Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Family-friendly luxury chain hotel on the beach
Expect to be impressed when entering the multistory, 22-acre Fairmont Kea Lani ("white heaven" in Hawaiian, though some might argue the sand has a brown tint), which ranks among Maui's best luxury resorts -- including the top-of-the-heap Four Seasons Maui and the Grand Wailea. More discreet and laid-back than the former, and less chaotic than the latter, The Fairmont is a sophisticated choice for both families and couples.
If architect Jose Luis Ezquerra's undulating white domes seem all but Hawaiian (his design has often earned the property the nickname "Aladdin's castle"), the island-style vibe and hospitality -- fresh orchid led greetings, nearly life-size murals of ancient Hawaiian life, regular "alohas" from the staff -- give a sense of place. The spacious, open-air lobby holds clusters of couches and chairs. An impressive ecological stewardship program pays respect to the local culture and environment as well.
The all-in-one-property attracts well-off families and couples, but it's more laid-back than the neighboring Four Seasons: Celebrity sightings and formal service aren't the norm. Still, the highbrow crowd keeps things upscale -- even guests drinking at the swim-up bar seem to sit up straight on their underwater stools.
Every part of this property is well-staffed with friendly, down-to-earth employees who provide top-notch attention and service, giving the nearby Four Seasons a run for its money (though not quite beating it). It's difficult to go for more than a few minutes without getting one's needs met. Beach attendants, servers, and the front desk staff learn guests' names within a day of arrival and seem to check their status at regular intervals. An occasional line at the full-service concierge desk and reservation requirements at the property's renowned restaurants are rare indications of how big the Fairmont is; guests are never shuffled along or made to feel like part of a herd. Even groundskeepers and housekeeping staff offer wide smiles and warm alohas as guests pass; the pretense of separation between staff and guests doesn't exist here. Housekeeping is provided twice daily.
In resort-rich Wailea -- great golf, gorgeous beaches, luxury shopping, and near-perfect weather
The Fairmont is one of the four luxury resorts in Wailea, a manicured, planned resort development that lines two spectacular beach-dotted miles of Maui's southwestern shore. Besides the beaches and the almost perfect weather -- rain rarely falls in this arid microclimate, and the temperature hovers around 85 degrees year round -- golf and shopping are the area's big draws. It's a short drive (or free shuttle ride) to the Shops at Wailea, an open-air mall with high-end shopping and dining options, as well as grocery stores. Expect a 35-minute drive from Kahului Airport. There's a charge for valet parking while self-parking is included with the daily resort fee.
Direct access to Polo Beach, which has calm, shallow waters for kids and feels more private than the beaches fronting its Wailea neighbors
Fairmont Kea Lani is fronted by Polo Beach, one of the most private-feeling in Wailea (all Hawaii beaches are public) due to rocky surrounding shores. Public beach access is available through a small parking lot next to the resort, but the beach is filled mainly with guests. The calm waters are good for snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking, and are safe for children, but the waves aren't generally good for surfing here. The soft, fine-grained sand is groomed every morning and the hotel provides free beach chairs and umbrellas to guests. Snorkel rental (for one hour) is included with the daily resort fee. Guests can take a free canoe lesson right off the beach.
Spacious suites and tricked-out villas with freebies
Accommodations at The Fairmont consist of 450 suites or villas -- and they're massive. The Standard Suites are larger than the Standard Rooms of the neighboring Four Seasons or Grand Wailea. Each suite features one king or two double beds with pillow-tops and down comforters, plus a living room with a reasonably comfortable, sectional pullout couch. The color palate is muted green and earth tones with the same rattan furniture found throughout the island. Two flat-screen TVs with 35 cable channels and on-demand movies, Sony Dream Machine alarm/iPod docks, small wet bars, empty mini-fridges, a coffeemaker, and packages of coffee and tea provided in each suite. Double marble sinks, soaking bathtubs, and robes with Le Labo toiletries can be found in the luxe bathrooms. The differentiating factor between suite types is the view and balcony; Oceanfront Suites with wraparound decks are the cream of the crop, and the Standard Garden Views are the lowest and cheapest.
Two- and three-bedroom villas include all of the amenities found in the suites, plus a private terrace with a plunge pool and barbecue grill. Two levels means extra privacy for families or groups. These luxe digs include a full kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a washer and dryer. Along with the over-the-top rooms, guests who book a villa get loads of extra services: expedited check-in, no resort fee, free breakfast, a gourmet welcome basket, and free water and juice daily.
A well-rounded resort with excellent amenities-- though many are outdone by competing hotels
It would be hard to fault the Fairmont Kea Lani for any of its amenities -- from the spa and fitness center to the kid's club, gift shop, and daily activities; most are very well done. And even if each feature taken individually pales slightly in comparison to what's offered at other top-tier Maui hotels (there's stiff competition here), overall, the Kea Lani's offerings combine to create a well-rounded, satisfying retreat with the area's largest accommodations.
The Willow Stream Spa offers several treatment rooms (and a beachfront cabana), an excellent range of services, mud bar, hot lava stone foot bed, and Hawaiian rain showers .The resort's fitness center has a wide selection of Technogym cardio equipment, plus water, magazines, towels, and a few classes (including yoga and hula hooping), but for sheer size and amount of equipment, it's beat out by the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea. The business center in the lobby is accessible 24 hours a day, and offers services like boarding pass printing and a fax machine. A free shuttle runs throughout Wailea, including to other resorts, the Shops at Wailea, and the golf courses.
Three pools, from adult-only to full-on kid-friendly with water slides and whirlpools
The resort centers around the hotel's three well-designed, well-maintained pools. Although they can't rival the water wonderland at the nearby Grand Wailea (few hotels on Maui can), they provide areas for both adults and kids to enjoy. The adult pool is quieter and calmer than the other pools; located near restaurants, but doesn't have a bar. The upper pool includes poolside service with a swim-up bar. The lower lagoon pool is a large, amorphous pool, dotted with landscaped islands, basketball nets, and footbridges -- plus whirlpools. There's a long twisting water slide monitored by a lifeguard. Cabanas are available for rent and there doesn't seem to be a problem of getting a free sun lounger throughout the day. Staff passes chilled towels and sun protection products are available for free.
Four world-class golf courses, just a short drive away
Wailea is home to some of Hawaii's best golf. Wailea Golf Club has three, 18-hole courses -- named among the top 15 golf courses in Hawaii for 2007-2008 by Golf Digest, two of which were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The award-winning Makena Golf Course is less than a five-minute drive south of Wailea, offering another high-level, ocean-view course. Virtually every hole has an ocean view; the island's dormant volcano, Haleakala, provides the backdrop. Golf carts are equipped with GPS as well as course tips and information; club rentals and golf lessons are available at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.
The equally stunning and more challenging Makena Golf Course, also designed by Trent Jones, is a five-minute drive south of Wailea. The Fairmont provides free shuttle services to both courses.
One of Maui's most forward-thinking resorts in terms of the environment
The Fairmont's "Environmental Stewardship" program includes an impressive roster of over 50 initiatives, more than other hotels on the island. Rooms feature energy-saving eco-MODE thermostats, recycling containers in every room, and low-flow shower heads. Disposable cups are made of 100 percent compostable corn, utensils are made of potatoes, and disposable food containers are made from cornstarch, recycled paperboard, and sugarcane bagasse. Pools are cleaned using rock salt instead of chlorine.
Great for famililes
The Fairmont is a strong choice for families. A supervised kids' club, kid-friendly pools, and large suite-only accommodations or three-bedroom villas are among the highlights. The kids' club offers full- or half-day programs that include educational walks along the beach (for a fee); by comparison, the Four Seasons offers its full-day kids program for free. Restaurants feature separate kids' menus, and children under five eat free with their parents. Older kids get discounted meals at some of the restaurants. Babysitting services are available with 24 hours' notice. Crib rentals are free.
Several restaurants, a coffee shop, and four bars plus 24-hour room service (free breakfast buffet if you book a villa)
The Fairmont's restaurants are generally pricey, though not as pricey as those at the nearby Four Seasons. There's a good range of types of food and formality. The Kea Lani restaurant serves a daily breakfast buffet with high marks for freshness and variety -- but it costs extra unless you book a villa. Ko, the hotel's signature restaurant, was renovated and reopened in 2012. It features regional Hawaiian cuisine from the various ethnic groups that came to work Maui's sugar cane plantations. Ko serves lunch and dinner daily. Ama Bar and Grill has poolside seating for casual Hawaiian fare. Nick's Fish Market is the most romantic spot on the property, serving seafood dishes. Caffe Ciao Deli, the least expensive spot, sells deli foods and a small selection of groceries (and is also the resort's option for stocking the suites' empty mini-fridges). Luana Lounge offers live entertainment and specialty rums. 24-hour room service is available and there's a kids' dining program offering discounts for children.
Impressive range of food, alcohol, and package options -- along with a wedding planner to guide you through the myriad of options
Destination weddings at The Fairmont are popular. The property can host up to 300 guests and add everything from a fire knife dancer to a conch shell blower to an outrigger canoe transporting the bridal party. Of course, if you prefer to keep things simple and elegant, that can be done too. With such a mind-blowing amount of extras, fees, and restrictions it's best to consult the wedding planner included with each package. Ceremony locations include The Pacific Terrace, a semiprivate Tropical Gazebo, or the Polo Lawn. There's a back-up spot indoors in case of rain. Note that there isn't a special honeymoon suite, here. Most brides and grooms opt for a suite or villa with a deluxe ocean view.
Wailea's aptly named Fairmont Kea Lani is a "white heaven" indeed -- its 450 units sit on a 22-acre beachfront property that includes three pools, four restaurants, a luxurious spa, and access to world-class golf. Unlike its competitors, this property does an excellent job of keeping both couples and families happy without the long lines and battles for sun loungers by the pool. Oceanfront villas and suites are some of the largest in Maui, though a pesky resort fee applies to anyone who doesn't book a villa.