Wailea vs Kaanapali

Maui has two main/popular areas where tourists like to stay. There is the southern coastline made up of the towns of Kihei and Wailea and the western coastline made up of Lahaina / Ka’anapali. For a first time visitor to Maui, it could be hard to decide what area you wish to call home while visiting Maui. We have put together a list of things to consider to help you decide where to stay.

Weather: Both Ka’anapali and Wailea have pretty similar weather throughout the year. Both beach towns tend to be some of the sunnier parts of the island with very few rainy days. So, whether you pick Ka’anapali or Wailea, you can pretty much bank on nice weather. The only difference could be the tradewinds. I would argue that Kihei and Wailea may have more frequent tradewinds and light breezes between 10am to 5pm each day, while Lahaina and Ka’anapali tends to be more still.

Wailea Weather

Resort options: Ka’anapali has about 10 or 15 resorts all right next door to each other along a beautiful white sand coastline.  Some of the more popular resorts are the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton, and Westin.  There are also some more affordable three-star hotels that share the same great oceanfront real estate that can be great bargains considering their location.  Wailea tends to lean more toward the luxury market.  Choose from five-star resorts like the Grand Wailea (Maui’s largest hotel) and the Four Seasons, or other swanky four-star hotels like the Andza Maui, Fairmot Kea Lani, and Wailea Beach Resort.  The nearby beach town of Kihei (about 7 minutes from Wailea) has many affordable condo options which can be great for families.

Location on the Island: This is the main difference between the two resort destinations.  Ka’anapali and Lahaina are essentially about 45 minutes to an hour away from most other popular towns on the island. For most tourists and locals, if they are on the west side (Ka’anapali/Lahaina) of the island, they just stay on the west side of the island.   If you are planning to get out and explore while vacationing on Maui, you may want to opt to stay in Kihei and Wailea.  For example, see the driving times from the two resort destinations to popular attractions on Maui:


Kihei/Wailea to Maui’s North Shore (Paia towns, surfing beaches, Twin Falls)…  31 minutes

Lahaina/Kaanapali to Maui’s North Shore (Paia town, surfing beaches, Twin Falls)… 52 minutes


Kihei/Wailea to Upcountry Maui (Maui Winery, Lavendar Farm, Surfing Goat Dairy, Kula Strawberry Farm)… 39 minutes

Lahaina/Kaanapali to Upcountry Maui (Maui Winery, Lavendar Farm, Surfing Goat Dairy, Kula Strawberry Farm)… 58 minutes


Kihei/Wailea to Haleakala summit… 1 hour 34 minutes

Lahaina/Kaanapali to Haleakala summit… 1 hour 53 minutes


Kihei/Wailea to Hana… 2 hours 24 minutes

Lahaina/Kaanapali to Hana… 2 hours 45 minutes


Dining/Shopping:  Both Wailea and Ka’anapali have plenty of dining options, since all the resorts have numerous restaurants.  Ka’anapali guests can drive into Lahaina in about 5 -7 minutes which has countless other dining options located along Front Street.  Wailea guests can explore Kihei for additional dining options.  Both towns have an outdoor shopping complex within walking distance of the hotels/resorts that are quite similar in layout, size, and store selection.  Wailea has the Shops at Wailea and Ka’anapali has Whalers Village.

Beaches:  Both Wailea Beach (that fronts the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons) and Kaanapali Beach (that fronts all Kaanapali hotels) are stunning.  They are both beautiful white sand beaches that are large and fit for a post card.  Where the true difference between the towns can be seen is the selection of beaches.  Ka’anapali visitors really only have three to five nearby beaches to choose from (Lahaina’s Baby Beach, Old Airport Beach-snorkeling, and Napili Bay) while Wailea visitors can choose from 10-15 beaches found in Kihei and Wailea (Ulua Beach – snorkeling, Big Beach – waves, Kamaole Beach Parks (3), Keawakapu Beach, Polo Beach, etc.)

At the end of the day, Maui is still voted the best island in the world year after year and you can’t really go wrong when choosing either destination because you are bound to find many things you like about Ka’anapali or Wailea when you stay there.  We hope this list just helps you make Maui trip planning a little easier!


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