Skip to Content


With more than 35 years of hospitality industry experience in Hawaii and a native of Maui, HI, Clifford Nae’ole is the Hawaiian cultural advisor for The Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua. In this unique position for over 20 years, Mr. Nae’ole advises and educates employees and guests on proper Hawaiian protocol and customs, shares fascinating accounts of his homeland and ancestors, maintains a presence of the Hawaiian culture in the hotel and encourages a cohesive relationship with the community. 

“We are fortunate to be an AAA Five Diamond hotel immersed in a culture that, like a diamond, has many facets.  Our programs are designed to connect the ‘hosted’ to the ‘host,’ thus enhancing the overall experience of all involved,” said Mr. Nae’ole.

As cultural advisor, Mr. Nae’ole conducts weekly historical "Sense of Place" discussions and tours to the border of the Honokahua Preservation Site.  He also hosts the monthly “talk story” series Mai Ka Pu’uwai (Storytelling from the Heart).  He is chairman of Celebration of the Arts, the annual three-day festival tribute to the people, art and culture of Hawaii, which he created 24 years ago, and serves as advisor to the hotel's Hawaii Council.  A Hawaiian chanter and hula dancer, he has performed official ceremonies and traditional blessings throughout Hawai`i, French Polynesia and the mainland U.S.

In this prominent role, Mr. Nae’ole has been featured in a national print and television advertising campaign for the Hawaii Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as on networks such as ESPN, E!, the Travel Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, Hawaiian Airlines Inflight video, “E” on Travel – Above and Below Maui – the recipient of two Emmy Awards in 2004, and more. 

Former president of the statewide Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, Naeole’s knowledge of ceremony and protocol prompted the Governor or the State of Hawaii to approve his terms as a Burial Commissioner for the Hawaii Burial Council for Maui and Lana’i.  He is an active supporter of Maui's Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools — Punana Leo O Maui and Kulakaiapuni.  Mr. Nae’ole received the distinguished Hawaii Hotel Association's Na Po’e Pa’ahana Honorable Mention Award for the 1997-98 Outstanding Employee of the Year.  He is also the founder of Ho’ohali’a Hawaiian Consulting and is a current partner of E Ola Pono Consulting, dedicated to creating bridges between the Hawaiian culture and the contemporary business world. 

Recently Mr. Nae’ole was honored with two coveted cultural awards.  In October 2016 he was awarded the 2016 Meeting Professionals International Culture Award as an industry leader in perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.  Also in October, Mr. Nae’ole was presented with the Legacy Award from Hui O Waʻa Kaulua, Maui’s Voyaging Society.  Each year Hui O Wa’a Kaulua recognizes an outstanding person in the community.  “This person would be the embodiment of what our canoes stand for,” event organizers said.  “Our awardee has dedicated his life to engage in, promote, encourage participation in and provide educational and instruction in Hawaiian Culture.  He inspires all generations to care for our land, care for our ocean, and care for our people.”

Born and raised on Maui, Mr. Nae’ole attended St. Anthony High School in Wailuku.  He studied business at Seattle University and received his travel agent certification from the San Francisco School of Travel.