The glamorous enclave of Kapalua sits on Maui’s lush northwest coast, about a 20-minute drive from the bustling town of Lahaina. This manicured quarter of West Maui is renowned for its luxury resorts, golf courses, upscale restaurants, pristine beaches, and breathtaking scenery. Yet, while the opulent resorts that stud the coastline might be the focal point of Kapalua today, the region is steeped in agricultural and Hawaiian spiritual history. And if you look hard enough, the evidence of days passed is palpable.
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The Kapalua as we know it today was born from agricultural roots. It began in 1836 when Reverend Dr. Dwight Baldwin settled on Maui after 17 years of missionary service on the islands. He began to acquire land in the Kapalua area, and by 1902 his property grew to 24,000 acres- thus, the Honolua Ranch was born. A generation later, his son, the eminent H.P. Baldwin, recognized the area’s agricultural potential. With the help of Scottish horticulturist D.T. Flemming, the pair planted acres of coffee, taro, aloe, and mango, as well as the lofty cook pines that still stand in Kapalua today. Eventually, pineapple dominated the area, and the ranch transitioned to Honolua Plantation.
Decades later, H.P. Baldwin’s great grandson-in-law, Colin Cameron, began to recognize Kapalua as a sanctuary for both man and nature. Subsequently, he dreamed up the first hotel in the area, the Kapalua Resort. After that, in partnership with his father’s company, Maui Land and Pineapple, Cameron donated 9,000 acres of land in the West Maui Mountains to the Nature Conservancy in 1992. Today the conservation area is the Puʻu Kukui Preserve and serves as the pristine, untouched backdrop for Kapalua.
Prior to Kapalua’s agricultural era, the region was revered by Hawaiians for its spiritual energy. Amid the luxuriant resorts and villas that dot Kapalua today are several wahi panas, Hawaiian sacred sites. A large burial site dating back to 850 AD occupies the oceanfront land fronting the Ritz Carlton. Nearby, a rocky point that juts into the ocean is said by Hawaiians to be a vortex- a location central to the traditional life cycle belief of birth, life, death, and reincarnation. The point is believed to be where one’s mana, spiritual energy, leaves this world and journeys to the underworld.
Today, Kapalua remains a place perched between heaven and earth and serves as a paradisiacal escape for visitors and residents alike.
Around sunset, there is no better place to be than Ka’anapali Beach. Enjoy stunning sunset views as the sun settles near the neighboring island of Lanai. If you look closely, you may be able to see the green flash!
Montage Kapalua Bay
Situated on 24 acres of prime coastal land, Montage Kapalua Bay is a polished resort dripping in luxury amenities. This luxury resort provides 1-to-4-bedroom accommodations, complete with spacious kitchens, full bathrooms with oversized bathtubs, and covered furnished lanais. The expansive property is home to spilling infinity pools, a 5-acre luxuriant spa, award-winning restaurants and bars, a kids club, the spectacular Cliff House venue, and the resort’s own Sunset Luau. The resort is near Kapalua Bay, Kapalua Coastal Trail, and world-renowned golf courses.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
The sweeping grounds at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua overlook the buttery golden sands at D.T. Fleming Beach Park and world-famous Honolua Bay. This five-star luxury resort sits on 54 verdant acres and features two rolling golf courses, six on-site restaurants, esteemed tennis facilities, a spacious pool area, and a luxury spa. The accommodations range from one to two-bedroom residences and suites, boasting partial or full kitchens, soaking tubs, covered lanais, and island-inspired decor.
Nestled into clusters in Kapalua’s undulating coastal hills, the Kapalua Villas are some of Maui’s most lavish vacation condos. The villas sit in a collection of three villages- the Kapalua Bay Villas, Kapalua Ridge Villas, and Kapalua Golf Villas. The spacious units span 1-3 bedroom upscale condos with full kitchens, washer/dryers, and stunning views. In addition, each village features a pool area and boasts close access to nearby beaches, golf courses, and restaurants. Here are a few units worth checking out: 21-B2 and 12-T1.
Cane and Canoe
Located at Montage Kapalua Bay, the award-winning Cane and Canoe restaurant serves casual island-inspired breakfast eats and chef-curated upscale dinners. At breakfast, you’ll find tropical bites like pineapples stuffed with fresh fruit, pancakes topped with macadamia nuts and toasted coconut, and malasadas. At night, a menu of steak, seafood, and locally harvested vegetables takes hold. With ocean views, an excellent wine list, and tasteful traditional Hawaiian decor, Cane and Canoe has become a Kapalua fixture.
Spearheaded by chef/restauranteur Peter Merriman, Merriman’s Kapalua treats diners to a fresh feast in an elegant beachfront setting. The menu features fresh fish, seafood, meat, and produce- 90% of which are locally caught or harvested using sustainable methods. The delectable dining here is accompanied by an extensive wine list, creative cocktail menu, and impeccable service.
Inventive cocktails and Italian eats are the hallmarks of this Kapalua establishment. Led by executive chef Roger Stettler, guests delight in fresh Italian dishes like homemade pasta and woodfired pizza. Taverna offers brunch and dinner and boasts outdoor seating with expansive views of golf course greens, the ocean, and the West Maui Mountains.
Sansei is one of Maui’s most esteemed sushi restaurants, known for its colorful sushi creations and new-age Asian-inspired dishes. What’s more, Sansei is also acclaimed for its wine list and lauded for its late-night weekend karaoke.
KAPALUA POINTS OF INTEREST
Luxury at its finest is found at Spa Montage Kapalua Bay. Situated on five acres of tranquil oceanfront land, Spa Montage features an extensive array of Hawaiian-inspired therapies. The pristine facilities boast outdoor treatment rooms with showers and stone soaking tubs, an infinity pool, a large fitness center, a hydrotherapy oasis, a movement studio for wellness classes, and a salon.
The Sunset Luau at Montage Kapalua Bay
Once exclusive to resort guests, visitors are welcome to enjoy The Sunset Luau at the Montage Kapalua Bay. Unlike most resort luaus, The Sunset Luau is characterized by a small guest list (no more than 40), 3-course family-style dining, complimentary welcome Mai Tais, and authentic Polynesian entertainment.
Nestled between lava outcroppings, the palm tree-fringed Kapalua Bay is famous for snorkeling, kayaking, or simply basking in the sun. In 2018, Kapalua Bay was named ‘Best Beach in the World’ by Dr. Beach at USA Today.
Known for its white sand and fast-breaking surf, Oneloa Beach is a favorite local among locals. The location is popular for small wedding ceremonies, elopements, and photoshoots.
DT Flemming Beach
Fronting the Ritz-Carlton, the large strip of sand at this county beach park is ideal for long beach days. Swimming is advisable when the water is calm, but this beach is known for whomping shore breaks in the winter months. D.T. Flemming is equipped with restrooms, showers, and lifeguard services.
Located in the hills high above Kapalua, Kapalua Zipline is Maui’s largest all-dual zipline course- meaning riders ride parallel to each other on every line. The course spans a total of 8,500ft of lines, and guests can choose between four-line or six-line adventures. Kapalua Zipline is also home to the largest suspension bridge in Hawaii.
A few miles beyond the glamorous resorts at Kapalua is Honolua Bay, a world-class surfing and snorkeling spot. When the waves are flat, visitors flock to the bay’s resplendent waters to explore the teeming reef. Strong northern swells transform the bay into an esteemed surf break in the winter months.
The Cliff House
Suspended over the water at Namalu Bay, the historic Cliff House is a 500 sq ft venue rental managed by Montage Kapalua Bay. This breathtaking venue is perfect for smaller wedding ceremonies, cocktail receptions, corporate events, or casual barbecues.
Honolua Store is a remnant of plantation days, constructed in 1929. Today it serves as a deli and store selling souvenirs, a small collection of groceries, and sundries.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a 2.5-mile walkway that meanders along the coast- from the sands at Kapalua Bay, along the dunes at Oneloa Beach, ending at the rocky point fronting the Ritz-Carlton. The popular trail is an excellent place for a morning run or evening walk and boasts fantastic scenic views.
Helewai EcoTours Hike
Helewai EcoTours brings guests along a two-mile guided nature hike into the untouched Pu’u Kukui Nature Preserve. With exclusive access to the preserve, witness an unspoiled Hawaiian rainforest brimming with native plants.
Lake Loop Trail
Another steep trek, the Lake Loop Trail totals 3.5 miles, traveling uphill to a duck pond. Located just above the Ritz-Carlton, the Lake Loop Trail is a popular hike among dog-walking locals and tourists looking to get some exercise.
Mahana Ridge Trail
The Mahana Ridge Trail is an arduous trek that ascends thousands of feet into the West Maui Mountains. Round trip, this out and back trail clocks in at 9.2 miles. Portions of the trail are unmaintained, and halfway is the typical turnaround spot. Come prepared with water, sun protection, snacks, and a camera- the views are stunning.