Make the most of mother and daughter time in Maui with new attractions, fabulous resorts, fun shopping and fine dining in beautiful Ka’anapali.

A view of Ka'anapali from The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa - photo Debra Smith

A view of Ka’anapali from The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa – photo Debra Smith

According to ancient legends, the god Maui created the Hawai’ian islands by dragging them up from the seabed with his magical fishhook. I felt like Maui hooked my heart the first time I visited there with my daughter, and that feeling has never left me. Every time my plane lands on this lovely island, ringed with miles of sunny beaches by day and cloaked with a blanket of stars by night, I feel like I’ve come home. On this trip, I had a chance to check out the best of Ka’anapali in west Maui just in time for Mother’s Day.

Checking In

Look around at the dark stone walls hung with brilliant green air plants you as you enter The Westin Maui Resort & Spa. They replicate the interior of a lava tube. You’ll emerge into a sunny lobby with a waterfall and pond that are open to the blue Maui sky. Newman, the resident black swan, likes to paddle there. He’s cared for by Duane Sparkman, the on-site botanist, who also runs the Waterman program.

Newman, one of several feathered friends at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa - photo Debra Smith

Newman, one of several feathered friends at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa – photo Debra Smith

Guests can meet champion surfers, boat captains, divers, and other water enthusiasts, learn about the ocean, and take part in a beach clean up. It’s an excellent way for moms and daughters to bond while giving back to the community.  There’s an activity-filled Kids Club that also has night camps, and a concierge-led running group, great for teens and moms who like to run. The hotel’s luxuriously furnished two towers are so close to the beach that you can hear the surf.

A peaceful paddle puts everything in perspective - photo Debra Smith

A peaceful paddle puts everything in perspective – photo Debra Smith

Spa like a Movie Star

Walk towards the ocean and take a left turn onto the Ka’anapali Beach Walk. The golden sands may tempt you but stay on the path about a half kilometre until you reach the Kamaha’o Marilyn Monroe Spa, just past the main building of the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. Leave plenty of time for the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi if you book a Signature Massage (which I highly recommend). Spend some time in the peaceful relaxation lounge that overlooks the quieter end of the Beach Walk or have mother/daughter mani-pedis in the full-service spa with the same fantastic view.

The cure for everything - a mani-pedi at Kamaha'o Spa - photo Debra Smith

The cure for everything – a mani-pedi at Kamaha’o Spa – photo Debra Smith

Shopping Ka’anapali

After a relaxing spa morning, it’s time to head north along the Beach Walk for some retail therapy at Whaler’s Village. There are 69 stores where you can find retro-inspired beachwear by Lily Pulitzer; delicate custom bangles at Alex and Ani; unique artistic designs at Sand People and Sand Kids and matching mom and daughter wear at Blue Ginger Designs and Blue Ginger Kids. When lunchtime rolls around, try the short ribs or poke at Joey’s Kitchen downstairs in the Food Court. It’s a new venue offering Filipino-Asian cuisine. If you’d prefer an ocean view, head to Leilani’s on the Beach for coconut shrimp, burgers or fish tacos. Tip: it’s less windy on the newly refurbished second floor.

Whaler's Village has a large playground and shows free movies during the week - photo Debra Smith

Whaler’s Village has a large playground and shows free movies during the week – photo Debra Smith

Checking In

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is a venerable institution that’s been around since Bing Crosby came here to swing a few clubs. Nevertheless, this 508-room property has more than kept up with the times, and it’s a leader in environmentally sensitive practices. They were the first hotel on Maui to ban plastic straws and replace them with paper; they offer free reef safe, hypoallergenic Raw Elements sunscreen at stations throughout the property; and water stations cut down on the use of plastic bottles. A naturalist from the Maui Ocean Center is on site every morning answer any questions about the sea creatures that abound near Black Rock, the prime snorkelling spot in Ka’anapali. You won’t want to miss the thrilling nightly cliff dive ceremony that’s been performed here every night at 6 pm since the hotel opened. Catch it over a cocktail at the Cliff Dive Grill or from one of the comfortable new Alii deck cabanas. Tip: over 80 percent of the rooms here have an ocean view.

Eva and Linda celebrating a milestone birthday on Maui - photo Debra Smith

Eva and Linda celebrating a milestone birthday on Maui – photo Debra Smith

Why We Love Lahaina

Catch the free Ka’anapali Inter-Resort Shuttle to Lahaina, where the largest banyan tree in the state shades the Old Lahaina Courthouse. This historic building, which dates to 1859, now holds a small, informative museum. Volunteers at the gift shop have free maps of the area that highlight 62 places to visit in Lahaina Town along the Lahaina Historic Trail. You’ll find many of them located on or near charming Front Street, with its boutiques, cafes, and souvenir shops. At the north end of Front Street, you can find great deals at The Outlets of Maui.  With stores like kate spade new york, Michael Kors, Lucky Brand Outlet and an original Hilo Hattie Outlet featuring all things Hawai’ian, it is easy to while away an hour or two and then catch the free shuttle back to your hotel from here. Tip: if you bring your car, there’s a free 3-hour parking lot near the courthouse. Parking at the Outlet can be pricey.

Checking in

For a vacation that combines relaxation and quality family time stay at the luxurious Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, Ka’anapali. The newest resort on the island, their one, two or three-bedroom villas are fully furnished with every amenity. Gather the family around the granite high-top island for a home cooked meal or share some mother and daughter time on the breezy lanai and then visit Mauka Makai Restaurant. Executive Chef Ikaika Manaku will fill your table with lovingly prepared, locally sourced sharing plates. Take a dip in the lagoon shaped pool or connect with local history and culture on their Na Mea Kanu Botanical Cultural Tour. While strolling the grounds, you’ll gain insights into Hawai’ian history, culture and navigation, all derived from fragrant plants. This award-winning LEED Gold certified resort was voted Hawai’i’s Best New Hotel by Hawai’i Magazine in 2018.

Mothers and Daughters at Sea

The most famous mothers and babies in Maui can be seen just offshore from December to May each year. The thrill of seeing humpbacks and their calves keeps visitors coming back year after year, just like the whales do. If you’re lucky enough to get close to these giants on a six-person Outrigger Canoe Experience from the Ka’anapali Surf Club, you’ll have a memory to last a lifetime. Guides will share information on marine creatures and where to find them and often stop for pictures. Gliding in silence, except for the splash of paddles, to Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) on a sunny morning is pure bliss.

Feeding time at the Maui Ocean Center - photo Debra Smith

Feeding time at the Maui Ocean Center – photo Debra Smith

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, head for the Aquarium of Hawaii at the Maui Ocean Center. Their fascinating new 3D Humpbacks of Hawai’i Exhibit and Sphere is hauntingly beautiful. As life-size projections of humpback whales and calves swim into view, you’ll feel as if you can reach out and touch their barnacled sides. There are over 60 exhibits and presentations on every aspect of reef and ocean life on display including a Turtle Lagoon, touchable creatures in the Tide Pool and fish feeding in the huge colourful displays. Moms and daughters might like to take an Aquari-OM yoga class in the peaceful blue surroundings of the Open Ocean exhibit while sharks, rays and hundreds of fish slowly circle behind the glass.

A mother and daughter from North Carolina enjoying their first trip to Ka'anapali - photo Debra Smith

A mother and daughter from North Carolina enjoying their first trip to Ka’anapali – photo Debra Smith

Under the Stars

No visit to Hawai’i would be complete without a visit to a luau, and the Wailele Luau at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa offers a superior buffet and engaging entertainment. The laughs are lighthearted, and the respect for Polynesian and Hawai’ian dance brings the true spirit of aloha to the evening.

To say a final farewell to the starry skies of Ka’anapali, head to the rooftop of the Hyatt Regency Resort where Director of Astronomy Edward Mahoney will lead you to a secluded patio where you can view the moon and stars through powerful telescopes.  He’ll show you where to find the constellation of Scorpius, the scorpion, near the brightest part of the Milky Way. In Hawai’i, it’s called Maui’s Fishhook.

The writer was a guest of Ka’anapali Beach Resort Association. As always, her opinions are her own. For more photographs of Maui, follow her on Instagram