This Oceanfront Maui Resort Just Got a $100-million Renovation — With New 'Fire Lanai' Rooms and an Emphasis on Indigenous Hawaiian Tradition

See inside the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua.

Aerial view of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

"My kuleana, or responsibility, is to pay attention to the culture and to bring the culture alive in the present, [in] the atmosphere of the hotel. So from the décor to our guest experiences, to our menus, and the artwork, everything is meant to tell a story," Clifford Nae'ole, the longtime cultural advisor of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, told me.

We were chatting at the breezy lanai of the resort's brand-new Club Lounge, dubbed the Anuenue Room (or the "rainbow room"). It's one of the property's new spaces that treats guests to exclusive programming like daily food presentations, and boasts stunning views of neighboring Moloka'i island and the resort's golf course.  

View looking out from a Lanai Collection guest room patio at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Nae'ole, a driving force behind the 30-year-old resort's recent top-to-bottom $100-million renovation, and one of Maui's most respected Hawaiian practitioners, had a say in everything in the redesigned Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua. From the local art lining the walls of the re-imagined lobby and guest rooms to the 22 new Fire Lanai rooms — a brand-new room category in the resort — and the sprawling outdoor pool area, each design element is rooted in Hawaiian history and culture.

"Our significant investment in The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, was centered around an enhanced, premium guest experience, with new amenities and sustainable property improvements that reflect the natural and cultural beauty of Hawaii," said Brian Kaufman, managing director at Blackstone Real Estate Partners, the resort's owner.

In a way, Hawaiian culture has marked The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, since its inception, so the approach behind the renovation is in sync with the hotel's unique location. In 1987, during excavations for the resort, workers discovered a burial ground where about 2,000 Hawaiians were laid to rest between 610 C.E. and 1800 C.E. The site was of monumental importance to the Hawaiian people, so plans for an oceanfront resort were scrapped, and The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua, was moved inland to become an ocean-view resort. The property now maintains the Honokahua Preservation Site, where native Hawaiians come to pay homage to their ancestors. The site also includes Makaluapuna Point, another spiritual spot where Hawaiians believe there is a vortex between our world and that of our ancestors.

"This location could never be duplicated," said Andrew Rogers, The Ritz-Carlton Maui's general manager. "The hotel was built on a piece of land that's very precious to the Hawaiian people. It has made us who we are today, and Hawaiian culture is just part of what we do."

View from the bathroom of a guest room and view from the guest room at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

From the moment guests enter the spacious updated lobby, they're immersed in local tradition, with elements like hand-carved wooden kapa panels symbolizing Nā Hono A Piʻilani, or the six bays surrounding the resort.

"Everything has a purpose. Hawaiians did not have a written language. Everything was spoken. Everything was artwork. Everything was dance," Nae'ole explained. "And so everything about the lobby says, welcome to a person of great importance."

The most dramatic upgrade was to the pool area, which now encompasses 10,000 square feet of outdoor space and features three infinity-edge pools connected by waterfalls inspired by nearby Makaluapuna Point. Guests who would like a little more privacy can also rent one of the seven new poolside cabanas with a flat-screen TV, lounge furniture, a refrigerator stocked with drinks, and pretty amazing views of the entire pool facilities.

Looking into a Lanai Collection guest room from the patio at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Another notable addition to the resort are the recently unveiled Fire Lanai rooms. Located on the ground floor of the Nāpili Tower, each space overlooks the bay and features an extended private lanai with a shaded trellis, a hammock, and a gas fire pit, all separated from neighboring rooms by lush native plants. Nae'ole worked with Honolulu-based interior design studio Philpotts Interiors to harmoniously blend elements of native culture with contemporary elegance and luxury. The modern lounge furniture is upholstered in soothing green and blue fabrics, reminiscent of the colors of the Pacific and Maui's mountains. Walls are lined with art by Hawaiian artisans using traditional kapa printing, which involves stamping hand-made bark paper with natural dyes.

Interior of a guest room at The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua

The resort has also enhanced its cultural activities. With walking tours to the border of the Honokahua Preservation Site (the site itself is closed to the general public) led by Nae'ole, self-guided art tours of the resort, and lei-making and hula-dancing classes, Nae'ole wants "to bring authenticity back to the experience of the guests." The resort also continues to develop its Ambassadors of the Environment program in cooperation with environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau by offering family-friendly hikes along the Maui coastline to introduce children and their parents to the island's endemic species.

Bringing travelers closer to nature and inspiring them to "take their footwear off, walk on the beach, and find themselves," according to Nae'ole, is an essential component of Hawaii's rich culture. For centuries before Captain Cook landed on the shores of Kauai in 1778, native Hawaiians lived in the most isolated archipelago on Earth, not just subsisting but thriving off the bounty of the ocean and the land. They developed a deep spiritual relationship with nature — and this new chapter of Ritz-Carlton Kapalua's story celebrates this connection.

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