12 Mar When You Dine at Kaanapali Resort, Maui, Food Comes With Drama, Dazzle, 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 is interesting to notice that the idea of gathering, of getting together, comes first. Even though the food may be delicious, the true purpose of ‘aha’aina is communion—time together well spent. Dining at Ka’anapali is always about the getting-together, whether that means a village-sized lu’au or a secluded dinner for two.
KAANAPALI, MAUI, HAWAI’I – Expect swans. No matter where you dine at Ka’anapali 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 it will be something just as dramatic.
Even if you’re just eating a burger by the beach at Whalers Village, you are sitting at the center of an amazing show. The temperature is perfect, the breeze is ruffling the coconut leaves, the clean sand and intensely blue sea are right at hand, the island of Lana’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 Ka’anapali and avoid all the razzle-dazzle of its restaurants. Just stay in 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.
In fact, many Kaanapali 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 Ka’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 Ka’anapali experience.
But Kaanapali, 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 Ka’anapali can totally resist the spectacle of its abundant restaurant scene.
We’ve already mentioned the romantic Swan Court, with its 30-foot ceiling and its torchlit lagoon. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa also serves sushi, seafood, and steak at Cascades Grill & Sushi Bar, a terrace overlooking a half-acre aquatic playground. Nearby and close to the penguin exhibit is the Weeping Banyan—in the morning a café and then, with ceremonial torch-lighting and the strumming of island music, in the evening a lounge.
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. Dinner service in the radiance of a Ka’anapali sunset can be had at Nalu Sunset Bar (Hawaiian-style sushi inventions) or at Va Bene Northern Italian Beachside Grill (antipasti, hand-pulled pizza, and a range of great tastes from gnocchi to Kona lobster and filet mignon).
The flagship restaurant of The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is called “tropica” (lower case “t”), and its setting is pure theater—right on the ocean, the tumbling of waterfalls mixing with the sound of the surf and with the sweet harmonies of live Hawaiian music, the whole area lit by torchlight. A strolling magician goes from table to table. The menu is innovative, with emphasis on fresh island fish and local greens. Not far away, the more casual OnO’s Surf Bar & Grill has a bistro atmosphere, Hawaiian-style tapas, and three plasma televisions for sports fans.
Kaanapali Beach Hotel, with its well-earned reputation as Maui’s “most Hawaiian hotel,” is a modest property with lots of heart. Its restaurants reflect this hotel’s commitment to Hawaiian culture and the mixed ethnicities of its employees. The Tiki Terrace Restaurant 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 main item is a laulau—a pouch of food wrapped in a ti leaf and then steamed. This cuisine is low salt, low fat, and delicious.
Kaanapali Beach Hotel also has its all-you-can-eat buffet lunchroom called Ka’anapali Mixed Plate Restaurant. Maui residents have repeatedly voted this the “Best Hawaiian Food.” The room is decorated with collages of artifacts representing the many ethnic groups that have settled on Maui; these collages were designed and collected by hotel employees themselves.
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. Sheraton Maui Resort also provides the romantic experience of Dinner Under The Stars—you pick your own spot on the property’s 23 acres and dine in privacy, attended by your own butler. The other eating locales at this property are all quite dramatic. Flavors of Hawai’i, a celebration of local products, takes place on the deck of the Koi Pond. A freshwater swimming lagoon encircles the Lagoon Bar. This, the Sundowner Bar, and the Reef’s Edge Lounge all take advantage of Sheraton Maui’s proximity to Pu’u Keka’a, the dramatic seacliff also known as Black Rock. In fact, the Lagoon Bar is an excellent perch for the nightly cliff-diving ceremony that is such a signature of the entire Ka’anapali experience.
Royal Lahaina Resort occupies the north end of Kaanapali Beach, where the sand is deep and the beach feels more exclusive. This property has three full-service dining establishments: Royal Ocean Terrace Restaurant, featuring contemporary Hawaiian and American cuisine; Beachcombers Restaurant, exploring Pacific Rim flavors of Hawai’i, Thailand, Japan, and China; and Basil Tomatoes Italian Grill, specializing in fine Italian cuisine in a casual setting by the golf course. Royal Lahaina Resort also has a poolside grill called Made-In-The-Shade and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor called the Royal Scoop.
These six resort hotels, the leading properties of Kaanapali, 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 Kaanapali’s center of action, includes a number of options for eating (even some fast food places). Here, three seaside restaurants are prominent of Ka’anapali fixtures, 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. Leilani’s On The Beach does that same sort of thing—downstairs is the casual Beachside Grill serving burgers and sandwiches; upstairs the main dining room features kiawe-wood grilled steaks, smoked ribs, seafood, and chicken. Close by, the Rusty Harpoon is a mega-sports-bar powered by the largest satellite antenna on West Maui. Service in this lively place continues from 8 a.m. to midnight every day.
Kaanapali Resort includes five luxury condominium or villa properties. These lend themselves to stay-at-home dining, but two are connected to notable restaurants. One of these, Maui Kaanapali Villas, includes Castaways Café, whose claim to fame is Maui’s largest wine cellar selection. In fact, Wine Spectator Magazine gave this restaurant its Award of Excellence five years running. The menu is quite varied, including salads, burgers, steak, and fish.
The other, Outrigger Maui Eldorado, is set along the golf course and somewhat back from the beach. This property takes advantage of its proximity to one of the newest restaurants at the resort, CJ’s. A friendly deli/diner that emphasizes lavish sandwiches and salads as well as box lunches perfect for day trips from the resort, CJ’s is now providing room service to Outrigger Maui Eldorado guests.
No matter how theatrical any of the above restaurants may be, nothing can substitute for the adventure and authenticity of a traditional lu’au. Ka’anapali Resort includes three lu’au grounds—at Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, at Maui Marriott Resort and Ocean Club, and at Royal Lahaina Resort. All three are spectacular shows and true to the time-honored traditions. From the initial lei greeting to the last reverberating drumbeat of the climactic fire-knife dance, a full-on lu’au under the Ka’anapali night sky embodies the meaning of words like “spectacle” and “sensation.” When it comes to dinner theater, the Polynesians set the bar. And Ka’anapali Resort keeps rising to the challenge in a myriad of ways.
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.
Ka’anapali Ali’i, 50 Nohea Kai Drive, Lahaina HI 96761. (808) 667-1400; reservations (800) 642-6284. www.classicresorts.com.
Maui Ka’anapali 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 Ka’anapali 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 Ka’anapali 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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