Maui rests on a diagonal axis, northwest to southeast, so naming its coastal areas is a little arbitrary. West Maui is also north, but the region stretching from Kapalua to the beaches south of Lahaina is known as West Maui. It’s what the locals call it. Honoapi‘ilani Highway hugs the shore along its length, the West Maui Mountains form a drop-dead gorgeous backdrop.
It’s home to two mega-resort strips, Ka‘anapali set on one of Hawaii’s longest and most gorgeous beaches, and Kapalua, a world-class golf Mecca . Kapalua also hosts upscale Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Montage, Kapalua Bay and gated mansion communities.
Small, curved and low-rise Napili Bay and Kahana nestle between Kapalua and Ka‘anapali. Here highrises punctuate manicured grounds and line golf courses. Five major hotels and six condo resorts attract more visitors than any other area of Maui. Whalers Village shopping complex anchors Ka‘anapali Beach Resort with shops and restaurants.
Lahaina is Maui’s tourist town with something of a racy reputation going back to whaling days. It’s a great place to poke in art galleries, T-shirt stands or black pearl jewelry shops. Watch the sunset over a mai tai and stay for the evening listening to slack key guitar or Jawaiian music.
South of Lahaina the tourist density plays out with a few public beaches. Here stretches one of the island’s most unique lodgings, Camp Olowalu. It consisting of cabins, “tentalows.” and sites for do-it-yourself campers. West Maui ends at McGregor Point, a prime whale watching spot during the winter. Continue through the tunnel and you’re in flat Central Maui.