Maui resort passes 'family reunion with kids' test

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NAPILI, Hawaii -- Maui's 163-unit Napili Kai Beach Resort, located on a crescent-shaped white-sand beach bordering Napili Bay, may be small as resorts go, but it proved to be a perfect fit for my 21-member family's weeklong reunion in June.

The full-service hotel, built in 1962, offers every amenity except room service.

But we didn't miss it. Most rooms had fully equipped kitchens, and the Napili Market was nearby. (With 11 children in the group, we needed to avoid restaurants whenever possible.)

"We're family-friendly, and the physical layout of the property lends itself to that," said Jim Shefte, general manager since 1992 and an employee at the resort for more than 30 years.

Another plus: The resort charges a reasonable rate, without additional fees.

"People aren't going to be nickel-and-dimed to death," Shefte said.

For example, guests can check out beach towels, snorkels and masks (no fins, though) from the resort and keep them for the duration of their stay. There is no fee unless an item is not returned.

Because we had so many young children who were not capable of snorkeling, we walked around the corner to Snorkel Bob's and rented a Boogie board with a clear viewfinder in the center.

Identifying tropical fish and looking for the occasional eel or green sea turtle became the activities of choice for our group in the calm, clear bay. Even the 3-year-old could boast about the humuhumunukunukuapuaa he saw (yes, this is a specific fish indigenous to Hawaii, and not a 3-year-old's made-up name).

Eating most meals in our rooms or around the resort's barbecue areas made us feel better about occasionally splurging for dinner at one of many elegant restaurants and attending the Tuesday night luau at Napili's Sea House restaurant on the beach.

What else makes the resort different from the plethora of properties in the area?

"We deliver on value," said Shefte. "We are not a company that is bottom-line driven; we're trying to protect the personality of this place.

"It has a lot of tradition," he added. "It has staff members who have been around a long time, so they've become a family and developed friendships with the guests."

Rates for summer range from $190 for a basic room to $700 for three-room suites.

The average stay is seven nights, but many people stay up to 23 nights, and some families -- many of whom return year after year -- book an entire building, according to Diane Farnsworth, director of guest operations.

A bonus for parents: Families who stay during Easter, mid-June to late August, Thanksgiving or the Christmas/New Year's holiday can sneak away for a round of golf while the kids enjoy their special program, Napili Kai Keiki Club, at no extra charge.

The program features two to three hours of activities such as crafts and sandcastle building every day except Sunday.

For recreation, there are four swimming pools, and golf clubs for the resort's putting course are readily available. Meanwhile, the shuffleboard area attracted the kids.

Agents earn 10% commission on all bookings plus a bonus 2% commission for the agency when 60 or more room nights are booked in one calendar year.

Individual agents can get one free night in a studio, including breakfast, for every 10 nights booked (Dec. 20 to Jan. 1 excluded).

Tip: Unless clients are flying nonstop from the mainland to the island's main airport, Kahului, arrange for flights in and out of Kapalua Airport, which is located six minutes from Napili by car.

For more information, call (800) 367-5030 or visit www.napilikai.com.

Sales pitch

• Suggest a reunion to your family-oriented clients. More than 60 families booked reunions at Napili Kai in 2002. At Napili Kai, families who book four to nine rooms for a minimum of five nights receive specific units guaranteed if available upon booking (the multiroom units are enormous and perfect for parents traveling with more than two children), a complimentary photo session, welcome flowers in each unit and personalized family shirts.

• Send an e-mail blast to your affluent baby boomers. Much of the family-reunion market is turning toward grandfathers or grandmothers paying for the entire family to attend. Use the in-room kitchens/inexpensive dining as a selling point.

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