The Royal Lahaina Resort on Ka’anapali Beach might best be described by what it isn’t rather than what it is. Big Box Maui resorts such as the Hyatt Maui Resort and Spa and the Westin Maui Resort and Spa do it up in grand style. The Royal Lahaina Resort takes a subtle approach, the road less traveled by.
The Royal Lahaina Resort clicks for Maui visitors that want to be on Ka’anapali Beach, not necessarily of it. Located just a mile up the road from the Ka’anapali Beach Resort, where the Hyatt Maui and Westin Maui are located, the Royal Lahaina Resort may as well be miles away.
No swarms of people hustling to the activity van for zip lining. No cargo plane’s worth of stacked luggage that impedes forward progress upon check in. No Roberts Hawaii bus on idle curbside.
Also MIA is TT’s (read: tourist traps), traffic and the elbow crunch that can sometimes define Ka’anapali Beach during high season. In its place, space, greenery, a little room to breathe. Without someone watching you.
With 333 guestrooms, each roughly 300 square feet, along with several cottages spread out over the resort’s 27 acres, the Royal Lahaina Resort exudes airiness. It underwent a major renovation three years ago so it also exudes style.
But there’s also character. The lobby, rather than expansive wow-me-now waterfalls or Swarvoski Crystal shops, is a gentle study of stone flooring with arched wooden lamps that recall the early days of Hawaii’s hotel industry. Nothing dramatic. More or less a “you folks are welcome” vibe with ample service and enough smiles to get you to your room or your cottage.
Rooms are located in the 12-story tower, one quarter of which faces the ocean; the remaining three quarters partially face the ocean. Like any corridor oriented hotel, you slide or wave your key in or at the lock and then Bang! the door slams behind you—just as it does when your neighbor comes in at 3 a.m. and blasts you out of your sleep. (Note to resort developers: fix this problem!)
But it’s a minor complaint.
My room had an ocean view—with a lanai (as all rooms do.) At 300 square feet, you won’t be able to hold the senior prom in here, but it’s manageable, enough room to move around. Décor is tasteful, easy-on-the-eye island style, mostly white with teak wood furnishings; and the vanity features a raised wooden bowl sink. (Stone tile shower in case you’re wondering.)
A wall mounted canoe paddle provides a clever appointment detail and sense of place. But the rise and fall of the surf 25 yards outside does that just fine, a reinforcement I welcome along with a wall length dresser and desk set. No fancy armoires here (bummer!) but basics done with refinement and modern touches—a flat screen TV and electrical outlets on the desk for easy computer hook up.
That all works for me, as does the Royal Lahaina Resort’s version of the “heavenly bed.” It’s just as comfy as its Westin counterpart with good down pillows.
The staff is friendly enough. They seem to have learned a lesson that the W Hotels teach: always talk to the guests and make them feel welcome. Check.
But the main point of all of this is the beach, right? Well, here’s the good news: you can walk to it in under a minute once your elevator lands in the lobby. I’m not kidding. You’ll even pass a couple of pools en route, so if you’re looking for chlorine refreshment, you’re in even better luck. (FYI: wooden chaise lounges with nice padding, no plastic strip butt sinkers here. And the pools? No mosaic tiled infinity models. Plain but clean.)
The beach is about two miles of uninterrupted sand that’s at least 10 yards wide, sometimes more in stretches. Yee-haw! Perfect for sunning, snorkeling, and because of the sandy bottom and easy current, swimming.
When you’ve O.D.’d on the outdoors and are ready to go for the food, the key is remember where you are. Your expectations will remain in check that way. There’s one restaurant. Not five or twenty.
The Royal Ocean Terrace is the breakfast, lunch and dinner option, drinks in between. There is a Basil Tomatoes Italian Grill located on the road leading to the property but for reasons unknown, it appeared closed during my five-day stay.
Food at the Royal Ocean Terrace is fresh, local when possible as evidenced in the Kula greens salad I had. Fish is local and usually grilled. And the usual suspects appear on the menu, grilled meats, designer pizzas and some pasta options. That tableside banana foster flambé isn’t going to happen here. But you wouldn’t want it to, as again, that’s part of the charm. They’re keeping it real here. They keep the focus on doing a few things right instead of one hundred mediocre.
A nearby ice cream shop, a sundries store and a well-managed Beach Activities shack round out the general big picture. Which in my estimation is a picture worth taking. And a lesson I’ve learned during my stay here. You don’t have to go big to go in style.
Bottom photo Jonathan Zizzo.