Hotel Wailea, Maui: Hawaii's luxury oasis for adults-only

It looks like a Garden of Eden – lush grass, foliage riotous with flower blossom and trees heavy with fruit – except that the danger here doesn't come from a forbidden apple.

Thwack! A massive overripe mango thuds onto the path in front of me, splitting on impact, its juice splattering the stone. The hotel executive showing me around pales in horror.

"I'm so sorry!" she exclaims. "But we can't keep up with the mangoes this year."

"I love mangoes!" I say brightly.

"I'll send one to your room," she replies, relieved.

The Hotel Wailea, on Hawaii's island of Maui, has built its reputation on looking after its guests. It is the US state's only Relais & Chateaux property and was recently voted the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hawaii in the Conde Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Awards and in the Top 100 Best Hotels in The World by Travel + Leisure magazine.

My hotel guide diverts my attention to the treehouse we've come to see in the property's expansive 6.5 hectares of rolling grounds, a mix of flowers, shrubs, lawns, trees, waterfalls, streams and pathways.

No rickety little edifice perched on a branch, this. Instead, it's a splendid stand-alone pagoda-type building, elevated nearly five metres off the ground with stunning panoramic ocean views and crafted from Brazilian walnut or ipe, with Douglas fir pillars and cedar ceilings. It's spacious enough to hold 25 people for a stand-up reception or up to six for a private seven-course dinner.

This hotel was originally built in 1992 by Japanese investors as a private members' club, but was bought in 2008 by a group headed by Oahu businessman Jonathan McManus. It underwent a US$35 million renovation and was transformed into a luxury resort. In 2016, it was invited to become a member of the elite fellowship of Relais & Chateaux.

Advertisement

You can see why. The 72 suites are spacious, tastefully furnished and very private. From secluded decks there are broad views of either the ocean or the stunning gardens. A five-minute shuttle ride to the nearby beach – in either a sporty Jeep or a top-of-the-range Tesla – takes you to a private spot, where chairs, umbrellas and refreshments are supplied.

Meanwhile, the resort's main building has a vast, airy lobby and lounge, restaurant, a pool and bar area with luxurious shady cabanas, a well-equipped gym and a yoga studio and spa.

Yet as I recline regally on a squashy lounge in one of those cabanas, I realise there's something missing at the Hotel Wailea: children. During school holiday time in Hawaii most of the resorts on all the islands are crowded with families, but here, it's been adults-only since 2015.

At the pool, guests chat over glasses of wine and laugh as they watch a young man try awkwardly to clamber atop a large inflatable swan. On the shaded deck to one side of the pool, a couple eat lunch at a long table. On the other side, honeymooners lie on loungers holding hands whispering sweet nothings.

Children aren't the only demographic absent – their parents are, too. The no-kids rule means most of the guests are either in their early 30s with 87 per cent of new guests being honeymooners or in the 55-plus bracket.

"It's lovely to see the two groups chatting to each other at the pool or in the lounge," says the hotel executive. "They're all here to enjoy themselves, relax and be sociable."

It's a set-up that pays dividends for the hotel which tends to run at full occupancy, with significant numbers of return guests and bookings having to be made at least 30 days ahead.

It gives a whole new meaning to the word "exclusive", I muse, while cutting into the massive mango that's arrived in my room.

TRIP NOTES

Sue Williams was a guest of Hotel Wailea and flew with Hawaiian Airlines.

MORE

traveller.com.au/hawaii

gohawaii.com

FLY

Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas both fly nonstop from Sydney or Brisbane to Honolulu, or via Sydney, Brisbane or Auckland from Melbourne. Hawaiian Airlines flies from Honolulu to Maui. See qantas.com/au; hawaiianairlines.com.au

STAY

Rooms at Hotel Wailea start from $US599 a night. See hotelwailea.com

Comments