Perched on 49 lush tropical acres with palm trees, ocean breezes and beach views, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Hawaiian roots run deep. The luxury Maui resort maintains the Honokahua Preservation Site—a recognized “wahi pana” (sacred site) or the resting place of 2,000 Hawaiian ancestors. And the hotel is devoted to honoring Hawaiian culture. From the annual Celebration of the Arts festival to a spa featuring treatments based on native practices, discover how the aloha spirit is alive and thriving at the property.
CELEBRATION OF THE ARTS
The resort’s dedication to Hawaiian culture is perhaps most evident with its annual event the Celebration of the Arts. Since 1992, the hotel has brought together Hawaii’s most reputable artisans, educators, cultural practitioners, speakers and entertainers to celebrate islands’ history and culture with resort guests and locals alike, through traditional ceremonies, music and dance performances, local cuisine, film screenings, hands-on art demonstrations and speaker panels.
After meditating on my own worries, I let a few waves crash over my entire body before heading back to the beach where the ceremony closed with a few final chants.
This April, we were guests of resort and enjoyed the festival, which is a very good reason to book a trip for next April now. The festival kicked off with a traditional Hiuwai and E ala E ceremony. Every participant gathered just before sunrise at 5:30 a.m. near the property’s Honokahua Beach or D.T. Fleming Beach. Before heading into the water, a practitioner told us to let whatever might be weighing us down literally wash away in the sea. After meditating on my own worries, I let a few waves crash over my entire body before heading back to the beach where the ceremony closed with a few final chants. As we walked back to collect our belongings, a light mist started falling and a rainbow appeared.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
After some rest following an early start, we headed back inside the hotel to watch the Ka Wai a Kane ceremony. During this time, Hawaiian practitioners and hotel executives sat on sacred mats while they pledged to promote Hawaiian culture. Each participant pledged and sipped water that was poured out of a long bamboo stalk—an inspiring site to behold. Next up, the festival’s Wehe ke ipuka or a welcome ceremony that took over the hotel’s main entrance. Hawaiian practitioners walked down the hotel’s main hallway, chanting as a way to ask for permission to participate in the Celebration of the Arts.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
Then it was time for the main part of the festival with hands-on arts and demonstrations. Located throughout the hotel’s ground floor in and around the ballrooms, guests could find a variety of vendors that brought a kind of buzzing energy throughout the hotel. In the hallway, one watercolorist was helping children make their own creations. A few “konane” boards or “Hawaiian checker boards” were set up. A tattoo artist was even working with clients in one corner. One afternoon, a group performed traditional hula dancing right beside the table. One vendor created gorgeous dresses that could be worn in multiple styles. Another made artificial hair flowers I spotted many women wearing.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
“I wanted to keep that aloha spirit.”
“It’s so nice to participate and be part of the community,” says Kathleen Alexander, a watercolorist who was the hotel’s “Meet the Artist.” Alexander was sitting outside the property’s on-site The Village Gallery, where her work was also displayed. She was painting a photograph she took of an orchid she took at one of Maui’s national parks. She moved to the island from the San Francisco Bay area after visiting many times. “I wanted to keep that aloha spirit,” she says.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
And no celebration would be complete without a few parties. The Celebration of Island Tastes is one of the largest Hawaiian luaus you could ever attend. Held underneath a tent just outside of the entrance of the property, guests were treated to drinks and Hawaiian BBQ fare like kalua pork, poi or rice, sweet potato pulled from the imu or underground oven and chicken with long rice and haupia. An artist and a local high school choir performed too. “Their voices sound like angels,” says Clifford Nae’ole, Cultural Advisor to The Ritz-Carlton brand who co-founded the Celebration of the Arts Festival, told me during the show. He was right.
BANYAN TREE RESTAURANT
It’s worth noting that the restaurant’s signature fine dining restaurant, Banyan Tree, has been relaunched. Chef Isabelle Toland is leading the kitchen and bringing her French and Filipino roots to the table. Diners can look forward to traditional Hawaiian recipes that have been reimagined with Mediterranean cooking techniques.
We were treated to a preview before the spot officially re-opened in June. We kicked off with custom cocktails, and then we enjoyed platter after platter of delicious food. One memorable libation included the tart, bright pink cocktail the Hibiscus High Tide—made with Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon juice, Lillet Rose, hibiscus raspberry syrup and egg white. Food highlights included the freshest Ahi I’ve ever tasted, Ginataan or spicy coconut seafood stew and cuts of New York strip steak served with lettuce cups. The meal ended with a miniature pound cake-like dessert and a tasty, natural digestif: ginger tea.
Water features abound throughout the property’s on-site spa. Think curved walls, a water-wall and a wet lounge. After my lomilomi massage—based on the Hawaiian concept of working with body, spirit and mind—I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing. I’d lounge by the spa’s private outdoor Jacuzzi as I felt the warm sunshine and constant cool Hawaiian breeze against my skin. Then I’d head back inside to the wet lounge featuring a heated whirlpool, a eucalyptus steam room and sauna to heat up. And just repeat the cycle for the most relaxing way to cap off a trip to Maui. But I can’t leave out one final detail that you’d swear I’d made up if it weren’t totally true: Post-treatment, the massage therapist asked me to pick a card out of a basket. Mine read “Hoopomaikai.” In Hawaiian, it means “blessed.”
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: BILLIONAIRE ISLAND LANAI
With its blue waters and lush tropical setting, Maui makes for one gorgeous place to spend a day in the water. And what better way to spend an afternoon in paradise than by stand-up paddleboarding? Grab a paddle, stand up on your board and appreciate the sea, sky and this stunning Hawaiian island. Here are four places on Maui where you can paddleboard.
Ka'anapali Surf Club
KA’ANAPALI SURF CLUB
The 90-minute stand-up paddleboarding classes kick off with a 20-minute beach lesson, where you’ll learn proper technique and all about water safety and etiquette. Next, you’ll hit the water for about an hour. Ka’anapali Surf Club also offers professional photography services for purchase, if you want to have lasting keepsakes of your time on the water.
MAUI STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING
Maui Stand Up PaddleBoarding is devoted to being eco-friendly. All of its instructors and guides are certified Marine Naturalists. Choose to launch a paddleboard from West or South Maui. In West Maui, anticipate breathtaking vistas of West Maui Mountains and coastline, islands Kaho’olawe and Lana’. Launch your board in South Maui in the waters of Makena Landing. This spot beckons with pristine waters, Turtle Town, reef structures, lava tubes and underwater caves.
SHERATON MAUI RESORT & SPA
If you don’t need a lesson, consider heading to the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. The Sheraton has access to the pristine Ka’anapali Beach and the bright blue Pacific. Visit the Water Sport Rental Desk to pick up a few paddleboards before you hit the water. Pro tip: it’s best to head out early in the morning when the wind and water is calm, making for smoother, easier paddling.
HAWAIIAN PADDLE SPORTS
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers two-hour private stand-up paddleboarding lessons from south Maui’s Makena Bay, which is also known as Turtle Town. But besides spotting plenty of the aforementioned creatures, you’ll also get to enjoy relatively calm waters as South Maui is blocked from the winds in the mornings. While you’re taking in island views all around, be sure to look down when you’re SUP-ing. You wouldn’t want to miss seeing tropical fish of all stripes under the sea.
If you’re searching for other beautiful places around the world where you can paddleboard, ICONIC LIFE has the scoop.