Updated: May 21, 2015
Sheraton Maui Resort at KaanapaliMost people dream about, some people make it happen regularly -- the family trip to Maui for a vacation adventure of sun, pools, and ocean. Maui has a number of different resort areas, but one of the most popular is the long stretch of beach known as Kaanapali Beach in northwest Maui. Kaanapali Beach starts at Black Rock, an outcropping of black volcanic rock, at the north end. And sitting right at this location is one of the premiere hotel resorts in the area, the Sheraton Maui Resort. We recently stayed at this property in Feb. of 2007, and this review will give you our thoughts and opinions and some maps and photos of the area to help make your trip planning a little easier. Enjoy.
Sheraton Maui Map and LayoutThe graphic above is from the brochure they give you when you check in, showing the location of all the rooms and amenities at the Sheraton resort. Unfortunately we couldn't find it anywhere on their website -- this is the best we could do. As you can see it is a pretty big property, and one complaint we heard was that it takes a while to walk from parking to rooms, from rooms to pools, etc. We stayed in the center building marked "3", so we were pretty centrally located to everything, though the garage is a bit of a hike if you are not valet parking ($5 per day, on top of the $18 per day mandatory "resort fee"). One side note - valet parking is free for the first day, then an automatic $5 for additional days if you don't tell them to take you off valet parking, so take advantage of this when you arrive and use it for free the first day. The lobby and main building are a nice open air affair -- always a great feeling when you arrive in the islands and realize how different life is here. The picture below shows the angled roofs of the lobby and main building.
There is a luau held each Wed. night in the grass area marked "X" on the map. It is a lightly enclosed open-air area, and you could easily enjoy some of the music and dancing by just standing across the walkway and watching, though you will miss out on the all you can eat and drink buffet ($75 for adults, $55 for kids). They also held it on Thursday when we were there, so check with the hotel for exact schedules. Overall, we rated the Sheraton Luau an 8 out of 10, compared to others we have seen. The host was a little over the top (as they tend to be), food was good (but long slow lines if you are not in the first row or two of tables), plenty to drink, with entertainment that even kids as young as 4 or 5 seemed to stay awake for and enjoy. Another nightly highlight is the lighting of the torches on Black Rock. A man scrambles down the rocks, lighting torches as he goes, finally diving into the water after the last it lit -- the torches burn into the evening, highlighting the naturally geography of this peninsula, and visible from way down the beach -- very nice!
Sheraton Maui RoomsAs mentioned, we stayed on the second floor of the Hale Anuenue building with an oceanfront room and balcony. One complaint we had was with the 2 double bed layout -- queen beds really should be the standard here for rooms that cater to a lot of family traffic -- double beds just don't cut it in terms of size. Another complaint - we asked about rollaway beds and were told they were $70 additional PER NIGHT. Other resorts we stayed at in Wailea offered free rollaways. We could understand an additional $50 or something over the course of your stay, but $70 per night was very excessive. The room itself was about average size, with a new plasma flat screen TV. There is WIFI internet access in your room and around the property (if you have your own computer with you) included in the $18 daily resort fee (there is also a business center with internet access just off the courtyard from the lobby -- 20 minutes of internet access for $8, not bad for catching up on news or email quick). A small empty refrigerator is available for you to store food and drinks, nice for staying hydrated and cutting down on some of the expensive dining out prices you find in Hawaii. Beds were comfortable, with plenty of pillow choices on each, standard at all Sheratons. The bathroom had plenty of counter space and a handheld shower, a real convenience if you have kids to remove beach sand from. Both room and bath were in good overall condition and clean. The lanai had a table and 2 chairs and a lounge chair, with a decent amount of space to stretch out and terrific views of the palm-studded grounds, pool, and ocean view. They were renovating the hallways when we were there, with fresh paint and carpet and moldings, all looking good. One real plus - we had booked a garden view room for $290, but were upgraded to an ocean view room at no extra charge, plus we got complimentary drink tickets to use at the pool while we waited for our room to be ready (we got there at 2PM and official check-in is not until 3PM -- our room was ready by about 3:10). Here is the view from our lanai. And another looking towards pool and ocean..
Sheraton Maui Beach and Pool PhotosOne of the big draws here is proximity to the beach and Black Rock area. The beach right in front of the hotel is wonderful, whether for snorkeling, sunbathing, or swimming in the ocean. Plenty of soft white sand and no coral or rocks to step on, though it does slope sharply down to the water, causing a short wave break area with a pretty good slosh up and back which can topple over little kids. There are cabanas for rent here - basically two wooden lounge chairs with canopy over them -- for $35 per day. Also, you can pay to rent just standard lounge chairs. We'd like to see these be free for resort guests, but many places do charge for these amenities. You can also rent beach gear from the sports kiosk here - fins, snorkels, boogie boards, etc. As usual, you can easily pay more in a few hours of rental than you would if you bought the equipment outright at a sporting store. Consider buying or renting from an off-resort store if you plan on using a lot of equipment for more than just a day or 2 - you will save money (example: boogie boards for sale at grocery store for $40, available at Sheraton for $10 per hour or $30 per day). A lot of people rave about the fish and turtles around Black Rock. We were less than impressed. This is a popular spot for tourists, and the water was visibly cloudy and blurry from all the oily film of sunscreen in the water. Also, while there were a few groups of colorful fish, we have certainly seen more elsewhere (and no turtles during our visit). So while it is not bad, we can't rave about the snorkeling at Black Rock. You will also a see a number of brave (or foolish) souls climbing up the sharp, slick black rocks to try their hand at diving -- proceed at your own risk, it didn't look too safe or smart. Swimming here is great, with warm water and somewhat protected conditions from ocean surf. The picture below shows both the pool and beach area looking down from building 4 on the map.
The adult pool is in the foreground, while the kids pool is hidden just off the screen at center left. The kids pool has an enclosed 2 foot deep section (with swim over wall opening to 3.5 ft area). One complaint - the pool water here was COLD. Not ice cold, but uncomfortably cold compared to other places we stayed - would like to see it 5-7 degrees warmer so that you savor staying in the water and relaxing rather than planning on getting out ASAP. A small waterway system surrounds the pools, letting you take a little water hike or swim through 4 foot deep water. There is also a SMALL little waterslide feature down about a 8 foot tiled length -- more a fun feature than a real waterslide, though. A poolside bar offers snacks and drinks. Towels are available for beach and pool, and they sign you in and out for towels, threatening to charge $15 for non-returned towels. If a towel goes missing, tell them you returned it after hours to the bin. Poolside lounge chairs tend to disappear pretty early as at all resorts, but we were able to find chairs 25 feet away even in the afternoon. Plus the beach here is so nice and only 20 yards away, head for the ocean if the pool is too crowded! Another thing to mention is the wristbands at the pool. Guests are required to wear wristbands to show they belong at the pool - new color everyday. Sometimes they will tag you when you get towels, but there are also vulture-like pool attendants that pounce on you as soon as you sit down. They never really asked for any proof of staying there, but they quickly track you down. ADVICE -- don't try to sneak into other resort pools if you are not a guest. Seems a little over-controlling, but I will assume they have had problems in the past with unwanted visitors crowding their nice pools. So overall, we give the pool area an 7.5 out of 10 (would jump to 8.5 with warmer water, 9.5 with more kid-friendly water activities (slides, play areas, etc.)), and the beach area a 9 out of 10. If we were staying at other area condos, we would gladly drive down and park to hang out at this beach. Here is a view looking up the beach towards Black Rock -- you can see some of the Sheraton Maui building built on and around the cliff area.