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.”
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. Because our internal clocks were three hours ahead of the time zone in Hawaii, 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
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 also helps to honor and continue the 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 were extremely good. The costumes are colorful, and the representation of Tahitian, Samoan, Maori, and Hawaiian cultures is satisfying and educational.
But here’s even more Hawaiian culture to love: 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. (By the way: “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, whenever the temperatures are below zero on the United States mainland, just hearing Hawaiian music takes me back to Napili Kai, my ideal place for relaxing Maui style.
Add to that fresh, locally sourced food in the restaurant, a weekly mai tai party, and beach loungers that beckon in the shade of the palm trees, and you have a world-class vacation location that really can’t be beat.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Originally published February 1, 2014
This makes me want to go back! Bet you do too.
Yes, Napili Kai is a very special place.
Laughed at the picture of you flinging self over the counter. Guess ti must be a good spot.
Must. Go. There. Now.
Heaven in a blog entry!! 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
Stay tuned: I’m going to write about some other snorkel spots on Maui!
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!
We are here right now!! Arrived last night at Napili Kai and looking out of the lobby door was stunning. The sunset over the ocean is as beautiful as thé pictures you see in books and magazines. With our patio facing the beach, we fell asleep to the sound of thé waves. We will be exploring all week and i can’t wait! I sure hope I see the sea turtles! Its our first time to Hawaii!
We are sitting on our room 207 lanai reading your review and it is spot on! It’s our second time here and we plan to come back every year. We booked our trip through Costco Travel and got an incredible deal both times.
Thanks for reading! And I so wish that I was at Napili Kai too.
I’ve never tried Costco Travel, but it sounds like I should. Did you book Napili Kai through Costco too, or just flights?
Great beach.. love coming there for over 30 years..Napili Kia not what it used to be..it’s Old and run down and they are definitely missing the Aloha Spirit. Can do much better price wise anywhere else…Management change is not interested in customer service.. Mahalo
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Napili Kai has slipped in quality. I know there are a number of older units, but when I was there I thought they were updating them. But perhaps the individual owners are the ones who make the decisions about that. Glad to hear that the beach is still wonderful!
Hi i thank you for the report but i want a newsletter.