This 422-room time-share hotel at the southern end of bustling Kaanapali Beach has large rooms, suites with full kitchens, a modern gym, and a myriad of family-friendly features. It's a perfectly good choice for families -- a great one if you can score one of the new, stylish oceanfront rooms. But the heavy family vibe might not suit other guests.
A family-friendly time-share hotel, but hotel guests have to get in line behind owners for the best rooms
Built in 1981 as a traditional hotel, Marriott's Maui Ocean Club was later transformed into a Marriott Vacation Club time-share suite hotel. New towers, Lahaina and Napili, were added, as were resort amenities like pools with waterfalls and a modern fitness center. The original tower, however, remains, functioning as the resort's main artery, and its boxy, concrete design is sorely in need of a facelift.
The 442-unit resort operates as a hotel, but it is first and foremost a time-share resort. Time-share-owning families who stay for a week or more make up the overwhelming majority of guests. They cook meals in the suites' fully equipped kitchens and take advantage of the resort's daily organized diversions like lei-making and beachfront yoga. Regular guests benefit from these same features, but time-share owners have booking priority. (Amid all this family activity, solo travelers and couples won't find as much to do.)
If you can book a room in the Napili Tower, you're in luck because these new rooms have tasteful furnishings and oceanfront views. The design in the older towers is less exciting, but the rooms are spacious and outfitted with apartment-style features like a full kitchen. For a similar price and newer, fancier amenities, check out the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, which is farther north on an empty, tranquil beach in Kaanapali. For a more central location (but far fewer amenities), consider the Whaler, an old condo-hotel with some beautiful suites.
At the southern tip of Kaanapali Beach Resort -- Hawaii's first master-planned resort, built in the 1960s on former sugarcane fields on Maui's northwest coast.
This unassuming time-share hotel sits on the southern end of Kaanapali Beach between two sprawling resorts, the Hyatt Regency and the Westin Maui. At this end of Kaanapali, the beach is narrow and the waves rough. Surf schools hold lessons here, and rookie surfers and joggers make up most of the foot traffic on the oceanfront walkway.
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 mostly comprised of small hotels and condo rentals. The lively, historic village of Lahaina is 10 minutes away by car, and offers lots of shopping, dining, and Maui's best nightlife.
Four miles of uninterrupted sand between Canoe Beach and Black Rock with mostly calm, swimmable surf (though water currents vary in strength)
Paved beach walkway runs the entire length of the four-mile beach; often crowded, but a great place to meet locals.
Whalers Village, an open-air shopping mall with beachfront restaurants, curio shops, and upscale fashion boutiques, is a five-minute walk from the hotel.
The free Whalers Village Museum, in the middle of Whalers Village, displays fascinating memorabilia from Lahaina's prominent whaling days.
About a 10-minute drive from the historic village of Lahaina, with tons of shopping, restaurants, and Maui's best nightlife
The Sugarcane Train Tour -- offering a history of Maui's sugar plantation days -- leaves from the station across from the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas in North Kaanapali, a five-minute drive from the hotel.
Rocky bottom and rough waves. Swimming with turtles guaranteed.
With just a narrow band of sand and a rocky seabottom, the public beach in front of the hotel isn't ideal for swimming or restful sunbathing. The beach has barely enough space for a sunbather to lay down a towel or set up an umbrella without getting in the way of foot traffic or getting swamped by the incoming tide.
Hotel provides towels.
No lifeguard, common in Maui
Waves that break close to the shore make for good beginner's surfing; surf schools hold beginner's classes just a couple hundred feet north. But beware of the sharp rocks.
About a hundred feet from the shore is an area where so-called cleaner fish pick parasites off of turtles. You can swim with three-foot-long turtles all day -- an awesome, underrated experience on Kaanapali Beach.
5 Star Scuba dive shop rents snorkel gear, surfboards, paddleboards, and dive equipment.
Dull standard rooms in the older towers; tasteful, plantation-style rooms in the new Napili Tower
The three towers all feature standard rooms or studios, and one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. The Napili and Lahaina Towers are newer, while the older Lanai, Maui, and Molokai sections are housed in a third U-shaped tower. Because the newer Napili Tower suites tend to fill up with time-share owners (who get priority booking), chances are hotel guests will end up in the old tower, which was refurbished in 2005. There, the 450-square-foot standard room is spacious but boring, with views of either the mountains or the ocean. It's worth a shot to request an oceanfront room in the Napili Tower, which has a far more enticing design and newer amenities. The rooms are also bigger by 50 square feet. I was booked in a garden view guest room at the old tower, a studio unit that's actually part of a two-bedroom suite (also known as the "lock-out room").
All rooms have balcony with two deck chairs and a table.
Rooms in the older towers are pretty but plain, with floral prints and a pleasant pastel color palette.
Rooms in the newer towers feature bolder colors, wooden furniture, and paintings of island life.
Old standard rooms have a counter with a mini-fridge, toaster, microwave, and coffeemaker. New rooms have all that plus a sink on the counter.
Loaded with features, though only the gym is a standout
This time-share has a lot of amenities, but most of them -- save for the gym and daily activities scheduled for every hour -- are ho-hum, unlike the features at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. Still, this hotel has everything you'll need.
Three heated pools with waterfalls, slides, and decorative rock formations.
The lazy-river pool in front of the Napili Tower has a quiet atmosphere, making it the default adult pool.
Two championship, designer courses next door; hotel guests get discounted rates.
The hotel is next door to 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 par-71, 6,700-yard Royal Course, also known as the North Course, is the more popular of the two since it features a more challenging terrain.
Course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and recently renovated by golf architect Robin Nelson. Wide fairways extend from Kaanapali's main road to the beach, so holes are never far from traffic and buildings.
The par-70, 6,388-yard Kai Course (or South Course) was designed (by Arthur Jack Synder) for easier play, though it's suitable for all levels.
The greens are less undulating than those of its sister course, but offer great views of neighboring islands.
Like most time-share resorts, the Marriott focuses almost exclusively on families with a kids' pool, a kids' club, a game room, and spacious suites with kitchens. Families will find everything they need here, except a good beach for swimming. The beach in front of the hotel has a rocky bottom and rough waves; it's best to walk 10 minutes north, where the water is calmer and the bottom sandy. Good alternatives include the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas (another time-share with fancy rooms and full resort features, but in a more isolated location) and the Whaler (condo-hotel with limited features and an excellent location).
Large rooms, ranging from 450-square-foot rooms to 1,700-square-foot suites. The one-bedroom suite can fit up to four people. Two-bedroom suites can sleep eight.