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While planning our April trip to the sunny Hawaiian island of Maui, my partner, Ben, had just one request: to leave plenty of time for us to take advantage of all the offerings at Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.
For weeks leading up to the trip, Ben excitedly recalled his previous visit to Grand Wailea, which had spanned a full week. There were tales of epic pools with crazy waterslides, lots of ice cream and, basically, tons of fun. (He was 11 years old at the time.) Seventeen years later, we only had two nights booked at the resort, and Ben had every intention of re-creating the same level of vacation euphoria.
Luckily, Grand Wailea makes reaching this goal easy for adults and kids alike. The resort, which features 776 rooms (including 56 suites), sits on the picturesque southwest shore of Maui and faces Wailea Beach. Though soft white sand and turquoise waters are only a hop, skip and a jump away, there’s plenty to keep guests busy right on hotel grounds.
For starters, there’s the 27,500-square-foot Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, which features five pools (including one with a rope swing where we — unsuccessfully — pretended to be Tarzan and Jane), three Jacuzzis, a sand beach, caves, waterfalls, a swim-up bar, a water elevator and, of course, those legendary crisscrossing waterslides from Ben’s memory. Situated on different levels, the pools are connected by a lazy river with fluctuating currents. Advise clients to purchase an inexpensive pool float from an on-property shop at the beginning of their stay; it’ll serve as a trusty noble steed for the splashy fun that’s sure to come.
Predictably, this extensive network of pools was our first stop — specifically, the Grotto Bar, which is open from noon to 5 p.m. Here, patrons order mai tais, beers and the like, as well as small bites, while seated on underwater barstools and watching sports games on television. Adults also have another peaceful, albeit less shaded, haven: the striking, 4,850-square-foot Hibiscus Pool, which has two Jacuzzis, all reserved for guests 18 or older. While the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is open until 10 p.m., the Hibiscus Pool doesn’t close until midnight; both open at 7 a.m. (Note: As part of a $70 million refresh, all pools except for the Hibiscus Pool are closed until Oct. 20. The Hibiscus Pool is open to all ages in the meantime.)
Several hours later, as well as a couple shades darker, we headed to our Ocean View room just as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. We reveled in this sight from our spacious private balcony. Other guestroom niceties included a minifridge, a Keurig coffeemaker, a 55-inch flat-screen television, a walk-in shower and separate tub and free Wi-Fi access. As part of the ongoing refresh, suites and rooms, including ours, were modernized throughout Grand Wailea and now feature bright, contemporary furnishings. (Additionally, the resort has added a new Honuaula Suite category, consisting of four 1,280-square-foot, one-bedroom suites located in the Wailea wing.)
An even better sunset view, though, is at the renovated Humuhumunukunukuapuaa restaurant, also known as Humu Humu. Request a table next to the water (reservations are recommended), and be sure to order the Lacinato Kale & Fried Pig Ears, which arrives as a delicious salad of sorts with herbs; red onion; and a jalapeno-and-lime vinaigrette. The Hamachi Carpaccio is also remarkable — a beautiful concoction of thinly sliced fish, Hawaiian chili, celery and ginger shave ice. Other options for dining include Bistro Molokini, Grand Dining Room Maui, Cafe Kula Marketplace, Botero Lounge and Vocano Bar & Grill, as well as the aforementioned Grotto Bar.
Everything on property takes a bit of walking to get to — after all, the resort encompasses a sprawling 40 acres — but each inch of passing scenery is stunning and intended to be an ode to Hawaii. Guests can sign up for complimentary Hawaiian cultural tours of the grounds, which are offered weekly on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and led by Kainoa Horcajo, the resort’s cultural ambassador.
But I’d walk 1,000 miles if it meant ending up at Grand Wailea’s Spa Grande, whose 50,000 square feet cover 40 private treatment rooms, a full-service salon, a spa boutique, a fitness center and the Healing Waters of Maui hydrotherapy circuit. An especially compelling draw to savor a spa day, the hydrotherapy circuit consists of five mineral-rich soaking baths drawing inspiration from Maui’s topography, including its rainforests, ocean, waterfalls, clouds and streams. All spa guests are able to spend time in the hydrotherapy circuit, though I’d recommend coupling the experience with the 110-minute Healing Waters of Maui Journey treatment. The lengthy treatment launched earlier this year in March and is already one of the most popular; it features a full-body loofah scrub (included in all spa selections), a steam cocoon, a massage and a sleep ritual.
Once I had adequately indulged and Ben had sufficiently relived his childhood memories, it was time to head to the next leg of our Maui trip. But before we could check out, another guest ran toward the front desk and yelled, “I’m back, baby! My favorite place in the world!”
Must be something in the water.