Top 10 Things To Do In Napili & Kapalua
Just past the hustle and bustle of Lahaina and Kaʻanapali lies the laid-back, nature-filled serenity of the Napili-Kapalua area.
What To Do In Napili & Kapalua
In the bustling tourism hubs of Lahaina and Kaʻanapali, shopping, dining, and beachgoing are the most significant attractions. However, a 15-minute drive north to the nearby Napili-Kapalua area will reveal a side of West Maui that is far less touristy, more in touch with nature, and evokes the laid-back spirit that Maui is so well known for. Visit this West Maui enclave and swap Lahaina’s buzzing Front Street for the mellow Kapalua Coastal Trail, Kaʻanapali’s Whaler’s Village for the Napili Farmer’s Market, and popular resort luaus for the weekly Napili Slack Key Guitar Show.
Discover the best of what Napili and Kapalua have to offer with these top ten things to do.
The Top 10 Things To Do in Napili & Kapalua
Meander the Kapalua Coastal Trail
The 2.5-mile Kapalua Coastal Trail serves as a perfect introduction to all Kapalua offers. This easy-goes-it trail winds past some of Kapalua’s top attractions, like Kapalua Bay, ‘Dragons Teeth’- a unique lava flow on Makaluapuna Point, Oneloa Beach, D.T. Flemmings Beach, and the manicured grounds of the Montage and the Ritz Carlton. In addition, the Kapalua Coastal Trail affords hikers stunning coastal views.
Get the adrenaline pumping at Kapalua Zipline
A visit to Kapalua Zipline is an all-encompassing, heart-pumping adventure- from start to finish. On Kapalua’s six-line course, you’ll traverse over 8,500ft of lines, soaring at speeds of up to 55 mph over cavernous valleys brimming with blooming scarlet ohia lehua trees- while simultaneously trying to take in striking panoramic views. You’ll also ramble through the jungle on ATVs and cross Hawaii’s largest suspension bridge, perched over a deep ravine. It’s safe to say Kapalua Zipline wins the adventure game.
Go whale watching
Every winter, throngs of humpback whales flock to Hawaii. However, Maui’s shallow waterways seem to be a favorite hangout for these seafaring gentle giants, making the Valley Isle Hawaii’s whale-watching hotspot. The waters that separate Maui and the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai are teeming with whales.
Gaze across the ocean from your balcony or the beach in the winter months, and you’ll likely be treated to views of breaching whales, spouts, flukes, and the like. To get a closer view and learn more about Maui’s largest part-time residents, make the short pilgrimage to Lahaina Harbor and climb aboard a whale watch.
Visit Honolua Bay
Located a few miles east of Kapalua’s opulent resorts, the untouched Honolua Bay is a sanctuary for locals, visitors, and marine life. Surrounded by sheer jade cliffs, the wind-protected waters at Honolua Bay are home to world-class surf breaks (for advanced local surfers only) and thriving coral reefs- which earn the bay its status as a Marine Life Conservation District.
On a calm day, many stroll through the vine-laden rainforest along the Honolua Bay Access Trail (make sure you have permission first) and partake in some of the best snorkeling Maui has to offer. If you can’t get landowner permission, we suggest doing a sailing trip to Honolua. If the surf is up, stop by the lookout on the bay’s western edge and watch Honolua’s machine-like wave reward advanced surfers with perfect, hollow, turquoise barrels.
Unwind at Spa Montage
While there is certainly no shortage of spas on Maui, the heavenly Spa Montage ranks at the top. The garden-like grounds and well-appointed facilities exude tranquility and luxe, featuring outdoor treatment rooms bordered by palms and red ginger, a serene infinity pool, eucalyptus steam rooms, and other palatial amenities. Guests of the Montage enjoy free rein of the facilities, but visitors can snag a $100.00 day-pass (or book a treatment, which waives the fee) to luxuriate in all that the Spa Montage has to offer. Facials, massages, full-body treatments, and much more are provided by highly trained therapists (and customer service gurus), and the extensive spa menu features Polynesian techniques, tropical fragrances, and local ingredients.
Explore the rainforest on a private nature hike
While the Napili-Kapalua coastline is now dotted with condos, resorts, and residential developments, the mauka side of this area has thankfully been preserved. Visitors will notice an expanse of untouched land that reaches from Kapalua into the West Maui Mountains- this is the 12,000-acre Puʻu Kukui Preserve, the largest private nature preserve in the state of Hawaii. The Puʻu Kukui Preserve is mostly off-limits to the public.
However, everyday folk can get a glimpse into the preserve’s untouched rainforests via Helewai Eco Tours. Helewai Eco Tours has obtained exclusive access to a two-mile trail within the preserve, which winds through native rainforests and ascends a ridgeline above Honolua Bay. Along the journey, a local guide reveals the area’s incredible biodiversity while detailing the flora and fauna seen along the way. Along with being treated to striking mountain views that few have laid eyes on, guests of Helewai Eco Tours come away with a deeper understanding of the vital work of conservation in the islands as well as the essential connection between land and sea.
Tee off on a world-class golf course
There are few better golf destinations in Hawaii than Kapalua. Kapalua’s famed Plantation Course has been ranked the best course in the state for fifteen consecutive years by Golfweek and is also the site of the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions each January. Despite its professional acclaim, the Plantation Course is an all-around crowd-pleaser. With its 7,596-yard par-73 layout, pros will appreciate the challenge. However, its wide fairways make the course very playable for the average golfer. Alternatively, Kapalua’s second course boasts another claim to fame- the Bay Course is the only course on Maui to play over the ocean. In addition to the Plantation and Bay Courses, Kapalua is also home to a driving range and golf academy. Tee times can be booked online.
Enjoy the golden sands at Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay
The northwestern area of Maui boasts some of the best beaches on the island- you’ll find several within just a few miles of one another. However, the most popular beaches are Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay– which happen to be neighbors. Both Napili Bay and Kapalua Bay are home to great snorkeling and are characterized by golden crescents of sand hemmed by lofty palms.
However, due to the beaches’ proximity to resorts and overall popularity (Kapalua Bay was named ‘Best Beach in the World’ in 1991 and 2018), you can expect substantial crowds jockeying for their personal pocket of sand. Get here early to claim a spot, and remember to stay out of the water if there is swell in the ocean. Both beaches, while beautiful, are notorious among Maui first responders.
Spend an evening at Napili Kai Beach Resort’s Slack Key Guitar Show
Every Wednesday and Saturday evening at the Napili Kai Beach Resort, masters of slack key guitar and Hawaiian music gather to put on one of Hawaii’s most coveted shows. Hosted by slack key guru George Kahumoku Jr, each show features prominent Hawaii guitarists, hula dancers, and ukulele players. The Slack Key Show is one of the most outstanding showcases of Hawaiian music on the Valley Isle and even boasts a Grammy Award.
For those that might be wondering, “What the heck is slack key?”- Slack key is a style of guitar playing that originated in Hawaii after Mexican paniolos introduced the guitar to the Hawaiians in the 19th century. The Hawaiians developed a different tuning style and played fingerstyle rather than with a pick, and thus Hawaiian slack key was born.
Peruse the plethora of tropical produce at the Napili Farmer’s Market
Most visitors beeline it to Costco or Safeway as soon as they escape the airport. However, it seems a little absurd to fly thousands of miles across the Pacific to then head to the store to buy bananas that were also flown thousands of miles across the Pacific- no? To combat this absurdity (and Maui’s food insecurity issue), head to the Napili Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday morning, where dozens of local vendors set up shop. In addition to heaps of colorful, seasonal local produce, you can also browse a selection of local products like Hawaiian honey, kombucha, baked goods, hot sauce, and much, much more.
Enjoy the room and elevation afforded by a double decker catamaran, given unprecedented views. Expert marine naturalists will guide you through your whale watch and answer all your humpback questions.