Heaven in Hawaii: Napili Kai Beach Resort, Maui

A double rainbow arcs over Napili Bay on the west coast of Maui. We witnessed this beauty from our ocean-view lanai. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Let me start by saying this: I cried when my husband and I checked out of Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui’s west coast.

I’ve stayed in many wonderful hotels on gorgeous beaches, but this low-key, low-rise, plantation-style resort on secluded-by-Maui-standards Napili Bay was so perfect for us that when I turned in our room keys, I felt like flinging myself over the reception desk and begging the staff to let me stay.

Napili Kai had everything we as a couple love: a quiet, sandy beach with good snorkeling; luxurious but unpretentious accommodations; cultural and environmental appreciation; a good restaurant with fresh, local ingredients; friendly people (both staff and other guests); and all-included resort amenities like beach chairs, towels, parking, and many activities (the hotel’s motto is “we don’t nickel-and-dime you.”

The Napili Kai building blend unobtrusively into the island landscape. Buildings higher than three stories are banned from Napili Bay, so development has never become an eyesore. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Blissing Out on Ocean Time

Ken and I stayed in casual luxury in a beachfront studio unit: king-sized bed; fully equipped kitchen; huge, two-chambered bathroom with walk-in shower; and a lanai—oh, the lanai with its unparalleled ocean view facing west for excellent sunsets. Two of the three nights we spent at Napili Kai, we got Thai takeout and enjoyed Panang curry and cold Aloha Beer (brewed in Honolulu) in the loungers on our lanai while watching the sun sink below the horizon.

At night, we turned off the air conditioning, opened the lanai doors, and slept to the sound of waves lapping against the black lava rock outside.

At sunset, a man lights the torches along the beach at Napili Kai. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Because our internal clocks were three hours ahead of Pacific Time, it was easy to take advantage of early morning at the beach. Each day, Ken and I watched green turtles surfing near the shallow rocks close to shore. Their heads bobbed on the surface; fins flapped above the whitecaps. Occasionally one rolled in the surf. I assume it was for fun and not hunting, because green turtles are herbivores. As they munched on algae and seagrass, they seemed to savor the act of cavorting in the waves.

We got to view the turtles from an underwater vantage when we snorkeled along the two reefs in the fairly calm waters of Napili Bay. The first thing we saw was a trio of Moorish idols, the most impressive and elegant of tropical fish. We also spotted puffer fish, a dragon eel, butterflyfish of several varieties, red sea urchins, and purple or yellow coral. But the most unique experience was snorkeling with a pair of turtles. They glide through the water so gracefully that they seem more like angels than reptiles.

Riding the Wave of Hawaiian Culture

Local children learn Polynesian dances and perform weekly at the Napili Kai. ©Laurel Kallenbach

What sets Napili Kai apart from many other beach resorts is that it highlights traditional Hawaiian culture. Most mornings, the hotel serves coffee, tea, and fresh pineapple in the Beach Cabana and presents cultural demonstrations such as lei making, wood carving, tapa cloth making, and palm weaving.

Napili Kai also helps perpetuate Hawaiian culture through its support of the nonprofit Napili Kai Foundation, which shares Hawaii’s cultural legacy with Maui’s children. Every Tuesday, Napili Kai guests can attend a free, onsite hula show in which young kids and teens perform authentic songs and dances of Polynesia with live adult musicians. Though the performances aren’t as polished as a professional hula show (I must say that the teen performers are extremely good), the costumes are colorful and the representation of Tahitian, Samoan, Maori, and Hawaiian cultures is satisfying.

George Kahumoku plays 12-string slack-key guitar and sings weekly. ©Laurel Kallenbach

There’s more: Napili Kai presents the Masters of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar concert series every Wednesday. Hosted by Grammy winner George Kahumoku, Jr. (who was featured on the soundtrack of the movie, The Descendants), this was an opportunity for Ken and me to hear live, island vocal and guitar music. (“Slack-key” is a style that originated in Hawaii, in which the player loosens the tuning of the guitar strings.)

We loved the sound. Hawaiian guitar music has a gentleness and warmth that can only come from hearing the waves and feeling tropical sea breezes on your shoulders. Now, when the temperatures are below zero, just hearing Hawaiian music takes me back to Napili Kai, my ideal place for relaxing Maui style.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Originally published Feb. 1, 2014

A crescent-shaped slice of Maui heaven: the laid-back beach and cabana of the Napili Kai. The water and snorkeling were wonderful right from the beach. ©Laurel Kallenbach

 

11 thoughts on “Heaven in Hawaii: Napili Kai Beach Resort, Maui

  1. Laurel, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed your stay at the Napili Kai and appreciated their support of Hawaiian culture. That has been one of the great changes over the last 10 years or so that we’ve been visiting Hawai`i – on our early visits the music seemed to be all rock’n’roll/mainland singer-songwriter but now we find traditional Hawaiian music all around us.

    There’s another great experience waiting for you on the windward side of O`ahu, a little town of Kailua where there are no hotels but a nice selection of B&B style accommodations, a gorgeous beach, and many great musicians playing all around the island.

    Fran

  2. Laurel! I’m headed to Maui later this year and I’ll definitely be looking to stay here! Thanks for the tips – I’ve been a little overwhelmed in planning for my first trip to the island. Wondering if you can recommend other do’s and don’ts related to sightseeing, food, and even room #’s to request at Napili Kai Beach Resort?

    • At Napili Kai, we stayed in Room 221, a beachfront studio. There are seven other units in that building, I think. I didn’t see other units, but many people at the resort commented that #221 is a favorite because of its view. (It’s a corner unit, so you can see West and a bit south too.) In addition to the full kitchen, there are barbecue grills right next to the unit.

      I’ll be blogging over the next few weeks about our Maui trip: snorkeling, a couple of restaurants we loved, Hale Hui Kai condo where we stayed in Kihei, whale/dolphin watching, the aquarium, etc. So stay tuned!

  3. My brother-in-law got married on the beach at Napili Kai. Lovely low-rise resort — a nice change from all the tall buildings elsewhere on Maui. Really enjoyed being there, but for my part, I am happy that we’ve both great snow and am heading to the high country today.

  4. Thanks, Laurel, for this heads-up on what sounds like a beautiful spot for a vacay. I especially love hearing that you can snorkel right off the beach here. And appreciate all your other tips too.

  5. Have been going to Napili Kai Beach Club since 1995 to carry on a tradition that my parents started in 1961. Coming back to Napili is like a homecoming for me and my wife. Have met many lifelong friends there that we see throughout the year on the mainland. It is like family when we arrive, greeted by familiar faces, and no matter how long it has been, made welcome as if we had never left. Maui No Ka Oi!

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