Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Ocean views from every condo, but room quality is unpredictable: mint condition -- or dingy and depressing
A "home away from home," or a run-down, dated vacation rental? How you describe the Aston Mahana at Kaanapali is likely to depend on your luck in rooms. The quality of the 215 individually owned condos, which are spread over two 12-story buildings right on the ocean, varies widely because the owners furnish and maintain them. All you can count on is an ocean view, a full kitchen, laundry machines in the unit, and a spacious lanai that gives you a quiet, private place to lounge. What's wrong with that? The trouble is that some units are beautifully furnished, but others are badly in need of a renovation, and guests can't predict which they'll get in advance. What's more, the pool is small, the hotel has no restaurant, and there's little else to do within walking distance.
The biggest draw is the ocean at your doorstep. While guests at similar Maui condo hotels like Aston Maui Hill and Outrigger Aina Nalu must walk across the street, or further, to get to the beach, Aston Mahana guests can cross a patch of grass in about five seconds to reach a sandy, swimmable beach. As long as you luck into a newer apartment, the hotel is a great oceanfront home base in Kaanapali. But nearby Marriott Maui Ocean Club and Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas both offer time-share rentals plus hotel and resort features at a similar price, without the gamble.
Barely present staff does little to pamper guests.
The majority of the staff here seems to be tasked with maintaining the property, not pleasing the guests: Housekeepers, groundskeepers, and maintenance men far outnumber any other employees. And the front desk staff seems only slightly concerned with helping guests. Even though the building wasn't nearly full during my stay, the front desk, while friendly, made no effort to place me in a unit that was far from the construction on the site.
The Aston Mahana at Kaanapali is just north of the Kaanapali Beach Resort area -- Hawaii's first master-planned resort, built in the 1960s on former sugarcane fields on Maui's northwest coast.
Kaanapali is centered around two golf courses and bookended by the massive Hyatt and Sheraton. Six hotels and a handful of condo rentals are squeezed cheek-to-cheek along four miles of uninterrupted beachfront; guests mingle on the sand, using the beaches (and even, at times, the pools and facilities) of neighboring properties. The mostly calm, white-sand beach incorporates Black Rock -- an eroded cinder cone sacred to ancient Hawaiians and the site of daily sunset cliff dives. Kaanapali is less crowded north of Black Rock, where the lodging is made up of small hotels and condo rentals. The lively, historic village of Lahaina is 10 minutes by car, and offers lots of shopping, dining, and Maui's best nightlife.
Calm, swimmable beach directly in front
No question, the beach in front of the hotel is great. The waters are calm enough for snorkeling and swimming, and the beach is empty compared to beaches further south in Kaanapali near the large resorts. Watersports are popular all along Kaanapali Beach, but the snorkeling near Black Rock, just south of Aston Mahana, is especially good.
Owners are free to furnish their oceanfront apartments, so anything goes.
The owners of these condos are free to decorate and outfit their units however they want. Each unit has a kitchen and washer and dryer, but just about everything else, from the quality of the mattresses and the types of appliances to the size of the TV and look of the furniture, varies. That means guests can find themselves in a pristine and elegant apartment, or this dated and worn ground-floor studio with a Murphy bed, something you don't often see in a Maui hotel. In 2011, the Aston Mahana renovated "premium suites" which came with new floors and furniture, as well as a slew of new amenities such as flat-screen TVs, floor-to-ceiling windows, DVD and CD-stero playesr, washer/dryers, and designer kitchens.
Barely more than a condo complex, the Aston Mahana has a small pool with great ocean views but is otherwise no-frills. Travelers who want apartment-like accommodations plus resort amenities should move on to the Marriott Maui Ocean Club or the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.
Two championship, designer courses; hotel guests get discounted rates.
The hotel is a 10-minute drive north of the 36-hole Kaanapali Golf Resort, which stretches across 1,200 acres of land situated between the beachfront resorts of Kaanapali and the West Maui Mountains. Built in the 1960s, these two championship courses have been home to the Champions Tour Kaanapali Classic and the LPGA Kemper Open. Wind and rain are less common than at the neaby Kapalua courses, though the South Maui courses (those in Wailea and Makena) are reputably the best in Maui.
The apartments can accommodate a family, but there's little for kids to do.
Families that pile into Kaanapali's large resorts might be tempted by the Aston Mahana's apartments, all with washers and dryers and full kitchens, and many with pullout sofas. The ocean is right outside the door, and prices can be lower than at other Kaanapali hotels. But with a small pool and no restaurant, the hotel pales in comparison to nearby time-shares like Marriot's Maui Ocean Club or the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, both of which have more extensive properties and kid-specific features like big pools and kids clubs.
Acceptably clean, but units are in variable condition.
The furnishings in these individually owned condos range from weathered and worn to shiny and new. The units are clean, as in someone goes through the rooms with cleaners, rags, and a vacuum. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty -- stovetop burner liners, quality of sheets and blankets, for example -- the upkeep is less dependable. It's acceptable, but not at the high level that a more rigorous housekeeping staff could bring.
With no true on-site dining, most guests eat elsewhere or prepare their own food in the units' full-size, fully equipped kitchens.
Direct beach access and guaranteed ocean views are the biggest draws at the Aston Mahana, but the quality of the 215 individually owned condominiums varies widely. Plus, guests get next to no service and few amenities. Trade oceanfront for consistent room quality at the Outrigger Aina Nalu, or go with a fuller package of stuff to do at the Marriott or Westin time-share rentals.