Just three decades ago, Wailea Hawaii was a dusty, barren area covered by an impenetrable scrub of thorny kiawe. Today, after a multi-million-dollar deal that pumped in water from the rainy forests across the island, plus billions more in high-end building and landscaping, this part of Maui’s South Shore is a veritable oasis.
Spread over two miles of palm-fringed gold coast, the destination resort area has everything: warm, sunny weather nearly every day; sandy beaches sloping into fish-filled waters; luxury hotels and shopping; and Wailea’s greatest claim to fame, world-class golf.
Wailea, a virtual golf mecca, features three of Maui’s best courses: the Blue Course, designed by Arthur Jack Snyder; the championship Gold Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.; and Jones’s slightly more player-friendly Emerald Course. You can play them all from any of the area’s best hotels, which offer creature comforts verging on the obscene. The Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa boasts an opulent 50,000-square-foot spa and an astounding water park with waterfalls, slides and nine pools—heaven for kids.
The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea Hawaii, a Hawaiian seaside palace, features another top spa, pampering service and a branch of the famous Spago restaurant chain. At the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui Hawaii, an all-suite luxury hotel, there are private 2,000-square-foot beach bungalows, each with its own plunge pool and gourmet kitchen.
Golf aside, the next biggest draws in Wailea are golden-sand Wailea Beach and crescent-shaped Ulua Beach. A couple of miles to the south, Makena is home to two more Jones-designed golf courses and the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, luxurious if remote, with an atrium garden and a waterfall stream filled with koi carp. Must-see beaches nearby include palm-fringed sandy Maluaka Beach and 3,300-foot-long (and 100-foot-wide) Big Beach, also known as Oneloa (‘long sand’).