Full Review of Maui’s Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Property
The Grand Wailea, sits on the southwest side of Maui in the resort area known as Wailea. Besides the 54 holes of golf and large shopping mall, there are several other resorts in this masterplan include the Four Seasons Maui & the brand new Andaz Maui.
With the recent opening of the Andaz Maui, the Grand Wailea has moved to the back burner in the minds of many, but the two are very different properties. We visited the resort for two nights last year. The nightly rates were around $600 during our stay, but we utilized the two free night certificates gained from getting a Citi Hilton Reserve Card. Here is my review.
Wailea is closer to the airport than the resorts at Ka’anapali. It takes about 25 minutes to reach Wailea from the airport on a wide paved highway. As you approach the town of Kihei, you can decide to leave the highway to drive along the coast. It takes a little longer, but you are in Hawaii. No hurry right? You can also utilize the town of Kihei to pickup groceries or any other supplies needed for your stay.
The Grand Wailea is centrally located within Wailea. Situated between the Four Seasons and Marriott Beach Club properties, you could easily reach the other resorts and the Shops at Wailea without too much trouble. Keep in mind that each of these properties is huge and if you have trouble walking, you may find that getting from one place to another within the resort area is a strain.
As I mentioned before, Wailea is located near the town of Kihei. If you bring a car, it can be a great idea not only to stock up on supplies in town, but to leave the resort area to have a nice lunch or dinner as well. This is one of the many reasons I would highly suggest renting a car during your stay on Maui. While the Grand Wailea charges an unavoidable $30 valet parking fee, you do get in & out privileges along with a bottle of water each time you retrieve your car.
Service & Check-In
When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted and provided leis almost immediately after getting out of our car. I liked this a little better than the Hyatt Regency where they waited until check-in to lei us! Since we are Hhonors Gold members (a perk of the Reserve card), there was a special check-in counter. I’m not sure if that special counter helped very much, as it still took about thirty minutes to fully check-in.
One of the curious things about the Hhonors program is that many of the perks for members aren’t available at Waldorf Astoria properties. For example, Gold members usually get free breakfast at most properties, at Waldorf Astoria there is no such benefit. We knew this coming in and weren’t surprised. Our only hope was to use our status to get a free room upgrade since the free night certificates technically only count towards the lowest level “Garden View” rooms.
The agent who checked us in was friendly and did provide an upgrade. While we asked nicely to get a club level room, she explained that was not possible, but said she gave us her “favorite” oceanview room. As gold members we also received a two for one coupon at the resort’s main restaurant and two free drinks along with a few spa coupons which we didn’t use. Since we weren’t expecting much of anything, this was a pleasant surprise.
As for the rest of the service and staff, everything was great. We didn’t have many run ins with the staff during our stay, but those who we interacted with were friendly. The lounge chair attendants at the beach were not only efficient, but very friendly as well. The bartenders were the same. While the waiter we had in the restaurant was average, he did provide very friendly service. My only minor complaint would be about the valet driver’s. They seemed unhappy, overworked and rushed.
As I mentioned earlier, we were upgraded to an oceanview room in the Chapel Wing. This wing is closer to the water, but it is only four stories high so as to not block the view of the tower behind it. Our room, which the clerk said was her favorite, sat at the very edge of the Chapel Wing, which means it was at the very edge of the property. This meant that we were in a very quiet area, but also meant that it was quite a trek to get to the pool.
While we could see the ocean from our room, it wasn’t nearly as nice a view as we had enjoyed at the Hyatt Regency. The room itself though was wonderful. It was large and spacious and the decor has Hawaii written all over it. To put imy review quite simply, I loved this room. The bathroom was incredible as well. Outfitted with a large bathtub and separate shower, we always had plenty of room to get around.
There are several different classes of rooms, but most of them are appointed the same. The Grand Wailea does have a club level, which by all accounts is fantastic. Known as the Napua Tower, I have heard great things about the club, rooms and views. This tower is centrally located within the property and has the best unobstructed views of the ocean. You can find a full map of the different towers and other amenities here.
The Grand Wailea is huge. Coming from the rather compact Hyatt Regency, we really loved how spread out everything is. Since our room was on the edge of the property, we had plenty of opportunities to explore the entire complex. From quiet gardens to secluded hideaways, there is plenty of peace to be found at the Grand Wailea.
Of course the property is best known as a family destination for its pools. While they have a boring adult pool in the middle of the property, the other pools are why you should come to the Grand Wailea. The pool complex consists of seven pools that are interconnected with small waterslides. Essentially you start at the top and make your way through the pools until you reach the last one at the bottom. I loved this pool and instantly turned into a kid as I made the complete circuit several times each day. (There are many more pool photos available in the gallery at the end of this review.)
If you have ever seen anything written about the Grand Wailea then you also know that it has a water elevator. Once at the bottom pool you can take an elevator that is fueled by water back up to one of the top pools. While I only did it a couple of times due to the long waits, it was really fun and unique. Did I mention how much I love this pool complex? For families, this is a huge plus. I am pretty sure most kids could easily lose themselves here for days on end.
If the pool isn’t enough, then the Grand Wailea has a nice stretch of relatively calm ocean to enjoy. Since they share the beach with the other resorts, there are only a limited amount of lounge chairs available. To get a front line spot with a great view, it is advantageous to get out there early in the morning. We usually started our day at the beach and then eventually made our way to the pool when we were ready.
As I have mentioned in previous reviews, we aren’t big resort eaters. For us, finding a good local restaurant is a lot more rewarding than spending $100 on a meal at an average resort hotel. With that said, we were given a two for one coupon for HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUAA. Yes that is actually the name of the restaurant. Since the discount meant it would cost about $50 for the two of us to eat, we decided to go for it.
To start, the restaurant is stunning. It sits in the middle of a lagoon with stunning views of the ocean. We visited around sunset and were struck with the amazing atmosphere around us. Since we had made a reservation, we were seated almost immediately. Like I mentioned before, the service was friendly but lacked polish. The food itself was alright. Jasmine had a steak and I had salmon. Each dish was just alright. Certainly not worth the $40 price tag that each carried.
We did also go into Kihei for some local food while staying at the Grand Wailea. One day we had a pretty good Hawaaian plate lunch and another we stopped at a local taco truck that was fantastic. The taco truck is listed on Yelp and is named Horhito’s. If you are passing through Kihei I highly recommend stopping there. Believe me when I say these tacos easily rival anything you will find on the main land.
Like most resorts in Hawaii, the Grand Wailea does have a Luau. It cost $119 per person while we were there and included an open bar, food and the show. The Luau isn’t held in a private venue. Instead they set it up on the lawn on the right side of the property. This is the same lawn that sat in front of our lanai. Essentially we were treated to the back side of the luau show for free since we had a very clear view of it.
Between the resort’s shops and the Whaler’s Village Mall, there is plenty of shopping. You can also find additional places to shop in Kihei or by visiting the surrounding resorts. While we aren’t big shoppers, there were plenty of people who were helping the local economy. If you are coming to shop then don’t worry.
While the Grand Wailea is an older property, it has been maintained very well. Unlike the Hyatt Regency where we saw a few maintenance issues, the Grand Wailea looked to be in tip top shape. My only issue with our entire experience was monetary. I think they have gone overboard with the rather exorbitant $30 valet parking fee which comes in addition to the $25 resort fee they charge. (Remember the rooms themselves cost around $600 for the nights we stayed.) Even with free nights, we were stuck paying $55 per night extra. Not the end of the world, but still costly.
I loved the Grand Wailea and that is reflected in this review. It represents the Hawaii that I have always seen on television and wanted to experience. Of course this hotel is primarily meant for families. There were kids everywhere, but we did find quite a few places to get away from the hustle and bustle.
If your dream involves a quiet romantic getaway, then the Four Seasons or even the Andaz are probably better fits. From the rooms to the pools and the ocean, there is not one thing I didn’t like though. Ok, I didn’t like the food in HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUAA very much, but I do love that name!
In the end, my thoughts may be a little skewed. I never visit a place with the mentality that it is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. That kind of thinking puts too much pressure on the experience and makes it very hard to enjoy things. With that said, I don’t see how anyone could not love the Grand Wailea for what it is. An amazing family resort in Hawaii. What more could you ask for?