ON THE BEACH WALK at Ka‘anapali Beach Resort, site of the most popular and best beach on Maui, visitors find a summation of the Maui experience. They will use this as a base for a few days of exploring the island. Visitors will enjoy the sweeping ocean views, waterfalls, and a bamboo forest on the road to Hana. They will thrill at a rainbow of colors at dawn over 10,000-foot Haleakala Crater.
Back down the mountain, likely as not, they will visit the historic cowboy town of Makawao or the former sixties hippie haven of Paia and then cross the pali (cliffs) to return to historic Lahaina, former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, modern-day place for evening experiences.
Another day, visitors will sample the North Shore on a winding one-lane road to see the ocean crashing through a blowhole. The twisty road gives way to the rocky shores of Kapalua a few miles from Ka‘anapali Beach.
For many jet-lagged early risers, though, the love for Maui begins on the beach path at dawn when the sun peaks over the West Maui Mountains. Sometimes a light sprinkling of rain produces an arching 180-degree rainbow above Ka‘anapali Beach that will frame Lana‘i and Moloka‘i still slumbering in darkness. Shadows of stately palms begin to appear as silhouettes on the golden beach as the sun rises. Maui one year was named the world’s best island. Twice the same publication proclaimed Ka‘anapali the world’s best beach.
Along the beach path small birds twitter. Bright yellow hibiscus, scarlet and yellow bougainvillea, spidery white lilies with scarlet tips line the quintessential beach path, steps from the beach is a magnet for visitors from early morning to evening and beyond
line the path that is beginning to fill with strollers. Th is day, cresting waves white with foam noisily splash to shore. Later, barechested Hawaiians will stand silently with their surfboards placed vertically into the sand. At precise moments, one at a time, they will grab their boards, race to the swells, and once about every six tries manage a perfect somersault as they land in the sea and prepare to return to the next good wave.
Beyond Canoe Beach where canoe clubs gather on a Saturday morning for a morning paddle, the Hyatt (more formally known as the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa) springs to life. Two majestic white swans glide along against the backdrop of a Japanese garden. Attendants have already covered row upon row of chaise lounges with brilliantly hued yellow towels to await morning sunbathers.
Maui’s luminescent sun, favored by artists because of the beautiful light it casts, has a special way of accentuating colors—rich, deep hues that a keen observer sees all along the path.
Past a short tree with clusters of yellow-tinged plumeria the scene shifts to the Marriott, its 35 oceanfront lounges on a narrow swath of grass with stark white towels laid out standing there as if they were sentinels up and ready for duty. Early risers, after first sampling the beach, head to the new Starbucks with its killer views better than almost any to be found at a coffee shop back home.
Sipping lattes at outdoor tables where birds are searching for crumbs, visitors get their news from a miniature handout version of the New York Times and sometimes rise to view humpback whales in all their magnificence breaching off shore. The first iPhones of the day are whipped out for a futile attempt to photograph the world’s largest mammals, here each year from Alaska.
Walking happily along, visitors who wouldn’t dream of saying good morning to a passerby at home offer a greeting or a soft “aloha.” A few of the newly arrived wear crimson airport leis. The apparel of choice is a T-shirt showcasing the colleges they went to. An old guy who knows he is old shows it with a T-shirt that proclaims, “Old Guys Rule.” If he thinks he is old, he is old. He doesn’t know old guys don’t rule.
Farther along the path, beach boys wearing luminescent orange shirts teach visitors how to stand up on a paddle- board. The newcomers stretch out prone on their boards to learn the techniques on still another carefully manicured Marriott lawn. At sea, on placid ocean days, paddlers already are moving over the gentle swells. Farther down, guests will soon be shing, taught by instructors in Marriott red. Inviting but empty hammocks sway in the breeze awaiting little girls who will insist on hopping on with mom.
Next, at the Ali‘i condominium, attendants clean sleek new stainless-steel barbecue grills, whifs of sizzling steaks from the evening before long gone. At the Westin, two speckled pale green sculpted frogs beckon little ones. A erce ancient Chinese warrior in blue-gray stone stands guard clutching a sword in one hand and a single red hibiscus in another placed there by a playful Westin worker. Deep-blue umbrellas above lounges line the beach. e soft sound of a cascading resort waterfall lls the air.
More blue. e boutique shopping center Whalers Vil- lage looms up, six light-blue ags imprinted with whales waving in the wind against a deep-blue sky. Louis Vuitton handbags and Rolex watches will be on sale for the prosperous.
At 11:00 a.m., chefs at the popular Hula Grill and Lei- lani’s on the Beach whip up the rst sh tacos and mahi-ma- hi sandwiches. Servers in aloha blouses get ready to dish up Hula Pie, ve inches tall, with a chocolate crust and a tower of vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream. e slice is usually shared by two.
At about 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, a packed crowd of visitors and regulars at Leilani’s cheer musician JD playing “Sweet Caroline” as they touch hands. Harry Troupe plays his guitar held behind his back to more cheers. A crowd lines up on the beach and soon families splash through the surf, climb a narrow ladder, and board a tall-masted catamaran. Four of the twin-hulled vessels will return at sunset to form a kind of catamaran rush hour as the sun departs behind Moloka‘i.
Dozens of visitors dressed for dinner flock to the Whalers Village lawn. There’s a Nikon or two, but usually an Apple or Samsung phone held for a selfie with the setting sun beyond varying in quality each day. At the “Most Hawaiian Hotel” near a whale-shaped swimming pool, locals and visitors gather at the Tiki Bar. Dale, who has poured more than 400,000 mai tais during his 40-year career, jokes with customers. A nightly hula show begins, the graceful moves of colorful dancers decked out in long dresses with little girls swaying below to imitate their moves.
Night with its cornucopia of stars is about to arrive at the Sheraton, built alongside Pu‘u Keka‘a, known as “Black Rock.” A muscular Hawaiian with a torch produces a thunderous noise with a conch shell, runs across the beach, climbs the volcanic rock lighting torches along the way, stops at the top, and faces north, south, east, and west.
This is the sacred place where Hawaiians believe souls de- part for heaven. A king once dove regularly from the cli in a show of manliness. Today’s diver removes a flower lei from his neck, sends it and the torch cascading into the deep, and dives into the sea.