The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, has been one of Maui’s elite hotel addresses since it opened more than 30 years ago under developer Takeshi Sekiguchi. Located in the posh Wailea neighbourhood on the south shore of Maui, the oceanfront family-friendly resort was originally inspired by six cultural and environmental influences of Maui: water, light, sound, flowers, trees, and art. The stunning property sprawls across 40 lush acres, complete with 900 world-class pieces of art, miles of manicured gardens, nine pools, seven dining outlets and five bars, several upscale retail outlets, and a spa.
Now, for the first time since opening in 1991, Grand Wailea is undergoing a property-wide revamp. And phase one, which includes refreshes to several dining outlets and the Napua Tower rooms and private club, is complete. Phase two, which includes a top-to-bottom spa renovation, will debut next year.
A look inside the renovated family-friendly luxury resort in Maui
“We are thrilled to update the classic charm of Grand Wailea, while enhancing the luxury and heritage for which it is known, and to commemorate this new chapter with so many exciting activations and partnerships,” says JP Oliver, managing director of Grand Wailea.
This summer, I visited the newly refreshed resort with my family, and at first, the sheer size of it (there are 776 rooms) was intimidating. But soon enough, thanks to warm smiles and offers to help from the staff at every turn, we felt right at home. The large white-sand beach and ubiquitous mai tais didn’t hurt either.
In between stints at the beach and pool, we sampled food and drinks from the many dining outlets. My favourite evening was at the revitalised (and aptly named) Botero Lounge. I never imagined that I would get to dine among nine voluptuous sculptures by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero in Maui, but that is the case at Botero Lounge, where they create the essence of an outdoor art museum that surrounds a chic central bar. Sekiguchi is a renowned art collector and has amassed hundreds of impressive artworks around the hotel, including these curvy bronze sculptures of men and women that make up the largest private collection of Boteros in the world. The sculptures were flown in from Italy more than 30 years ago and were recently restored to their original form.
Foodwise, the lounge has new menus featuring local-caught and flown-in fish prepared fresh by chef Moony alongside other izakaya specialities, plus cocktails that draw inspiration from Japan. We cleansed our palettes with a refreshing local hearts of palm salad with cucumber and endive before digging into the ocean roll filled with tuna, salmon, hamachi, crab, and avocado wrapped in soy paper; the tuna tataki with crispy fried garlic; a juicy wagyu burger; and more. I found out that Botero Lounge will also host the resort’s new “The Art of…” series, launching this fall, which will include workshops like The Art of Sushi Making, The Art of Whiskey, and The Art of Cocktail Mixing.
The hotel’s newly designed Napua Tower houses an exclusive set of rooms and suites and a private club lounge that debuted in June. Rooms have been reimagined by Nina Chiappa Interiors and use design elements that reflect a contemporary and abstracted Hawai’ian theme that revolves around land and water. Luxurious textiles and bronze finish against a white, beige, and dark wood palette highlight the ocean views. The private lounge features bright blue accents and is filled with a selection of food and drinks all day, along with daily activities like live entertainment, spa and wellness sessions, and chef tastings.
In the morning, we had brunch at the recently unveiled ‘Ikena, which offers a massive buffet with various stations, including everything from pancakes and waffles with endless add-ins and toppings to an omelette station to mountains of fresh tropical fruit. The best part though was taking in the stunning ocean views from the light-filled room while we ate, and gawking at the stunning Yvonne Cheng mosaic “Crossroads” along the back wall and the massive paintings depicting Hawaiian gods on either end of the wondrous room. Recently launched on Saturdays, ‘Ikena hosts a rosé brunch in partnership with Black-owned premium rosé label La Fête du Rosé, offering dishes like Maui honey fried chicken and waffles, Hawaiian sweet bread French toast, and crab cake eggs Benedict.
Later, we stopped by the redesigned brightly coloured market café called Loulu (loulu is the name of Hawai’i’s only native palm tree, of which there are several on the property) for grab-and-go snacks, freshly made pizza and flatbreads, smoothies and açai bowls (a Hawaiian staple) for the kids, and freshly brewed Hawai’ian iced coffee for me. Loulu is also now the only venue on the island to offer items from beloved organic Los Angeles-based grocer Erewhon, including dried chilli lime mango, spirulina popcorn, and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.
The next day, I made time in my busy schedule of pool hopping (my kids couldn’t keep away from the large activity pool with water slides, a rope swing, a lazy river, and, thankfully, a swim-up bar by a whirlpool) to indulge in a spa treatment. Although Spa Grande is currently undergoing a major transformation to its 50,000-square-foot space, which will be unveiled in 2023, the more intimate Mōhalu by Spa Grande is offering a selection of Hawai’ian and international treatments. I was booked for the 90-minute Ho’omalie treatment, which blends the rhythmic Hawai’ian lomilomi massage technique with pohaku (hot stone) massage. I was slathered in a silky mango and cocoa butter infusion that melted into my skin under the hot stones, and the treatment finished with a volcanic pumice foot scrub and coconut scalp massage.
That afternoon, my son and husband made kukui nut bracelets, a popular Hawai’ian craft, while I chatted with Kalei Uwekoolani, who is the cultural programming manager and leadership educator at the family-friendly resort in Maui. She leads a cultural tour of the property once a week, and it’s always fully booked.
“Our most popular activity is the kukui nut bracelet-making activity,” says Uwekoolani. “It’s something that’s a tangible item that guests can take with them and they’re creating a memory. But within that experience, we also educate you about our Hawai’ian traditions. I always say, I educate, not entertain.”
Our final activity at Grand Wailea was an early morning outrigger canoe ride before we caught our flight home. As we set out on the serene water, our guide blew a large pink conch shell, awakening a large sea turtle who gracefully swam alongside our canoe as the sun rose in front of us.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Grand Wailea