KAPALUA, Maui Times have changed since 1992, when The
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua first opened. While the luxury property has
settled nicely into its northwest Maui surroundings, it has
steadily fine-tuned its offerings in response to the fluctuating
needs of its high-end clients, who are more discriminating than
ever, given the state of the nation’s economy.
A case in point is the hotel’s Anuenue Room, an elegant and
expensive dining room that just couldn’t turn a profit, despite
favorable reviews. The restaurant closed in late 2001, and in its
place the hotel will soon open a less formal “personality
restaurant,” as one hotel official put it, overseen by a new
On the other hand, The Ritz-Carlton’s casual Banyan Tree
restaurant is going like gangbusters. Where once it was an open-air
affair by the pool, with simple salads and sandwiches, now it’s a
hip dining spot with eclectic Pacific cuisine such as coconut, corn
and lemongrass soup with rich chunks of crab. The Banyan Tree went
through a physical transformation as well, adding seating and a new
roof; and it offers live music on most evenings.
Recently, I was hosted at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua during
Pleasant Holiday’s Tournament of Centurions, attended by 100 travel
agents and their guests.
During my stay, I got a firsthand taste of how the property
handles groups, a mainstay of its business during trying economic
In 1998, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua built the 19,200-square-foot
Aloha Outdoor Ballroom, a permanent outdoor function space that’s
perfect for a region where unexpected rain can dampen alfresco
events. The hotel can put together any of nine theme parties in the
AOB, ranging from a 1950s drive-in, complete with a soda fountain
to a Shogun-inspired setting with sushi bars. The Mardi Gras bash
for our group was an animated scene of face painters, strolling
jugglers, a make-your-own-mask station, live entertainment and
creole cuisine such as spicy gumbo and warm beignets.
In terms of guest services, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua stays on
top of the trends. For instance, high-speed wireless Internet
access is now available to guests for $13 per day.
From the famed Plantation Course, home of the prestigious PGA
Tour’s Mercedes Championships, to the Arnold Palmer-designed Bay
and Village Courses, golf in Kapalua is top-notch.
During the December 2002 holidays, the resort launched Adventure
7, a seasonal program for teens. Guests ages 13-17 can participate
in activities like art classes, beach parties, barbecues, surfing,
snorkeling and kayaking. “Adventure 7 was a success during the
holidays, and we’ll ramp it up again for spring break,” a hotel
spokeswoman told me.
Over the years, the look of the 548-room Ritz-Carlton has stayed
fresh, thanks to frequent renovations. My room boasted a new
feather bed, and since the new bed was higher than the old one, I
also got a taller and more expansive armoire, so that my feet
didn’t get in the way when I was watching television. Since it
opened, one thing that hasn’t changed at The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
is its attention to individual needs. I found a scale in my guest
room bathroom and, not wanting to know the bad news, I asked for it
to be removed. No problem, said the housekeeping staff. Later, I
felt that the lighting in the bathroom was a bit dim. One call to
the concierge and voila brighter lighting. Clearly this is a hotel
that aims to please, no matter what the times bring.
Hits: The rich Hawaiian culture of the area is thoughtfully
incorporated into guest programs and hotel furnishings.
Misses: A property this sizable should have a free-standing
Be Aware: It’s a long walk from the lobby to the guest rooms,
which are at the end of each wing.
Clientele: 60 percent groups, 40 percent leisure travelers.
Outlets: Seven in a standard guest room, including an easily
reached outlet by the desk.
Rates: From $375 per night, double occupancy; with suites from