Sunrise is a magical time for me. I’m an early riser, so on the first morning of my stay at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, I was on the beach just when the dark of night was yielding to dawn’s soft pinks and blues. In contrast to the fiery spectacle of Maui’s sunsets, this sunrise was serene and gentle — a salve for my soul. It was a great way to begin a relaxing getaway at a hotel I hadn’t visited in more than three years.
Everything looked and felt new, thanks to a $100 million transformation of the property’s restaurants, public spaces and 466 guestrooms. Hawaii’s history, culture and natural beauty influenced design decisions; for example, lighting fixtures in the lobby recall traditional fishing traps woven of ieie vines. The Aloha Garden Pavilion — an indoor-outdoor venue for special events and private functions — incorporates seafaring elements such as the rib, gunwale and lashings of a Polynesian voyaging canoe.
Refreshed Spaces: Guestrooms and the Pool
My residential suite’s sand, azure and deep-green palette reminded me of the surrounding ocean, beaches, mountains and valleys. Such accommodations can sleep four, but I loved having 900 square feet to myself. The space includes a separate living room and a partial kitchen.
From both my balconies, I could see the hotel’s reimagined pool, now in the shape of a giant fleur-de-lis and accented by waterfalls, greenery and lava-rock formations. I was content to laze alone in the 10,000-square-foot area, but groups of up to eight might prefer reserving one of the seven new luxury cabanas, which come with a personal attendant, a fridge, Wi-Fi, a ceiling fan, a Bluetooth speaker, a flat-screen TV, reef-safe sunscreen, unlimited water and soft drinks and a plate of tropical fruit and homemade banana bread.
Resort Dining: Six Restaurants and the Club Lounge
The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua has six dining options, with surprises on every menu. At Ulana one morning, I ordered Breakfast Ramen — noodles with bok choy, poached eggs, bacon, kalua pork and slices of Hawaii’s beloved Spam floating in a savory miso broth. I regretted not trying the beachfront Burger Shack’s Paniolo Buffalo Blue, a bison patty grilled to order and topped with gorgonzola, applewood smoked bacon and house-made barbecue sauce. Dinner at Banyan Tree, meanwhile, features a changing menu inspired by coastal cuisine. I started with the ceviche: hamachi with a lilikoi (passion fruit) marinade, lychee granita, Hawaiian sea salt and thinly sliced jalapeno.
Other upscale Hawaii hotels have private lounges, but none match the size and amenities of The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge at the Avenue Room. Five daily culinary presentations are among its draws: breakfast, light lunch, mid-afternoon tidbits, hors d’oeuvres and desserts and cordials. Early one evening, I enjoyed farro and roasted beet salad, herb-whipped goat cheese crudites, Molokai sweet potato croquettes, bacon-wrapped scallops and seared wagyu on focaccia crostini — all of which was more than enough for dinner. Always available are house-baked cookies; my favorite was studded with chocolate chips, macadamia nuts and shreds of coconut. Eat a few there and take a few for later — plastic bags are provided precisely for that purpose.
Among the lounge’s other niceties is a “To Go” room stocked with snacks and open 24/7, and there are also diversions such as cooking demonstrations and ukulele, cocktail and flower wristlet-making classes. Lounge access is included with Royal Pacific Suite and Ritz-Carlton Suite bookings and can be obtained as an upgrade for other room categories for an additional nightly fee.
Kapalua Resort and On-Property Activities
Unwinding was a priority of my trip, but I could have walked the entire 1.76-mile (one-way) Coastal Trail. I could have signed up for a zipline tour, lessons at the 10-court Kapalua Tennis Garden or tee time at the championship Bay and Plantation golf courses — all of which, like The Ritz-Carlton, are part of the 22,000-acre Kapalua Resort.
There’s also plenty to do at the 54-acre property itself: Arrange a private workout with a certified fitness trainer, or indulge in spa treatments that relax, restore and revitalize with herbs, warm stones, plant extracts and botanical oils. Weave a head lei of fresh roses, orchids and plumeria that the instructor picks from her backyard garden, or take a complimentary introductory e-bike tour. Yoga, lawn games, hula lessons, meditation sessions, origami classes and a seaside labyrinth walk are also on offer and complimentary.
This hotel is also one of only six Ritz-Carlton properties in the world that offer the Ambassadors of the Environment program, founded by famed oceanographer, conservationist, educator and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau to foster respect and appreciation for nature through family-friendly eco-tours. On Maui, new activities for children ages 5 through 14 include stargazing, gardening and beach cleanups.
And there’s one more exclusive experience to look forward to. Set to debut just in time for Christmas is the Fire Lanai Collection, a new premium room category — the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else in Hawaii. Each of the 21 renovated ground-floor guestrooms will be furnished with a hammock, a sundeck, a shade trellis, a fire pit and a tropical s’mores kit for memorable gatherings under the sun or stars.