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
- Review: Travaasa Hana, Maui (today)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea
- Review: St Regis Princeville (Kauai)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich
Today (December 20, 2017): Review of Travaasa Hana, Maui Island (Hawaii, USA).
Considered one of the most remarkable resorts in Hawaii, Travaasa Hana, Maui (formerly known as Hotel Hana Maui) is located in the tiny town of Hana on the eastern tip of Maui and will immerse you in the real Hawaii. Timeless local customs such as throw-net fishing and lei making are still a fundamental part of this community’s fabric. Travaasa Hana is the first resort on the island to greet the rising sun and is set amid rolling grass fields and palm trees above Hana Bay. The resort’s spacious cottages and private suites set a peaceful mood, and some of them offer views of the waves rolling across the Pacific Ocean from their private lanai. In an environment free of radios, clocks, and televisions, nothing will distract you from the natural beauty and relaxation of heavenly Hana. Travaasa Hana is located at the end of a three-hour, hair rising coastal drive along Maui’s rugged eastern coastline, considered to be one of the most scenic routes on the planet.
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
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Hawaii with my online Hawaii travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The Travaasa Hana hotel enjoys a stunning, remote location on the eastern tip of Maui, the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Surrounded by unspoiled slopes, lush rainforest, and jagged coastal cliffs, the hotel offers something not found anywhere else on the popular holiday island: a rustic travel experience to be enjoyed in delightful tranquility and absolute privacy, away from the tourist crowds that flock to the island.
- The resort sits at the end of a dizzying, hair rising, 49 miles (78 km) coastal drive. However, getting to the hotel is half the fun since that road – the so-called Hana Highway, more commonly known as the Road to Hana – is considered one of the most scenic drives on the planet. The road snakes along Maui’s dramatic northeastern coastline, cuts through emerald bamboo forests, and passes countless waterfalls with plenty of sightseeing along the way. Drivers have to negotiate 617 hairpin bends and 56 single-lane bridges and the journey takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on the number of stops along the way.
- Located on the 66 acres ocean-front land of a former sugar plantation and cattle ranch, the Travaasa hotel occupies most of ‘downtown’ Hana. Considered one of the last unspoiled Hawaiian frontiers and rooted in Hawaiian tradition, Hana is a tiny and utterly picturesque village, where the pastures roll right up to the main street, where storytelling lives on in legends about gods and in hula, and where horses run wild. Timeless local customs such as throw-net fishing, lei making and plucking bananas from trees are still a fundamental part of this community’s fabric.
- The story of the hotel begins just after the Second World War when Paul Fagan, an entrepreneur from San Francisco, opened the Ka’uiki Inn which was hailed at the time by the Hawaiian press as ‘the glamorous new resort on the Hana Coast’. Following a spring training in 1947 of the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals at 1947, Hana and the Inn were put on the travel map since the team also brought along a cadre of sportswriters who wrote glowing reports about the area. One writer even coined the nickname still used today ‘Heavenly Hana‘.
- The Ka’uiki Inn changed hands several times over the past decades, but always stayed true to its principles of delivering a tropical, rustic and authentic Hawaiian experience. Since 2012, the hotel is known as the Travaasa Hana, one of two destination properties operated by Travaasa (the other hotel is the Travaasa Austin). Under the Travaasa management, a property-wide $12 million USD restoration took place in 2015, hereby installing a new decor that features sustainable materials, artwork, and traditional kapa bark cloth reflecting Hana’s natural and cultural significance.
- The resort consists of two distinct areas, with a small, local road in between. The resort’s most photogenic area is an expansive, grassy lawn overlooking the Hana coastline, where you find the main pool, a yoga pavilion and the ocean bungalows. On the other side of the road, slightly located further inland, is a tropical garden, which is home to the main hotel building (with reception, shop, library and restaurant), the garden suites, the spa, a croquet lawn, two tennis courts, a family pool, a three-hole putting course, and an activity center. Guests of the hotel have access with their room key to all facilities across both hotel areas.
Seventy single-story cottages dot the resort grounds and house everything from garden junior suites to the Waikoloa suite which can sleep up to six or eight guests. During my visit, I stayed in one of the hotel’s so-called garden junior suites. The spacious unit featured a bedroom, sitting corner, a kitchenette, and a wheelchair accessible bathroom (with separate shower and bathtub). Double glass doors (and screen doors) opened to a deck (called a lanai) with views of the garden. The remarkably simple decor was twisted with a few tropical touches, such as wooden floors and Polynesian paintings. Banana bread was delivered to the room as a welcome amenity.
- Although the garden junior suites are fantastic for families, I recommend to splurge with a stay in one the resort’s pricier ocean bungalows, which are set on both sides of a sprawling lawn overlooking the rugged coastline and the blue Pacific Ocean. The cottages are built on stilts and were originally designed to reflect plantation bungalows once common in Hana, and throughout the Hawaiian Islands, in the early part of the past century. They feature a tropical decor with high wood-beamed ceilings, exotic photography adorning the walls, and a private lanai. Compared to the garden junior suites, these accommodations offer greater privacy, although some ocean bungalows adjoin.
- Guests of the hotel can choose between two saline pools. The rectangular pool in the garden is great for families as it’s located next to the games room, which offers great entertainment for children and teenagers. The real star of the property is the hilltop infinity pool across the local road, not so much because of the pool itself, but because of the astonishing views of the green lawns and blue ocean that can be enjoyed while taking a dip. In front of this pool is a small hot tub that can accommodate around 6 to 8 guests at a time. Towels are provided at both pools, although pool service itself is limited.
Travaasa Hana offers a robust schedule of programs & activities organized in the resort’s five experiential pillars: adventure, culinary, culture, fitness and wellness. Some of these activities are free of charge, such as tennis, hula classes, lei making, ukulele lessons, yoga classes, and free use of bicycles. Some can be arranged for a fee, such as horse riding, outrigger canoeing, Hawaiian spear throwing and throw-net fishing. For getting away from it all, there’s no more beautiful place than here.
- Guests of the hotel can simplify their stay by opting for the all-inclusive Total Travaasa package which includes daily chef-prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, all nonalcoholic beverages, and a $175 USD resort credit per person per night stay, good toward spa treatments and private classes. The all-inclusive formula starts at $700 USD per night for single room occupancy and $1000 USD per night for double room occupancy, although it is optional as you can also book a room-only stay and pay for any additional expenses made at the hotel itself.
- Travaasa Hana features its own spa facility, which was completed and added to the resort in 2004. All treatment rooms face a tranquil zen garden, which is equipped with an outdoor coed lava pool. An array of pricey massages, healing rituals, beauty treatments and personalized services are available, using only organic, bioenergetic products. There’s also an onsite boutique shop that sells Hawaiian-inspired spa products. All hotel guests can make use of the spa facilities free of charge, even without booking a treatment.
Travaasa Hana features just one restaurant called The Preserve Kitchen + Bar, which is located at the far end of the lobby, overlooking rolling hills, swaying palm trees and historic Kauiki Hill. The open-air restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere reflecting Hana’s low-key lifestyle and is open seven days a week for breakfast (served a la carte only), lunch and dinner. A combination of techniques from classical to innovative blends bold flavors with a focus on in-season, local ingredients, such as produce from upcountry and East Maui farms, locally caught fish, and Hana-raised beef. Live Hawaiian music and hula are featured throughout the week.
The resort is surrounded by spectacular tropical wilderness. To the north and west lies the serpentine Hana Highway (as mentioned above), where each bend of the journey reveals ravines draped in waterfalls and lush rainforest. To the south and west, the road continues and delivers travelers 10 miles (16km) south to the outskirts of Haleakala National Park in Kipahulu. There you’ll find the popular Pools of Oheo, where waterfalls spill into tiered pools leading to the sea, and the famous Pipiwai Trail, which runs though an incredible bamboo forest to the 400-foot (120 m) Waimoku Falls.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Travaasa Hana is one of my favorite hotels in Hawaii, and I always gladly return to the property every time I am in the archipelago. Despite its many luxuries, the Travaasa Hana maintains a rustic charm and truly feels like a slice of Old Hawaii. However, the resort is not without flaws and to avoid disappointment, you need to know the following before considering a stay here.
It takes a bit of rain to keep Hana so incredibly lush and green. Indeed, this side of Maui is greener but also wetter and windier than most of Maui. Chances are high that you will encounter rain during your stay here. In summer, the rain falls mostly under the form of short showers, but in winter, day-long downpours are not uncommon.
- Instead of air conditioning, the accommodations are equipped with interior ceiling fans and panoramic sliding doors to keep things cool. However, I found the cooling not sufficient and I could not enjoy a good night’s rest because it was simply too hot inside the room. The staff put an extra ventilator in my room, but that did not help much.
Rooms don’t feature TVs, alarm clocks, radios or other tech devices. The idea is to preserve the tranquility and enjoy Hana’s peace and quiet. So if you’re addicted to TV entertainment, this may not be the best place to spend your holiday.
Although Travaasa Hana is located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it has no direct path to the beach or the water. However, three beautiful beaches are nearby. The resort provides a free shuttle back and forth to the white sands of Hamoa Beach, described by Author James Michener as the most beautiful in the Pacific region (lounge chaises and beach towels are provided to guests free of charge). Red sand beach is just around the corner and can be reached by a 10 min hazardous walk along a cliff edge trail. Finally, Waianapanapa State Park is a 10 min drive away from the resort and offers a gorgeous black-sand beach with good swimming, snorkeling and freshwater pools.
Food at the resort’s dining room is overpriced, and unfortunately, it’s one of just two restaurants in town (the other restaurant is only slightly cheaper and – surprise, surprise – also managed by the hotel). However, there are some budget eateries offering mouthwatering street food nearby. Just around the corner, a short stroll from the property, is a low-key Thai shack offering delicious curry and noodle dishes. There are some more food trucks within a few minutes drive from the resort.
Facilities in Hana are limited (one general store and one gas station), so if you are spending a few nights here, it’s better to stock on food, drinks and gas before you make your journey to Hana.
The remote location of Travaasa Hana is everything, and it can either be a major draw or a put-off based on your expectations. If you don’t like showery weather, the lack of entertainment, isolation, and the lack of direct beach access, you are better off staying in one of the mega-resorts on Maui’s sunny side.
Getting to the hotel requires a long drive along a winding albeit spectacular road. However, as mentioned above, the road to Hana is all about the journey and enjoying the beauty along the way. If you don’t fancy the long drive, the hotel can also arrange a small plane charter to a nearby airfield.
It seems as if time stood still in Hana, but so has the service at the Travaasa Hana. The mostly local staff is superfriendly, but everything happens on Hana time, so service is frustratingly slow from time to time.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 7/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Travaasa Hana, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Room tip: if your budget allows, book an ocean bungalow, which is located in the more private part of the resort and comes 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 in the archipelago.
Each island has a leeward side (the side sheltered from the wind) and a windward side (the side that gets the wind’s full force). The leeward sides (the west and south) are usually hot and dry, while the windward sides (east and north) are generally cooler and moist. Hana is located on Maui’s windward side, and experiences an abundance of rain (even in spring, summer and falls), what makes the area so verdant.
HOW TO GET THERE
Hana is located at the end of the Hana Highway, a spectacular coastal drive takes anywhere from two to four hours. I recommend you make it a half day to take in all the sights along the way. If you don’t fancy the long drive, the hotel can also arrange a small plane charter to a nearby airfield.