Review of Napili Kai Beach Resort, Maui, Hawaii – our family’s stay at the resort with three young children.
What I came to realize during our stay at Napili Kai Beach Resortwas that it was everything this resort had done differently from most that made it so special. The 50-year-old resort is steeped in smart choices, beginning with its founder’s efforts to to pass a land ordinance before its construction, which would limit all construction on Napili Bay to buildings no taller than 2 stories–his own resort included.
The result, as anyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting Napili Bay can tell you, is a place where accommodations–and the guest population–do not overwhelm the natural setting. In the absence of towering buildings, you see more Hawaiian sky, more palm trees, and the hills rolling on behind the property as well as the sheltered blue bay before it.
Our one-bedroom oceanview suite was located toward the northern end of Napili Bay, where we could look out at the Pacific and the island of Lanai, without view of any other buildings from within our room.
And the best part? Another “different” decision we loved: The parents’ king bed had been placed on the living room side, with full view of the ocean. No more deciding whether or not to take the hide-a-bed and stick your kids in the bedroom so that you, the later to-bed-ers and earlier risers can enjoy the living space, view, and lanai without tiptoeing around.
Happily, it was the kids’ twin beds that were in the quiet bedroom with their own TV, bathroom and bath tub. We had our own bathroom with stall shower and dressing area, just off of the fully equipped kitchenette.
This one-bedroom suite can actually sleep up to five in beds, including an oversized chair in the living room that converts to a twin-size bed. However, the bedroom had plenty of space for our toddler travel bed.
While our newly updated suite was lovely, it was hard to resist the constant lure of the private, covered lanai, where we kept finding ourselves piled on the wicker chairs and ottoman recounting the details of our Maui adventure so far over snacks.
Given the tranquil waters of Napili Bay, it wasn’t uncommon to see an occasional paddle-boarder or pair of snorkelers passing by, and although the whales had mostly left Maui’s waters for the season, we did have the thrill of spotting a couple of humpacks breeching in the distance. As the clouds cleared, I realized I could also see the island Molokai when I looked out from near the railing.
With the resorts’ rooms, suites, and chalets are arranged in small, separate buildings never more than two stories tall), with paths and Hawaiian foliage between them, even strolling the grounds by tiki-torch in the evenings was a great pleasure.
Another difference we noted right away was that, rather than offering up one, enormous swimming pool at its center, as many resorts do nowadays, or one pool for adults and one separate pool from children, Napili Kai Beach Resort has four small swimming pools and a large spa spread out around the property.
While we could go to one of the more central pools when the kids wanted to make new friends, it was fabulous to have this seaside pool right at our own building, which gave more the feeling of staying in a seaside villa with neighbors than staying in a large resort.
It was easy to keep track of our kids at the pool, return to our room for any little thing we might need, and never need to raise our voices to be heard.
Meals and dining at Napili Kai Beach Resort
While our kitchen had everything we could need to prepare fine meals, including a two-burner halogen stove top, sparkling new stainless cookware, microwave, full-size refrigerator with filtered water dispenser, and dishwasher, one glorious dinner at the beachfront restaurant and I was hooked–and with kid guests of the resort eating free with their parents, I had the perfect excuse to return for breakfast.
The Sea House Restaurant opened its doors in 1962, shortly after the Napili Kai Beach Resort began, and is still clearly a favorite dining hot spot for the area. As mentioned, kids under 12 years eat free at the restaurant whenever dining with their paying guest parent—even for three meals a day, even if the number of kids exceeds the number of adults.
During our stay, the kids menu options included mahi-mahi, hamburger, cheese pizza, chicken tenders, pasta (plain or with red sauce) and more, each served with a side of mixed fruit, steamed vegetables, or french fries ($7 value). Jet-lagged families can also take advantage of the earlybird special; when they get seated before 6 p.m., the adults will receive a prix fix meal special including salad, a choice of entrée, and dessert.
But if you are as overwhelmed browsing the inventive and enticing menu, I recommend going with the “Lawa Po’.” The meal changes slightly day by day because it’s created from the best, freshest, in-season seafood that day imaginably prepared by a chef with great instincts. The combinations of flavors and sauces used were unexpected and didn’t disappoint.
Even the Sea House breakfast menu shows imagination and the chef’s passion for food, with likes of a Haleakala Pancake which is baked and puffed up, then falls with a crater. I can say with certain authority that the Thai omelet is also delicious…
For more casual meals and snacks, there is a snack bar with hot dogs, small pizzas, ice cream, smoothies, and whatever else you might enjoy eating poolside or carrying back to your room for a light meal as your little ones snooze.
Family Activities at Napili Kai Beach Resort
With thriving reef right in the bay, and foot-soft sand all along the beach, Napili Bay is an ideal place for wading in and out with snorkel and mask, while getting an eyeful of humuhuhnukunukuapuaa, parrotfish, and possibly a turtle or two without hardly trying. If you’re like us, once you check in and check out the beach and bay, you’ll feel little if any desire to leave the resort or Napili Bay.
Napili Bay itself is generally as pleasant as a big bath tub bespeckled with tropical fish, occasional turtles, happy swimmers and snorkelers aplenty. Snorkels and masks are provided for guests (no fins) in adult and child sizes.
And in recognition of its ideal conditions for paddle-boarding, the resort has made it easy for guests to connect with a local paddle-boarding rental company that will bring your paddle board to you and provide brief safety instruction before leaving you with your board(s). The resort provides a lock and rack where you can keep your board during your stay. Additional paddle-boarding instruction is also available on request (for fee).
The resort offers several other family-friendly activities, including a “Keiki Hula Show” each Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. most of the year, benefitting the Napili Kai Foundation, which continues to teach and share the songs and dances of Polynesia with Maui’s children. The weekly performance is complimentary for guests of Napili Kai Beach Resort (others: $10 adults, $5 kids 6 – 12, 5 and younger free).
During peak family vacation times (including Easter week, summer, and winter holiday breaks), the resort offers a complimentary supervised “Kids’ Club” daily activity for guests ages 5 to 12 years old. The camp activities highlight Hawaiian cultural activities and crafts, and usually run from 10 a.m. to noon.
The resort also has two miniature (putt-putt) golf course on site, with an adults-only green as well as a kid-friendly green. Putters and balls are complimentary. Two shuffleboard courts are also on site, and with advance notice, the resort will set up two bocce courts for your family’s tournament–a favorite activity for many of the families that return to Napili Kai Beach Resort year after year for family reunions.
The resort also hosts a daily cultural activity in the mornings, including lei making, history of Hawaiian fishing and the Hawaiian canoe, and palm frond weaving to name a few.
Other On-site Amenities
A few other on-site amenities that made our stay all the easier included free wi-fi in our suite and around the property, beach towels, and coin-op laundry located right in our own small building (each building has its own laundry room).
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort on Maui with an intimate setting, Napili Kai Beach Resort has you covered. It’s a place where you can relax with your young children and enjoy “all things Hawaii” without stepping foot off of the property.
With world class snorkeling right from the beach, daily cultural activities for the whole family, a weekly kids’ hula performance (at a kid-friendly hour), condo-like rooms and suites with kitchens, and great restaurant where your kids will eat fish-shaped cheese pizza dinners for free, this could be your ideal resort destination in Maui.
Best for: Families with young children, family reunions, weddings, honeymooners.
May not be best for: Families who prefer day-long supervised kids’ camps, families with teens looking for more organized activities (including nightlife) with other kids their own ages.
For more information about Napili Kai Beach Resort and to see the latest special offers and packages, visit their site at www.napilikai.com. Mahalo to Napili Kai Beach Resort for hosting my family and providing this opportunity to review the property. As always, my opinions remain my own and, to those reading, I hope you’ve found this review helpful. Please feel free to share a comment about your own experiences at this resort or a Maui tip for fellow travelers.
You might also like:
Review of Wailea Beach Villas Penthouse
Review of Travaasa Hana for Families (Family Travel 411)
How to build a budget-friendly Maui family vacation (Family Travel 411)
Finding Maui’s north shore baby beach (minutes from the airport!)
Our visit to the Maui Ocean Center: The Hawaiian Aquarium
For more tips, advice, and inspiration for planning your own family’s Maui vacation, see the list of related Maui features in Destinations and check out the Maui with Kids board on Pinterest.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby
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