If you’ve never been to the island of Maui, as I had not before this fantastic adventure, you may feel as I did every day I woke up to paradise thinking, “This is simply too beautiful to be real.” The scenery steals the show here and took my breath away each time I rounded a new corner, but where I chose to lay my head at night was unforgettable as well.
TRAVEL BY LORI
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ARRIVALMy fiancé and I arrived at the Kea Lani at night. Our expectations of this trip were at their peak because we were here not only to review the hotel, but also to be married on the beach and honeymoon in the exquisite beauty of Maui. Arriving at night had its advantages; the glow of tiki torches lit up the wandering paths and deeply set the palm trees and Hawaiian evergreens in shadow. Later I observed that every night at dusk, a runner lights the Kea Lani’s hundreds of torches by hand, often with a following of excited children.
The grand entrance, I noticed immediately, is open to the air on two sides, clear to the ocean behind the hotel. A valet and greeter welcomed us Hollywood movie-style with leis for us both. My fiancé’s was a deep brown nut-strewn one and mine a stunning and sweet-smelling strand of pink and white fresh flowers. Check-in was friendly and fast and within minutes we were escorted to our room. Even in the dark, I could tell this hotel was special.
The Fairmont Kea Lani resort is on 22 acres, fronting Polo Beach in the Wailea area of Maui in Hawaii. The grounds are, bar none, the best I’ve seen. Their tropical beauty maintains an ideal balance of manicured and natural beauty.
Every room at the Kea Lani is a one-bedroom suite. This is as ideal for couples as it is for families. If your family is a little larger, you’re traveling with another couple or you just crave the vacation home feeling, the resort also has large private two- or three-bedroom villas steps away from the ocean. The villas have full kitchens, tons of space and private lanais with a plunge pool and grill.
I pay particular attention when I travel as to whether or not a hotel room has all the comforts of home. I find this makes a tremendous difference in how much I enjoy myself. The Kea Lani is the first hotel or resort I’ve reviewed that has ALL the comforts of home in my list. Each newly-remodeled suite is spacious with at least 840 square-feet of room to relax. The sitting rooms here make excellent use of space and sport a sofa bed as a bonus. Leftovers from the delicious on-site or local restaurants can be refrigerated in the mini-fridge and heated up in the microwave. Each room has a private lanai (balcony or patio) with comfortable furniture. The beds are heavenly soft and I left the sliding door open to enjoy the sound of the waves hitting the beach every night as I slept.
The bathrooms here have an amenity I’ve never seen in a hotel before, a clothes hamper. It is the extra touches here, like the hamper, that help make the Kea Lani special in a sea of luxury hotels in Hawaii. The roomy, tiled shower without a door is also a favorite made possible by the tropical climate. Double pedestal sinks and huge mirrors with good lighting complete the room.
The Kea Lani’s suites and villas are tastefully decorated. They feature colorful Hawaiian art and modern design without overdoing the tropical theme. The sofas are comfortable and the media capabilities, including nice flat TVs, ipod docks, speakers and wireless internet allow for quality working (if you must) or peaceful down time.
THE ALOHA SPIRIT
Rarely do I find a resort that does such a good job of welcoming its guests. In Maui, everyone is family. At the Kea Lani, everyone is long-lost and much-loved family. Because my visit was much longer than usual, I was able to interact with many staff members, every one of which was friendly and personally interested in my stay in a truly genuine way. The number of people who went out of their way to see to my comfort was astonishing. I also had the opportunity to see this same experience between the staff and other hotel guests. If for no other reason, the exceptional aloha spirit here is a reason to choose this hotel.
The Fairmont Kea Lani has four restaurants to choose from, allowing for casual or elegant dining, depending on your mood. The food is outstanding and not unreasonably priced. For guests seeking the ultimate romantic dinner, I strongly suggest private cabana dining at Ko, the Kea Lani’s pool-side restaurant. This dinner is absolutely perfect for a wedding day (as was my experience), an anniversary, or a proposal. The customizable four-course dinner can include the most delectable sushi I have ever tasted, called “Oishi,” and fresh Hawaiian fish baked to soft and buttery perfection. When you combine this with the fastidious service and intimate setting, it is dining perfection.
OUTRIGGER CANOE EXPERIENCE
When you visit, don’t forget to take advantage of the on-site activities at the Kea Lani. The website does not go into a lot of detail, but the concierge will fill you in on choices, times and prices. My favorite is the outrigger canoe experience. Two experienced, knowledgeable and fun guides take up to four guests on a canoe ride off the shoreline. The guides entertain with Hawaiian tales and local facts while they do their best to teach guests how to row in sync. While I never did catch on to the rowing, I was lucky enough to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of hearing the music of a mother, baby and escort whale as they actually swam under the canoe.
Do not miss this adventure! The Fairmont Kea Lani makes my list of the rare resorts that earn all five of my review stars. Further, this will go down in my personal history as the best trip I have ever had.
For more information on the Fairmont Kea Lani or to book a stay, please visit their website.
Examiner’s Note: My undying and everlasting appreciation goes out to the remarkable Trudy Peterson of the Fairmont Kea Lani. Trudy, you are amazing.