I absolutely adore Hawaii! More specifically, the island of Maui. Every year, I always try to get away with my family and get some much-needed R&R. This past October, I was lucky enough to stay at the simply beautiful Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa located on the beautiful soft sands of Ka’anapali Beach, just north of Lahaina on the west side of the island of Maui.
Originally built in 1963, The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa was one of the first properties on Ka’anapali Beach and literally built right into the volcanic rock known as “Black Rock”. The property is a comfortable 23 acres, along some of Maui’s best coastline looking across to the island of Lanai and offering up some of the most spectacular sunsets on the island.
From 1995-1997 it was closed for a complete $160 million redevelopment. Upon completion, no part of the new structure was built any taller than the tallest palm tree on the property (not higher than six stories), preserving the original integrity of the surrounding landscape.
The hotel is part of the Ka’anapali Beach Resort community, including Ka’anapali Golf Courses and the Whaler’s Village Shop and Restaurants. The resort itself also has a few different on-site restaurants & poolside café’s. So, you basically have everything you need right at your fingertips which includes some of the best food and shopping around.
In general, the resort was really easy to get around. There were plenty of elevators, accessible doorways, and pathways throughout the resort (excluding rooms), and is either tile, smooth cement, or flagstone rock. The flagstone rock was mostly around the pool area and could be a little difficult to maneuver over if you are in a manual wheelchair. There is also an accessible pathway right along the ocean side of the resort which is approximately a 5-10 minute stroll down to the Whaler’s Village Shop and Restaurants.
Resort Details at a Glance
Check-in Time: 3 PM
Check-out Time: 11 PM
Lobby Counter: Not lowered for wheelchair access
Elevators: yes, multiple spots
Handicapped Parking: yes, multiple spots located in a parking garage underneath the resort
Valet: complementary with a resort stay
Accessible Shuttle: yes, runs daily to multiple shopping spots
The property has a total of 508 rooms and suites located in six distinct towers, which almost all directly face the Pacific Ocean each with a private lanai (patio). Out of those 508 rooms, there are a total of 12 accessible rooms spread out across the property, providing guests with disabilities a variety of room options to choose from — resort views, ocean views, ocean front, and suites. In the past year or so, the resort took a good hard look at their rooms to see how they could offer up a variety to best suit the needs of guests with disabilities.
I stayed in a Deluxe Ocean View room with a roll-in shower. All rooms are opened by card access and are carpeted. The carpet is plush but not too thick for somebody in a manual wheelchair to push on. My first impression upon entering the room is it felt comfortable and spacious with plenty of room to maneuver my power wheelchair around the room, around each side of the bed, and in and out of the bathroom. Out of the accessible rooms that are available, all come with two double beds. I personally found them to be slightly on the small side but nonetheless very comfortable and at the appropriate ADA height of 17-19 inches.
The bathroom was spacious and had a roll-in shower. The shower was slightly on the small side and had a handheld showerhead. There was also a small threshold between the shower and the rest of the room which took a little bit of effort to get over but not a dealbreaker. The toilet was ADA compliant and had enough room to maneuver around for transfers. The resort also offers bath benches & seats if you are in need of those, just call the front desk and they will have one delivered to your room.
The closet was spacious enough and had a lowered bar that was easily within reach. My room also had a desk which also had plenty of room for me to navigate underneath and use if I chose to do so.
The private lanai off of my room was outstanding with a jaw-dropping view of the Pacific Ocean across a beautiful lawn and Ka’anapali Beach. It was large enough for me and my power wheelchair to enjoy the sunsets and pound some chocolate Ceramics.
There are also a couple of cool additional features that should be noted about the room too.
The first is each room has complimentary Wi-Fi which I found to be a bonus if I wanted to look up a restaurant or activity to do on my iPad or smartphone. I personally think all hotels & resorts should offer free Wi-Fi, so it was refreshing to see it implemented.
The second is each room has an automatic room temperature sensor. Basically, if you run the air conditioner and then you choose to open the lanai door to get that awesome Hawaiian breeze, the air conditioner automatically kicks off saving energy! Then, when you close the lanai door, the air-conditioner automatically kicks back on. Pretty sweet!
Room Details at a Glance
Room Doors: 32 inch width
Room Access: Via Card
Lowered Peep Hole: Yes
Lowered Closet Bar: Yes
Shower: Roll-in or shower/tub combo options with grab bars
Toilet: ADA compliant
Portable Bath Seats: Yes
Bed height: ADA compliant
Visual Fire Alarms: Yes
Portable Communication Kits (visual alarms & notification devices): Yes
TTY Phone: Yes
TV w/Closed Captioning: Yes
The Pool Area
Maui is the sun lover’s paradise for outdoor activities, so it is only natural that you will want to be in the pool or ocean, right? The pool is one of the resort’s main amenities. It is multi-leveled and broken up into various parts: a children’s area, hot tub, and adult’s area with a river you can float between the two and are connected by a small waterslide. First, the good news is they have a pool lift! The pool lift will gently drop you in/out and is water-power operated (meaning, it uses water pressure to operate). Depending on your need, the pool staff is available to help you transfer in/out if need be. I found this to be helpful but it may take you a bit to flag down somebody.
Now the not-so-good news. The pool lift is located on the “children’s” part of the pool. Don’t worry, it’s not all fluffy toys & screaming children, it’s just that you won’t be able to enjoy the hot tub or the adult area because you have to use a small waterslide that connects those parts of the pools together. And, unless you can ascend stairs, you have to stay to the upper part of the pool area. I personally found it fine where the pool lift lies. I’m a happy camper as long as I can get into the pool in the first place. Plus, in the children’s area, there’s still plenty of space for you to float around without being bothered.
The Spa at Black Rock
Like at many large resorts, there is the opportunity for you to completely pamper yourself with a spa treatment. I personally reviewed the spa area and surprisingly enough, it is wheelchair accessible (for the most part). They do offer a relaxing lounge area, a roll-in shower and will gladly assist you on/off of the massage tables.
Sheraton Adventure Club
The resort also offers what is called a “Sheraton Adventure Club” which is a daily complimentary activity based on Hawaiian culture. It features such activities as hula, Lei making, and ukulele lessons. My kids loved the tribal body paint which easily came off with water.
Legendary Cliff Diving Ceremony
Because the resort is tucked right alongside the legendary Black Rock (Pu’u Keka’a), its location makes it famous because it once was a playground for Hawaii’s royalty and elite. Legend says that the last chief of Maui, Kahekili, proved his spiritual strength by jumping off of this sacred rock into the Pacific. So, every evening at dusk, the ritual of Lele Kawa (cliff diving) is performed to preserve this tradition. It is free to watch and informative.
Ka’anapali Beach Access
One of the best features of The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is the location right on Ka’anapali Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Hawaii. The resort offers a complimentary beach wheelchair for its guests so that you can get out onto the beach and enjoy it. There is an activities shack on the north side of the property right at the base of Black Rock where you just ask the attendant and he/she will get it for you if it is not in use. I suggest you call at least 15-20 minutes ahead of time to see if it is available. In addition, the resort staff is more than happy to assist with transfers and pushing you on/off of the beach. Just be vocal and express that you need help and they will gladly assist you.
Note: If you do decide to get into the water, be forewarned the waves break right on the shore and there is a steep drop-off approximately 20 yards offshore. I personally witnessed a lot of people struggling to get in and out of the water.
Other Types of Water Activities
They also offer a whole slew of water-based activities such as snorkeling, scuba/snuba, surfing lessons, sunset/whale watching cruises (in season), parasailing, and fishing charters if any of those strike your fancy. Obviously, it would depend on your physical well-being to see if any of those would be a good fit for you. You can inquire about any of these either at the concierge desk in the main lobby or at the activities shack (at the base of Black rock).
Guests of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa also have access to a complimentary resort shuttle. It travels on a regular schedule (usually every 15-20 minutes) between the adjacent sister properties (Westin Maui Resort and Spa and the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas) and three shopping locations in Lahaina: the Lahaina Cannery Mall, Lahaina Gateway Shopping Center, and Hilo Hattie’s. Just make sure you show your room key prior to boarding the shuttle. You can pick up a shuttle schedule at the concierge desk in the main lobby.
Each shuttle is wheelchair accessible via a lift however, you must let them know ahead of time when you are planning to use the shuttle because they have to make room for you if the shuttle happens to be crowded. I would call down to the front desk and give them a 10-15 minute warning prior to your desired time.
Note: The complimentary shuttle DOES NOT go to and from the airport! You will have to make separate arrangements for that. If you do need transportation to & from the airport, you can call SpeediShuttle at (877) 242-5777 or visit online at www.speedishuttle.com.
The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa offers everything for all types of visitors from all around the world including those with disabilities. I found it to be very family-friendly, excellent for groups like reunions and weddings… but also a perfect fit for those who are just wanting to get away too.
One thing that struck me the most about the resort is their sense of ‘Ohana (family). I personally met several people who have worked at the resort for several years and they all seem to love working there. And it definitely shows. Everyone I encountered was super friendly, courteous, and helpful. I was also told there are a few employees who are still working there since day one when the resort first opened in 1963!
In 2013, they will be celebrating their “50 years of Aloha” Anniversary. Starting in January, it will kick off a year-long celebration that will include a variety of anniversary-specific promotional rates and packages. So, if you are thinking about wanting to get away, relax, and get a true sense of the aloha spirit… I couldn’t recommend The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa enough. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
Justin Skeesuck is a disabled traveler. He inspires and instructs People with Disabilities on how to successfully conquer and navigate the many challenges they are faced when traveling. As a motivational speaker and trainer, his authentic, powerful, and hilarious storytelling provides insight into what it’s truly like to be physically disabled all while providing real applicable advice on accessible travel.