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The Grand Wailea is a great option if you’re looking to redeem Hilton Honors points for a Hawaiian getaway. The Pros: beachfront location with amazing pools and spectacular views of the ocean from our room. The Cons: an aging property with lousy lighting and pricey amenities.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express
In May, my wife and I headed to Maui for an early summer vacation, spending the first half of our trip at The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort that’s one of the island’s most famous hotels. With more than 800 rooms and 40 acres of grounds, there’s plenty to explore, and while some features are a bit worn, the property is a great option for families or travelers of all ages.
Rooms at the Grand Wailea start around $325 per night but typically go for $400-600 per night, not counting taxes or the $30 daily resort fee. While award space is severely restricted and long stretches of the calendar are often blacked out, we were able to find open dates at the lowest award level by booking far ahead in advance (about eight months). At the time of booking, standard awards cost 70,000-95,000 Hilton Honors points per night, which is a good but unexceptional value. Using Hilton’s fifth night free benefit, we redeemed 280,000 Honors points total for a five-night stay in a Terrace View room.
Unfortunately, Hilton has since adopted a new award pricing structure and the cost of awards at the Grand Wailea has gone up. Through the end of the booking calendar, the lowest rate I could find for a single night was 84,000 Honors points. The lowest I saw for a five-night stay was 380,000 points, which works out to 76,000 points per night after the fifth night free benefit. On the bright side, cancellations are allowed with no penalty until two weeks prior to arrival, so you can book open dates when you find them even if you’re not sure they’ll suit your schedule. Hilton generally doesn’t add taxes or resort fees to award stays either, so your points will save you a bit more than just the nightly rate.
Location and Check-In
The Grand Wailea is situated about 30 minutes from Kahului Airport (OGG) on a beautiful stretch of South Maui coastline alongside other upscale resorts like the Andaz Maui and the Fairmont Kea Lani. The driveway takes you past a lush waterfall and up to the stately main entrance.
We were immediately met by an energetic valet upon arrival. Parking at the hotel costs $30 per night (plus tax) and you have to use the valet service if you want to leave your car in the garage. However, you can find free, untimed parking about one mile south on Kaukahi Street just west of Wailea Alanui Drive. We didn’t need our car more than once each day, so we skipped the valet and had no trouble parking there during our stay.
The lobby of the Grand Wailea is a manicured jumble of water features and local flora separating the wide, tiled walkways. The front desk is off to the right immediately after you enter the property.
We arrived at prime check-in time, but the desk was well-staffed and I was through the short line in under five minutes. Thanks to my Hilton Honors Diamond status, we were upgraded from the Terrace View room to an Ocean View room. I received 1,000 Honors points as one of my Diamond benefits and we were given welcome gifts of chocolates and bath salts along with coupons for two free drinks at the Botero Lounge, $20 toward dinner at Bistro Molokini and 20% off a spa treatment.
Our Ocean View room was on the sixth floor of the Haleakala wing. The front door opened to a hallway with a bathroom on one side and a sizable closet, stocked with cozy bathrobes, on the other. A small kitchen area with a refrigerator and coffee maker was tucked into a corner by the entry to the living area. At more than 600 square feet, the room felt spacious. Our two queen beds sat against the far wall, with lots of room to maneuver around them.
The wall opposite the beds housed a 55-inch HD television, which was mounted on an ample dresser, and a desk that served as both a work station and dining table. The hotel Wi-Fi wasn’t blazing, but it was fast enough to stream video without any hiccups.
The decor was simple, with just a few splashes of color and little ornamentation. Some people prefer a more stylized interior, but I appreciated the understated design. After all, there was plenty to look at outside. The sliding glass doors at the back of the room led to a small patio with a table, two reclinable wooden chairs and a small ottoman.
I’ve been in “view” rooms that only offered a thin sliver of scenery, but the view from this room was spectacular. West Maui loomed large beyond the Chapel wing of the Grand Wailea, while Lanai sat plainly visible on the horizon and both the island of Kaho’olawe and Molokini Crater peeked out from behind the vegetation to the southwest. The hotel grounds below were full of flowering Hawaiian trees, along with the paradisiacal sounds of songbirds and flowing water.
The Ocean View room has the same layout and amenities as the Garden or Terrace rooms, but the view makes it worth the extra cost if you can’t score an upgrade. The price difference is often negligible, too, so you could also consider booking directly into an Ocean View room if one is available. Note that ours was a regular room and not a “Deluxe,” which does tend to cost a bit more.
The bathroom was expansive, offering a large bathtub and a shower that fit two people comfortably. I’m 6’3″ and the shower nozzle sat just at my forehead — it wasn’t low enough to be inconvenient, but I would expect a property of this caliber to use more modern rain shower heads.
The room was stocked with plenty of large, soft towels, along with assorted honey-mango-scented body care products from the Spa Grande downstairs.
We were thrilled with the room overall and I had only two complaints. First, while the natural daytime light was fantastic, the electric lighting was inadequate. There was just a small desk lamp to go with two bedside lights, all of which had an unappealing fluorescent tint. Second, the water from the tap was revolting. You can usually find cold, filtered water at the front desk or gym, but I recommend bringing some bottles unless you don’t mind trekking downstairs every time you’re thirsty.
The Grand Wailea’s crown jewel is its quarter mile of immaculate, sandy shoreline. Wailea may not rank among the world’s top beaches, but the gentle surf and awesome views make it one to remember. The swimming is fantastic anywhere, while the best snorkeling is found along the rocks at the southern end of the beach. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards and snorkel gear from the Aqualani stand near the beach path. The rates are laughable — stand-up paddle board rentals run $50 per hour at the hotel versus around $30 per day or $100 per week in nearby Kihei — but you get the convenience of being able to grab your gear and jump right in.
The Grand Wailea also has fantastic pools, including the Canyon Pool, an enormous network of waterfalls, slides, rapids and grottoes that puts most hotel pools to shame. It’s designed for families and children, but we had fun exploring it, too. If you want a more subdued atmosphere, head to the adults-only Hibiscus Pool.
Just above the Hibiscus Pool, you’ll find Spa Grande, which offers an extensive menu of body care and salon services. As you might expect, prices are on the high side: a basic massage starts at $185, while a 50-minute lava stone massage goes for $435. We decided to skip it even with the coupon we got at check-in, but it looks like a nice place to relax if you want to splurge.
The spa features a fitness center with multiple floors of exercise machines, free weights and other workout gear. Most machines are later models in excellent condition and come equipped with personal televisions.
You can also sign up for fitness classes like Zumba, group cycle and racquetball, which cost $15 per person except for the (almost) daily beach yoga, which meets at 7:00am and is complimentary for hotel guests.
One of my favorite amenities was the fleet of beach cruisers guests can check out at no charge from the valet desk. Each bike comes with a helmet and lock, a bottle of water and a map of the area. They’re stocky but well maintained, and we had no trouble riding to Kihei and back. The roads nearby mostly have either sharrows (shared lanes) or dedicated bike lanes, but there’s not much separation from traffic in either case, so take care with children or inexperienced riders.
Hawaii is a popular wedding destination, so I wasn’t surprised to see this gorgeous wedding chapel on the hotel grounds.
There’s also an indoor hangout spot for families and kids of all ages tucked into the Wailea wing of the hotel. I clocked in a few games of Mario Kart while my wife napped one afternoon and it seemed like a nice, air-conditioned spot to hang out.
Food and Beverage
The Grand Wailea has several dining options ranging from hyper-casual to upscale. The property’s premier establishment is the tongue-twisting Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, named for Hawaii’s state fish and mercifully shortened to Humuhumu for tourists. Starters are around $20, while entrees cost $30-40. We didn’t end up dining there (and neither did many other people from what we saw in passing), but the interior was nice and the menu sounded appetizing.
The Grand Wailea’s other full restaurant is Bistro Molokini, which you’ll find next to the Hibiscus Pool. Prices are similar to what you’ll find at Humuhumu, with a few inexpensive salad options in the mix. We stopped in for dinner one night and despite having made a reservation through OpenTable, we waited about 10 minutes to be seated.
Our table overlooked the Canyon Pool and while the sun had already set, we could see waves rolling in along the beach. We ordered a roasted beet salad with chicken and a truffle and brie burger; both were excellent, though the portions were on the small side. The total with tip and tax came to just under $35 after the $20 coupon we were given at check-in. My only complaint was that the lighting was poor — our corner was too dark for me to snap quality photos of the meal.
We stopped by the Botero Lounge before dinner one evening to take advantage of our other coupon, which was only supposed to apply to well drinks, house wines by the glass, or domestic beers, but our server said we could use it for anything on the menu.
My wife ordered a Kula Kaipiroska — made with Pau vodka, coconut cream, torn mint and lime juice — while I ordered the Rekorderlig lillikoi cider, which I naively assumed was local, but it’s actually brewed in Sweden. Both drinks were fantastic and the lounge proved to be a great spot to unwind after an active day in the sun.
The Grand Wailea has several more casual dining options, including a cafe on the ground floor of the Haleakala wing and a bar and grill near the center of the Canyon Pool. Don’t miss the swim-up Grotto bar, pictured below, where you can get drinks and light fare without even exiting the water.
The Grand Dining Room, located just below the Botero Lounge, offers a daily breakfast/brunch buffet that costs $35 for adults or $15.75 for children ages 5-12 (younger kids can accompany you at no extra charge). As a Waldorf Astoria property, the Grand Wailea doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast to Hilton Honors elite members, so you’ll have to pay for entry even with Diamond status.
The hotel also offers extensive in-room dining options from 5:30am to midnight. We ordered a tropical fruit plate one morning and while the presentation was nice, half the fruit was unripe, the banana bread was forgettable and the yogurt was just a cup of Yoplait. After state tax, a $7 delivery charge and a 20% service charge, the $19 menu price ballooned to more than $31, so unless you’re bedridden from a night of Mai Tais, I recommend spending your money elsewhere.
If you’re looking to leave the resort, there are plenty of other dining options nearby. The other properties in the area have their own restaurants, too, but if you don’t want to pay resort prices, head to The Shops at Wailea (less than a mile up the main road), or to Kihei. I recommend the Island Gourmet Market, which has an excellent deli with snacks and made-to-order meals at reasonable prices.
The Grand Wailea is far from perfect: despite opening just 26 years ago, the property is showing its age, and it lacks some of the elegance of more modern resorts nearby. Nevertheless, I loved our experience there and would happily go back. Our room was clean and comfortable, the service was top-notch and both the beach and pools were as good as advertised. The increased award rate is a shame, but the rooms are still a good value if you can find availability around 75,000-85,000 points per night. It’s also a great spot to use free night certificates from the Citi Hilton Reserve or the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.
Have you ever stayed at the Grand Wailea in Maui? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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