WAILEA, MAUI — Few destinations can hold a candle to South Maui’s Wailea. Hawaii’s leading resort destination continues to garner many of the world’s top honors – for its accommodations, golf courses, spas, restaurants, tennis facilities, meeting facilities and more.
Wailea’s 1,500 acres boasts staggering ocean views including the stark red island of Kahoolawe and the quarter-moon sliver of tiny Molokini islet, a popular snorkeling destination. Molokini, a marine sanctuary, is the lip of a submerged volcano and one of the stellar sites of Maui.
Wailea’s mile and a half of shoreline is notched into five crescent beaches, fringed in palms and splashed by gentle surf, and named among the best in country. Five hotels, many of them the flagship properties of their respective corporate families, are tucked into this resort. Three times the size of Waikiki, exuding a sense of serenity, privacy and freedom, Wailea also encompasses low-rise condominium villas and luxurious private homes. All have been guided by a master plan that preserves and enhances the natural beauty of the setting.
It was golf, however, that put this end of the island on the tourism map. Stretched across Wailea’s gently sloping terrain are 54 Erin-green fairways that make up the famed Wailea Blue, Wailea Gold and Wailea Emerald courses. The latter two, designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones II, have been named among the country’s best courses; and the Blue is consistently ranked among the finest courses in Hawaii. Even Wailea Golf Club’s Gold and Emerald Clubhouse is an award-winner, and the state-of-the-sport training facility serves as home base for the only David Leadbetter Golf Academy in the islands. No matter how good the golf gets, however, players are constantly distracted by the panoramic vistas of mountain, sky and sea – and the occasional whale.
Tennis is another big draw. Wailea’s 1,000-seat tennis stadium is the site of one of Hawaii’s largest local tournaments, and the staff of USPTA pros offers state-of-the-sport instruction. Recognized as one of the country’s top tennis facilities by the USTA, Wailea Tennis Club has hosted some of the planet’s best professionals at various special events, from legendary players like Tracy Austin and the world’s number one doubles team, Mike and Bob Bryan, to a number of up-and-coming stars of the ATP Tour. Both the tennis and golf facilities include clubhouses and award-winning pro shops.
There’s a lot going on with the event scene in Wailea. The resort’s calendar includes festive May Day activities, the celebrity-laden Maui Film Festival in summer, the Terry Fox benefit for cancer research, and regularly scheduled musical and arts events.
Other activities include sailing, swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and whale watching. Guides and instruction are available in all sports. Hawaiian cultural programs, enriching canoe experiences, art tours, and fitness programs are all offered, as well as five top-quality spas, some of which have been ranked among the best in the world.
Maui’s most beautiful and exclusive shopping center, The Shops at Wailea, is a destination in itself, featuring world-class restaurants, international and national retailers, services and boutiques, and purveyors of fine local products.
There are dozens of restaurants in Wailea, including several national award-winners. Ingenious, creative chefs highlight the celebrated products of Maui in their exciting Pacific Rim cuisine. They serve fresh Maui seafood, vegetarian fare, fine Mediterranean and American cuisine, steak, snacks, and ethnic favorites. Some of the island’s finest Italian dining and most entertaining luau can be found in Wailea.
At night, Wailea is filled with music. The lounges and restaurants of the hotels groove to a variety of melodic harmonies such as dreamy cheek-to-cheek tunes, jazz, instrumentals and the mellow, soulful sound of live Hawaiian music.
But for all the high praise showered upon this world-class destination, the best of them is spontaneous, one that happens on nearly a daily basis. As daylight fades and young men clad in traditional attire run through the resort to set torches aflame, people gather along Wailea’s coastal pathway near the ocean to watch the sun sink beyond the sea. As the last of the bright orb slips below the horizon, its grand departure is met with applause.