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Maui Part III: Two Very Different Resorts

Sous Chef April Matsumoto delivers fresh-made garden smoothies at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

When I was invited to tour the organic culinary garden at the posh Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, where I was staying courtesy of the Maui tourism bureau, I was expecting a modest plot.

Not the spacious grove of paradise that the hotel has managed to create past the swimming pools and near the auxiliary tennis courts, which will soon be torn out to enlarge the garden.

Frank the gardener, who’s a former engineer, tends the lush swath fragrant with kaffir lime and lemongrass. All manner of herbs, greens, figs and citrus grow here. Flowers are planted all around, including a shrine of orchids, the blooms of which had been discarded by guests that Frank has then brought back to life. Butterflies flutter all around, landing here and there on the many blooms.

A paradise for people and nature.

The larger of two culinary gardens, which will expand to become even larger in the future.

Guests of the resort can enjoy herb garden tours on Mondays. The highlight is when Sous Chef April Matsumoto comes bounding down the garden path with a tray of smoothies for everyone. Made with many of the home-grown goodies from the garden, that morning’s smoothie was redolent of banana, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, kaffir lime, spinach, celery and cilantro.

By growing so many of its own herbs, the hotel saves about $30,000 annually, says Chef Ryan Urig. He’s got big plans for the space, too. Eventually, he hopes to do cooking demos in the garden, raise shrimp and fish aquaponically, and host wine dinners in the greenhouse.

Loco and Moco. Get it?

Near the garden is a sight not to be missed. That would be the resort’s pet pigs: Loco and Mocco. How adorable are they? They’re so popular, they even have their own Facebook page. But don’t worry. They are not destined to be the centerpiece of any luau. They’ll remain the resort’s mascots, living the good life.

I was much more in the mood for fish anyway. And I got that craving satisfied at the resort’s Kai Sushi restaurant.

Sake is served.

Tuna tatake at Kai Sushi.

Specialty rolls.

Forget lemon meringue; have yuzu meringue instead.

You’ll find all manner of sakes, specialty rolls, poke, short rib pot stickers and a tangy, decadent yuzu meringue tart.

Even after all that, I was more than up to tackling the breakfast buffet on the hotel’s Club Level the next morning. There are plenty of tables, both inside and outside on the terrace, as well as computers to conveniently print out boarding passes or to help plan your day of sightseeing.

Ritz-Carlton pools.

The room.

Choose from oatmeal, pastries, warm donuts, smoked salmon, bagels and any type of fancy espresso drink you desire at the press of a button on a super fancy coffee machine.

Papaya galore.

Jars of cookies, in case you’re in need of a snack.

I made a beeline for the papaya. I can never get enough of that tropical fruit when I’m in Hawaii. Let’s face it, the ones in California just don’t compare to these, which are so smooth, creamy and sweet. I filled my plate with the pinky-orange-fleshed wedges, smiling with every bite.


As a yoga neophyte, I admit I was a bit intimidated when I first heard that the folks at the Maui visitors and conventioner’s bureau had me scheduled for a stay at Lumeria, a luxurious new 6-acre zen-like retreat in Upcountry that offers free daily yoga classes, as well as meditation and healing sessions. It even has its own juice alchemist for those who want to embark on a detox cleanse. My husband was dubious when he heard there were no TVs in the rooms. (But there is Wi-Fi for those who absolutely must plug in.)

But even he began to appreciate the tranquil nature of this property, originally built in 1909 by the Baldwin sugar cane family. Over the years, it was variously a home for aging plantation workers, the military, women college students, and pineapple workers.

It had fallen into disrepair until noted architect Xorin Balbes happened to stumble upon an ad for the property on Craig’s List when he was looking to buy a home to eventually retire to on Maui. He found much more than he envisioned — a sweeping, historic property he couldn’t resist.

Balbes has designed many high-end private residences. But this was his first undertaking on a resort. And what a doozy it was.

It cost $8 million to complete. Because of Maui’s unique permitting process, he was given only a year to redo the place, too.

One of the main buildings at Lumeria.

The lawn where yoga classes are held.

When you see what he’s created, you’re left astonished at the time-frame he faced. The low-slung wooden buildings were pretty much completely rebuilt, but their simple, tropical plantation-style kept intact. It’s not an ostentatious, mega-resort like so many on Maui. Instead, it looks like it belongs here. It’s only 24 rooms, which will soon grow to 31 — but that’s it. Balbes wants to keep the property intimate in size.

There’s a culinary garden on-site, as well as lush pathways to meander around all manner of exotic flora. There are Buddha statues and healing crystals all around the serene property. The common buildings are bedecked with Moroccan light fixtures that give off a mystical glow.

Hammocks hang from trees, where you can lull away the time staring at the waves just off in the distance. You’re encouraged to doff shoes as you make your way around the property to explore or find your way to your room, where your toes are sure to feel pampered on the river-stone floor of the glassed-in shower.

One of the rooms.

The seclusion of the property fosters a sense of peacefulness. It also means guests usually retire early and wake up early. When you do, you’ll enjoy a free buffet breakfast in the resort’s low-key Harvest restaurant. There’s usually oatmeal, yogurt, granola and an assortment of house-baked pastries and breads. The restaurant, headed up by CIA-grad Chef Indica Chaves, also serves dinner with advance notice to guests, as well as the public.

Fresh papaya with yogurt and granola for breakfast.

A warm lemon poppy seed muffin and chocolate croissant.

A great way to get the blood flowing is to try your hand — and legs — at the morning yoga class, which takes place in the yoga studio or outside on the expansive lawn in nice weather. I did just that, two days in a row. And while I admit to wobbling a bit my first day attempting some poses, I managed triumphantly to get into a partial handstand on the second day — my first one ever.

A spinach salad as part of a three-course dinner at Harvest restaurant.

The property already has become a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts, writer’s retreats and paddle-board groups.

Made fresh daily, the juices can be enjoyed casually or as part of a detox cleanse program.

I can’t say it would have normally been my first thought as a place to stay on Maui. But I am so glad to have experienced it. Lumeria is quite special, a place where you’ll find any stress or troubles just melt away. You’ll leave relaxed and renewed — perhaps more so than you have in a very long time.

More: Maui’s Agriculture and Aquaculture

And: Q&A with Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle on Maui

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