Where to Stay: Kapalua and Napili

Again, in the spirit of full disclosure, this is my favorite part of the island. You're still close enough to Lahaina for dinner or some shopping, but things slow down once you get past Kaanapali. In the winter, the winds can be a little stronger and the weather a little less certain, but we're talking about Maui here so it's not like the weather is ever really bad. Kapalua and Napili are two of my favorite beaches and Napili, especially, has some wonderful family lodging options.

Kapalua

Kapalua is the last resort area on this side of the island and north of there is just semi-wild Hawaii. Kapalua beach itself is quite nice and is a great family beach. Our good friend, Dr. Beach again, actually named Kapalua beach #1 on his inaugural list. It can be a little rocky once you enter the water, but it's pretty well protected and also has good snorkeling.

There used to be a large, very nice hotel just off Kapalua beach, but last time we were there, they were about to tear it down to build multi-zillion dollar condos. There's a Ritz-Carlton up there that is frequently quite surprisingly cheap. I think this is due to the fact that it's not right on the ocean. There's a beach nearby, but it's a bit of a walk. I can't really tell you how kid friendly it is. There are also many condos at Kapalua that can be good for families, especially larger families, but again, they're not very close to the beach.

Napili

Hopefully you've read this far, because Napili really is my favorite family destination in Maui. The beach itself is great. It slopes pretty sharply into the ocean, but this makes for great body-surfing and general playing. Plus, if you get bored of Napili beach, you just have to walk to the north end and through a hotel to get to Kapalua beach (you can get a good idea on the picture here. There are hotels fronting the entire beach, but apparently, regulations keep them from being more than two stories tall so it's not at all overwhelming.

From what I can tell, there are only two types of people that come to Napili: old folks and families with kids. Once I thought I saw two single guys, but I think they were lost. This means a) that your offspring will have plenty of other kids to play with and b) there are plenty of folks to ogle over how cute they all are. Luckily, kids and old folks both seem to go to bed around 8:30 and wake up at 5 so it's a nice symbiotic kind of thing going on.

Here are some specific places in the Napili area that you should consider:

Napili Shores

Frankly, the Napili Shores is where we stay every time we go. It's certainly not the newest (they've got some sweet early 80s Hawaiian dÃÆ'©cor: you know what I'm talking about), but it's friendly, casual, close to the beach, cheap and filled with other kids. Full kitchens and separate bedrooms just make life easy when you have children. All of the units open onto a big grassy area. Get a first story unit if you can and your kid can run free on the grassy area while you have a drink on the lanai (try a quick mix of POG and Malibu with a splash of Absolut Vanilla if you're feeling frisky). The two pools are nothing fancy (there is a hottub for mom and dad), but the whole place is just quite relaxing.

Napili Kai

The Napili Kai also has condo units so you get a separate bedroom, but if I recall from our stay, the kitchens aren't really full kitchens, but rather "kitchenettes" better suited to lighter cooking. The nice thing about the Kai is that they focus on the old school Hawaiian style with things like hula lessons, lei-making and a genuine appreciation for Hawaiian culture rather than the Vegas-ized version you sometimes see elsewhere.

Others

The Napili Surf and Napili Point also are good options (I've stayed at each). The Napili Surf is right on the south end of the beach. It's a little dated and doesn't have much of a pool to speak of, but the shuffleboard competition can get intense. The Napili Point is a little further away from the beach (probably about 6.5 minute walk), but overlooks Napili Bay which has good snorkeling and lots of turtle (hence the logo).

Wherever you stay, make sure to stop by Gazebo restaurant. It's all open air and they make some mean macadamia nut pancakes. There's almost guaranteed to be a line, but it moves pretty quickly and if you go from January to April, there's a pretty good chance you'll see some whales while you wait.

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