Nestled on the West Shores of Maui the roads lead to Kaanapali Beach. Imagine pure white sands warm from the burning sun, powerful blue waters crashing against the shores, massive black rock cutting into the sea, resorts straight from the pages of a fancy travel magazine, dining with plates of food out of this world, & enough history to fill an entire library shelf.
Just 50 minutes from the airport, Kaanapali Beach is home to 5 major resort hotels & 6 condo/timeshare buildings hosting over 5,000 rooms & condos. Named “America’s Best Beach” in 2003, this 3 mile long stretch of sandy oceanside has its own paid parking, restrooms & lifeguards on duty. Picture children splashing in the sea waves, families building sand castles on the hot sand, surfers plunging into the white caps, risk takers taking a dive off of the black lava rock cliffs, parasailers becoming one with the sunshine.
Kaanapali Beach is home to two championship golf courses, the Royal Kaanapali & Kaanapali Kai. Endless dining choices for every meal of the day & some of the best shopping experiences Maui has to offer. Play around in one of the 35 tennis courts or snorkel with the turtles. Kaanapali offers some of the best surfing, parasailing, body boarding & zip lining. An ideal spot for whale watching, whether independently or on a tour experience. Feeling adventurous? Zip line across Kaanapali. Feeling a little more relaxed? Visit one of the five star spas for the ultimate self care day.
Taking in all that Kaanapali has to offer makes it difficult for the mind to imagine that at one point in time, the area was just a lush land of trees & beach line, barely touched by human kind. The Kaanapali Beach Resort was Hawaii’s first planned resort, with planning beginning in 1956 by the company AMFAC, with the first resort opening in 1963, The Royal Lahaina. & Before those years, the history of Kaanapali runs deeper than the ocean waters themselves.
Look into the distance at the massive, dark black lava rock that splits the beach in two. This monstrous site is Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock. This cliff is said to be the first place on Maui where Pele (the creator of the Hawaiian Islands) started her fires to build the island of Maui. However after being challenged by her sister, Namakaokaha’i (the goddess of the sea), the fire was extinguished leaving behind only this rocky surface as a failed attempt at forming an island. Ancient Hawaiians believed that Black Rock was a Leina, meaning a place where the dead are able to jump into the next world.
Leina are located on the west side shores of every Hawaiian island, facing the setting of the sun, leading Hawaiians to believe that each sunset represents the end of one’s life cycle on this earth we call home. Locals call Kaanapali “lapu o keka’a e” meaning that Black Rock is a “ghostly place” due to the immense amount of deaths that historically occurred there. Legend tells that unlucky souls who were unable to be guided by the family “aumakua” (guardian animal spirit) would attach themselves to Black Rock. Lahainaluna High school once gathered at Black Rock to gather skeleton remains for anatomy classes as it was a mass graveyard of bones. Many historical & legend told battles were held on & surrounding the massive lava stone purely out of convenience, in that if a warrior were to be conquered, it was an easy access point to the afterlife. The famous Battle of Koko ‘O Na Moku (bloodshed of the islands) took place here in 1738 after the death of Chief Kekaulike when his two sons fought to agree upon which would take over the ruling, & it is said that for days after the ending of this war, the seas ran red.
Back Rock is now sought out as an ideal snorkel location as well as cliff jumping spot. The locals refer to the diving as “lele kawa”, meaning to jump from a high cliff or rock into the ocean. King Kahekili (the last ruling chief) was the first to take the plunge off Black Rock, doing so to both challenge the spirits as well as gain respect & loyalty from his warriors, though none were brave enough to follow him into the risky jump. Every night at sunset, there is now a cliff jumping ceremony to honor & commemorate the King’s bold & courageous leap.
From 1962 to 1987 the Kaanapali Airstrip & Terminal was operational as both a travel access point for tourists & also for supplies to Kaanapali. Atop the airport rested the Windsock Lounge, famous for its bloody mary & the walls completely covered in business cards. Today, the Kehekili Beach Park sits on that slice of land. In the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, a horse racing track rested where the Westin Maui Resort now stands. Over the history of Kaanapali there was a vast amount of plantations, growing everything from mangos to sugar cane, raising pigs & harvesting fish.
To learn even more about the Kaanapali Beach Resort culture & history, take a stroll down the Kaanapali Historical Trail, a 10 stop walking trail through the land. Each stop gives detailed information of the sights ahead, a wealth of knowledge of where & how Kaanapali came to be.
Start the journey with the first stop of Kaanapali Airstrip & Windsock Lounge, followed by the Plantation Farm & Ancient Village of Keka’a. Traveling next to The Stones of MoeMoe & Whine O Manua/Wahine Pe’e, & onto Keka’a Landing Pier. Next up comes Pu’u Keka’a & Chief Kahekili with the next destination being Chief Kaka’alaheo & Legend of Kaulula’au. Nearing the end visit Koko O Na Moku Race Track & next up The Battle of Koko O Na Moku. Ending the trail road with Lo’i Kalo (Taro Patch) & finally The Owl Cave Legends.
From rich history to rich desserts in the finest of restaurants to rich blue waters, Kaanapali Beach Resort is a destination worth visiting, & most definitely calling home during a stay on Maui. Go Rent A Car Maui has trucks, vans, SUV’s & sedans ready at the airport to take you the short distance along the shorelines to the heart of Kaanapali, & the heart of true Maui culture