Travaasa Hana finishes refresh; chef upgrades menu

Resort also welcomes new sales and events manager

The historic Plantation Guest House is finishing a refresh to transform the space into an exclusive venue for group events, private gatherings, as well as an over-the-top residence for guests to reserve. -- The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

The iconic Travaasa Hana on Maui’s eastern shore is poised and ready with a new feel for the New Year.

Situated on 66 lush acres, the experiential resort boasts ocean bungalows, junior suites and two-bedroom condos that have been recently upgraded, and its historic plantation guest house is being transformed for a January debut.

In addition, Executive Chef Bella Toland is wowing with new menu changes that will appeal to residents and guests with lower price points, and the resort recently welcomed Erika Burnham as the new sales and events manager.

“Erika joins us at an opportune time, on the heels of our property-wide restoration projects, including the historic Plantation Guest House space for groups, events and exclusive entertaining,” says Marni Aina, Travaasa Hana resident manager.

“We’re so grateful to have her join us in Hana and think she will feel right at home in our community.”

Travaasa Hana Executive Chef Bella Toland is making quite the impression with her new menu. Born in France and raised there, Los Angeles and the Philippines, she’s got international experience. -- The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Relocating from Travaasa Austin in Texas, Burnham was a planner for the nationally acclaimed South by Southwest film, interactive media and music festival there.

“I’m excited to continue my journey with the Travaasa team and for the opportunity to work in such an inspiring location here in Hana,” says Burnham. “Travelers and Hawaii residents come to Travaasa Hana for once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I’m grateful to be a part of creating those for groups and couples.”

Travaasa Hana boasts seven diverse function spaces, from the picturesque Poolside Lanai overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the bright, spacious Pailoa Studio to The Preserve Kitchen + Bar restaurant.

The Plantation Guest House was once a gathering place for the island’s kings, queens and heads of state. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton reportedly was a guest there to hide from the press during a White House scandal.

The resort’s Executive Chef Toland came on board at the end of 2016. She’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and has cooked from Las Vegas to Wailea.

She is married to Food & Beverage Supervisor Edward Toland.

“I met Edward in Las Vegas working for Wolfgang Puck,” she said. “I was born in France. Moved to LA when I was 4, then the Philippines when I was 10. My dad is French and my mom, Filipino.”

Toland’s interests include free diving and scuba diving along with spear fishing for lobster.

She impressed a group of writers on a recent media tour in the Waikoloa Suite that is available for private parties. She made miso-turmeric dirty carrots and eggplant that she purchased from nearby Hana Fresh Farm that day; steamed fresh mahimahi with hot oil, peppers, garlic and cilantro; and crafted raw bowl of fresh catch with sushi rice, Tahitian lime and avocado.

“Bella doesn’t do anything halfway. She goes full force and is passionate about what she does,” explains Aina. “Out here in remote Hana, you have to be creative with the limited resources and our particular clientele. We need someone like Bella who is flexible and rises to the occasion.”

But fresh fish is plentiful and caught by local fishermen on a regular basis.

“They pull their boats right up to the hotel,” Toland says. “Mahimahi and ahi are typical and bottom fish are running now in season.”

As for the regular menus in Preserve Kitchen + Bar, the chef offers catch pan-roasted with jasmine rice and eggplant in red curry with papaya salad; grilled with sweet potato and asparagus with beet relish; and in a seafood pasta with fennel, tomato, onion in lemon-butter sauce with chili flakes.

“When I first started here, the menu items were at Wailea price points. But I managed to put lower-priced items on the menu,” she says. “We’ve seen a big difference. The locals are back on music nights and it’s a much more approachable feel. You can enjoy your meal and not feel a pinch with the bill at the end of it.”

Appetizers include sashimi, pork lumpia, garlic shrimp, chicken wings, tofu poke and fish tempura. From the farm comes salads such as pohole fern shoots with sesame-miso dressing and mixed greens in honey balsamic.

“My dinner menu is Pacific Rim with Asian influences as I worked for Wolfgang Puck for so long,” she says. “Before, we had different menus in the bar and in the dining room, but now the menu is the same for both and you can sit wherever you want.”

Toland is also working on upcoming chef dinners.

Ongoing activities include tours to Hana Gold cacao farm and the Art of the Cocktail (see stories on Page C1) along with horseback riding, kayaking in Hana Bay, ukulele lessons, lei making, pilates, bicycle tours, yoga and much more.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the History of Hana presentation will take place with author Bruce McAllister, who will show photographs from his new book, “HANA: A Photographic History of Hawaii’s Paradise.” It is available at Travaasa Hana and Hasegawa General Store.

Last but not least, Travaasa Hana was voted “No. 1 Hotel/ Resort for a Romantic Getaway” and “No. 1 Boutique Hotel” in Hawaii magazine’s 2016 Readers’ poll; as well as “No. 3 Resort in Hawaii” in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2015 Reader’s Choice Awards.

For more details about the resort, call 248-8211 or visit