Honua Kai Visit
Posted by Alex Cortez on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 3:55pm.
I don't typically write in the first person, specially about my personal life. However, I had a recent visit to Honua Kai and I would like to share my experience - perhaps it might be helpful to someone else considering a stay at this luxury Kaanapali resort. As a preface, the following post is written from the perspective of a family with two small children (5 year old boy and 20 month old girl).
As my five year old had 'fall break' from school (and really, I don't remember having this much time off when I was a kid), we decided to have a 'staycation' on West Maui, take the opportunity to enjoy the Maui lifestyle and spend some much needed family time. So we looked at suitable options on the west side, from the Westin, to Honua Kai, to Kapalua Bay Villas, and everything in between. As we wanted to make the vacation as worry-free as possible, we focused on all-inclusive resorts (which narrowed down the list pretty quickly). Ultimately, all the positive reviews and the unique value proposition of Honua Kai were too compelling.
So we made arrangements through Maui Westside Properties for a condo unit in Hokulani. First, I must say that I am impressed by their level of professionalism and personal service (kudos to Walt and his staff). Barb Kubiak met us on site to walk us through 'registration' and to the unit itself - she showed us how everything works, etc. Upon arrival, the first thing that must be done is register and pay for parking - the fee is $12 per day for condo units that are NOT on the on-site program run by IHM; for units in the IHM on-site program, there is a $25 resort fee per day (this includes parking, property-wide wireless access and ability to charge things directly to the room). Due to my previous experience in Honua Kai, I know the property exceedingly well and can see how Barb's input on resort orientation (she shows you where to park, where the pools are, how to access, etc.) can be instrumental in getting acclimated/oriented at the Honua Kai resort.
First, click here to view the resort from various viewpoints throughout the resort - thanks, Google. The Hokulani tower is on the south and Konea is on the north, with each tower having its parking area - and each has an underground parking garage. As in Honua Kai parking is not deeded or assigned, it is on a first-come, first-served basis for owners and guests; the only exclusion to that is that owners of 3 bedroom units have a special priviledge of parking in a designated area in the underground garage (albeit, my understanding is that of today, this parking policy is not being enforced yet). Perhaps during high season parking may be an issue, but visiting in October, there was always plenty of parking to serve the needs of current guests.
Pools - The 'Aquatic Playground' consists of three pools: The Nanea ("leisure") pool is in front of Hokulani, the Wailele ("waterfall") is between both towers), and the Maile ("calm/quiet"). Pool hours are from 6am to 10pm. The Nanea is the infinity-edge pool, it varies in depth from 3 feet to 4 feet (give or take). On the makai edge of the pool, there is a shallow pool for the kids - I have no idea of its depth, but I would say no more 9 inches. For the little ones who are not able to enjoy the Nanea pool, this little pool is a God-send - I spent hours sitting there, watching my daughter love the Maui life. On each side of this shallow pool, there are two hot tubs, perfect for those chilly West Maui afternoons (well, it's all about perspective... after a few years living on Maui, 70 degrees can seem chily).
The Wailele pool is next to the activity center, where you can buy/rent various water toys, exchange towels, etc. It has a sandy entrance on one side, dramatic waterfalls, and the slide (warning: only allow kids to go down the slide if you are prepared for them to be addicted to it. The slide down and run up the stairs will be tiring after 20 times in a row).
Beach - Directly beachfront, Honua Kai guests can enjoy one of the most scenic beaches in the world. And as an added bonus, there is a good chance of ending up swimming with a turtle. Every time we went to the beach, we saw a turtle very close to shore. For better or for worse, my daughter's favorite animal happens to be turtles, so she was particularly excited whenever we saw a turtle - the problem being that these turtles camouflage extremely well in the water so although as an adult you can easily make out the shape of a turtle, for a 20 month old girl who has the patience of a runaway train, it's not nearly as enjoyable.
Amenities - Namely, besides the pools, there are four amenities worth noting. The Aina Gourmet market, Duke's Restaurant, the Ho'ola Spa, and the Fitness Center. The Aina Gourment is located in the lobby of the Hokulani tower and offers a great assortment of quality products and there seems to be an emphasis on locally grown/produced products. It's not inexpensive, but for many (including myself) the convenience is certainly worth a bit of a premium. Duke's, there is not much that I can say that hasn't been said by hundreds of reviews across the internet. It is a great restaurant, serves great food, the location is unbelievable, and prices are well within reason - this is not a fast-food place, the pricing is reflective of high quality food with superb service. The Hoola Spa, located in the lobby of the Konea tower, opened recently and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. As a firm believer in the 'happy wife, happy life' mantra, a spa day for 'mom' is well worth the effort and expense. And for those so inclined, the fitness center located in the Konea tower is well equipped and (again) offers the convenience of being on-site.
It may seem redundant, but the pools and beach offer a magnificent setting in which to enjoy the best that Maui has to offer. Directly beachfront of Honua Kai, the immediate area offers great conditions for snorkeling (be mindful of the time, as early morning is typically the best time), kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and more. And of course, West Maui has some of the best golf courses in the world - a must-do for anyone who has ever golfed, ever. Seeking something a bit more adventureous? Try Skyline Eco Tour's ziplining in Kaanapali. The ocean views are incredible and it will be among the most memorable 3-4 hours you will spend on Maui. Shopping? Whalers Village is a short drive away. And while speaking of Whaler's Village, for those who want to burn a few calories, try doing the beachwalk from Honua Kai to Whalers Village.
It's 2 or 3 miles along a very scenic beachfront path, going from Honua Kai, past the Westin, Maui Kaanapali Villas, The Royal Lahaina Resort, Maui Eldorado, the Sheraton, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, and The Whaler. The beachwalk ends at the Sheraton, but walking through the Sheraton hotel, one can find the beachwalk path on the other side and continue further south to Whaler's Village.
It can be a long walk, specially if you're walking with a five year old boy (and by 'walking', I mean CARRYING), but the views along the walk path are postcard-perfect. Mind you, the photos in this post were taking with an iPhone while carrying a 5 year old boy and otherwise wrestling a 2 year old girl.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention an activity that turned out to be a HUGE hit with the kids: fishfeeding. Every morning, at 8:30 in the pond by the Hokulani lobby, a Honua Kai staff member gives fish food to children to feed the fish. There must be about 2 dozen beautiful fish - one of which we fondly called 'big chubby' because he is twice the size of the others. And funnily enough, as big as he is, 'big chubby' turned out to be pretty elusive to photograph.
For anyone with kids - for those who are kids at heart - the effort of getting up early (and really, is 8:30am actually early) is well worthwhile.
As a destination location where some of the most prominent culinary masters perfect their skills, there are always exquisite fine dining choices. However, not too many five year olds are overly enthused over five-star dining, so off we went to search for options within the Kaanapali and Honokowai area. I don't want to turn this into a food critic post (and really, my taste palette is not refined enough - I enjoy a great burger with a cold beer). So with that, our favorite place was a surprise: Slappy Cakes!!! Not only do the kids have fun making their own pancakes - by the way, my boy eats like he's a starting linebacker for USC, yet the 8 oz. batter was more than plenty - but the breakfast options for adults are huge and even more delicious than their size. The Hawaiian breakfast included the most delicious Portugese sausage I've ever had. I would have taken a photo of the food, but we devoured it too quickly. Another option in the area is Okazuya. Usually for a place to be successful with a cash-only policy, it better be good. And Okazuya delivers on that. The Korean barbecue chicken was outstanding. A must try for anyone passing through Honokowai.
Conclusion (or Beginning... Depending how you look at it)
The following may sound like a sales pitch, but it's not! All in all, this short staycation ended up being one of the best times I have ever had. Ever. And it is in large credit to Honua Kai and the perfect setting it created for my family and I to enjoy time together. You hear the phrase 'kid friendly' thrown around loosely, specially by those who don't have the privilege of toting around two small kids who are as volatile as a Middle East. Yet I can wholeheartedly say that Honua Kai is an incredibly kid-friendly resort. Would I have enjoyed it without kids? Probably. But this resort (one could argue) is geared to families looking for a worry-free vacation in the middle of paradise in luxury accommodations. We intend to be back in a few months, making a Honua Kai vacation a tradition for years to come.
Questions? Feel free to contact me.
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