For years, every time we turned on the Travel Channel, there was a special on about the best beaches or the best resorts in the world, and the Grand Wailea was always featured. We repeatedly saw the water slides, the water elevator, and the beautiful beach, and agreed that when we were ready to take the kids to Hawaii, we were definitely going to stay there.
When it came time to decide where to go for Thanksgiving vacation this year, we kicked around the idea of staying at the Grand Wailea in Maui — and then Brian gave me the trip for Christmas!
I was so excited! We were finally going to “the water slide hotel from the Travel Channel!”
Set on 40 acres of tropical gardens bordering Wailea Beach, The Grand Wailea is a luxury resort next to Wailea Blue Golf Course and six miles from Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve — and we were going to be there relaxing for an entire week Woohoo!
When we arrived at the Grand Wailea, we were greeted with giant waterfalls, fresh flower and shell leis, ice cold water, and a stunning view of the ocean from the expansive, open-air lobby (pictured above). It was everything we hoped for and it felt like we had just stepped into heaven.
Checking in was fast and easy, and our newly-renovated, ocean-view room was ready, so we dropped off our luggage and set out to explore the hotel, scope out the restaurants, and check out the pools — the pools and the beach were the kids’ main focus!
The grounds are impeccably manicured, and feature lots of small paths and sitting areas, sculptures and art installations ($50 million worth), and lots of flowers. There is a mall in the hotel with plenty of shopping and a quick cafe, a spa, a chapel, and of course the pools and restaurants.
The Grand Wailea Pools
Let’s be honest. The pools are why we chose the Grand Wailea for our family vacation. Brian’s not one to sit around the pool in a lounge chair relaxing all day. He needs something to do. So he was just as excited to play in the pools and slide down the water slides as the kids were!
The Grand Wailea has the best pools in Maui.
While the resort does have the Hibiscus Pool, a 4,850 square-foot adult only pool with giant Hibiscus flower on the bottom of the pool made from over 630,000 pieces of Mexican glass mosaic tile, we never spent any time there.
We spent all of our time playing in the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool — and I’m not kidding. We never needed to worry about reserving lounge chairs because we were in the water playing with the kids and enjoying the water slides the whole time!
The Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is a 2,000-foot-long, 25,700-total-square-foot, 770,000-gallon pool that is actually made up of nine pools on six different levels. The pools are connected by a lazy river that carries you along whitewater rapids and gentle currents.
The Wailea Canyon Activity Pool includes:
- Four jungle pools
- Four intertwining water slides
- A bumpy whitewater rapids water slide with water rushing at 16,000 gallons per minute
- A Tarzan pool with a foam rock edge and a rope swing (we spent A LOT of time in this pool!)
- A sand beach pool entry
- Six waterfalls and caves
- Three Jacuzzis (one behind a waterfall)
- An infant pool
- The world’s first water elevator (broken the entire time we were there)
- The Lava water slide, a 238 ft slide with a three-story drop (height requirement)
- The Ana Puka water slide is 115 ft with a 360-degree turn (height requirement)
- A swim-up bar
I had heard that the resort was completely booked for the holiday week, but the pools never really felt crowded as the hotel actively manages the pools and monitors those using them. The Grand Wailea pools are only available to hotel guests, who must check-in each day at the Activity Pool Desk to get wrist bands and towels. You have to get a new wrist band each day, as they change colors daily.
While we didn’t need to worry about reserving poolside lounge chairs, a cabana, or a lawn casabella, we did see several available throughout the day. Plus, we saw hotel staff removing towels from chairs that weren’t being used, which was super helpful for the few of times we wanted to sit down for a bit while we relaxed and ate a snack!
The Grand Wailea Resort is seriously only steps away from the gorgeous Wailea Beach, one of the best beaches on Maui and one of the top beaches in the world — which we already knew from watching the Travel Channel!
The resort provides lounge chairs, beach towels, and beach umbrellas to hotel guests at no additional charge. I figured it would be hard to snag the beach chairs and umbrellas mid-day, but we never had a problem getting multiple lounge chairs and umbrellas right next to each other.
Brian and I both brought books with us, so we took the opportunity to get some reading in on the beach while the kids played in the sand, built sand castles, and swam in the ocean. And, because the pools are so close to the beach, the kids could go from swimming in the ocean to swimming in the pools and back to swimming in the ocean while we relaxed!
Through the Wailea Beach Club (one time fee), guests have access to kayaks, stand up paddleboards, snorkel gear, and boogie boards. We considered paying the fee in advance of our trip, but I am so happy we decided to wait until we arrived. Between our Molokini snorkleing trip, hiking around La Pérouse Bay, visiting Haleakalā National Park And Maui Wine, attending The Grand Luau for Thanksgiving dinner, swimming in the pools, and playing at the beach, we didn’t have time!
Plus, Natalie and Carter were totally happy with the cheap blow up tubes we bought at the ABC Store at The Shops At Wailea, and so was the family we gave the tubes to when we left! The hotel sells blow up tubes and rafts, but they’re marked up a ton!
Dining At Grand Wailea
The Grand Wailea has several restaurants and dining options on site, but when you combine the kids with our diets — dairy-free, no read meat, no pork — and the fact that we just like to relax and chill on vacation, we kept our meals pretty simple.
On our first night at The Grand Wailea, we ate dinner at the casual, family friendly Bistro Molokini. The restaurant has a phenomenal view of the Pacific and food options on the lighter side. I ordered a turkey sandwich and fries, and while the fries weren’t good at all, my sandwich had a macadamia nut pesto on it that was to die for.
Grand Dining Room:
We ate breakfast in the Grand Dining Room on our first morning at the resort. It had rained overnight, so the balcony seating and views of the ocean weren’t available. Bummer. Luckily, we were still able to get a table inside fairly quickly.
We all ordered the breakfast buffet, which had made to order omelets, eggs, bacon, potatoes, veggies, fresh fruit, yogurt, assorted pastries and breads, doughnuts, bagels and toast, cereal, yogurt, smoked salmon, cheeses, deli options, and more. Brian, Natalie, and I ate all sorts of yummy goodies, and Carter was just THRILLED to have unlimited toast and butter available!
We stopped by Café Kula several times during our stay. Located in the retail shop area, Café Kula provides grab-and-go and made to order options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as gelato, smoothies, and coffee. It also has patio seating that overlooks the gardens of Grand Wailea.
We tried breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit smoothie bowls, gelato, pizzas, and pastries — and they were all yummy! This was a great option for us to get a quick meal in the morning before an adventure, or after an adventure before heading down to the pools and beach.
The Shops At Wailea
The Shops At Wailea, with restaurants, stores, and more, is just a short, easy walk from the Grand Wailea. This little shopping center quickly became our go-to resource for everything! We visited the ABC Store a few times for sundries, browsed the shops, and hit up the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf almost every day — sometimes twice a day!
Cheeseburger Island Style:
Cheeseburger Island Style was a great discovery! The restaurant has a family friendly, casual atmosphere — like a Hawaiian version of Chilis — focused on Cheeseburgers, Mai Tais, and Rock N Roll. The service was fast, food was great, and we enjoyed the live music with our dinner.
I’m pretty sure the kids’ favorite place on Maui is Lapperts! With fresh waffle cone smells wafting through the outdoor shopping center, this local ice creamery was packed every night, and it’s easy to see why. The ice cream was absolutely fantastic and they also offer a selection of mouth-watering bakery goodies and signature coffees.
Island Gourmet Markets:
Island Gourmet Markets is a lifestyle market, gourmet deli, and gift shop — and by far the best find of our entire vacation!
They have a variety of fresh local and organic produce, fresh premium cuts of meat including local grass fed beef, fresh Seafood supplied by local fisherman, pastries freshly baked daily in-store, numerous offerings of gourmet cheese and premium wines, groceries, and much more.
Often we skipped sitting down for a long, costly meal, and instead stopped by the market to grab everything needed for a beach side, pool side, or on the go picnic. Not only was it more fun to eat on the beach or on our balcony than in a restaurant, but then we also could stay in our comfy clothes or jammies and just relax and enjoy being together.
The Grand Wailea Staff
Before I wrap this review up, I have to compliment the Grand Wailea staff. From our experience checking in to the hotel and The Grand Luau, to the concierge answering our questions about Haleakalā National Park and the housekeepers tidying up our room, everyone we interacted with was attentive, friendly, and helpful. The staff working at the Pool Desk, serving food poolside, and setting up the beach lounge chairs and umbrellas we really nice too — and it’s pretty rare that we have such a great experience across the board.
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