Ritzy Renovations

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s new residential suites appeal to families

By: Janice Mucalov


The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua 808-669-6200

Nightly rates for 2008 start at $499 for guestrooms, $599 for one-bedroom suites and $1,300 for two-bedroom suites.

Commission: 10 percent

Hawaii1_0508It was a high-stakes gamble. But for the new owners of the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua, their bet paid off. After shutting down the Maui hotel for six months for a sweeping $160 million renovation, the Gencom Group-led partnership (Gencom is the most active owner/developer of Ritz-Carlton hotels) recouped their investment and more in just one day. Now, the AAA Five-Diamond resort, which reopened on Jan. 7, is ready to welcome the growing market of upscale family clients.

A significant part of the overhaul involved converting the hotel’s north-wing rooms into larger one- and two-bedroom suites (reducing the total number of rooms/suites from 548 to 463). To finance the renovation, the 107 new residential units were offered for sale as whole-ownership condos. During a daylong event, buyers from California, Hawaii, Canada, Europe and Japan scooped up 93 units at an average price of $1.9 million — for a total sale of $176 million.

Selling fractional or full-ownership condotel units is part of a relatively new trend in financing the development and operation of luxury hotel properties.

“Luxury hotels are very expensive to build,” said Jerry Landeck, senior partner with Gencom. “They require some real-estate component to help with the basic capital investment and operation.”

Going forward, all Gencom-owned Ritz-Carltons will be built with residences. Gencom is now developing a “super-Ritz” brand of 75 villas averaging 3,000 square feet in the Turks and Caicos islands.

On Maui, the conversion to suites was also intended to cater to the upswing in families booking Ritz hotels.

“Traveling patterns are different today,” says Landeck. “People are much more apt to travel as a family than they were 20 years ago.”

Owners of the new residential units are limited to using them for only 30 days per year. The rest of the time, the suites are rented out by the Ritz-Carlton.

Families will enjoy the extra space. Each of the 900-square-foot one-bedroom, and 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom, units features dark-wood floors, area rugs with floral designs, new furnishings, a spacious living/dining room with large gathering table and 42-inch LCD flat-screen televisions.

The only downside is that clients don’t have a full kitchen with oven and stove-top. But they do get a refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, toaster and other kitchen amenities.

The remaining guestrooms were also completely remodeled, along with the hotel’s restaurants, and a 24-hour, state-of-the-art fitness center and yoga studio with sea views was created.

The signature Banyan Tree restaurant at the edge of the property is especially inviting, with ocean-inspired art and dramatic views of the Pacific. A new adjacent outdoor bar and lounge spilling out from a covered terrace is a popular place for lingering over drinks and pupus.

Next to the lobby, the volcanic-themed Alaloa Lounge is a striking place at night. Seated at the illuminated onyx bar lit by hand-blown glass pendants, clients face a black lava-stone back wall with a fiery red river of light flowing across. On the other side of the lobby, they find the new Kai Sushi restaurant, designed in warm tones of wood, woven grasses and gold-hued stone, with hand-carved ceiling beams shaped like outrigger canoes. (It wasn’t very busy during the three nights we stayed at the hotel.)

Updates to the huge three-tiered swimming pool were also not forgotten. And if clients want to watch that all-important game and the kids swimming at the same time, no problem. They simply plop down $250 for the use of one of seven new luxury pool cabanas for the day. They come with a personal attendant bearing a tropical fruit platter upon arrival, flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, refrigerator stocked with non-alcoholic beverages for four and a ceiling fan with lights.

On the horizon? In partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau, an environmental education center should be up and running come summer. Both children and adults can look forward to exploring tide pools and learning about the migration of whales and the natural rainforest, guided by a marine biologist or naturalist.

And, a new 17,500-square-foot spa, with 15 treatment rooms including two outdoor couples’ cabanas, is slated to debut in June. Most of the treatment rooms will open to private outdoor shower gardens, and private and co-ed relaxation areas with basalt stone floors and rain showers will overlook a taro patch garden.

The only thing The Ritz couldn’t improve upon was its location. The most northern of the west Maui hotels, it’s more likely to be cloudy or windy or get a little rain. But the quicksilver changes to the light and cloud formations dancing over the mountains behind the resort just add to the setting’s natural beauty.