In other words, they entirely missed the point of what the place is all about.
The hotel doesn't fit neatly into the mold of the conventional Hawaiian resort. It offers an entirely different ambience, appealing to wrung-out travelers with its seclusion, its simplicity and its gentle pace. A stay here delivers a blissful disconnect, if you're prepared to embrace the concept.
"People ask, 'Are you wireless?' " said general manager Doug Chang. "And I say, 'Yes, we're wireless. You won't find any in any of the rooms.' "
Indeed, no Internet hookup, no TV, no radio, no CD player ... no clock, for goodness sake.
"People check in with their laptops, they want to access their e-mail," Chang continued. "Later, they thank us (that they couldn't do so). You can see a total change in their persona. You have to go through a withdrawal from that."
This hotel is perfectly positioned for offering such an escape. Hana itself is a pleasantly isolated community on the southeast shore of Maui, reached by most tourists via the twisting, turning Hana Highway. The majority of visitors are day-trippers,
The hotel has only 66 rooms on 67 acres of grounds, with the land sloping gradually toward the ocean. Activities are in accordance with general decompression: yoga, ukulele lessons, lei-making classes, croquet, walks through a cattle pasture to a scenic overlook.
The Hotel Hana-Maui has benefited from this prime location throughout its nearly 60 years of existence, but it has become even more inviting since Bay Area entrepreneurs Michael Freed and Peter Heinemann - founders of Big Sur's peerless Post Ranch Inn - bought the hotel a few years ago and launched a thorough wave of renovations.
The hotel's Sea Ranch Cottages - plantation-style villas on a slope that sweeps toward the sea - were gutted and completely made over, their beige hues discarded for the bold tropical colors and textures found in Hawaiian kapa cloth. In our room, kapa cloth pieces were used like wallpaper in the bathroom, a stylish touch.
The offerings in the hotel dining room were overhauled, too, with executive chef John Cox coming over from the Post Ranch Inn's acclaimed Sierra Mar restaurant to introduce a marriage of Asian preparations with regional ingredients on a menu that changes daily.
The restaurant only serves fish caught locally, which is admirable, but when we endeavored to try two unfamiliar selections, kamanu and ehu, we were told the kitchen was already out of those two - at 7:30! On the fresh-catch list, that left us only with Hawaii's familiar mahi- mahi, though rarely had it tasted this good, roasted and served with carrots, beets and turnips.
Breakfast includes such unusual items as fresh-catch Benedict - the traditional Canadian bacon replaced with marlin one morning, ono another.
Despite being here in the middle of nowhere, the hotel's shopping is also surprisingly good, notably in a high-end art gallery, a couple of clothing boutiques with stylish island wear and a shop offering such local products as Maui herb soap.
Our room was comfortably appointed - to the extent of having a residential feel. The Hana blend whole-bean coffee was a nice touch, accompanied by a grinder, with half-and-half in the fridge. And rather than being nickel-and-dimed by a mini-bar, it was refreshing to find complimentary bottled water and an in-room basket of goodies: papaya, banana bread, snack mixes.
The cottages have ocean-view decks with comfortable loungers and whirlpool tubs, and sometimes it can be challenging to pry yourself away.
Guests who simply can't forgo TV and cyber access will find these activities confined to one location, the Club Room.
The resort also makes a bold statement by not equipping the rooms with clocks, but it's a little silly in a place where reservations are recommended for dinner and such offerings as spa treatments, yoga sessions and horseback rides are pegged to precise starting times. (I noticed that the massage therapists certainly had clocks in their treatment rooms.)
Although the Hotel Hana-Maui's laid-back vibe is glorious on many levels, the concept of the staff being on "Hawaii time" can take some getting used to.
Late one afternoon the shack at the infinity pool was shuttered. When we asked an employee about it, she informed us that the attendant "had to go to a mandatory meeting." So after a while there were no fresh towels and guests couldn't order food or drink (without picking up a nearby phone and enduring interminable waits for room service).
Also, though we don't feel strongly about turndown service, we found it peculiar that the housekeepers always arrived early, around 6:15 p.m., when we were readying for dinner, so we repeatedly had to turn down the turndown. Since the hotel has the only high-end restaurant in town, couldn't the maids have consulted the reservation list in advance?
But, again, travelers desiring all the trappings of a conventional Hawaii resort are missing the point of the Hotel Hana-Maui, where it's all about slowing down, loosing the network bonds and savoring simple moments.
We welcomed a downpour in the middle of the night, for example, because the roofs of the cottages are rippled fiberglass intended to resemble the corrugated tin of traditional plantation dwellings. Leave your iPod at home; what lovely music that rain produced.
- Eric Noland