Massive in Maui: A Review of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

May 11, 2019

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To The Point

The 508-room Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is a respectable, midrange choice for families on a beach vacation. Pros: Beautiful setting, large and nicely redone rooms. Cons: Tons of tacked-on fees, crowded pool, virtually no beach.

I spent the last two nights of a spring break to Hawaii checking out the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. Though the hotel has been around since 1963, it’s looking good these days, thanks to a recent redecoration of its guest rooms and suites, 83% of which have some sort of ocean view, according to the hotel’s site.

The hotel and Kaanapali Beach in general are good choices for family groups, so couples and solo travelers might find the scene overwhelming.

Booking

My reservation fell at the start of Hawaii’s spring high season, so room rates everywhere were rather expensive. Those at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa started at $440 per night for a deluxe ocean-view king, since rooms in the lower categories with resort and partial-ocean views were already booked by the time I made my reservation a month out.

Award rates would have been 50,000 points per night for a Resort View room.

I booked a prepaid, nonrefundable rate that ended up costing $901 for two nights. However, when I checked in, I was charged an additional resort fee of $26.04 per day, including taxes, and $22.92 per day for self-parking. The resort fee included:

  • Complimentary valet parking on the day of arrival
  • Shuttle service to the area Westin hotels and town of Lahaina
  • Adult pool floats
  • A resort photo session and digital keepsake
  • A signature tote bag
  • Access to PressReader
  • Local telephone calls on Maui
  • Wi-Fi access in guest rooms and public areas
  • Access to the fitness center and coin-operated laundry room
  • Access to the Maui Ocean Center educational Hawaiian marine life hale near the pool
  • Trolley service in Kaanapali
  • 25% off greens fees at the Kaanapali golf courses
  • Cultural activities like lei-making and hula demos
  • In-room coffee and tea

Needless to say, an additional $52 after taxes for services I was either not going to use or would have expected to have access to anyway, like the gym, was not a thrill to discover. Neither was the fact that I was charged for both days of self-parking, since I decided to do that instead of valet because the lot was right near my room. However, the charge for one of the days of parking was eventually taken off my tab. In all, my bill ended up being $976.50.

I considered paying with my Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express to earn 6x Marriott points per dollar. Instead, I used my Chase Ink Business Preferred to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the travel purchase on top of the 12.5x Marriott Rewards points per dollar I earned as a Marriott Gold elite.

Location

The hotel is in the resort area of Kaanapali, about a 45-minute drive from the airport in Kahului (OGG). The area has become a favorite for families because of its proximity to the historic whaling town of Lahaina, a long beach with gentle surf and the shops and restaurants of Whalers Village.

Though the waterfront is now packed with resorts and timeshares, the Sheraton was the first hotel to open in the area, way back in 1963. Because of that, it claims 23 acres of prime real estate on the northern end of the beach. It’s bookended by a dramatic black-rock lava flow from which a cliff diver jumps every day at sunset after lighting the resort’s tiki torches.

Check-in 

I arrived at the resort around 1pm and pulled up to the front entrance, where a bellman promptly took my keys and unloaded my bags for me. He let me know that the first night of valet would be free, though he would keep my car close in case I decided to self-park.

The lobby had a classic open-air layout with concierge and reception desks off to one side and views of the pool area directly ahead. It was not as dramatic or as open as some newer hotel entrances, like the one at the Andaz Wailea further down the coast, but that’s probably just due to the age.

The agents at reception were friendly, thanked me for my loyalty and told me I’d been upgraded to an oceanfront king room, which would have cost me $29 more per night.

I was also entitled to the premium, higher-speed internet package that would have cost $14.95 per day. Given the midrange speeds I clocked, I would have been upset if I’d paid for the service.

The building I was in, the Moana Hale, was on top of the so-called Black Rock formation, away from the rest of the resort’s main buildings. It was thus quieter than the rest of the hotel. It also meant I had a hike that included going up and down in two elevators or stairwells just to get to any of the main areas.

When we’d finished the check-in, the agent told me it would be easier to pull my car around to self-park and gave me directions for doing so. I hopped back in my car and drove along the rest of the hotel driveway, past a gate I had to use my keycard to open, and parked practically right outside my room.

To get from my building to the beach or pool, I had to walk across a breezeway, take the elevator up two floors, walk through another building, then take the elevator down eight floors to the ground level. In short, there was no getting anywhere in a hurry.

That said, it was nice to feel secluded from the noise and activity of the rest of the hotel, especially early in the morning when lots of families with young kids were out and about making noise in the restaurants and pool area.

Room

My room was up on the second floor, just around the corner from the elevators … and across from a rather loud ice machine.

Given how short my stay was, I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle of moving, though both the noise of ice being made and the constant beeping of the elevator were clearly audible in my room.

The entrance to the room was framed by the closet on one side and the bathroom on the other.

Beyond that was the main bedroom.

It contained a king bed dressed in white sheets with a teal runner and throw pillows.

The nightstands held a clock, telephone and lamp on one side and just a lamp on the other. Both lamps had built-in electrical plugs and USB ports, which was handy.

Across from that was a low wooden bench and a dresser with a large Samsung television on top.

The room’s desk was built into the dresser and had a comfortable chair and a standing lamp next to it. There was a panel of outlets that included four electrical outlets but no USB ports.

Next the bed, there was a loveseat with a pullout double bed. It would have been great for families who wanted to share a room.

There was a sliding glass door to the balcony, but no screen, which was odd.

The balcony held a table and two chairs.

My view was pure blue, nothing but Pacific Ocean with the island of Molokai in the distance. The second morning of my stay, it was magical to spot whales swimming not too far off the coast.

Back toward the front door, there was a small nook containing a microwave, an empty refrigerator and a basic coffeemaker stocked with Royal Kona coffee.

The closet was decent-sized and had a ton of hangers and a huge in-room safe.

The bathroom held a single sink with a large surface area and a second shelf for storing toiletries.

There was a combination bath-shower, though the shower head was abysmal. You could not angle it to face downward, so it sprayed directly outward, and the pressure was very low.

The opposite side held the toilet.

The bath amenities were citron-and-vetiver Le Grand Bain products. It was nice that the hotel also included dental kits if you needed them.

Overall, the room was spacious and felt fresh, thanks to the recent redecoration, but it didn’t really seem deluxe. Not that I’d expect that of a Sheraton beach resort, but considering the high price tag and amenity fee, it might have been nicer.

Food and Beverage

The hotel had six restaurants and bars. The main one was ROCKSalt and was just downstairs from the lobby. It was open for breakfast and dinner. The continental breakfast buffet was $22 per person, while the buffet with hot items was $31. Not cheap but not unreasonable. I skipped the buffet because it was crowded, preferring instead to order coffee and a pastry from the coffee stand just across from ROCKSalt. However, I did stop in for dinner.

The menu mainly consisted of Asian-fusion small plates like fried hamachi with kimchi and bonito flakes and dynamite ahi poke with sriracha mayo and Maui potato chips. I ended up ordering the catch of the day, which was a pink snapper prepared with tomato-coriander broth, hearts of palm, okra and onions. It was delicious, but expensive at $46.

I also enjoyed a signature cocktail called the Thyme to Let Go. It cost $15 and included Japanese whisky, orgeat, grapefruit bitters, calamansi juice and thyme.

The food at ROCKSalt was good but pricey. The torch-lit outdoor terrace was also a nice place to dine, but the interior section looked more like a brightly lit sports bar than a fine-dining restaurant.

Around the pool area, Hank’s Haute Dogs was open for lunch and served gourmet hot dogs and fries with a variety of toppings.

The Mai Tai Bar was at the north end of the pool area and was open from 10am to 4pm daily. It served bites like poke bowls, burgers and salads, though you could also order from Hank’s Haute Dogs here.

On the other side of the pool, and open daily from 11am to 9pm, the Cliff Dive Grill served more barbecue and heavier items like mahi mahi tacos, Kalua pork sandwiches and chopped salads with ingredients from Maui. In the evenings, there was also live music.

Finally, the hotel had a Benihana-style Japanese restaurant called Teppan-yaki Dan that was open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, but I didn’t have a chance to stop by. Instead, I walked 10 minutes along the beachfront trail to Whalers Village and had dinner at Leilani’s the second night of my stay. There were also other popular options like Hula Grill and Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman.

The resort’s food options were decent, if overpriced, but that’s to be expected of a hotel where you’ve got a captive audience. I’d suggest planning to spend a night or two eating at the resort but making reservations either in Lahaina or elsewhere the other evenings of your stay.

Amenities

The main draw was, of course, the pool area.

The resort’s lagoon-style pool was 142 yards long overall, though it had several distinct sections, including a main beachfront area and smaller, shallower sections for young children.

I did get to spend some time there, but it was a huge hassle. Most folks seemed to come out around dawn to plop down towels and other belongings on the chairs, then went off to activities and breakfast.

Only about half the chairs by the pool were actually occupied by guests at any given time, though almost all were claimed. The pool staff were supposed to remove towels and belongings from unused chairs after an hour or so, but that did not seem to happen either day of my stay.

I was able to find a place to sit after a 30-minute search one day (some folks ended up leaving for the day) and 15 minutes the following one. Given how busy the resort was and folks’ tendency to stake out chairs then leave them, the staff should have been much more diligent about making sure guests were actually using their chairs.

The beach was not quite its usual size due to winter storms, so there was not really an area to sit out there.

You could take your towels and venture farther south along the beach near the other resorts, though, and that’s what I did one afternoon. The area around Black Rock was supposed to be good for tropical fish and turtles, but given the number of people in the water, it seemed like the sea creatures had deserted it for the time being.

Black Rock was also the site of the resort’s iconic sunset cliff dive. Every evening, a young man in traditional Hawaiian garb runs up the rock lighting torches along the way then jumps into the sea. I missed it both days. I was told it was at sunset, but it appeared to be at a specific time about 20 minutes prior, and yet it changed from one day to the next, so I’m not sure how they schedule it.

Hotel guests could rent items from the watersports shack by the pool, including snorkel sets for $8 per hour or $20 per day, stand-up paddleboards for $55 an hour and poolside cabanas for $45 for the day. You could also book snorkel, whale-watching and sunset cruises here.

By the pool, there were cabanas where you could get open-air spa treatments, though I’m not sure how enticing a prospect that was, since everyone could just walk by and see you.

There was also a hut where a marine biologist from the Maui Ocean Center would come talk to guests from 9am to noon daily.

There was a separate hut where you could pick up towels and purchase sunscreen or sunglasses.

The hotel’s Black Rock Spa was in one of the main guest buildings on the ground floor, and was open from 8:30am to 7pm daily. The facilities looked like a midrange day spa, but the attendants were all friendly and helpful, and the product lines included Éminence from Hungary and Ola all-natural Hawaiian items.

The 50-minute massages were $135 to $145, while 80-minute sessions were more like $185 to $190. The facials and body treatments were in the same range.

The resort had several tennis courts, and guests could also make reservations to use the Kaanapali golf courses with fees ranging from $103 to $187 for up to four players.

The fitness center, meanwhile, was small but well-equipped.

It had an area for weights and several types of cardio machines. I stopped by a few times throughout my stay, and it was never busy.

Walking between and through some of the buildings, you could find several tranquil sitting areas, some of them with spectacular views of the resort and the coast. They were never busy, and I found one of them to be a great place to get work done during the mornings. I also liked the fire pit over which you could roast s’mores just in front of ROCKSalt.

The hotel installed two really great features throughout the buildings: water and sunscreen dispensers. The sunscreen dispensers were filled with Raw Elements reef-safe sunscreen. I thought that was not only handy but a smart move to protect the marine environment in the area, as well as to comply with Hawaii’s imminent ban on harmful sunscreens.

The water dispensers were also a fantastic way to cut down on plastic use — I basically reused a single bottle throughout my stay — and much more effective than simply replacing plastic straws with paper ones (which the hotel also did, by the way).

My interactions with staff were always pleasant. The front-desk agents were friendly and helpful and asked me if there was anything they could do to improve my stay anytime I stopped by or rang up with a question. The wait staff at ROCKSalt were also great, and the guys out in the pool towel shack were always jocular and chatting away with guests. Overall, the service definitely displayed that typical Hawaiian aloha warmth.

Overall Impression

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is looking nice, if not new, after a recent renovation. The rooms are spacious and decently appointed. My ocean view was spectacular, and the furnishings were functional and durable. Its location in Kaanapali is ideal for folks looking to stay put in and around the resort, since there are tons of activities on hand just outside the front door and right off the beach.

That said, the hotel is a big, sprawling, high-energy family resort. If you’re with a large group and have kids, it is a great choice, since there are tons of things for children to do. However, if you’re just traveling alone or as a couple, be prepared for all the large groups … and to stake out a chair at the pool bright and early, if you want one.

The rates for my stay were sky-high, even for spring break, and all those tacked-on fees were a huge aggravation. Just bundle them into the rate rather than nickel-and-diming loyal customers! I also can’t see wanting to spend 50,000 points on what amounts to a middling room. So while I won’t be heading back to this resort anytime soon, at least it was a pleasant place to spend my last two days on Maui.

All photos by the author.

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