24 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Spa Montage Kapalua Bay

Mystery shopper

Spa Montage Kapalua Bay

Holidaying in paradise raises the wellness expectation bar… so how does Spa Montage in Hawaii measure up? Cassandra Cavanah goes undercover to find out

Cavanah found noises from outside the treatment room a little intrusive Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay
The spa layout flows well and the views are ‘simply stunning’ Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay
The spacious spa feels like a separate entity but also part of the resort Photo: Tanveer Badal
Guests are welcomed with gracious Hawaiian hospitality Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay
The setting gives Cavanah high hopes for her lomi lomi massage Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay

Spending time on the beautiful and picturesque Hawaiian island of Maui is a wellness experience in itself. The beaches, the waters, the warm breezes. It’s easy to spend the whole day simply chilling out after, say, a morning yoga or stand-up paddle board session or a hike along the shores taking in the mesmerising views.

Pulling yourself away from these simple joys to head to a spa requires some sacrifice (she says with a heavy dose of irony). But, truly, when access to wellness and relaxation is pretty much all around you, you can have high hopes when it comes to a spa treatment that costs US$305 (€281, £248) plus tax and the mandatory 20 per cent service charge, aka ‘tip’.

So, while I was very much looking forward to my 90-minute lomi lomi massage at the Spa Montage Kapalua Bay, the experience had to be stellar or it was sure to fall short of expectations.

My experience, which took place just after the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, started with a booking in mid-October but I was surprised (and disappointed) to see only six treatments listed online and none of them was the island-specific, outdoor lomi lomi, 90-minute massage I wanted.

Given I’m in California, a call to Hawaii was no problem (not sure international customers would feel the same) and it was a much more personalised and informative experience detailing my access to all spa amenities and the availability of a US$150 (€138, £122) day pass if someone wanted to join me. I was assured they were wide open for the day I was looking to book which was over a month in advance. My guess is most guests book on arrival in Hawaii or, specifically, arrival at the Montage, so the booking software is probably not an issue.

The day before my treatment, I received an extremely detailed (live, not recorded) voicemail from the spa team at the Montage that once again welcomed me, outlined my spa access and details of my treatment and reminded me of the six-hour cancellation policy, giving me plenty of time to opt out with no penalty if I wanted to (a very nice touch).

Design: mostly island chic
This is a spacious spa situated on a hill overlooking lush tropical greenery and the ocean. Its location and position are absolutely lovely within the property as a whole – feeling like a separate entity but also part of the resort.

I’m greeted by an attendant who takes care of me throughout my visit (another nice touch). Though you walk downstairs, this is not a basement spa. A large ladies’ changing area (with plenty of showers featuring delicious-smelling and feeling Kerstin Florian products) leads right outside to the ladies-only hydrotherapy area with a spa pool, humid and aromatic steamroom and sauna with a beautiful picture window (not so great for privacy but lovely from within).

This flows into a co-ed area with yet another spa pool and infinity pool where the views come into full effect (what a sunset!).

A couple of sub-par features were a cold rain shower which either pummelled down from a few outlets or dribbled from others and an indoor relaxation area with very stuffy formal ‘drawing room’ chairs which I had no desire to stay in. But I imagine folks never make it there – plenty of singles and couples were lounging around the pool and there’s no fear the spa’s suffering from any post-COVID downturn (a fact later confirmed by my therapist, who said, “We’ve really never been busier”).

The experience
My massage took place in a simply stunning outdoor ‘hale’ (or room). Large shutters are closed for undressing and then re-opened during the treatment, so you get beautiful views and breezes.

I'm told ‘lomi’ means ‘to rub’ in Hawaiian “so every massage is basically lomi lomi”. But the magic occurs when the hands and arms move to mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean’s water.

At the start, my therapist made sure I was comfortable and took note of a fusion in my lower back which is always a slight issue. Her communication before, during and after the massage made me feel comfortable and in full control. At one point, I asked for more pressure and got it.

I was slightly disappointed that there was no discussion about the brand being used and I wasn’t asked to smell or choose my massage oil. I was hoping for a bit more of a full island sensory experience from the products.

Also, as my hale backed onto a path I could hear a motorised vehicle (golf cart maybe?) and people walking by speaking loudly. It didn’t happen often but was distracting when it did.

My absolute favourite part of the treatment was when I turned over to lie on my back and the hydraulic Living Earth Crafts massage table seemed to magically reconfigure to a position that took any lingering niggles out of my lower back. My therapist made great use of this table throughout the treatment, adjusting the height as needed.

When the massage was over and I opened my eyes, the room’s shutters were wide open and I was facing a picture-perfect view of palm trees.

My conclusion? The massage itself was good if not exceptional. But it’s the majestic beauty of the place and the people (all staff were absolutely lovely and catered to my every need) that remain with me as I sit here writing in my LA office a week later.


"I was hoping for a bit more of a full island sensory experience from the products" – Cassandra Cavanah

What’s the score?

• Ease of booking: 7

• Facilities: 9

• Cleanliness/hygiene: 10

• Staff: 10

• Experience/treatment: 7.5

• Value for money: 8

• Overall experience: 9

Right of reply
Jessica Candy / Photo: Montage Kapalua Bay.
Jessica Candy, director spa & retail, Montage Kapalua Bay

We welcome guests with gracious Hawaiian hospitality and offer an array of authentic and effective treatments featuring island ingredients and honouring local wellness traditions.

Our new booking platform launched in early October with a limited menu, but since this review, we’ve added more services to it and repaired our bamboo rain showers which refresh guests and stimulate their circulatory system.

Our beloved outdoor hales create a tropical oasis with natural sounds and, occasionally, sounds from our neighbours. Due to this and outdoor temperatures out of our control, we also accommodate our guests in indoor plantation-style spa suites inspired by Kapalua’s pineapple farming history.

Our caring associates always intend to exceed guests’ expectations in providing a tranquil authentic Hawaiian spa experience. We value this feedback so we can constantly improve our offerings.

We’ve added more services for online booking and repaired our bamboo showers

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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