Set on 40 acres of prime beachfront property, Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa is the biggest -- and in many ways, the grandest -- resort in Wailea, the most desirable location in Maui. An outpost of Hilton's Waldorf-Astoria luxury brand (Hilton also owns the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and attaches its name to a number of upscale resorts) the level of opulent detail applied to every single aspect of this resort does not disappoint. Large-scale Botero sculptures surround its open-air lobby pavilion -- all part of the hotel's $30 million art collection, which also includes works by Picasso. Between the guest-room towers, there are gardens that look plucked from a section of a rainforest. And in addition to its incredible maze of pools -- including a multilevel, fake volcano and the world's only "water elevator" -- there's Spa Grande, which was named one of the "top spas in the U.S" by both Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.
Even the Four Seasons, right next door, seems modest or at least subdued by comparison. At the Four Seasons, for example, there's an elegant, elevated fountain at the center of its pool -- it's pretty, but nothing compared to the thunderous waterfall that wraps around the entrance wall of the Grand Wailea. Both resorts are rival each other for the title of the most luxurious in Maui, but they each have a distinct interpretation of luxury. The Four Seasons offers a quiet, classy atmosphere with over-the-top service, while the Grand Wailea is busier, more ostentatious, and has a much greater "wow factor" than any other hotel in Maui.
Guest services covers a lot of ground at this resort, both literally and figuratively. An entire lobby wing is dedicated to concierge desks, and the Napua Concierge Floor has additional concierges exclusively for guests staying on that floor. Overall, the level of service is sufficient, but not quite on par with the Four Seasons, which famously has two staff members for every guest at the hotel.
Bilingual staff who can act as interpreters for guests; dedicated concierge for Japanese guests
Free welcome lei made from orchid flowers and a mai-tai cocktail
In-room video checkout available via the TV, starting at 5 a.m.
Nightly turndown service includes a fresh orchid and a card with a Hawaiian poem placed on the bed
The Grand Wailea 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.
Short drive from the Shops at Wailea, an open-air mall with high-end shopping and dining options, as well as grocery stores
Near four highly regarded golf courses
A long beachfront jogging or walking path spans several of the resorts; the Grand Wailea is at its midpoint.
Four-lane Wailea Alanui Drive is frequently crowded with slow-moving traffic
There is no on-site self-parking is free, and there is a fee for valet
Wailea Beach, one of the finest beaches in Maui, is a crescent-shaped shore with light brown, powdery sand that stretches over one-third of a mile. The Grand Wailea sits front and center at this popular beach, though neighboring resorts like the Four Seasons also have the same direct access to this bustling shore.
Soft, fine-grained sand that's groomed every morning
Small waves suitable for skim-boarding, body-surfing, paddleboarding, and Hobie Cat sailing
Good snorkeling on the southern edge of the bay, which has healthy reefs and occasional turtles
Snorkel gear, paddleboards and other water-sports equipment is available at the Maui Ocean Activity Desk in front of the resort.
Like all of Hawaii's beaches, Wailea Beach is open to the public, but it draws far more vacationers than locals.
Treatments incorporate thalasso therapy, and ancient Eastern and Hawaiian practices.
All spa products use Hawaiian-grown ingredients.
Terme Wailea Hydrotheraphy includes five aromatic baths, a Japanese furo bath, a cascading waterfall massage, a Roman hot tub, cold plunge pool, a Swiss jet shower, eucalyptus steam and a redwood sauna -- be sure to go early, when the baths are freshly drawn and there are fewer bathers.
Massages, facials, body wraps, and scrubs also available
Grand Salon offers haircare, nailcare, and waxing.
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 and the award-winningMakena Golf Course is less than five minutes drive south of Wailea, offering another high-level, ocean-view course.
Three ocean-view courses at the Wailea Golf Club, including the par 72, 7,000-yard Gold Course designed by Robert Trent Jones II
At times overwhelming, the diverse range of features can keep you busy for days.
Free access to an enormous fitness center that rivals a syndicated gym: two floors filled with top-of-the-line cardio and strength training equipment; personal training sessions; wellness consultations; and free fitness classes available
Racquetball, squash, basketball or handball at the resort's "Challenge Court"
Small business center by the lobby, which has three Mac desktops (you can also switch to a Windows operating system) and a printer. Fees are charged.
Large business center staffed by an attendant who can help with photocopying, faxing, office-equipment rental, and worldwide shipping
Grand Wailea calls its kids' camp a "mini-resort," and rightly so. Camp Grande is a 20,000-square-foot facility with a video arcade, pingpong and foosball tables, a PlayStation room, a mini movie theater, and an activity room. Camps, programs, and workshops are offered for kids ages five to 12, as well as seasonal activities for teens (Spring Break, Easter, summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The hotel also offers free guest activities like stargazing (for a fee) and fish feeding (free). These are all great options, but don't forget that the pools at this resort can keep kids busy all day long, and using the myriad water features doesn't cost extra.
Even the standard room can accommodate a small family. Some rooms come with a pullout sofa, or you can request a room with two double beds. All rooms can accommodate a crib (free) or a rollaway bed for a fee.
Connecting rooms are also available, but you'll have to pay an additional fee per night, per room to guarantee one.
Babysitting services can be booked through the front desk.
Day camps and night camps for kids ages five to 12 (for a fee)
Seasonal workshops include painting and sending your own coconut or making your own puka-shell necklaces
"Counselor-in-training" programs give 13- to 15-year-old teens the opportunity to assist the staff counselors in the daily activities and kids' programs.
No kids' menu, but kid-friendly food is available at all of the on-site restaurants.
Everything is spotless -- the guest rooms; the pools; the grounds. Just be aware that at any open-air beach restaurant in Hawaii, you're likely to see scavenging pigeons or gulls. Servers are quick to shoo them away, but they are persistent buggers.
Good, but pricey, variety on-site; more options within walking distance
Bento box at Cafe Kula
With five restaurants, two bars, and room service, variety isn't an issue at this resort. From upscale lagoonside dining to a more affordable mixed-plate lunch on a garden-view terrace, options abound. And if you tire of eating at the resort, check out restaurants at neighboring hotels like the Four Seasons and at the Shops at Wailea, just a 15-minute walk away.
James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Wong's newest addition to Grand Wailea is Amasia. Opened in the spring of 2012, Amasia seeks to capture the flavors of countries the world over, including Peru, Singapore, and Spain. It will also feature a sushi bar and robata for grilled delicacies.
"Humu" -- short for Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, Hawaii's state fish -- is an open-air, thatched-roof restaurant set above a saltwater lagoon full of tropical swimmers. Small servings of tasty Hawaiian/Polynesian-influenced seafood dishes (open only for dinner).
Poolside Bistro Molokini features an exhibition kitchen and a Kiawe-wood-burning oven for Island cuisine like poke for lunch and pasta and pizza for dinner.
Set on a breezy, 3rd-floor terrace with sweeping views of Wailea Beach, the breakfast buffet serves mediocre American morning food, but the a la carte options boast Hawaiian-inspired dishes like the kalua pork omelet with a side of poi and haupia (both local staples).
For fast, more affordable food (and Starbucks coffee) there's Cafe Kula, a self-service cafe that has great mixed plates, like the large bento box full of kalbi pork or teriyaki chicken with rice and salads.
Volcano Bar at the pool deck is open only for lunch and serves burgers, hot dogs and fruity cocktails.
Botero Bar (in the lobby) serves light appetizers or pupus as well as fancy cocktails.
Room service includes entrees not available at the other restaurants, including a "spa breakfast menu" with healthy options like a spinach-and-egg-white quesadilla with shitake mushrooms. Note the room service charge; 20-percent gratuity, and tax.