Maui - Kihei vs. Kaanapali

We once again returned to Maui for a great family vacation. For the first time, we spent some time in Kihei before continuing on to our timeshare at the Embassy Resort at Kaanapali.

Maui - Kihei vs. Kaanapali

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on April 30, 2003

Kihei and Kaanapali have everything that makes Maui a fantastic destination: great beaches, weather, surf, shopping, restaurants, and that Aloha spirit!

When we say Kihei, we're also including the other areas of South Maui such as Wailea and Makena. In addition to Kaanapali, we'll also refer to the other nearby West Maui areas such as Lahaina, Honokowai, and Kapalua.

I'm not going to try to convince you that one area is better than the other. They are both terrific! What I'll attempt to do in this journal is tell you about the things we did, places we stayed and where we ate so that you can hopefully enjoy both areas like we did! ${QuickSuggestions} If you ever get a chance to fly first class to Hawaii, by all means, do it! We saved up all our frequent flier miles and cashed them in on this trip for first class tickets and it was great! Comfortable seats, lots of room, great food and pampering. It made the 5 hour trip from the mainland a joy instead of a chore. Just about every flight to Hawaii is pretty much a cattle car, so anytime you can get out of coach, do it!

Don't make yourself crazy by filling up each day with an itinerary of activities - you'll go broke as well. Pick a couple of things you really like or want to try like snorkeling or surfing and do them at different areas to compare and contrast. And don't forget to allot yourself plenty of time for lounging on the beach or by the pool with a pina colada and a good book. ${BestWay} Driving is the only way and both areas have their share of traffic hassles. Front Street in Lahaina and South Kihei Road in Kihei can be very slow going. And the "bypass" highways can also get jammed up at pau hana (quitting time). Just relax and enjoy the scenery.

We normally rent a car from Dollar since they are frequently the choice of many package deals. They are very fast and efficient with a platoon of agents at their office. This time we rented with National since the price was the same and they had a double miles deal with Northwest Airlines. Imagine our surprise when we got to the office and there was only ONE agent. Fortunately, there was only one party in front of us so we didn't have to wait very long. Presumably (hopefully) they have more agents when it's busy.

If you tried to base the most popular car in America by the rental cars in Hawaii, you'd think it was the Chrysler Sebring convertible or the Oldsmobile Alero -- they're everywhere. We had the Alero and it was fine. I always wondered where Oldsmobile dumped all their cars before they went out of business!

Hale Hui Kai

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on April 30, 2003

Location, location, location!

This is a terrific "mom and pop" condo right on Keawakapu Beach in South Kihei just before you get to the high priced resorts in Wailea. Our 2 bedroom/2 bath garden view condo (#209) was comfortable and well-appointed. There are lots of good pictures and a description of this unit and others at their web-site at

Keawakapu Beach is a marvelous place and being just steps from it makes this condo worth the price. Snorkeling by the rocks in the calm waters in the morning was terrific . When the surf picks up in the afternoon, the same spot is excellent for boogie boarding (but watch out for the rocks, as our son found out!). You can walk the beach all the way to Wailea and the sunsets were spectacular.

We also enjoyed sitting on the comfy sofa and chairs in the atrium next to the pool, playing cards and watching the beach activity and the sunsets.

There is no air conditioning but the ceiling fans, louvered doors and walls, and auxilary fans in the bedrooms kept us very cool and comfortable. A side effect of having open louvers is that they stress "quiet" here. There are discrete signs in the bedrooms reminding you that loud conversations (and other, um, noises) can be heard by those near you. Also, the pool rules include "No Marco Polo"! (Thank you, thank you!)

The condos are individually owned so they are all decorated uniquely. Ours had a nice sized TV in the living area but no TVs in the bedrooms which can be good or bad depending on your attitude. The bathroom off the master only had swinging cafe doors so if you're a privacy person, use the other bathroom!

The lanai was well shaded all day and had a table, chairs, and a lounge chair. The condo was also equipped with well-used but perfectly good boogie boards, umbrellas, beach chairs, beach towels, snorkeling fins, and other assorted beach stuff.

The pool is small but certainly adequate for a dip after frolicking on the beach. The deep end is 8 feet so you need to keep an eye on the kiddies.

They only take cash so be aware of their payment and cancellation policies. There are also two high-end beachfront restauarants, Sarrento's and The Five Palms, at the two neighboring condos and although we weren't able to check them out, we were told by the condo managers that they were very good.

Hale Hui Kai
2994 South Kihei Road
Maui, Hawaii

Embassy Vacation Resort at Kaanapali

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on May 1, 2003

Best Things Nearby:
Kaanapali Beach, Lahaina Town, Kahekili Beach Park (for snorkeling)

Best Things About the Resort:
Large rooms, large pool, very family oriented. This is still very much a Gold Crown resort.

Resort Experience:
I've written about the Embassy Resort before (see by "Embassy Resort and Beyond" journal - I've added some updates), so in this entry, I'll concentrate on things pertaining to our timeshare ownership. There are 12 floors but upgraded timeshare rooms are only on 4 floors (3,4,8, and 9 if I remember right).

There weren't too many changes since our last visit here. The TV and stereo in the living room and the dishwasher have been updated. The foldout sofa could use replacement - it was marginally comfortable for our son - I don't think adults would like it. There was some painting work going on while we were there, but it was pretty unobtrusive. They are accenting the outside with beige so the building won't look so garishly pink.

There is a new chef at the North Beach Grille so they have abandoned the nightly buffet and gone to a more standard menu. We didn't try it, but we heard good reports. You can get a 25% discount if you go before 6 pm. The Ohana bar and grill continues to turn out great drinks (try the Molokai Monkey) and decent burgers, salads, and fish. But their nachos still suck! We didn't buy breakfast this time (still $70/week for everyone in your party). We did go to the activities welcome breakfast which was very good except they didn't have any bacon!

There are lots of good discounts for owners - our favorites were the 50% discount for the Monday evening sunset cruise and the free luau ticket that we won as a door prize. Tuesday nights, there is a separate happy hour for owners with beer, wine, soft drinks and great pupus - shrimp and chicken skewers, scallops wrapped in bacon (had to have some bacon!), and strawberries dipped in chocolate. The regular happy hour is still served in the Moonbeams lounge which is the same area used to give timeshare presentations. We used to enjoy grabbing some mai-tais and taking them back down to the pool. No more. Maui liquor laws won't let you leave the lounge area with any alcohol.

We "checked in" with our original sales rep who sold us our timeshare 4 years ago and received a $100 credit on activities. Robin is a pretty laid back guy and made no attempt to pressure us into any kind of additional purchase. He just told us what was going on and showed us one of the upgraded 2 bedroom units (pretty nice!).

Embassy Resort Maui Kaanapa
104 Kaanapali Shores Place
Lahaina, Hawaii, 96761

Great snorkeling without going to Molokini

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on May 2, 2003

We thought this might be the time we finally spent the bucks to take a boat out to Molokini. But after snorkeing at these three great close-in spots, we didn't feel the need. We felt even better with our decision after a couple we met took a boat to Molokini and reported that half the people on board "shared" their breakfast with the marine life.

Keawakapu Beach: Just to the right of our condo at Hale Hui Kai, there are some rocks in front of the Mana Kai condos that offered some spectacular close in snorkeling. Lots of colorful fish, particularly the humuhumu. The water was calmest in the morning. Later in our stay the south swells came in and really churned up the water so it was time to put away the snorkels and break out the boogie boards.

Black Rock: This spot adjacent to the Sheraton in Kaanapali is legendary and it's easy to see why. Lots of fish and the occasional turtle. It gets fairly crowded when the water is calm and the activity is complicated by the crazy people diving off Black Rock. There is a small public garage between the Sheraton and Kaanapali Beach Hotel but it fills up fast. The currents can sometimes be strong but my wife and son had no problems circling all the way around the point and back. You're more likely to see a turtle the further out you go.

Kahekili Beach Park: This small beach park just south of the Embassy Resort and adjacent to the under construction Westin Resort turned out to be an unexpected surprise. Great close-in snorkeling in calm waters at a nice uncrowded beach park. Showers, bathrooms, covered picnic areas, adequate parking and a nice lawn made this a very enjoyable spot. Lots of fish but at one point my wife and son were spooked by "something large" coming at them. Checking the reef fish guide later, they determined that it was a spinner dolphin!

Sunset Cruise on the Kaulana

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on May 2, 2003

We took advantage of an owner's special at the Embassy Resort - on Monday evenings they offer half price sunset cruises on the Kaulana out of Lahaina Harbor. Our "3 hour tour" was nothing like the voyage of the SS Minnow!

We departed under sunny skies and on calm waters. The open bar served great mai-tais, rum punch, beer, wine, and soft drinks. The delicious and plentiful pupus included fruit and veggies, cheeses, meatballs, and chicken wings. As we were enjoying our first round of drinks, we spotted the exhaling spray of a humpback whale. Following them at a respectful distance, Captain Chuck was able to provide us with a marvelous view of three whales as their fins broke the surface and then showed us their tails as they dove. Late April is the very end of the whale season and we really didn't expect to see any so this was an added bonus. We also frequently saw groups of flying fish leap from the water and skim the surface for great distances.

We were entertained along the way by a singer/guitarist who played a lot of Jimmy Buffet tunes and took requests, too. At the end of the cruise he gave my son, just learning the bass, a guitar pick that said Maui on it. He was thrilled.

The sunset was gorgeous and as it reflected off the wispy clouds coming over the mountains we were also rewarded with a lovely rainbow.

The crew was extremely friendly and we even bought the picture they take as you board the boat. What a great evening!

Sunset Cruise on the Kaulana
Slip #4
Maui, Hawaii

Nakalele Blowhole and Dragon's Teeth

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by thecopes on May 1, 2003

Drive Highway 30 a short distance past Kapalua and you'll be rewarded with two easy to get to natural lava formations that are very different.

Coming from Napili, just past the 30 mile marker, take a left on Office Road. At the bend where Office Road becomes Lower Honoapiilani Road, turn right under a concrete footbridge and park in the small lot adjacent to one of the big lawns of Kapalua. Take a five minute stroll between the lawn and golf course to Makalua-puna Point and Dragon's Teeth, a strange jagged lava formation bleached white and etched by years of salt spray. Quite an interesting sight. When you walk to and from your car, note the signs asking you to respect the native Hawaiian burial areas nearby. The Ritz Carlton was originally supposed to be located there but their minds were changed after they had unearthed 900 graves. What were they thinking?

Go back out Office Road to Highway 30 and proceed on the scenic, curvy road past Honolua Bay (a great snorkeling spot when it's calm). The views are great along here, but don't forget to keep your eyes on the road! There are several pullouts to admire the vistas.

About a half mile past the 38 mile marker, park at a wide turnout bounded by several rounded bolders. Head about 1200 feet and 200 feet down towards the ocean to the Nakalele Blowhole. When the currents are strong, as they were the day we were there, the blowhole can shoot spray 80 feet into the air. Take your video camera as it's kind of hard to predict exactly when it will shoot out. I had a hard time capturing a good still shot with my digital camera but I got some great video. It was hard to tell which was roaring louder - the wind, the blowhole or the ocean. A truly spectacular spot. Use common sense when deciding how close to get to the blowhole - there's no fence here to protect you from your own bad judgement like at some other blowhole locations in Hawaii (the one near Poipu on Kauai comes to mind).

If you're feeling brave, continue the drive all the way to Central Maui. It's spectacular and very different from the Hana Highway. But watch out for the locals - since this road isn't as heavily traveled by tourists, the locals tend to drive on this road like maniacs. At one point, I had a fully loaded dump truck tailgating me so closely, I could see the drivers missing teeth in my rearview mirror. I pulled over and he zoomed by me at least 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. At another time, a local in a beater pick up came around a curve at me in my lane! Yee-ha! We later heard sirens headed up the road. We could only hope that one of these maniacs hadn't claimed an innocent victim.

Nakalele Point
Northernmost Section of Island
Maui, Hawaii

Dining in the Kihei area

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on May 1, 2003

We had a hard time leaving the beach, so we only ate dinner out. We bought groceries at Foodland, the closest grocery store to our condo at Hale Hui Kai. If you've been to Hawaii before, you know that grocery prices are outrageous. Foodland seems to have the best prices (there was a Safeway and a Star Market further north up Kihei Road), but make sure you get a temporary discount card from the cashier to get the sale prices.

Like most areas of Maui, there are tons of restaurants in the Kihei area. All of the resorts at Wailea have several restaurants of varying types and prices (usually high). You'll go broke if you try to hit them all. Get a good guide book (like Maui Revealed) and pick one special one. There are lots of casual places that may be more expensive than what you're use to, but they won't break the bank.

Here are the places we checked out:

Lu Lu's: On the second floor of one of the buildings at Kihei Kalama Village shopping area, this place turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It has a typical bar and grill set up with a big bar area and outdoor seating for dining. Being on the second floor allowed us to look above the parking lots and bustle of Kihei Road out to the sunset on Kamaole Beach. We just missed $1 Mai-Tai happy hour but even for $3, they were great! The food was fairly typical Hawaiian bar and grill fare (meaning they have better fish than a joint in, say, Cleveland). My wife had a terrific guacamole burger and our son enjoyed a huge plate of popcorn shrimp (they were pretty good sized for "popcorn"). I had a caesar salad with seared ahi ,which was done perfectly. Topping that off with a singer/guitarist who knew a number of Steve Earle songs and friendly service made this a great place for a casual meal.

Pita Paradise: Located in a small building also in the Kihei Kalama Village, this greek style restaurant was also very enjoyable. While our son was enjoying mac and cheese back at the condo, we dined on hummus and separate pitas filled with Australian free range lamb and fresh uku (grey snapper). How fresh was the uku? The owner caught it himself that day! The pitas were good sized and reasonably priced. We finshed with an excellent homemade baklava ice cream cake. Friendly service, too.

Thai Chef: We had a craving for Thai food and Thai Chef was nearby, in a rather dreary location in the back of the not so great Rainbow Mall. The food was a lot better than the location. We had excellent Panang curry with beef and Pad Thai with chicken. The portions were slightly smaller than what we get at our local Thai restaurants so you may want to order one extra dish if you're hungry. We went just as they opened so we were the first ones in the fairly spacious dining room. They sat the next two couples that came in at the adjacent tables on either side of us while the rest of the tables sat empty. More efficient, I guess. The candy dish at the cash register had root beer barrels, which you don't see every day in a Thai restaurant (or anywhere else for that matter).

Longhi's at Wailea: We decided to wander the upscale Shops at Wailea and have dinner there. There were four choices, but which one to pick? Ruth's Chris Steakhouse? Nah, we have one of those at home. The Cafe at Tommy Bahamas? Sorry, I don't eat at clothing stores, except maybe at the original Nordstroms (in fairness, a timeshare rep at the Embassy Resort told me it was pretty good). How about Cheeseburgers, Mai-Tais, and Rock N Roll? Despite the cumbersome name, it seemed the most popular place in the shopping center, most likely because it was also the cheapest. There was at least a 25 minute wait for a table. Jimmy Buffet may not sue them (like he did their sister restaurant Cheeseburger in Paradise in Lahaina), but we decided we didn't want to wait. So we wandered over to Longhi's at Wailea. Although we had never been to the original Longhi's in Lahaina, it is well known and was always crowded. They don't post the menu outside like most restaurants in the area but have it available for viewing at the reception desk. I guess they figure once you're in, you won't change your mind and leave. While my wife was perusing the menu, I wandered over to look at a display case on the wall. It had three different colored polo shirts that I presumed had the restaurant logo on it and were available for purchase. The left and right polos indeed had Longhi's script logo embroidered on the sleeve. But the center shirt was instead embroidered in the same lettering style with (I swear I am not making this up) "Whatthef*ck", except it used the letter "u" instead of a "*"! Very, very strange for a high end restaurant. I quickly returned to the reception desk so that my wife and son wouldn't wander over to see what I was looking at. Just to make sure I wasn't nuts, I later checked their website and sure enough, they not only sell those shirts but deem them "The Famous Whatthef*ck" shirts! While the phrase may have worked for Tom Cruise in Risky Business, I don't get it here.

The hostess (how does she walk in a dress that tight?) then showed us to a nice table with a great view of the setting sun over Wailea Beach. Our VERY casual waiter wandered over and proceeded to give us details of some of the menu items although sometimes he didn't seem too sure of what he was talking about and had to consult the large book of Longhi's history and recipes that is conveniently placed on the table. Apparently at the Lahaina location, they don't even give you a menu - the waiter recites the items to you. I don't think our guy could've done that (maybe that's why he was at this location instead). While we were deciding, we were served an odd pizza crust type bread, half with tomato sauce, the other half with jalapenos. It was good but seemed out of place. We then shared an excellent caesar salad. For our entrees, our son selected their calamari appetizer, my wife went with Penne Puttana, and I had their signature Ahi Torino. The calamari got a thumbs up, and the pasta was plentiful and wonderfully spicy. My ahi, marinated in olive oil, garlic and basil, rolled in macadamia nuts and sauteed, tasted excellent but it's presentation reminded me of the "breaded veal cutlet" we used to get in the high school cafeteria. It just laid there in a slab on the plate with a thin lemon slice on top and a lonely sprig of parsley lying next to it. With so many wonderful presentations in their book, it seemed a very strange look for one of their signature items.

We somehow managed to save room for dessert and selected an excellent raspberry and blackberry glace off the dessert tray. It turned out to be a nice way to end a rather surreal meal.

Dining (relatively) cheaply in Kaanapali

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on May 1, 2003

For one reason or another, we found ourselves not interested in going out for a fancy meal on the Kaanapali portion of our trip. We were planning on going to one of our favorite restaurants, A Pacific Cafe in the Honokowai shopping area across the street from the Embassy Resort, but we were saddened to see that it had closed. There is another location in Kihei but we didn't check it out, thinking we would go to the one in Honokowai. Here's our report on the places we did go to:

Bubba Gumps: We returned here because it's a fun place, relatively inexpensive, has a great location, and our son loves the coconut shrimp. I had the "special" (it was also the "special" when we were there 2 years ago!), Mahi Mahi served in a lemon garlic sauce over rice, and my wife had fish and chips (most likely also Mahi Mahi). Both were excellent and served in generous portions as was the coconut shrimp. The service is fast and friendly. In fact, it may be TOO fast. They don't take reservations and they try to turn the tables over quickly, but they'll slow down if you ask them. Go early to avoid the lines. Their location is one of the best in Lahaina as they are one of the few places on the water side of Front Street. You are literally over the water and sometimes the top of a big swell can reach the windows. The decor is all about the movie Forrest Gump and the waiters will even play Forrest Gump trivia with you - ours stumped me on Forrest's football jersey number (44). And you can have all the Dr. Peppers you want but of course then you "gotta pee". And that's all I have to say about that.

Lahaina Cannery Mall: The food court here has improved since our last visit. We particularly enjoyed the orange chicken from the Chopsticks Express (which shares a counter and kitchen with L&L Plate Lunch). There's also greek, philly steaks, mexican, and Dairy Queen/Orange Julius. Go on a Thursday night and you can eat cheaply and watch their free Polynesian show. The show is mostly hula dancing accompanied by singers, guitar, bass, and ukulele. Curiously, they ended the show by singing the Doxology and the Christian praise song "Majesty". The mall is one of the better places to shop with a diverse selection of stores. There's also a Safeway grocery store.

Honokowai Shopping Center: This is located conveniently across the street from the Embassy Resort. Since A Pacific Cafe was closed, the only places we went were Subway and Pizza Paradiso for takeout to bring back to the pool. The Subway prices are only slightly higher than the Mainland. Pizza Paradiso has good (but not great) pizza, pasta, and salads. Ice cream, too. The shopping center also has a small sushi bar, mexican cantina, and a new cafe called Java Jazz which seemed pretty popular. There's a Star Market grocery store as well with probably the highest prices of any of the local big groceries. If you're buying a lot of groceries you would probably do a little better at Safeway at Lahaina Cannery or the Foodland in Napili.

Whalers Village: This shopping area has some of the best casual dining in Kaanapali. It's hard to beat the outdoor seating at the Hula Grill and Leilani's. They are across from each other and adjacent to the spectacular Kaanapali beachwalk. Go early to avoid the crowds - the line starts forming about 5:45 to watch the sunsets. Both restaurants also have inside seating with a more upscale menu, but we prefer the lighter fare served outside. They both belong to the same chain (which also owns Dukes, Kimos, and Keoki's Paradise) and feature similar menus. We enjoyed fish tacos, fish and chips, calamari, salad topped with fresh ono, and a humongous guacamole burger. Great Hula pie too. Service is friendly and there is usually entertainment in the early evening. The Hula Grill has the added nice touch of a sand floor. Don't forget to get your parking ticket validated which will give you 3 hours free parking. Otherwise parking is $2.50/hour.

There is also a small food court at Whalers Village. If your kids need a Happy Meal, there's a McDonalds Express with higher than Mainland prices but not outrageously so. Avoid the Korean BBQ - it didn't look appealing and even when the food court was real crowded, there were no takers. Pizza Paradiso is about the same as the Honokowai location - good, but not great. The best place for my money was Mr.Sub. For about 6 bucks you can get an excellent 8 inch sub on a variety of specialty breads. They pile on the meat (easily 4 times as much as Subway) -- I had roast beef on an excellent onion bread. There is limited seating in the food court and it can get pretty hot. There are a few tables outside the food court as well. You can always take your food to the beach which is just a few steps away.

Hyatt Regency Luau

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on May 1, 2003

In all our trips to the islands, we have never been to a luau. We went to one of the Polynesian shows in Waikiki once and while the show was great, the food was mediocre and I remember throwing elbows with the members of large tour groups to even get close to the buffet tables.

So we figured it was about time to check one out. We were leaning toward the Old Lahaina luau because of its reputation of being the best and most authentic. However, we were concerned that it wouldn't be flashy enough for our son (i.e., no fire dancers!). It turned out that the Hyatt luau offered a free kid's ticket with purchase of an adult ticket and then we won a free ticket as a door prize at the Embassy Resort activities welcome breakfast. So the three of us went for the price of one!

The luau is not served on the beach, but instead in an area with a stage adjacent to the Kaanapali beach walk. In fact, probably the worst part of the whole thing is queuing up in the hot sun on the beachwalk before they let you into the seating area. You're presented with a lei (flowers for the gals, shells for the guys) as you enter and then handed your choice of a mai-tai or fruit punch as you’re led to your seat. It's open seating but they try to fill up the middle first. My wife talked our host into putting us right up front off to the side instead - turned out to be a great seat for the show and no one tried to drag us up on stage to look like a doofus trying to hula.

After you're seated, the drinks just keep on coming. No one can accuse them of being chintzy with the drinks. Not only will the waiters bring them to you as fast as you can drink them, but you can go over to the bar area and get any kind of simple mixed drink. I heard the rum punch and mai-tais were watered down but they seemed fine to me (what's my name again?). If in doubt, go to the bar and have the bartender mix you up something fresh.

After the emcee entertains you with a few songs, each table is invited to exit the seating area and go out to two buffet lines which move quickly and featured various salads, fish, chicken, beef, kalau pig, and of course poi. Everything was very good (except the poi) and the beef and pig were excellent. Desserts were chocolate macadamia nut pie, pineapple upside down cake, bread pudding, and coconut jello and were all very good, too. We were one of the last tables to go to the buffet line, but there was still plenty of fresh food. Although we got enough to eat, we didn't feel like we had enough time to go back for seconds before the show started. I guess when something is all-you-can-eat, you don't feel like you got your money's worth unless you're uncomfortably stuffed!

The show itself is run by Tihati Productions which is probably the premier Polynesian show outfit and the same company that did the show we saw in Waikiki. Rather than feature just hula, a variety of songs and dances from all the tropical islands are demonstrated. The favorites with the kids are the Maori warriors (sticking out their tongues is a big hit) and of course the fire dancer. These guys are amazing - how anyone can put his tongue on a flaming torch is beyond me. These shows may not be completely authentic but they provide a good balance of flashiness and cultural respect. And the musicians and dancers are all very talented.

The activities director at the Embassy Resort directed us to the free beach access parking at the back of the Hyatt which has a limited number of spaces but was closer to the luau location. I heard that you could also get validated parking in the regular lots but then you have to find your way through the Hyatt grounds (which are very nice) to the luau area.

One other problem is the lack of bathrooms. The mens and ladies rooms near the luau area are both pretty small and when you get five hundred people eating and drinking (a lot!), there was a pretty long line after the show. The next closest restrooms are some distance away inside the hotel. Your best bet is to duck in right before the show starts.

While not real inexpensive (the list price for an adult ticket is around $80), the Hyatt luau is still a good value for an evening's entertainment particularly with the free kid's ticket. Discounts are available at the various activity centers and you could probably go for free if you’re willing to sit through a timeshare pitch.

Wailea, Keawalai Church, and the Search for the Black Sand Beach

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by thecopes on May 3, 2003

I was curious to see the sights south of our Kihei condo. The best way to check out Wailea is to walk the shoreline path that starts at the south end of Keawakapu Beach and then hugs the cliffs and beaches as it winds through the various fancy resorts of Wailea. I walked it several mornings from the Hale Hui Kai to the Four Seasons resort (a distance of about 1.5 miles) and always found it bustling with activity. The walkway is not very wide, so walking seems best - several joggers were frustrated with having to wind in and around people taking a more leisurely pace. Make sure you check out the grounds of the Grand Wailea Resort (their fountains and wedding chapel are gorgeous) - unless you're made of money, you likely can't afford to stay there!

We hopped in the car to explore Makena - in particular, I was interested in finding the Keawalai Church built in 1832 and checking out the black sand beach. We turned off the main highway on to Makena Rd. and easily found the historic church. Across the street from the church is a fairly large parking lot used by folks looking for beach access to Maluaka Beach about a 100 yards south. The church grounds were very tranquil with a stone wall providing a boundary between the cemetary and the beach and ocean beyond. The church itself is small and despite some evident facelifts from its original construction looks just like you'd expect for an historic beachside Hawaiian church. Discrete signs ask you to remove your footwear before entering the church and invite you to walk the cemetary grounds but to show respect by not walking over gravesites or sitting on headstones or memorials. We spent about a half hour wandering the grounds and looking inside the church (which was set up for a Maundy Thursday dinner).

Driving south we missed the side road to the black sand beach and wound up continuing down to the lava fields at Cape Kinau and LaPerouse Bay. Despite what your rental car company says, you can safely drive this road to the first set of lava fields. It's narrow and winding but it's in good shape and if you take it slow, you'll have no problems. After realizing that we'd gone too far, we doubled back and stopped at a turnout to get our bearings (there are no mile markers here so it's a little harder to find things). We walked a short path and found ourselves at the south end of Big Beach. Long and wide (hence the name), it was beautiful and surprisingly uncrowded.

Once we realized where we were, it was fairly easy to find the dirt road turn off to the Black Sand beach. A sign just a short distance off the main road confirmed that we were heading the right way. The road was pretty rutted so we had to be careful. When we reached the small parking area at the beach, we realized that this was pretty much a locals beach. The half dozen other cars there had all seen better days (not another Oldsmobile Alero in sight!) and it seemed like every person there had at least two mangy dogs with them. The black sand that I was interested in seeing was more of a salt and pepper color, not anywhere near as dark as the black sand beaches on the Big Island but definitely darker than the other beaches of South Maui. The black sand comes from the cinder cone at the south end of the beach while the lighter "salt" sand is pulverized shells and "processed" coral compliments of the local fish. The beach itself is nothing special and given the difficulty finding it and the four legged welcoming committee, unless you're dying to see some (almost) black sand, I'd say skip it.

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