ALTHOUGH MAUI IS KNOWN AS the "Magic Isle," there is nothing sleight-of-hand about its tourism appeal. The second-largest island in the Hawaii chain balances top-of-the-line resorts with natural attractions, a famous scenic drive and charming towns.
"We've seen a big rise in our luxury bookings to Maui, especially Wailea," says Mary Jane Augustine, business development manager for the tour operator Island Destinations.
She observes that the company's clients enjoy the exclusivity of Wailea, and its proximity to three golf courses. Island Destinations sees a 50/50 split between repeaters and first-time visitors to Maui. "Most of our new business is coming from the East Coast," Augustine says. "We're seeing stays averaging seven nights, with many choosing five nights in Maui and two nights on Lanai."
The 53-mile scenic drive on the Hana highway has long been a popular option for visitors. Augustine notes a shift in how her clients are approaching the drive. "In the past, the great majority of those making the drive to Hana returned the same day," she says. "Now there are a significant amount of travelers who are staying overnight in Hana—in our case, they're choosing the Hotel Hana-Maui."
Maui is sometimes criticized for being too overdeveloped, but Augustine says her clients aren't complaining about that, and she thinks development has slowed on the island. "We've seen growth in active sports, like diving, snorkeling and cycling," she says.
More Adventures to Come
Kapalua Resort, home to the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and the Kapalua Villas, is in tune with the trend toward active travel. In January, the resort will open the Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost, 1,500 feet up the mountains above the resort. The complex will have eight ziplines traversing deep gorges, a ropes challenge course, a climbing wall and a 3,000-square-foot lookout deck. Two suspension bridges will be added at a later date. Guests can visit the Kapalua Adventure Center on the resort grounds and consult with its concierges to schedule activities or craft their own custom adventure, with options for helicopter sightseeing, private zipline tours or dinners at the Kapalua Adventures Mountain Outpost lookout.
Much anticipation is surrounding the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua (www.ritzcarlton.com) these days, as the resort will reopen in early January, following a $130 million transformation. The renovation will bring an expanded fitness center and movement studio with panoramic ocean views; specially created late-departure facilities with lockers and showers; a new pool bar and grill; and major enhancements and additions to the resort's pools. The AAA five-diamond resort's restaurants will have new names and concepts. Updated amenities include miles of new hiking and biking trails and horseback riding.
Look for all 297 guest rooms to include contemporary elements such as new furniture, porcelain tiles in the bathrooms and flat-screen TVs. The interior redesign will use indigenous materials such as coconut and seashell accents with wood grains, rug designs with patterns of Hawaiian tattoo motifs with plumeria and Hawaiian print artwork framed with koa wood.
The resort's Club Level rooms come with four complimentary food and beverage presentations daily, along with personal concierge service in the Club Lounge. The Ocean Front rooms have the best views of the Pacific Ocean and Molokai. The resort will have 86 connecting rooms and suites.
A major change is the addition of 107 one-and two-bedroom full-ownership Residential Suites. These come with fully equipped kitchens and spacious living rooms, making them suitable for families. Residential Suite owners are granted access to all of the resort's services, as well as membership privileges to join the private golf club and play the new Tom Fazio-designed Mauka Golf Course. Agent Advice
A new spa is scheduled for completion at the Ritz-Carlton in spring. The spa renovation doubles the size of the facility and features garden treatment rooms offering traditional Hawaiian treatments like lomi lomi massage. The spa will have 15 treatment rooms, with many of these opening to private gardens and showers, and two outdoor couples' cabanas. For reservations, contact Lucia Rodriguez, director of spa and retail, 808-665-7082.
The resort is taking bookings for after January 7. Heidi Denecke, senior sales manager, travel industry, is the travel agent liaison. She can be reached at 808-665-7200 or [email protected]
Farther south along Maui's western coast, the Fairmont Kea Lani (www.fairmont.com) is a luxury all-suite and villa resort on Polo Beach, about 17 miles from Kahului Airport. Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson are just a few of the celebrities who have stayed there.
The resort's Ocean Front Villas numbered 1 to 21 are very popular. These offer a choice of two or three bedrooms; two extra-large marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers; a living room with full entertainment system, including a 32-inch plasma TV; full kitchen; and washer and dryer. Outside is a private courtyard with plunge pool and barbecue grill.
Those looking for the best ocean views should book one of the Deluxe Ocean View Suites. These have Pacific panoramas, and on clear days guests can make out the islands of Lanai and Oahu. There are 50 sets of connecting suites. Families would do well to reserve one of the three-bedroom villas, which have two full bathrooms each.
The resort's Spa Kea Lani has nine treatment rooms, as well as an outdoor Spa Cabana near the adult pool. A Fairmont Kea Lani exclusive is the Ala Lani Signature Body Wrap, which begins with a gentle body polish, preparing the skin for a light massage using rich body butter made of cocoa butter and vitamin E oil. Agents can book treatments for clients ahead of time by contacting the spa director, Jennifer Buckler ([email protected], 808-875-2220).
In addition to its five restaurants, the Fairmont offers several special dining options. The Twilight Dinner is a personalized four-course meal, including a choice of wines, for up to six guests, served in a private cabana near the adult pool and Caffe Ciao Restaurant.
Hoku Lani, or "Dining Under the Stars," is served near the beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With tiki torches blazing nearby, guests enjoy a four-course dinner presented by a private waitstaff. Optional entertainment and floral displays can be arranged.
The Fairmont has two locations for weddings: a white gazebo with fountains and the Pacific Terrace overlooking the beach and ocean. Two full-time wedding managers are on staff, Polly Xiong (808-875-4100, ext. 299) and Sandy Nakama (808-875-4100, ext. 241).
Agents with special requests can reach out to the resort's director of leisure sales, Aulani Kealoha (808-875-4100, ext. 239, [email protected]).
Another Maui property, Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa (www.grandwailea.com), is a popular place for families. It has a comprehensive children's club, and the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is a favorite with kids, for its nine separate pools, including a "baby beach."
If the tykes spend a lot of time in the pools, the family may want to book a ground-floor room in the Lagoon wing, steps away from the pool area. The resort has 120 connecting and adjoining rooms.
The Grand Wailea's recently renovated Napua Tower offers private club accommodations. Napua Tower Grand Suites are the most luxurious, measuring 5,500 square feet, with large lanais and panoramic views of the Pacific and islands of Molokini, Kahoolawe and Lanai. Aside from these suites, the Deluxe Ocean View rooms are considered to have the best views.
Last September, the Grand Wailea introduced private luxury townhouses in a newly developed, gated community known as Hoolei, adjacent to the resort. The deluxe three-bedroom, 3½-bath townhouses provide access to all resort amenities, including Wailea Golf Club.
Hawaii's Largest Spa
At 50,000 square feet, the resort's Spa Grande is the largest in Hawaii. There are 40 treatment rooms, as well as the Termé Wailea Hydrotherapy. Prior to treatments, guests relax in the termé, which consists of a Roman tub, saunas, cascading waterfalls, Swiss jet showers, a Japanese furo and five specialty baths including mud, limu (seaweed), aromatherapy, papaya enzyme and Hawaiian mineral salt.
The spa's signature treatment is the Six Hands Lava Stone Massage, during which three therapists work in sync over the entire body. The spa also has suites for couples and families.
Miryam Litch is the most requested masseuse at the spa. A Maui resident for 27 years, Litch specializes in the Hawaiian healing arts and has mastered the lomi lomi massage technique. She uses healing Hawaiian herbs and has extensive training in physiology, deep tissue, shiatsu and body therapies. Litch has also trained with yoga teachers in India and has been practicing yoga and meditation for 40 years.
Cecilia Hercik is the director of spa sales and operations (808-875-1234, ext. 2497, [email protected]). The travel agent liaison at the Grand Wailea is Patrick Ornellas, who can be reached at [email protected], 866-702-9182.
The most difficult times to book Maui are Easter, spring break, summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. For peak times, try to book a year ahead. Otherwise, when possible, book two to three months in advance.