A Kāʻanapali Reawakening Transformed by Tradition

On Maui’s west side, a beloved 60-year-old hotel doubles down on its commitment to provide an enjoyable and authentic Hawaiian stay through an $80 million makeover.

Text by Lindsey Kesel
Images courtesy of Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel 

Just north of the port town of Lāhainā, on the golden sands of Maui’s Kāʻanapali Beach, Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel has been wowing guests ever since opening its doors in 1964. From the strong sense of place of the lush 11-acre grounds, to daily cultural practitioner-led classes in Hawaiian arts, language and music, to the dedicated employees who work in concert to emulate the Hawaiian values of aloha (love), hōʻihi (respect), and kōkua (help), the hotel has spent the past six decades shaping the guest experience around cultural immersion.

Now the spot officially recognized as “the most Hawaiian hotel in Hawaiʻi” is strengthening its legacy of curating a meaningful stay that honors Hawaiian culture and heritage through an extensive property wide revitalization. 

Dubbed “Kealaula,” Hawaiian for the light of early dawn and the glow of sunset, the project encompasses reconstruction and redesign of more than half of the hotel’s guest rooms, the addition of a new restaurant, and expanded parking. 

elevated design evoking warmth and the glow of a sunset

A tribute to the way the Hawaiian sky celebrates the start and end of each day with color and light, Kealaula is both a renaissance and a rebirth for the property. 

Unveiled in June 2021, the upgrades revel in the rich culture of Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel’s roots while proving it can evolve to greet travelers with contemporary appeal. 

Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel’s oceanside setting is comprised of four wings housing 432 guest rooms and 14 guest suites that converge in a verdant tropical courtyard complete with a whale-shaped swimming pool and sun deck. 

In two of the four wings, 264 guest rooms have been completely rebuilt to reveal a fresh, modern aesthetic while retaining a strong aura of Hawaiian culture. Thoughtfully reimagined by award-winning luxury design firm Philpotts Interiors, the new rooms exude an earthy feel with muted palettes and reflect hundreds of intentional details, from the Hawaiian-themed furniture and artwork to the colors, patterns, textures, and use of light. 

With a closer look, guests will notice the choice of carpet, accent wall, bed runner, and signature headboard have both purpose and cultural significance. 

In each room, employee-made mea makamae (precious gifts) shadow boxes showcase traditional Hawaiian implements such as kīholo (shark hook), lūhe‘e (octopus lure), and ‘upena (fishing net).  

lit from within a room at the Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel
Warm earthy tones in a renovated room at Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel

“The extraordinary life-enriching accomplishments of Hawaiians rooted in a close relationship with the ʻāina (land) and kai (sea) is thoughtfully reflected in the design of the renovated rooms,” says cultural guide Kahulu De Santos. 

As Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel’s Director of ʻImipoʻokela, De Santos manages the on-site culture classes, and ensures respectful, authentic cultural integration remains a large part of the guest and employee experience. 

In the hotel’s highly anticipated new 5,000 square-foot restaurant Huihui (meaning “star constellation” or “to join, intermingle”), Executive Chef Tom Muromoto curates a menu that artfully integrates traditional Hawaiian cuisine and cooking methods with modern flavors and fresh local produce. 

From seafood and venison to handcrafted tropical cocktails, the open-air formal dining room presents innovative taste profiles amid island artwork and Hawaiian navigation-themed décor. 

In addition, the breezy gathering space hosts local entertainment, cultural events, and classes where traditions of Hawaiian voyaging and wayfinding are shared. 

Though the original was always something special, the reimagined Kāʻanapali Beach Hotel embodies aloha and takes guest enjoyment to new heights with creative touches and homages to Hawaiian history and tradition. 

As an extension of its aloha spirit, the hotel foregoes charging resort fees, provides free Wi-Fi in all the rooms, and allows keiki (children) up to 17 years old to stay for free with a paying adult. 

For more information, visit kbhmaui.com.