REVIEW: Honua Kai Resort
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect before I arrived at Honua Kai. Unlike other trips that I’ve taken, the choice of lodgings for this portion of the trip was entirely out of my hands. As I mentioned in the introduction to this trip report, part of the incentive for heading off to the middle of the Pacific was that we’d have free lodging for the entire stay. The parents of one of the friends we met up with on Maui owned a few condos at Honua Kai, and they were gracious enough to allow us to use the rooms without any payment for the entire stay. This is something we were very grateful for, though at the same time it was a bit scary for me since I had no idea what to expect when we showed up.
Apparently Honua Kai is a property that sells condos to interested buyers, and then rents out those condos as hotel rooms during the time when the owners are not utilizing the space. This meant that while I walked into the property thinking it would feel more like an apartment building, it genuinely had the look and feel of a hotel. If I didn’t know for a fact that the rooms we were staying in were owned by our friend’s parents, I’d have never known it was anything other than a standard issue hotel.
For anyone who has been to Maui before, you know that nothing is every really all that far away. The same can be said for Honua Kai, which was a relatively quick drive from Kahului Airport on Hwy 30 past Lahaina and a few minutes drive beyond the resort heavy stretch of sand called Kaanapali. This was the furthest I’d stayed from the airport on Maui, and while it certainly wasn’t remote it was indeed nice to be a bit further out from the massive resort stretch just south at Kaanapali.
Despite being a bit further, Honua Kai’s location is pretty ideal. If you’re in Maui chances are you’ve got a rental car, and heading down toward Whaler’s Village and Lahaina for dining options only takes about 10 minutes. Maui’s size makes it fairly ideal for day trips, and heading off to another beach location or to the eastern side of the isle is just as easy as it would be starting at one of the larger resorts. Additionally, there’s a few very nice snorkeling areas just north of Honua Kai’s location, making it a good location if you’re a fan of that type of adventure.
At first blush it seemed that our check-in was processed relatively smoothly. Within minutes of stepping up to the desk we had the keys to our room in hand and were headed down the hall to our first floor room. After taking in the room and seeing what Honua Kai had to offer, we got a phone call from our friends asking when we’d be arriving. Upon letting them know that we had already arrived and were settling in to our room on the ground floor, we learned that a mistake had been made. We were supposed to be assigned to one of the condos owned by our friends’ parents, all of which were on much higher floors with better views than our current ground floor offering. We contacted the front desk to get the rooms switched but were informed that someone was staying in the condo. They were, however, scheduled to be leaving and they expected our room to be available within an hour. Not a big deal at first, but we still were not able to move after an hour had passed, and when pressed the staff kept again told us we’d be moving within the hour. Which is the same story they told us every hour after that.
After another two hours we decided to just head to dinner and upon returning we discovered that …. the room was still not available. To make a long story short, we ended up moving to the correct room with a lovely view of the mountains before just before bedtime.
So while a free place to stay on Maui is always a fantastic thing that one cannot complain about, I suppose Honua Kai could learn to do a better job of organizing its information and managing guest expectations.
Other than this snafu, I must say that the staff was pretty impressive. Friendly, as you’d expect hotel staff to be, but certainly not the manufactured fake friendly you often find at beach resort destinations. It felt, oddly, genuine. From the desk staff, to the bellhops, to the surfer chicks working the coffee shop, the service was sincere and homey. Housekeeping staff were not often seen, but they did a solid job keeping up with the mess we’d make in the condo.
If I were to return to Maui, I’d certainly consider Honua Kai as my base of operations again, even if I had to pay.
When you enter the condo, it certainly feels a bit different than your average Hawaiian resort hotel room. Immediately to your right hand side is a small kitchen with a full fridge, stove top, dishwasher, and a multitude of cupboards stocked with dishes or open for food storage. At the end of the kitchen was a folding door that hid a washer and dryer.
In front of the kitchen was a living room/dining room combination. A comfortable couch was placed in front of a large television. A coffee table stocked with guidebooks for Maui and a few single seat chairs rounded out the seating area. Behind the couch was a dining table with enough space for four dinners. On top of the table was a basket wrapped in a colorful bow. Inside was a gift from Honua Kai featuring laundry detergent and dishwashing soap from a local Hawaiian company.
Immediately on the left from the front door was another door that opened into the bathroom. Honua Kai’s condos feature separate tubs and shower stalls, both stocked with ample Aveda products for your hair and body care needs. The vanity featured a large mirror and two sinks, making it easier to get ready for the beach or a fun night out at an overpriced Hawaiian restaurant.
The bathroom had a second door that opened into the bedroom. A large queen sized bed featured prominently in the middle of the room. Directly across from the bed was another big screen television (a bad idea for a hotel in Maui, kills the romance!) . Another comfy single seat chair with an ottoman was tucked into the corner in what I would consider a reading nook.
The bedroom had a glass door that opened directly on to the balcony, but we never used it. The balcony was extremely large and featured glass doors that you could fully retract, leaving the entire condo space open to the elements. These doors essentially stayed open our entire stay. If we were in the room they were flung open, allowing the beautiful Hawaiian weather to cool our room instead of the air conditioner. During the evening when we were sleeping we’d close up the condo, though we’d have preferred to have left them open. The large number of birds flitting around the balcony dissuaded us from doing so though.
The overall look of the condo was modern and clean. The room certainly had a Hawaiian feel, though it never seemed to cross the line into touristy/kitschy. Overall, I was extremely pleased with our accommodations, and the fact that we paid nothing for the entire stay is even better. The ability to cook some of your own meals, especially in a place like Maui, as well as wash your clothes were two of the biggest things I loved about this stay.
Dismissing the service glitch we faced at the beginning of the stay, I really enjoyed our time at Honua Kai. The staff was friendly, the location was good, and the extra amenities in the room that made it more like a home than a hotel room were definitely things I walked away appreciating.
While the stay was free, I’d have been happy if I had paid a reasonable rate for this stay, too. I looked up the rates on a few random dates and unfortuantely Honua Kai seems to charge a price that is out of my ideal price range for a return visit. While many folks don’t mind forking over large dollar amounts for hotels, I’m much more cost-aware when it comes to paying for accommodations on a trip. If I had a more flexible budget, I’d certainly reserve a room.