Wailea Wonders in MAUI

Well-known for its pristine beaches, lavish resorts and natural beauty, Wailea hits all the right notes for a classic Hawaiian vacation.

Whether it’s sliding into a refreshing pool or sipping a refreshing drink while watching the sunset over the Pacific, Wailea offers some of the best beaches and resorts in Maui, throughout its 1,500 acres (three times the size of Waikiki).

For a luxurious stay at one of the best resorts on the “Valley Isle,” book a beachfront suite at the Grand Wailea Resort. The biggest draw for kids is the multi-level Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, which encompasses nine pools, slides, waterfalls, caves, a swim-up bar, and a lazy river. It’s like having a private water park at your fingertips. (The rooms are becoming even grander in 2015 as the Grand Wailea is currently upgrading their guest rooms with a fresh, modern design.)

Though there are several restaurants on the property, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (aka Humu) impresses as a “floating” restaurant named after Hawaii’s official state fish. Humu is composed of a cluster of thatch-roof Polynesian huts floating atop a million-gallon saltwater lagoon with tropical fish.

It’s no surprise that the Grand Wailea is home to the largest spa in Hawaii. At 50,000 sq. ft., Spa Grande features a unique Terme Hydrotherapy Circuit with five specialty sea salt baths, a Roman tub, cascading waterfalls, Swiss jet showers, and Japanese furo baths. Spa guests can spend the hour before their treatment at the different stations, along with receiving a complimentary honey-mango exfoliation. Knots of tension will further disappear with a traditional Hawaiian lomilomi massage.

Be sure and take advantage of the picture-postcard views from the Coastal Nature Trail, which connects several beaches and resorts. This oceanfront pathway is one of the best ways to view the dramatic coastline of Wailea, with changing vistas around each bend. It’s a photographer’s dream: golden sand beaches, green vegetation, and palm trees against a blue sky, reflecting in the sparkling waters. To combat the tropical heat, cool off with a mountain of refreshing shaved ice at the Surfing Monkey stand, just off the trail near the Wailea Marriott.

For a dramatically different landscape scene, drive south (past Makena) and visit the lava fields at the Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve. More than 1,200 acres of hardened black lava were formed from the 1790 eruption of Haleakala. Much of the reserve is closed off to visitors, but slowly driving past the rough, jagged landscape to see this rare Hawaiian wonder is worthwhile.

Nearby, be sure and stop off at one of the best beaches in Maui, Makena Beach (aka Big Beach). It’s pure paradise. The ocean is clear and perfect for snorkeling and swimming, while the soft sand cradles sunbathers. There’s plenty of room for all, as the beach is one of the largest in Maui at nearly 2/3 of a mile long.

Another excellent option for accommodations in Wailea is the Fairmont Kea Lani, Hawaii’s only all-suite and villa luxury oceanfront resort. Crisp, white buildings with tall arches give off a Moroccan vibe and perfectly frame the spectacular ocean views. The iconic Kea Lani recently completed a $70 million renovation, including remodeling its suites and villas with a tropical and contemporary décor throughout.

The resort is located on the white sands of Polo Beach with various beach activities only steps away and a 140-foot waterslide, which connects the two activity pools (adults can find peace and quiet at the adults-only pool). Although there are plenty of restaurants on-site to satisfy your hunger, try , the resort’s award-winning signature restaurant that offers family recipe dishes (from some of the staff), representing several Asian countries.

If you want to see a different side to Maui, devoid of major resorts, visit Paia, an old plantation town on Maui’s north shore with a laid-back, hippie vibe. Most folks stop off in Paia for lunch on their way to Hana. Crepes and smoothies fit the bill at Café des Amis with a casual wait staff donning dreads, flip-flops, and board shorts. Other great food finds are Café Mambo and the Flatbread Company, with its fresh organic salads and wood-fired pizza. Pop in to some of the cute shops along Baldwin Avenue, filled with local art, clothing, and knick-knacks, and find a significant souvenir to remind you of the magic of Maui.

Kiana Laing is a freelance writer and photographer, based in Los Angeles. She’s lived in Paris and loves to travel, especially to Venice, Italy. You can find her on Behance and follow her on Instagram.

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