Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua
'Crown Jewel of Maui' a feast for the senses
By SARAH RUPPENTHAL
For The Maui News
Under the majestic gaze of the rainbow-crowned West Maui Mountain range, the West Maui towns of Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kahana and Napili are brimming with lively activity and stunning scenery.
Each year, millions of visitors flock to West Maui to indulge in its sun, sand and surf. But West Maui’s appeal extends past the typical Hawaii vacation. With its meticulously restored architecture and cultural landmarks, the area is a reflection of Maui’s rich culture and epic history. Driving west along the winding Honoapiilani Highway bordered on one side by jagged rock walls and the sparkling Pacific Ocean on the other, it is possible that one will experience a surreal feeling of entering a different reality — a paradise hidden away from the rest of the world.
Often referred to as the “Crown Jewel of Maui,” Lahaina was once the capital city of Maui, home of the Kamehameha dynasty in the early 19th century. In 1802, King Kamehameha the Great designated Lahaina as the official center of government for the entire Hawaiian Kingdom, until it was relocated to Honolulu on the island of Oahu several decades later.
Today, Lahaina has nearly 50 acres of historic districts, and a number of its buildings and structure are designated as National Historical Landmarks. There is always a celebration in Lahaina, from welcoming the arrival of the humpback whales to honoring the tradition of Polynesian canoe building and indulging in the burgeoning culinary arts.
The heart of Lahaina Town is found along Front Street, the main thoroughfare for the town, with a colorful assortment of gift shops, retail stores, art galleries, and award-winning restaurants. At one end of Front Street, the Banyan Tree Park is a true marvel of nature. Standing more than 60-feet high and stretching hundreds of feet wide, the Banyan Tree was planted in 1873 in honor of Lahaina’s traveling missionaries. Its massive trunks and branches now shade some of West Maui’s most talented artisans, who display artwork and entertain visitors in the cool beauty of Banyan Tree Park. Lahaina is also the home of two of the islands most popular luaus, the Old Lahaina Luau and the Feast at Lele. Each offers the opportunity to experience the traditional Hawaiian feast, with food, music, chants, and of course, the hula. Visitors can also find live entertainment at the Maui Theater and the award-winning “Ulalena,” a live music performance depicting the history of the Hawaiian Islands.
And as the home of one of the best nightlife areas on Maui, Lahaina is one island town that knows how to entertain its guests after the sun sets. From dance clubs to dinner theaters, those seeking some evening entertainment will find a range of choices in Lahaina.
A short distance away, the breathtaking ocean vistas and lush gardens of Kaanapali welcome guests to one of the most spectacular beaches in Hawaii. Voted “Best Beach on Maui” by a number of travel Websites, the three-mile stretch of golden sand was once the preferred destination for vacationing members of the royal families of Hawaii. Like Lahaina, Kaanapali is a reflection of the island’s rich history, as it once was a training ground for Polynesian warriors who prepared for battle along its pristine shoreline. Today, with its upscale resorts, beachfront shopping, award-winning restaurants and championship golf courses, it remains a luxurious haven for rest and relaxation for visitors from around the globe.
Golfers will discover their own brand of paradise in Kapalua, a resort area that stretches from the base of the West Maui Mountains to the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. Renowned for its own championship golf courses and golf academy, Kapalua is an unparalleled golf experience that provides golfers of all skill levels with the opportunity to spend a day on the course surrounded by ocean views and impossibly green fairways. As the home of the annual Mercedes-Benz Championships and the LPGA Classic Tournament, Kapalua draws some of the biggest names in the sport to its courses. For those who desire to learn the sport, Kapalua Golf Academy offers Maui’s most comprehensive golf instruction in one of the most beautiful outdoor classrooms in the world. Tennis players will delight in the Kapalua Tennis Garden, which features scenic courts with state-of-the-art equipment, tournament play, tennis workshops and lessons, and a full-service pro shop.
For outdoor adventure enthusiasts, the new Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost provides visitors with the challenging and exciting opportunity to experience West Maui from the air — a climbing tower, a high ropes challenge course and a two-mile, dual-track zipline. Back on the ground, the Kapalua Adventure Center located in the heart of the resort, offers additional outdoor activities, as well as shopping, dining and educational services.
From the bustling avenues of Lahaina’s Front Street to the serene landscape of Kapalua’s golf courses, West Maui is a feast for all of the senses. Its romantic scenery is perfect for a beach wedding, while its velvet soft beaches are ideal for building sandcastles with the family. The beaches that stretch along West Maui’s coastline offer an unlimited amount of seaside excitement, or a moment of rest and relaxation under the Hawaiian sun. While golfing, surfing, paddling, snorkeling and scuba diving are some of the most popular activities in the area, there are also a variety of unique activities for the more daring individual, such as parasailing, jetskiing, and ATV tours. And in West Maui, it is difficult to stay out of the water, with a variety of boat excursions, whale watching expeditions, sunset dinner cruises, even a glass-bottomed submarine tour.
Throughout West Maui, there is vast selection of accommodations, from surfside bed and breakfasts, private condominiums and five-star resorts. Situated along the coastline, most West Maui lodgings have a clear view of the Pacific Ocean, with convenient access to other major resort areas, shopping and dining via paved beach pathways, the restored sugarcane train, the Honoapiilani Highway and the Pacific Railroad.
West Maui hosts some of the island’s most popular events, including “Friday Night is Art Night in Lahaina,” the King Kamehameha Day Parade, the Ocean Arts Festival, the International Festival of Canoes, the Taste of Lahaina Food Festival and the annual Halloween celebration, hailed as the “Mardi Gras of the Pacific.”
Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kapalua are celebrated for hosting some of the best restaurants on Maui. Lahaina’s Front Street is overflowing with dining options, while the Kaanapali and Kapalua resort areas offer a variety of independent and “in-house” selections representing the diversity of the culinary arts. From fresh-caught mahi-mahi and exotic sushi to succulent Kobe steak and locally-grown organic greens, the renowned establishments of West Maui offer a taste of paradise, encompassed by the majestic beauty of the Pacific Ocean. As you take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Lahaina, Kaanapali and Kapalua, it becomes clear as to why the royal families of Hawaii once considered the area to be a rare and beautiful treasure — fit for kings and queens.
Click on a link or on the map to visit another area of the island.