11 Mar Kaanapali, Maui, Just Might Be The World’s Greatest Water Park
Water, the primal element, surrounds and flows through every aspect of life in Hawai’i. Wai, freshwater, pours from the mountains. Kai, seawater, envelops the coasts. Kaanapali is one of those dynamic Hawaiian places where wai meets kai.
KAANAPALI, MAUI, HAWAI’I – Like the old story of the seven blind men trying to describe an elephant by grabbing one part or another-the trunk, the tail, the ear…-people who talk about Kaanapali Resort, Maui, tend to see it in one particular way or another. For some, it’s primarily 36 holes of championship golf. For others, it’s cuisine heaven, or a shopping bonanza, or a health and fitness retreat center. Some use the resort as a way to connect with Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit.
But as Kaanapali’s leading resort properties continue to apply their creativity to the expansion of spas and pools, something else is becoming increasingly clear: this is the kingdom of the wet and the blue. You can see it from the air, and you can get it if you just blur your attention to the luxurious towers and happy foliage. Kaanapali is becoming an enormous water park. Water-its cleanliness and refreshment and restorative essence and sanity-is reason enough to visit Maui’s original and perennially popular planned resort community.
Kaanapali’s location makes this role as an aquatic playground both inevitable and somewhat surprising. Situated along three miles of sandy coastline, the resort and its properties make reference to the proximity of the sea everywhere you look. And what a stretch of sea it is! Kaanapali faces what the old whaling crews used to call “Lahaina Roadstead,” a sea channel protected by smaller islands in the offing. The water is always a refreshing and easy temperature, the low 70s, day and night.
Inland, as backdrop to the resort, the steep, ravine-sliced slopes of Kahalawai, also known as the West Maui Mountains, rise into a thick cap of clouds. These peaks are some of the best rain-catchers on Earth, the second wettest spot in the islands. The Hawaiians distinguish between “kai,” meaning salt water, and “wai,” fresh water. At Kaanapali you always have a panoramic view of the interaction between these two natural liquid forces.
What’s surprising-and of course quite pleasant for human beings-is that the Kaanapali area receives very little direct rainfall. It’s sunny nearly every day in the year. This is because the resort sits on the leeward side on the mountains; rain dumps on the other side. What Kaanapali gets, and in heaps, are balmy breezes that keep temperatures just where you want them, between the upper 70s and the upper 80s day and night.
A dawn swim in that clean salt water is just about the most therapeutic thing you can do in all of natural creation. People say that the seawater in the Hawaiian islands is the cleanest on the planet. For good reason. Hawai’i is as far away from any other land as you can possibly be. Certainly the temperature is refreshing, and the color of the sea is a shining, deep porcelain blue that gladdens the heart.
Bonus points: sometimes when you’re swimming, you’ll look down to see a sea turtle gliding along with you. Or you’ll look over and notice a group of dolphins dipping and sliding past. During the winter months when you plunge your head into the water you can hear humpback whales singing in the distance.
Of course, there are many ways to play in this delightful stretch of “kai”-snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, float, boogie board, and sail, to name a few. Or catch the Atlantis Submarine in nearby Lahaina town and cruise the undersea realm from a dry perch.
As to the “wai,” the freshwater options, Kaanapali has done an amazing job of creating a man-made equivalent to natural pools, streams, and waterfalls. The leading properties have invested in the creation of “superpools” where the fun never stops.
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, for example, has a sinuous, free-form pool that covers half an acre. Waterfalls feed it and a footbridge traverses it. A 150-foot lava tube waterslide lets people fly into it like penguins.
Next door, the recently remodeled Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club takes this same approach and does amazingly more. Its “superpool” covers three and a half acres. The complex aquatic design, full of bays, coves, and grottos to explore, includes a variety of waterslides, waterfalls, and special area called Shipwreck Deck designed especially for kids.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, close by, recently invested in its own variation on this watery theme-park idea. Its 87,000-square-foot playground consists of five pools, a swim-through grotto with twin waterfalls, a hidden Jacuzzi, and two waterslides, one of which features a 128-foot ride with 270-degree turns and a 23-foot drop.
Sheraton Maui Resort created a 140-yard-long sinuous “freshwater lagoon” with lots of areas to investigate, including two poolside bars.
In addition to these you’ll find at least a dozen swimming pools of more conventional design, and at least that many Jacuzzis. Seen from the air, Kaanapali is a celebration of blue. The darker hue of the sea meets the land and shifts to the intricately shaped turquoise of the resort’s freshwater options.
You can spend the day-and people do-moving back and forth between the kai and the wai, get in the sea, get in the pool. But there’s another watery choice at Ka’anapali. Go to the spa.
Spa Moana, a recently expanded, 15,000-square-foot pampering and fitness facility right on Kaanapali Beach, is the admirable creation of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. The Westin Maui Resort & Spa recently unveiled its own variation on this theme: a $5 million facility of 14,000 square feet and 16 treatment rooms. In these facilities, wetness becomes a therapeutic physical art form involving saunas, steam, and plunges of various extremes of temperature. Of course, body treatments, facials, and various styles of massage accompany the fine aesthetic of spa wetness.
After a day spent like this, and a fine meal, what could you possibly add to such aquatherapy? Perhaps take a long, easy walk along the beach in the Maui moonlight, the comfortable moist breezes tossing in your hair. Or get into your hotel room and fill that big marble tub with a bubble bath. Then dream of mermaids till sunrise calls you back to the sea.
During the 1790s British captain George Vancouver visited this part of Maui and called it “the Venice of the Pacific.” The coastal areas were running with water that was channeled into canals and irrigation ditches and flowing taro fields. The ali’i, the chiefs, would come here for play and refreshment. Historically speaking, Kaanapali is keeping alive the tradition of luxuriant water in this low and sunny coastal region of West Maui.
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, 200 Nohea Kai Drive, Lahaina HI 96761-1985. (808) 661-1234; fax (808) 667-4497; reservations U.S. & Canada (800) 55HYATT; packages (800) 772-0011. www.maui.hyatt.com.
Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, 2525 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina HI 96761-1912. (808) 661-0011; fax (808) 667-5978; toll-free (800) 262-8450. www.kbhmaui.com.
Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club, 100 Nohea Kai Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-1200; fax (808) 667-8300; toll-free U.S. & Canada (800) 228-9290. www.marriott.com.
Royal Lahaina Resort, 2780 Keka’a Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 661-3611; fax (808) 661-3538; reservations (800) 22ALOHA. www.2maui.com.
Sheraton Maui Resort, 2605 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina HI 96761-1991. (808) 661-0031; fax (808) 661-0458; reservations (800) 782-9488. www.starwoodhotels.com.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, 2365 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-2525; fax (808) 921-4699; reservations (808) 921-4655. www.westinmaui.com.
Kaanapali Alii, 50 Nohea Kai Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-1400; reservations (800) 642-6284. www.classicresorts.com.
Maui Kaanapali Villas, 45 Kai Ala Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-7791; fax (808) 667-0366; 24-hour toll-free reservations U.S. & Canada (800) 92-ASTON [(800) 922-7866]; 24-hour worldwide direct reservations (403) 444-4136.
Outrigger Maui Eldorado, 2661 Keka’a Drive, Lahaina HI 96761-1993. (808) 661-0021; fax (808) 667-7039; toll-free US, Canada & Guam (888) 339-8585. www.outrigger.com.
The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, 6 Kai Ala Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-3200; fax (808) 667-3201; toll-free (888) 488-3535. www.starwood.com/hawaii.
The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach, 2481 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 661-4861; fax (808) 661-8315; 24-hour toll-free reservations U.S. & Canada (800) 92ASTON [(808) 922-7866]; 24-hour toll-free reservations (403) 444-4136.
Kaanapali Golf Courses, 2290 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, HI 96761. (808) 661-3691; fax (808) 661-0203; toll-free (866) 454-GOLF. www.kaanapali-golf.com.
Lahaina-Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad, 975 Limahana Place Suite 203, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-6851; fax (808) 661-8389; toll-free (800) 499-2307. www.sugarcanetrain.com.
Whalers Village Fine Shops & Restaurants on Kaanapali Beach, 2435 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 661-4567. www.whalersvillage.com.
Kaanapali Beach Resort Association
34 Kupuohi Street Suite 304A
Lahaina, Hawai’i 96761
Digital images available upon request.
Images & text © 2005. Kaanapali Beach Resort Association.
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