After five truly enlightening days on the Big Island, I departed for my next adventures in Maui. My home-base for the next few days was the Napili Kai Beach Resort, a place that was completely unknown to me prior to this trip.
As I mentioned before, I visited Maui in 2008 for a week in between jobs and had basically only traveled from the airport to my hotel in Kaanapali. And with the exception of a few outings to eat, I didn’t really explore any other part of the island.
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This was going to be a different Maui experience.
And it began with my hotel.
I keep trying to figure out how to describe the Napili Kai Beach Resort. And I keep coming back to the same image. The Hawaiian version of the Kellerman Resort, in all the good ways. If you recall, Kellerman Resort was the resort from the movie Dirty Dancing. The hotel in the Catskill Mountains where year after year families come on vacation. The staff had been working at the hotel year after year and they too were one big family.
The word that people kept repeating to me over and over. I witnessed it the most at the Sea House Restaurant where I took several meals. It just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past December and each visit was an amazing experience, not just for the food, which is important, but for the sensation that it imparted on me. Whether it was Nancy, my server at breakfast, who has been at the resort close to 20 years and was as kind and gracious as can be. She even pretended not to notice when I ate my entire portion of fried rice with pineapple and Portuguese sausage with a fried egg on top.
Or Di from the management team, who was my companion at breakfast. She shared some of her Molokai sweet potato egg frittata with me as we discussed travel and social media. She knew a foodie when she saw one and didn’t want me to miss out.
Or Ricky, who makes the best Mai-tais ever on the island, and is (as of May) a 40-year veteran at the resort.
My Mai-tai was served by Eva, a newcomer to the team, who checked on me just the right amount of time (since I was dining alone) and shared a conversation with me about cooking, local food and which restaurants to check out. The staff at Napili Kai are a family and they treat you like family.
They embrace the concept in every form and I witnessed dozens of greetings between guest and staff – old friends who have seen each other time and time again throughout the years.
Ohana. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.
If the spirit of this place doesn’t attract you then the view will. I did not want to leave my room! It was magnificent. I had everything I needed to be content for a very long time. Unfortunately for me it was I was only there a short 3 nights and 2 days.
Napili Kai Beach Resort is not a corporate resort. It is owned by shareholders, families that have for the most part been around since its opening in 1960. It is a family environment, but that is not to say it is just for families. The resort is both big and little at the same time. I was in building with just a few units that had its own pool, I never heard a single child.
They don’t resort-fee you to death either, everything is included – parking, wifi, activities. All rooms have some form of fridge and coffee maker, with units with full kitchens as well. There are pools, bbq pits, putting greens, horticultural tours and other activities like weaving coconut tree leaves (that was fun!)
On Wednesday and Thursday evenings the resort hosts a very special show in their theater. The Slack Key Show, hosted by Grammy-award winning George Kahumoku Jr. is a must-see! When the paniolos – the Big Island (Portuguese) cowboys left Hawaii they forgot to teach the locals how to tune their guitars so they loosened up the strings (let out the slack) and this form of traditional Hawaiian guitar was born.
The show hosts a number of slack key guitar players, famous hula dancers as well as the amazing Da Ukulele Boys. The show is worth every penny for the ticket (the hotel also offers a dining package with dinner at the Sea House and tickets to the show). Thursday night was recently added so I recommend going that night if you can because it is still new and more intimate.
Going to this show feels like spending an evening with old friends. Or adoptive family.
And by the end of my visit, I realized I think that is what everyone feels about everything at Napili Kai.
The return guest rate is 60-70%. That tells me something. But in reality, I did not need to be told as I was already wondering when my next trip would be!
How about you? Have you stayed at/heard of the Napili Kai Beach Resort? I have run into so many people who have! Have you ever stayed at a hotel that made you feel like you were with family?
My visit to Hawaii was courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. As always, all opinions are my own.
You can also view more of my trip to Maui in my Magnificent Maui Wanderlist on AFAR.
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