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I have a lot in common with the Western U.S. travel agent. We’re both constantly on the lookout for what’s new in Hawaii, and we both need to see it firsthand to talk about it with authority. So, when Honua Kai Resort & Spa, Maui — the island’s newest luxury resort — invited me to experience its current agent promotion, I jumped at the chance.
Called Red Umbrella Getaway, the promotion invites qualified agents to spend three free nights at the northwest Maui resort through Nov. 30. During their stay, they go on a one-hour tour of the oceanfront property with Honua Kai sales director Barrett De Santos, who said the initiative has been wildly successful so far. At press time, agents had already booked 669 room nights for themselves.
“There’s still room for more,” said De Santos. “We want to host as many agents as we can to get their feedback and to develop friendships.”
On my first night, I opted for dinner at the resort’s Duke’s Beach House. With an open-air design, flickering torches and great views of Lanai and Molokai, the restaurant’s appealing ambience is made even better by an impressive assortment of fresh seafood and steak (a big thumbs-up for the sesame-wasabi-crusted ahi tuna). De Santos met me the next morning for our walk around the resort.
“We’re a brand-new beachfront all-suite property, and we consider that to be a huge selling point,” he said.
The only facilities still to open are a 7,000-square-foot spa and one more restaurant. No opening dates have been set for those projects, De Santos said.
It was remarkable to see just how much this property has to offer. Start with the accommodations, 628 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with all the comforts of home and then some. Every unit has a full kitchen with high-end appliances — from a refrigerator to a microwave and dishwasher — as well as a stacking washer/dryer and complimentary supplies of laundry and dish soap. The three-bedroom, three-bath specialty suites come with a gas barbecue grill on the lanai.
As someone who doesn’t deal well with clutter, I appreciated the fact that Honua Kai’s accommodations provide plenty of living space. Enhancing the roominess are foldable glass doors that extend the living room out to the spacious lanai; there, glass railings further extend the views. When closed, the doors create an extremely sound-proof environment.
Right off the bat, I could tell that Honua Kai is a great resort for multigenerational travelers and friends vacationing together. With a flat-screen television in the living room and each bedroom, everyone can watch what they want. Every unit has a sofa bed, and the bedrooms are all the same size, so there’s no arguing about who gets the bigger room. The climate control allows some guests to sleep in air conditioning if they want, while others can leave the walls open to the fresh night air.
Other family-friendly assets include a Family Fun Club, headquartered in a bright, colorful space, and three pools — a traditional pool for laps, dips and aqua lounging; an activity pool with slides and water features; and the more private Konea pool for peaceful sunbathing and swimming. Clans can also romp on the resort’s beach, a long strand with waters that are good for snorkeling thanks to pockets of rocks.
Each of Honua Kai’s towers — Hokulani, open since January 2009, and Konea, which opened in January 2010 — welcomes guests with an impressive arrival space. At the far side of Hokulani’s lobby awaits a picturesque koi pond leading out to spacious lawns dotted with red umbrellas, while Konea’s fire pit makes a romantic, relaxing gathering place as the stars come out.
While the two towers are identical, Hokulani felt busier to me, perhaps because it lays claim to Aina Gourmet Market on the lobby level. Aina presents a great assortment of packaged and made-to-order foods with an emphasis on locally grown organic products. From meat and veggies to wine and gelato, it had everything I needed for preparing meals in the comfort of my suite.
After talking with a few travel agents who have visited Honua Kai for a Red Umbrella Getaway, I found that we’re on the same page in terms of our experience. Michael Paulson of Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., agreed with me that the resort’s hotel/condominium blend is a major plus.
“The property is compelling for families traveling together,” Paulson said. “It’s a great combination of large luxury-style condos with resort-quality facilities, amenities and customer service.”
Becky Estenson, of Travel to Go in Clayton, Calif., predicted that Honua Kai’s three-bedroom units will be very popular, since that configuration is hard to come by in Hawaii.
“People really like the idea of having more living space while on vacation,” Estenson said. “I have been to Maui more than 40 times over the last 20 years and wanted to try something new. When I tell people I have stayed there myself, it really makes a difference in closing the sale. I know I will be recommending Honua Kai to many people.”
Once again, travel agents and I have something in common.