Visitors to Maui have a seemingly endless choice of where to stay, but as one of the more touristy islands of Hawaii, most hotels can end up feeling a bit mass and impersonal. On a recent week-long trip to Maui, I took the opportunity to check out three properties (gotta love credit card points) and the Fairmont Kea Lani stood out as the most romantic, low key and luxurious of the bunch.
The Fairmont Kea Lani stays true to the Fairmont tradition of having historical and culturally distinct properties, such as the Plaza Hotel in New York, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai and one of my favorites, the Fairmont San Francisco. When you arrive at the Maui property, it feels equal parts grand (like you have arrived at a Moroccan palace) and surprisingly relaxing (as soon as you walk into the open-air lobby, you have a straight view to the ocean). Giant murals of exotic scenes from early Hawaiian tribe history adorn the walls.
The atrium lobby opens up into gardens and palm trees and a collection of pools. Just beyond the pools are the well manicured lawns where sunbathers are relaxing. And beyond those lawns, the beach and ocean sparkle. The water at the Fairmont is relatively calm, protected by volcanic outcrops that block the rougher waters. The resort is in Wailea area of Maui, which is drier with calmer water where turtles are known to gather.
As a city dweller, swimming and snorkeling with the sea turtles was a big draw for why I wanted to visit Maui the first place. However, I was surprised to find that many properties on the island don’t offer water sports to their hotel guests; instead guests are left on their own either to find a snorkeling tour or rent individual equipment from rental shops set up on the beach. Much to my delight, this was not the case at the Fairmont. The properly offers free snorkeling gear (but keeps an eye out for guests by only allowing them to go in the waters when the weather and tide conditions are safe). You can also book a complimentary traditional Hawaiian canoe under the instruction of a Fairmont staff member and paddle out to the waters where whales and sea turtles reside. Even though we missed the whale watching season, we heard from our guide that a canoe adventure is one of the most exhilarating ways to get up close and personal the animal.
Aside from spending time in the water, the best Hawaiian vacation involves eating and lounging.
There are multiple award winning restaurants on the property. For low key (but delicious) dining, my favorite is Ko which offers sushi and other Asian inspired cuisine We ate at Ko for one of the dinners during happy hour and were pleasantly surprised to find a well stocked happy hour menu (half price!). In fact we did not even need to order off the regular menu, since we got stuffed eating and drinking our way through happy hour while listening to the live musician playing Jack Johnson covers.
For a more formal meal, both hotel guests, visitors and locals frequent Nick’s Fishmarket which is located right on property and serves fresh seafood in an outdoor setting surrounded by tiki torches lighting up the night. And if you are craving a little Italian on your trip to Hawaii to break up the seafood and Asian-inspired meals, Caffe Ciao Deli is a little gourmet grocery shop/restaurant combo that offers pasta and simple Italian fare.
Now to the lounging…The suite we stayed in had ocean views and a large wrap-around balcony. As an ocean front all-suite hotel, there’s no such thing as a bad room and every guest gets that upgraded experience. The décor was warm and followed the Arabian palace feel with wicker fans, a large wrap around leather sofa and a large white tiled bathroom. The super large balcony was great for breakfast and drying wet swim suits (very handy!). Also, as most visitors may be a teeny tiny jet-lagged thanks to a three to six hour time difference from the continental US, the super plush bed and luxurious linens were a very welcome (and important!).
The weather was perfect on our trip, so we spent any time actually in the ocean sitting by the pools! The Fairmont has three pools on property, with one dedicated adult pool and one fun pool fully equipped with a water slide. Although I usually prefer adult-only resorts, the Fairmont pools were spacious enough that I never felt like I was caught in the middle of some kids’ water games. At this property, the children and I were not only able to co-eixst side-by-side, but also enjoy ourselves in the process.
Drink service starts at 11am–yes someone was watching the clock. For a true Hawaiian experience, make sure to order a Lava Flow, a pina colada topped with strawberry puree. If this suddenly makes you want to plan a trip to Hawaii stat…well I don’t blame you. Just make sure to book the Fairmont Kea Lani before you go.