When it comes to choosing a Hawaiian island for a family vacation, Maui is a wonderful destination to visit with kids. It boasts gorgeous sandy beaches, myriad water activities, and resorts with large pools that make family vacations a no-hassle no-brainer.
For families, the holy grail is a fantastic, kid-friendly Maui hotel that won't break the bank. Set on the site of the former retreat for the royalty of Maui, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel is just the ticket, delivering the winning combination of a great value and authentic Hawaiian atmosphere.
One of Ka'anapali Beach’s must-see events is the daily cliff diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs known as Puu Kekaa, or Black Rock. Held every evening at sunset with torches lit along the edge of the cliff, the ceremony features diving off of Black Rock in a reenactment of a feat by Maui’s revered King Kahekili.
Just minutes outside Lahaina, the resort is located on three-mile Ka'anapali Beach, one of Maui's prime spots for visitors. Its west-facing position means that you're guaranteed amazing sunsets, and there is excellent snorkeling at one end at the Black Rock cliffs. While a string of big-name resorts shares this shore, Ka'anapali Beach Resort remains a relaxed property with a park-like setting.
Most visitors fly into Kahului Airport and then take the 40-minute drive along the Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30), which is a very picturesque drive along the shore to Lahaina.
This mid-priced resort is set on 11 beachfront acres and features a large 432-room low-rise hotel offering spacious guest rooms with roomy lanais (covered patios). Each room comes with a fridge, which is handy for families.
The resort is beautifully landscaped with flowering trees, a swimming pool, two restaurants, a spa, and an outdoor stage for hula demonstrations. Billing itself as Maui's "most Hawaiian hotel," the Ka'anapali Beach Resort schedules a number of free activities and workshops in lei-making, hula dancing, lau print-making, or playing the ukelele. Each kid receives an "Aloha Passport" that gets stamped with every activity they try. Hula shows are staged nightly and departing guests are given a kukui-nut lei, presented in a graceful little ceremony. For first-time visitors, all the nuts in the lei are dark brown; with every return visit, one dark nut is replaced with a light-colored one.
- terrific location on 3-mile Ka'anapali Beach
- steps to Black Rock snorkeling; steps to shops and other resorts
- good price point
- whale spotting from the beach and even guestroom balconies. (Whale spotting season is October to April.)
- Kupanaha Magic Show at dinner with entertaining tricks and hula dancing
- Black Rock, just north of the Ka'anapali Beach Resort is a great snorkeling spot. Kids can spy fish and perhaps even a sea turtle. At sunset, this is the site of a cliff-diving ceremony.
- Whalers Village, located just two minutes along the walkway, is a modern shopping complex with open-air restaurants overlooking the beach
Keep in mind:
- if you want glitz and fancy pools, stay in resorts further along the beach (and pay much more, of course)
- there is no supervised kids program at this property; instead, you'll find plenty of family activities with a focus on Hawaiian culture
- there is no shade on the beach (or all along Ka'anapali Beach); beach cabanas can be rented but at a price.
- beaches in Hawaii are often not swimmable, so pay attention to warnings. Fortunately, Ka'anapali Beach is known for good conditions. When we visited, kid and adults swam and went boogie boarding. Steps away from Black Rock, the water near shore was calm and good for snorkeling.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, we believe in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.
Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher