where the grills are restaurant quality and located right on the beach. To be out there in the light of a dazzling sunset, the breezy air a perfect temperature, the waves splashing on the sand, perhaps a humpback whale breeching in the distance—that’s heaven for any barbecue jockey. Cooking for oneself with good Maui ingredients, perhaps an excellent piece of fresh island fish and mountain-grown greens, in a spacious, fully equipped kitchen of one’s own can make dining “at home” a happy part of the Kā‘anapali experience.
But Kā‘anapali, like all of Maui, is a gold mine for food fanatics. It is a capital of the widely renowned culinary tradition known as Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, a style that has evolved out of the Islands’ unique resources—the coming together of Polynesian and Asian flavors, the particular ingredients of Hawai‘i, and the popularity of celebrity chefs whose innovations keep surprising the taste buds of residents and visitors alike. No one who comes to Kā‘anapali can totally resist the spectacle of its abundant restaurant scene.
New to that scene is Sangrita Grill & Cantina, a hip little Mexican restaurant and tequila bar at the Kā‘anapali Fairway Shops. Chef Nabavi uses organic produce as much as possible, about 75 percent of it from Maui! Vegetarians and gluten-free folks love all the healthy options, like the Spinach-Poblano Enchiladas, and the rest of us love the Sangrita margaritas with their 2-ounce pours of fine tequila! Another easy option is the Market at Sangrita, where you can grab a quick snack or meal on the run—dinner for the family, hassle-free.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa also serves up a new dining option: it’s called Relish and it features American favorites with a modern twist, such as all-natural Kobe beef burgers served bun-less, and island favorites such as Huli Huli grilled chicken breast and Maui Gold pineapple salsa. Also at the Westin, enjoy breakfast at the Colonnade Café, while watching flamingos and yes, swans, in the wildlife pool. Not far away, the relaxing Beach Bar offers the award-winning No Ka ‘Oi Mai Tai with an unbeatable ocean view.
We’ve already mentioned the romantic Swan Court, with its 30-foot ceiling and divine breakfast buffet, at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. But did we mention the Hyatt’s newest hot spot? Since its opening in 2011, Japengo has become the place for sushi, drawing a hungry crowd with its creative take on Hawai‘i-grown products coupled with exotic ingredients from the Pacific Rim. And if you get really inspired by the creative sushi, come roll your own! Lessons are offered twice a month in the Sushi Lounge. The newly renovated Son’z Steakhouse has earned plenty of kudos for its stellar steaks and well-stocked wine cellar—and for the view overlooking waterfalls, lush gardens and those ever-present swans. Head poolside, and you’ll find ‘Ūmalu, showcasing modern Hawaiian cuisine and creative cocktails.
The Pool Bar at Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club provides quick food service at this property’s phenomenal “superpool”—3.5 acres of slides, waterfalls, grottos, and free-form pools. Order a sandwich or salad at Beachwalk Market & Pantry, and you can eat it right there with beachfront views, or take it to go. If you’re planning to stay a while, $40 will buy you a resort mug and unlimited free refills of coffee, tea or soft drinks.
Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, with its well-earned reputation as Maui’s “most Hawaiian hotel,” is a modest property with lots of heart. Its restaurant reflects this hotel’s commitment to Hawaiian culture and the mixed ethnicities of its employees. The Tiki Terrace bases its menu on the known health benefits of the original, pre-contact Hawaiian diet. The Native Hawaiian Combination, for example, features pohole fern salad, sweet Maui onions, Hawaiian purple sweet potato, and that staple of traditional island culture, taro. The Tiki Terrace is also home to the island’s “Best Sunday Brunch,” as voted by readers of The Maui News. Take your picture alongside the largest tiki on Maui at the Tiki Bar & Grill, located poolside, famous for its Mai Tai, Pupule and Tiki Tini cocktails. Next door, the grill serves appetizers, salads, pizza and sandwiches.
In the evening this same hotel says “abracadabra” and puts on a dinner show called Kupanaha: Maui Magic for All Ages. This one-of-a-kind performance combines mind-boggling illusions and sleight-of-hand tricks with legends of Hawaiian demigods expressed in hula and chant. The meal is a lavish three-course affair with a special menu for the kids (including Harry Potter Smoothies).
Teppan-Yaki Dan, the leading restaurant at Sheraton Maui Resort, features the knife-wielding precision of masterful Japanese chefs performing tableside preparations. The other eating locales at this property are all quite dramatic. The Cliff Dive Grill is where you want to be at sunset, when a lone figure carries a torch up Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock) and lights the torches—then leaps into the sea. Come early for the hula lessons, and stay late for the live music. With sweeping coastal views and island-influenced menus, Black Rock Terrace is just the thing for a more casual bite to eat, while Black Rock Steak & Seafood offers amazing contemporary dining. Follow the garden paths to the Mai Tai Bar, or plug in with the family back home at the Link@Sheraton Lounge, offering free Internet and computer usage.
Royal Lahaina Resort occupies the north end of Kā‘anapali Beach, where the sand is deep and the beach feels more exclusive. Watch the area’s most popular visitors, the humpback whales, who often play just offshore from November through April. You’ve got a great view of them from the Royal Ocean Terrace Restaurant & Lounge, featuring Hawaiian regional specialties. Popular with the keiki (children) is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor called the Royal Scoop. Now’s the time to try that macadamia nut ice cream, plus a variety of other Maui-made ice cream, along with frozen yogurt, muffins and pastries, specialty coffees, and deli sandwiches. And whether you choose to lounge poolside or beachside, the Beach Bar will deliver the mai-tai straight to you.
These six resort hotels, the leading properties of Kā‘anapali, all vie to put spectacle and drama into the fun of dining out. But they are not alone in the friendly competition.
Whalers Village, the shopping center that anchors Kā‘anapali’s center of action, includes a number of options for eating (even some fast food places). The new kid on the block is Maui Fish & Pasta, from one of Hawai‘i’s star chefs, D.K. Kodama. Specializing in contemporary “comfort” food, this plantation-style restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner with a side order of panoramic views and a big helping of family-friendly vibes. It’s well on its way to becoming another Whalers Village fixture—but the “new kid” still has a ways to go before it joins the ranks of the two grande dames of Kā‘anapali Beach: Hula Grill and Leilani’s.
Upbeat and busy every serving hour of the day, Hula Grill, under the leadership of renowned chef Peter Merriman, serves seafood, island vegetables and brick-oven pizzas. This restaurant’s “Barefoot Bar” outside the main dining room caters to folks who wander in right off the beach. Just a few steps down the walkway, Leilani’s On The Beach does that same sort of thing—downstairs is the casual Beachside Grill serving burgers and sandwiches; upstairs is the main dining room featuring kiawe-wood grilled steaks, smoked ribs, seafood, and chicken.
Heading up the green slopes of the Kā‘anapali Golf Course to the 18th hole, you’ll see the new Roy’s, the latest restaurant of famed Hawai‘i chef Roy Yamaguchi. Roy has always been known for celebrating the flavors of Hawai‘i in his cuisine, and lately he and other island chefs have been publicly stepping up their efforts to support local farms and fisherman. Everybody knows, not only is supporting local ag good for the economy and for sustainability efforts, local just tastes better!
Maui chefs are teaming up to be sure the public gets the message. Growing Future Farmers is a thriving initiative aimed at supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers in Maui County. Eating food that is grown and raised here and prepared by Maui’s talented chefs is an experience in itself—the purest way to “get” Maui.
To share the sensation with visitors and residents, island chefs are jumping into programs like Localicious, Dine Out Maui. Look for the Grown on Maui logo on the menu, and know that if you order the delicious featured Grown on Maui salad, you’ve just given a dollar directly to the Hawai‘i Agricultural Foundation, which works to educate the community about the important role of ag in our economy and daily lives.
Ready to chip in your dollar and try that oh-so-local salad? Stop in to one of three Kā‘anapali restaurants: Leilani’s, Hula Grill or Pulehu. Their chefs are all currently offering a take on the Localicious menu—it might be anything, but it will certainly be delicious!
Pulehu is a brand-new restaurant at Kā‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas, one of Kā‘anapali Resort’s five luxury condominium or villa properties. The Hawaiian name means grilled or cooked over an open flame. Chef Wesley Holder and Executive Chef Francois Milliet do just that with a selection of flatbreads, meats and seafood, much of it sourced from local products (like the Duetto of Bruschetta with Surfing Goat Dairy cheese, Hamakua mushrooms, roasted tomato, basil). If you plan to dine early, you’re in luck: the tantalizing Tramonto Sunset Menu offers appetizer, entrée and dessert at a special price.
Another villa property featuring a restaurant is the Aston Maui Kā‘anapali Villas. Nestled beachside here is the Castaway Café, once a well-kept secret but now gaining acclaim for having Maui’s largest wine cellar selection. In fact, Wine Spectator Magazine gave this venue its Award of Excellence five years running. A varied menu includes salads, burgers, steak and fish. Go ahead and pick up a Castaway Café ball-cap or T-shirt while you’re there; the secret’s already out!
Outrigger Maui Eldorado is set along the golf course and somewhat back from the beach. This property takes advantage of its proximity to CJ’s Deli & Diner, a friendly spot serving up lavish sandwiches and salads as well as box lunches perfect for day trips from the resort.
No matter how theatrical any of the above restaurants may be, nothing can substitute for the adventure and authenticity of a traditional lu‘au. From the initial lei greeting to the last reverberating drumbeat of the climactic fire-knife dance, a full-on lu‘au under the star-filled night sky embodies the meaning of words like “spectacle” and “sensation.” Kā‘anapali Resort includes four lu‘au: the newly relaunched “Drums of the Pacific” Polynesian Spectacular at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, the Wailele Polynesian Lu‘au at the Westin Maui, the Maui Nui Lu‘au at the Sheraton, and the Royal Lahaina Resort Lu‘au. All four are spectacular shows and true to the time-honored traditions.
From “at home” to “out on the town,” whatever your dining mood might be, Kā‘anapali Resort has it. And if it just happens to be Maui-grown or -raised, you’ll know you’ve truly “gotten it”!