Decisions, decisions. My four-year old daughter was bent over a tray of sparkly rings, trying to choose the prettiest one. We stopped at the Grand Jewels of Wailea, located in our hotel, simply out of curiosity. The shop carries some of the most unique and famous pieces of jewellery worn by celebrities and royalty. The shop keeper knew we were gawking tourists and not serious buyers, but she made sure that while mom and dad oohed and aahed over vintage diamonds, the kids got to pick out a piece of plastic bling of their own.
It was our last night staying at the Grand Wailea, and I got a bit of a catch in my throat when I saw my daughter’s sparkling eyes. She was thrilled with her little gift and being treated like royalty herself. Our visit to the store was just one example of how well kids are treated during their stay at the incredible Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Wailea, Maui.
The Grand Wailea is a 40-acre luxury resort that has been on my hotel bucket list ever since I saw the movie Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston. The movie highlighted all the best features of the hotel, including the impressive water slides and pools. I was dying to go there and experience it for myself, partly because I’m a big kid myself and have never outgrown my love of a good waterslide.
The Wailea Canyon Activity Pool is a 25 700 square foot pool that consists of nine pools on six levels connected by lazy rivers, whitewater rapids, and four intertwining slides. Two additional big slides (suited for ages 7 and up), the Tarzan Rope Swing, three jacuzzis, caves, six waterfalls, a water elevator, swim up bar and baby beach, round out the highlights of the space. There is no chance of growing tired or bored of the pool area.
While riding their one-of-a-kind waterfall elevator, a staff member recounted the legend behind the elevator. The original owner of the hotel had a son who was paraplegic and it was designed so his son could ascend to the top of the watersides without having to take the steps.
From the top of the waterfall elevator, you exit directly into the pool and rush all the way down to the bottom of the mountain on four gentle watersides that connect layers of swimming pools. If you follow the path of the water, you never actually have to get out of the pool to enjoy the water slides for hours on end.
This water park paradise was designed with the excitement and sense of adventure of a child in mind and that energy has flowed since its creation in 1991. One thing that was evident immediately and throughout our stay at the Grand Wailea, is they have perfected the art of making a child feel special when staying at their resort. The staff overseeing the pools and slides seemed to genuinely delight in the antics of kids enjoying themselves.
If waterslides are not really your speed, there is the lovely Hibiscus adults-only pool with a feature waterfall located just inside the spa. I sadly never got a chance to enjoy the pool because I was too busy chasing after my monkeys in the water park, although the times I walked by, it looked marvelous and those inside seemed completely relaxed.
Eating at the Grand Wailea may seem intimidating initially because of the 5 star prices, however there are a few meals definitely worth the splurge, including lunch at the poolside Volcano Bar and dinner at the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, especially if you are dining with kids.
The Volcano Bar & Grill offers casual dining options for a quick bite between the pool and beach. The Keiki Sand Bucket on the menu includes a selection of sandwiches, plus cookies, a jell-o cup, fruit, potato chips and a juice box all carried to the table in a sand pail and shovel keepsake, which proved to be handy for our afternoon beach play.
The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a restaurant is located on its own floating island in a private lagoon just off the hotel. With the beach in the background, it’s a fantastic spot to catch of the spectacular sunsets Hawaii is famous for.
When we first arrived, there were staff pulling lobster out of the water to let children get a good glimpse of someone’s dinner. My daughter was initially a bit freaked out by the crawling lobster, but then promptly got over her fear and decided she wanted lobster for dinner. She got to have a taste of her dad’s lobster before concluding that the Mahi Mahi off her keiki menu was more suitable to her palate.
The kids were given fish food to feed the koi swimming below deck and it kept them occupied and entertained between courses, rather than the squirmy impatient show parents often deal with at sit-down restaurants.
The menu prices may seem high, which is typical for Maui, but the food quality was exceptional. The kid’s (keiki) menu prices were really reasonable at $12.00 each including a number of healthy food options such as vegetables, steamed rice and apple sauce for sides. The kids’ meals also came with ice cream for dessert and their very own keepsake plush Humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish, the namesake of the restaurant (the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is also the official state fish of Maui).
We loved popping into the Cafe Kula for quick snacks and even breakfast one morning. The self-serve cafeteria style café offers grab-and-go treats like cinnamon buns and fresh fruit cups. They also serve Starbucks for those of us caffeine-dependent parents. Travel tip: Purchase the $18 souvenir cup and get $1 soft drink and iced-coffee refills during your stay.
The last Friday of every month, the Grand Wailea hosts a Spalicious: Divas Night Out event at the Grand Wailea Spa, complete with manis, pedis and hors d’oeuvres. I was thoroughly tempted to go the evening we arrived because of the fortunate timing, but my budget and my “Hey honey, I’m ditching you with two kids to spend the afternoon at the spa” line afforded me only one spa visit during our stay. Although the Spalicious party sounded like an amazing event (hello bathing in chocolate pools!!), I wanted my experience to be one of quiet calm and relaxation.
I opted for the popular and highly recommend Pala’au Journey, a head to toe treatment, massage and wrap with herbs sourced in Maui. After 90 glorious minutes of the treatment, I headed to the Hydrotherpy Circuit where I soaked in the grand Roman tub, exhaled in the hot saunas, had any remaining tension and aches massaged away by the pressurized waterfalls, rinsed in the Swiss jet showers, improved my circulation in a traditional Japanese Furo and finally, my personal favourite, detoxed in the five specialty Hawaiian baths each with salts and herbs found in each of the Hawaiian islands.
While I was soaking up Hawaiian salts and forgetting I even had kids (just for a couple of hours, I promise), my family hung out at The Rock, the 20 000 square foot kids club.
The Rock offers programs for kids ages 5 and up, including teen programs. There are half-day and full-day camps plus daily workshops poolside for kids not registered in camp but wanting to participate in arts and crafts. There is a fee to register for the supervised camps with The Rock staff, but if you just need a break from the sun for awhile, the facility is free of charge for hotel guests to spend time with the kids in a creative environment. My kids loved the LEGO wall, video game room and craft tables.
Running after the kids poolside and at the beach can get exhausting. My husband and I welcomed our afternoon breaks where we could let our guard down inside the four walls of The Rock, sit back and sip some coffee while our kids played independently. Teens ages 13 and up can hang out at The Spot, a teen room without adult supervision, featuring pool tables, video games, foosball table, ping pong.
The staff at The Rock made sure my kids felt welcome and pulled out activities for them to entertain them during their visit.
It was difficult for all of us to leave such a spectacular place. My husband got us all on the plane by promising we’d be back one day. Now I just have to convince him the ambiguous “one day” actually meant six weeks in mom-time.
The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort Contact Info:
Address: 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr. Wailea, HI
A big thank you to The Grand Wailea for hosting our family at their gorgeous resort.
For more great ideas of family fun things to see and do in Maui, be sure to visit www.gohawaii.com/maui.