Readers of Condé Nast Traveler have voted for Maui as the “Best Island in the World” for more than a dozen years while Travel & Leisure readers rank Hawaii’s second largest island as their favorite for five consecutive years.
If Maui is the best island in the world, then the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is the best sliver of paradise this side of planet Earth.
My three-day experience earlier this spring made me a firm believer behind the tangible and “je nes c’est quoin” qualities that earned the Four Seasons Maui as the only resort on Maui to win both the Forbes Five Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond honor.
After two days of dampened expectations by relaxing on nearby Lanai thanks to the constant rain, I was more than ready for some big adventures on Maui.
As we made our way on the 1.5-hour water shuttle, my sunny disposition was only matched by the brighter skies over Maui.
After spending six splendid days at several luxury resorts throughout Maui, we saved the best for last.
You too can experience the magic of Maui.
Check out this special social media contest from the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea for a chance to win one of seven fabulous activities.
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But could the Four Seasons Maui meet my already lofty expectations?
The individualized pampering, sophisticated cuisine, quality educational tours, robust adventures and personalized service from its team delivered one of the best overall vacations experiences.
Outrigger Adventure in Polynesian Culture
We arrived for our early morning outrigger canoe session as the winds calmed and the rains stopped. Although the conditions had cleared, the waves weren’t has calm as I would have preferred because I cannot swim.
With lifejacket in tow, I had read about how the design of the vessel created stability, allowing legions of ancient Polynesians to traverse 2,500 miles of rough waters of the Pacific to the remote islands of Hawaii.
After some important safety instructions and fun lessons on the language and culture of the Hawaiians, the champion paddling team helped us launch the 450-pound outrigger canoe from the crescent beach to Wailea Bay.
The adventure was a nice physical workout matched by the cultural experience it delivered in putting into practice some basic Hawaiian words and phrases we learned on shore minutes before.
Working with another couple on vacation from landlocked Wyoming, we glided smoothly through the waters with each stroke of our “hoe” or paddle. Living near the waters of Southern California, it takes a lot to impress me. But for some reason, I suddenly found myself in awe of nature’s beauty. It was the tranquility that was most breathtaking.
We spotted several humpback whales making their migration from the cold waters of Alaska, green sea turtles frolicking nearby and seagulls swaying against the trade winds above. Nature’s beauty was punctuated by the mesmerizing tale on full display by our guide and chief storyteller.
As I was perfecting my paddling and in tune with the rhythmic Polynesian chants, it was time to return to shores. I grew even more excited about the next adventure.
But breakfast was calling.
Fueling the Stomach and Feeding the Mind
To refuel myself from a nice workout, my lemon ricotta pancakes was just as delectable as the first place I had them in Venice, Italy. The velvety rich texture of the ricotta cheese perfectly contrasted with the maple syrup on top of the light pancakes.
The subtle tartness rounded out the complex flavor profiles of the simple yet delightful dish.
Though I’m an avid believer that delicious food is made even more enjoyable with ambiance, the fact that breakfast was served just steps of the beach only helped in the culinary appeal.
After breakfast, I talked with Four Seasons Executive Chef Roger Stettler about sustainable produce, the culinary offerings at the resort as well as his nonprofit work with the community in Maui.
Not Your Garden Variety Tour
Kevin Gavagan exemplifies the attention to detail and quality I found with the team at the Four Seasons Maui.
I went on a nearly two-hour tour with the cultural storyteller to explore what I thought would be the gardens at the resort.
It was much more.
Gavagan’s passion for horticulture and cultural heritage of Maui is infectious.
No only does the native of a Kula, Maui farm lead the landscaping team at the Four Seasons, he’s the heart and soul of the resort’s engaging cultural garden tour that included intriguing details about the diverse varieties of plant life on the resort: endemic, exotic and indigenous species.
The cultural tour wasn’t merely about the plants that make up the island of Maui but was a true representation of the transformation of the Hawaiian people.
Native species were impacted by the “canoe plants” that the islands’ ancients brought with them on the outrigger canoes to only be overshadowed by the large plantation plants that came with corporations from the mainland.
Cavagan’s botanical tour reflects the movement of growing number of Hawaiians gaining a deeper appreciation of the true beauty of their culture through music, dance, food and plants. And visitors like myself appreciate and respect that culture.
Cavagan concluded the tour by playing the traditional ukulele and singing several songs written by Queen Lili’uokalani while an associate, Lynne Schildmeyer, performed the hula.
He even proudly showed me a flute that he had handcarved himself. Instead of blowing through it with your mouth, it’s played with “pure air” through the nose. The sound of the flute was an enduring sound of the rich Hawaiian culture rising through the native tree from which it was carved. Check In To Check Out the Room It was finally time to check in to our prime room with ocean views. Upon entering our room, we noticed a beautiful display of treats that hotel left for us as a welcome gift.
After posting it on Instagram, I took total pleasure in devouring the assortment of cheeses, crackers, nuts, fruits and local honey. My 600-square-foot room was strategically positioned to take advantage of the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean while still commanding a view of the resorts courtyard and its sculpture garden and pools. I especially enjoyed getting up each morning, opening my private lanai to the sounds of birds tweeting. The king-size bed was made even more comfortable with lovely linens accented with soft tropical patterns. The surprisingly large marble bathroom featured double vanities with a collection of luxury bath items.
Though never utilized, the large soaking tub looked heavenly – especially with a glass of wine and a good book to cap off a perfect night. But I absolutely delighted in the in-room music system and turned up the volume to Hawaiian music selection before walking into rain shower in the morning. DUO Means Double Deliciousness When we arrived for dinner appointment, the Four Seasons team welcomed us by name. It’s this attention to detail that makes this resort in a class of its own.
The staff’s genuine warmth and friendliness made me a believer in the magic of Maui. The service at DUO was unparallel. Both the food service manager and chef welcomed us and described the selections at the steak and seafood restaurant. We opted for appetizers of crab cakes with a honey aioli served with avocado and a fennel and frisee salad along with a starter of island fish sashimi with citrus segments, chili water, papaya seeds and cilantro with a dusting of Hawaiian sea salt. For dinner, we enjoyed the American Kobe-style flat iron steak with a Hamakua mushroom bordelaise sauce and the local catch of the day with grilled lobster tail that came with a yellow pepper coulis, fresh arugula and toasted kula corn vinaigrette. The dinning experience at DUO ranked among my top five meals I’ve enjoyed. My inner child was even more delightful with the surprise of cotton candy at the end! I returned to my room in culinary bliss. If there were ever a perfect day, I think I lived it at the Four Seasons Maui. Elevated Existential Discussion on Maui Undersea Adventures I awoke early to the sounds of nature for an appointment to go whale watching while kayaking with Blaze Anderson of the Maui Undersea Adventures. I’m no stranger to kayaking with Newport Harbor in my backyard in Southern California. But kayaking in the open water with Pacific humpback whales beneath us was entirely a different experience. Anderson also was a natural storyteller in his own right. Having worked in corporate jobs through the years on the mainland, he opted to do something he loved. He is passionate for marine life and its warm waters off the coast of Wailea Bay.
As we paddled out to the open sea, we saw many splashes from humpback whales. My obsession with seeing more whales faded as I listened to Anderson share how his newly adopted environment has forever changed him.
Anderson has witnessed firsthand high-powered executives and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies show their humility at the awe-inspiring sights of nature. During their vacations, these executives forget about their business obstacles or acquisitions and instead purely delight in the moment of wonder. I put my Captain Ahab cap down and for a magical moment, I too found myself pondering life and its true meaning and purpose. Art of Relaxation
Going back on shore, I got to do something that I had not experienced on the fast-paced trip to Maui – practice the art of doing nothing at all or as the Italian have mastered, “Dolce far Niente.” The resort reserved one of its six private luxury cabanas at its adult-only Serenity Pool to use for the rest of the day for my personal dolce far niente. The 2,700-square-foot eternity pool gets its name for overlooking the ocean, making it appear as one body of water. My private 160-square-foot cabana came with plush outdoor furnishings to optimize relaxation. It also has a wet bar complete with bottles of champagne, a flat-screen TV, music and personal butler service with food and beverages. Want a foot rub? The Four Seasons has it covered along with massage treatments. Team members come by with treats, sunscreen, aloe gel, Evian spritz, cold towels and cucumber slices to refresh you. They even offered to clean my sunglasses for me.
If you tire of being in your private oasis, you can join other adults in the Serenity Pool with an underwater sound system.
Fancy a drink without having to leave the cool waters? You can order a specialty cocktail at its swim-up bar.
The cabana even came with an iPad 2 which I used to browse different magazines before napping the afternoon away.
Chasing the Sunset During Dinner
After soaking up every precious minute of bliss, it was time for our dinner reservation. In addition to DUO, the resort also has Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.
Because it’s just steps from the beach, I had reservations at Ferraro’s restaurant. I read rave reviews of the gorgeous sunsets and beautiful food.
After a warm welcome from the general manager of the restaurant and the chef, I settled for a delightful evening of eye-popping sights and jaw-dropping taste sensations.
The alfresco dinning experience began with a spectacular sunset casting the perfect ambiance for the rest of the evening.
As the sun sets, the resort has a traditional Hawaiian counch-blowing and torch lighting ceremony. I decided to work up an appetite for dinner by running with the Polynesian warrior performing this popular ceremony.
I ran with him as long as I could, but little did I know he would run up and light 90 different torches on the expansive resort. I think I returned to dinner midway through the run.
I savored every bite from the first course of Spanish and Italian cheeses and cold cuts to the appetizers of ahi tuna sashimi with black Hawaiian sea salt and caprese salad with fresh burrata cheese.
Our main course were grilled diver scallops on top of a mushroom risotto and English peas and squid black ink pasta with grilled prawns in a light broth.
The chef surprised us with a trio of sweetness to end my most happy meal.
Growing Some Good For Greatness
For après dinner, I was invited by the Four Seasons team to join them at a fundraiser event for the Grow Some Good program that benefits the community’s schoolyard gardens for elementary students.
It was the perfect way to end my holiday on the sunny side of Maui. I met chefs from the Four Seasons’ restaurants and other chefs from the area as well local farmers and advocates for childhood nutrition and agricultural sustainability.
At the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, I not only found that luxury travel is about paying attention to details, personalizing customer service and exceeding guests expectations, but it’s also about delivering on quality excellence by being and doing good for others because you genuinely care.
And if my experience is any indication, the team at the Four Seasons deeply cares and strives to make a difference for good.
Check out this fun social media promotion at the Four Seasons Maui and special food and wine events at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island: