What's it Like to Live in West Maui?

Posted Friday, June 21, 2019 by Courtney Dennis

Nestled into the foothills of the West Maui Mountains, the gated Lanikeha community enjoys an ideal location on Maui’s warm, sunny west side. A nearly ¾ of an acre parcel within, 447 Anapuni Loop, offers cleared land with views of the Pacific Ocean; the neighbor islands of Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai; Lahaina town; and the Kaanapali resort area. Complete with cooling trade winds and newly constructed, high-quality neighboring homes, Lanikeha allows residents exclusive access to The Clubhouse, where they’ll find an infinity pool with a waterfall, a spa, a fitness center, a lounge, and a game room.

Just below Lanikeha lies the lively, lovely harbor town of Lahaina, where the breathtaking beaches and spectacular sunsets of west Maui begin. This history-rich region, the original capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, became one of the primary ports for the whaling industry world-wide and later evolved into a center for sugar and pineapple production. Now a small boat harbor and cruise ship port, Lahaina and its surroundings provide all manner of possibilities for dining, shopping, nightlife, golf, water sports, hiking, and other island adventures.

 

 

So, what would life really be like in west Maui?

One of the largest banyan trees in the world stands as a distinctive landmark on Front Street, Lahaina’s main thoroughfare. In addition to outlet stores, boutiques, gift shops, surf shops, and art galleries, Front Street has a movie theater and endless restaurant choices, including fresh oceanfront seafood at Kimo’s and Lahaina Fish Co. and upscale dining at Lahaina Grill. Fleetwood’s (owned by Maui resident Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac fame) features sophisticated fare, along with unique cocktails and live music in a rooftop bar with a sunset-over-the-water view, while Aloha Mixed Plate features excellent local dishes like poke, saimin, and chicken katsu, as well as more incredible sunsets. Both Down the Hatch (which appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) and Paia Fish Market have a relaxed atmosphere and delicious selections like fish sandwiches, fish tacos, and fish quesadillas.

 

 

In the neighboring town of Kaanapali, former sugar plantation land has been converted into a resort community. An oceanfront path spanning the length of Kaanapali Beach creates the perfect setting for a sunset stroll, evening cocktail, or dinner at an open-air restaurant, many of which also have live music. In particular, Whalers Village has a wealth of options, such as Monkeypod Kitchen (home of the best mai tai on the island), Leilani’s on the Beach, and Hula Grill. The Whalers Village shops include everything from lululemon and Louis Vuitton to Hawaii-based stores like Mahina clothing boutique and Na Hoku fine jewelry. And on the two nearby Kaanapali Golf Courses, 36 extraordinary holes are surrounded by mountains on one side and ocean on the other.

Just north of Kaanapali, the two world-class golf courses of Kapalua (including the Plantation Course, home to the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions, and the Bay Course, which has hosted more than 20 major professional tournaments), showcase jaw-dropping ocean and outer island views. In this dramatic setting dotted with stately Cook and Norfolk pines, the Plantation House boasts fine dining on the Plantation Course. Elegant farm-to-table cuisine meets a stunning oceanfront setting at Merriman’s Kapalua, and the oceanfront Gazebo restaurant has lunch and breakfast choices like macadamia nut pancakes.

A number of farmers’ markets also appear in west Maui weekly, including the Honokowai market every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning and the Napili market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Grocery stores, hardware stores, banks, medical offices, auto repair shops, gyms and the other conveniences of everyday life are close at hand as well. Lahaina contains two public elementary schools, one public middle school, and one public high school, as well as several private schools, making it easy for families with children to settle into life on Maui’s west coast.

But what about the beaches?

West Maui residents can easily access long stretches of sand at Kaanapali Beach and Kahekili Beach, the latter of which also has good conditions for snorkeling and family-friendly facilities like restrooms, showers, and a picnic area. Separating the two is Black Rock, now celebrated for its snorkeling but known to early Hawaiians as Pu’u Keka’a, a sacred location where the souls of the deceased leapt from the physical world into the spirit world. Crescent-shaped Napili Bay provides sugary white sands and calm waters, while Kapalua Bay (named Best Beach in the World by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and Best Beach in America by the Travel Channel) provides a scenic and safe opportunity for swimming because of the offshore reef that protects it.

 

 

Follow the Kapalua Coastal Trail from Kapalua Bay to tranquil hideaway Oneloa/Ironwoods Beach (which generally remains uncrowded despite its soft sands, impressive lava rock cliffs, and striking view of Molokai), and on to D.T. Fleming Beach, which offers enough of a swell for boogie boarding and surfing, along with parking, lifeguards, restrooms, a picnic area, and a playground. Slightly farther north, Honolua Bay has coral gardens and great snorkeling conditions during the summer, while its winter conditions make it a popular surf break.

And what else will I find in west Maui?

For those interested in hiking, the two-mile Kapalua Coastal Trail winds its way along four of the region’s picturesque bays, while the Mahana Ridge Trail meanders through former coffee and pineapple plantations with magnificent coastal and gulch views along the way. For those focused on water adventures, the Lahaina/Kaanapali/Kapalua coast likewise presents countless opportunities for canoeing, stand-up paddling, and diving. Some of the island’s best whale watching tours and sunset boat cruises (such as those operated by Pacific Whale Foundation and Trilogy) depart from the area, as does a ferry to the island of Lanai. A small airport in Kapalua also provides inter-island flights. Residents with curiosity about their own island’s history will also appreciate options like the Lahaina Heritage Museum and the Baldwin Home Museum.

 

 

Each second Friday of the month, Front Street closes to car traffic to hold a town party that includes arts and crafts, music, and food. Lahaina also hosts a Chinese New Year celebration each February and a Chinese Kite Festival every April. The town’s annual Fourth of July celebration boasts the only professional fireworks display on the island, and its Halloween parade and celebration have come to be known as the Mardi Gras of the Pacific.

Other regional events include Kapalua’s Tournament of Champions each January and the Celebration of the Arts (featuring hula performances and other Hawaiian arts, crafts, and food) each March. A Wine and Food Festival occurs in Kapalua every June, and local restaurants create special tasting menus for Kapalua Restaurant Week every October. Also in October, the annual XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon begins at D.T. Fleming Beach Park. Finally, the Maui Invitational college basketball tournament takes place in the Lahaina Civic Center each year in late November.

Please contact Raphael Wellerstein for additional information about this featured listing or life in west Maui.