Heaven on Earth: Zen-Like Lumeria Resort is Maui's Happy Place
Maui is a magical place. The island is known for reuniting old friends and having an uncanny ability to seep into your soul, whether you're watching the sun rise above the clouds atop Mount Haleakela, or silently meditating in a forest hammock overlooking the ocean.
It seems everywhere you go on the island, locals and tourists alike are eager to send a smile your way, say aloha, and engage in friendly conversation. In other words, it is the polar opposite of frenetic rat race I'd become accustomed to living in Los Angeles. And while the entire island evokes a certain peacefulness, those in search of true serenity will find no better haven than Lumeria on Maui. Lumeria's owner and creative director, Xorin Balbes, describes his 26,000 sq. ft. retreat as the perfect paradise for the "enlightened traveler."
From the moment I set foot onto Lumeria's six acres, nestled just two miles above the small but welcoming beach town of Pai'a, I felt a sense of calm wash over me. Lumeria's handsome main lodge beckons travel-weary passengers with its broad double doors, elevated ceilings peppered with decadent Moroccan light fixtures, and original dark wood frame that speaks to the site's long history on Maui's North Shore.
Lumeria's locale has a storied history on Maui — and exudes the serenity one would expect from a statuesque elder that has established itself as an institution on the island. Originally erected in 1909 as a convalescent home by sugar baron Henry Baldwin, the site is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and was honored with a 2012 Preservation Award from the Historic Hawaii Foundation. As the Baldwin sugar empire faded in prominence, the property went through its own multi-dimensional transformation, serving as a college campus, a home for WWII veterans, and eventually, an over-populated dormitory for migrant pineapple workers.
When Balbes, a gay architect who also co-founded L.A.-based interior and architectural design firm TempleHome, first purchased the property in 2010, he says the site was in utter disrepair. But after a massive two-year renovation, and guided by Balbes' crystal clear vision to create a retreat that nourishes the body, mind, and spirit, Lumeria is nothing short of pure, regenerative magic.
After a five-hour flight from Los Angeles, and a 15-minute drive from Maui's Kahului Airport, I began my personal retreat in one of Lumeria's 24 simple, elegant private rooms. Complete with a palm-frond ceiling fan and impressively modern, minimalist stone showers and boutique amenities in the bathroom, I sprawled out on the soft, spacious four-poster queen bed and breathed in the cool island air from my open windows. Even this multimedia journalist who is generally glued to her smartphone didn't mind the lack of television in each room. I was eager to accept Lumeria's invitation to unplug — though for the sake of my deadlines, I was grateful for the free wifi available throughout the property.
As the sun set on my first day in Maui — the first time this Colorado native had been to any of the Hawaiian Islands — I emerged from my room ready to relax in the newly installed pool and hot tub. These aquatic retreats provided the perfect place to watch the sun set over the Pacific ocean, as they are situated near a corner of the property that overlooks Maui's endlessly scenic North Shore.
After soaking up the brilliant colors painted across the sky as the sun sunk into the ocean, I was welcomed into Lumeria's Harvest Restaurant, the on-site cafe that serves three meals a day comprised of locally grown organic food. The head chef, Indica, didn't flinch when I asked about options that were edible on my strict gluten-free diet. Instead she provided me with luscious, perfectly ripe fruit, vegetables, and some of the most succulent fish I've eaten to date. All the fruits and vegetables I ate over the course of my four-day stay came from within 10 miles of the restaurant. Some of the fruits came directly from Lumeria's garden on-site — including a pineapple I ate that entirely abolished what I thought was my universal dislike for the fruit. When my partner arrived at Lumeria the next day, the culinary team again accommodated our various dietary needs, offering my partner a wide range of vegetarian options that were both filling and fascinating.
My partner and I were, at the time, about halfway through a 10-month-long stint of a long-distance relationship, and were reunited in Maui for our first visit in six weeks. We could not have imagined a better, more joyful, romantic location for our reunion. After a decadent dinner at Mama's Fish House, just down the Hana Highway back into Pai'a, we found ourselves back at Lumeria, sipping pineapple wine by one of the gas-powered fire pits below a canopy of palm trees. After close to a year under the smog-filled skies of L.A., I was eager to stargaze, and we discovered the perfect spot to do so — smack-dab in the middle of Lumeria's impressive 10,000 square-foot grand lawn, lush and green and impossibly soft. My partner and I pointed out constellations and laughed at inside jokes, only quieting ourselves when we worried that our giggles might disturb the otherwise serene environment and generally mild-mannered guests.
During the day, that grassy terrace serves as the picturesque stage for several of the complimentary yoga classes included with each reservation at Lumeria. Guests can greet the day with a sunrise yoga class, or enjoy some acoustic accompaniment as they search for their own personal Zen in classes led by professional yogis. Lumeria also features an indoor yoga studio where seasoned professionals offer Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Anusara, and Restorative yoga. Those seeking greater enlightenment are certain to find solace in the various meditation classes also offered with each reservation, or are free to seek out their own private paradise in one of the many secluded meditation gardens on the grounds, each offering stunning views of both the ocean and the pine forest that surrounds the property, known in Hawaiian as Ke Kahua o Miuhia Makani, which translates to "the place of peaceful wind."
For those who want a somewhat less peaceful wind, Lumeria's concierge will be happy to arrange access to the North Shore's famed windsurfing, kite-boarding, and a host of other aquatic activities. Led by legendary and professional surfers like Suzie Cooney, Lumeria's water-sports program welcomes athletes of all abilities, and strives to help each guest make the most out of their island vacation.
While my experience at Lumeria reflected exactly the kind of rejuvenating, calming and solitary experience I was desperately needing after too long in people-saturated Los Angeles, the resort also hosts numerous retreats throughout the year, including writer's retreats, detoxes and cleanses, and, starting in 2014, two very special LGBT-focused retreats.
From June 7-11, 2014, Lumeria will host MAIA Midwifery's LGBTQ Fertility Retreat: Preparing for Vibrant Pregnancy, where participants can soak up the powerful, peaceful energy of Maui as they prepare to welcome the newest member of the family. Kristin Kali, a licensed midwife and owner of MAIA Midwifery and Fertility Services, will guide participants on a week-long journey exploring not only the technical aspects of pregnancy — including how to choose a donor, insemination, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy — but also gender, partner dynamics, sexuality, and legal issues as they arise in a uniquely queer context. The retreat will even feature a queer conception film festival, and promises to leave participants relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to begin the next stage of building a family. In December 2014, the Body Electric returns to Maui, to partake in the ancient Hawaiian ritual of New Year's Vision. Anchored at Lumeria, the five-day retreat takes its guests to Maui's Seven Sacred Pools, and invites the creation of new visions as the sun rises above the famous Haleakala crater. The New Year Visions retreat will challenge participants to let go of those negative feelings and energy that didn't serve them well during the previous year, and find inspiration in Lumeria's luxurious, intentional construction that fosters introspection, serenity, and optimism. I can't imagine a better way — or a better place — to ring in the new year.
Click here for more info on Lumeria.