Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Low-key vibe and comparatively few amenities, with an emphasis on Hawaiian cultural activities and entertainment
The 430-room Kaanapali Beach Hotel, one of the area's first resorts when it opened in 1964, has maintained a family-owned, traditional Hawaiian feel, even as more and more souped-up mega-resorts have sprung up alongside it on Kaanapali's four miles of sand. With its low-key vibe, popular tiki bar, and daily diet of Hawaiian cultural activities, many describe it as Maui's most authentic Hawaiian hotel.
The hotel is about as big as its resort neighbors -- with 11 acres of grounds and 430 rooms, this is no boutique hotel -- but it's more stripped down: no massive pools and water parks, no rows of restaurants and shops, no fitness center. Instead, guests will find a whale-shaped pool, a giant checkerboard on the lawn, and the best nightlife of any Kaanapali resort. Its laid-back Tiki Bar & Grill and free nightly music and hula performances attract locals along with guests. The hotel sits on Kaanapali Beach's four miles of sandy, swimmable beach, right next to Black Rock, so guests have a clear view of the nightly torch lighting and diving ceremony that takes place there. Local golf courses and shopping and dining at Whalers Village are a five-minute drive.
Overall, Kaanapali Beach Hotel is far calmer, quieter, and more personal and private than most big Kaanapali resorts, with fewer long lines. The laid-back, friendly staff even makes it feel like a mom-and-pop operation (though the owner is a Japanese developer).
The hotel's weak spot is its rooms. Last completely renovated in 1991, the guest rooms recently got new wallpaper, carpets, furniture, and bathroom fixtures (but apparently not new TVs: Even renovated rooms have old tube TVs). A guaranteed more modern room at the nearby Westin Maui or Sheraton Maui is also pretty much guaranteed to be more expensive. The Royal Lahaina, the closest competitor in terms of price, size, and location, shares the Kaanapali Beach Hotel's low-key vibe, but it lacks the fun nightlife or emphasis on authentic Hawaiian culture. So the Kaanapali Beach Hotel is really the area's best option for a relaxed environment and true Hawaiian touches -- at a relatively good price -- as long as you don't mind the bland rooms.
Friendly staff and no long lines, but high-end perks like room service and turndown are missing
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, giving the hotel the feel of a casual family-run business -- not a corporate outpost like some of Kaanapali's other large resorts. At such a big hotel, it's too much to expect the staff to know visitors by name, but employees remember guests' faces and often strike up a friendly conversation. Plus, the high staff-to-guest ratio means guests seldom have to deal with the long lines commonly found at the nearby Hyatt Regency or Westin Maui.
Located in the center of Kaanapali -- Hawaii's first master-planned resort town, built in the 1960s on former sugarcane fields on Maui's northwest coast
Kaanapali Beach Hotel is located toward the north end of Kaanapali, which is centered around two golf courses and book-ended 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 mostly composed of small hotels and condo rentals. The lively, historic village of Lahaina, 10 minutes away by car, offers lots of shopping, dining, and Maui's best nightlife.
On uncrowded section of Kaanapali Beach, with great views of Black Rock
Kaanapali Beach Hotel is located in the middle of Kaanapali's four-mile stretch of white coral sand beach. The wide crescent-shaped beach directly in front of the hotel is mostly swimmable (though currents can get strong) and far less crowded than much of Kaanapali Beach to the south, where the area's bigger resorts sit. Black Rock is directly north of the hotel.
Clean but bland rooms
Last renovated in 1991, the rooms at the Kaanapali Beach Resort were gradually overhauled in 2010 The new décor -- print bedding and upholstery, colonial-style bed furniture, and framed photos of local scenes and Hawaiian artwork -- is modern but still feels authentically Hawaiian. However, the electronics are dated. At an average of 425 square feet, the rooms are smaller than what you'll find at nearby resorts, but the bathrooms are reasonably large.
Light on amenities but heavy on free Hawaiian cultural activities, including nightly music and hula
Instead of filling its 11 acres with a pool complex, over-the-top gardens stocked with wild animals, and a shopping mall like the nearby Hyatt Regency or Westin Maui do, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel sticks to simple basics. The cool, whale-shaped pool is a low-tech take on the most prominent feature at most Maui hotels, the gardens are simple but well kept. And the extras mainly revolve around Hawaiian culture.
Two championship, designer courses; hotel guests get discounted rates
The hotel is a five-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 Kaanapali Beach Hotel has plenty to offer families, but it's an old-fashioned sort of fun. Some guests will embrace this return to the days when kids could have a good time at the beach and pool with not much more than a water noodle. But families looking for a mini water park and video game terminals at the kids' club should move on to (and pay more for) a hotel like the Hyatt Regency or Grand Wailea Resort.
Well-kept but old property
Built in 1964, the hotel is a Kaanapali old-timer, and though the staff obviously works hard to keep the property clean, it's teetering on the edge of worse for wear -- carpeted outdoor hallways seem dingy, and details like fluorescent lighting make the property feel dated. Last fully renovated in 1991, the rooms underwent gradual redos in 2010 and 2011, getting everything from new wallpaper to fresh carpet. Grounds are mostly kept clean, save for the occasional pool toy and dirty cup left out on the lawn.
Three restaurants, including a buffet and a poolside bar and grill
Among the hotel's three restaurants, the Kaanapali Mixed Plate and the Tiki Bar & Grill serve fairly mediocre food but charge more reasonable prices than many Maui resort restaurants. The culinary highlight here is the Tiki Terrace restaurant, which serves authentic specialty Hawaiian dishes that give travelers a better taste of local food than what they'll find at hotel luau buffets.
Affordable low-key weddings in a quiet, beautiful location, but it's a $90 taxi from the airport
A modest property that prides itself on being the "Most Hawaiian Resort," the 430-room Kaanapali Beach Hotel sits right on Kaanapali's four-mile beach. More affordable than many nearby resorts, this low-key hotel has a great tiki bar, free Hawaiian activities, and live nightly entertainment. Yet even after some renovations, rooms aren't anything special.