Elegant Hawaii: Two Bases for Exploring Maui and Lanai

Hawaii at times feels surreal; its natives have a culture all their own and the tropical setting is unlike anything you’ll find on the mainland — and yet it all comes with the familiarity of a domestic vacation.

Luxury Travel Advisor has just scoped out two classic ultra-luxury properties: The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Here’s what we have to say…

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua works well for both couples and families. In the Napili Wing, there are newly renovated guestrooms and suites, as well as The Ritz-Carlton Club Level (a hotel within a hotel-type section), while the Honolua Wing houses the resort’s Residential Suites. The former section is better for couples, while the latter is best for families. We’re told the major difference in guest makeup is time of year: Families are more prevalent during summer and holidays, while couples make up the majority during the school year. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Ritz-Carlton Suite has two spacious balconies with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

We enjoyed our Deluxe Ocean View Room, but for the best vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the island Moloka’i, the top choices are the Ritz-Carlton Suite, the Royal Pacific Suite or the Ocean Front Suites or Residences. The Ritz-Carlton Suite has one bedroom and plenty of space. We really liked the walk-in closets, separate shower and bath in the marble master bathroom, the 55-inch TVs in the living room and master bedroom, and the two spacious balconies looking directly toward the water, perfect for relaxing during sunset after a long day. On the opposite end of the property, the Royal Pacific Suite has two king bedrooms, a large balcony with ocean views, a fully equipped kitchen, a separate living and dining room and more. 

To help find the right accommodation, contact Tori Tenorio ([email protected]), sales manager, travel industry. Note: The property is several hundred yards from the beach, so no rooms offer “direct” access. A short downhill stroll brings you to the beach — and if you don’t want to make the walk back up, shuttles are there to give your legs a rest.

In the middle of the “U” shape that makes up the public spaces and guestrooms are three tiered pools. The top tier, nearest the seven cabanas, is for adults only. Lower pools are for all ages. Tip: Just past the lowest pool is a jungle gym, which is great for young children. A handful of Jacuzzis surround the pools, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find similar travelers, if not one that’s completely open.

Shelly Snyder ([email protected]), the concierge manager, can help customize any experience, from helicopter tours of the island to scavenger hunt-style proposals. Maui has fantastic sea life, and we definitely recommend getting in the water — whether it’s for a boat ride, snorkeling or scuba diving. 

Activities within the Kapalua resort include golfing, zip lining and several beaches (such as Kapalua Bay and DT Fleming Beach). Kapalua is also home to several restaurants. The complimentary resort shuttle can transport guests to these locations. Just north of the resort is the Nakalele Blow Hole and the world-famous surf spot, Honolua Bay. Tip: The cliffs above offer a great vantage point to watch the surfers if that’s more your speed.

For a relaxing afternoon, we say hit up the spa. There are 15 treatment rooms, including two outdoor couple’s hales. The most-requested treatments are the Tropical Awa Nui Journey, which includes a full-body exfoliation, body wrap, Lomilomi massage, scalp massage and foot treatment, and the Deep Cleansing Organic Facial, an all-natural facial experience using high concentrations of vitamins and rejuvenating properties from fruits, vegetables and herbs to promote a glowing complexion. Couples, however, should consider the Hawaiian Herbal Embrace for Two, an “all-encompassing tropical embrace.” It includes a Hawaiian herbal essence body exfoliation and detoxifying hydrotherapy bath soak to energize, hydrate and revive you. We didn’t have the opportunity to test out the spa, but others in our group all had glowing responses — and skin.

Be sure to book a week or two in advance. Tenorio can also handle spa bookings.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua has three tiered pools; the top tier is for adults only, while the lower pools are for all ages. 

One on-site activity you must experience is the Dragon’s Teeth Labyrinth. Just a quick walk from the resort is a formation of rocks and grass on a small peninsula. The “Dragon’s Teeth” are upwards-facing lava formations, and the “labyrinth” is a crop circle-like design on the ground. It’s a popular spot, so we say head down first thing in the morning to enjoy the setting as the sun rises.

The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua offers five dining options: A breakfast-only restaurant, a lobby bar and café, a beachside Burger Shack and a poolside eatery serving tequila cocktails, tacos, Buddha bowls and more. Both the burgers and tacos were top-notch. 

While the concierge team can arrange airport transportation, we suggest getting a rental car. The drive from the airport to the resort is about 50 minutes, but a car will allow you to go out and explore the island on your own, should you choose (and you should choose it).

For eco-conscious travelers, the resort’s Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program offers activities for guests of all ages. This family-friendly program introduces guests to the natural wonders and cultural traditions of Hawaii.

During our stay, we had the opportunity to day-trip to Lanai where we got a glimpse of the impressive Four Seasons Resort Lanai. (We sailed aboard the catamaran Trilogy; see their website, www.sailtrilogy.com, for its numerous tour offerings and day trips.) The Alii Suite, the top accommodation at the resort, is stunning. It’s a two-bedroom suite with an open-concept living and dining space, a formal sitting area, a media room, a library and three open-air lanais, which have ocean views. Tip: The terrace off the living space had two pairs of binoculars set up on tripods, which can be used for spotting the island’s famous spinner dolphins in the bay.

We’re told that the most-requested premium accommodations are the Four Seasons Prime Ocean Front Studio Suite and Ohana Prime Ocean Front Suites. Both have a king bed, Pacific Ocean views and a 75-inch LED TV.

Tip: All Specialty Suites, which includes the Alii Royal Suite, Hulopo’e and Kapiha’a Presidential Suites, Manele and Makai Suites, and Palawai Suite, offer butler service.

General manager Alastair McAlpine ([email protected]) tells us, much like The Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons has a mix of couples and families, with the majority depending on what time of year it is. 

Joseph Bell ([email protected]), travel industry sales manager, West Coast, Western Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Asia / Pacific; Kristy Daley ([email protected]), senior travel industry sales manager, East Coast, Eastern Canada and Europe and Ashlea Varca ([email protected]), senior travel industry sales manager, Mid-West, South East, Mexico and Latin America, should be contacted for reservations.

Book at least three to six months in advance.

The 2,560-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Suite, which has separate living and dining rooms.

For golfers, the Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course is an absolute must. Each hole offers ocean views — although the top views are from the tees of Holes 12 and 17. We really enjoyed putting our swing up to the Trackman test. The monitor tracks the distance the ball traveled, its spin rate, the launch angle, the angle of contact and much, much more. The verdict? We need more practice. Your contact is Scott Ashworth ([email protected]), director of golf. 

Four Seasons has a team of Lanai Ambassadors who can help arrange land and sea activities, such as private boat charters, horseback rides or guided hikes paired with al fresco lunch options, or fishing charters combined with dining under the stars featuring the catch of the day. A unique experience is the learn to fly package with Maui Flight Academy; guests can actually learn to fly a plane and, if you book a weeklong package, can even earn a student pilot license during a visit (with some homework before arriving).

At the Hawanawana Spa, the top treatment is the Hawanawana Massage, although the Lanai Lomi Lomi and the new Sports Massage Series are also very popular. For wraps and facials, ask for Rita; for massages, Kino, Jason and Tomomi are all great picks. Certain treatments are available in-room or poolside. Be sure to book at least two weeks in advance. We liked new 1,100-square-foot yoga studio, which offers a variety of complimentary yoga and wellness classes, as well as aerial yoga (which makes for a great group experience).

Dining at the Four Seasons is knock-out. Teppanyaki at Nobu Lanai is very popular: Parties from two to eight can book the teppan table for their exclusive use and Chef Hung prepares a 15-course menu. There are two seatings each evening at 6 and 8 p.m. Tip: Book the table at least two weeks in advance, and even further ahead of time during holidays. Dining Under the Stars is a very popular private dining experience, which starts with a chef consultation the day prior.

There is also a poolside restaurant and bar, a steak and seafood venue, a golf course restaurant, and a sports bar and grill.

Guests should sail on the Lanai, the resort’s 50-foot catamaran (available for sunset or snorkel sails) or go fishing or scuba diving on the new fishing boat, Lanai V. Another option? Renting a jeep and off-roading on red dirt trails before stopping at Lanai City to grab a poke bowl at Richard’s Market and eating in Dole Park, followed by a stroll through town. Don’t miss a stop at Lanai Culture and Heritage Center to learn about the island’s history, including its time as one of the world’s largest pineapple plantations.

Four Seasons Resort Lanai’s two-bedroom Alii Suite has an open-concept living and dining space, a formal sitting area and three open-air lanais.

Lanai Air, a luxury air charter service offering daily private flights between Honolulu, Maui, Hawaii Island and Lanai City, is the way to arrive. Parties as small as two can book the entire aircraft for their own journey. Guests can bypass the airport wait from their international, mainland or inter-island flights and enjoy flexible, daily service on Pilatus PC-12 aircraft operated by Mokulele Airlines, along with a private escort to the charter terminal and streamlined boarding and departure. Contact Lanai Air at 833-486-8397 or [email protected].

Luxury Travel Advisor enjoyed these properties while visiting for Journese's Curators Celebration, where it invited its top 25 advisors from the U.S. to experience one of its most popular destinations. For bookings through Journese, contact destination specialist Lauren Tavares, who accompanied the travel advisors during the Curators Celebration, at [email protected].

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