The Hula O Na Keiki is a festival to showcase the talent of Hawaii's keiki (children) as they compete in hula and Hawaiian chant. Keiki or children are so essential to the Hawaiian people. You may find the word essential somewhat strange, but it is, quite frankly, a matter of survival - a means to perpetuate the culture and the people. I met one guest services employee who told a story of how his parents had eleven daughters and then finally he was born, a son - to carry on the family name. Here in Hawaii, whole family names can disappear forever. So delicate is the state of the Hawaiian people.
As important as are the keiki, just as important is the 'ohana, the family. Our mainland concept of family pales when compared to the Hawaiian 'ohana. While we look back at times past when extended families were part of our western culture, in Hawaii, the extended family was, is, and will, likely, forever be an integral part of society,
While mainland families often seem like they can't wait to go their separate ways, the family bond in Hawaii remains an integral part of the culture. Granted, in our modern times, sheer economics plays a significant role in perpetuating the extended family in Hawaii. It's simply more affordable to live in one home - parents, children and often grandchildren. And, there will always be kids who just have to break away for their sake...or the sake of their parents.
By this point, you probably are wondering what this all has to do with the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. I've been talking about children, culture, and family, certainly not a hotel that is located in the rather upscale Ka'anapali Beach Resort. What, you ask quite fairly, is the connection? Where am I going?
Well, the connection is everything that the Ka'anapali Beach Resort has been for almost 40 years; is today; and will likely be for the foreseeable future. We mainlanders tire easily of ads pitching the promise that by buying one product or the other, we'll be joining a "family" of owners. Frequent travelers are always hearing how Hotel A really treats you like family. Hotel A makes you feel like you're at home. We've all heard the pitches on TV, the radio or on the Net.
So, it's OK if you first dismiss the concept that guests at the Ka'anapali Beach Resort become part of a permanent 'ohana or family. After all, so many hotels and resorts in Hawaii claim that to be the case. They'll greet you with a lei, kiss you on the cheek and promise you personal service and, often, make you believe that you're someone special.
Many of the Hawaiian hotels and resorts we review here do a really good job and succeed very well in meeting most expectations, With others that we don't often discuss, it is, quite frankly, mostly lip service.
As I wandered the grounds of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel on a garden tour, I was astonished how my guide and cultural expert, Malihini Keahi-Heath, kept greeting guests by name and then, as we walked on, mentioning that he or she was here two years ago or that this guest comes every year. Malihini is a very special and rare individual (whom we'll talk more about soon), but she's certainly not alone in her ability to make every guest she meets feel like they're someone special.
I asked Malihini how long she has worked for the hotel and she replied that she was a relatively new employee. She's only worked at the hotel for 16 years. I laughed... but she was serious. Such is the 'ohana of the hotel's employees.
Surely there's some gimmick here, you must think. Not that I can see or, more importantly, sense. I had lunch recently with several senior members of the hotel's management. Suddenly I turned around and discovered a dozen or so staff members from every section of the staff - including an employee of just one month and one of more than 30 years.
They broke into harmonius song. I was receiving a my own "serenade." Sure, it was something special they had set up for me, but the interesting thing is that if you visit the hotel, some of the staff will likely sing for you too!
You've likely noticed that I've not talked much about the hotel itself. You're right. Stay tuned, we'll do that soon. Suffice it to say, as bluntly as possible, you'll love the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel.
So many resorts claim to give the visitor a sense of family, but I've never actually seen a resort before where that is actually true. Not only does the entire staff seem like one big family with each other, but they extend that 'ohana to the guests, which is so very rare. Some resorts try but it comes across pretty fake. At the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel it is so clearly sincere.