Gary Leff and I agree that the Andaz Maui at Wailea is the best hotel on Maui. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it may be my new favorite hotel anywhere. I just got back earlier this month after redeeming a Hyatt points + cash award (12,500 points and $150 per night), which I upgraded using a Diamond suite upgrade. Amazing value.
I’ll admit to some trepidation. I’m a West Maui guy who grew up visiting Ka’anapali Beach and Lahaina. I like the Hawaiian “kitsch” at some of these older properties and was worried that staying in Wailea for the first time would be too similar to Orange County where I went to college. It nearly was. But the Andaz is certainly smaller and calmer than some of its neighbors, and it’s one of the few hotels where I felt I could stay there all week and never leave the property.
We arrived at the property, and I already knew what to expect. During my hardhat tour last year I was told the Andaz does not permit self-parking, so all guests with vehicles must pay $30 for valet parking. The valet service was quick and definitely worth it given all the extra luggage and beach gear we had. In its favor, the Andaz has no resort fee — surprising given how great the service was and that other hotels tack on such fees for basic amenities like bottled water.
They loaded it onto a cart (delivered later to our rooms with complimentary, reusable water bottles), and we were met at the entry walkway by our concierge with some welcome leis and beverages. I was familiar with the Andaz concept from visits elsewhere, but we went through it again for my in-laws’ benefit: the free WiFi, free snacks in the room, etc. I was also enjoying the cold lavender lemonade while admiring the view. To be honest, I don’t think the walkway is very impressive and could use some more color, but it stands out more at night. During the day it still does a great job of framing an unobstructed view of the ocean.
If you’re not checking in, there are plenty of comfy chairs and sofas for light reading or, yes, writing blog updates on vacation. I don’t always want to do this in my room or at the pool. There’s even a sand pit in the lobby for the kids.
Our suite at the Andaz Maui was about as different from our suite last year at the Hyatt Regency Maui as I can possibly imagine. No rattan furniture or carved pineapples. Instead it was all white, with hidden doors that blended into the walls. Megan loved it. (My wife’s an architect.) But there were some nice dashes of color, and I really liked the art on the walls. I still need something to put on the walls of my own apartment.
The living room was just a little bit awkward with a giant dining table in the middle. I’d say the suite is best used for gathering a family or group, so it made sense to have a connecting room next door. And given the long wait for dinner one night, ordering room service would have made more sense. The liquor cabinet/armoire was also cool, and I can see my dad shipping a case of wine in advance. But I still think something built in along the wall would have been better than a giant box.
Otherwise it was great. There was comfortable seating, a sliding door out onto our patio, several lawn chairs (oddly, only one upright chair), and a cubby by the door for our beach gear. I was able to get some work done at the desk, which had an iPad Mini you could use to play music over the room’s entertainment system or read one of hundreds of newspapers.
The bedroom was large enough without feeling too big and had a big comfy chair by the window where Megan read her books. So even though I have some criticisms about the use of space in the living room, it went a long way to making the bedroom feel more comfortable.
In the bathroom, design sometimes took precedence over function. Those seamless white walls and doors meant I kept getting confused looking for the toilet and often opened the closet instead (which was small and barely large enough to fit our two carryon bags let alone our clothes). The counter was made of narrow slats, which meant I sometimes dropped things between them instead of resting them on top.
But the grey stone floor was attractive, and the rain shower was amazing. If we hadn’t been on the ground floor we might have opened the shutters to look out at the ocean. 😉 The bath amenities by Malie are Megan’s new favorite, and we took some home despite her ban on collecting travel stuff. I think it’s comparable to Remede, which is the standard at St. Regis hotels, though Malie is a local Hawaiian product.
Food is very important to me. Mediocre food means I have to leave the hotel, and that’s annoying. But if anything we had people from other hotels visiting the Andaz Maui to enjoy some of its amazing restaurants. Ka’ana Kitchen has already won a few awards with its open kitchen that lets you wander through at breakfast, and the lines can be long at dinner. (We didn’t think to make a reservation.) But fortunately the two bars also have some great drinks and snacks.
Expect to pay. Craft cocktails were $16, the breakfast buffet was $45 a person (included for Diamond members), lunch could easily be $20+, and dinner could be $50+. It was certainly worth it. I’d rather pay $16 for an excellent drink than $12 for a so-so one. I can accept that not every vacation destination has the same excellent, relatively cheap restaurants we enjoy in Seattle.
My only real complaint about the food was that there aren’t a lot of cheaper options to give your wallet a break now and then. You could order room service. The large table in our suite would have been great for that. You could go off-property, but most of the other restaurants in Wailea are similarly priced. Kihei is the nearest affordable area. I just didn’t feel there was a less expensive option like Umalu at the Hyatt Regency or a beachfront location I could walk to like the Aloha Grill in Whaler’s Village.
But let’s not end on a sour note. Ka’ana Kitchen really is a cool restaurant with food to match it’s prices. There’s a large balcony for enjoying the view at breakfast, and not too many birds to disturb you. More seating is indoors, along with several marble-topped islands where the chefs will squeeze a custom juice order, make some pour-over coffee, fry an omelet, or even chop up a fresh mango. There are plates of food to grab and eat, but there is a much greater focus on made-to-order than I have seen at any other buffet-style restaurant.
If you want a really special meal, Morimoto Maui is located near the beach. We didn’t get to go on this trip with my in-laws, but it might be enough of a lure to convince my parents to go with us next time.
One thing that appealed to us about the Andaz is that it is only 5 minutes away from the Kihei boat ramp. Megan and I went SCUBA diving two mornings at 6 AM, so it was great to get as much sleep as possible (and make it back in time for breakfast).
The beachfront is also superior to many other Maui properties. It’s not hard to beat the Hyatt Regency when it comes to accessibility — that hotel has a shallow surf with tons of rocks. But it’s also much more private than some of the large beaches along West Maui. Although there is a public beach right next door to the Andaz, its on the other side of a rocky outcropping that maintains good separation. That and another outcropping on the other end were great for snorkeling. We saw turtles every day.
It’s best to go to the beach in the morning, before the wind picks up in the afternoon. The beach staff would set up some chairs and umbrellas for us and lay out the towels. About the only thing they don’t do is food and beverage service. You have to go up to the pool bar for that, and although you’re not supposed to take your drinks to the beach, no one will stop you if you do.
There are six pools at this hotel: a large beach-style pool at the ground level mostly used by kids, three tiered pools leading up to the lobby with great views and cascading waterfalls, and two adult pools, one of which runs along the central tower and provides direct pool access to guests in the ground floor rooms. We stuck to the tiered pools, mostly using them around lunch or in the afternoon when the beach got a little too windy and rough.
Both pool bars are excellent, by the way, and I loved that they had different cocktail menus so I could try a different drink before dinner than I had earlier that day at the beach. Lunch was served in a little bamboo box, and just like Ka’ana Kitchen offered an interesting twist on standard fare. Our open-faced “sandwich” included sliced steak, some smashed plantains, and waffle fries.
Is It Really the Best?
There are certainly some excellent properties out there. I know Gary likes the Park Hyatt Maldives. Megan and I loved the St. Regis Bali during our honeymoon last year. Many people get two free nights signing up for a Hyatt credit card to use at the Park Hyatt Tokyo or Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme.
But the Andaz Maui pulls ahead because of its proximity (I can go door-to-door in 7-8 hours for 25,000 Avios round trip) and because I simply love Maui. I never get tired of it. It’s great to have this amazing new hotel to stay at when we visit, which Megan says must be at least once a year. And while we still love and will return to the Hyatt Regency Maui in Ka’anapali, the Andaz does offer an extra step up in service, location, and amenities.
Win Three Nights at the Andaz Maui at Wailea!
Last year after my hardhat tour the Andaz Maui was kind enough to donate a few nights to give away to my readers, and they’re doing it again! You can enter between now and 11:59 PM (PT) on Tuesday, August 5, for a chance at winning three free nights. Only one prize is available. Exact restrictions are yet to be determined, but I would expect you cannot use these free nights over a major holiday like Christmas.
All entries must be submitted through PromoSimple’s widget. You can get bonus entries by following @AndazMaui on Twitter or tweeting about this contest to your friends. On Wednesday I will contact the winner, who will then have 48 hours to respond or a runner up will be selected. My decisions are final and I’m not being compensated; don’t make this difficult.