Sign Up for Our Monthly Hawaii Newsletter
Jon Benson, the new general manager at the Hana-Maui Resort, does not want to screw up the place.
"Our intentions are to protect the cultural experience,” Benson said. “We’re going to bring elegance, sophistication and modernization to a point, but we’re not going to turn this into Disneyland.”
Formerly the Travaasa Hana, the 75-room resort joined Hyatt’s Destination Hotels brand in early September this year after the 66-acre property was purchased by a Southern California-based real estate firm in 2019.
"I think it’s certainly the most Hawaiian destination on Maui,” Benson said of Hana. “It’s a tight-knit community of people that really looks after each other, supports each other and protects the destination.”
Benson was the executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali during the early 2000s, so he knows the Valley Isle, and he was excited about the opportunity to helm the property in Hana, a community home to about 1,000 residents on Maui’s remote eastern coastline.
Hyatt officials have announced plans to renovate the Hana-Maui Resort, a project slated to take place over a two-year period starting in 2021, but Benson insisted that preserving the resort’s distinctive tranquility and authentic charm will remain a critical focus.
“We’re not here to change the identity of the destination,” he said. “And we want to make sure that authenticity is not tourist authenticity. It’s Hawaiian authenticity.”
Kathy Takushi, owner of Captivating Journeys, an Ensemble Travel Group affiliate based on Maui, is hopeful resort officials will preserve the old Hawaii charm so prominent today in Hana, and she said most folks who live on the Valley Isle’s eastern coast feel similarly.
We’re going to bring elegance, sophistication and modernization to a point, but we’re not going to turn this into Disneyland.
"The residents out there don’t want chain hotels,” Takushi said. “It’s got to fit in the community.”
Although she does not book the property often, Takushi has typically sold the Hana-Maui Resort in the past for a couple of nights in combination with longer stays at Maui’s Wailea or Kaanapali properties. But she said the management and branding switch to a Hyatt Destination Hotel may boost interest in the resort moving forward.
"I just think there’ll be more awareness with the Hyatt name attached to it,” Takushi said.
Located at the southeastern end of a 52-mile stretch of extraordinarily twisted but absolutely stunning coastal highway — often referred to as simply the Road to Hana — the Hana-Maui Resort isn’t far from terrific waterfall hikes, red- and black-sand beaches and a wonderful collection of agricultural, farm and Hawaiian cultural experiences. The property, consisting primarily of generously spaced bungalow accommodations, has also been known in the past as a resort where guests could unplug from televisions and the distractions of the internet — in part because the resort’s Wi-Fi was not always reliable.
Caitlyn Gambino, owner of Aum Journeys, a Virtuoso affiliate in Taylor, Mich., said the remote nature of Hana-Maui Resort isn’t for everybody, but she’s had previous success booking the property for clients who are eager to explore the natural beauty of Maui’s east coast.
“I’ve typically sold it to honeymooners who really like to get off the beaten path and do a lot of hiking,” Gambino explained, saying she has typically arranged two-night bookings there. “I think it’s a great a way to split up a stay on Maui.”
Gambino noted that her clients generally drive the Road to Hana, stay a couple nights and then fly back onboard the resort’s plane to Kahului, a service that general manager Benson indicated would still be available to guests under the new Hyatt management.
“We’re the only hotel in the Hawaiian Islands that’s going to have its own private aircraft,” Benson explained, noting the property has its own helicopter and a Cessna plane.
Maui and possibly Molokai air tours are package bonuses Benson said property officials are currently considering as plans for the future take shape. Meanwhile, specifics about the forthcoming renovation are still in the conceptual state, according to Benson, who said a firmer plan is likely to be settled on early next year.
We’re the only hotel in the Hawaiian Islands that’s going to have its own private aircraft.
"The bones are great here,” he said, noting the property will not close during the two-year upgrade. “It’s a phenomenal facility, but it needs the attention it’s going to get.”
Guestroom bathrooms will be overhauled with all new fixtures, Benson said, along with new wall coverings, flooring and paint elsewhere in the units, and there is talk of adding new pool experiences and spa facilities.
The property’s bungalows will all receive new cabling for television and internet along with air conditioning improvements, but Benson said if guests really do not want televisions in their room, resort staff will be happy to remove them.
"We may convert a spa room or two into a guestroom,” Benson added, indicating there is no fixed timeframe for when work will begin in 2021. “But there is no intention to build any different types of structures or new rooms. We find that to be the beauty of the property. You’re not going to see an apartment tower built out on the back 40.”
Although officials at the Hana-Maui Resort had announced plans to reopen to guests by Oct. 1 this year, the property now plans to open on Nov. 20.
The DetailsHana-Maui Resort www.hyatt.com