Old Hawaii’s Hidden Holistic Retreat: Lumeria Maui

Entrance to Lumeria main house

Looking for a dreamy holistic retreat? Lumeria Maui is off the tourist trail, and sure to soothe your soul. This intimate hotel brings the romance and traditional architecture of Upcountry Maui together with all you’d expect from a health-minded yoga getaway to create a soothing sanctuary. 

Confession: I’m allergic to New Age. I think it’s a side-effect of my years working in the natural foods industry, attending massage school, and living in Berkeley, California. Not, to quote “Seinfeld,” that there’s anything wrong with that. Mindful living is important, and alternative modalities and lifestyles are increasing in popularity. Even the global tourism industry has been impacted by the craving for wellness, and holistic retreats and spas—many of which draw inspiration from various indigenous cultures—are one of the industries’ fastest-growing segments.

When I heard about Lumeria Maui, an intimate, 24-room, luxury holistic retreat that opened in March, 2012, I was intrigued. The property is located on the 1910 Fred Baldwin estate (a prominent sugar cane and ranching family who still live in the area). The estate was built to house retired cane executives and plantation workers, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. My obsession with interior design and all things Hawaiian made the decision to visit Lumeria an easy one.

Lumeria Maui owner and operator Xorin Balbes, a renowned architectural conservator and designer, renovated the six-acre property in 2011, creating what he refers to as a “SoulSpace.” The result is a stunning redesign of the original Craftsman building, using reclaimed and sustainable materials. The exterior and key elements have been left intact, while the interiors have a tasteful neoclassical and Asian-influenced aesthetic.

Lumeria porch

Image: Lumeria Maui

Explains Balbes, “I’ve always found it to be important to hold on to history through architecture. Considering the property was originally a convalescent center, I thought it was important to save and restore the original structures and the history they represent. As the oldest wooden structures on Maui, the buildings really exude a feeling of a bygone era of ‘old Hawaii,’ which I felt would be amazing to share with travelers from around the world.”

Lumeria’s location outside the sleepy paniolo (cowboy) town of Makawao, in Upcountry Maui, was also a big selling point for me, as the region is one of my favorite spots on earth. While less than seven miles from the North Shore’s bustling former sugar mill town of Paia and world-class windsurfing of Ho’okipa Beach, Upcountry might as well be a different planet.

Historically a cattle ranching region, Upcountry is still very much paniolo country. The landscape is one of lush pasture and forest, grazing livestock, and rolling hills, situated on the flanks of Haleakala volcano. Makawao is just up the road from Lumeria, with its handful of great restaurants, galleries, boutiques, and historic structures. Lumeria lies smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, unobtrusively located behind wooden gates off the main road, Baldwin Avenue. While B&B’s are popular, Lumeria is the only “hotel” in Upcountry.

Road in Upcountry Maui

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Upcountry is a peaceful place; the main noise pollution comes in the form of tradewinds rustling the eucalyptus, guava, and Norfolk Island pine trees. While there’s a laidback sort of tourism here, there aren’t herds of people to “ruin” the vibe. Yet, Lumeria is a sanctuary-within-a-sanctuary. Here, you’re sheltered from the everyday annoyances like shrilling devices (While the property does have Wifi and iPod docking in every room, there are no phones or TV and cell service is spotty) and traffic.

Lumeria King Bed

Image: Lumeria Maui

Lumeria offers classes, programs, and retreats in yoga and meditation, often taught by world-renowned instructors (daily yoga and meditation are included with all reservations). There’s a small yoga studio next to the restaurant, and a larger, appealingly airy stand-alone studio. A black-bottom lap pool and Jacuzzi overlook Haleakala’s western slope, while a nearby pine grove is strung with hammocks that invite snoozing.

Rooms are individually designed, and full of light, making good use of the lofty original ceilings. All feature river rock-tiled, rain-head showers (with Aveda amenities; yay). My four-poster King Bed was luxurious and draped in a duvet (Upcountry nights can get chilly); a cozy daybed provided a separate space to read and daydream. One caveat: the walls are thin: Between the amorous couple next door and a bickering family two rooms down, I endured a couple of late nights.

The design of the Baldwin home is such that it forms a U-shape, with a covered porch running the length of the interior. The porch overlooks an immaculately-groomed grass courtyard bordered by tropical flowers and other vegetation. Inside the main entrance are a plush, lavishly furnished-and-decorated library and sitting room stocked with books, art, and magnificent chunks of crystal and geode.

Lumeria lap pool

Image: Lumeria Maui

While I’m not a big fan of yoga because I  find it too sedentary (I realize the irony of this statement; I’m exactly the kind of stressed-out person who could benefit most from the discipline), I got into the spirit of things and spent a day taking classes. Given the deplorable state of my downward dog, I expected to be the laughing stock of my Anusara class. Surprise: not only did it kick my butt, but the instructor and fellow students were kind, and helped me refine various poses. Inspired, I took a Yoga Nidra class, which is when I hit my tolerance level for alternative modalities.

Ultimately, Lumeria Maui is designed to appeal to guests seeking a genuinely holistic, experiential retreat. If that’s not your thing (and you find being offered colon hydrotherapy within minutes of arrival off-putting, which I most certainly do), you’ll likely be weirded out by the drinking the Kool-Aid vibe. If you can look past that intensity, you’ll enjoy the property for its aesthetic charms, solitude, and enchanting location.

Lumeria offers weekly classes from visiting shamans, Hawaiian cultural educators, and botanical experts. You can also book traditional lomi-lomi massage or partake of the Lumeria Glow Cleanse program, which includes a “state-of-the-art juice and broth” regimen. The small, on-site restaurant serves tasty dinners made with locally-sourced produce when possible (advance reservations required); a no-frills Continental breakfast is included.

Lumeria can also help facilitate booking outside activities like horseback riding (Makawao’s lovely Piiholo Ranch is owned and operated by members of the Baldwin family), farm tours, stand-up paddleboarding, and wind- and kitesurfing.

My stay at Lumeria was sponsored by the Maui Visitors Bureau, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Top Image: Simply Stella, Flickr


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