Maui is no stranger to luxury hotels, upscale restaurants, and world-class service, but most high-flying travelers end up in Wailea or Kapalua, while the budget-minded have tended to favor Ka’anapali. That’s shifting now that several Ka’anapali hotels have undergone complete transformations, and two brand-new destination restaurants add to this spectacular stretch of coastline a decidedly luxe vibe.
The Westin Maui Resort & Spa has a beautiful new wing (formerly the Beach Tower) called Hōkūpaʻa, whose minimalist-chic design spills over into The Lānai, which is basically a private club that offers breakfast, dinner pupus, a full bar, food service off the restaurant menu, and a warm plunge pool. This hotel within the hotel is the place to be for personalized service and a mellow vibe.
And downstairs, right on the beach, is a new restaurant from celebrity chefs Chris Kajioka and Mourad Lalou in a Hawai’i/San Francisco culinary collaboration that might be described as a global approach to local ingredients. Waicoco was only open for breakfast when I was last there, but I would go out of my way for the shakshuka, topped with fennel and micro-greens and served in a cast iron skillet with grilled bread.
Another beloved spot along this gorgeous three-mile-long stretch of beach is the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, which has undergone a multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovation that began before the pandemic and was completed in the Spring of 2021. Forty — count ‘em — acres of tropical bounty were reimagined, with special attention to the 810 guest rooms (31 of which are suites) that hug the curve of the beach. The hotel was recently awarded LEED-EBOM Gold-Level certification, an impressive milestone in the resort’s storied history and yet another reason to check it out.
A big draw here is the Hyatt’s main restaurant, Japengo, a longtime anchor in the westside culinary scene that just keeps getting better and better. Go for all manner of raw fish and stay for the Vietnamese-style Kurabota pork.
One of the highlights of my recent visit was an otherworldly adventure — a rooftop stargazing experience led by Edward J. Mahoney, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, who uses a computer to dial in the whereabouts of constellations, moons, and planets on one of three high-powered telescopes. There is very little light pollution in the Hawaiian Islands (in fact, there are laws limiting it), so it’s the perfect place to view the night sky. But in my 20+ years of visiting the island, I never knew this was something one could do. It’s an absolute must if you’re staying in Ka’anapali.
The first resort built in Ka’anapali, and still a flag-bearer for the legendary beach, is the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, at the north end near the famous Pu‘u Keka‘a (Black Rock), where experienced cliff-divers perform a lele kawa ritual each night at sunset. The Sandbar is Ka’anapali’s only lobby bar, and no matter where you’re staying, you must have pupus and cocktails in this newly reimagined space.
In fact, the whole property has a more expansive look and feel, with lots of beachy blue and gray tones — and playful art in the guest rooms by Big Island native Kristie Fujiyama Kosmides.
Perhaps the hotel that’s undergone the most dramatic makeover of all is Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, a favorite for its steadfastness to cultural traditions, and the overall design incorporates purposeful reminders of these foundations in the functional art throughout — from old-school octopus lures to tried-and-true fishing nets. Somehow, elevating them to the status of art helps us focus on both their function and their beauty, simultaneously.
The hotel’s brand-new restaurant, Huihui, is getting rave reviews, and based on my hard-hat tour of the space, I’m not surprised it’s quickly becoming a destination unto itself. Here, Chef Tom Muramoto uses as many traditional ingredients as he can on the large and fascinating menu at the 5,000-square-foot oceanfront restaurant.
A perennially classic choice is the surprisingly under-the-radar Royal Lahaina Resort, whose understated luxury never goes out of style. The cottages with full kitchens that dot the secluded property are special, but the Royal Beach House is where I’d want my own biopic to be filmed, with its private lawn and pool fronting the ocean.
No matter what your Hawai’i style may be, it’s time to take a fresh look at the new Ka’anapali Beach, which is ready for its appearance on Maui’s luxury stage.