Grand Wailea Resort Shines Brighter Than Ever

The magnificent Grand Wailea Resort, now part of the Waldorf-Astoria Collection, was first opened in 1991 and immediately became known as one of the world’s best resorts…especially for families. Its recent $50 million enhancement project has it looking even better than new.

The resort is situated on a huge 40-acre expanse of beachfront property on the southwest shore of the Island of Maui in Hawaii. Artworks from Botero, Leger and Picasso are scattered throughout the lush landscape. Everything is on a grand scale at this resort; the rooms, spa, pools, lobby, fitness center and kids’ center are all huge. Yet, unlike many of the Hawaiian resorts, you still feel the flavor of Hawaii when staying at the Grand Wailea.

Growing Up at Grand Wailea

Our family has a special love for the Grand Wailea. Wonderful memories have been created during our annual visits. Our boys, now ages 13 and 15, used to look forward to their daily adventures at the Camp Grande kids’ center. Now they direct their own recreation from a wide array of available activities. We visit attractions all over the island, but we often leave the hotel reluctantly. It is a slice of heaven and it is a home away from home for us.

The Rooms

We have always appreciated the extremely well-designed rooms; most having at least 640 sq. feet of living space plus a lanai. All 780 guestrooms feature sumptuous beds, 37” LCD televisions, and the usual amenities one would expect from a luxury hotel. Most king-bedded rooms even have a sofa bed, making it easy for families to share a room. Of course, there are also many connecting rooms and suites. Our last stay had us in rooms overlooking the wedding chapel and perfectly blue Pacific Ocean. We’ve also stayed in the Napua rooms which have a dedicated lounge, concierge and include continental breakfast. These can be an excellent value when traveling with kids. Of the suites, we prefer the Deluxe Suites with 1950 square feet of luxury. Suite 7124 has some of the best views you could imagine. If you stay in this suite, you simply have to show it off to friends.

The Pools

Realistically, a day at the Grand Wailea is defined by their pools, actually an upscale water park. It’s the number one reason most kids will choose this property over any other. The Grand Wailea won the top prize in the Elite Family Travel “Best Resort Pool” category last year. The Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is over 2,000 feet long and consists of nine free-form pools at six levels. The pools are connected by a river that carries swimmers from whitewater rapids to lazy currents. There are four jungle pools, four tile slides, a whitewater rapids slide, a Tarzan pool with rope swing, the worlds’ only water elevator, a sand beach, six waterfalls, caves, three Jacuzzis, an infant pool, a swim-up bar and two of the best giant waterslides you’re ever going to find at a resort. One is 238 feet long with a three-story drop, and the other is 115 feet long and has a 360 degree turn. Children must be at least 46” tall to ride the two big slides.

There’s also a special scuba pool where the hotel offers complimentary scuba lessons. Warning – our kids enjoyed it so much, they “graduated” to the definitely not complimentary scuba lessons in the ocean. Many course offerings are tailored for novice to certified divers.

While both the kids and adults have fun in the Activity Pool, the grown-ups have their own relaxing adults-only oasis at the Hibiscus Pool. Its 630,000 pieces of glass tile form a giant mosaic flower at the bottom of the pool.

Cabanas at all pools can be reserved up to a year in advance, although location is not guaranteed.

The Beach

Certainly the best beach on the island and rated one of the tops in the world, Wailea is known for its soft sand and pure beauty. Both kids and adults ride on boogie boards, snorkel with turtles, watch humpback whales close to the shore, and then collapse under the complimentary beach umbrellas provided by the hotel. Our kids have met many new friends at this beach while collaborating on sand castles that were worthy of architectural awards.

The Spa

Spa Grande is a mega-spa with over 50,000 square feet of pure spa decadence. Highly trained therapists offer more than 100 treatments ranging from a Volcanic Ash Facial to a Pahuaku (Hot Lava Stone) Massage. A unique feature of the Spa Grande is the Termé Hydrotherapy Circuit featuring five aromatic baths, complimentary an hour before most treatments. I’m not usually into the spa life, but the Cascading Waterfall Massage and Swiss Jet Shower were a lot of fun. Guests are treated to a Mango Honey loofah body polish before their scheduled treatment. Ahh…so relaxing!

One of only three spas to earn our coveted “World’s Best Family Spa” award, Spa Grande offers the most teen and kid treatments we have ever seen at a resort spa – even chocolate-coconut exfoliation! Manicures, pedicures and hair styling are also available.

Fitness Center

A terrific Fitness Center is located just above the Spa Grande. The 2,500-square-foot facility has state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment and top-of-the-line strength training tools. Guests can sign-up at the spa recreation desk to use the air-conditioned half-court for racquetball, squash, handball or basketball. Our teens have been challenged to some pretty competitive games there!

Kids’ Camp

Camp Grande is a 20,000-square-foot mini-resort for kids and their parents. Facilities include a wading pool, movie theater, game room, snack bar, video arcade, ping pong and much more. Day and night camps with supervised activities for kids are also available at a reasonable fee. A typical day might include a sand sculpting contest, reef exploration, swimming, scavenger hunt, lunch, fish-feeding, crab hunting and a movie.

Restaurants

Several restaurants are located at the Grand Wailea. Humu (short for Humuhumunukunukuapua’a), with its Polynesian thatch roof, floats on a saltwater lagoon overlooking the Pacific. My wife and I recently enjoyed champagne and the famous Maui sunset while sitting at their bar. Bistro Molokini is a bit more casual. Located above the main pool, this was a family favorite for lunch. The Kula Café is a casual dining terrace serving lighter fare and delicious breakfasts. For a true breakfast indulgence, try the Grand Dining Room with its amazing views.

Golf & Tennis

There are five excellent championship golf courses located nearby, including three courses at the highly acclaimed Wailea Golf Club. The Wailea Tennis Center is located less than a mile from the hotel with beautiful state-of-the-art facilities.

To Sum It Up…

As a travel magazine editor, I’m fortunate to be able to see the world with my family. We experience exotic destinations, jungles and European capitals. Still, there is no place on earth that we have chosen to return to as many times as we have the Grand Wailea. With each visit, we reset our internal clocks. We reconnect with our children. Our history as parents can be traced on a Grand Wailea timeline. We cherish each day in paradise, and we always go to sleep and wake up with a smile. We are physically and emotionally there. And when we must leave, we instantly start planning our return. I guess you could say that we are intensely passionate about this resort.

If you have stayed at the Grand Wailea before, you’ll like it even more now. If you have never taken your family to the Grand Wailea, it is time to begin planning a vacation you will always remember.

Villas at Ho’olei – A New Addition to Grand Wailea

For families looking for a bit more privacy and a lot more room, The Villas at Ho’olei are now open directly across the street from the main buildings of the Grand Wailea. These luxurious 3-bedroom vacation homes offer full access and charge privileges at the Grand Wailea, while also offering their own smaller pool complex and fitness facility. Each two-story home offers the freedom of a private residence with modern kitchens, top-of-the-line appliances and electronics, private elevators, ample parking, laundry room and 3,200 – 4,000 square feet of living space. Private chefs can be arranged in advance.

This is not your typical vacation rental. It is far more upscale and has the benefit of being managed by the adjacent Grand Wailea hotel. For very large families, it is an option that should be explored. For the ultimate multi-generational vacation getaway, consider renting several adjacent villas to create your own personal neighborhood.

By | Published in: Anthony Adler, Hawaii

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