Maui' s northwest coast, the island's sunniest spot, was once a retreat for Hawaiian royalty and the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Just minutes from Kaanapali is the historic whaling town of Lahaina, which was also the Hawaiian capital before Honolulu.

Backed by the achingly beautiful West Maui Mountains, studded with a riot of volcanic rock hues, something quite magical happens virtually every day.

Hauola Rock, a birthing stone for Hawaiian royalty.
Hauola Rock, a birthing stone for Hawaiian royalty.

As if by clockwork, a massive rainbow arcs across the mountains most days at 5pm.


Echoes of Lahaina's whaling era are strikingly manifest in its rustic portside buildings and colonial architecture. At the height of the whaling boom in the mid 19th century, thousands of sailors from hundreds of ships would take shore leave in Lahaina, the whaling capital of the world, including Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame.

The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas are linked by the Kaanapali Walkway.
The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas are linked by the Kaanapali Walkway.

I strolled down bustling Front St, which despite its tourist trap excesses, still lays on the charm thick. In between the bevvy of eye-catching art galleries, essential historic stops include the US Seamen's Hospital, Lahaina Prison (for rowdy sailors) and the Pioneer Inn.
Take a two-hour long self-guided walk on the Lahaina Historic Trail, traversing the full range of influences, from ancient royalty to whaling and missionaries.

Kaanapali's beachfront at sunset.
Kaanapali's beachfront at sunset.

One of the best preserved colonial structures is the Baldwin Home, Maui's oldest home, built in the mid-1830s and originally the residence of Dr Dwight Baldwin, whose missionary influence on Maui was profound and lasting.

It's just across the road from the oldest banyan tree in the United States. Marking its 145th birthday this month, this magnificently sprawling specimen was a gift from missionaries in India.

Something that equally enthralled me is the ancient rock down on the shore line, washed by the ocean and shaped like a throne, Hauola Rock.

For centuries it was a birthing stone for Hawaiian royalty, where the mother would deliver their newborn prince or princess while sitting on this rock. Ancient healers would also send their patients to sit on the Hauola Rock and let the brackish water soothe their illnesses.

The pool at the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas
The pool at the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas

After taking my fill of culture and history, I was itching to stake out some flavourful Maui bites. Standouts include Duke's Beach House, perfect for breakfast, whether it's for Beach Boy Burritos or Local Kine Eggs. Hula Grill Kaanapali is a gorgeous venue, whether for sundowners in the Barefoot Bar under the thatched palapas, or feasting heartily from the Kiawe wood grill.

My pick? Macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi! Take your Shave Ice fixation to the next level at Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice. It's as soft and fluffy as a snowflake, the flavour range is ridiculous and all their secret syrup recipes use premium purees and natural fruit juices.


Kaanapali's beachfront bliss

It was a pinch-yourself moment.

As the golden sun slumped on the horizon, frisky trade winds fanned us with a warm sea breeze as towering ocean breakers crashed down on the sugar-coloured shoreline.

As the flaming torches nestled around my resort took hold in the twilight, I strolled along Kannapali Boardwalk, which links the glittering necklace of resorts together.

I plumped for The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, an elegant and verdant oasis of relaxation, underpinned with a concerted focus on showcasing and sharing the region's cultural pride.

It's just one year old and still exuding that just-new shiny freshness. As I entered, I was swept up by the traditional artwork, designed by five Maui artisans, wrapped around the four pillars of the resort's lobby.

An on-site cultural centre, Pu'uhonua o Nanea offers interactive cultural experiences, whether you want to make a fresh flower lei, learn how to play the ukulele, dance hula or master some indigenous language skills.

The team of cultural specialists will go out of their way to share with you some of the history, mythology of their people, endowing your stay with an authentic layer of cultural appreciation. Every aspect of the resort has been thoughtfully conceived and executed through the prism of cultural pride and environmental sustainability.

Another winning attribute is the resort's complimentary shuttle service which loops you around her sister properties all along Kaanapali and to Lahaina.

Coinciding with Hawaiian Airlines' fifth anniversary servicing New Zealand, the carrier has just expanded its Trans-Pacific service, now operating five non-stop flights a week, between Auckland and Honolulu.

Travellers have the option of taking a dual-destination vacation with a free stopover in Hawaii before connecting to North America or on the return leg. For just an extra NZ$145 per person, per sector, Extra Comfort seating is a great-value way to accentuate the experience. Bag a fare and seat to suit.