Kaliko Storer’s first job was dancing hula when she was 14. She has worked with Hyatt Hotels for 26 years. She is often cited for infusing the Maui visitor experience with the “aloha spirit,” an overused term that, at its core, represents the ability of diverse cultures to learn from and respect each other across the archipelago. Storer says the importance of ohana, the familial bond, has never been more important to every resident andevery visitor to Maui.
“It’s very true we are all in a delicate place after the fires,” she says. “But we must take responsibility as advocates for our community and return to host guests again. Hospitality is who we are, whether having friends and family over for a feast or welcoming visitors back to West Maui.”
Visiting Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua is possible without noticing much difference in the daily experience. The natural thermostat is set to an ideal temperature between 72 and 84 degrees most days. The Kaanapali Beach, rated No. 1 in America according to TripAdvisor’s 2023 Travelers’ Choice Awards, is every bit as beautiful, the sand perfect for romantic strolls or playing tag with the kids. The whales have begun to return, their spouts often visible from shore.
As familiar as a Maui vacation may feel to repeat visitors and as magical as Maui remains for first-time travelers, Storer stays it’s important to empathize with the community’s ongoing challenges.
“I see a significant difference between empathy and sympathy,” says Storer, a fifth-generation Hawaiian. “We are a strong people who do not want anyone to feel sorry for us. However, we appreciate when visitors take the time to understand what so many people are going through, to exercise patience if your coffee is prepared a little slowly or if an elder is crossing the street in Kaanapali. It’s important to acknowledge that many of us are thinking about other things at the moment, like where my son’s new school will be built.”
Storer uses a favorite analogy to express how visitors can approach the situation. “When a man who is sweating profusely orders a cup of coffee, we don’t want to say, ‘Are you okay?’ This puts him in an awkward, potentially defensive position. Instead, subtly place a second napkin beside his cup. He can wipe his own forehead if he chooses.”
Like Storer, the servers, tour guides and hospitality employees appear excited to welcome back visitors. Whaler’s Village is bustling again. Monkeypod Kitchen and Hulu Grill fill each night with revelers drawn to the vast menu selections, convivial atmosphere, and performers playing the ukulele at a level unfamiliar to the millions of amateur players who’ve recently determined this simple instrument can’t be that difficult to master.
In addition to the ukulele and slack-key guitar virtuosos, many other traditions have returned. Teralani Sailing Adventures and other catamaran-based operators have resumed daily cocktail sunset and snorkeling cruises. The Royal Golf Course and Plantation Golf Course, located in Kaanapali and Kapalua, respectively, are open. The Kia and Bay courses are expected to open soon. Can’t get a tee time? The Golf Studio by YO!, located in the Hyatt Regency Maui, offers another way to improve your game or play a virtual round with friends.
Romantics have always visited West Maui for sunset strolls, snorkeling above the reefs, and torchlit dinners. The Montage Kapalua Bay elevates the romantic moment during its Champagne Hale at Cliff House. Guests enjoy oysters, bubbly and charcuterie while suspended above the sea in the aviarylike historic Cliff House, a storybook evening for sure.
Speaking of narratives, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua recently premiered “Tales of the Kapa Moe Luau,” an educational and entertaining retelling of Hawaiian history complemented by an outstanding menu from The Ritz-Carlton’s kitchen. The dancers, musicians and other performers at Tales of the Kapa Moe Luau present a people who have always displayed an adventurous, nurturing and curious nature. Other luaus around West Maui have also reopened, or will reopen soon, offering visitors beautiful visual storytelling.
Kaliko Storer believes every conversation should invite storytelling.
“When visitors educate themselves about Lahaina Ohana, they invite the people of Lahaina to speak their language,” she says. “What I mean is, when we embrace the authentic experience, we let everyone know they have a voice. That they are, above all else, respected.”
Kaanapali Beach Resort is a completely self-contained vacation destination on a 3-mile stretch of beach. Whether you want a romantic getaway or a fun family vacation, you will never be at a loss for something fun to do in Kaanapali.