This past March Break, we brought the kids to Maui and Oahu.
We started off in the north end of Maui at the Ritz-Carlton, followed by several nights at Marriott Vacation Club’s Maui Ocean Club, and finally ended up at the Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort for our last two nights.
This property recently received some mixed reviews, but I still wanted to check it out for myself – especially when I would be staying nearly for free.
In This Post
- Ocean View Room with Two Queen Beds
- Resort Layout
- Pools & Beach
Grand Wailea Maui – Booking
When booking for March Break, the rates at the Grand Wailea were over US$1,200 a night – ordinarily far too much to stomach for a paid stay.
However, since the Grand Wailea is a Waldorf Astoria property and part of Hilton’s umbrella of hotels, Hilton Honors points can be redeemed towards a free night stay, with standard room redemptions priced at 110,000 points per night.
Prior to March 2022, the price we had paid was only 95,000 points per night, as unfortunately Hilton has, like Marriott, implemented a recent devaluation to its top-tier properties.
Instead of burning points, I decided to redeem my Hilton Free Night Reward, which I had acquired from spending US$15,000 on my Amex US Hilton Business Card.
The Amex US Hilton Surpass Card also offers the same benefit, while the Amex US Hilton Aspire Card comes with an annual Free Night Award without any spending requirements.
Normally, these free night certificates can only be used on the weekends; however, since the pandemic, Hilton made them redeemable on any day of the week, as long as there is standard award availability.
We secured a one-night booking to start, but fortunately, within a month of our trip, a second night opened up.
I was prepared to redeem points for this, but a generous acquaintance on one of my travel chats happened to have an extra Free Night Reward set to expire soon for which he had no use. He offered it to me for an amazing price, so I couldn’t turn it down.
Under their terms and conditions, the Hilton Honors program allows certificates to be issued to any person, as directed by the member. Neither I nor my friend had any experience doing this prior to this, but it was worth a shot over the phone.
My friend called into Hilton Honors and booked the reservation with his certificate under my name, and the agent making the booking did not seem to have an issue with it. But since the booking confirmation he received only showed his name, the real test would be at check-in…
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Grand Wailea Maui – Location
The property is located in Wailea, a 25-minute drive from Kahului airport, on the southwest coast of Maui.
It’s in an area well-known for its luxury accommodations, beaches, and beautiful sunsets. The Grand Wailea is right next door to the Wailea Beach Marriott Hotel, a popular choice for Marriott loyalists on the island.
Grand Wailea Maui – Check-in
Upon arrival, we pulled up to the hotel’s main entrance, where parking attendants were quick to help us get our luggage and sort out parking.
Valet parking was a whopping US$65 a day! Self-parking on site isn’t an option, but if you really want to save on the parking, you can park a 10-to-15 minute walk away.
Walking into the hotel, you enter into a semi-covered walkway. Following this walkway to the right eventually leads you to the main lobby and check-in area.
Scattered around the lobby are nine black sculptures of women by renowned artist Fernando Botero. As a matter of fact, the hotel houses 81 museum-like art pieces all throughout its grounds, making it an art-lover’s haven.
Since we wanted to make the most of our stay, we arrived at the Grand Wailea at 12pm, even though check-in officially begins at 4pm. To our delight, they had a room ready for us.
The expansive check-in desk was manned by three staff. I checked in under my name, and the front staff was able to pull up the reservation made by my friend. That was a good sign.
The staff asked about my friend’s name being on the reservation, but didn’t seem to care when I told them he wasn’t here. I also told them about my separate reservation for the second night, and they were able to link the reservations.
As a Hilton Diamond member, we were entitled to a room upgrade subject to availability, and we received an upgrade from the basic Garden View Room with Two Queen Beds to an Ocean View Room with Two Queen Beds.
We were booked as two adults and two children for our stay, but we’re actually a family of five. To access the pools, every person on the reservation needed a wrist band.
I wasn’t sure how strict they were in adhering to the wristband policy. It turns out they are pretty strict; however, thankfully, they had no issues adding my son to the reservation as the third child so we could all “legitimately” access the pools.
We were given a map of the property and couple of sheets about the resort, including information about the pools, dining, and retail, as well as their hours of operation.
Grand Wailea Maui – Ocean View Room with Two Queen Beds
Our room was located in the Haleakala Wing, which I found to be not the greatest in terms of location. I would request the Lagoon or Chapel Wings if I were staying here again next time.
Even though our room was supposed to be an “ocean view”, we were quite far from the ocean and our view was only partial, as the inner wings obstructed the view.
As you enter the room, there’s a small hallway that has the washroom and beverage station on the side. The beverage station had a Keurig coffee machine, an ice bucket, and mini-fridge underneath the counter.
In an attempt to be more environmentally friendly, the hotel provides you with two refillable metallic bottles of water instead of plastic bottles of water. Refilling stations are scattered around the resort.
The decor was rather plain and simple for a luxury resort. The room was pretty typical, with two queen beds and the standard amenities of a desk, a dresser, and a flat-screen TV.Like some other parts of the hotel, the room was also starting to show some signs of age.
The bathroom was spacious with marble flooring. It had both a tub and shower, a single sink, and a separate room for the toilet.
From the room, you can access a small balcony with two seats and small table. We didn’t spend any time out there, as there wasn’t much to appreciate when it came to the view.
Grand Wailea Maui – Resort Layout
The Grand Wailea is an iconic 40-acre property in Maui. The hotel was originally built in 1991, but had changed management a few times before it ultimately became a Hilton property in 2006.
It’s enjoyed by some for its glamour and luxury, but it’s also a favourite amongst families for its 25,700-square-foot water oasis.
The resort is divided into four wings where the hotel rooms are located, which all connect back to the main building, where the check-in desk and the spa are found. Currently, the main building is undergoing some major renovations, so some dining venues and retail shops were inaccessible.
Between and around the wings of the resort are fountains, pathways, gardens, bridges, ponds, and streams that make for a nice stroll.
There’s even a chapel onsite for those looking to tie the knot here.
On the other side of the resort, adjacent to the beach, is the Grand Wailea’s massive pool complex.
Grand Wailea Maui – Pools & Beach
The biggest highlight for my family at this hotel was its outdoor grounds. In particular, we loved the massive pool oasis, which is composed of nine pools over six tiered levels, all connected by a lazy river with currents and waterslides.
To get a sense of how large this complex is, here’s a bird’s eye view of it:
As mentioned earlier, wristbands are required for use of the facilities. The Activities Pool Desk should be your first stop when arriving at the pools to pick up your wristband, identifying you as a hotel guest permitted to use the facilities, and your towels.
When you request your wristbands, a pool attendant actually looks up your hotel reservation on their computer to confirm the number and name of the guests before giving out the wristbands. Wristbands are numbered and colour-coded based on your day of checkout.
Wristbands discourage use of the facilities by non-hotel guests, as the resort is connected to other resorts by the beach and boardwalk. If your wristband happens to “fall off”, they require you to return the old one for a replacement.
Right by Activities Pool Desk is the adults-only pool, which was quieter than the other pools.
On the other end of the pools, toddlers can enjoy their time by the baby beach, which features a zero-entry pool with sand.
The Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is the largest of the pools, and has a beach volleyball net set up.
The lazy river has waves and currents in different parts of it. There are a few small slides connecting the smaller pools and a couple of longer ones, including the Lava Tube, which boasts 262 feet of slide travelled in just 14 seconds. The Tarzan rope swing was also a family favourite.
There are plenty of loungers and umbrellas around the poolside, so there shouldn’t be too much difficulty finding a spot even when it’s busy.
Although there were written warnings not to reserve seats by leaving your personal belongings, people were doing it anyway bright and early in the morning.
The pools do get quite busy by midday. For a more exclusive experience, you can rent a daybed from US$400 a day or cabanas from US$1,075–1,525 for the day – possibly for more than the price of your hotel room!
You will find a lot of floats and tubes available in the resort. If you didn’t pack one for the trip, the hotel sells them onsite.
Otherwise, at the end of the day, pool staff will pile any unwanted swim equipment in the small hallway beside the Activities Pool Desk, and they’re happy for you to take it off their hands free of charge.
The beach in front of the resort is also a great place for the family to chill. It has soft sand and the waves aren’t too strong.
Beach chairs need to be reserved, and this can be done through the Activities Pool Desk. They will give you a tag, which you can then use to claim a beach chair. Each tag claims two chairs, and up to two tags can be given per room.
A separate vendor on the beach also rents out various beach equipment like paddle boards, kayaks, snorkelling gear, etc. I was told the best time to snorkel on the beach is early morning.
Grand Wailea Maui – Dining
Due to renovations, not all the dining venues were operating at the time of our visit.
The hotel’s Botero Lounge, located in the open-air lobby, was undergoing renovations at the time but is set to reopen in Spring 2022. A very popular Sunday brunch used to be served at the Grand Dining Room, but since the pandemic, this space has been closed for renovations as well.
If you’re looking for an evening drink, you can head to Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, where the bar is open till 11pm. In fact, I met Ben from the Prince of Travel team here for a drink on our first evening. The restaurant also serves breakfast and dinner with live music.
As a Hilton Diamond member, the hotel gave us a US$50 dining credit each day. We used it once for breakfast at Humu, where an order of waffles was US$23.
On the other day, we used the credit for a poolside late lunch. The credit pretty much covered an order of nachos and a kale salad with ahi tuna. Needless to say, the credit was spent pretty easily, as food prices were very inflated, as one would expect at a Hawaii luxury resort.
In the pool area is the Grotto Bar for swim-up drinks, as well as the Wailea Surf Haus as a walk-up beach bar.
Other options include Bistro Molokini, which serves casual fare but offers some nice views of the pools and the beach beyond.
Café Kula is nestled in with the retail shops in the main building and serves drinks, snacks, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and baked goods for take-away.
Aloha Trick Pony is a taco and BBQ food truck that serves breakfast and lunch, tucked away behind trees on the outskirts of the property. We didn’t get a chance to try it, but heard good things about it.
The hotel has an executive lounge, the Omotenashi Lounge. However, access is not complimentary regardless of your Hilton Honors status, and lounge access costs US$175 per day.
Since we were with the kids and and planning to spend most of our time by the poolside, it didn’t make sense for us to pay the additional fee for this.
In-room dining is also available, but only during certain hours of the day.
Should you prefer something different, there is no shortage of food and drink options close by to the resort. For a slightly cheaper breakfast menu, walk next door to Whale’s Tale at the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort.
On the other side, the Four Seasons has a few nice restaurants. We ordered takeout from their Italian restaurant, Ferraro’s, and thought it was excellent. They also have a snack cantina right off the boardwalk that serves shaved ice, which the kids really enjoyed.
The Shops at Wailea also has a few decent restaurants, and you can always hit up Island Gourmet Markets supermarket for some fresh poke from the counter to bring back and enjoy on the property.
Grand Wailea Maui – Activities
Being in Maui, there are no shortage of activities to do. Make sure to do as many of them as you can before staying at this hotel, as once you arrive, chances are you won’t want to leave.
Besides the pools, the hotel offers numerous activities to partake in. There is a full-service spa, a massive two-story gym with Peloton bikes, and a small shopping promenade.
A daily activity schedule shows complimentary and paid activities, including yoga, ukulele lessons, garden tours, and leaf weaving. Most of the activities are kid-friendly.
Unfortunately, because we visited during the weekend, there wasn’t much being offered.
Also included is a complimentary 20-minute scuba diving session in a pool, which I thought was pretty cool. As someone who is quite apprehensive about scuba diving, this was an awesome way to test it out.
Be sure to reserve this beforehand, as spots are limited. In fact, we were told they were fully booked at check-in; however, we double-checked with the scuba staff by the pool, and thankfully they were able to fit us in.
The minimum age to participate is eight years old. Keep in mind that you aren’t allowed to participate if you have a flight scheduled within 12 hours of the session.
The Grand Wailea is an iconic resort in Maui. The sheer size of the resort and the vast amenities onsite speak to its reputation. It is, however, an older resort and its age is beginning to show in some of its indoor facilities.
It’s nice to see that the hotel is in the process of renovating itself to keep up with the times. I hope they’ll consider renovating their guest rooms at some point, too.
That said, we didn’t spend too much time in our room, as the kids were happy to spend the whole day playing in pools and beach. The beautiful hotel grounds were a pleasure to stroll through to wind down in the evenings.
Although you won’t find me returning for a paid stay, I will gladly return if I have a few Hilton Free Night Rewards to burn. You’ll unlock great value redeeming Hilton certificates here, but keep in mind that you may need to remain flexible with dates and be diligent in checking for availability.