The lobby has been reimagined as an expansive, open-air “living room” for guests. // © 2011 Makena Beach & Golf Resort
My first night at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort happened to coincide with the final night of the Maui Film Festival, which was held nearby. I didn't want to miss this opportunity, but I was jetlagged — and the idea of room service and a quiet night in also had its appeal.
The decision provedto be too much for me, and I headed to the bell desk to ask for advice and directions. The bell captain told me that the hotel provides free shuttle service to the film festival site so I didn’t need to worry about driving around, after dark, in an unknown area.
Still I waffled, since the film festival was a 20 minute walk, uphill, from the restaurant I was considering, Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman. The bell captain assured me that they would happily pick me up at the restaurant and then deliver me to the festival site.
At that point, I was sold on the idea, so I headed to my room to grab a jacket. When I returned to the lobby, a member of the front desk staff handed me a fluffy beach towel to sit on at the festival. Also, they asked if I had definitively decided against room service. The staff had clearly been communicating about my evening’s plans. I started to feel less like I was staying in a hotel and more like I was visiting a favorite aunt and uncle. And, best of all, the rest of my visit followed the same track.
The next morning, I saw the resort's new executive chef Marc McDowell overseeing breakfast service. I did my research beforehand and knew that he was a big proponent of aquaponics, a sustainable food production system that combines hydroponics with the raising of aquatic animals such as fish and shrimp. McDowell was delighted when I asked him about his pet project, and our conversation morphed into an engaging discussion about Maui’s current drought conditions and the steps locals are taking to try to plan for a more sustainable future for the island. This was another example that the Makena Beach and Golf Resort’s priority is making customers feel like welcome guests.
Longtime Hawaii travelers will probably be more familiar with the Makena Beach in its former skin, as the Maui Prince Hotel. In September 2010, Landmark Hotels Group took on the management of Makena Beach, renaming the property and immediately committing to a beautification of the 1,800-acre, 310-room resort.
The project, which is anticipated to last some two years, is well under way. The first phase, which is now nearing completion, includes the total overhaul of the property’s 290 guestrooms and 20 suites, as well as updating all the public facilities and amenities. Each guestroom now sports new wall-to-wall carpeting, granite countertops in the bathroom areas, contemporary fixtures and refinished cherry wood furnishings. High-definition, 37-inch, flat-screen televisions, superior quality linens and a new line of Tommy Bahama bath products are a standard feature in every room.
The public areas have also been transformed, with an eye on developing them into welcoming gathering spaces. The lobby area, once a dark corridor, now serves as an expansive, open-air "living room" for resort guests. Here guests can enjoy Starbucks coffee and a quick snack at Barista 5400, which is conveniently located in the lobby entry. To-go food items, all crafted in house by Chef McDowell, are surpassed only by singing barista Evelyn, who will serenade guests for the price of a smile.
The resort has also pumped more than a quarter of a million dollars into tree trimming and landscape improvements. Overgrown landscaping has been cut back, effectively opening previously obstructed vistas.
Chef McDowell has been instrumental in revamping the restaurants and their menu offerings. The once-popular Saturday night Japanese buffet has been reinstated, and Makena’s award-winning Sunday Brunch has been enhanced with new and improved menu items and live hula entertainment. The pool area, too, will soon see an overhaul in food offerings and is preparing to launch an outdoor kitchen serving fresh baked pizzas, rotisserie chicken and grilled favorites.
Makena’s location, at the end of a scenic shoreline drive just south of tony Wailea Resort, gives visitors a sense of total seclusion from the outside world. Makena is home to plenty of recreational activities, including a spectacular 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, indoor and outdoor spa cabanas and plenty of water activities including outrigger canoe rides, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba adventures.
For all its riches, Makena Beach offers rates that are sure to make clients smile. The resort is currently offering a Fall into Spring package starting at $199 per night, including breakfast. Furthermore, throughout 2012, travel agents can enjoy the resort from $129 a night.