The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, one of many resorts on the 3-mile-long Ka’anapali Beach, is so authentically Hawaiian that families return over and again, as if to visit ohana (family). Over several visits to Maui, we have tried hotels ranging from small B&Bs to elegant five-star luxury resorts, and my favorite place to stay is the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel (KBH). Beyond the rooms, meals and activities, true “aloha spirit” permeates this place. It may sound corny, but the entire staff adopts your family with great warmth, and the hotel’s mission to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture gives you an experience beyond the usual resort amenities.
Brush Up on Being Hawai’ian
In fact, KBH has earned the title of “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel” from the Waiaha Foundation, and has been honored by the Hawaiian Tourism Authority for revering its past by educating future generations.
The entire staff, starting with the General Manager, takes their stewardship of Hawaiian culture very seriously, attending classes in Hawaiian language and lore in the Ke Kula O Ka Po’okela (School of Excellence) where they also learn about the Hawaiian values of hospitality, love, helpfulness, harmony, respect and honesty. All are encouraged to share this knowledge with guests, one reason that National Geographic Traveler magazine named KBH as one of the 150 most authentic and sustainable resorts in North America, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. More recently, the hotel won awards from Conde Nast Traveler and Hawaii magazine readers.
Taking Hula Way Beyond the Hula Hoop!
New guests are invited to a free Ohana (Family) Welcome Breakfast where they are serenaded with Hawai’ian songs by singing staff members, and given an orientation to the hotel and its programs. This is not the only time you will hear music -– gather in the lobby on Fridays to hear the housekeepers singing in their native language, and enjoy the free torch-lighting ceremony with music and hula dancing offered nightly in the courtyard.
Also, on Friday evenings, KBH invites students from various halau (hula schools) to perform what they have learned. This culminates in the annual Hula O Na Keiki, a children’s solo hula competition. Sponsored and held each November (Nov. 10-11, 2017) at KBH since 1990, the contestants perform both traditional and modern hula as well as chanting. This inspiring weekend event hosts halau from all over the world, enhanced by ongoing cultural activities, arts and crafts and entertainment, is open to the public.
Other Hawai’ian competitions include the Steel Guitar Festival in June and the Maui Jim Ocean Shootout — expect 150 competitors in a variety of watersports — in June.
Family Activities at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
Families can be seen together on and around the property, and the beach. Beyond the beach is a pool (site of free snorkeling lessons), huge lawn area for relaxing and romping, a recently renovated spa/salon and two restaurants.
Children of all ages are encouraged to participate with parents and grandparents in many activities focused on local culture, such as lau printing, lei making, and pineapple cutting — all free of charge. When its hula lesson time at KBH, all guests head over together to the lawn, where they learn to sway and float their arms to the strains of the ukulele. Other free group activities include ukelele and Olelo Hawaii language lessons, nightly entertainment, hularobics and garden tours on 11 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds.
The hotel’s complimentary children’s amenities program Aloha Passport for Kids is a family program. Ages 3-5 and 6-12 each have their own versions of the passport, with stations where they can receive stamps. Babies 2 and younger receive a passport card and toy-filled beach bucket. There is no supervised children’s camp, yet your youngest ones can be left in the care of private babysitting (for a fee), assuring you time with older children, or a night out at any of the area’s many seafood eateries.
Watersports and Local Excursions
The new Hale Huaka i (Ocean Activities Center) will set you up with building sandcastles, boogie boarding, standup paddleboarding, surfing lessons (a couple of minutes’ walk down the beach), whale watching (December to April), jet-skiing and parasailing (June through December) and all kinds of activities. What’s most fun is the uniquely Hawai’ian aspect of the service, such as telling stories of wayfaring and celestial navigation.
There’s superlative snorkeling at Black Rock among big seat turtles and schools of fish, just steps from the hotel. A free shuttle serves the Ka’anapali resort’s two championship golf courses. For the tiniest travelers, the nearby town of Lahaina is home to “Baby Beach,” a perfect spot for little ones to splash in, where the water is warm and shallow.
Family Oriented Accommodations, Great Views and Beachfront
Accommodations encourage togetherness, too. KBH has 432 rooms in four wings with views consisting of garden, pool or ocean. The independently owned hotel is decorated with traditional Hawai’ian style, homemade local quilts and wood carvings, something you may not see at chain-hotels. The standard rooms are large enough for a family of four, and larger families can connect easily with adjoining rooms. All rooms are equipped with a balcony or lanai, hair dryer, mini-fridge, tea/coffee maker and free WiFi. Among the many family-friendly features at the hotel: children under 18 stay free in parents’ room and there’s a a coin-operated laundry on property.
Easy, On site Dining Options
In addition to the complimentary activities, KBH has two family-welcoming restaurants — the open-air Tiki Terrace presided over by chef Tom Muromoto who prepares Hawaiian specialties, and the poolside Tiki Grill for lunch and pupus. There’s also a quick grab n’go market off the lobby. KBH keeps families in mind; kids 5 and younger eat free with paying adults at both spots.
KBH’s Sunday Champagne Brunch is legendary for hotel guests and natives, having been named by Maui News as the “Best Brunch on Maui.” The buffet is huge, ranging from omelets to fresh seafood, to Hawaiian specialties and fabulous desserts. This, too, is accompanied by hula performances.
And before we say Aloha to Ka’anapali…
The true value of a vacation here is to experience some of “real” Hawaii and meet its people — a pricelss gift at reasonable rates. For example, their 2017 Spring Break package includes a room with upgrade, compact car rental, beach chaises, umbrellas, and two mesh hats from the ocean activities center, for $279 plus tax first night and $253 plus tax for subsequent nights.
When you check out at the end of your visit, you will participate in a farewell ceremony where you will be presented with a kukui nut lei, making you an official member of the KBH family. The kukui is the Hawaii State tree and it represents ohana. On each subsequent visit, you are given a new nut to add to your lei. Along with singing goodbye in the native language, you are sent off with the greeting “a hui hou” – until we meet again.
The Ka’alapani Beach Hotel is located at 2525 Kaanapali Parkway, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 96761.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.