Paradise on points: An extraordinary award stay at Hyatt's famed Hana-Maui Resort
I was a glutton for punishment over the Fourth of July. Despite reports of surging tourist numbers, catastrophic rental car shortages and extra hoops to avoid quarantine, I booked a trip to visit Hawaii's tourism epicenter — Maui — during one of the busiest weeks of the year.
I was prepared for packed hotel pools, overcrowded beaches and long waits at restaurants, but I also had a secret weapon up my sleeve: more than enough World of Hyatt points for a two-night stay on Maui's remote eastern coast, near the end of the island's famed Road to Hana.
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Part of Destination by Hyatt, a group of higher-end Hyatt hotels and resorts that don't quite fit within one of the chain's existing brands, Hana-Maui Resort is at the top of the redemption spectrum — Category 7, with base rooms requiring 30,000 points per night, worth $510, based on TPG's valuations.
TPG booked a two-night "Guest of Honor" stay for 30,000 points per night so my girlfriend and I would be eligible for Globalist perks, including complimentary breakfast and a suite upgrade, if available. I provided my own World of Hyatt number at checkout and received elite credit and points for incidental expenses during the two-night stay.
Paid rates start around $750 per night, after taxes and a $43 daily resort fee (which is waived on award stays), giving you an excellent redemption value of roughly 2.5 cents per point.
I didn't end up loving the base room, as I'll explain below. Fortunately, an Oceanfront Bungalow Premier Suite had opened up after check-in, though the agent noted that the same suite wasn't available for both nights — we could move, if we liked, but we'd likely need to move again to a new suite for the second night.
Given how excited we were to have an ocean view, we didn't mind the mid-stay move and happily accepted the suite. You could confirm one at booking for a grand total of 60,000 points per night, worth $1,020, based on TPG's valuations. If you want your stay to be as special as can be, that's what I'd recommend.
If you're booking the suite with cash, expect to pay at least $1,540 per night, depending on the date — including the same $43 resort fee and nearly $200 in tax.
Alternatively, you could pay the cash rate for a base room and upgrade for the difference in points, but after taxes and resort fees are applied, that's probably not your best bet.
Hana is perhaps best known as the town at the end of the Road to Hana, a narrow coastal road filled with seemingly endless twists and turns and a few waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. As the property's name implies, that's exactly where you'll find Hana-Maui Resort.
I'd budget at least two hours to get between Maui's Kahului Airport (OGG) and Hana-Maui — it'll take considerably longer if you end up stopping along the way or stuck behind a slow-moving truck.
We booked Hana-Maui at the beginning of our seven-day island trip, giving us the flexibility to arrive anytime on the first day and depart whenever we wanted on the last since there wasn't any need to race to a flight.
After a fairly chaotic scene at the airport (but no rental car drama, thank goodness), we arrived to nothing but bliss in Hana.
I parked our car for free at the hotel's lot across the street, said hello to the cows and took in a few deep breaths — it truly felt like a world away from OGG.
There's not a whole lot to see in "Hana Town," but it's easy enough to explore the immediate area on foot.
The resort also has a fleet of golf carts available to shuttle you around, including to and from Hana Ranch Restaurant.
In fact, the only time we needed a car was for the 10-minute drive to Waianapanapa State Park. Note that you need to make reservations up to 14 days in advance at this website if you're hoping to visit the grounds, including the park's famed black-sand beach.
If you can't get a reservation for Waianapanapa, you might want to check out Kaihalulu Beach, a short hike from the ocean side of the resort.
After five minutes or so of walking, you'll come across a secluded cove, along with a small red-sand beach. It's definitely a Hana highlight!
We may not have needed our car much in Hana, but it's definitely necessary to get there. Limited Lyft and Uber drivers may be available, but rides will be expensive, and there's no guarantee you'll find someone to make the drive. It can also be especially difficult to find a driver for the return trip from Hana, unless someone happens to be nearby after bringing tourists from Kahului.
Alternatively, you can book one of two daily flights on Mokulele Airlines, starting at $39 each way, with an additional charge for luggage.
If you end up booking the flight, just give the hotel a heads-up and they'll swing by to pick you up — there's no charge, and it's just a 10-minute drive from the Hana Airport (HNM) to the resort.
The hotel also offers its own flights on a 10-seat Cessna aircraft, with a travel time from OGG of just 14 minutes. Fares are a bit higher than with the commercial flights above, but they're certainly worth considering, especially if you're traveling from other Hawaiian islands.
Currently, you can book one-way fares from a handful of Hawaii cities to Hana as follows:
- Kahului (Maui): $100
- Kapalua (West Maui): $169
- Lanai: $229
- Honolulu: $409
Fares are per person, subject to availability and don't include a 7.5% federal excise tax and a $4.30 fee. Blackout dates may apply as well.
Check-in and lobby
For many travelers, it's a long journey to Hana. We're talking an early morning at home, many hours in the air, arrival procedures and then a two-hour drive — you'll probably be especially eager to get to your room when you arrive.
Before you can even talk about checking in, however, the front desk agent will likely ask to see documentation that you've been cleared to visit Hawaii without a quarantine. In our case, we had to pull up our negative COVID-19 test results, though you may be asked to log in to the state’s dedicated website instead. It's a very important step — if you can't display that documentation, you most likely won't be able to stay at the hotel.
As we were pulling up our results, another agent came over with a tray of delicious passion fruit, orange and guava juice — called "POG" on the islands.
After a few minutes of formalities, we were issued keys to our room, along with a property map — an essential addition given how expansive the resort is.
We were assigned Room 44 — it felt fairly basic, and there wasn't a view, but we did have a surprising amount of space.
It's a bit difficult to see in the photos, but the layout just felt a bit odd — there was a ton of empty space, with a mix of furniture that was just sort of scattered about. It was also quite dark, even in the middle of the day, as you can probably tell by how bright the lamps next to the bed appear to be.
It was also hot — Hana-Maui doesn't have any air conditioning, and we arrived in the middle of the day. Even with the fans running and windows and doors open, I wouldn't have wanted to spend much time in the room.
You can get a better sense of the space here — there's a lot of it, but the decor felt sparse rather than making the room seem spacious, perhaps because of how dark and uncomfortably warm it was.
To the side of the room was a sofa and coffee table facing the open space — I could see sitting there to watch some TV or a movie, perhaps, but Hana-Maui doesn't have televisions in the rooms (which, for the record, I entirely didn't mind).
The bathroom was large and included a separate tub and shower but felt a bit dated. Perhaps "frozen in time," to be a bit more generous.
Given how remote the resort is, I imagine major renovations can be especially challenging and expensive, but it might be time to make the investment.
The bathroom was stocked with amenities from a Hawaiian company called Malie, including body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.
As I was exploring the bathroom, I spotted a dead cockroach under the sink. I think that might have been a first for me at a luxury resort!
Insects are to be expected, especially given the hybrid indoor-outdoor layout. The room did feel like it had been thoroughly cleaned, despite the insect and appearance — some of the tiles looked "dirty," but they're likely just permanently discolored from age and perhaps a bit worn.
We also found a very funky (live) critter trying to work his way out of the room. I opened the screen door to the porch and closed the sliding glass door to the room, and he was well on his way a few minutes later — just be sure to keep the screen doors closed and bugs shouldn't be too much of an issue.
You can't really get by with keeping the glass doors closed, though. None of the rooms include air conditioning, and while there's a small fan you can pull out from the closet, you'll probably need a good cross breeze to make the room cool enough to sleep.
After a short walk around the resort, I quickly realized the benefits of an ocean-view room, so I checked the Hyatt app to see if any had opened up. As luck would have it, an Oceanfront Bungalow Premier Suite popped up for both nights, so I gave the front desk a ring to see if we could be moved.
I reached Pono, who was incredibly friendly but noted that he couldn't see any suites available in his system. Still, instead of leaving it at that and wishing me a nice stay, he said he'd do a little digging and call me back.
Sure enough, he was able to confirm availability but noted that the exact same suite wasn't open for both nights — we'd likely have to move to a new suite for the second night. Once I confirmed that wasn't an issue, he got to work arranging the move.
I felt like we had won the lottery! While the views from the island side were pretty spectacular, you couldn't actually see anything from the room. On the ocean side, meanwhile, you're surrounded by sunshine, crackling palm fronds and a magnificent sea breeze.
Our first seaside home was Suite 509, positioned off to the side, which added a bit of extra privacy.
On Hyatt's website, this suite type is listed as offering 942 square feet, and it definitely felt that spacious.
I recommend taking a full tour of the suite here:
The living and dining area was airy and bright, and the layout, high ceilings and big sliding doors helped make the suite feel much more warm and welcoming than what we had experienced in the garden room.
The bedroom had a similar open feel — I couldn't believe I was at the same resort!
There was just so much light, and the air flowed much more easily here — we had been in the garden room just moments before, but the suite felt considerably cooler, even though only a few minutes had passed on the same warm day.
The bathroom finishes were similar here, but, again, there was more natural light.
The bathroom still offered a separate shower and tub, plus a powerful ceiling fan.
The terrace quickly became a special hangout spot. It was partially covered, so you could move the chairs back for a bit of shade, and the breeze made it comfortable to spend a few hours lounging around while watching the ocean just beyond.
We could see some greenery and hills off to the side. We even spotted horses grazing there a few times — it was a perfect view.
The in-suite amenities were fairly basic. Coffee was available via room service, of course, and there was an Illy pod-based coffee maker in the living room.
The hotel doesn't offer a stocked minibar, but there were four chilled bottles of water, and plenty more available in the gym or via housekeeping. You'll likely want to stick to the bottles — Maui County notes that Hana's water comes from the ground, and we found the taste to be a bit unpleasant.
We did end up having to change suites for the second night, as expected. Suite 205 was located in a slightly busier cluster, but it was otherwise nearly identical, aside from some slight tweaks to the decor.
The bedroom was very similar, but with lighter window coverings and doors, giving the room a slightly warmer feel.
Out back, the furniture arrangement was reversed, but the biggest difference was the view.
We could still see out to the ocean, though there were many more buildings on the horizon. I was perfectly happy with 205, don't get me wrong, but if you tend to be the type of traveler who requests a specific room or suite in advance, I'd recommend requesting 509.
On the surface, the suites felt very well maintained, and I don't doubt that they are. There's no question that the resort is showing signs of wear, though — Hyatt would be justified in closing the resort for a period for a large-scale renovation, or at least some heavy updates and repairs.
Given all of the incredible food we expected to be eating during our visit, a well-equipped gym was essential. Fortunately, Hana-Maui's was huge, empty and open for business, though it did end up getting a bit more crowded during our third visit, just before checkout on the final day.
We were so excited to have Pelotons to ride, and since the gym was open air and we were fully vaccinated, we didn't need to wear masks during our workout.
There are several other fitness options available on site as well, including tennis courts, with equipment (along with beach essentials) available to borrow free of charge from the concierge.
The resort has two swimming pools as well, including a smaller pool by the fitness center, which had an accessible pool lift installed.
If I were traveling with a family, that pool probably would have been my first pick, given that it was almost always completely empty, and still had some fantastic views.
It's hard to beat the appeal of the main pool, though. Both were open 24/7 and were completely deserted in the early mornings and far quieter later in the day.
The main pool had a fire pit as well, which the staff turned on at night. It was certainly cooler outside in the evenings, but I never felt cold, even walking around in shorts and a T-shirt.
My favorite hangout ended up being the hammocks, which you could find hanging from the trees near the main pool.
If you're spending significant time outside, sunscreen is an absolute must. The hotel had complimentary Sun Bum dispensers with SPF 30 and 50 out by the pool — while there's no shortage of sunscreen in the shops on Maui, it was definitely helpful to have it on hand.
Another fantastic perk: the library near the front desk, with a selection of books you can borrow. We ended up adding some to the collection as well!
Finally, the resort offers complimentary yoga sessions each morning. We decided to do our own thing instead, but the setup looked fantastic — I stopped by one morning and there was a nice ocean breeze.
Finally, free Wi-Fi was available throughout the resort. It wasn't the fastest I've encountered but should suffice for streaming movies and chatting with colleagues via Zoom.
Food and beverage
Before the pandemic, the hotel served meals in a dining room near the front desk. It's currently closed, but you can grab breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Hana Ranch Restaurant, a short walk away.
While it's technically part of the hotel, Hana Ranch also serves the local community, and tourists passing through might stop there for a meal, too. I'd recommend making reservations in advance on OpenTable, especially if you're hoping to sit outside during dinner.
The restaurant is especially informal — there's certainly no need to dress up. I was thrilled to see reasonable prices, especially given how expensive some restaurants can be in Hawaii.
We arrived around 6:30 p.m. on the first night, and the restaurant was packed. Service was a bit slow, as well — it took about 40 minutes for our appetizer to arrive and another 30 minutes for our main courses.
The sauteed shrimp appetizer ($19) was the true highlight — a fantastic dish! We really enjoyed the banh mi chicken sandwich ($18), as well, but the seared ahi salad ($26) was a bit of a letdown, especially considering how delicious some of the tuna can be in Hawaii.
There seemed to be a long line when we left around 8 p.m., with groups crowded around the entrance and in front of the shops across the parking lot. I'd definitely plan to arrive on the earlier side (or order delivery) if you can.
On our second day, we decided to dine far earlier, at 4:30 p.m., to try out the restaurant's happy hour and avoid the crowds.
The happy hour is easy to miss — I only noticed it when I spotted the special menu after scanning a QR code in the hotel lobby. The hostess only brought us the regular menu, even though we were well within happy hour range. She grabbed the other one for us when I asked, though.
We really went to town. We ordered the sautéed shrimp appetizer a second time ($19), even though it wasn't on the happy hour menu, along with the kalbi ribs ($13), ahi poke ($13) and edamame ($7). The happy hour portions were definitely on the smaller side, but it was nice to be able to try a few dishes.
We ended up adding an order of eight wings for $8 as well — they weren't on the online menu, but I'd ask if they're available. A very filling and delicious dish.
For an additional $7, you can also order any of your meals to be delivered anywhere on the resort, including to your room. Best of all, the Globalist breakfast benefit covered food delivered to the room as well, including gratuity, though you'll be on the hook for the $7 delivery charge.
Globalists receive a breakfast credit of $42 per person per day. We actually found it very difficult to spend anywhere close to that amount — we would have each needed to order between two and three dishes to pull it off.
Instead, we ordered just what we thought we could eat and came in way under budget. Still, in two days, we were able to work our way through much of the menu, starting with a room service breakfast of loco moco ($19), Hawaiian toast ($16), avocado toast ($14) and two juices ($4 each) on the first morning.
Everything was fresh and fantastic — I especially loved the loco moco, which came loaded with tender pork, eggs and gravy served on a mountain of white rice.
The next morning, we figured we'd try to use up the full budget with a restaurant breakfast. At $13 each, the two bloody marys would have certainly made a dent, but they ended up making it onto the final hotel invoice — as it turns out, alcoholic beverages aren't eligible for the credit.
On their own, the giant breakfast sando ($15), fresh and light papaya boat ($13) and loco moco ($19) were far shy of our budget, even after adding a couple of coffees for $4 each.
Long story short, the Globalist breakfast benefit is more than sufficient — if you arrive in the morning intending to use up every cent, you probably won't be hungry for the rest of the day.
As incredible as our suite ended up being and as much as we enjoyed the amenities and food, the true highlight of our stay was the incredibly warm staff. From the check-in and phone agents to the restaurant staff to shuttle drivers, everyone we encountered brought even more joy to our day — that's not an experience I've had at too many hotels, and it made our two-night visit all the more enjoyable.
Every single person we interacted with is deserving of recognition and praise, but I wanted to share some extra appreciation for Lea and Pono at the front desk, who expertly managed our multiple moves throughout the stay.
We had an absolutely incredible stay. After moving to an oceanfront suite, my only regret was not staying in Hana longer. Two nights was enough, especially when paired with a stay elsewhere in Maui, but it's such a special place — I wouldn't have minded hanging out there for at least a few more nights.
That said, your experience is likely to vary dramatically depending on which room type you end up with. The two sections of the property are separated by a road, and the ocean bungalows feel like they're part of an entirely different resort.
Some of the design elements carry over, as do the lack of air conditioning and in-room televisions, but the ocean-view rooms and suites seem vastly superior — from the views to the room layout to the natural light, I walked away with a strong preference for the ocean-facing section of the resort.
If you're planning a stay of your own, I'd be sure to confirm an ocean bungalow or suite before you arrive. You might luck out with an upgrade at check-in, but I wouldn't want to travel all that way just to end up in one of the dated and dark garden-view rooms.