Napili Kai Beach ResortLahaina, Maui, Hawaii
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A low-key condo hotel on a peaceful bay, but not far from the action
With two-story cottages spread over 10 acres of beachfront in scenic and serene Napili Bay, the setting of this 163-room condo resort is truly idyllic. The hotel opened in the 1960s as a quiet retreat in a part of Maui that's not far from the airport or towns, but not too close either. While nearby Kaanapali continues to develop bigger and fancier resorts, Napili Kai has chosen to maintain its rustic Hawaiian vibe -- never building more than two stories high, and implementing strict rules (no talking on cellphones outside of the room, for one) to keep the atmosphere quiet and peaceful.
The hotel can't compete with other resorts in terms of amenities or services (there is no business center, no dedicated bellmen, no true spa), but it's got an old-fashioned appeal and local flavor that's missing from most mega-resorts in Maui. Special events like a free mai-tai party and a well-regarded slack-key guitar concert draw guests looking for an authentic Hawaiian experience. Many of the guests are multigenerational families who, based on their rapport with the friendly staff, seem to be returning guests.
But at times the rustic feel almost crosses over to a run-down feel. The hotel, especially some of the rooms, would benefit from even a modest renovation -- new beds would do wonders -- and the overgrown landscaping could use more upkeep. Rooms in buildings Puna 1, Puna 2, and Lani 1 were renovated in 2011.
As Maui hotels go, Napili Kai is virtually in a class of its own. The most similar hotel is the Royal Lahaina, another low-key resort whose best feature is a great beach. If you can afford to pay upwards of $100 more a night, Hotel Hana, on the other side of the island, is unbeatable when it comes to promoting peace and relaxation.
Limited -- no bellhops, no room service
Service is limited at this condo hotel. No one greets guests at the entrance, no bellmen help with bags. The receptionist found a staff member to take me and my luggage to my room in a golf cart. Most guests park their cars right outside their buildings, so it seems like the hotels expects people to handle their own luggage.
- Daily housekeeping, with bed linens changed twice a week; kitchen not cleaned during stay
- Concierge services run by outside Expedia agent.
- The front desk can assist with business services, like photocopying and faxing.
- After checkout, guests can shower and relax in a free hospitality room for up to an hour.
- No room service
- No valet parking
On a serene bay between busy Kaanapali and secluded Kapalua
Napili Kai Beach Resort is in Napili, a quiet village on Maui's west coast between tourist-heavy Kaanapali and secluded Kapalua. Both of those resort towns are a 10-minute drive away, but Napili, with just a handful of low-key, low-rise hotels surrounding a bay, feels cut off from the crowds. Reachable via a small, narrow street off the highway, the Napili Kai hotel sits at the northern edge of Napili Bay, in a section that gets little traffic and feels even more remote.
- Small shopping complex on the street leading to the resort has groceries, DVD rentals, and equipment rentals for water sports.
- The island's main airport, Kahului, is 36 miles from the resort, a 40-minute drive.
- With flights from Oahu or other neighboring islands, the Kapalua/West Maui airport is only three miles away.
- With public transportation scarce, most guests staying in Napili rent a car.
- The hotel has free self-parking.
- The nearest golf courses are in Kapalua, a five- to 10-minute drive away.
A small bay with calm water and great snorkeling
Virtually every room at the hotel is only a minute or two from the Napili Bay beach.
- Napili Bay has calm, clear waters and soft beige sand; great for sunbathing and swimming.
- Vibrant coral reefs about 50 feet from the shore
- No lifeguard on duty (common on Maui)
- Hotel provides towels, beach mats, coolers, and snorkels and masks
- For fins, you'll have to bring your own or rent from Snorkel Bob's, a five-minute walk away.
Simple furnishings, island vibe.
The hotel prides itself on "keeping things Hawaiian." That means simply furnished, even rustic rooms. Some don't even have air-conditioning (because Napili Bay is drier than other parts of Maui and enjoys a constant sea breeze, this omission isn't necessarily a bad thing). The plain design keeps guests' attention focused on what's important: the ocean views and the proximity to a quiet, idyllic beach. Uneven renovations have taken place in the last few years, with some buildings (Puna 1, Puna 2, and Lani 1) being completely renovated and others remaining dated.
- Standard rooms are 450 square feet, average for Maui, but they feel spacious.
- Ocean views from every room
- Larger rooms include studios (with kitchenettes), family studios (a larger studio with a pullout sofa), and one- and two-bedroom suites. A three-room suite is three standard rooms with connecting doors.
- The blond rattan furniture give the room an island vibe, although the shoji screens -- while pretty -- seems out of step with the Hawaiian decor.
- Beds are firm, but the pillows are lumpy, the comforter flimsy.
- Standard rooms have mini-refrigerator; all other rooms have a fully equipped kitchenette.
- Dated tech: tube TV with 74 channels (just basic cable) and a DVD player (rent movies at nearby shopping center); clock-radio with cable for iPod, but speakers have tingy sound
- Balconies have two plastic deck chairs, two plastic lounge chairs, and a table.
- Sweet-smelling bath products made of papaya and macadamia nut; the generous offerings include shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath gel, body soap, and facial soap.
- Free wired Internet
- Room rules include no hanging of garments on lanai railings, no cellphones on the balcony.
One of the resort's many rules is that "lawns are meant for relaxing and sunbathing, not for games and horseplay." That edict says a lot about the activities and amenities at Napili Kai Beach Resort. The pools forbid floats and toys, parties are held on the putting green, and guests can borrow boccie balls and pingpong equipment. This quiet resort is all about quiet pleasures, including low-key Hawaiian cultural activities that are not typically found at other Maui resorts.
- Four small pools; rafts, inner tubes, flippers and other toys not permitted.
- The adult pool is a heated whirlpool (called "Hankipanki") overlooking the bay.
- Musty fitness room has two stairclimbers, two treadmills, two exercise bikes, 10 free weights, and a multipurpose strength-training machine, a fitness ball, and an old tube TV.
- Makai Massage & Bodywork has two treatment rooms and beachside cabana for evening massages.
- Two shuffleboard courts; two 18-hole putting greens, where the hotel hosts putting parties.
- Putters, equipment for boccie, croquet, and pingpong available at poolside equipment shack
- Two tennis courts across the street
- Four BBQ areas (charcoal and gas grills available)
- Organized activities include horticultural tours, hula dancing, and lei-making lessons.
- No resort fee, which is refreshing in Maui
- The Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key, a concert of Grammy-winning musicians, every Wednesday
- Polynesian show performed by children of the Napili Kai Foundation every Tuesday.
- Free coffee and tea every morning, along with a Hawaiian cultural demonstration like ti-leaf weaving.
- Free mai-tai party every Wednesday at sunset. Required "aloha attire" means no swimsuits or tank tops.
- No business center; Internet kiosk in the lobby costs 20 cents a minute.
- Breezeway Boutique sells resort apparel, but has no convenience items. For those, you'd have to walk five minutes to a small shopping center.
- Laundry facilities on-site
Nice for families, as long as the kids aren't rambunctious
This is a family resort, to be sure, but the hotel points out that "while many of our families bring third-generation offspring, many have also left their keiki (kids) at home or have their child-rearing experience long behind them." In other words, bring the kids but keep them quiet. "Boisterous conduct" must be kept to the beach. No "horseplay" on the lawn. Pool games like Marco Polo are a no-no.
- The standard room has a queen-size sofabed. The studio can fit a rollaway.
- Rollaways and cribs are free.
- Fully equipped kitchenettes in studios and suites
- Kid-friendly food like hot dogs available at the Makai Hale snack shop.
- Free kids' club Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, with Hawaiian arts and crafts
- Free family movie every Wednesday evening
The rooms could be cleaner.
At the Napili Kai, rustic charm can get in the way of eat-off-the-floor cleaning standards. My balcony had dusty lounge chairs, leaves on the ground, and stucco walls that could use a good scrubbing. The bathroom's brown-tinted tiles look less than pristine, especially under stark white fluorescent lights. And while the walkways are bursting with the colors of tropical foliage, they're also littered with the leaves and dead flowers of tropical foliage.
A peaceful patio overlooking the bay is the dining highlight.
- The Sea House Restaurant serves inventive Pacific Rim cuisine, including macadami-nut-crusted shrimp that's deep-fried to a perfect crisp. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner entrees range from $25 to $42.
- For a quick (and cheaper) bite, head to the Makai Hale snack stand beside the main pool. Espressos, lattes, muffins, and bagels served while the sun is high.
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Things You Should Know About Napili Kai Beach Resort
Address5900 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761-9094, United States
Also Known As
- Napili Kai
- Napili Kai Beach Hotel
- Napili Kai Beach Lahaina
- Family Studio, Ocean View
- Keaka Three Room Suite
- Keaka Two Room Suite
- One Bedroom Suite Oceanfront
- One Bedroom Suite, Ocean View
- Standard Room, Oceanview
- Studio Beachfront
- Studio Oceanfront
- Studio Ocean View
- Two Bedroom Suite