When you want more from your beach vacation than just lounging on the beach, consider a hotel that helps you learn something about the local culture. Many lodgings on the Hawaiian island of Maui are now offering extensive Hawaiian culture programs for their guests. Here are five Maui hotels where you can experience Hawaiian culture:
Ka’anapali Beach Hotel
Billing itself as “Maui’s Most Hawaiian Hotel,” the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel has one of the island’s most extensive cultural education programs. Every day, Ka’anapali staff offer a variety of complimentary cultural activities for both adults and children. You can learn to play the ukelele, make a lei, or dance the hula, tour the hotel’s tropical gardens, find out the proper way to cut a pineapple, or listen to traditional Hawaiian stories.
Every evening, free performances of Hawaiian music and dance take place on the hotel’s outdoor stage.
The hotel’s guest rooms are simple, but the best overlook Ka’anapali Beach. Read our full Hotel-Scoop review of the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel here.
The Napili Kai Beach Resort caters to families, as well as couples, with a variety of spacious units located right on one of Maui’s prettiest beaches. Every day at 10am, staff blow a conch shell to announce the daily cultural presentation. Complimentary activities include hula or lei-making lessons or garden tours. On Wednesday evenings, the hotel hosts a popular “Masters of Hawaiian Music” slack key guitar show.
The Napili Kai also offers a free “Keiki Club” camp for kids ages 6-10, during spring break, summer (mid-June through August), Thanksgiving, and the Christmas holidays. Children learn something about Hawaiian culture while they try activities like bamboo fishing, playing the ukulele, painting coconuts, or making puka shell necklaces.
For more details on the Napili Kai Beach Resort, check out Hotel-Scoop contributor Katie Hammel’s review.
If your style is more upscale, consider a stay at the posh Fairmont Kea Lani resort, an all-suite property in Wailea. The Fairmont employs a full-time “Cultural Coach” who organizes a variety of cultural education programs for guests, both on and off the resort grounds. You might learn to paddle a traditional canoe, while discussing the canoe’s importance in Hawaiian heritage. Hotel staff also offer an introduction to the Hawaiian language as well as tours of the property’s traditional plants.
The Fairmont’s culture staff can assist guests experience Hawaiian culture around the island, recommending opportunities for short-term volunteer projects or giving advice about touring historical or cultural sights.
Located on Maui’s eastern tip, at the end of the serpentine road to Hana, Travaasa Hana is one of the island’s most secluded properties. Yet lest you worry that you’ll be bored in this isolated location, the resort offers an extensive program of cultural and outdoor activities.
You can take a bike ride around Hana with local guides who’ll share their stories about living in the area. You can learn how to make a lei, husk a coconut, play the ukulele, or throw a traditional fish net. In the “Art of the Cocktail” workshop, you can learn about how the Mai Thai came to be associated with Hawaii and try your hand at mixing up other classic drinks. Several nights a week, performers entertain guests with a Hawaiian music concert.
For more about the accommodations at the resort, read Hotel-Scoop contributor Nancy Brown’s review of Travaasa Hana.
One of Maui’s newest lodgings, Lumeria Maui is set in the hills between Paia and Makawao. Conceived by Los Angeles designer Xorin Balbes, Lumeria is primarily a yoga retreat with 25 guestrooms in a restored plantation lodging house. The grounds — centered around a manicured lawn that provides the setting for outdoor yoga classes — are also full of tropical plants and dotted with Buddha statues.
Lumeria’s culture programs are more individual than those at other resorts. In addition to daily yoga and meditation classes on the property, staff can arrange for off-property trips to local farms or horseback rides that emphasize the island’s history. In the evening, guests are encouraged to meet around the firepits to “talk story,” sharing their day’s adventures.
Hotel-Scoop has a review of Lumeria Maui, too; get the details here.
Want more Maui hotel options? Our Hotel-Scoop scouts have also reviewed the Wailea Beach Villas, the Inn at Mama’s Fish House, the Paia Inn, and the Old Wailuku Inn B&B — all worthwhile choices if you’re looking for lodging that goes beyond cookie-cutter chain hotels and gives you a real feel for Hawaii.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. The Maui Visitor’s Bureau provided support for my Maui travels and research.