Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
- Review: United Airlines B777 domestic First Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
- Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Honolulu
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
- Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (today)
- Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330-200 Business Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich
Today (November 29, 2017): Review of Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Hawaii, USA).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
- Tip: get free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is located on 15 ocean front acres, overlooking a beautiful crescent-shaped gold sand beach in Wailea, an exclusive resort area on Maui’s sunnier side of the island offering 3 championship golf courses, upscale shopping, and a spectacular 2 mile (3 km) beach walk that runs along the ocean. The hotel, which epitomizes a classical Hawaiian palace resort, has 376 spacious rooms and suites located in an 8 story mid-rise building fronting the ocean. Room features include a private lanai or terrace, luxurious marble bathroom, and refrigerated mini- bar customized to guests preference. A stroll through fragrant plumeria trees and art-laden public areas reveals a study in relaxed elegance. What sets the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea apart from other hotels on the islands is the wide array of complimentary services, activities and facilities that are included for all guests which most other Hawaii hotels charge for. Service and attention to detail are the key focus of the hotel staff to ensure a relaxing and memorable stay.
In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The resort enjoys a central location in Hawaii’s most exclusive resort enclave, Wailea. Nestled beneath the leeward slopes of Haleakala – the world’s largest dormant volcano – Wailea exudes a sense of privacy, serenity and freedom, spread across 1,500 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds with staggering ocean views. The area is home to several high-end resorts, including this Four Seasons property, the Grand Wailea – a Waldorf Astoria hotel, the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, and the Fairmont Kea Lani. Wailea’s big draws are the beautiful beach, the perfect climate (the area is located on Maui’s sunny south shore), a stunning golf course, a word-class shopping mall, and its proximity (a 30 minute drive) to the airport.
- Built at a cost of approximately $180 million USD, the Four Seasons Maui opened its door in 1990. At the time, it was Four Seasons’ third resort property, and the first Four Seasons resort in Hawaii (although the group now manages 5 ultraluxe properties in the archipelago). Despite being more than 25 years old, the hotel makes a modern and contemporary impression, thanks to two major, multi-million dollar, floor-to-ceiling renovations in the recent past which have kept the property in line with expectations of modern-day discerning travelers. On the outside, the U-shaped, low-rise building is not very remarkable and not different from most large-scale Hawaiian resorts, but the interior features a refined, luxurious and open air decor.
- All facilities – such as restaurants and pools – are located in the vicinity of the hotel’s piece de resistance, the large lobby, whose glorious open design brings the tropical outdoors in. Besides a reception and concierge desk and several lounge areas, the lobby features a lively bar that overlooks the main pool area and where Hula dancers perform to the sounds of live Hawaiian music each day around sunset. Hawaiian decoration motifs (such as ceiling fans and rattan chairs), Koa-inspired wood furnishings, but also subtle colonial design touches such as coffered ceilings, fountains, and stout white columns lend the airy space a chic and tropical ambience.
- Four Seasons Maui is a work of art – literally – as hundreds of original art pieces by Hawaii-influenced artists are found throughout the property. The artsy character of the resort is clear from your very first moments at the property as you walk past two gigantic ceramic heads glazed with bold stripes that guard the lobby entrance. The hotel’s art collection abstractly, subversively and passionately depicts the history and culture of Hawaii from its founding in 1959 through today. The curator behind the collection, Julie Cline, once referred to the 2300-piece strong collection as ‘subliminally edgy’. Free podcast – including the words of some of the artists themselves – are available to guide guests through the hotel’s curated art collection.
The hotel’s 383 accommodations, including 75 suites, are all located in the U-shaped building that surrounds a green courtyard with fountains and waterfalls. During my visit, I was upgraded to a so-called garden view suite, which came with a lanai or terrace that overlooked the lush gardens and the adjoining parking. Despite the rather underwhelming view, the suite was smartly designed, with a comfortable and inviting living space (with kitchenette and pull-out sofa) and a separate master bedroom with a heavenly bed. The large marble bathroom featured two sinks, a deep soaking bathtub, and a separate shower. The suite could comfortably sleep 2 adults and 2 children.
- Guests that stay in a Club room or Club suite enjoy complimentary access to the hotel’s exclusive Club Floor Lounge. Like a ‘hotel within the hotel’, the Club Floor has its own concierge team solely dedicated to the 26 rooms and suites on the top level. Here, guests enjoy complimentary all-day refreshments, a full-service bar, and other appealing extras.
- The resort’s courtyard garden cascades down to an oceanfront pool complex, which comprises three separate pool areas, catering to the needs of all guests. The resort’s central pool is called the fountain pool because of a giant picturesque fountain that emerges from the heated waters of the pool like Botticeli’s Venus. The pool – which has two whirpools at both ends – is surrounded by plenty of cabanas that can be used free of charge (one per room). This pool area is open 24/7 and is very popular with kids and teens but opens up to a more tranquil lawn – with plenty of chaise loungers – that overlooks the beach and ocean.
- Presenting a quieter but equally fun-filled alternative to the central fountain pool is the so-called waterfall pool. This free-form lagoon-style pool is located next to the fountain pool and draws its inspiration from the ponds of Maui. The waterfall pool is separated into two parts, one higher than the other, that are both linked together with a short slide. This pool mainly attracts families with younger children, and parents can relax in one of the cabanas while keeping an eye out for their youngsters. Food and beverage service are also available poolside, both here and around the fountain pool.
Both the fountain pool and waterfall pool are very crowded – especially during the school holidays – so for an oasis of peace and quiet, you should retreat to the resort’s stunning, 3rd pool area, the so-called serenity pool, which is located one level above the other two pools at the resort’s southernmost edge. This rectangular pool is covered with glass mosaic tiles and features two hot tubes and four bubble loungers on its side. From its infinity edge, you can marvel at panoramic views of the ocean and beach, that is if you don’t prefer to be serenaded by the underwater music system while swimming. The pool is surrounded by 60 loungers and six private luxury cabanas available for rent ($450 USD per day).
- Visually obscured from its neighboring resorts, the Four Seasons Maui fronts the southern end of Wailea beach. The latter is a crescent-shaped, golden sand beach that stretches 2100 feet (640 metres) along the coast and eases into the clean, warm, coral-free waters of the Pacific Ocean, making it the perfect spot for strolling, swimming, and paddle boarding. From sunrise till sunset, the hotel staff sets up two to three lines of chaise loungers, either in the sun or under the shade of an umbrella, that can be used free of charge by hotel guests only. Towels and sunscreen are provided as well on a complimentary basis, while the beach staff also offers ice water and soothing spritzes.
Wailea beach is located between two black lava outcrops, keeping its waters clear, safe and calm. The southern end of the bay, right in front of the hotel, is dotted with coves perfect for snorkeling. Turtles are often seen here, so it’s known as a popular and excellent snorkel spot. Snorkeling conditions are best in the (early) morning as winds tend to pick up during the day. The resort offers complimentary snorkel gear to all guests for one hour per day, and complimentary introductory scuba diving lessons in the pool each morning. For even better snorkeling and diving, you can book an excursion to the partially submerged crater of Molokini, where brightly coloured tropical fish swimming over and through antler coral gardens.
- Despite its massive size and the large number of guests, I was very impressed with the impeccable service, something which the ultra-luxe Four Seasons brand is known for. The service at the pool and on the beach is particularly good. I don’t know how they do it, but the staff members seem to consistently monitor the beach and pool, and pop up every time you need them. Throughout the day, pool attendants provide cooling spritz of Evian, cold towels, and cooling cucumber slices to lay over your eyelids. Complimentary sunscreen is provided, sunglasses are cleaned on regular intervals, and refreshing amenities are offered every hour.
Dining at one of the resort’s three restaurants is a real treat. The resort’s signature restaurant Spago – which is the only Hawaiian outpost of master chef Wolfgang Puck – offers a remarkable fusion of Hawaiian and California cuisine, paired with panoramic ocean views in Maui. While Spago is located in the lobby, the two other restaurants are located one level below on both sides of the fountain pool. Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante is Wailea’s only beachside al fresco restaurant, offering a casual menu at lunch and authentic Italian cuisine for dinner. Duo Steak and Seafood restaurant has a reputation as the best steakhouse on Maui, and is also the scene of a great breakfast buffet each morning (although not as good at the sublime breakfast buffet offered by its sister resort at Lanai).
From the open air lobby, the pool area (especially the serenity pool) and the beach, guests can enjoy breathtaking views of the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean with the island of Lanai, the massive West Maui mountain range – one of the wettest spots on earth – and the small islands of Kaho’olawe and Molokini at the horizon. Humpback whales can often be observed frolicking just off-shore in winter, when two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. The resort also faces the west, so you can enjoy spectacular sunsets with expansive skies showcasing brilliant hues (a phenomena Hawaii is known for).
One level down the lobby, there’s an art gallery where local artists showcase their work for viewing enjoyment and purchase. Here, you also find trio of distinctive boutiques – Ports, Cabana and 22 Knots – that embody the resort’s high standard of luxury, offering an array of retail merchandise, from exclusive logo wear to world-class designer collections. Shopaholics can also head to nearby ‘Shops at Wailea‘, which is Hawaii’s most upscale shopping mall. The center features dozens of shops, including distinct luxury brands, local favorites and fine art galleries, and also offers free cultural activities and some of the island’s best entertainment.
- The Wailea resort area features three premier golf courses: the Gold Course and Emerald Course, both designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, and the Wailea Blue Course, laid out by Arthur Jack Snyder. The rugged Wailea Gold Course caters to experienced players, with 18 scenic holes of undulating terrain, strategically placed bunkers and masterfully designed doglegs that reward good strategy and finesse. The Emerald Course offers a more leisurely play on a lovingly tended tropical playground with kinder fairways, few forced carries and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Haleakala. The Wailea Blue Course rests on the lowest slopes of the dormant Mount Haleakala and features 18 holes of classic-style golf.
- Contrary to other resorts in Hawaii, Four Seasons Maui does not charge a resort fee (there’s no nickel-and-diming here). Besides being the only hotel on Maui to not charge a resort fee (which is a great feature), the resort also has a long list of meaningful complimentary extras, such as use of cabanas, resort car service (to golf, tennis, shopping and dining in the Wailea area), use of sunscreen, introductory fitness classes (including Mat Pilates, Aqua Cardio Fusion and more), use of snorkel equipment for the first hour, introductory daily scuba lessons, and Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling excursions.
- The resort is especially great for families, and actually ranks among my favorite luxury hotels in the world for a family vacation. The hotel offers thoughtful amenities and fun-filled activities to keep everyone happy during a family holiday, such as a dedicated swimming pool for the youngest kids, a free game room for the younger teens (with foosball, ping-pong, pool tables, shuffleboard, PlayStation, and Nintendo), and a seemingly endless array of snorkel equipment, sports gear, and DVD rentals to keep the older teens entertained. The resort also offers a ‘Kids For All Seasons’ program, which engages kids in all sorts of fun and educational activities that draw on the landscape, history and culture of Maui.
The hotel is managed by Four Seasons, one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands. And the Four Seasons brand makes island hopping in the Hawaiian archipelago an easy experience as the company operates four other properties in Hawaii. The Four Seasons Hualalai is set near the volcanic beauty of the Island of Hawaii (also known as the Big Island). The Four Seasons Resort Oahu is located on Hawaii’s most dynamic island, not far from the state capital Honolulu. And the beautiful spectrum of scenery on Lana’i is home to two of the most exclusive properties in the luxury hotel chain, the Four Seasons Lanai (which I reviewed here) and Four Seasons Resort Lanai, The Lodge at Koele (re-opening soon).
- Polynesian traditions, exceptional scenery, and diverse aquatic adventures make a trip to Maui – home of the Four Seasons resort – an unforgettable one. With world-class beaches, extensive coral reef systems, lush valleys with waterfalls, and the wonders of Haleakala National Park – Hawaii’s second largest island offers visitors a remarkably beautiful and welcoming environment to enjoy a wide variety of ocean and island adventures. Read here my top 10 list with the best things to doin Maui.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Fresh off a multi-million dollar renovation, the Four Seasons Maui Resort at Wailea is one of Hawaii’s best resorts. Despite its great setting, beautiful beach, delicious food, wide range of amenities and excellent service, the property does have some setbacks though that you need to beware of before considering a stay here:
- The hotel’s major problem is its own popularity, which results in the property being very crowded, seemingly at odds with Four Seasons reputation as an exclusive hotel brand. I visited the resort during the holidays, and it sometimes felt more like a mass market resort than a genuine luxury resort. The fountain pool area is especially crowded with families and you can’t have a relaxing swim in this pool without bumping into screaming and ball-throwing kids. Finding a cabana here can be mission impossible as most are occupied by early morning (although the resort staff does not hold unoccupied cabanas longer than one hour). The crowds are somewhat inescapable, even at the exclusive adults-only serenity pool where guests are sometimes waitlisted for lounge chairs.
- Due to its popularity and setting in an easy accessible, famous resort area, the hotel lacks the serenity, exclusivity and tranquility that you find at its sister properties in Lanai (Four Seasons Lanai) and the Island of Hawaii (Four Seasons Hualalai). That said, if you have kids or just love to be around them, this is thé place for you as families with kids are everywhere and the resort caters especially well to families with all the fun-filled activities and amenities on offer.
- The resort has been renovated on multiple occasions, including a recent multi-million dollar overhaul of the guest rooms and suites, so everything looks modern and contemporary. Only exception to the rule is the spa which makes an outdated and disappointing impression. Although quality of the treatments is top-notch, the facility could use a refurbishment since it lacks the wow factor.
- Although I am a huge fan of the Four Seasons brand, and their hotels are always my first choice, I have to admit that the Andaz Maui Resort at Wailea (which I will review soon) is the best luxury option in Wailea, despite featuring smaller rooms. Not only are the facilities, architecture and design more elegant, the resort also feels quieter (although it also has many families among its guests), the restaurants are more refined, the pool areas enjoy a better layout, and the room rates are often half those at the Four Seasons (although the Andaz experience feels more luxurious and serene).
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 7/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at Four Seasons Resort Lanai when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, welcome cocktail, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: Four Seasons guarantees that every reservation booked through its websites will have the lowest room price (including all taxes and fees) publicly available on the internet. If you find a lower rate within 24 hours of making a booking, Four Seasons will be happy to match the rate. All you need to do is submit a claim form.
- Room tip: if your budget allows, book a room with a sea view.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Hawaii’s off-season – when the best rates are available and the islands are less crowded – is spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) – a paradox because these are the best seasons to be in Hawaii, in terms of reliably great weather. Winter (December to March) can be a surprisingly cloudy and wet affair, although Lanai is one of the driest and sunniest islands in the archipelago.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Four Seasons Resort Maui is located a 20 minute ride from Maui’s Kahalui Airport. Many large air carriers offer direct flights to Maui from approximately 20 cities in mainland North America. Key Maui airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America. Kahului Airport is unusual for Hawaii, because it offers so many direct non-stop flights from North America, but none at all from Asia. Check the wikipedia page of Kahalui Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Maui. Inter-island Hawaiian air travel is easy and frequent, with regular Maui jet service to Honolulu, the Big Island (aka Hawaii Island) and Kauai. Commuter planes and ferries travel to the neighbouring island of Lanai.