Affordable Island Style at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui

Though it’s only a quarter of the size of the Big Island, Maui (Hawaii’s second largest island) packs more geographic diversity into its 700 square miles than nearly anywhere else on earth. There are more than 120 miles of shoreline and 81 beaches to choose from on the island, so picking your perfect vacation spot can be tough. The Napili Bay area, a 15 minute drive past the town of Lahaina in west Maui, offers a near perfect combination of white sand beaches, affordable restaurants, and tranquil waters ideal for snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, and stand-up paddelboarding. It’s also home to the Napili Kai Beach Resort.

Studio oceanfront rooms overlook the Pacific from private lanais

Studio oceanfront rooms overlook the Pacific from private lanais

Opened in 1962, the Napili Kai offers 163 rooms (studios and one- and two-bedroom suites, all with twin or king beds) in 11 two-story buildings spread on 10 beachfront acres. From the moment I arrived, I knew the place would be something special. The lobby is open and airy, and before you even reach the check-in desk you can see through the room to the beach just on the other side. With that first glance at the sparkling blue water, I felt instantly relaxed.

The resort keeps that relaxed feel going by allowing guests to not worry about money. Charges for food and drinks can be charged to the room, but beyond that, the resort has a policy of not “nickle and diming” its guests. There are no resort fees, no charges for parking or wifi, and a whole host of complimentary services are offered, including free snorkel gear, free beach coolers, a free kids camp (during high season only), free social events like a weekly mai tai party and weekly putting party, and free cultural events and lessons in hula, lei-making, and more.

Lush landscaping and low buidlings make the resort feel intimate and uncrowded

Lush landscaping and low buildings make the resort feel intimate and uncrowded

Nearly all rooms have kitchen facilities and ocean views from their lanais or patios. While many of the rooms still have traditional white plantation style cabinetry, my room in the Puna II building had recently been renovated with granite counters and dark cherry wood cabinets. The studio room had a large fridge,  plenty of cookware and dishes, a microwave, stovetop, dishwasher, and even a blender for making our own tropical drinks. A small table for two, loveseat and chair, and 37″ flat screen tv provided plenty of space for my husband and I to relax, though we prefered to sit on the lanai overlooking the Puna building’s pool, a small barbecue area, and of course, the ocean (I was even able to see a few whales from the balcony).

On the Napili Kai property are four pools, a hot tub with ocean views, a fitness center and spa, snack shop and beach pavilion, shuffleboard courts, bocce ball, and an 18-hole putting green, all spread out among the lush foliage, flowers, and palm trees. A stone path leads along the rocky shoreline from some of the rooms, past two pools and the hot tub, to the lobby, Sea House restaurant, and beach. Though the resort doesn’t host large-scale meetings or events, the Aloha Pavilion can accommodate meetings and smaller weddings (weddings can also be held around the property or on the beach).

A short walk along the shore leads to the beach at Napili Kai

A short walk along the shore leads to the beach at Napili Kai

Guests can enjoy a private dinner at this spot overlooking the ocean

Guests can enjoy a private dinner at this spot overlooking the ocean

With a seasonally offered kids club, free meals for kids under 12 and plenty of family friendly activities, the Napili Kai definitely caters to families. During my visit, there were several children staying at the resort, but the average age of the guests seemed much higher. Though the resort was nearly at capacity, it never felt crowded, and there seemed to be a mix of couples, retirees, and families visiting.

Those looking for a little romance could easily find a few quiet spots away from other guests (our pool, for example, was always empty), and the resort will arrange a private dinner on a bluff overlooking the sea.

Though most of the units have kitchen facilities, guests who don’t want to cook can enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour pupus at the Sea House restaurant on the beach.

Macadamia nut pancakes for breakfast at the Sea House

Macadamia nut pancakes for breakfast at the Sea House

During my stay, I took advantage of the happy hour to snack on some fried shrimp one afternoon, and my husband and I indulged in a hearty breakfast of crab and eggs benedict and some decadent chocolate macadamia nut pancakes one morning.

Napili Kai’s extensive cultural program (including a Wednesday night Grammy Award winning slack key show), plush waterfront rooms, and all-inclusive feel made it easy to fall in love with, but what sealed the deal for me was its prime location in Napili Bay. Unlike Maui’s other popular resort area, Wailea, the Napili area offers a large range of reasonably priced restaurants, and Lahaina and Kaanapali just to the south increase the options.

Both areas offer beautiful beaches, but I preferred the tranquility of Napili. As a weak swimmer with a mild fear of open water, I’ve never been all that comfortable in the ocean.  Napili Kai’s beach changed that for me; the water was so clear I could see my toes even when submerged to my neck, and the gentle waves made snorkeling fun and easy. Despite all the activities offered at the resort and the many activities on offer around the island, all I wanted to do was relax in that beautiful blue water and watch the palm trees wave in the breeze.

Napili Bay's protective reefs keep the water calm and clear

Napili Bay's protective reefs keep the water calm and clear

If you go:

Hotel rooms (without kitchens) start at $270 per night. Studio rates start at $365 per night. Check-in is at 3pm and check-out is at noon. Rates include parking wifi, kids club, snorkel gear, cultural shows and activities, morning coffee and more, with no resort fees. Visit the hotel website for more details.

You can also check prices online at Priceline.

I was a guest of the Napili Kai Beach Resort but all opinions are my own.

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