I recently spent a week at Ka’anapali Beach in Maui on a press trip. I know, tough gig. However, I assure you plenty of work was done between Mai-Tais and shave ices.
For one, I either visited (with friends staying at) or stayed at all four (!) SPG properties on Ka’anapali beach in Maui. If you’re trying to choose a SPG hotel on Maui by looking at Starwood’s website they look very similar. To make things even more confusing, they are all Starwood Category 6 and are within two miles of each other!
However, there are definite differences between the four properties. I thought it would be helpful to compare them and help you figure out what’s best for you. This post will compare the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas vs. Westin Nanea Ocean Villas. The next post will compare Sheraton vs. Westin.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Five Things That Are Great at Both
- The Landscaping. My friend and fellow Traveling Mom Julie is a “gardening geek” so I’ll share her description of the Nanea. It could easily also describe Ka’anapali: When a garden geek arrives at the Westin Nanea Ocean Resort Villas, she’s found heaven. The perfectly maintained grounds sport lovely koi ponds filled with water lilies, creating beautiful photo ops. Plumeria blooms litter the ground, adding delicious fragrance to enjoy while walking along the paths to the pools. In fact, judging by the amount of flower photography currently taking up space on my iPhone and SDS card, it’s challenging to walk quickly through the grounds when you’re as flower-obsessed as I am.
- The pools. Both resorts’ pool areas are beautifully landscaped, in terrific condition, and will make any water baby happy. The exception is the little kids’ area at Ka’anapali as noted below.
- Both also have direct sandy beach access. Remember, beaches are public on Maui.
- View. Both resorts are oceanfront so views are of the same beach. The mountain view is of the same mountains. The villa properties also have “interior/resort view” which is of the pool area with maybe the tiniest sliver of beach in the distance. . If you need an ocean view, I’d go ahead and book it. Personally? I had three nights of resort view and three nights of ocean view and enjoyed them both.
- Activities. Both resorts have a plethora of things to do. The two resorts share a cultural ambassador who ensures you have an opportunity to understand that Ka’anapali is not only a tropical paradise, but the center of a rich and diverse culture. I spent some time with Makalapua Kanuha (Maka), the cultural ambassador, and felt richer for it. Whichever resort you choose don’t miss an opportunity to meet her.
The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas
I spent three nights at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas and really enjoyed my time there. It’s got a nice balance between the independence of a self-catering villa property and the pampering of a full-service resort.
Platinum benefits at villa resorts are limited. I received daily breakfast from the convenience store: Starbucks (why not Hawaiian?) coffee, really tasty and large muffins, yogurt, and cereal.
My favorite room feature is definitely the bathroom. Between the soaking tub and the rainforest shower there is something for everyone. (The Nanea has an identical bathroom layout.)
One advantage the Westin Ka’anapali Villas has over the Nanea: the pool area has a separate section for young kids. If you have a toddler or preschooler this may weigh heavily in your calculations. The Nanea does have zero entry, but not the cool sailboat.
The location of the Westin Ka’anapali Villas in my opinion would require a rental car. A shuttle goes to Lahaina town and between the four Starwood resorts if you insist on going car-free. However, to get your groceries (assuming you want to self-cater) and to get to more dining options you’ll have to at least use an Uber.
The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas feature two full service restaurants and a beachfront sports bar. The biggest surprise to me was Pailolo, the sports bar. I expect sports bar menus to heavily feature the word “nugget” . Pailolo bucks the trend. by featuring “food truck cuisine” (and having an actual food truck onsite). I enjoyed the best ceviche I’ve had in my entire life there.
Even though the villas are self-catering I’d hit up Auntie’s Kitchen for breakfast at least once. I still think about the macadamia nut gelato topped french toast. Read that again. The french toast is topped with ice cream!
The Westin Nanea Ocean Resort Villas
At the far end of Ka’anapali beach we have the Westin Nanea Ocean Resort Villas. The Nanea is the newest resort having opened in May 2017. It’s right next door to the Westin Ka’anapali so an extended family or friends could easily have a room at each resort. If you like brand spankin’ new, this is the resort for you. It’s also for you if you have a large group as they have three bedroom units available.
Being a villa property, status benefits are limited. I’d expect “continental breakfast” from the convenience store to be your platinum benefit. The Nanea has one full-service restaurant for breakfast and supper. It also has a convenience store and a quick service food stand.
Like the Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, I wouldn’t book the Nanea without a rental car. Of the two I think a car is even more important at the Nanea as you could reasonably eat all of your meals at Ka’anapali, but not at Nanea. Although to be fair, it’s only a ten minute walk between the two.
My friend and fellow Traveling Mom Julie Adolf spent 3 nights at the Westin Nanea. Here are some more of her thoughts:
The zero-entry, sand-bottom splash pool, which is attached to the main pool, is perfect for toddlers, and two additional plunge pools provide relief from the heat for the rest of the family. (I personally enjoyed the lounge chairs positioned in the shallow area of the main pool, allowing me to work a bit while dipping my toes in the water.)
My two-bedroom, two full-bath suite provides the perfect option for my family of four. In fact, with a pullout sofa bed, the kids could each invite a friend. (That’s not happening, though, kiddos.) There’s even enough room for our adult son, his wife, and baby to share the accommodations. We always look for a property with a kitchen when we travel, and the full kitchen offers a perfect chance to save a bit of money by eating breakfast before hitting the Ka’anapali sites.
The downside to points lovers: since they have no “standard” room, the one bedroom villa starts at 40K Starpoints a night in low season. So while the Nanea is technically a Category 6, in reality it isn’t.
Using SPG points for Marriott on Maui
I’d be remiss not to mention that you can also use Starwood points at Marriott properties in Maui. The Marriott Ocean Club could be an option at 40K (13,3K Starwood) as the location is good. However, I found a lot of this when I searched for availability:
Readers, if you’ve stayed at the Maui Ocean Club, I’d love to hear about it.
Another Marriott option on this side of Maui is the Ritz-Carlton at 60K Marriott (20K Starwood). I’ve heard nothing but great things about the facilites of the Ritz-Carlton, but I think the location is a bit isolated if you are a person who likes to leave your resort for a quick meal. I’d personally prefer staying nearer the amenities of Ka’anapali.
Westin Ka’anapali vs. Westin Nanea
I usually default to a “for you ” answer when asked “What’s the best?” of anything. (Spoiler alert: the Sheraton and Westin are in that category.)
However, in this case I think the clear winner is the Ka’anapali. It has everything that makes the Nanea great. However, it also has rooms at 20K Starpoints, it has more varied dining options and just in general I think it has a more friendly vibe.
As always, I’m sure you have an opinion! Please share in the comments, especially if you’ve visited either property.
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