Wailea, Maui

The Wailea coast is a stretch of coastline on the south side of Maui nestled between the town of Kihei and Makena resort development. The name Wailea comes from a Hawaiian legend, of Lea, a goddess of canoe builders.who was tragically turned into a bird that flies over this shoreline. Wai means water in Hawaiian, hence, the area became know as 'the waters of Lea'.  Known for its luxury hotels fronting a 1.5 mile scenic coastal walk. Known for excellent weather and mellow beautiful beaches.

History: In ancient times, Hawaiians made the slopes of Haleakala above Wailea their home and grew and harvested sweet potatoes. Closer to the shore, fishing villages and hales (homes) were established over time. In1848 the Great Mahele Land Distribution Act was enacted by King Kamehameha. This resulted in the rise of cattle raising throughout the area. It also lead to the creation of Ulupalakua Ranch. In the 1940’s during WWII, the shores of Wailea became a temporary training spot for Marines in the Pacific Theatre. The Marines trained on what they named, Little Tarawa, named after the beach landing mission on the island of Tarawa for which they were training for. Today the beach is more commonly known as Ulua Beach. In1957, the Matson Navigation Company was looking to expand their hotel resorts, and purchased 1,500 acres of Wailea coastline. However, nothing happened until Alexander and Baldwin stepped in and began developing the area in 1971 and the first hotel, the Maui Intercontinental (now the Marriott) appeared in 1973. Today, there are six hotels and eight resort developments–2,000 condos and vacation rentals–that line the 1.5 mile coastal trail.

Offerings Each resort offers its own unique experience, from the huge waterslides of the Grand Wailea to the super-luxe Four Seasons. Activity offerings include three championship golf courses at the Wailea Golf Club, with a David Leadbetter golf academy; 11 tennis courts at the Wailea Tennis Club; five spas plus fitness centers at the resort hotels; and shopping or dining at the Shops at Wailea.

Where to Eat: For a complete listing of all dining options the Wailea Resort Association has created a comprehensive guide. Here are my favorites.

Duo, Four Seasons Maui,808-874-8000
Capische? Hotel Wailea, 808-879-2224 Humuhumunumunumuapua'a, Grand Wailea, 808-888-6100 Ferraro's Bar e Ristorante, Four Seasons Maui, 808-874-8000 Ka'ana Kitchen, Andaz Maui, 808-573-1234
Ko, The Fairmont Kea Lani, 808-875-4100 ext. 290
Longhi's The Shops at Wailea, 808-891-8883
Monkey Pod, Wailea Gateway Center, 808-891-2322 Morimoto Maui, Andaz Maui, 808-573-1234
Spago, Four Seasons Maui, 808-879-2999

Spas of Wailea:

‘Awili Spa & Salon at Andaz Maui at Wailea, 808-573-1234 Mandara Spa at the Wailea Beach Marriott 808-891-8774 Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea, 808-875.1234 x 4949 The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Maui, 808-874-8000 Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Kea Lani, 808-875-2229
Olavine Spa, Wailea Maui, 808-875-1313

Annual Events:

June Maui Film Festival This festival includes intriguing and entertaining film screenings, award tributes, filmmaker panels. This includes The Taste of Wailea where food and wine highlighted the creations of Wailea's top chefs building upon the islands agricultural bounty; Taste of Chocolate (a chocoholic's fantasy) and other gala parties and festivities throughout the resort.

May and November: Restaurant Week Wailea where all top restaurants offer dining promotions.

Water Activities: The five beaches are ideal for many types of water activities including; snorkeling, boogie boarding, bodysurfing, outrigger canoe, stand up paddleboarding, swimming and surfing.

Golf: Wailea Resort is the only resort in Hawaii with three resort golf courses, Wailea Gold, Emerald and Blue.

Hiking: A paved 1.5 mile path winds in front of the hotels, and as long as you don’t mind getting sand in your shoes, walkers can continue for miles in either direction. La Perouse Bay, about a twenty minute drive on South Makena Road, has a rocky beach ideal for strolls around the secluded beach. La Perouse Bay also has multiple hiking paths, including the Hoapili trail. This trail is partially shaded and snakes its way around the coast over the lava fields to Kanaio Beach. It is a more rigorous walk compared to the Wailea coastal walk, and is approximately 2.5 miles.

Katherine Minkiewicz