SD › Best Places to Stay in Wailea
Updated: January 30, 2023
The 10 Best Hotels in Wailea
1. Four Seasons
3. Hotel Wailea
4. Grand Wailea
6. Mana Kai
7. Elua Village
10. Residence Inn
Staying in Wailea
With an enviable position in the driest and sunniest part of Maui, fringed by sandy beaches and backed by championship golf courses, Wailea is a dream destination. A favorite among celebrities, Clint Eastwood has a home in the area, and many others, including Usher, Britney Spears, Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, and Arnold Schwarzenegger choose lavish vacations here. Wailea is a 1500-acre master-planned complex of high-end resorts (five of them are 5-star), championship golf courses, upscale restaurants, and designer shopping malls. Wailea is heavenly – not authentic and not local – but a fairy tale version of Hawaii, complete with luaus, palm trees, and crescent-shaped beaches. The HBO drama White Lotus was filmed at the Four Seasons Wailea. (I really liked the show but it’s not family-friendly and definitely not for everyone.)
Wailea sits about halfway down the South Coast, with cheerful Kihei Town to the north and the low-key Makena to the south. South Kihei Road runs along the coast, while Piilani Highway (inland about a kilometer) runs parallel and loosely bounds the resort area to the east. Keawakapu Beach marks the north end of Wailea. The Mana Kai Hotel sits at the north end of Keawakapu. The Andaz Hotel is on the south end of the same beach and marks the northern boundary of Wailea and is the start of the Wailea Beach Path.
Polo Beach and the Fairmont Hotel mark the southern boundary of Wailea proper. A little farther south is the excellent Chang’s Beach and Makena Surf Resort which are a bit removed from the Wailea scene and much quieter, though neither is connected to the Wailea beach path.
The Wailea area is roughly split in half by Wailea Alanui Drive, with most of the luxury resorts and designer shopping on the western (coastal) side, and moderately priced hotels, shopping malls, luxury condos, and golf courses on the eastern side. More budget and midrange hotels can be found north of Mokapu Beach, while the south end of Wailea past Polo Beach is mostly residential.
The Wailea-Kihei coastline is a string of nine golden sand beaches running for 6 km and separated by green spaces and lava rock outcroppings. All beaches in Hawaii are free and open to the public, even those fronting luxury resorts. Travelers can stay at moderately priced hotels in Kihei or inland Wailea and still access all the same beaches. All beaches here face west toward gorgeous sunsets and have parking nearby; most have restrooms and outdoor showers. Facing west, the beaches get plenty of swells all year round. The best waves for surfing come in the summertime; however, only advanced and intermediate surfers should attempt to surf in Wailea. Beginners should head north to Cove Beach Park in Kihei.
In Kihei is Kamaole Beach Park II (Kamaole I is in north Kihei), one of only two beaches in the area with a lifeguard on duty. Visitors will find powdery sand, vibrant sea life, picnic tables, and shade trees. It shares parking with Kamaole Beach Park III immediately to the south. Kamaole III is the other beach with a lifeguard; families particularly enjoy this beach as it also has a playground and picnic tables.
Keawakapu (unofficially marking the boundary between Kihei and Wailea) is the longest beach in the area, with fine sand, excellent swimming, and good snorkeling. This is a less-visited beach, and there are no restrooms; there are, however, three parking lots. Next to the south is Mokapu Beach right in front of the Andaz. This is also the beginning of the Wailea Beach Path, a lovely seaside walkway running the length of the resort complex and ending on Polo Beach just past the Fairmont Kea Lani. Mokapu Beach gets a little crowded, but is super sandy and has great snorkeling and diving, especially early in the morning. Ulua is right next to Mokapu; the two beaches share parking and restrooms. Ulua sits in front of the condo resort Elua Village and is also close to Wailea Beach Resort (which has a lava rock coastline). This is a popular spot for scuba divers and beginning snorkelers with a little reef at the south end, a gradual slope from the shore into the water, fine sand, and some shade trees at the north end.
Wailea Beach, right in front of the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons, is a wide patch of sand and usually calm surf, ideal for swimming. Snorkelers will find a variety of colorful fish and sometimes sea turtles here. Polo Beach is next, in front of the Fairmont Hotel. Shaped like two side-by-side half-moons, Polo is a small beach with sugary sand, a gradual slope into the water, some sea life, a few trees for shade, and picnic tables. The beachfront footpath ends at the Fremont.
South of Polo is secluded Palauea Beach, known locally as White Rock Beach. There is no parking lot nearby, just street parking. The two beach access paths run between private homes and are not as easy to spot as those at the other Wailea beaches. The result is a quieter, less crowded beach experience. This is a natural beach with no showers or restrooms, but plenty of sun and sand, excellent swimming, and sea turtles at the north end. Finally, the southernmost beach of Wailea is Po’olenalena, another natural beach with no showers (though there is a porta-potty). This is a long stretch of soft sand with a gradual descent into the water and lava rocks at the north and south ends. This is the most reliable beach in the area for spotting sea turtles and is great for snorkeling in the morning. However, there can be strong currents and larger waves, so it’s best for experienced swimmers, boogieboarding, and bodysurfing. At the far north end is a small cove called Secret Beach, an unofficial nude beach. The far south end, known as Chang’s Beach, is especially rich with marine life.
Dazzling beaches are the main attractions in Wailea, but they are by no means the only things to do in South Maui. During winter, Wailea is one of the best areas in Maui for spotting whales. Whale watching boat tours run several times a day from November through May (though mid-January through March is when whale activity peaks), while snorkeling, scuba, and diving tours to the Molokini Crater, home to more than 250 marine species, run year-round. Meanwhile, the Wailea Golf Club is home to three world-class, 18-hole golf courses, incorporating lava rock outcroppings and ancient stone walls into their designs, plus stunning views of the ocean and volcano. The Gold Course is the longest and most challenging, while the Emerald Course is the most beautiful and offers something for all skill levels. The Blue Course is the original Wailea golf course, the best choice for beginners and casual players with wide fairways and strategically-organized bunkers.
Where To Stay in Wailea for:
Best Luxury Resort: Four Seasons
With three saltwater pools, oceanfront and indoor spas, and a prime location on the south end of Wailea Beach, the elegant Four Seasons is the top choice on the South Maui coast. Rooms and suites are spacious, beginning at 56 square meters, and all include generous private lanais, air purification systems, and marble bathrooms with double vanities and separate baths and showers. Dining and drinking are phenomenal at the resort’s four restaurants and two bars, and room service is available 24 hours a day. Bespoke experiences are the resort’s forte, and nothing is off the table, whether it’s swimming in lava caves, throwing a midnight pool party, or island hopping by helicopter for real Kona coffee in the mountains.
Best Family Resort: Grand Wailea
Ideal for families, this luxury resort rests on sandy Wailea Beach with nine interconnected pools, four waterslides, and a lazy river. The kids’ camp is open year-round with supervised activities, an arcade, and a small cinema; teen activities are available seasonally. A wide range of cuisine is available for even the pickiest eaters from four restaurants (including a fun food truck) and three lounges; luaus offer an exciting pairing of crowd-pleasing meals with interactive fun, dancing, and storytelling. Wailea Beach is a wide strip of sand with usually gentle waves, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and standup paddleboarding.
Best Honeymoon Resort for Couples: Hotel Wailea
The only boutique hotel in Wailea, this adults-only, all-suite resort with a pool offers elegant one-bedrooms suites with private lanais, king-sized beds, and bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and separate showers. Designed with couples in mind, the hotel offers a range of complimentary experiences, such as personal valet transportation to the beach and throughout Wailea, beach valet service with umbrellas and sunbeds, mixology classes, and yoga classes. A Relais & Chateaux resort, the gastronomy program is outstanding with a farm-to-table restaurant, private dining in a luxury treehouse, and a five-course “Kiawe Night” with under the stars with wine pairings. Upgraded romantic experiences include outrigger canoeing, surf lessons, sunset sailing, and retro glam road trips in a ’57 Porsche Speedster.
Best Beach Resort: Andaz
Contemporary beachfront resort with four infinity pools arranged in tiers overlooking the ocean, a holistic wellness center, and a sumptuous culinary program. Amply sized rooms, suites, and villas all feature a rain shower, private lanai, and a complimentary mini bar. Free perks on offer include daily outrigger canoe and kayak excursions, yoga and pilates classes, lessons in ukulele and hula, a professional photo shoot, and more. Located at the north end of the Wailea Beach Path on palm-fringed Mokapu Beach, a favorite spot for snorkeling, swimming, and standup paddleboarding.
Best Golf Resort: Four Seasons
The resort backs up against the Wailea Golf Club’s Blue Course with complimentary car service to the nearby Gold and Emerald Courses, making this one of the best-located hotels for golf in the area. On site, guests will find a pro shop. putting green, and a driving range, plus a Topgolf Swing Suite with a virtual simulator for practice. Aerial tours over the golf courses are on offer, along with golf lessons.
Best Spa Resort: Fairmont
The Fairmont’s award-winning wellness center blends local ingredients, Hawaiian traditions, and energy-based treatments on the beachfront, poolside, or the spa, complete with experience rain showers, hydrotherapy rooms, and a couples’ suite. Set on the sugary sands of Polo Beach, this all-suite and villa resort boasts two freeform pools, a kids’ pool, and an adults-only pool tucked away in a separate area. Suites begin at a sizeable 80 square meters; villas add private pools.
Best Midrange Hotel: Mana Kai
At the north end of Wailea on Keawakapu Beach, this family-friendly resort features a heated beachfront pool, surf shack, yoga studio, and restaurant. Rooms feature king-sized beds and sitting areas; one and two-bedroom condos add private lanais, ocean views, and full kitchens. The beach stretches for a full kilometer with soft sand and a gradual slope into the ocean, excellent for swimming and snorkeling. Withing walking distance to shops, restaurants, and several more gorgeous Wailea beaches.
Is it better to stay in Wailea or Lahaina?
Both areas are on west-facing beaches with soft, golden sand and excellent swimming, but that’s where the similarities end. Lahaina is a vibrant town with a rich history, local dining, a little nightlife, and plenty of cultural and historic sights. Wailea is an uber-luxe resort area where tranquility meets indulgence with fine dining, championship golf, designer shopping, and a seemingly endless stretch of beaches after beaches.