Courtesy of Montage Kapalua Bay
The rugged terrain, cascading waterfalls that plummet down into a lush blue ocean, palm trees slowly swaying over sparkling sand—Hawaii encourage visitors to explore the land as much as it encourages relaxation. On a recent trip to the idyllic land of Maui, I chose the latter.
Some secrets are just too good to keep, and Spa Montage at Montage Kapalua Bay—the 24-acre oceanfront resort that hugs the northwest coast of Maui—is one of the best-kept secret gems on the island. Founded in 2002, the Montage Kapalua Bay is a painfully beautiful postcard come to life; the all-encompassing resort boasts a three-level sunset pool, panoramic views of the beach at every turn, and a champagne hale (house) perched over Namalu Bay—you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about at Montage. So what on earth would cause anyone to want to stay indoors and book a spa treatment? The Maui Mahulia treatment at Spa Montage, that’s what.
“Maluhia is a state of mind, a state of silence, of peace,” Jennifer Holzworth, director of spa and retail at Montage Kapalua Bay told ELLE.com. “When that treatment was created, we wanted to create something where guests can completely relax; it’s an all-encompassing treatment where we’re hitting every sensory.”
After walking through the eucalyptus-scented spa building, I changed into a robe and was instructed to wait in tiny hut for my esthetician. Each spa treatment at Spa Montage is performed outside in a private hale with chirping birds and the crash of the ocean’s waves providing the soundtrack—just the tranquil respite this New Yorker needed.
The Maui Maluhia treatment, along with the other treatments offered at Spa Montage, embrace Hawaiian culture and traditions alongside European spa culture influence. When I walked into my hale, I was given the option of choosing one out of four oils presented, including olive oil and seaweed oil, locally sourced from upcountry in Hali’imaile.
“The gentleman who makes it forages all of these plants and ferns from the islands, and then he distills the plants into this beautiful oil,” Holzworth continued. “His grandmother passed down to him and you have to do it by certain phases of the moon in order to get the best benefits of each of those plants—they all have a different cycle within them.”
The first part of the Maui Maluhia is reserved for reflexology, basically a super-calming foot massage. “The foot is a map of the entire body,” Holzworth explains. “You can address a lot of concerns on the entire body with just that one area, so it also allows the esthetician to really see where the tension is so they know where they need to focus.” Next, my esthetician dry brushed my entire body upwards “to stimulate the lymph to move through your body and really pull out the toxins, which helps you to recover quicker.” Moving up the body, I was then covered in a mud mask mixed with green, white and red algae oils, and then wrapped in a cocoon using a blanket—and then peacefully knocked out. I woke up when it was time to wash the product off and was directed to an outdoor shower attached to my hale.
The esthetician must have realized how tense I was from the reflexology portion of the massage because for the next 60 minutes, her movements replicated the kneading massage chair you sit in when you get a pedicure. She asked me where she should focus her attention, and as a writer who’s almost always hunched over her laptop, my neck and shoulders needed all the love. Using her forearm, fingertips and palms, she applied firm pressure to loosen all tight zones, starting with my neck and shoulders before making her way down to my lower back. The soothing music from outdoors coupled with deep forearm pressure felt like the equivalent of dozing off to your favorite ASMR. I left in complete bliss until I returned to my room and reality began to set it: There was no way I could go back to New York and book a regular massage after this experience. But then again, a trip to Hawaii each month isn’t feasible either. How could I re-live the pure luxurious bliss I felt in Maui in the comfort of my own home in New York?
Holzworth suggested stocking up on my favorite body scrubs and masks.
“Any time that you can find to do a really great exfoliation and a really great body mask will work, whether it’s the dry brushing or you’re using like a salt scrub in the shower,” she advised. “You put on a body mask and then just soak in a tub, you’re obviously going to feel the state of relaxation and bliss from it, but also you’re going to get the benefits from the heat driving the products in farther and deeper for hydration and detoxification.”
For those looking for a treatment without the massage component, though, Spa Montage’s ‘Awa and Cacoa Hawaiian Cocoon is another tourist favorite, according to Holzworth. As you lie down wrapped in a blanket, the therapist takes a blend of ‘awa (or kava) and cacao to exfoliate your scalp, neck and foot.
“The awa root is sourced from the Big Island. It also has tremendous hydrating, detoxifying, illuminating properties,” she explained. “It’s a 90 minute massage, so it doesn’t have as much touch incorporated, but it’s still very relaxing. This was another treatment passed down from tradition; a local man came in and taught the treatment to the team and they created it together. That’s why it’s still stays on the menu to this day because there’s such an intense tie with how it was created, and this sense of everyone coming together to give their ideas, give their love, give back so deeply to the Hawaiian culture.”