Story By Cindy Burch
Photos Courtesty of Hotel Wailea
You might think a getaway to Hawaii seems impossible right now, but flights have never been so cheap, as long as you can maneuver through the State of Hawaii’s Safe Travels application and make sure you arrive with a negative COVID test. If you are up for an adventure or just some relaxation in the sun, Maui never disappoints.
As an old whaling port, downtown Lahaina is a National Historic Landmark and still retains a great deal of its past due to its rich history. Back in the day I loved traveling to Maui with my parents every year, but it was incredibly remote 45 years ago. There were no direct flights and aside from whale watching, the most happening thing on Lahaina’s Front Street was an ice cream shop. The northwest coast of Maui is now lined with massive ocean front resorts and walking Lahaina’s Front Street today is more like strolling Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras with scores of shops, restaurants, art galleries and a whole lot more tourists. However, if you are looking for a more remote adults only getaway, the south end of the island in Wailea is perfect.
Sitting high on a hill and woven among mango orchards, splashing waterfalls and koi is the magnificent hideaway aptly named Hotel Wailea. Once a private club for Japanese investors this newly renovated resort was rated the second best hotel in Hawaii by Condé Nast Traveler readers only two months after it opened. Designed exclusively for adults, Hotel Wailea is the first and only Relais & Châteaux property in the state of Hawaii. Although is doesn’t sit right on the beach, the resort is just up the hill with spectacular views.
On my last visit we were greeted with fresh orchid leis and a Hawaiian cocktail as we checked into the gorgeous open air lobby. Each of the 72 suites has a separate living area with wide-plank white oak floors, travertine bathrooms, coral fossil accent walls and giant lanais (terrace) with rattan scoop chairs that overlook the Pacific. The kitchenettes have Sub Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers, a Nespresso machine and everything you need to feel right at home, including an enormous bath with a soaking tub and a walk in rainfall shower. It’s like having your own little beach house with all the top amenities. You don’t even need a car as the hotel offers sleek touchless Tesla Model X’s to drive you anywhere in Wailea.
Our mornings were spent sipping Kona coffee on the lanai and sun bathing at the swanky hotel pool with private cabanas and full bar service. On the days we opted for the surf, the Tesla took us down the hill to the beach, where an attendant had an umbrella, chaise and Turkish towels waiting for us. The hotel will even prepare a picnic basket for you to take to the beach. One afternoon we walked from the beach to the Four Seasons Hotel, next door, and treated ourselves to a hot stone Lomi Pohaku massage in an ocean side thatched hale (hut) before dining on sushi at Monkeypod, a popular Wailea watering hole and eatery.
The Restaurant at Hotel Wailea features two different alfresco seating vistas, the Lanai, overlooking three Hawaiian Islands, or the Garden, where intimate tables are strategically placed amongst lush foliage of the hotel’s garden underneath twinkling lights. Executive Chef, Jonathan De Paz, does an excellent job and brings to the island an esteemed background having worked at French Laundry, Eleven Madison Park and Restaurant Daniel. We also enjoyed an incredible breakfast at Ka’ana Kitchen, a beautiful restaurant at the nearby Andaz Resort, where their chef features all farm fresh Maui foods clustered in elaborate buffets.
Situated at the base of a dormant volcano and framed between the unspoiled hillsides of Haleakala and the peaceful Pacific Ocean, Wailea feels more like the old Hawaii I remember visiting as a kid; just all grownup and sophisticated. Getting away to soak up some good sun, drink a few Mai Tai’s and watch the surfers at Launiupoko makes for a perfect few days in paradise.