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Guide to West Maui

Updated on November 15, 2017

West Maui

The views are awesome, the waters are calm, the hotels great. West Maui is most likely one of the reasons why Maui has been voted "Best island in the World" by the readers of Conde Nast Magazine.

After you pass Kihei on hwy. 30, the road starts to wind through the West Maui Mountains to the popular West Coast. The beautiful highway follows along the coast with stunning views over the ocean and Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokini. On the ocean side of the highway is the historical town of Lahaina.

From the old port in Lahaina, daily whale watching tours take you on a fascinating ride. During the winter months, the Humpback Whales come all the way from the Arctic Sea to enjoy the shallow waters around Maui and to have their calves here. A few thousand years back, Maui, Lanai and Kaholooawe were one big land mass. It was called Maui Nui, which means Big Maui. Then the land mass began to sink and formed three separate islands. The water between Maui and Lanai is very shallow, and offers perfect conditions for raising baby whales. The animals are federally protected. Boats and swimmers are not allowed to get closer than 500 yards, and planes have to stay higher that 1000 feet. It often happens, though, that the whales decide to come closer to the boats.

The "other" resort area, the Kaanapali coast, which stretches from Lahaina up north to Kapalua, is a wonderful string of beaches. Many luxury hotels like the Hyatt and the Sheraton are located here, and along with the charm of historical Lahaina, this is the perfect spot for a vacation.

Hotels and condos in all price ranges have been built here, and countless B&B and vacation homes offer alternatives to the traditional hotel stay.The north coast of Maui has also much luxury to offer. Celebrities like Magic Johnson, Tom Selleck, and Jim Carey have homes there. The Ritz Carlton and the Kapalua Bay Hotel are the two best addresses on Maui’s Napili coast, along with some of the worlds best golf courses.

Lahaina

This quaint, historical town has not only a remarkable past, but also a lively present. Lahaina was the main whale port in the beginning of the 19th century.

After the European and American whalers had depleted the whale population in the Atlantic Ocean, they came to Maui.At peak times, up to 500 ships were anchored in Lahaina’s port.

It is difficult to imagine how a small village with 59 stone houses and 882 grass dwellings could keep up with thousands of sailors on their search for alcohol and women. Soon Lahaina soon had a bad reputation. When petroleum, steel and oil replaced whale oil and whale bones, the wild Lahaina times were over, until the 1970s, when the tourist industry discovered the town again.

Today the town is more than awake. It offers a variety of fabulous restaurants, oceanfront shopping pavilions and countless activities . The translated meaning of Lahaina is "merciless sun". The West Maui Mountain range catches the rain so it usually does not affect Lahaina, which seems to be always sunny and dry.

The famous Banyan Tree can be found at the corner if Hotel and Front Street . Its branches reach over one acre. A few steps north of the tree you can spot the Carthaginian II, a nostalgic landmark. As the name already implies, this is the second ship of its kind. The first one sank in 1972 just offshore. The Lahaina History Society bought a similar ship in Europe and remodeled it. Today the ship is a museum and is dedicated to the history of whaling. Close by is the Lahaina Shores hotel and two of the few B&B's in town, the Bambula and Old Lahaina.

Right oustide of town, with swepping views of the ocean, you can stay at the private Wai Ola, a special hideaway with lots of charm.

You can visit the Baldwin Home, which was built in 1838,the interior of the house showcases the missionary lifestyle from 150 years ago. Look for the Japanese house on front street which shows movies of "old Hawaii" filmed by Thomas Edison on his first visit to the islands.

Kaanapali

Kaanapali stretches 10 miles from Lahaina to Kapalua. During the monarchy, taro and sugar covered the area, and Chief Pililani was the first one who built a Royal Highway through the area (the name remained until today).

In the 1960s AMFAC, one of the ‘big five’ companies of Hawaii,broke ground for their first resort there. The architecture of the Hyatt Regency Hotel set a new standard in resort development, and Trent Jones was hired to create a masterpiece golf course along the beach. Sheraton Maui followed and included parts of a seacliff into the resort’s walls, and then Marriott Maui opened its doors. It did not take very long for other investors to jump in and develop this beautiful coastline. Today there is a great variety of hotels, including the more moderately priced Royal Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach Hotel , and the Kaanapali Shores and Villas .

Go and watch cliffdivers leap off the cliffs at the Sheraton Maui at sunset. This daily ritual is based on an old Hawaiian legend. It is said that the volcanic cliff, known as leina a ke akua, is the place, where spirits leap into eternal darkness. Every night, a Hawaiian runner, in traditional malo, carries a flaming torch to the cliff edge and dives into the sea – a leap reminiscent of the old Hawaiian ways.

Kaanapali offers a lot to its guests - from the five-star resorts to an endless variety of activities and white beaches, it is one of the reasons so many people return to Maui.If you like B&B and do not want to miss your luxury,stay at Daniela's Place or at Wai Ola, a private and secluded hideaway.

Napili

Napili is a small village located north of the Kaanapali coast. In the Napili Plaza you can find a supermarket, several food places, a bank and a video store. Napili is mostly visited for the beautiful Napili Bay beach, where you can find several hotels and condos.

Following the road you are going to reach Kapalua. This town has a long Hawaiian history. In ancient times, the immense volcano, which formed the West Maui Mountains, was said to be the divider between Heaven and Earth. Many Hawaiians settled down in this area because the soil was very fertile. Later, the Honolua Ranch took over most of this land. Parts of it belong to the Kapalua Resort now. The most important sacred site is the burial ground of Honokahua. The ancient burial site dates back to the year 600, and contains over 900 ancient graves, which were detected when the digging for the Ritz Carlton Hotel began. The hotel had to be partly redesigned, and its location had to be revised.

Beaches

Papalaua Beach – Thousand Peaks

This beach is located between Punahoa Beach and the Pali. The beach is known for good kayaking and snorkeling. The east end of the beach is called the "Coral Gardens" and the west end "Thousand Peaks".

Kaanapali Beach

This 4 miles long beach stretches from Lahaina going north. It is a wide, sandy beach, perfect for swimming and some snorkeling. It can be considered as the Waikiki of Maui. It is the best place to be seen, and watch other people.

The best places for snorkeling are the lava rocks around Black Rock, at the Sheraton.

You can only access the beach through the resort area.

Napili Bay

The beach is hidden between some moderate hotels and condominiums. You can access the beautiful bay from the Lower Honoapiilani Road. The beach is excellent for swimming and snorkeling. Some shallow, sandy tide pools make the beach very popular with children. During the winter months, occasional storms and high swells prohibit any water activities. There are no facilities on the beach.

Kapalua Beach

This nice bay was once voted as the best beach of the world and is located just south of the Kapalua Bay Resort, and is generally recommended as the safest beach on Maui. A huge off shore reef protects the bay from incoming waves. In addition, you have a magnificent view on Molokai, and during the winter you might be able to observe some whales.

D.T. Fleming Beach – Honokalua Bay

The beach was named after David Thomas Fleming (1881-1955), who was once the manager of the Honokalua Ranch. The Ritz Carlton Hotel runs the beachfront restaurant. This white, sandy beach is a nice swimming and snorkeling beach during the summer, but during the winter the shore break can be a real killer. Please respect the red flags at that time!

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