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7 must-see attractions in Kaanapali, Maui

During a last-minute family trip in 2009, I fell in love with Ka’anapali. My parents were in California for a visit when I suggested that we extend their trip and fly to Hawaii to celebrate their 70th birthdays. As western New Yorkers who found the journey from the East Coast to Hawaii intimidating, Maui was a place they never expected to visit, but it ended up being their all-time favourite vacation.

We arrived at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas and spent a week exploring everything the Ka’anapali coast – and nearby Lahaina – had to offer. I recently returned to this island paradise, revisiting some of our favourite spots while discovering many new ones.

The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa’s Tour of the Stars

The sky and stars are important in Hawaiian culture because they are thought to be the only tool native Polynesians once had for navigating the Pacific. On clear nights, the Hyatt Regency’s Director of Astronomy, Edward Mahoney, takes guests on a tour of the night sky from the top of one of the hotel’s towers. Mahoney points out visible constellations using powerful giant telescopes and binoculars, many of which are not visible from the United States mainland.

There’s also the option to order champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries to snack on between viewings of the telescope.

Lahaina Exploration

Lahaina, Hawaii’s former capital, is a short drive south of Ka’anapali and well worth a visit for shopping, dining, and admiring the sprawling banyan tree, whose branches spread like tentacles across nearly 2 acres. Breakfast can be had at “Top Chef” contestant Lee Anne Wong’s Papa’aina at the Pioneer Inn, or reservations can be made at Pacific’o on the Beach. “There’s no better time to be dining in Maui,” says executive chef Isaac Bancaco, a Maui native.

Scuba diving, kitesurfing, and parasailing are just a few of the activities available to adventurous travellers. But don’t pass up the opportunity to get up close and personal with the sea life in Honolua Bay, which includes sea turtles and (if you’re lucky) octopus. Teralani Sailing Adventures meets guests on the beach in Ka’anapali’s centre, then anchors in a bay along Maui’s coast for a day of fun and sun that includes lunch and drinks.

Drive to the sacred site of Kapalua.

The Honokahua Preservation Site is located on oceanfront property near the Ritz Carlton Maui, Kapalua. Visitors can see (from a distance) the site where approximately 2,000 Hawaiian ancestors were buried between A.D. 850 and the early 1800s at the northwest tip of the island.

This rocky point, according to Native Hawaiians, is central to the traditional life cycle of birth, life, death, and transformation. Many people believe that this is where the body’s spirit leaves this world and travels to the next. These historically significant locations are known as “wahi pana” in Hawaiian. (Please keep in mind that visitors are not permitted to walk on any sacred ground.)

Food and Wine Festival in Hawaii

The Hawaii Food & Wine Festival begins each fall with a series of events in and around Ka’anapali. Chefs from Hawaii and other parts of the United States prepare innovative dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Events are held at various properties throughout Ka’anapali.

In 2022, these included the Big, Bold, and Beautiful event on the beachside lawn of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, as well as Stars, Beards, and Diamonds, a posh sit-down dinner at the Royal Lahaina Resort & Bungalows (that’s Michelin stars, James Beard Awards, and AAA Diamond designations).

Dining near the destination

There are numerous dining options, including the relatively new Waicoco at the Westin Resort & Spa (check out that French toast!). and the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa’s Japengo. Japengo’s menu focuses heavily on Asian fusion, incorporating Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Korean cuisines, but it also includes a selection of quality steak options. Keep an eye out for the deep-fried malasadas for dessert.

The Whalers’ Village

Whaler’s Village, an upscale outdoor shopping centre in the heart of Ka’anapali, has a number of shops featuring Hawaiian clothing and keepsakes, which are rarely on my list of places to see when travelling. Set along the beach, it also has a variety of dining options, ranging from the casual Hula Grill to the highly regarded Monkeypod Kitchen. The Hawaii Wildlife Discovery Center, located on the third floor, features more than 30 exhibits about Hawaii’s underwater life.

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