The Story of Napili Kai Beach Club, Maui


Ocean views from a bedroom at Napili Kai Resort


The Hawaiian Islands are my favorite destination and I visit them often. It is a four- to five-hour flight from San Francisco, depending on the winds. The temperatures are 75-85 degrees all year, but it never gets humid. The islands of Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Lanai, Hawaii and Molokai are all very different from each other and magical in their own way. I love the Pacific Rim cuisine, and the flowers, birds, as well as the breezes and colorful rainbows.

In 1957, Jack Miller—a retired wing commander from the Royal Canadian Air Force—in a bid to escape the cold Vancouver winters, visited Napili Bay on Maui and fell in love with the place. He went on to build what is today a 10-acre property, with 16-room low-rise plantation-style resort by the islands’ most gorgeous, secluded beach. He sold shares to his friends for $4 each to build his dream—the Napili Kai Resort, where a Canadian flag flies, along with the state and national flags. 

When the resort opened on March 26, 1962, the cost of a double room was $15 while a suite could be booked for $20. And when business was slow, prices were halved. At that time there were only four small hotels on Maui. Miller wrote a book in 1985 called "The Unbeatable Dream," which is a fascinating read about the difficulties faced by him to get the resort started. Today, Maui has the largest number of tourists among the islands and millions of hotel rooms and condos to choose from. But I love the Napili Kai Resort for its friendly staff—who have all been around for a long time and wear Hawaiian dress, flowers in their hair—and the colorful birds and exotic flora make you feel you are in the tropics.   
The resort is 36 miles from Kahului airport, and nine miles from the old, historical whaling town of Lahaina. The “U” shape of the bay keeps large waves from coming in, making it a safe spot for families. The snorkeling is outstanding, especially along the lava rocks circling the bay.


Sunset swim in Napili Bay

The property has several separate buildings with studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, complete with kitchens as well as three-bedroom suites. You don’t feel like you are in a huge resort because everything is beautifully laid out in tropical gardens, all one and two stories high. All rooms have a view of the islands of Lanai and Molokai across the channel where, from December to April, hundreds of whales camp. You can take a whale-watching cruise from Lahaina. There are 14 excellent golf courses on the islands—Kapalulu Plantation and Kapalulu Bay Courses are close to the resort. We don’t take our clubs any more, we rent them. At Napili Kai there are no resort fees or parking fees—which is unusual in the islands. There are no extra charges for beach chairs, picnic coolers, towels, and the l8-hole putting green is fun to play on.

They have a spa, fitness center, and every building has a laundry room. The gardens around the property are lovely, and all plant varieties bear a sign indicating their name: magnificent orchids, hibiscus, and possibly every tropical flower you can imagine. The resort has Plumeria and Flame trees everywhere. They give a weekly horticultural tour as well as a flower lei-making and history class. There is a hula lesson for children, and a children’s hula show every Wednesday. This tradition started many years ago when the employees and their children entertained guests. The resort also organizes weekly activities for children aged 6-10.

On Wednesday evenings, the senior staff hold a free Mai Tai cocktail party, and on Mondays, cocktails cost just 50 cents. Children under 12 eat free in the excellent, reasonably priced Sea House restaurant and next to every building, there are barbecues which seem to be always in demand.


Artist's rendering of a guest room at Napili Kai Resort

I had been there only for an hour and Polynesian Paralysis set in. I had just one speed—dead slow. Each morning, I sat on my lanai (balcony) sipping coffee and staring in awe at the island of Lanai, which looked in the sunshine like a pink cake with white icing on the top. A cloud used to sit on top each day and a rainbow would appear every morning.

We usually stopped at the market in Napili village, close to the resort, and bought groceries for breakfast and lunch, then went out for dinner. The fruits and vegetables are all locally grown and the first thing I bought was a pineapple.

This resort is ideal for those seeking a “laid back” Hawaiian-style vacation—tall, swaying palm trees; a beautiful beach; crystal clear water; lush green surroundings; and accommodations to please just about everyone. Ultimately, Miller’s dream is the dream of paradise shared by dreamers everywhere. Aloha!


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