The 463-room Ritz-Carlton Kapalua boasts modern rooms, top-notch dining, a quality spa, polished service, and beautifully landscaped grounds of national park proportions. It all comes at a slight risk, however, since its location comes with the least consistent, windiest, and rainiest weather of all of Maui's major resort areas.
A modern 54-acre property centered around a three-tiered pool overlooking the Kapalua coast
Upon seeing Ritz-Carlton Kapalua for the first time, you might wonder, "Are those the hotel grounds or a golf course?" Although there are two large golf courses next door, the grounds of the resort itself also seem cared for down to the last blade of grass, making a stunning 54-acre platform. The rooms, buildings, and amenities are fairly concentrated on top of a slightly sloping hill, set somewhat far back from the beach compared to other Maui resorts. Outside of the totally remote Hotel Hana, this is the most secluded resort in Maui -- even luxury resorts in Wailea, on the island's dry, sunny south coast (like the Four Seasons Maui or Fairmont Kea Lani) don't approach this same feeling of exclusivity.
Though the property is vast, the facilities themselves take a more modest approach than resorts like the Grand Wailea or Fairmont Kea Lani, which can overwhelm guests with waterpark-like facilities and endless amenities. Instead, the Ritz seems to favor quality over quantity, and encourages families to learn about the surrounding culture and ecology with programs led by Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment. Its expansive, gorgeous vistas attract daily handfuls of nonguests, who walk the resort trails, have drinks at the lobby's Alaloa Lounge, or splurge on a fabulous meal at the signature Banyan Tree restaurant.
For the price and level of exclusivity, the Four Seasons is really the Ritz's only competitor on Maui, but there are trade-offs. The Four Seasons is in Wailea, which enjoys consistently dry, sunny weather; the Ritz's Kapalua setting, though beautiful, gets the most wind and rain of Maui's resort areas. But the Ritz is more remote than just about any Maui resort, and the surroundings are far more exclusive and peaceful than the setting (a cluster of resorts) around the Four Seasons.
In a remote northwestern corner of Maui where weather can be inconsistent
The Ritz-Carlton lies on 54 acres in the northwestern corner of Maui within the Kapalua Resort's greater 23,000 acres. More remote than just about any resort on Maui outside of Hotel Hana, the surroundings are far more exclusive and peaceful than the lineup of resorts in Kaanapali (or even in Wailea). On the other hand, the weather here is considerably less reliable (it has more wind, rain, and storm exposure than other resort areas) and there's little within walking distance. You'll have to drive to nearby Kaanapali and Lahaina for things to do, especially when the weather gets bad. The hotel is approximately a one-hour drive from Kahului Airport.
Rooms among Maui's most luxurious, even if they're a little smaller than those at other luxury resorts. All rooms are 440 square feet and have small balconies with a table and two chairs; views vary with some offering pretty ocean views. Suites range from 900 to 2,560 square feet, and have larger balconies and separate living rooms, but no kitchens (even the 2,560-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite only has a butler's pantry -- not a full kitchen). Suites have king beds, while standard rooms have either kings or two double beds. Sealy for Ritz mattresses are luxurious and comfortable.
All rooms feature modern, Hawaiian-inspired decor and flat-screen TV. As is typical in Hawaii, there are no pre-stocked minibars, but guests can order specific items to be stocked in their empty mini-fridges, and coffeemakers and bottled water are provided. Bathrooms have marble floors and counters, separate showers and bathtubs, and hotel-brand toiletries. Free, fast Wi-Fi connections are available in all rooms.
The 17,500-square-foot Waihua Spa is one of Maui's best and largest spas. It includes 15 treatment rooms, separate men's and women's facilities (both with cedar saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms, lounge areas, and whirlpool), and a coed relaxation area and outdoor whirlpool. While it doesn't have quite the impressive facilities that Grand Wailea's Spa Grande offers, the treatment and day access prices are lower. The spa offers a wide range of treatments, from organic facials and traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massages to clinical treatments like microdermabrasion and oxygen-infusion facials.
An impressive variety of restaurants, including signature fine dining
The hotel's six restaurants and bars offer a nice variety -- from the signature, upscale Banyan Tree to a great sushi spot to the more casual Beach House Restaurant and Pool Bar & Café -- and they all enjoy beautiful settings, often with views of the beach and sunset.
The fine-dining, dinner-only Banyan Tree Restaurant serves Hawaiian-influenced eclectic fare focused on locally grown and organic ingredients, plus an impressive biodynamic and organic wine list. Terrace Restaurant serves three meals a day, including a generous breakfast buffet with attentive service. The lobby's Alaloa Lounge offers stunning views of the property and occasional live music in the evenings. The Beach House Restaurant and Pool Bar & Café serve light fare and drinks at lunchtime and in the afternoon (the Beach House closes for inclement weather, though). The dinner-only Kai Sushi offers Japanese cuisine and sushi. Twenty-four-hour room service is also available.
Everything seems to look inward to the Ritz-Carlton's stunning three-level, 10,000-square-foot pool (plus a kids' pool and whirlpools), with an even larger poolside deck that has a gorgeous view of the Kapalua coast and D.T. Fleming Beach. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua provides a unique environmental and cultural education program through its Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassadors Center. Half- and full-day programs for kids include naturalist-guided hikes, snorkeling tours, and other excursions -- refreshing alternatives to Xbox games centers and plastic-toy-focused kids' camps.
The hotel is home to one of Maui's best fitness centers, accessible 24 hours a day with room key. The facility overlooks hotel grounds with modern equipment and men's and women's locker rooms. There are separate fitness studios for priced classes like tai chi, spinning, and yoga, as well as four tennis courts with free daily lessons and private instruction.
The hotel's features are concentrated on what's actually a stunningly massive property -- the larger Kapalua Resort has 100 miles of walking trails, including a coastal trail directly in front of the resort and several village trails, and two golf courses. A free on-call shuttle will take guests to any Kapalua resort location from early in the morning until late at night.
Kapalua Resort is home to two 18-hole courses: the Arnold Palmer- and Francis Duane-designed Bay Course and the Plantation Course, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. The par 73, 7,411-yard Plantation Course hosts the PGA Tour SBS Championship each January. Both are oceanfront and located on opposite sides of the Ritz-Carlton resort, facing different sides of the Kapalua Coast (the par 72, 6,600-yard Bay Course faces Molokai).
The state-of-the-art Kapalua Golf Academy is a teaching facility with a 23-acre practice area, individual lessons, clinics, and extensive golf school programs.
Top-tier weddings at top-tier prices -- both large and intimate spaces, excellent food and alcohol, and unique add-ons. Just beware the weather.
Wedding Size: Up to 500 people; up to two weddings daily (though two is rare)
Extra Fees: Extra fees for a standard ceremony include a mandatory setup fee, fees for each printed place card, individual printed menus, table centerpiece, and another fee for each chef, bartender, and "cashier" used during the reception.
Wedding Packages: The most basic, Kamoae (trade wind) package includes a decorated ceremony and reception space, flowers for the wedding party, a license and minister, a guitarist for the ceremony, a two-tier wedding cake (20 people), two hours of photography (24 prints), a limo transfer to and from the wedding site, and the help of a wedding coordinator. Alternative packages range in amenities and cost.
Ceremony Locations: Lava Point (for a small ceremony of two to four people), the Honolua Chapel (up to 60), the gazebo (up to 100), the Napili Lawn (up to 200), or the Beach House Lawn (up to 500)
Reception Locations: The Plantation Ballroom, the Anuenue Room, or the Beach House Lawn
Food: The dinner menus range per person, and you can also opt for an imu (cooking pit) pig preparation. A desert buffet is available and is charged per person.
Drinks: An open bar ranges in price depending on liquor choice. Other options include an iced punch fountain bar, a nonalcoholic or alcoholic punch charged per gallon, a "tropical bar", an iced martini bar.
Cocktail Hour: You can get pretty elaborate -- hors d'oeuvres alone range are costly, but once you add on the ice carving seafood displays, a smoked fish presentation, and add on the carver fee and the open bar, you've about doubled the cost of your entire wedding.
Photographers and Videographers: Basic photo and video packages; no outside vendors permitted
Music: For the ceremony, options range from a solo Hawaiian guitarist or vocalist, a harpist, a cassical musician, or a hula dancer, and a sound system. For the reception, you can choose between a DJ, a live band, or full-scale luau entertainment; no outside vendors permitted.
Cakes: Two-tier cakes (20 people) and three-tier cakes are available, plus there's another fee for flowers on the cake. More elaborate designs are available. The white cake comes with either Grand Marnier and strawberries, white chocolate mousse and raspberries, or chocolate mango mousse. The chocolate cake comes with dark chocolate mousse and rum. Tiramisu, carrot, or lemon cakes also available.
Flowers and Decorations: If you don't opt for the packages, the bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages can rack up the price, as can the flower-girl basket (with petals), leis for all your guests, decorations for the ceremony site.
Extras: Dove release, a two-hour horse-and-carriage ride, a traditional Hawaiian blessing with a conch shell blower
Spa Treatments: A variety of manis/pedis, facials, and massages available; makeup and hair styling also on-site.
Honeymoon Suite: There's no special "honeymoon suite" but the enormous, 1,200-square-foot oceanfront suite comes highly recommended.
Airport Transportation: There's no free hotel transportation from the main airport (Kahului), but there is a free shuttle to and from the local Kapalua airport (just a few minutes away).
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