Hotel of the Month: Travaasa Hana

View from a Travaasa Cottage

Poolside at Travaasa

Locals say the remote eastern side of Maui is the way all of Hawaii was 50 years ago. Accessible only by the occasionally terrifying Road to Hana, we drove the entire harrowing road (both north and south), despite being washed out by intense rains in multiple parts — like Hilo on the Big Island, this is the rainy, lush side of Maui. Locals clearly love the inaccessibility, being cut off from the rest of the world, leading a simple life of cooking at home (preferably fish they caught themselves from the shores) with family and friends.

A local chef tells me, if the rains get intense, they do without lettuce, let’s say — until the road opens back up and they can get greens (which don’t grow as well in the constant rain) from Kula in Maui’s farm-rich Upcountry. But there aren’t really restaurants to speak of, other than the two at Travaasa Hana — the rest of Hana is food trucks, fruit and banana stands (the latter of which the Road to Hana is peppered with).

More here on where to eat (especially given the limited options), and unique-to-this-side-of-the-island adventures at a chocolate plantation and a fruit farm.

Sunset over the cottages

The sweeping lawn housing Travaasa cottages

Travaasa cottages

Property Highlights
Travaasa is… to put it most accurately… a faraway slice of heaven.

Grass fields and palm trees roll down to the sea, while lush lawns and hills are dotted with modern Hawaiian plantation-style cottages, adjacent to the main “lodge” up the hill.

There are no TVs or air-conditioning, the latter of which can get intense with the humidity, but allows open air breezes to flow through the airy, spacious cottages to the sea below.

There is (somewhat spotty) internet with little to do at night other than watch the moon rise above the ocean and the stars come out from your cottage deck/lanai or a nighttime stroll. This place is about rest and restoration.

Of the countless hotels I’ve been privileged to stay at around the world, this may be the one where I could most unplug and soak up the beauty around me. Here I communed with nature to a degree that returning to the “bustle” of Kahului, where Maui’s airport is (still very laid back by most city standards), felt almost jarring.

A Travaasa cottage living room

Travaasa by moonlight

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There is a little something for everyone — certainly activities for the kids and adventure sporting, from canoes and stand-up paddling to horseback riding and throw net fishing. But for ultimate relaxation, I adore the Zen-like spa with excellent masseuses.

Another huge plus: the open air “classroom” next to the infinity pool, offering daily, free classes, from yoga to guided meditation. They particularly “had me at” cocktail classes utilizing local juices and produce as well as smoothie classes where you blend your own smoothie via a “blender bike.”

Travaasa cottage bedroom

Service here is familial, warm and excellent with many staff either having worked at the resort through its decades-long history or being children of those who had, thus growing up on its grounds.

Golf carts bringing you ice or carting you uphill from cottage to spa, restaurant to room, were not only convenient but we had a charming chat each time with the sweetheart staff.

Room Standouts
In the cottages, open, airy ceilings, wood floors and firm-soft beds delight — as do all the windows and sliding doors opening on to decks with ocean views.

Another small but delectable touch? Housemade banana bread waiting in our room that rivaled some of the best we had along the Road to Hana, better than some of the most “famous” banana stands that often disappointed me by being too dry or sweet. Travaasa’s was moist and tasted truly homemade.

Eat This
The Preserve Kitchen + Bar overlooks Hana Bay and is an open-air restaurant with live Hawaiian music and hula throughout the week, one of my favorite nighttime activities in sleepy Hana.

Preserve is casually elegant (casual in the bar), though prices are steep as much has to be flown and options are limited, alongside the amazing bounty of local fish and produce.

Fresh fish of the day courses from Chef Toland at Preserve

Chef Bella Toland had literally just come on board when I stayed at Travaasa late fall, with a great pedigree from Vegas and Los Angeles, including cooking at none other than Spago. Working with local fisherman and produce — and with an experienced bartender husband — she was already elevating a menu that had pretty mixed reviews before she came. A tasting menu was the best way to experience what she had coming and since my visit, I can imagine this talented, young chef improved the more lackluster bar menu and the restaurant all around. I wish I could have tasted what she and her husband had planned on the cocktail side.

Despite the sweet service (consistent everywhere here), you can skip Travaasa’s other more casual Hana Ranch Restaurant with its sub-par, chain-like food. A food truck would be a far better choice (best options here), although if you stay for any length of time, you may just end up at Hana Ranch given the minimal options around and Preserve’s higher prices.

Dining open air at Travaasa Preserve Kitchen + Bar

Lounging deck-side on our cottage lanai

The tranquil, private pond and spa, ideal for lingering on a lawn chair, at Travaasa’s spa