Updated: May 21, 2015
Kaanapali Shores Review - Beach Hotel and CondosWe've stayed at the Kaanapali Shores Resort in Maui for the last 3 years (2007, 2008, 2009), so we feel like we are pretty qualified to review the property for people who are thinking of staying at there for a Maui vacation. This is a low-key, family-oriented resort -- nice, but not fancy or pretentious. While considered a 3-star resort, the Kaanapali Shores rates 4 out of 5 stars by almost 500 reviewers on TripAdvisor. Officially, they go by a few names. They called themselves ResortQuest Kaanapali Shores in the recent past, but now also use Aston Kaanapali Shores. Whatever the name, this is a condo resort (built in 1980) offering 463 rooms, with each unit being privately owned (you can view our Kaanapali Beach resort map to see where it is located in relation to other nearby resorts). Owners rent out their individual condos either directly by owner or through the resort-managed rental pool. We've rented direct from owners, which allows you to save about 15-40% off the listed rack rate offered through the resort management (Kaanapali-Shores.com) -- that can be a big savings (though there is NO maid service when you rent direct from an owner, consider that as well..). Most of the condos are 1 or 2 room units complete with full kitchens, washer and dryer, and living room, though they also offer some studios (one main room with kitchenette) and hotel-style single rooms with refrigerator only. We recommend the 1 or 2 bedroom condos at Kaanapali Shores - most offer a sleeper couch in the living room, so you can normally sleep up to 4 in a 1BR unit, and 6 in a 2BR condo.
Technically, the property is located in Honokowai, which is not officially part of the area most people call Kaanapali Beach (which is the area immediately to the north and mostly south of Black Rock, see the map above if needed). It's a few minutes drive north -- just don't expect to be next to the Sheraton, The Whaler, the Hyatt, and Whaler's Village (which are all on the "official" Kaanapali Beach). Lahaina is less than 10 minutes to the south. Below is an aerial photo of Kaanapali Shores Resort.
As you can see, the resort consists of several buildings arranged in a U-shape around a central garden and pool area, facing the ocean (with views of Lanai and Molokai). The main buildings are 9 stories tall (they call the 9th floor the penthouse, but units are the same as lower floors), while the smaller buildings on the left towards the beach are 4 stories tall. With palm trees growing to 40 feet or more, your view improves as you move to the higher floors. We've stayed on the 8th floor numerous times with commanding views of the ocean - highly recommended. There are 2 pools - the one closest to the ocean seems to always be the most popular - and plenty of pool furniture and free towels for guests. The pools are heated, and one is usually quite warm which is perfect for kids who spend all day in the pool. There are also two small whirlpool spas, one by each pool. Hidden by the trees in the middle there is the Beach Club restaurant (serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and a small bar. Food is pretty good, nothing spectacular, but perfect for a casual meal by the pool. The beach here is not real big, but it's usable, with beach lounge chairs available at no charge. Swimming is not the best here, but there is actually pretty good snorkeling about 50 yards to the left in this photo, with lots of coral and fish (I've done a scuba lesson here as well, where we saw a sea turtle). For the best beaches we recommend heading a few minutes south to Kaanapali Beach or a few minutes north to Napili Bay or Kapalua Bay. We usually split our days, part of the day by the pool, and part of the day visiting other beaches to get a feel for the island.
Kanapali Shores - What to expect in the condosHere is a sample floorplan from a 2BR condo. Since each condo is individually owned, they are all furnished and updated differently, though there seems to be a lot of similar furniture and decor in many rooms. That's one reason we like renting from a private owner directly, so we know exactly which unit we are getting, and we know exactly what it looks like inside. The 2BR condos we have rented have had modernized kitchens with new cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and granite counters. Being vacation condos, the kitchens are small, but include stacked washer/dryer, full refrigerator, stove, microwave, garbage disposal, coffee maker, etc. The kitchen opens to the living area, with a small dining table and chairs, stools by the kitchen bar, TV, coffee table, and pull-out sofabed. There is a lanai off the sliding doors, with room for a small table, 2 chairs, and a lounge chair -- not super spacious, but more than adequate (and offering magnificent views for breakfast, dinner, or any time in between). Just down the hall is the first bedroom, with twin beds and TV (same ocean view). There is a full bath in the hallway. Five feet further down the hall is the master bedroom with a king bed, TV, separate small lanai, and separate bathroom with shower. There is air conditioning as well if the ocean breezes are not enough. Here is a sample view we enjoyed from the 8th floor lanai. We found the rooms to be quite noiseproof - we never heard more than a few creaks from upstairs over the course of a week, and never any noise from the hall or walls. Tropical birds in the garden area can sometimes make raucous noise in the morning - but if tropical birds and ocean noises are not your thing, you probably wouldn't be vacationing in Maui to begin with!
Kanapali Shores AmenitiesParking is available in a 2 story covered garage as well as an open parking lot for $9 per day. You pay in advance at the front desk when you check in, and you get a parking pass for your windshield. There is a gate and parking attendant, so you take a parking ticket as you enter, and hand the ticket to the attendant when you leave -- he will check the sticker on your windshield and let you out, no charge for coming and going as often as you want (other than the $9 per day). There are also 3 tennis courts (which seem to be rarely used) and a barbecue area (out in front, wedged between the tennis courts and the garage) with 2 gas grills and a few covered picnic tables. There are several shops on the property, including fitness center, massage center, beach apparel and supply store, flower shop, and small grocery/souvenir store (warning, 1 quart of milk goes for $5!). Better yet is the small shopping center directly across the street (25 second walk). There are a few simple restaurants here and one of the few grocery stores on this side of Maui, the Star Market (also a dive/snorkel shop if you want to rent equipment). Groceries are expensive, just like everything else on Maui, so be prepared for sticker shock, but buying groceries and preparing a meal or 2 per day in your condo kitchen will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a week (with 5 people, we EASILY spent at least $50 at each sit-down breakfast, $60+ for lunch, and $80+ for dinners -- that's a quick $200 per day minimum for food if you don't make your own meals!). Back to the resort -- there is free wireless internet access. There are about 4 public computers just to the left of the front door near the lobby, but they charge 15 cents per minute to access the internet on them, and printing (as in boarding passes) costs 35 cents a page -- kind of a rip-off, but still better than nothing (again, free Wi-Fi in all rooms assuming you bring a laptop). There is an activities desk in the lobby which can explain and help book things like whale watching tours, luaus, helicopter tours, and much more. Free scuba lessons are offered daily at the pool (10AM) -- give it a try and see if you want to try it for real in the ocean! There is also a free Hawaiian dance show on Wednesday nights by the pool -- OK for free entertainment, but don't kick yourself if you miss it.
Kaanapali Shores Rates and ReservationsWe checked rooms rates at a number of sites. The official resort website lists 1BR ocean view condos from $198 to $411 (Christmas) and 2BR ocean view units from $252 to $588 (2BR/2BA penthouse, $700-$928 per night). Expedia had 2BR/2BA ocean view condos for $387/night in April ($428 summer, $263 fall), and 1BR/1BA for $276 ($300 summer, $207 fall). When booking direct from owners, we found 2BR/2BA garden views for $289, and $299-$425 for 2BR/2BA ocean view (that was for 8th floor, pretty much equivalent of a penthouse unit on 9th floor). As a comparison, we checked an April room at the Sheraton Black Rock -- $320 for a small oceanview room with 2 double beds (extra $80 PER NIGHT for an extra rollaway), $550 per night for a family suite. With a condo, you get so much more space, private bedrooms, full kitchen, etc.
Kaanapali Shores - Final Comments and ReviewOverall, we recommend this property to families and couples who prefer the room and amenities that a condo provides compared to a hotel room. For hotel rooms at resorts, we've paid from $350-$700 per night for either a single room or a small suite. Sure, some high-priced resorts offer elaborate grounds and pool/entertainment complexes. Some expensive hotels offer room service and wait on you hand and foot. If you want that service and can afford it, and you don't mind being squeezed for space with no kitchen, no washer dryer, no separate sleeping rooms for kids, then you may prefer to stay at (and pay for) one of the many superior resorts Maui has to offer (Four Seasons, Ritz, Fairmont, etc.). However, if you'd like to save some money (we usually pay $300-$350 per night for 2BR/2BA condo), have plenty of space for you and the kids, have a full kitchen, washer and dryer, etc. while still staying at an ocean-front resort with spectacular views, definitely consider the Kaanapali Shores. We give the pool area about a 7.5 out of 10 (no fancy slides, but heated pool is much better than some VERY cool ones we've seen at expensive resorts), the beach a 6.5 out of 10 (snorkeling quite good, 5 minutes from other awesome beaches), spacious rooms and views a 8.5 out of 10, and overall resort amenities 7.5 of 10 (including restaurants and grocery store within walking distance). And if you go during whale season, the views of breaching and spouting whales can be nothing less than extraordinary from the upper lanais - 10 out of 10. A few more photos follow.. enjoy.