Is there anything better than a hammock? Is there anything better than a hammock strung between two palm trees, overlooking a rolling green lawn, a gently sloping hill and the vast Pacific? Perhaps there is. But for a few lovely hours at the end of our trip to Maui, there wasn’t. It was those last few hours, after days spent at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, that capped a lovely visit.
When they were laying the plans for the property almost 25 years ago, the folks planning the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua discovered a burying ground near the shore. The plans for the building were revised, setting the resort further up the hill. The resulting vista as you enter the lobby is wonderful. The ocean is framed by the U-shaped hotel on either side, with a series of swimming pools unfolding down the slope to the shore.
We had visited the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua 17 years ago as a couple, and we recently returned with our daughters. Although much of the surrounding Kapalua area has shown signs of ‘progress’…er development, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua remains fundamentally unchanged. With a Hawaiian culture advisor on staff, the resort has undergone a subtle evolution. Gone is the fireplace and library off the lobby (a design that works well in Boston or NYC) and instead resides a sleek sushi bar. Also gone is the heavy cobalt blue glassware, and throughout the resort are the more subtle pastel colors of the island. Remaining are the thickly comfortable Asian rugs and solid wood paneling.
Our suite afforded us plenty of room. The king bed was luxurious and fitted with high count cotton sheets. The sofa in the sitting room expanded nicely into a bed for our daughters. The separate bathrooms ensured we weren’t crowded. The desk was elegant yet functional, and invited me to make notes about our stay.
Despite being nearly at occupancy capacity during our stay, the hotel did not seem cluttered or lacking in service. The three pools were spacious enough that no one was cheek to jowl, an experience often the case elsewhere.
Although the walk to the beach is longer than elsewhere, it is worth it. A golf cart shuttles folks back and forth as needed. We saw whales breaching in the distance. Other beaches nearby are readily accessible by the resort shuttle, which is available on demand.
My older daughter expressed her dismay as we first approached the Kapalua region of Maui, as she could not reconcile seeing both pine trees and a beach resort. Nonetheless, the Cook Pine trees which line the roads (and fairways outside our suite) blend nicely with the palm trees. Captain Cook first planted the trees as timber for boat masts, as the trees grow quickly. They are now a landmark around Kapalua.
The craggy rocks at the edge of the bay are great for turtle spotting. Folks gather on the ledges above or snorkel in the water to see the massive creatures. We did both, and had a sense of accomplishing one of our goals for the trip when we discovered several massive turtles grazing in the water against the rugged cliffs. We later fortified ourselves with hearty burgers at the Beach House Café, situated under a grove of palm trees at the edge of the sand.
We explained to our daughters that the Ritz-Carlton name was always the standard by which other luxury hotels were measured. Over the decades many other hotels have entered the luxury resort pantheon, but judging by our visit to Kapalua, the Ritz-Carlton has maintained its expected level of understated quality and impeccable service. The Kukui Nut Lei we each received when we arrived at the hotel remain a souvenir of luxurious hours spent in ad around the hammocks.