Decades-old photos of Kaanapali line the executive office walls of
Royal Lahaina Resort. Tom Bell, the hotel’s managing director,
showed me the oldest of the images, an expanse of grass, beach and
palms with barely any development.
“We opened our first accommodations in 1962, one year before
Sheraton Maui,” Bell said. “Old-timers say that Royal Lahaina was
the place to go back then.”
As the photos got younger, I saw more hotels popping up and golf
courses etching their way across the West Maui destination. What’s
clear from those pictures is that Royal Lahaina picked Kaanapali
Resort’s best spot, far north and physically separated from its
neighbors by a lava outcropping called Black Rock.
“We have 27 acres of oceanfront and 1,600 linear feet of ocean
footage,” said Bell. “Given its prime location, the hotel can offer
so much more than it has in recent years. We want to return it to
its glory days.”
Royal Lahaina enjoys such a sense of privacy that I had to look
twice when I arrived. The mature landscaping of its grounds gives
it a park-like appearance, and its open, low-density design sets it
apart from the more traditional resort layout of a tall
horseshoe-shaped building surrounding a central pool.
In November, Royal Lahaina introduced a new room product
symbolizing the property’s transformation at the hands of Hawaiian
Hotels and Resorts (HH&R), owned by Ed and Lynn Hogan.
“We used to go to Royal Lahaina as a family for years, even
before we bought it in 1982,” said Gary Hogan, the company’s
president and owners’ son. “Recently, we negotiated for 18 months
with a very large hotel chain that wanted to buy it and build seven
12-story towers and 1,100 timeshare units. The property is zoned
for that much development, but we just didn’t feel good about that
Instead HH&R decided to keep the resort and redevelop it as
a low-density project.
Since last March, Royal Lahaina’s single high-rise the 330-room
Lahaina Kai Tower has gone through a $30 million renovation. Each
room has been stripped down to its frame and rebuilt to the tune of
$90,000. By the end of February, all 12 floors will be completed
During a site inspection, I got a firsthand look at the scope of
the changes in the tower. Each room features a 32-inch flat-screen
television, high-speed Internet, a generously sized custom-made
writing desk of mahogany and teak, a canoe paddle on the wall,
coffee-table books about the destination and singular
black-and-white Hawaiian photographs. The bed is no longer just a
bed, but an “experience,” according to Bell, with its
330-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and feather-top mattresses.
The bathroom faucet resembles silver bamboo, with water running
through it like a natural stream, and clients can dry off with
oversized bath sheets. Lanai railings have been modernized, and the
view through floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors made me feel like
I was on top of the beach.
The hotel’s service levels are going through an equally dramatic
transformation, said Bell. Each guestroom provides an iPod port on
its bedside clock, and clients will be able to borrow fully loaded
iPods to enjoy around the property. Valet parking was introduced on
Jan. 20, and arriving clients will enjoy what Bell called “seamless
check-in,” where guests are greeted at the entrance and whisked to
their room, key pocket in hand.
Royal Lahaina’s room rates didn’t increase during the 2006
renovation, and prices will rise only moderately in 2007.
“We want people to become familiar with the property,” said
Bell. “We would like our longtime guests to see what we’re doing,
and we’ll always want to provide value.”
Through 2010, Royal Lahaina will go through an additional $300
million in improvements, adding 125 villas, a freestanding spa,
large swimming pool, children’s center and new restaurant. As the
resort evolves, so will its demographics.
“For decades we have been a value hotel doing a very high volume
year-round, drawing a lot of couples and newlyweds,” said Bell.
“We’re transitioning into more of a family-oriented destination
resort, where clients enjoy longer stays. We’re transforming a two-
to three-star hotel into a four- or five-star experience, and of
course, five stars is our goal.”
Royal Lahaina Resort
2780 Kekaa Dr.
Lahaina, HI 96761
Agents who pass a short online quiz get a certificate for two
free nights at Royal Lahaina or its sister property Royal Kona, on
the Big Island.
Royal Lahaina’s 2007 room rates fluctuate seasonally, starting
at $200 per night. Seasonal packages start at $226 (room and car),
$233 (room and breakfast) and $240 (room, breakfast and car).
Commission: 10 percent