Mark Gantt | February 17, 2020 | Lifestyle
After a multiphase multimillion-dollar renovation, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa reemerges as a Hawaiian island gem.
Every evening at sunset, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa continues the 55-year tradition of the cliff dive ceremony, honoring the last chief of Maui, Kahekili.
When a 56-year-old gets a face-lift, watch out, world. They’ll emerge with renewed enthusiasm, a sense of verve and a readiness to try new things. They’ll shake up the status quo. The same can be said of Hawaii’s beloved historic Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa (room rates from $309 per night, suite rates from $559 per night, marriott.com), which recently finished the second phase of a multimillion-dollar renovation.
In 1963, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Lahaina on Maui was the first of its kind to open in Ka‘anapali and had the well-heeled and celebs like Bing Crosby seeking respite from bustling Waikiki. They opted instead for 23 untouched oceanfront acres at Pu’u Keka’a, where brave local cliff divers were known to jump 300 feet into the sea.
The resort completed a $26.5 million renovation of its 508 guest rooms and suites in July 2018.
To give perspective, there was only one other resort nearby at the time. Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa was remote and luxurious, and only the who’s who had this part of Maui on their radar. How’s that for Crosby’s stellar travel agent sussing out true exclusivity on the Valley Isle? These days, the resort no longer flies under the radar and has earned a reputation the world over as one of the grande dames of the island.
First on the reno list? The hotel set about completing a $26.5 million update to its 508 guest rooms and suites. This past December, guests arrived to find a completely reimagined open-air reception area that now delivers an extra dose of “wow” upon arrival. Stroll the expansive lanai and viewing deck that overlooks Ka‘anapali Beach in all directions. A renovated lobby bar and cafe, a lounge and an ‘ohana (family) game room were also introduced.
Black Rock, fronting the resort, is home to one of the top snorkel spots on Maui, with an array of tropical marine life, including honu (green sea turtle).
Local firm AHL, formally Architects Hawaii Limited, helmed the transformation, and brought in calming coastal tones of blue, gray and tan for the interiors. Artwork in the rooms was curated by native Hawaii artist Kristie Fujiyama Kosmides. The culture and island landscapes of Maui, Lanai and Molokai are represented in all levels of design and decor. Plus, the wood and rock that AHL incorporated into the design lend an authentic texture and a nod to Maui’s natural environs.
“The reimagined lobby will be the heart of the resort,” says Tetsuji Yamazaki, the hotel’s longtime general manager. “We think it will be West Maui’s new favorite gathering place.” We see that happening too: There’s trendy communal seating and live entertainment in the lobby lounge to woo even the shiest of guests to come out and mingle.
Also native to the area is a sunset cliff diving ceremony that honors Kahekili, Maui’s final ruler before the islands were unified by Kamehameha. Kahekili was known to indulge in lele kawa—an extreme form of cliff diving from heights of at least 300 feet. The tradition continues every evening, and guests of Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa can sip mai tais and feast on pupu (appetizer) platters at its Cliff Dive Bar while watching these brave souls light all the torches on the property before leaping into the deep blue below. The ancient people believed the souls of their ancestors could jump from these cliffs into the spirit world and not return. It’s an understandable idea once you grasp how stunning the water is on this side of the island.
All guest rooms at the resort are equipped with private lanais—with a large majority boasting an ocean view—but the Ali’i Suite (from $3,500 per night), the hotel’s version of a presidential suite, is truly epic. It feels as if an actual president (perhaps Hawaiian-born former President Barack Obama?) could have thrown his inauguration party on the expansive lanai, which wraps around two sides of the suite and onto the sprawling lawn, and it still wouldn’t have felt crowded.
The Ali’i Suite sits secluded on its own—high on a hill on the quieter side of the cove overlooking the ocean. The lagoon-style pool in the distance is only a short walk away; the new poolside cabana service makes the entire experience feel even more VIP. There’s a Dinner Under the Stars program ($195 per person) as well, during which the hotel sets up a romantic gourmet meal for two with a private butler at whichever of the resort’s beautiful locations suits your fancy. I opt for a sunset smattering of small globally influenced share plates at ROCKsalt. The menu offers a worldly experience with everything from hamachi fry with kimchi to street corn with tajin cilantro butter to Brazilian cheese bread to lobster tail with Asian noodles within reach—no passport required.
To burn off all that delicious cuisine, take advantage of the resort’s long list of activities, including aqua gliders, snorkeling in the bay (you’re likely to spot a sea turtle), a helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, catamaran sailing, zip lining through the treetops, or a private or group surf lesson. The concierge and water sports teams can set you up with whatever fitness whim strikes you. Admittedly, my inner child (and maybe the overstressed adult too) simply loves spending the day by the pool. Put a Maui Brewing Co. lager in your hand; float for an hour in a meandering tube; and the memory of an overflowing inbox melts away.
And, like the hotel itself, after a few days being in the ocean, lounging by the pool and visiting The Spa at Black Rock, you may feel like you’ve had a face-lift on your whole outlook on life. Filled with a new zeal and vitality, you’ll come at the world with renewed enthusiasm.
Photography by: Courtesy of Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa