Keeping up With Kapalua

Maui’s master-planned resort broadens its market appeal

By: By Marty Wentzel

Kapalua Resort has introduced eco-adventures with the whole family in mind. // (c) Kapalua
Kapalua Resort has introduced eco-adventures with the whole family in mind.

In the late 1960s, when Maui native Colin Cameron acquired the Maui Land and Pineapple Company, he envisioned creating a resort development in harmony with its environment. In 1974, that vision became reality and Kapalua Resort was born.

Today, the 23,000-acre destination resort in northwest Maui is well-established among high-end clients interested in the local culture and environment. In the last year and a half, however, the resort has been expanding its offerings of amenities and adventures, allowing it to broaden its market appeal.

"Travelers are increasingly looking for new and diverse activities that allow the entire family to enjoy their vacation time together," said Tom Selby, Kapalua Resort’s vice president of resort operations. "With that in mind, we now offer something for everyone in the family."

The big news in the past year was the opening of Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost and Kapalua Adventure Center. Promoting one-of-a-kind mountain-to-sea experiences, the enterprise boasts the largest connecting zipline system in North America as well as Hawaii’s largest and longest suspension bridge. Clients can test their mettle on the two-person Giant Swing — which rides between two 60-foot tall telephone poles — in addition to 40-foot tall climbing walls and a high ropes challenge course. The center also serves as a headquarters for hiking, biking, kayaking and snorkeling excursions.

From Kapalua’s inception, one of its signature draws has been golf. Clients can tee off on either The Bay or The Plantation course, the latter of which hosts the annual Mercedes-Benz Championship. In July 2008, the Bay Course completed a three-year, $2 million renovation, and in October 2008, the resort hosted the inaugural Kapalua LPGA Classic. This month, Kapalua launched Get Golf Ready, a program of affordable instruction, course activities, basic putting, chipping and swinging instruction and golf basics and etiquette ($99 per person for five lessons). In February, Kapalua is introducing junior tees on the front nine holes of the Bay Course and an adult learning course.

One of Kapalua’s distinctive landmarks is the Honolua Store, dating back to 1929. In May 2008, it completed an extensive renovation that preserves the existing historic plantation building while expanding the store’s grocery, wine and sundry offerings, from local specialties to health foods.

Kapalua’s accommodations continue trending toward the luxury traveler. The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua reopened in 2008 following a $160 million transformation. Clients looking for condominium accommodations can stay in the Kapalua Villas or the newly remodeled, upgraded and standardized Gold Villas. By 2010, all the villas will fall in the Gold category.

On the dining front, the resort’s new Cafe Kapalua features casual breakfast and lunch using fresh, local ingredients from the resort’s organically managed farm plot. Famed Hawaii regional cuisine chef Peter Merriman recently opened Merriman’s Kapalua, a restaurant specializing in farm-to-table dining.

What’s next for Kapalua? Watch for the June opening of the Kapalua Spa, a 30,000-square-foot freestanding facility with an ocean theme, Olympic-size outdoor infinity swimming pool and al fresco treatment rooms. According to Selby, throughout this year Kapalua will focus on promoting unique group activities and events such as destination weddings and small meetings. Kapalua Resort is also working on developing a travel agent Web site, where agents can find the latest promotions and booking incentives and register to become a Kapalua Specialist.