As West Maui Reopens, Jim Byers Offers His 30 Fave Places to Visit, Dine and Stay

A couple walks along Napili Beach on Maui. The Napili Kai Beach Resort is in the background. Jim Byers Photo

As Open Jaw reported, the governor of Hawai’i has set 08OCT, two months after the terrible fires that destroyed Lahaina, as the date for West Maui businesses to re-open.

That obviously does not include Lahaina itself, where there’s very little left and where emergency workers continue to clean up and search for the lost. But it DOES include Ka’anapali, Honokowai, Kahana, Napili and Kapalua. Most of my visits over the years have been concentrated in that region, so it’s a part of the island I know well.

With that in mind, here are the places I’ve enjoyed in my time on the magical island of Maui. This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, so I’m sorry if I left out your favourite hotel or restaurant, or fave activity. I also urge you to call ahead or check websites thoroughly to find out what is and what is not open before booking your clients. Just because the government says a hotel or dining spot CAN open 08OCT, it doesn’t mean they will be open.

I do know that both Duke’s Beach House in North Ka’anapali and the lovely Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai Beach Resort have said they will open for limited hours between now and 08OCT. I assume others might do the same to try to make a little money, and who can blame them?

Hawai’i Tourism Authority officials and island residents who support the return of tourists (and not everyone does) are asking people to PLEASE be respectful. Tell your clients to enjoy their mai tai, sunsets, and nightly entertainment, but perhaps it’s best not to hoot and holler. Please tell them not to visit Lahaina under any circumstances. But do ask them to support smaller, local businesses versus big box stores. As my Hawai’i friends say, mahalo nui loa (thank you very much).

ALSO, PLEASE DONATE to help Maui fire victims. One great charity is the Hawaii Community Foundation. Some hotels and restaurants have their own charities clients can donate to while there, which is great. And providing extra generous tips to hotel cleaning staff and restaurant workers would be very welcome.


The Mauian: This is the first place I ever stayed on Maui, way back in 1968. It’s a lovely, small resort on a perfect stretch of beautiful Napili Beach, with condo-style units that are great for couples and families. There’s a small pool and a reading area, and the grounds are covered with gorgeous tropical plants. There’s free parking, guest laundry, free coffee, tea, and juice every morning and three BBQs. Bonus: the beachfront shuffleboard courts. There are no TVs in the rooms, but the shared Ohana Room is open to guests, offering television with a VCR/DVD player and a library of books, games, and movies.

Joey’s Kitchen, Whalers Village, Ka’anapali: This is a down-home place that offers large servings at reasonable prices in the gorgeous Whalers Village shopping complex. The emphasis is on “Hawaiian Inspired Filipino Asian Cuisine,” which means everything from chicken with rice noodles to pork adobo fried rice. Grab your food and find a shady table outside. There’s another Joey’s Kitchen at the Napili Plaza shopping area in Napili.

The Ritz Carlton Maui Kapalua: This is a marvelous resort set on a cliff overlooking the ocean, just north of Napili. The rooms are elegantly Hawaiian, and the grounds are filled with riotous blooms and towering palm trees that wave in the wind. There are a series of stylish swimming pools that cascade down a gentle hill. The food is out of this world good, as are the cocktails. If you can manage it, the new Club Lounge is stunning (and tasty). It’s a short walk to Fleming Beach, where there are washrooms and change stations. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment Centre can take clients on wonderful hikes along the coast to learn about local culture, and they have a great kids program.

Roy’s Ka’anapali: Hawaiian Celebrity Chef Roy Yamaguchi is the man at Roy’s Ka’anapali, a pretty spot overlooking the 18th hole at the Ka’anapali Golf Course. Look for classic dishes such as blackened ahi tuna with a beurre blanc and soy mustard or slow braised beef short rib. Try the pineapple martini or, for dessert, the melting dark chocolate souffle with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream.

Snorkel Spots: Clients may have to rent their snorkel gear (I find it’s cheaper to buy it at Safeway, or the ABC Store), but all beaches in Hawai’i are public, and there’s great snorkelling in West Maui. One of the best places is at Black Rock, next to the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. I’ve sometimes seen turtles 10 feet from shore. Napili Beach and Kapalua also offer great snorkelling close to shore. If you’re a bit more advanced and are a good swimmer, try Honolua Bay. Waves can get pretty high in winter, but if it’s calm the snorkeling is exceptional. If the surfers are out, clients can pull over on the north side of the bay and park in the small, dirt lot to enjoy the show.

The Westin Maui Resort and Spa: This Ka’anapali Beach resort features stylish rooms and a lovely spa. rooms. The swimming pool complex might be the best in West Maui, with waterfalls and slides the kids (and adults) will love. Waicoco restaurant offers fresh, multicultural flavours in an indoor-outdoor setting. They do a very nice luau, as well.

Merriman’s Kapalua: A stylish restaurant on a point of land at the south end of perfect Kapalua Bay, Merriman’s offers up beautifully plated food such as Harissa-spiced scallops and shrimp and Maui venison. Ninety percent of the food is local, including fish, meat, and produce. The mai tai is heavenly, and the patio has one of the best sunset views on Maui.

Top Shopping: Whalers Village at Ka’anapali is a tremendous shopping and dining spot. Great food options include Hula Grill and Joey’s Kitchen (see entries elsewhere in this post), as well as Leilani’s. Shoppers will find everything from fine Maui jewelry to a Tori Richards shop for fine Hawaiian shirts, as well as surf and t-shirt shops. There’s a fine, partly shaded playground for kids and they often have live entertainment. Whalers Village also is home to the Hawai’i Wildlife Discovery Center, where clients can learn about whales and ocean environmental issues. Call ahead to see what’s open.

Napili Kai Beach Resort: This family-friendly resort is the perfect mix of luxury and casual, a place with stylish rooms and great food where you can wear flip-flops and a t-shirt almost anywhere (provided pants of some sort are worn; they do like that). The grounds are exquisite, including a marvelous walk along a rocky peninsula that’s just steps from the water. They have a mix of studio and one, two, and even three-bedroom units, as well as a very good putting green and several swimming pools They do tons of Hawaiian cultural classes that don’t cost a dime. On top of all that, you’re nestled into the northern corner of Napili Beach; to my money the best stretch of sand in Hawai’i. It’s not clear when it will open again, but the resort puts on a wondrous “Slack Key Guitar” show on Wednesday nights that features multiple Grammy Award winner George Kahumoku Jr., a magical guitar player and gifted storyteller.

Pizza Paradiso, Honokowai. Not fancy, but a good pizza place that also serves gyros, falafel, and other Middle Eastern dishes. It’s been voted best Mediterranean food on Maui, an island that’s admittedly not known as a hotbed for this sort of cuisine. The website says they’re open now. It’s in a shopping plaza just north of the Times Supermarket.

Maui Brewing Co., Kahana: This is a lively spot with good, fresh beer and pub-style food, including blistered shishito peppers, pizza, and burgers. They have up to several dozen beers on tap, ranging from lighter styles beers made for a hot summer’s day to pale ales and a coconut porter. If they’re not yet open, try their restaurant in Kihei, Maui. They also have an outlet on the beach at the Outrigger Ka’anapali Beach Resort (see below).

Kapalua Golf: There are two 18-hole tracks at Kapalua. The Plantation Course is the Big Daddy, the one millions of viewers see every January on their television screens, with the impossibly blue Pacific Ocean and the rolling green fairways and the mountains of the island of Molokai in the distance. It’s a beast, with wild slopes and tricky carries. But it’s a fun beast. The Bay Course isn’t as challenging but offers a couple of holes that are right alongside the blue Pacific, and several difficult holes that are difficult to navigate. It’s not cheap, but they have twilight rates to help offset the cost.

The Gazebo, Napili Shores Resort: The Outrigger Napili Shores Resort has fine units overlooking the ocean and Napili Beach. But they’re most famous for being the home of the Gazebo Restaurant, which offers open-air dining and serves up what is often called the island’s best macadamia nut pancakes. Like many places on Maui, breakfast also can include slightly spicy Portuguese sausage. They also serve salads, sandwiches, burgers, and other items at lunch. But they’re not open for dinner.

Wahikuli Wayside Park: This is a nice park on the ocean that’s between Lahaina and Ka’anapali. I don’t see any information to suggest it’s closed. The park has sheltered areas for picnics, a nice beach, washrooms, showers, and barbeques. Very popular with locals, so be respectful.

Duke’s Maui Beach House, Ka’anapali: This is a small chain of restaurants named for legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku. Look for memorabilia from the Duke himself, as well as fresh seafood and steaks. Lovely views of north Ka’anapali Beach, not to mention the islands of Lana’i and Molokai. They’re famous for their Hula Pie, which features a large wedge of macadamia nut ice cream stacked on a chocolate cookie crust with a layer of cool chocolate fudge and whipped cream on top. Toasted macadamia nuts are sprinkled on top. The live entertainment is terrific.

Duke's Maui Beach House on Ka'anapali Beach. Photo courtesy Duke's Maui Beach House.

Ka’anapali Golf: There are two layouts run by Ka’anapali Golf Courses, the Ka’anapali Kai and Royal Ka’anapali. The latter is one of only two courses in all of Hawai’i that were designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. I love the fifth hole, which takes you down a small hill to a green that’s right alongside the beach. Ka’anapali Kai is a shorter course more suited for occasional golfers, with lovely ocean views and lush tropical landscaping.

The Bay Course at Kapalua, Maui. Jim Byers Photo

Kahana Sunset: Our family has been renting condos here for nearly 40 years, and we love it. They have spacious one and two-bedroom units with full kitchens and patios. Big waves have taken away a good deal of the beach, but there’s a nice pool, great BBQs, deep green lawns for the kids to play on, and a covered lanai or patio with books and shaded tables for reading or playing cards. It’s only two minutes to reach Napili Beach by car.

Kahana Sunset is a lovely condo development in West Maui. Jim Byers Photo

Hula Grill, Ka’anapali: The food at Hula Grill is good, and the ambiance is perfect. They’re famous for their crab wontons and macadamia nut-crusted Mahi Mahi topped with crab. Ask for an outside table invoke your inner Jimmy Buffett or Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and listen to the live entertainment as you gaze out at the sand and the blue Pacific. It’s right alongside the Ka’anapali Beach Walk, so the people-watching also is excellent.

Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa: This is a large, fine resort on the north end of the south section of Ka’anapali Beach that’s celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The grounds are spacious, and there’s a lovely, free-form pool with plenty of greenery and faux lava rocks. The nightly conch shell-blowing and rock-diving ceremony is wonderful. The hotel completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of its lobby in 2020. Guests now enjoy a new lobby bar and café, lounge, and reception area in an open-air setting that brings the ocean air and outdoors in with an expansive lanai and viewing deck, offering panoramic views of iconic Ka’anapali Beach. The new lobby bar/lounge is called Sandbar and offers good food and outstanding drinks.

The open-air lobby of the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa. Photo courtesy of Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa.

Take a drive on North Maui: The coast of Maui past Kapalua feels equal parts Hawaii and Scotland; with rugged, deep red soil cliffs, rolling hills, and scrubby trees. The views are stupendous, but the road can be tricky. It’s best to avoid it after a big rainfall, and it’s always best to drive slowly and cautiously. The Nakalele blowhole is a great place to watch ocean water spray high into the blue Hawaiian sky but watch from a distance as the surf can be very rough and has been known to grab unsuspecting viewers. There are several great hikes along the cliffs. But, again, care is recommended. If you go far enough there are views of Kahakuloa Head, a massive slab of rock that rises up over a deep blue harbour. If it’s clear you can see all the way to the airport in Kahului. It’s best to avoid the one-way sections of the road, so I advise turning before getting that far.

Outrigger Ka’anapali Beach Resort: This property, formerly known as the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, was purchased by Outrigger earlier this year and has been voted the most Hawaiian property on Maui. They offer wonderful classes in everything from hula to ocean navigation and ukelele and have recently renovated a number of units. There’s a lovely pool and a huge lawn with plenty of shady spots and beautiful landscaping. There’s an outlet of the Maui Brewing Co. that occupies a lovely waterfront building and offers sunsets you won’t believe.

Japengo: We had an unbelievably good meal here a few years ago, sitting outside at a table overlooking the south end of Ka’anapali Beach. Try the Cajun seared Hamachi sashimi, or grilled Kurobata Pork “Vietnamese Style.” The restaurant is located at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, which also hosts a regular luau, or has in the past.

A nice meal at Japengo restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Photo courtesy Hyatt Regency Maui.

Honokowai Food Trucks: These are USUALLY parked in a big lot on Lower Honoapi’ilani Road, across from the Times Supermarket (a good, reasonably priced place to stock up on groceries, by the way). Look for Thai food, Mexican and more.

Macadangdang: This is a fun, relatively new spot in Ka’anapali, up off Honoapi’ilani Highway. The Kinilaw Na Kampachi is a great seafood dish with chili pepper, coconut milk, lime, and avocado. They also have inventive cocktails and a small patio out front.

Try a Spa Treatment: The Helani Spa at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas is a heavenly spot to unwind. My wife and I had a tremendous couples massage a few years back, with a sea salt scrub that left our skin fresh and clean, plus a relaxing massage where they pressed warm pouches of sand shipped in from Tahiti onto our tired muscles.

Places That Might or Might Not Open Soon – PLEASE CHECK

Star Noodle: This is a sensational waterfront restaurant in Lahaina that was just outside the fire zone. They serve a variety of great noodle dishes, such as udon with roasted pork belly, as well as dim sum, abodo rims, and Vietnamese chicken. As of the day this story was published, there was no opening date sent. Try emailing them at, or Google them and find their social media sites for more information.

Zip Line Thrills: The folks at Skyline Hawaii have a zip line in the hills high above Ka’anapali. You can zip along up to 150 feet above the ground on their eight-line tour, with fabulous views of the ocean and the rugged, green West Maui Mountains. Not open at the time of publication.

Mala Ocean Tavern: Another place in Lahaina that survived the tragic fires, this fine oceanfront spot has been voted the best waterfront dining spot on Maui. The sunset views are incredible. Many employees lost their homes in the fires, and it’s not clear when they will open again.

Old Lahaina Luau: This is often rated Maui’s best and most authentic luau, but it’s not clear when they can reopen.

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop: This is a great spot south of Lahaina to grab a turkey pot pie or a Reuben sandwich at lunch. They also serve tasty fruit pies such as apple, pineapple-macadamia nut, and guava. The website says most of their buildings are intact, but there doesn’t appear to be an opening date.

Jim Byers

Jim Byers is a freelance travel writer based in Toronto. He was formerly travel editor at the Toronto Star and now writes for a variety of publications in Canada and around the world. He's also a regular guest on CBC, CTV News, Global News and other television and radio networks.

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