There's never a bad time to plan a Hawaiian vacation, but there are ideal times. And the start of winter falls squarely in that category, as the impending cold gives way to thoughts of sandy beaches and tropical drinks.
Hawaii offers plenty of options across its islands, and possible vacations range from relaxing stays on Maui to adventure-seeking getaways on Kauai. So, if Hawaii is on your radar for next year, pull out the calendar, cue up the hotel reviews and pour yourself a drink—this could take awhile.
Or skip all that and just go to Wailea Beach Resort. The recently renovated property sits on 22 acres of meticulously landscaped Maui coastline, and it's situated nearer to the ocean's edge than any other hotel on the island. That means endless views, ocean breezes and the sound of crashing waves, so you never forget you're on vacation.
Step into the open-air lobby, and a friendly staffer will welcome you with a lei around your neck and a fresh glass of passion fruit-orange-guava juice. That's always a good start. The hotel's 547 residential-style rooms are spread across the grounds and include 56 suites and 43 Sundeck Collection rooms, which feature an additional 150 square feet of outdoor living area. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, so you may be tempted to stay indoors. But look outside, and you'll quickly remember why you came.
The resort is fronted by two beaches separated by a rocky outcrop. You can score chairs and umbrellas, or grab a snorkel mask and some fins to explore the clear waters. If you'd rather spend your time at the pool, that's easy to accomplish—there are five of them.
The adults-only Maluhia Infinity Pool sports unobstructed Pacific views and is a fine place to post up at sunset. It's also home to several floating cabanas, and science has shown that frozen drinks taste better when consumed in floating cabanas. The 'Ohi Pools are situated on two levels and include a whirlpool and oceanfront cabanas. And the NALU Adventure Pools are where you'll find a few waterslides, including Maui's longest, and a little grotto protected by a waterfall. It's family-friendly and there's a splash zone for kids, but don't let that keep you from racing down the slides—they're open to everyone.
When it's time to eat, you've got options. The flagship restaurant is Humble Market Kitchin by famed chef Roy Yamaguchi. It's open for breakfast, happy hour and dinner, and the menu features a variety of fresh fish, meats and produce. Think Mongolian baby back ribs, blackened ahi, a rotating local catch and a chimichurri-topped ribeye.
KAPA Bar & Grill sits poolside and recently launched a new menu. Dishes range from a sashimi platter and poke bowls to a crispy Korean fried chicken sandwich, a damn good burger, and a lobster tail stuffed with shrimp and scallops. There's also the Whale's Tale Beach Bar, which serves cold-pressed juices, smoothies and coffees, and Mo' Bettah, a food truck serving shave ice, poke bowls and other Hawaiian classics. You won't go hungry here.
If all that eating leads to a wild idea, like working out on vacation, that can be arranged via the 24-hour fitness center, which is stocked with Peloton bikes, cardio equipment, weights, and studio space for on-demand classes. There are also complimentary wellness classes each day, including sunrise yoga, pilates and beach bootcamp. Better yet, visit the Mandara Spa. The 9,000-square-foot facility has 12 treatment rooms, a steam room and all the amenities, so you can double down on relaxation with a good massage.
Part of the fun of visiting Maui is learning about island culture and partaking in its traditions. You can get a crash course in Hawaiian history (plus a massive feast) during the on-site Te Au Moana luau. Sign up in advance, and you'll get a table with a view of all the action, which includes ancestral Polynesian stories, hula dancing, ukulele music and a fire show. The performers do all the work, while you sip drinks from the open bar and eat a family-style dinner featuring roasted whole pig, grilled meats, rice and other sides.
The hotel also sits adjacent to the Wailea Golf Club, which has three courses, palm-lined fairways and ocean views. The Gold course has been honored multiple times as one of the best resort courses in America and serves as the most challenging choice; the Blue course is a good-looking track that meanders through Wailea with coconut trees, coral sand bunkers and tropical foliage; and the Emerald course is a player-friendly option with serene backdrops and fewer trouble spots.
Book a morning tee time, and you'll be back at the resort just in time for a poolside lunch. At which point you can start thinking about what you'll have for dinner, the local catch or the ribeye. Classic vacation dilemmas.