Where should I stay on Maui? And at which hotel should I stay?

Maui’s lodging choices are varied and diverse, with something for almost everyone.

Accommodations range from humble hostels to grand hotels, from (just a few) bed and breakfast inns to five star hotels, from small inns to complete condominiums. Each choice has its positives and negatives; the trick to finding “the best hotel” is to first know your own style. Let’s talk about hotels today.

While most of Maui is blessed with a temperate year-round climate, most lodging accommodations are in West Maui (Lahaina north through Kapalua) and South Maui (Kihei, Wailea and Makena), which are the drier, sunnier sides of the island.

Let’s take a look at each area separately.

Kihei is a beach town, most of which was built in the 1980’s. There is no downtown, per se. Kihei exists mostly between South Kihei Road, a busy two lane street which runs north to south along the beach and Piilani Highway, which is mauka (toward the mountain) and parallel to South Kihei Rd. Kihei’s accommodations consist mainly of condominiums, some of which are ocean front and some of which are across the street (or mauka) from the beach. Kihei has only two hotels; the Maui Coast (mauka of S. Kihei Rd.) and the Maui Oceanfront Inn. Kihei is South Maui’s commercial center, with grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and doctors. Kihei has many recent Maui transplants and has no cohesive architecture or, other than it’s beaches, any significant attractions.

Wailea is the next area south of Kihei. Wailea has often been called the Beverly Hills of Maui, as it is a very upscale area with upscale hotels. From north to south along the ocean, Wailea has the Renaissance (closed as of 9/6/07), Wailea Marriott (probably the most Hawaiian-style hotel in Wailea), Grand Wailea, Four Seasons and the incongruously Moorish Fairmont Kea Lani. Each hotel seems to try to outdo the one next door with deluxe features like high-end restaurants, super-pools, and plenty of travertine, marble and granite. Wailea’s beaches are small, distinct and crescent-shaped. Wailea’s non-ocean front hotel is Aqua’s Hotel Wailea, (formerly the Diamond Resort), perched high above the Wailea area near the golf course. And speaking of golf, Wailea has three courses; Blue, Gold and Emerald. Except for the ritzy Shops at Wailea and hotel restaurants, visitors staying in Wailea must journey to Kihei for food and nightlife.

Just south of Wailea is Makena, with it’s single hotel, the Maui Prince. The Prince is no longer as deluxe as Wailea but, like it’s neighbors to the north, it is ocean front. Makena also has an eponymous golf course. Makena was designed more than 20 years ago to be it’s own resort and the owners were stopped from developing anything other than the golf course and the hotel. Today, there a mega-million dollar houses and condos but there is not much else; like Wailea, shopping and restaurants are 5 miles north in Kihei.

Over on the West Side, in Lahainatown’s only true hotel is the Pioneer Inn. This hotel has quite an interesting history, dating back to Lahaina’s whaling days. The hotel is on the harbor near the banyan tree.

Kaanapali, about four miles north of Lahaina, is the first master planned resort in the US. The hotels here are ocean front, with both Kaanapali golf courses in their front yard. Since Kaanapali is older, this area does not have the same upscale feeling as Wailea, but usually the hotel room prices are less. From south to north along the lengthy strand that is Kaanapali Beach are the Hyatt Regency, Maui Marriott & Ocean Club, Westin Maui, Kaanapali Beach Hotel and the Sheraton, which is situated on top of Black Rock. Black Rock divides Kaanapali Beach from North Kaanapali Beach, where the Royal Lahaina resides. Aside from Whaler’s Village shopping center, as in Wailea, hotel guests must drive to town for shopping and dining.

The last hotel is the Ritz Carlton, Kapalua. Kapalua is about eight miles north of Lahaina. Kapalua is a resort area with it’s own three golf courses and multi-million dollar homes. While an undeniably beautiful location, Kapalua is far from shopping and dining.

Those are the major hotels in the most popular tourist areas. You say you’re not a hotel person? Maui has options for you, too. We’ll discuss alternatives in future articles.

Bill Rees is the General Manager of the Outrigger Maui Eldorado Resort. He has been in the hotel business for longer than he cares to admit and he has the anecdotes and nervous tics to prove it! When not at work or exploring Maui, Bill, who is a Honoapiilani Highway road warrior, spends time working on his historic Wailuku home. Bill can be reached at bill.rees@outrigger.com.

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