Nature in its infinite bounty and fierceness has been appreciated, feared, and revered by Hawaiians for centuries. Legends of gods and goddesses that take animal form permeate the island lore. On Maui, tales of Lea, patron goddess of wa‘a (canoe) builders, capture the imagination. Lea is said to have taken the form of an elepaio (a small and inquisitive, long-lived bird native to the islands) and transformed a stretch of coastline on the southwest side of Maui into a magnificent forest. The goddess could often be seen soaring above the verdant trees to appreciate the land’s beauty.
That special forest and coastline is what is known, today, as Wailea (which translates to “waters of Lea”), a part of Maui appreciated from the shore and sky by thousands of visitors as they arrive on the island each month in search of surf, sun, adventure, and relaxation.
With a 9-year-old in our family, trips to Maui have often meant getaways to the famed Grand Wailea Resort and its extraordinary pools and slides. Those trips have been fun-filled, noisy adventures that have left our little one and her parents exhausted at the end of each day. Recently we had the opportunity to try something a little more grown-up, refined, and relaxed—and we fell in love.
The Wailea Beach Villas Resort actually shares a property line with the Grand Wailea, but it is a world away in terms of comfort, calm, and service. Wailea Beach Villas Resort is the premier property within the 1,500-acre Wailea Resort community and was just named by Conde Nast Traveler as the #1 resort in Hawaii. Set on a tiered slope, the Villas gracefully wend down to the famed Wailea Beach (often listed as one of the world’s best) and the Wailea Coastal Walk connecting the area’s multiple resort hotels. The property’s beachfront infinity pool had me at hello, but more on that later.
Guests at Wailea Beach Villas can opt to be picked up at Maui’s airport and whisked straight to the property. If you’re not planning to drive on island, this is a great option. The moment you arrive a sense of calm takes over, as gentle waterfalls and tropical breezes waft through the lobby overlooking the Pacific. The staff welcomes you with true aloha spirit and offers flower leis and fresh-squeezed juices.
If you can tear yourself from the view, you’ll be escorted straight to your sumptuously designed villa (you’re in luck—the view here is even better than the lobby). Our driver had all of our luggage in the villa’s bedrooms before we even opened the door. Options at Wailea Beach Villas Resort include 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom villas perfect for families. Prior to arrival, the staff will send a brief questionnaire, and the elegantly appointed Studio-Becker kitchen in your villa will be stocked with all your favorite foods and beverages. Each villa has been thoughtfully designed with multiple indoor and outdoor areas to enjoy and decompress. If you must work a bit while on your stay, each unit boasts an office as well.
With our bags unpacked, we ventured out to walk the resort and explore. The garden landscaping is exquisite and the scent of exotic flowers filled the air. Our daughter jumped right into the family pool with my husband, but I kept going, headed straight for the beach, where I discovered the stunning aforementioned infinity pool (adults only, ensuring that it remains a peaceful oasis). Poolside staff are at the ready to set up casabellas for you along the pool’s edge or bring an umbrella and chairs for you right to whatever spot of beach you select. The resort also features a state-of-the-art fitness center.
Over the next few days we woke up early, took long walks along the coast, and swam in the ocean before breakfast on our villa’s balcony. It became a cherished ritual followed by more swimming and snorkeling. The real advantage of staying at the Wailea Beach Villas is that you have easy access to everything from world-class shopping, spas at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea (don’t miss the hydrotherapy circuit at the Grand Wailea’s Spa Grande), and stellar restaurants like Morimoto and Ka’ana Kitchen (indulge in Kona clams with savory malasadas or ahi tataki with burrata and lilikoi) at the Andaz and Spago at the Four Seasons. But what’s even better is that within a few minutes’ walk, you’re back in your own little private oasis.
On our last evening, with cocktails in hand, we watched a famed Maui sunset turn the sky from gold to pink from our balcony. A little bird—perhaps an eleapio—fluttered to the railing. After a quick look at the happy tourists, it took off with wings spread, silhouetted against the dramatic setting sun and clouds as it swooped in an arc past the towering plumerias toward the sea. One couldn’t help but muse: the goddess lives.