11 Mar Kaanapali, Maui’s Classic Resort Community, Is Still The Best Place In The Pacific To Play
Hawaiian culture understands that pa’ani (pa-a-nee)-meaning play, sports, and games-is a healthy part of a well-lived life. What else would you expect from the people who invented surfing? Old-style pa’ani was quite robust-boxing, footraces, and downhill sledding. But the ancient ones also prized physical agility and contests of wit. Here is a look at the pa’ani you will find today at Kaanapali, the “playground of the Pacific.”
KAANAPALI, MAUI, HAWAI’I – The remarkable achievement of Kaanapali, the first and still the best of Maui’s resort attractions, is its vibrant sense of community. Yes of course-as befits a tropical getaway where busy people come to recuperate – Kaanapali has plenty of room for privacy, solitude, somnolent sunbathing, the massage at the spa, and the empty stretch of beach. But as you walk around the resort, it’s clear at every turn that Kaanapali is not an ashram, not a retreat center, certainly not a sanatorium. No, there’s too much energy in the air, too much fun being had by people of all ages. Kaanapali is very much a village, bustling and democratic, with its happy citizens all engaged in a single purpose-to play.
It’s rare for a resort to create a true sense of community. But Kaanapali has several unusual factors working in its favor.
The location, first of all, makes this place feel like a world set apart. Kaanapali Beach, a three-mile-long strip of clean bright sand, defines the length of the resort, which is near but distinct from Lahaina and other towns on the West Maui shoreline. The geographical center of this discrete region is a dramatic sea cliff called Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock. Old Hawaiian belief states that Pu’u Keka’a was the jumping-off place for souls as they passed into the next world.
Standing on the beach, one is facing the calmest, most secure part of the Lahaina Roadstead, a sea channel defined by the protection of Lana’i and other nearby islands. This sheltered stretch of sea is world-renowned as the winter calving spot of the migratory humpback whales. It’s also favored by sea turtles and dolphins, not to mention human snorkelers, divers, kayakers, and sailors. This is a west-facing coastline. Every evening the sunset “du jour” is a transcendent ritual shared by all who inhabit the community of Ka’anapali.
Every village needs a Main Street, and that function is served in Kaanapali by the three-mile-long Beach Walk. This bustling walkway ties together eleven major resort properties-six hotels and five condominiums-each with its own distinctive look, personality, and ways to play. These properties range from high-end to mid-range, from high-rise to low-profile. Diversity is a signature of Ka’anapali. The properties do not strive to look alike, but they do practice a friendly competition to see who can offer the best experience of paradise.
From the Beach Walk perspective, this rivalry is easily measured in terms of swimming pools. Around every curve there’s another innovation in water play, another slide or grotto, a steaming Jacuzzi here, a flamingo flock beneath a waterfall there. Between pools you will find bands playing Hawaiian music, men preparing an imu (underground oven) for tonight’s lu’au, a canoe launching, or a hula lesson.
The Beach Walk also leads to less aquatic forms of play. For example, Kaanapali offers two championship golf courses and dozens of tennis courts. It also leads to several sensational spas offering a wide range of treatments for pampering and rejuvenation, including a number of health and personal care treatments that reflect the insights of traditional Hawaiian healing.
At the heart of the Beach Walk lies Whalers Village, a three-level shopping center with some seventy retail establishments, shops ranging from the Maui Toy Works to Tiffany & Co., from Crazy Shirts to Reyn’s. Whalers Village also includes a free museum focused on the history of whaling. Shoppers can pop in and learn about the era when men hunted these great mammals and made West Maui a regular port of call. And yet shopping at Kaanapali is not restricted to Whalers Village alone. Each property has its own shops, too, offering goods ranging from necessities to beach wear to heirloom jewelry. Often you will find displays by Maui’s finest artisans and craftspeople offering unique made-on-Maui gifts.
The Beach Walk also connects the Kaanapali community with dozens of opportunities to dine. Again the emphasis is on diversity, from the formal elegance of gourmet cuisine to a robust burger-and-fries at a barefoot beachside grill. Much of this dining is open-air, of course, exposed to the lively trade winds, the perfect temperatures, and the bright skies. The Beach Walk has the feeling of a communal party, with a niche for every appetite.
This diversity also means that the Kaanapali experience is affordable to a wide range of budgets. All the properties offer vacation packages with a variety of themes, including specials for family, honeymooners, and golfers. That’s why you get such a democratic feeling out on the Beach Walk. You see families and kids, honeymooners and retirees, veteran hedonists and novice vacationers. Kaanapali is inclusive.
In fact, Kaanapali is such a complete community that there is really no reason ever to leave the resort-except for the attraction of what lies outside, namely the island of Maui. Kaanapali is well situated for explorations of Maui’s many attractions, including Haleakala National Park, the Maui Ocean Center, and the scenic drive to Hana.
The historic town of Lahaina, with its harbor giving access to a whole range of sea-going adventures, lies just three miles from the resort. That means you don’t need a rental car to get to Maui’s number-one attraction. You just use one of the resort’s many shuttles or buses. Better yet, ride the “Sugar Cane Train.” The Lahaina-Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad is an authentic relic of Maui’s days, when the sugar plantations used railroad lines to haul harvested cane from the fields to the mill. Now this line is the only train on the island, and it serves to carry passengers between the resort and Lahaina town. People love the fun of choochoo-ing along the beautiful coastline with the steam whistle hooting and the conductor singing songs from the old days. There’s even a “dinner train” excursion that includes a Hawaiian-style barbecue, music, and dancing.
Ever since it set the standard for resort developments several decades ago, Kaanapali has done nothing but get better. For example, The Westin Maui is finishing its $12 million renovation, including a $5 million luxury spa and fitness center that just opened in June. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa opened its new Lakahi Chapel in May 2004, following the expansion of its Spa Moana and addition of Moana Athletic Club.
Improvements like these never stop as Kaanapali keeps itself forever young. Being such a people place, the resort expresses the big-heartedness of Maui’s aloha spirit. And not only that- Kaanapali shows the world how a luxury environment can be enjoyed by all. It’s an American original.
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.
Kaanapali 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.
Ka’anapali 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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