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Change where the world comes to play

By Staff | Feb 12, 2015

The latest addition to Kaanapali Beach is the Hyatt Residences, which feature two interconnected pools and lots of greenery.

KAANAPALI – Times are a changing here. The columnist has been observing the evolution of the Kaanapali Beach Resort -believe it or not – for more than 40 years. The big changes are evident, but the subtle ones visible to the keen observer are accelerating.

Many locals other than Hawaiians rarely visit one of the world’s greatest beaches, busy with work or other things. A vast majority of condo owners we know can never be seen on the beach walk or restaurants. One wonders why they don’t just stay in California and water their lawns.

The most tasteful change this year is the new Hyatt Kaanapali Beach (adjoining the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa) that quietly opened before Christmas. At the soft opening on the first day, some 30 or so employees lined up and greeted the first guests with applause and leis.

The unusual design of the resort, dotted with extensive foliage and large trees that took months to install, showcases the beach and ocean, with all venues within the resort – including a spectacular lobby, towel kiosk, food store and jacuzzi – having an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean. The new Tiki Bar just steps from the water is a great place to hang out and have a Coke or a Mai Tai.

Beginning at the Sheraton and walking past five major venues, you can engage in nostalgia or wonder at recent changes. The shuffleboard courts on the beach at the old Sheraton Maui have long been gone.

Standing alone, the Kaanapali Beach Hotel has changed little, its great lawn still a wonderful place to relax. Iconic bartenders Dale and Tommy have been serving Mai Tais for 40 years at the Tiki Bar.

The Whaler condominium has snazzy new barbecues on the beach, a great new garden in the middle and completely redone balconies.

Hula Grill, replacement for the old Crab Catcher (where you could dine next to its swimming pool), thrives. Only the prices and menus have changed.

Rusty Harpoon, where you could cook your own burgers 30 years ago and later cheer on your teams at its sports bar, is gone. If you look to the ocean from the new restaurant there, your view will be obscured by new kiosks selling sarongs, photo shoots and time shares.

New or old, there is nothing like Kaanapali Beach anywhere.

(Next week, the walk down to the Hyatt continues.)