This is a review of places to stay on Maui. According to my guidebook Pidgin dictionary, the phrase for "make yourself at home" is simply ‘make house’. With that in mind, I hope this helps you make house on Maui.
by two cruisers on January 22, 2009
I have been searching for 28 years for the perfect place to stay on Maui. We have stayed in two hotels and four condominium complexes. Each one has its pros and cons. Frankly I would gratefully return to any of them because I just love going to Maui.First let me explain why they all are on what is known as West Maui. I feel that tourist life on Maui is centered in Lahaina, so you might as well start out from there. The scenery is terrific on this part of the island with views of the West Maui Mountains and the channel with Lanai and Molokai providing great effects for those spectacular sunsets. Ma’alaea and Kihei have a lot to offer with condos, shopping and restaurants but it has some drawbacks, too. Primarily the wind. There is a reason they moved the airport from that area to the Kahului site. Wind. Wailea is lovely but quite expensive. Hana is lovely and remote…too, remote. Wailuku and Kahului would be great towns to live in with the bustle of a small city and the big name department and discount stores that make living easier. They also have a wider range of worship facilities. However, they don’t have the pizzazz of a vacation spot. Kapalua and Napili have wonderful condos and beaches, but it rains here more that neighboring Ka’anapali and Lahaina. Would we consider a cruise vacation where we dock at various ports? Never…we like being the captain of our own destiny.The six places we have stayed, in chronological order are: Royal Lahaina, Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, Ka’anapali Alibi, Kaleialoha, Lahaina Roads, and The Whaler. If you are familiar with Maui you realize there is quite a range of price there. What is surprising is that the least expensive ranks as my favorite due to view, location, and parking. My husband ranks the most expensive as his favorite due to comfort, screened-in lanai, and reliable air-conditioning. Both of our rankings are based on our needs…we don’t golf, play tennis, enjoy strenuous water sports…we don’t demand five star meals, or organized entertainment.
We found Kaleialoha on the Internet. The price was right and we fell in love with the idea of being 30 feet from the water. These indeed were the two best features. The website had a picture gallery of the units available and we carefully selected just the right one. When we arrived we found the management had moved us to another unit. They tried to convince us that we were upgraded. The unit was nicely decorated and with a kitchen that would earn the approval of Martha Stewart. But this unit was not fully air-conditioned, a real problem for Bill. It also didn’t have a king-size bed, which forced us into using foldout sleeper sofa in the living room to accommodate our needs. The washer/dryer was the smallest I have ever seen and you could only use one at a time. I guess we were lucky to get an end unit with that terrific ocean view. There are units on the street side with views of trash containers and parking lot. There is a lovely swimming pool that is rarely used. There is not a sandy beach at this property, just a seawall, but the neighboring condo complex has a narrow flat sandy beach that is easily accessed from Kaleialoha. There is plenty of room for sunbathing. We heard form some snorklers that the area out front seemed dead. Parking is free but be sure to get there early as the parking spots are limited and you may have to park on the very narrow shoulder of Lower Honoapiilani Road. This is a condo dense neighborhood. Its not far to shopping, restaurants, and groceries, but its not easy to find parking. We found we were driving all the way back to Lahaina or up to a Kahana shopping center to take care of our needs. Now that we have found other places, I doubt we would return to Kaleialoha.
Our first trip to the Hawaiian Islands was an organized tour where we had absolutely no say in where we stayed. For our Maui visit they selected the Royal Lahaina. My memories of that hotel are about as faded as my Instamatic snap shots (no photos worth showing you). I can tell you this: This would be a perfect resort for an all-inclusive trip. The Royal Lahaina is one of the oldest of the Ka’anapali resorts. It was updated in the last few years. Roomy hotel rooms are available in the tower, this is where we stayed and I remember the lovely views of mountains and ocean from our lanai. There are also Polynesian look cottages that have hotel rooms, and 1-2 bedroom suites. On the grounds are tennis courts, golf course, swimming pools, long lovely beach, shops and salon. There are at least two restaurants; a luau and snacks are available. In other words there is no need to leave the property. Of course the first thing we did was ask the tour guide to arrange for a rental car for us so we could see the island! If you have a rental car the parking is $10/ day or $15 for valet parking. Over the years we would return to the Royal Lahaina to eat at their restaurant, but I never had the urge to stay there again. Technically it is a part of the Ka’anapali complex, but it is on the other side of Black Rock and is not connected with the other resorts by that sea walk. There is a sense of isolation here, of being cut off from the verve of the rest of the island.
I always recommend the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel to first time Maui visitors. They are the winner of several awards that often cite they are the most "Hawaiian" hotel on the island. We took a walk through the property again this trip. The lobby seemed overcrowded and dark, especially compared to the vast open lobbies of other resort hotels. However, that lends itself to the more intimate feel they strive to connect the visitor to native Hawaii. In that crowded lobby and along the walkways in the courtyard are vendor tables with native arts for sale. That really attracts the "garage sale shoppers" and families. Craft classes and Keiki activities are offered. There is a Mixed Plate Buffet that also seems dark, but is a good value if you like buffet style food. The poolside grille looked more to my liking, with a sandwich menu and open-air seating. The main restaurant has another buffet on Sundays and evening meals. There is also an evening show. Three shops are on the complex, but the pantry store is sorely lacking in variety…walk to the ABC Store at the Whalers Village for a better choice of items. I remember spending one rainy day fighting for the use of one of the coin-op machines in the laundry. After that we always try to get a condo with washer/dryer. Parking at $9/day is a challenge but for an additional $2 you can valet park and save the hassle…of course you have to tip the valet, so it’s not cheap. The two things that make the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel a good pick are: the friendly helpful staff and the location. It is situated in the middle of the main Ka’anapali complex. The Whaler’s Village with its shops and restaurants is a short walk away. Black Rock with its snorkeling opportunities is within site from the KBH beachfront. Golf course is nearby, too. I strongly considered returning here, but once I have been spoiled by the joys of condo living it is hard to go back to a hotel room.
Lahaina Roads is by far the most economical place we have stayed on Maui. I can’t glamorize it at all. It was shabby. Mike, the live-in manager became a friend after several trips to our unit to fix things. First the sunshades on the lanai fell down, then there was a plumbing problem, no coffee pot and finally the dining room table fell apart. All of these things were fixed or replaced by the day after they were reported. Don’t ever hesitate to report things. Not all the units are in similar stage of neglect. Since they are privately owned there is a range of decay. We picked this place because the price was low, so I had expected some of these problems. Upgrades had been made to the kitchen appliances and they all worked beautifully. The bedroom was very small and a queen size bed really crowded it. The closets were overstuffed with fans, poolside furniture, beach mats and extraneous paraphernalia. Surprisingly the bathroom was spacious and had a roomy walk-in shower with multi setting massage showerhead. We had lots of vanity counter and drawer space. The step out of the shower was too high, so we did end up buying a stool from a local hardware store as a safety measure. Because we wanted to make use of the hide-a-bed sofa as a second bed, the living room was quite crowded. We had specifically rented this unit because it boasted air conditioning. Wall units were located in the living room and bedroom and were controlled via a hand held remote. On the last day of our visit I finally figured out how to use that remote properly. That was a great disappointment to Bill. We had even asked Mike for help, but he didn’t know how it worked either. Most of the units didn’t have air conditioning. They relied on the mountain Zephyr to cool the condo. The door to the mountainside balcony had large louvers and the bedroom had jalousie windows. With these open the breeze will funnel down the hall and out the wide lanai door creating a lovely cooling sensation. However, that was not cool enough for Bill, so he was miserable most of our stay here. There were even ceiling fans in the living room, bedroom and lanai. I particularly liked the lanai fan that stirred up the heavy ocean air. So, you ask why would anyone want to stay at Lahaina Roads? Two reasons. First is the view, it is absolutely gorgeous. Small boats bob in the channel waters because we are near Mala Wharf. Cruise ships anchor nearby. The island of Lanai is a backdrop that produces very dramatic sunsets. Sea turtles frequent the shoreline and area quite entertaining. Lahaina Roads has limited grounds, but they have been planted with lovely flowering hedges and several plumeria trees. The pool and BBQ areas are well maintained. There is no sandy beach, but I saw several people snorkeling with the turtles along the rocky and sand shoreline. The palm trees number just enough to make for postcard quality pictures. You are close to the water, even from the fourth floor were we stayed you have an intimate feel with the water, due primarily to the small lawn. Second reason that I love the Lahaina Roads is that old real estate adage "Location, location, location!" My primary exercise is walking. I loved to walk the neighborhood around Lahaina Roads. I could walk all the way to the Banyan Tree in downtown Lahaina. I did walk to the library, grocery and shopping centers. I walked in some residential areas. There is so much to see and smell…ah, the flowers are wonderful, but there are also the aromas of the restaurants..yum. We were just a short drive to shops, restaurants, museums and other tourist attractions. We were just a block and a half from a favorite restaurant the Aloha Mixed Plate. We were two blocks from Old Lahaina Luau. An elegant restaurant Canoes is only a block away the other direction. Yes, there is some traffic noise, but you get used to it. Another bonus is the Lahaina Roads has free parking. The parking area is the first or ground floor of the building, so it is sheltered and you always have as space as they only allow one car per unit. Elevator access is also sheltered.I ranked this as my favorite place to stay based primarily on the view and the location. I might try for a different unit next time.
Ka’anapali Ali'i is by far the most expensive place we have stayed on Maui. We were upgraded to an ocean view 1 bedroom with semi-private second bedroom; we were told this was due to our anniversary, which our travel agent had notified them about. I suspect that we were upgraded because we arrived the day before Labor Day and the number of visitors drops off considerably after Labor Day. Either way it was a nice surprise and greatly appreciated. This condo was spacious, comfortable and pretty. Our ocean view was typical of the complex. You had to stand at the dining room window or on the lanai to see the ocean and it seemed remote form the height of the high rise. Bill luxuriated in the quiet of the complex and the dependability of the air conditioning. I was thrilled with the full kitchen, laundry room and huge closets. We were ready to move in permanently. Walking into the unit we had to step down from the elegant entry foyer to the kitchen directly ahead, or to the living room to the right, or to the bedroom suite on the left. The living room was huge and would serve well for a gathering of family or friends. On a platform two steps up from the living room was a TV room with a sleeper sofa and a full bath adjoining it. We spent most of our indoor time in this area rather than the vast living room. The master bedroom had two levels. The lower level had comfortable chairs and tables with a lovely view of grounds and/ or the TV. I spent a lot of time in here reading while the football fan camped out in the TV room. The laundry room was functional, not pretty. The master bath was huge with double sinks in an anteroom.Outside was a pool, tennis courts, garden area and of course the great Ka’anapali Beach with the sea-walk that connects the Ali’i to other resorts, shops and restaurants. Parking is free in a well-designed parking ramp. In a small room near the lobby we could check out movies and exchange books. A bellman did transport our luggage to the room and made sure we were knowledgeable about the area. That sums up the services available. There are no restaurants, snack bars, or pantry shops on the property. A golf course for the entire Ka’anapali complex is nearby. To view the sunsets we had to watch the clock and make sure we were out on the sea-walk at the right time. At that time there were granite benches periodically placed along the walk where we sat to enjoy the view. On our trip in 2008 they were not there. I hope that amenity returns. If you vacation here you will need a car. This would be a great place to live. Bill ranked this as his favorite primarily based on comfort.
The Whaler, in the heart of Ka’anapali is hard to beat. This twin tower condo complex has location in its favor. The units are spacious and have good views of the ocean and the mountains from our ninth floor lanai. The unit we rented was up to date with a luxurious bath, a second full bath that was nicer than most hotel rooms have, wonderful mattress, comfortable furniture, room to move around in, a fantastic lanai with a choice of seating (some lanai furniture is really flimsy), and plenty of storage. The kitchen was not designed for short people. It was difficult to get things in and out of the above counter cupboards. There are no frills and extras at this facility. No shops, no restaurants, vending machines were minimal. We had a short walk to the Whaler’s Village next door for shopping, restaurants and pantry supplies. It is also a great place to go for an exercise walk. The bulk of our grocery shopping was done in Lahina at a full size grocery. Our unit did have a washer/dryer, but they were out of order. Fortunately each floor has a small laundry located on the corridor with the elevators and I never had trouble accessing them. There are two parking choices at $12/day. The first is an outdoor lot near the north tower. The second parking area is underground below the central courtyard. The great things about this lot is the protection from the elements and they have shopping carts available to transport your groceries, extra luggage and heavy duty shopping spree bags to your room. Unfortunately at the time of our visit the central courtyard was under construction. That work had caused leaks in the garage, so each day we had to watch for puddles, yellow-tape closed areas and the potential of falling items. We lived with it just fine. We were given visitation privileges at the neighboring resorts swimming pool because the Whaler’s pool was being rebuilt. Management was extremely concerned about our inconvenience caused by the construction/beautification project. We were given a terrific welcoming basket with Mac nuts, candy, Kona coffee, cookies and a fresh pineapple. They gave us a $100 travelers checque to ease the pain, too. Wow! We would gladly return to this condo complex. The staff, bellman, concierge and desk clerks all went out of their way to meet our needs. This was the firm second choice for both of us, and therefore our compromise first choice.
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