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Michele Sponagle

Managing editor

Smitten by hotels ever since she was a kid, hoarding toiletries started early and picked up steam as Michele Sponagle began a career as a freelance journalist. Her globetrotting has taken her to properties in more than 50 countries, from rustic B&Bs to sprawling resorts.

[Editor’s note: The Hawaiian Islands Tourism Authority stated on Sep 8, 2023 that “Respectful travel to any of the Hawaiian Islands, including the accessible areas of Maui, is welcomed and encouraged, now more than ever. Beginning October 8, all travel restrictions will end and West Maui (including Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, Honokōwai and Kapalua) will be open to visitors again with the exception of Lahaina.”]

Street cred: It’s all about location

Along Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, big hotel brands line the three-mile stretch of stunning sand, considered one of the top beaches in the U.S. Some go big on featuring the Hawaiian touches that tourists have come to expect. The Westin Maui Resort & Spa takes a different subtle approach, nodding to Hawaiian culture while honoring its reputation for providing welcoming spaces that are modern and luxurious. A recent $120-million renovation transformed the 759-room property into a stylish gem.

Who hangs here: Is this hotel for you?

This is a resort suited to pretty much every type of traveler. At any given time, the lobby was busy with families, couples, ‘bleisure’ visitors, clusters of gal pals and newly marrieds. The amenities reflect the eclectic customer base. Take the pools, for example. There’s one perfect for families and kids who squeal with every splash and want to whizz down the 270-ft water slide and there’s one just for grown-ups, giving everyone a happy place to swim and soak up the sun.

The straight goods: What’s in the room?

I dare you not to get your chill on in these rooms. I stayed in the lovely Hōkūpaʻa Tower (named for the North Star) and found the soft neutral tones inspired by nature to be super soothing. And there’s that aptly named Heavenly Bed. It has been Westin’s claim to fame with good reason. Sleeping with a husband who likes to flip and flop all night long, the quality mattress stopped me from being bounced onto the floor. Something I deeply appreciate.

The room had an inviting airy quality with plenty of space under counters and in closets to tuck away stuff. An in-room fridge and coffee maker helped us keep well hydrated. Local beer and coffee offerings are top notch. I loved the table and banquette in the room. We could sit and answer pesky work emails comfortably while watching the latest episodes of Love is Blind. In the bathroom, a large vanity with double sinks help keep his and hers items separated nicely. A small balcony with an ocean view provided the perfect place to watch those beautiful Maui sunsets.

Bragging rights: What else has it got?

I adored the Lanai, a private lounge exclusive to guests staying in the Hōkūpaʻa Tower. A decent breakfast buffet (hello, chia mango pudding!) and nice nibbles available later in the day. It had an adult-only infinity pool that was never busy. Post-swim, I could order my daily serving of poke (marinated and spiced raw tuna) accompanied by a cocktail or two (at least one Mai Tai). If you were so inclined, you could learn how to make a lei or play the ukulele, but those classes were just too much effort for me. I was focused exclusively on chilling.

Good eats: Cocktails and cuisine

During my stay, I had a chance to dine at Waicoco, a collaboration between two outstanding chefs, Mourad Lahlou and Chris Kajioka. The menu was eclectic, mashing together Hawai’ian cuisine with Japanese/Asian fare and elevated steakhouse favorites (like the short rib mac ‘n cheese, loaded baked potato and a 64 oz. double tomahawk steak). Whatever you order, start with the housemade Hawai’ian rolls. Served warm they feel like a hug in your hand. A smartly curated menu was easy to navigate and the cocktail list leaned on reinvented classics, incorporating next-level ingredients, like passionfruit and coconut. Oceanside dining is a big thing in Ka’anapali and Waicoco’s gorgeous patio delivered. It ranked among my top three restaurants I tried in the area.

A few of our favorite things: What stood out?

I’m a sucker for nature, so I did spend some time being mesmerized by the resident storks who slept with one leg tucked into their bodies. The koi pond you see as soon as you enter the resort gives the entire spa a serious dose of zen.

Parting Shot: If we could change one thing

Some mornings can be a bit noisy. I have acute hearing like a puma so I’m what you call overly sensitive. Our room overlooked the busy Whaler’s Village shopping complex and garbage trucks came early to empty the big bins. I could hear their beep, beep, beeps when they backed up. I would rouse, but not enough to actually wake up. That awesome bed lulled me back into REM.

Photos courtesy of Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kāʻanapali

Rates in November start at US$644

Michele stayed as a guest of the hotel. The hotel had no editorial approval.

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