The Star Bulletin
John Berger
By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi

Malihini experience aloha with Napili Kai’s ohana

On a recent Wednesday evening, George Kahumoku Jr. sat onstage in the Napili Kai Beach Resort’s Hale Aloha Pavilion and talked about his love for music and life on Maui.

Napili Kai Beach Resort

» Address:5900 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Napili, Maui. It’s a five-minute drive from Kapalua/West Maui Airport.» Call: 669-6271; toll-free (800) 367-5030 from other islands

» E-mail:

» Web site:

» Rates: Napili Kai’s Spring Value Season runs from April 1 through June 13; its Fall Value Season, from Aug. 25 through Dec. 20. The Fifth Night Free special, available during these periods, provides a complimentary fifth night to guests in select room categories after every four consecutive paid nights at rack rate, which ranges from $270 to $460 per night. Guests also receive an arrangement of fresh tropical flowers in their room upon arrival. The nightly kamaaina rate during the value seasons is $215 for a run-of-the-house hotel room or studio.

» Extras: A Keiki Eat Free program also is in effect for breakfast, lunch and dinner during both value seasons. Kids 12 and younger receive one free entree from a special Keiki Menu when accompanied by an adult who purchases an adult entree. The program is not available on holidays and is valid for hotel guests only.

» Notes: The Masters of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar concert series takes place 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Tickets for the two-hour concert are $45 per person ($35 for kamaaina). Call toll free (888) 669-3858 or visit for more information.

As he did, his fingers danced effortlessly on his slack-key guitar, producing sounds as sweet and lyrical as an angel’s voice.

The gathering was so laid-back and fun, Kahumoku could’ve been in his back yard among friends and family instead of a hall filled with more than 200 people. That’s the draw of the Masters of Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar concert series.

Now in its sixth year, it found a permanent home at Napili Kai last June. CDs of music recorded live at the shows — which have featured local musicians such as Cyril Pahinui, Ledward Kaapana and Dennis Kamakahi — won Grammy awards in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Kahumoku is the genial host and co-producer of the popular weekly concert, which has no elaborate props, dramatic lighting effects or backup band. It’s simply superb slack-key artistry presented with a lot of aloha.

Unpretentious but noteworthy also aptly describes Napili Kai itself. Its 163 hotel rooms, studios and one- and two-bedroom suites are set in 11 low-rise buildings beside pretty Napili Bay. All but six of the units have ocean views, and all of the 151 studios and suites are equipped with kitchens.

Even better, parking and many other services and activities are complimentary.

“We don’t have any hidden charges or ‘resort fees,'” said Diane Farnsworth, director of guest operations. “Our philosophy is, ‘We don’t nickel-and-dime our guests.'”

Scheduled gratis every week are an adult putting party on an 18-hole putting course, a poolside mai tai party, hula and lei-making lessons and a botanical tour led by Assistant Grounds Superintendent Joe Ah Puck.

In addition, there’s a free daily half-hour cultural seminar on topics ranging from canoes and fishing to coconut husking and palm frond weaving.

Napili Kai provides complimentary coffee and tea service every day, in-room high-speed Internet access and a children’s program during certain seasons. Guests are welcome to use barbecue facilities, exercise room, two shuffleboard courts, beach towels, beach chairs, mats, swimming masks and snorkels provided free.

Also of note are four swimming pools, an ocean-view Jacuzzi that fits 24 people, a day spa and 16 680-square-foot family studios that sleep four (there’s no fee for cribs and roll-away beds for children).

SUMMING UP Napili Kai’s allure, Farnsworth said: “It’s low key, with a relaxing, intimate character. The staff interacts with guests through social programs like the putting party, mai tai party and morning coffee that were developed early in the 1960s and have been carried on as appreciated traditions.

“Our staff’s longevity — 37 years and counting for Rosie Balinbin in the food and beverage department — adds depth to the relationships we have with our guests.”

One progressive-thinking patriarch brings his entire family, about 40 strong, every other year. “Four generations come, most of them scattered along the West Coast, from California to British Columbia,” said Farnsworth. “He even brings the divorced spouses of his children so that his grandchildren can enjoy time here with both parents. And you know what? It works!”

If it’s Tuesday afternoon, it’s time for playing, singing and hula
When Napili Kai opened in 1962 as a 12-room resort, it employed just two housekeepers and a gardener. Occasionally, these three staffers would entertain guests by the beach with their ukuleles, singing and dancing. Their children and grandchildren often would join in with impromptu hula.

As the resort grew, so did the staff and the number of keiki performing at these gatherings. Eventually, the resort’s housekeepers decided to organize a free weekly show for guests spotlighting staff members and their ohana.

In 1966, Napili Kai’s management formed the nonprofit Napili Kai Foundation to instruct children in Polynesian dances, arts, crafts, language and history.

Over the years, the foundation has grown to include 45 keiki, ages 6 through 18, from throughout West Maui. It operates under the direction of a board of directors comprising seven community volunteers, staff members and resort shareholders.

All expenses for the children’s activities, including costumes and implements, are covered by corporate and private donations, grants, endowments and ticket sales for their 45-minute show at Napili Kai at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays.

Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 through 12, and free for ages 5 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at Napili Kai’s front desk. Check out for more information.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 The Honolulu Star Bulletin.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.

Going to Maui? Experience our live show where these Grammy winning compilations were recorded…
Every Wednesday at 7:30pm at The Napili Kai Beach Resort, on Maui.

Online Tickets to George Kahumoku Jr’s Slack Key Show: Masters of Hawaiian Music
call toll free (888) 669-3858
Show tickets $37.99 (plus applicable taxes and fees).
Dinner/Show Packages also available.