Molokai Ranch Reviving Kaluakoi Hotel

A rendering of the Kaluakoi Hotel's poolMolokai Ranch is looking to bring new energy to the long-shuttered Kaluakoi Hotel, with plans for more than $30 million in improvements.

The low-key hotel was a key part of the Kaluakoi Resort, which also included a golf course. Molokai Properties Ltd., which does business as Molokai Ranch, purchased them in late 2001 from previous owner Kukui (Molokai) Inc.; the Japanese investment company had by then closed both the hotel and the golf course. 

Molokai Ranch first worked on reviving the golf course and reopened it in two stages, the second completed in 2004.

It now has applied for a special-management area permit for Kaluakoi Hotel, a key step in its plans to breathe new life into the dormant property. That request is under review by MauiCounty.

Molokai Ranch expects that a hearing by the Molokai Planning Commission will occur at the end of the first quarter of 2007. Estimated starting date for construction is February 2008, with completion in February 2009.

"The idea is to share the best of Molokai with the visitors—casual, comfortable and cultural," says John Sabas, general manager for community affairs with Molokai Properties Ltd.

Lodging at the Kaluakoi Hotel

Guests staying at the refreshed resort will see a new emphasis on Molokai's history and culture.

Indeed, says Sabas, the history of the hotel's specific location has been taken into account during the planning of the redesign. "The story of the adze cultivation will be displayed," Sabas explains. "Indigenous and endemic plants known to have grown in this area are featured in the landscaping, not only of the hotel, but throughout the golf course as well."

As for what improvements returning guests are most likely to notice, Sabas gives the nod to both tangibles and intangibles. Plans call for the addition of a spa and a pool, he notes.

"The biggest improvement in the hotel is the overwhelming feeling of old Hawaii," Sabas says. "True kamaaina living will be incorporated into the expanded lanais, local artwork, open-air design and interiors filled with cultural artifacts reflective of the history of the Kaluakoi ahupuaa (traditional land division)."

Fish ponds at sunrise on the southeast coast of Molokai

The new pool and its expansive deck will provide panoramic views of Kepuhi, a surfing beach, he says. Existing lanai space will be incorporated into the hotel rooms, and new lanais will be created. Room interiors will be completely overhauled, the lobby will be renovated and the restaurant will be remodeled, he says.

"The spa will be designed to offer locally inspired treatments and therapies that are reminiscent of Molokai's history of healing," Sabas adds. The company also is looking at adding a bar near the golf course.

Getting back to the property's roots also will be part of the renovation. "We have retained a Hawaiian cultural consultant who will assist in the selection of interior finishes and artwork that are of cultural significance to the area and island," Sabas says. "Indigenous plants will be brought back to the property as part of our landscape plan.

"Our cultural advisor is actively assisting the design process from interior finishes to the vision that permeates the service, educational programs, guest activities and spa treatments," Sabas adds.

Molokai Ranch currently operates the Lodge and BeachVillage at Molokai Ranch, which comprises 40 beachfront canvas "tentalow" bungalows and 22 rooms in an upcountry lodge.

Molokai Ranch owns more than 60,000 acres on Molokai, more than one-third of the island's 166,000 acres. The company conducted more than 120 public meetings with community and other groups to develop a plan for the ranch's acreage that would reflect the wishes of the community. The result is the Community-Based Master Land Use Plan for Molokai Ranch.

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