The Best Place To Relax On Maui
I don’t stay at the Kaanapali Resort when I go to West Maui. I’m too much of a tightwad and, besides, I like to be in the heart of the action in Lahaina.
But I do sneak onto the grounds of Kaanapali Beach Hotel, use the beach and the outdoor shower, and read in one of the many empty lawn chairs scattered around. Those 11 acres are among the most enticing of any hotel in Hawaii. Therein is a story of doing things right.
Too many of our hotels have built themselves out to cover most every inch of available land. Not the Kaanapali Beach, or KBHMaui, as it’s known. The rooms are well back from the beach. The large grass acreage is immaculate, planted in native bush and trees. The pool is just that. No water chutes or fake rocks and grottos.
No guards checking if those of us using lounge chairs or the grass are guests because the chairs are so plentiful. Anybody can drink at the thatched-roof bar.
The owner who allows all this is Hong Kong’s Run Run Shaw.
KBH-Maui bills itself as “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel.” Staffers sing in Hawaiian to welcome each guest and you get another serenade when you depart. General manager Mike White and 90 percent of the executive committee were born and raised in Hawaii and 50 percent is Native Hawaiian.
I guess I can’t legally recommend sneaking in and using the chairs or the pool. But you should at least stroll through the grounds. There isn’t much like it.
Lahaina is honky-tonk to some, but always attractive to me. I’ve been going there for nearly 50 years. Yes, it’s touristy, but it has its charms and oodles of good restaurants.
On my last trip I “discovered” Lahaina Grill. It’s probably the best place I’ve eaten in Hawaii. Tops in both food and service.
I also discovered dinner at Betty’s Cafe at 505 Front St. It’s ordinary grill fare and not pricey.
The big deal is that open-to-the-sea Betty’s was there before the Feast At Lele moved in on the beach frontage. So you sit and eat and watch the whole Polynesian show for which others are paying $112 plus tax and tip. Of course, you don’t get the Polynesian feast, but Betty’s chicken wings and a mai tai are just fine!
Flying into the West Maui Airport on Island Air is a hoot. Reminds old-timers how it was before big airports and crowds. Even TSA doesn’t show up until 15 minutes before boarding time. The Dash-8 turbo-prop planes are small, so there’s no “zone” boarding. It’s about a 30-minute flight to Honolulu.
No car rental companies at the airport. They shuttle you five minutes down the Honoapiilani Highway at Honokowai. None of that major airport hassle of Kahului.