Everything but the Beach: The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua in Maui
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I set out for Hawaii a few weeks ago with an assignment to review both flights to and from Maui, as well as some of the top points properties on the island. After arriving in style in first class on board Hawaiian Airlines' new Airbus A321neo, it was time for the fun to continue with the first hotel I would stay at — the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
The Ritz sits on the western side of Maui, and it's one of several high-end points properties on the island. I was excited to enjoy a bit of luxury during my (gasp) first-ever stay at a Ritz property. As they say, first impressions are very important — did the Ritz-Carlton live up to its storied name?
I booked my stay through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts using the Platinum Card® from American Express to pay. Booking this way entitled me to several great perks, including early check-in at noon, late checkout, free breakfast for two and a $100 on-property credit. It also opened me up to the possibility of an upgrade from my deluxe resort-view room if any superior rooms were available. The two-night stay cost $1,138, not including a resort fee of $35 per day, which was tacked on to my folio at checkout. With the resort fee, I earned a total of 1,208 Membership Rewards points (worth about $23 according to TPG's latest valuations), as FHR stays aren't eligible for the card's 5x bonus category on hotels, which is only valid for prepaid hotel stays booked through amextravel.com.
This is a Category 7 property in the Marriott Bonvoy program, costing 60,000 points per night at the standard rate. Starting in 2019, off-peak and peak pricing will set in, at 50,000 points and 70,000 points per night, respectively.
I also earned a total of 16,800 Marriott Rewards points (13,040 base points plus a 3,260-point elite bonus for my Gold status through the Amex Platinum plus a 500-point bonus) for my two-night stay. Based on our valuations, those points are worth about $151.
It was almost an hour's drive from Maui's Kahului Airport (OGG) to the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, but that was mostly because the island's speed limit is rather low. It was a beautiful drive, passing picture-perfect beaches along the way. It was also an expensive one if you didn't have a rental car — $114 before tip with an airport taxi, compared to the $178 fare Uber quoted me.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua itself was also stunning. Everywhere you looked, it was lush, green landscape, from the West Maui Forest Reserve in the distance to the Plantation golf course right next door.
As soon as I arrived, the Ritz-Carlton staff greeted me, and at the check-in desk I was offered fresh fruit juice and a necklace of puka shells. Everyone I interacted with was friendly, asking me where I was from and wishing me a great stay.
The early check-in courtesy of my Amex FHR booking came in handy, as my flight from Portland landed around 10:45am and I was at the hotel by noon. Not only was my room ready right away, but I was upgraded (just as I'd hoped!) thanks to my FHR booking. The check-in associate explained my upgraded room was a Garden View Residence Suite. She explained the $100 on-property credit I'd enjoy thanks to my FHR booking and gave me an overview of the property's features, including the restaurants, pools and spa.
"Residence" was about right — when I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a full kitchen with an island.
And beyond that was a spacious living room with a balcony.
The suite's windows looked out on the beautiful greenery of the golf course and the hills beyond that.
The bedroom was spacious, too, with a king bed that was incredibly comfortable — it was by far the best sleep I had of all three hotels I reviewed in Maui.
There was also another balcony, a desk and a seating area.
The bathroom was also large, with a standalone bathtub.
It had a separate shower — high marks for that!
Toiletries were courtesy of Asprey, and there were plenty of cotton pads and Q-tips.
There was also a spacious closet with a safe.
Overall, this room setup would be perfect for travelers staying for an extended period who don't want to eat out for every meal. The kitchen was fully stocked with everything you'd need to prepare meals.
While I didn't cook at all during my stay, I did make use of the fridge to store leftovers from room service.
Food and Beverage
I was lazy after a long travel day and decided to order room service for my first meal on the property. It did not disappoint — I got a beautiful tomato salad with pesto, avocado and mozzarella and a side of fries. The salad was really, really good and really pretty, too.
My mom joined me later that day, and we headed to the Alaloa Lounge, overlooking the beautiful pools below, for a celebration drink. Both drinks were steep — my mai tai was $18 and not even that strong, and my mom's vodka martini was $17.
We ended up getting room service one more time during our stay.
My mom got the pesto pappardelle pasta ($25) and I got the kid's mac and cheese ($13) because I have the palate of an 8-year-old and I embrace it. Both were very tasty. We also got a bottle of Nautilus sauvignon blanc, which retails for about $14 but cost us $66 (#resortliving).
Breakfast, which was included for two with my booking, was a beautiful buffet spread, served in a restaurant overlooking the pools and the water beyond them. The price for the buffet breakfast was $42.
The buffet had everything from tropical pastries to fruit to an omelet bar.
The Ritz-Carlton sat right next to a village of shops and restaurants in Kapalua, and on our second night we walked to the Pour House restaurant, which served Italian fare and had an extensive wine list. I'd definitely recommend it — our server was lovely, the owner was super friendly, and the food was very good.
Like many Hawaiian resorts, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua had multiple pools and jacuzzis.
I loved the extra touches like sunscreen pumps with takeaway plastic cups at the towel stations.
The pool was well-staffed, and servers came around several times to ask if I needed anything.
Though the pools and hot tubs were awesome and the decor, complete with thatched tiki umbrellas, was spot-on for a Hawaiian resort, I was less than impressed with the beach situation. To be fair, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua doesn't really bill itself as a beach resort — it's more about the golf course and the pools — but I personally want a great beach for swimming if I'm in Hawaii.
There was a beach and a beachfront casual burger restaurant about a five-minute walk from the pool complex, but due to its location on the island, it wasn't a picture-perfect blue-water beach — the waters looked choppy and muddy. Again, this isn't necessarily a deal breaker, and I did see several guests swimming here, but I personally would have preferred more of an emphasis on the beach and less of an emphasis on the golf course.
There was also a tennis court on the way to the beach. I saw a few guests using it during my stay, but it was never busy.
Since I had a $100 on-property credit, I booked a service at the spa. One of the cheapest (ha!) options I found was the Body Balancer, a 50-minute package that included a back massage, body scrub, scalp massage and hair treatment for $175. It was relaxing, and the woman who gave me the treatment even concocted a special aloe mix for me to treat a sunburn I irresponsibly got earlier that day.
After the treatment, I spent a bit of time in the jacuzzi-and-sauna area. (There were separate areas for men and women.) Overall, it was so relaxing and everyone was so friendly that I didn't feel that bad about paying about $200 (with tip and before the credit was applied). Also, upon checkout, the spa attendant told me my Body Balancer treatment came with a special gift pouch stocked with the Espa products used in my treatment. It was a sweet touch that topped off a nicely indulgent spa visit.
If access to a stereotypically perfect Hawaiian beach directly in front of your hotel isn't a must-have, it's hard to find fault with the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. The staff was incredibly friendly, our upgraded room was spacious and comfortable, and it was a lot of fun hanging out by the pools. Oh, and the spa was the bomb. And it's not like I felt misled about the beach situation at the Ritz — the website barely mentions the beach at all.
Given the luxe accommodations and the steep price of breakfast, this is a great property to book through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. The room upgrade and the on-property credit made this stay extra enjoyable.