Maui's fabulous Ka'anapali Beach and the lovely Westin Hotel - a great combo
As such a big fan of Hawaii in general and Maui in particular, I'm often asked where the best place is to stay. But, like many things in life, that answer depends on what you're looking for.
I tend to like smaller, quieter places, and more on one of those later this week. But sometimes it's fun to gussy things up a little and check out something with a little more splash. So I opted this trip to spend two nights at the Westin Hotel/Resort on fabulous Ka'anapali Beach in West Maui.
It's easily one of the top beaches in Hawaii; a long stretch that goes on for miles. There's great snorkelling at the north end of south Ka'anapali Beach, just in front of Black Rock and the Sheraton. I waded in with my mask and snorkel the other day and there was a sea turtle bouncing in the water not 20 feet off shore.
You can bodysurf or just swim, or take a sail boat ride or go out to watch the humpback whales who call these waters home in winter. And there's a great walking path that fronts many of the hotels, which makes it a fine place to parade about and people-watch, so much so that some folks call this area "Dig Me" Beach.
There's also great shopping at an outdoor centre called Whalers Village, which has not only fun and fancy stores but also a whaling museum and lovely fountains and terrific restaurants. The Hula Grill does outstanding fish dishes and wonderful crab and lobster won tons, and there's almost always live music right on the edge of the beach. Next door is Leilani's, where it's almost always packed at lunch on the patio. I happened to look up and notice there were few folks on the second deck, so I slide into a table up above and had an even better view of the beach and the passersby and the off-shore islands of Moloka'i and Lana'i.
Even better were the fish tacos. Instead of getting some lumpy, plain pieces of fish, they serve up an entire filet of cajun-rubbed fish in a soft shell taco with lettuce and the whole works. It was absolutely tremendous and a new "great find" for me. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
The Westin is an outstanding property that should appeal to folks of every age; especially families. You're greeted as you walk into the lobby by a giant pool with a huge waterfall and a small flock of pink flamingoes in a pond stocked with koi. The lobby is pretty fancy but they do it up with Hawaiian designs and have locals selling necklaces and local, fresh pineapple and such, as well.
There are a couple of wings to the hotel, and the middle is taken up with an enormous complex of pools with water slides (tons of fun, I can say from personal experience). There's also a wedding gazebo (I opted not to try that), plus a great spa, a kids' camp and tons of activities; everything from lei-making to rooftop astronomy.
There’s also a great luau. I gotta admit I was a little unsure about the whole luau thing. But they served a terrific spread, including marinated ahi (like ceviche), salad, terrific grilled fish, shredded kalua pork and macadamia nut tarts and other goodies for dessert. And the shows were terrific: hula dancing by men and women, plus dances/cultural demonstrations from Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. And I think Tonga.
They had guys twirling batons of fire and tossing them 30 yards in the air in a perfect arc that Tim Tebow couldn't begin to match, plus lovely dancers in everything from grass skirts to long, purple dresses to silky, shimmering gowns (not sure what that was all about but they looked good).
If there’s one drawback to a big hotel in my mind it’s breakfast. I paid out $10 for cereal, milk and a cup of coffee one morning, and ham and eggs cost a pretty $18. So the second day I scooted up the road two minutes to CJ’s Deli and Diner, which will give you two large pancakes, two eggs and three pieces of sausage and a cup of coffee for $8.95. They also serve something called the Big Kahuna – two enormous pancakes topped with diced pineapple, bananas, walnuts and whipped cream for same price. Want more? There’s free wi-fi and at lunch and dinner you can bring your own beer or wine and there’s no charge to open it. Makes you weep to live in Toronto, don’t it?
One way to get the Westin experience and save on food is to get a room at the nearby Westin Villas, where all rooms have a kitchen, not to mention a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom and washers/dryers. They’re terrific units, both studio and one-bedroom. Folks with larger families can rent a studio and a one-bedroom unit and have them connect up for a large suite.
The pools are wonderful (six of them), including a small pirate ship in one of the kids’ pools. And there’s a heavenly spa and a fitness centre, plus all sorts of activities, including paddleboard lessons. There are 1,021 units but it's spread over 26 acres so there's lots of room to spread out, and units are available as vacation ownership or as a hotel stay.
It's a few minutes by car from the major shopping area but you can get a shuttle until late at night to Whalers Village and to the great town of Lahaina. And they have a fine market on site and plenty of restaurants.
I didn't bed down for the night but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the place based on a site inspection. They have barbeque grills if you want to cook something up yourself. And if you want to spend your time on the beach and not at the Safeway, they'll stock your fridge for your arrival for the cost of the groceries plus a small, $5 fee.
Hard to beat that.