KAANAPAL, FEb. 20I – Times are a changing here. Your blogger and columnist has been observing the evolution of the Kaanapali Beach Resort -believe it or not – for more than 40 years. The big changes are evident, but the subtle ones visible to the keen observer are accelerating. Now you can take paddle board lessons and do much more: Scroll down to see the column.
Change where the world comes to play Voices of Maui • Beyond the Beach February 12, 2015
BY NORM BEZANE , Lahaina News
For thousands of years, Lanai and Molokai sat in the distance often embraced by clouds. The scene still looks the same today, but closer in, what can be seen is entirely different. Once, you could see a single catamaran landing at dusk. Now, you sometimes see the Kaanapali version of a traffic jam, with five catamarans back from sunset cruises debarking passengers on the shore at the same time.
Many locals other than Hawaiians rarely visit one of the world’s greatest beaches, busy with work or other things. A vast majority of condo owners we know can never be seen on the beach walk or restaurants. One wonders why they don’t just stay in California and water their lawns.
The most tasteful change this year is the new Hyatt Kaanapali Beach (adjoining the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa) that quietly opened before Christmas. At the soft opening on the first day, some 30 or so employees lined up and greeted the first guests with applause and leis.
The unusual design of the resort, dotted with extensive foliage and large trees that took months to install, showcases the beach and ocean, with all venues within the resort – including a spectacular lobby, towel kiosk, food store and jacuzzi – having an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean. The new Tiki Bar just steps from the water is a great place to hang out and have a Coke or a Mai Tai.
Beginning at the Sheraton and walking past five major venues, you can engage in nostalgia or wonder at recent changes. The shuffleboard courts on the beach at the old Sheraton Maui have long been gone.
Standing alone, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel has changed little, its great lawn still a wonderful place to relax. Iconic bartenders Dale and Tommy have been serving Mai Tais for 40 years at the Tiki Bar.
The Whaler condominium has snazzy new barbecues on the beach, a great new garden in the middle and completely redone balconies.
Hula Grill, replacement for the old Crab Catcher (where you could dine next to its swimming pool), thrives. Only the prices and menus have changed.
Rusty Harpoon, where you could cook your own burgers 30 years ago and later cheer on your teams at its sports bar, is gone. If you look to the ocean from the new restaurant there, your view will be obscured by new kiosks selling sarongs, photo shoots and time shares.
Continuing our journey down the beach path, we come to the Kaanapali Ali’i, which a couple years ago expanded its pool area and added a waterfall. Soon, it will close for a $40 million-plus rehab project, according to a longtime owner.
The old Maui Surf once next door gave way to The Westin Maui. Its two main restaurants have undergone still another re-creation.
The Marriott Ocean Club further along has doubled in size, and red-shirted attendants can be seen teaching guests to fish from the shore.
All along the path, the beach walk’s ocean side once held bushes and sand. Now, broad lawns have been added lined with chaise lounge chairs – easily more than 100, their soft cushions with towels awaiting guests every early morning.
Paddle boarders now serenely paddle toward Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock). Surf schools have proliferated in just the last two years, with yellow- and orange-shirted instructors bringing scores of visitors out into the waves.
Hotel managers from the Mainland, however, have added garish signs more suited to California than our beautiful Hawaiian beach. They are an insult to a culture that venerates beauty. The latest goofy idea is a water attraction that propels visitors into the air. Noted one longtime resident who owns at the Ali’i and is on the beach every day: “Kaanapali Beach is now being treated as if were an amusement park.”
The columnist is not amused.