When we planned our trip to Maui back in February, our vacation overlapped with a few occasions: Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day weekend and my 40th birthday. That meant the island was busy-busy, but also that we couldn’t just stay anywhere, and as my favorite hotel brand has always been Fairmont, it seemed pretty obvious we’d find our way to Fairmont Kea Lani at some point during our trip.
Some point wound up being the final stop on our 10-day trip to Maui, and I can’t imagine a better place to cap off a perfect Hawaii vacation.
The Fairmont Kea Lani’s location
After three nights on the North Shore and three nights in Lahaina, being in Wailea was a welcome respite. While quiet, the North Shore, super remote and rugged, was a drive from everywhere we wanted to eat and see. Lahaina, on the other hand, was Maui’s equivalent of Fisherman’s Wharf with tourists swarming. When we arrived at Fairmont Kea Lani right on Polo Beach, I breathed a sigh of relief: We were close enough to things we wanted to see and do, but felt like a world away.
Wailea is perfectly my speed. A sleepy enclave peppered with luxury resorts and communities, it’s quiet and feels remote, even though it’s just a 25-minute drive from Maui’s main airport, Kahului, as well as a short 10-minute drive from Kihei and a mile from the Shops at Wailea. It was the prime setting for a couple’s trip to Maui and a 40th birthday celebration at that.
Kea Lani means “white heaven” (or “heavenly whiteness”) in Hawaiian, and I did really love the vibe and architecture of the entire grounds, which were very Zen, airy and peaceful.
The rooms at Fairmont Kea Lani
The greatest sell for the Fairmont Kea Lani is that the base accommodations are all one-bedroom suites; in fact, it’s the only all-suite resort on Maui. They don’t skimp on space here; the rooms are huge with the option of 860 or 1100 square feet, depending on how many you’re traveling with.
The bathrooms have both soaking tubs and massive walk-in showers, and the rooms feature patios, as well as small kitchenettes.
For bigger groups or families, there’s the option to book two-bedroom or three-bedroom villas at 1,800 and 2,200 square feet, respectively, which feature plenty of living space, a gourmet kitchen and dining area, and a private courtyard with plunge pool and barbecue grill.
After our previous resort stay in Lahaina, it was a treat to have so much space and an unobstructed view of the ocean. I’m glad we saved the Fairmont Kea Lani for the last hotel on our 10-day trip to Maui as it was the perfect victory lap of one memorable vacation.
Related Article: How to Experience Whale Season in Maui
The restaurants at Fairmont Kea Lani
Fairmont Kea Lani has multiple restaurants and bars on property, including Nick’s Fish Market and Luana Lounge. Many days, we sat in the loungers that faced the ocean and ordered poolside service from Ama Bar and Grill.
The Fairmont also has a food truck, Opihi, that serves up some mean fish tacos—plus, kombucha, beer and more—and is a great grab-and-go option whether you’re staying on property or visiting the public beach.
Kō is Kea Lani’s fine-dining restaurant where we had dinner one night. Friends who previously lived on the island said this was their go-to spot for apps and happy hour, and after dining there twice, I’m inclined to agree.
We tried the lavender honey crispy shrimp, pork belly bao buns, lemongrass coconut broth and Korean-braised short ribs. If you go to Kō, be sure and order the signature ahi on the rock, which you sear yourself table side.
The pools at Fairmont Kea Lani
Without a doubt, the real selling point of the Fairmont Kea Lani—location and rooms aside, of course—is the sprawling pool area, flanked by perfectly manicured gardens. There are three pools—including an adults-only one—as well as a beach pavilion and cabanas available for rent.
Related Article: How We Went to Hawaii on Credit Card Points
The activities at Fairmont Kea Lani
I don’t love how luxury resorts nickel-and-dime you for every last thing, and the Fairmont Kea Lani didn’t do this at all. Parking was included in the $50 daily resort fee—unlike other places we stayed on island where you paid a resort fee and parking on top of that—and use of equipment like snorkels and masks was complimentary for the first hour. We snorkeled every day, because why not? The turtles were out by the handful, and the whale song was unlike anything I’ve ever heard.
Related Article: Should I Do a Doors-Off Helicopter Tour in Maui?
One experience we did that I absolutely loved was go out on the water in a Hawaiian outrigger canoe with a ho‘okele (navigator). The Hawaiian Canoe Experience is included in the resort fee, though requires a reservation, and you learn about this deep-rooted tradition and paddling techniques.
We paddled around the rocky area where we’d been snorkeling the two days prior and spotted numerous turtles. Since we took masks and snorkels, I hopped right in once we stopped and swam alongside the turtles. This experience, which seats up to six people—four guests and two resort employees—lasts an hour and is offered at four different times daily on weekdays (7am, 8am, 9am, 10am). It’s also a great workout as those outriggers are heavy!
We also rented standup paddleboards another morning to experience whale season in Maui from atop the water. This was, hands down, my favorite day in Hawaii. There’s nothing quite like being engulfed by the peace and quiet of the ocean while whales sing their song just feet below you.
There’s a free 24-hour fitness center and gym that includes complimentary classes, as well as a full-service spa and salon, but I never made my way over to any of these amenities.
Like all Fairmont properties, Kea Lani is pet-friendly. If you bring a dog, you’ll be charged $40 per day for cleaning, a portion of which is donated to Maui Humane Society.
Where we ate in Wailea
While we were at the Fairmont Kea Lani, we mostly stuck to the on-property restaurants as they were just that good. The breakfast spread at Kea Lani Restaurant—featuring a full buffet of hot, made-to-order items, as well as baked goods and other island specialties—was enough to get us through mid-afternoon, at which point we’d usually order pool service or pop down to the food truck near the water.
But when we did leave the property, here’s where we ate:
Lineage. All you need to say is “dim sum cart,” and I’m there. We sat at the bar at this casual-ish restaurant in the Shops at Wailea that features family-style Filipino and Hawaiian dishes and some excellent cocktails to boot.
Kihei Caffe. The best brunch we had all trip, Kihei Caffe was doing walkup-only service during our visit, so we ordered breakfast burritos and coffees to go, then ate them in our rental car.
Maui Brewing Company. The island’s best brewery, Maui Brewing Company also has excellent pub grub and a very spacious interior with both indoor and outdoor seating. There’s an outpost in Lahaina, but we had dinner with our friend Sarah at the Kihei location.
Monkeypod Kitchen. Peter Merriman’s more casual branch of his popular eponymous restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen serves a very similar menu to Merriman’s Kapalua (we went to both) and I might have enjoyed the food and scene at Monkeypod even more. There are two locations on the island, and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, it’s walk-ins only.
Ka’ana Kitchen. Located at the Andaz just down the road, this farm-to-table, open-air restaurant has a pretty limited, but well-curated menu divided into sections: garden, ocean, farm. The food was excellent, as was the ambiance, and the restaurant also boasts the most extensive wine selection I saw anywhere on Maui.
Other Wailea restaurants and bars the locals recommended to us:
- Akamai Coffee
- Island Gourmet Market
Check rates at Fairmont Kea Lani here.