Ancient 'Black Rock' still the main attraction at posh Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
LAHAINA, Hawaii -- On the mile-long stretch of beach along Maui's west side, it's good to be the first house on the block.
The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa stakes claim as both the "oldest" and "newest" resort in the Ka'anapali development near Lahaina. Being the first resort to break ground in 1963, it was built atop Black Rock, the famous black promontory that attracted Hawaiian royalty in the previous century.
In 1996, the property underwent a major renovation and expansion project that transformed the resort to the size it is today. Since then, no new resorts have opened in Ka'anapali.
Now the Sheraton Maui sits on 23 acres and features 508 guest rooms, plus several dining options, plenty of meeting space and much more. With the recent renovations and upgrades to most areas, what was a property much older than anything in Wailea or Kapalua hardly feels that way.
This part of Maui, anchored by Lahaina, was once the seat of Hawaiian royalty and a former whaler's village. Today, whales still come to the calm waters between Lanai and Maui's west side. And when you duck your head underwater, you can hear their echoes. This side of the island has also been home to pineapple plantations and sugar cane fields. Today it's one of Maui's largest resort and condo retreats. All types of mammals have found refuge in Ka'anapali's peaceful, sunny climate.
"I can count all the bad weather days I've had here on one hand," said Sutee Nitakorn, head professional at Ka'anapali Golf Courses who came here in 2006.
It's true that the weather forecast usually makes the weather sound worse than it is. During our two-day stay on Ka'anapali, showers were in the forecast, but nothing but clear blue skies were overhead.
"A day like today could be the Fourth of July or it could be Christmas," said Susan Woods, Director of Group Sales at Ka'anapali.
Black Rock remains the Sheraton's center of attention. Each evening a string of torches are lit along the rocks and a ceremonial cliff diver jumps, making for one of Hawaii's most dramatic sunset scenes. During the day the waves on Ka'anapali's beach aren't as intense compared to some of the more exposed parts of the island. This makes the Sheraton's beach prime for snorkeling around coral reefs or stand-up paddle boarding on the waves. The coral reef also attracts giant sea turtles, which aren't shy about swimming right beside you.
Rooms and amenities at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
The original guest rooms at Black Rock are premium suites, where many of golf's legends often stay when the Ka'anapali Champions Skins Game is held on Royal Ka'anapali in the winter. Nearly all the standard rooms have oceanfront views with private lanais, and they have recently been remodeled with the newest amenities.
Outside Ka'anapali, Sheraton concierges book just about every island experience you can fathom. Whale watching is a popular, convenient draw in the winter. Or you can sign up for a sunrise or day tour of Mount Haleakala. Beyond Maui, you can take cruises or helicopters to the neighboring, less-inhabited islands of Molokai and Lanai -- or even day trips to Oahu or the Big Island and be back in time for a late dinner.
For something close by, guests can stroll along the beachside walking path to the Whaler's Village, where there are a handful of shops and restaurants. We stopped into Cane & Taro, which had a menu full of Hawaiian fusion, from imaginative sushi rolls to a specialty plantation meatloaf. You can also dine on site at a handful of restaurants, including Teppan-yaki Dan, where skilled chefs perform before your group. Or for something quieter, dine under the stars at Black Rock Steak and Seafood, which serves up choice surf & turf such as lobster tail and filet.
Golf at Ka'anapali
Sheraton Maui guests have preferred access and package deals to the 36 holes at Ka'anapali. The club is headlined by the Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Royal Ka'anapali, an effort that ushered in a new era of resort golf in Maui when it opened. Still plenty challenging to the modern golfer, the par-71, 6,700-yard course features a collection of brawny par 4s longer than 400 yards on the back nine.
The Ka'anapali Kai course is shorter at just 6,388 yards. But few would call it a pushover for the regular resort player as it plays on similar slopes beside the Royal course. If you have a junior with you, play the Kai course from the Keiki (junior) tees, which are set up in the fairways and present a family friendly course that plays less than 3,000 yards.
January 31, 2011