Originally published in Business Insider
The Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is an expansive beachfront resort and the second-largest on the island of Maui. Located on the southwestern coast’s golden crescent of sand in the upscale Wailea neighborhood, the resort is emblematic of a picture-perfect Hawaiian getaway. Sprawling, tropical gardens, meandering pathways, a wedding chapel, several swimming pools, bubbling fountains, beach access, a massive spa, multiple restaurants, and more all curate an idyllic escape.
As a frequent Hawaii visitor, I’ve been to the islands multiple times over the years for vacation, business trips, my own honeymoon, and a friend’s wedding. And whenever I find myself on Maui, I always choose the Grand Wailea. Renowned for housing the largest private art collection in Hawaii with sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts, the resort is ideal for the well-heeled set seeking a luxury vacation, while still being welcoming to families. The luxe Waldorf property is a member of Hilton Worldwide, offering brand loyalists the chance to earn and redeem points in this resort with a coveted beachfront locale.
There’s so much to discover, it can be fun to get lost wandering around the grounds — as long as you don’t mind all the walking. With a large resort of this size, there can be plenty of that.
Rooms vary from standard garden view varieties to mid-tier oven view offerings, and even multi-bedroom villas. Due to the size of this property, there’s constant upkeep and refurbishment required. At all times, there always seems to be an area under renovation or in the midst of a refresh.
I recently stayed in a Deluxe Ocean View room, comped for review, but starts at $750 per night, plus tax and a resort fee. While in line with other luxury Hawaiian hotels, it’s far from cheap, and the kind of worthy splurge you’ll only make once in a while. But when you do, it promises to feel worth it.
There’s no place in Hawaii quite like the Grand Wailea thanks to its incredible first impression.
The stately, breezy main entrance leads to an outdoor, white stone lobby, where I was given a flower lei, a tropical welcome cocktail, and warmly greeted by a resort representative who ushered me to the front desk for check-in.
As I’ve stayed at this hotel a few times over the years, I’ve found that this process usually takes several minutes. The resort is massive and the check-in attendant provides an unhurried and thorough introduction to the property, giving an overview of its multiple restaurants, pools, spa, etc. The hotel is comprised of several buildings, so guests are also shown the location of their room and a few key sights on a small paper map. I was prepared for this, but keep it in mind if you’re arriving with significant jet lag and encounter a queue.
Despite the laidback tropical ambiance, this hotel gets busy, and it’s not unusual to see large groups of families or business professionals gathering for celebrations or corporate events. Thankfully, the crowds can’t manage to dilute the picturesque feeling, and the property is so large, I’ve always been able to enjoy my own space among the natural beauty of the gardens and beach.
The rooms at the Grand Wailea are well-appointed and tasteful, and each has a lanai, or, private balcony.
On my recent visit, I stayed in the mid-tier Deluxe Ocean View room, which was comped for review purposes but typically starts around $750 per night.
This 640-square foot-room category was recently renovated and designed simply with wood floors, minimalist furnishings and a neutral color palette with splashes of seafoam green. The room itself was not lavish but felt streamlined, updated, and comfortable in terms of size and decor. Unlike most island properties, the look felt Scandi modern rather than the overt Hawaiian look more typically seen.
I found the bed to be on the firm side, which I personally prefer and slept well. When I’m in Hawaii, I usually wake up pre-dawn the first few days due to the time difference and enjoyed watching the sunrise from the room’s lanai, which was spacious with comfortable seating for two on cushioned reclining chairs separated by a wooden table. The stunning view overlooked the lush gardens and the ocean waves beyond.
The room also had a desk with two chairs situated close to the lanai, and I found it delightful to have a view while catching up on work. I travel with several electronic devices and was relieved to find the room’s technology up-to-date, with plenty of electrical outlets, and fast Wi-Fi.
The room also had a mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, 55-inch flat-screen TVs, and a sizable closet with robes and slippers.
The well-lit bathroom was spacious with an abundance of counter space, excellent lighting, and an oversized glass-walled shower and a separate soaking tub. Although the bathroom was sizeable, and could easily be used as a changing room, it wasn’t renovated. Though the extra space certainly made up for the lack of updates, and I enjoyed the honey mango scented bath products from the on-site Spa Grande.
I enjoyed room perks such as excellent housekeeping and nightly turn-down service, though I did struggle with personalized service at such a large hotel. For example, when I tried to call the front desk for a question, I had to listen to a lengthy recording and it was a challenge to actually reach a live person.
Additionally, be prepared to get your steps in. Since the property is so spread out, and the rooms are as well, it was about at least a seven-minute walk to the lobby, and about the same distance to the pool. And with the meandering garden pathways, there’s no quick access to the beach.
If you’d prefer slightly cheaper accommodations, the Deluxe designation is only a slight upgrade over regular Ocean View rooms, in that they’re located on higher floors. Most rooms are situated on a diagonal to provide full or partial ocean views so choosing standard Ocean View is hardly a compromise.
The lowest-priced standard room is a Deluxe King or Queen Garden View, which similarly, only differs in view. It starts at approximately $651 per night, so if you don’t mind sacrificing a view of the ocean, it’s a good way to save $100 nightly, while still enjoying a vantage point over the beautiful landscaping.
A unique luxury property that’s considered one of the top resorts in Hawaii, Grand Wailea won’t come cheap, especially for an ocean view room. But for the overall experience and ambiance, I would happily pay these room rates to stay at such a magnificent resort.
The Grand Wailea features such an incredible number of amenities that you really don’t need to leave the property. As such, a daily resort fee of $45 is added to each room per night and covers a variety of guest-only amenities and activities. Valet parking costs an additional $40, plus tax, per day, and self-parking is not available.
There are several pools, including the Wailea Canyon pool, an aquatic dream for families and kids. It’s over 2,000 feet long and features nine connected pools on six levels, surrounded by tropical foliage. There are several large and small water slides, three hot tubs, six waterfalls, rope bridges, swings, a “water elevator,” and a baby pool as well.
Adults are also welcome to enjoy the family pool area. My splash down the network of water slides took almost 30 minutes that included floating under waterfalls and down lazy rivers.
But when it was time to relax, I preferred the 5,000-foot-long Hibiscus Pool, which felt less frenetic and offered a lovely space to enjoy the afternoon. Due to the resort’s large size, I found lounge chairs readily available and attendants to help set them up, though private cabanas are available to rent as well.
The resort’s Spa Grande also should not be missed. The largest spa in Hawaii at 50,000 square feet, it features 40 treatment rooms and an extensive menu of services. Their one-of-a-kind “Healing Waters of Maui” hydrotherapy circuit is an oasis of waterfalls, saunas, and several specialty baths.
There’s also a large, modern fitness center with workout machines and a selection of weights. I never found it crowded, likely because there are so many other outdoor activities to try.
The Grand Wailea features several restaurants and bars across the property at different price points.
The most impressive is Humuhumu, a beautifully-designed fine dining rustic outdoor restaurant on the resort’s lagoon with stellar ocean views. It’s known for a romantic ambiance and the menu showcases farm-to-table, delectable Polynesian cuisine with a large selection of freshly-caught seafood. Sunsets are especially dazzling here. I suggest asking for a table by the water if you want the most optimal vantage point.