By { Beth Weitzman

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua has held a special place in my heart since I first experienced its Aloha spirit during a visit to the property in 2000. Its respect and recognition for Hawaiian culture and history is seen and felt throughout the resort with a keen sense of place, educational elements and cultural activities. Combined with the amazing team at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, this stunning 54-acre resort offers special beauty and exceptional luxury.

The resort is also home to the Honokahua Preservation Site, a recognized wahi pana (sacred site) that lies between the ocean and the resort. To view the sacred grounds, guests can walk to a special monument that sits front and center, and peer past dense shrubbery, but they can go no further. Beyond this point, the site is off limits to all but Native Hawaiians, who gather there to conduct ceremonial rituals and honor their ancestors. Showing its deep commitment to the Hawaiian culture, the brand brought on its first Cultural Advisor, Clifford Nae’ole, prior to opening the property in 1992. Nae’ole brought with him a deep passion and commitment to Hawaiian culture, and he remains there today, celebrating cultural awareness and Hawaiian heritage. In his first year, Nae’ole co-created the Celebration of the Arts Festival to enrich and educate guests and locals on native Hawaiian culture, the resort’s deep Hawaiian cultural roots, and its historical surroundings—all as part of a celebratory weekend. I was thrilled to return to this unforgettable resort for its 26th annual Celebration of the Arts Festival, which takes place every spring. The festival was timed to coincide with the resort’s 25th anniversary and the unveiling of its multimillion-dollar renovation. Refreshed guest rooms reflect Maui’s natural beauty and Hawaiian heritage, there’s an enhanced lobby, new pool experiences, a grab-and-go casual Café Kai and other new culinary offerings.

Spend the day in true VIP style by booking one of the luxurious, newly imagined poolside cabanas overlooking the sublime 10,000-square-foot tri-level pool with surrounding 20,000-square-foot sun deck. Each cabana has a dedicated attendant, available to cater to your every whim. Inside the cabana is a refrigerator filled with waters and soft drinks, an Evian spritzer, fresh robes, a flat-screen TV and Bluetooth speakers. Included with a day package are sparkling wine, tasty appetizers and a tropical fruit plate with banana bread. Lounge under cover or in the sun, the cabana offers the best of both worlds. Order from the new poolside restaurant, ‘Ai ‘Ono’ (meaning “eat well” in Hawaiian), which serves up hand-crafted tequila cocktails, an array of tasty tacos, Buddha bowls with fresh ahi, and pupus made with fresh, local ingredients. Whether in a cabana, in the pool or perched on a chaise lounge, guests can place their orders via The Ritz-Carlton mobile app, and have it delivered straight to their location.

10,000-square-foot tri-level pool

Among the six dining experiences offered on the property is The Banyan Tree, an AAA Four Diamond restaurant helmed by 2018 Maui Chef of the Year, head chef Alvin Savella (a.k.a. @thekitchenassassin). With its farm-to-table menu, open-air seating and gorgeous ocean vistas, The Banyan Tree serves up a most memorable culinary journey (favorites include the signature Hawaiian sweet bread with Kula strawberry foie gras jam and Surfing Goat chèvre whipped Vermont butter, crispy 5-spiced duck buns, Kona kampachi crudo, ahi tuna poke, crispy Haiku avocado katzu style, ulu breadfruit Gruyere fondue, upcountry BBQ mahi, steamed Hawaiian snapper and grass-fed filet mignon and seared foie fras). Seasonal ingredients are sourced from local farms, as well as the resort’s own two-acre sustainable organic garden, while fish and meat hail from within Hawaii. Completing the meal is a well curated wine list and garden-to-glass cocktails made with fresh fruits and garden herbs.

A must-dine lunch spot is the beachfront Burger Shack. Creative burgers, decadent chicken and pork sandwiches, outrageously delicious shakes and a full selection of cocktails, craft and local beers are served at this alfresco spot. Its beachside location under a natural canopy of more than 40 full-grown coconut palms is ideal. A walk-up window serves those who want to grab and go. And if you like hot sauce, you will love the shack’s homemade recipe!

Burger Shack is a casual, oceanfront hideaway where guests can savor signature burgers.

Indulge in a breakfast spread like no other at the Terrace restaurant. Gorgeous views overlook the gardens, pool and ocean to set the perfect stage for an extensive buffet. Delicious home-baked pastries, an omelet station, cheese and meat selection, veggies galore, a Bloody Mary bar and many other decadent delights bring the perfect start to any day. Wellness warriors, there are plenty of healthy options to keep your diet on track. When quick bites are in order, the new lobby level Kai Cafe serves breakfast (think acai bowls, organic smoothies, pastries) and lunch (salads, sandwiches, wraps) made with local, organic and seasonal ingredients. Perfectly brewed fresh local coffee is always available, along with other snacks. When evening rolls in, The Alaloa Lounge is a great spot to imbibe on specialty cocktails (think signature Mai Tai, Painkiller or, my favorite, coconut fever with Tito’s Vodka, coconut, lime, lemongrass syrup and Tiki bitters) or a selection of beers, while noshing on signature appetizers and desserts. Open from 3 p.m.-10 p.m.; stop by at sunset to enjoy a special celebration ceremony and stay for nightly live entertainment. Nearby The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, culinary destinations Merriman’s Kapalua, Cane and Canoe, Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, Taverna Urban Drinks + Italian Eats and The Plantation House are also worth a visit. Also not far are the towns of Lahaina and Ka’anapali, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shopping.

Embrace the ability to unwind and destress at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Kapalua where body treatments, massages, and facials are inspired by ancient Hawaiian traditions and healing methods. Many spa services incorporate local plants, flowers, and fruits along with herbs grown in the resort’s own organic garden. The fitness center brims with cardio and weight-lifting equipment. Opt for daily fitness classes to keep your workout interesting, and a walk along the ocean’s edge on the 2-mile Coastal Trail that runs through Kapalua Resort is an absolute must. The trail runs north from Kapalua Bay Beach near Merriman’s Kapalua, along the sand dunes at Oneloa bay, through The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, to popular D.T. Fleming Beach Park.

Therapies draw on plants, flowers and fruits from throughout Hawaii and herbs cultivated in thier very own organic garden.

It’s hard not to feel right at home in the beautifully renovated guest rooms, suites and residences imagined by noted Philpotts & Associates Interior Design. The inviting decor reflects Hawaiian heritage, and nature’s beauty abounds through floor-to-ceiling windows. Sophisticated, contemporary furnishings, hardwood floors and a colorscape featuring light sand tones complemented by azure ocean blue and deep green accents provide a sense of serenity the moment you walk in. Once you lay your head on the plush down pillow and relax into The Ritz-Carlton bed dressed in the most luxurious linens, you will surely have sweet dreams. Well-appointed bathrooms include a stand-up shower and large bathtub.

Upon entering the hotel’s newly remodeled lobby and throughout the common areas of the resort, you’ll feel the Mana (the power of the elemental forces in nature embodied in an object or person) via intimate lighting, elements of fire, organic lines, and textures in this indoor-outdoor space.

For more information or reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, visit:

Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

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In addition to Celebration of the Arts, the Kapalua Wine & Food Festival, Wellness Week, XTERRA World Championship and PGA-TOUR Tournament of Champions are Signature Maui events that take place at the resort.