How it used to be: The pineapple paradise of Kapalua
From an article by Horace Sutton – The Honolulu Advertiser (Hawaii) September 17, 1978
KAPALUA, Hawaii — It was a question of pineapples or people. That was the choice that faced Colin Cameron, the president of the Maui Land and Pineapple Company, which owns 30,000 rolling acres here on the northwestern limits of west Maui looking across the channel to the island of Molokai.
Cameron’s ancestors did not sail in the first canoes that came from Tahiti and Bora Bora, but his family has been here for six generations. He’s no knockabout either, but a product of Deerfield Academy and the Harvard Business School, institutions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that also dispatched the whalers and many of the Hawaii-bound missionaries.
The Cameron pineapple works owns 23,000 acres of Maui land, and has been farming 10,000 acres of it, plopping the product into cans imprinted with the private label of supermarkets in the US, Canada and Western Europe.
It is a rather romantic notion that the pineapple you eat today might have been nodding in the sun last month in view of Kapalua Bay. But no one has been eating much more supermarket pineapple than they have in prior years, and besides, Maui Land and Pineapple Company’s holdings include nine miles of beach-fringed coastline.
Pineapple munchers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are dandy customers. But why not show real live people the glories of West Maui in the flesh, as it were? With the pineapple market saturated, making a playground where pineapples once grew is a way of diversifying.
So Cameron peeled off 300 acres of pineapple, and added another 150 acres where no pineapple was growing, and formed the Kapalua Land Co. Here he would build golf courses, condominium villas, a tennis club and a smashing hotel.
The Cameronian dream is coming to reality now. The first golf course, designed by a professional duffer called Arnold Palmer, was put in use nearly three years ago.
The 14th hole plays across water, from one outcropping of lava to another. It’s a teeth-gnasher. The 18th hole runs alongside the stately row of Cook pines that run for half-a-mile bordering the road to the hilltop Pineapple Hill restaurant.
The announcement that condominium leasehold villas would be built with the Cook pines as a backdrop and the golf course as a front lawn made some sort of spending history.
Early last year, 600 hopeful buyers showed up for a lottery that would give the winners the right to plunk down about $150,000 in order to take title to one of the villas on rented land. Thos Rohr, the young president of the subsidiary Kapalua Land Co. who was present at the tote, says that the vacation homes were sold out in two hours and brought in $25 million.
There were only 186 units; the rest of the attendees went home with nothing more than a sunburn. Despite the eyes it may have popped, that record didn’t stand long. When Cameron and Rohr announced a super-luxury clutch of condos called The Ironwoods, 32 units were sold from plans shown at a cocktail party.
The average price — fasten your money belts — was $442,000. That includes travertine foyers, wood-burning fireplaces and bidets in the bath.
This fall, Kapalua will uncork the centerpiece to the whole pineapple paradise: The Kapalua Bay Hotel. It will be run in high style by Rockresorts, the people who gave you Caneel Bay, Little Dix, Mauna Kea (which they recently sold) and Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico (ditto).
With single-room rates starting at $115 a day, two meals included, it won’t be for everybody. But it sure will be pretty.
The main building with its white beams of stressed concrete, will evoke visions of the spiffy Kahala Hilton in the suburbs of Honolulu. The wings of rooms spreading in assorted directions evoke that old plantation style that hotel watchers may associate with Key West or the Bahamas.
The whole extravaganza is spread in front of Kapalua Bay, a handsome fringe of beach that old West Maui visitors will remember as Fleming’s Beach, the strip of powder sand that was named for D.T. Fleming, a Scottish horticulturist who worked for the sugar companies and who brought in the famed Cook pines.
The new Fleming’s Beach, public and handsome, and equipped, when the conditions are right, with combers that are ideal for body surfing, has been moved up the coast to Honokahua Bay. It has picnic tables, showers, grassy meadows and acres of sand.
Kapalua Bay Hotel people, meanwhile, will be pampered on Kapalua Bay. They will be served breakfast from a cart set up on their own lanai. They will be cooled by a waterfall that will eddy into a lagoon.
They will dine and dance in the Veranda Room and wine and dine in The Dining Room, a classic salon with smashing views of the Pacific channels and the neighbor islands.
One embracing arm of Kapalua Bay is occupied by the tony Bay Club, a private swimming hole with its own elegant, if pricey restaurant (Prix fixe dinner $18) that is also operated by Rockresorts.
Until the hotel opens in the next weeks, it is being used as a testing ground by Walter Blum, the Rockefeller’s executive chef who is producing far-out splendors: Slivers of pheasant dipped in tempura batter, lightly fried and served with a sauce of guava jelly, and English mustard; a breast of duckling with Galliano, sliced and served atop a pineapple blini.
Kapalua is a scant 15 minutes from the airport at Kaanapali, an hour from the jet airport at Kahalui, and about 20 minutes from rip-roaring Lahaina, the storied one-time capital of Hawaii.
In 1846, Lahaina was host to the sailors from over 400 visiting whaling ships. Today it is aswarm with tourists who can do everything from buying a painting in the Old Jail Art Gallery to ordering the hula pie at Kimo’s.
The original Kapalua: Along the Maui coastline, Hawaii’s new Kapalua villas (1978)
Nestled between the spectacular Maui coastline and the rolling green hills of a lush pineapple plantation lie The Kapalua Villas. Here, one can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the entire northwest tip of Maui. Surrounded by Kapalua’s vast open space and majestic beauty, you will experience a profound sense of relaxation.
The Kapalua Villas
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Bay Villas, The Ridge, and The Golf Villas reflect a style unsurpassed in quality, comfort, and services. Private lanais open up spacious one- and two-bedroom suites to outdoor living, magnificent sunsets and awesome views of the island of Molokai.
Luxurious in every detail, The Kapalua Villas are designed for year-round living and enjoyment. Each is tastefully furnished, including washer, dryer, overhead fans, telephone, fully-equipped kitchens, and daily maid service.
For recreation, swim in one of our several freshwater pools. Pool and beach club facilities are also available at the private Bay Club on the cliffs above Kapalua Bay. Minutes by shuttle from your Villa, Kapalua’s three golden sand beaches are excellent for sunning, swimming, and snorkeling.
If tennis is your game, you will find yourself in paradise. Try your backhand on one of our ten impeccably groomed, private tennis courts at The Tennis Garden.
High and low handicappers alike will appreciate Kapalua’s two 18-hole championship golf courses, created by Arnold Palmer. The Bay Course and Village Course were designed to make use of the natural terrain, from rolling pineapple fields to a lava peninsula jutting into the sea. There are ocean views from every tee and green. Breathtaking scenery combined with the challenge of great golf holes. Kapalua Golf, par excellence.
Five restaurants, including the renowned Bay Club, the Plantation Veranda, and the Dining Room, each offering varied menus featuring Nouvelle and Continental cuisine. For informal dining, offering casual meals and cocktails, the Kapalua Grill and Bar, and the Market Cafe are both favorites. Whatever your choice, each restaurant offers a variety of pleasing dining experiences.
The (original) Kapalua Lifestyle
From sunrise to sunset, Kapalua can provide the lifestyle to which you are accustomed. Quality without compromise. For there are few resorts in the world as well-conceived, and even fewer as beautiful.
Kapalua is a totally integrated resort community on the northwest coast of Maui, just beyond the busy visitor areas of popular West Maui. It is just twenty minutes from the historical capital and whaling port of Lahaina. There, visitors can browse in quaint little shops and visit the historic Baldwin House.
Lahaina is also West Maui’s commercial center, offering full shopping complexes, professional services, two medical treatment clinics, and emergency services. Maui is just an 18-minute flight from Honolulu or Hilo on Aloha Airlines or Hawaiian Air.
Jets land at Kahului commercial airport on the windward side of Maui. Even more convenient is the Kaanapali Airport, ten minutes from Kapalua where there is scheduled charter air service on twin-engined Cessnas of Royal Hawaiian Air. Rental cars are available at both airports.
The original Kapalua Bay Villas during construction
The original Kapalua Bay Hotel during construction