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Those of you who have been around for a while know that Hawaii is a place of almost spiritual significance to me. It brought me back to life at a time when I was feeling lost, and I’ve been scheming how to get back ever since the moment my six week stint there in late 2012 was over. But while Hawaii occupies a permanent corner in the back of my heart and mind, it’s not exactly the kind of place you can just, like, pop over to, you know?

Then finally, in late May, it was time to return.

It took me all of about five minutes of being back on Maui before I was on the phone with my airline (seriously, I called from my rental car), trying to see if I could extend my ten day trip to, I don’t know, foreverish? All those first flushes of love came rushing back right away. Windows down, music tuned to island radio, driving past turquoise beaches, waiting in line for a tropical fruit smoothie with barefoot surf bums, warm alohas and a conversation about GMO-free foods and fighting The Man in the parking lot — I belong here, I thought.

I’d been on island for less than an hour.

So many themes of this trip echoed my first — the stunning beaches and smoldering volcanoes, the quirky characters, the adrenaline filled adventures, the deep respect for culture and stewardship of the land among locals. But one aspect was very, very different. On my first trip to Hawaii, I spent six weeks sleeping in the guest rooms and on the couches of family and friends, and in one fabulous hostel. On this trip, as a guest of the , I got a taste of the other side of the Maui accommodation scene.

The one that looks like this.

, our base for the first three nights of the trip, was about as grand as they come. I think the photos of the place kind of speak for themselves; it’s the kind of paradise they make movie sets of. But what really blew me away was the service. The exuberant alohas from the staff, the beautiful leis upon arrival, the thoughtful touches from the valet… actually, guys, we need to talk about the valet for a minute.

Because when I got the chance to speak to the Director of Public Relations for the hotel, I couldn’t stop talking about the valet service. To the point where she looked at me a bit funny, but perhaps that was because I asked her if one of the guys wouldn’t want to just possibly come back to New York with me and work out of my house or….? But seriously, every time I went to pick up my car they had cleaned out the trash, left me cold water bottles and warm towels, asked me if I needed directions anymore, and waved me off like a dear friend. And when I returned, they were waiting there to warmly welcome me back and whisk me out of the driver seat. I felt like I needed to write them a thank you note at the end of it (though I settled on reciprocating my warm fuzzy feelings with generous tips.)

Yes, The Grand Wailea was a special place and I was not ready to leave when it was time to make my way to West Maui. After waving goodbye to my new BFFs on the valet team one final time and watching the hotel shrink in the distance, I vowed that someday I’d return with my family in tow.

And soon I’d be adding another destination to that fantasy future holiday — my digs at the were equally drool-worthy. I’m a huge fan of Starwood ever since my travel hacking score with them, and I loved that this property had a completely different feel to it than any of the ones I’ve stayed at before. As an all-villa property, each and every room has a kitchen and living room and there’s even a small market on site. I got the sense that guests really make themselves at home here, and I loved walking around one evening and seeing all the families barbequing out on the open air grilling stations.

And yeah, it wasn’t exactly hard to look at, either.

I had this really glorious style moment where I’m checking into this beautiful and enormous villa and the very sweet local bellboy is asking me, “So, is your family meeting you later or…?” And I said, “It’s actually just me!,” and he looked simultaneously very sad for me and embarrassed for himself and I couldn’t stop laughing so I tipped him enormously too much.

But man, I didn’t feel sad for me one little bit. I was all about these little homes away from home, and even more so when I read about the hotel’s dedication to sustainability. I loved that there were recycling bins everywhere there were trash bins, including in the villa kitchens, and that unopened food left in the villa kitchens at check out are donated to the Maui Food Bank. More warm fuzzies!

But the very best part of my trip to Maui had nothing to do with fancy hotels (which frankly, I spent very little time in as I was so busy out exploring!) or insanely delicious meals — it had to do with these people. I absolutely loved getting to know each and every person on the #seeMaui team, and to see the love our hosts had for their island.

Rocking out on a fabulous live music

Over the next two weeks, I’m looking forward to sharing all the new sides of Maui I explored on this trip. Though technically quite a small island, I was absolutely amazed all over again at the diversity of activities and adventures on offer, and the wide array of interests catered to. Last time I was writing about Hawaii I got quite a few emails from readers who told me I’d finally convinced them to take a trip there of their own, which filled me with all kinds of happy. So that is my goal once again, to convince you all to come over the the Aloha side with me.

And when you see what I got up to, I don’t think it’s going to be hard.

Mahalo for being amazing, Maui!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Many thanks to the Maui Visitors Bureau for hosting me and showing me so much aloha. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

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64 Comments...
  • Caity
    July 10 2014

    Woo hoo!!! I have been looking forward to Maui Part II since I saw your lovely pics on Instagram! You convinced me that I must visit Maui at some point following your last trip but I am super excited to fall even harder with your upcoming posts! Canny wait!

    • Meihoukai
      July 10 2014

      Woo hoo indeed šŸ™‚ Love the enthusiasm Caity!

  • Jason
    July 10 2014

    I love the photo on the bottom left!

    And I loved this post. I will be wrapping up my travels in March with a family reunion that my dad planned in Hawaii (it coincides with his last annual business convention before retiring, which rotates but is held at The Grand Wailea every three years). I haven’t been to Hawaii since before I was a teenage and am hardly looking forward to wrapping up my travels, but this post has me thinking that a week on Maui with my family will be the perfect transition to living in one place for awhile.

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      It seriously will! What a perfect family vacation spot. You’ll be torn — Maui is such an amazing island but the Grand Wailea is hard to leave!

  • Tyrhone
    July 10 2014

    Dude, those are some serious accomodations! I can’t wait to get across to Hawaii, even though my digs will not likely be quite so posh, I am looking forward to that “50 first dates” type of place which I hope exists outside of the movies, and from your obvious passion for Hawaii, it seems like it does! šŸ™‚
    Tyrhone recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Hawaii is equally as beautiful from a hostel dorm as it is from a five start resort… and I wouldn’t say that goes for everywhere. So don’t worry too much about where you’d sleep, just get the ticket šŸ™‚ Looks great from the air!

  • Ashley
    July 10 2014

    Those hotels look amazing.
    There’s no need to convince me to visit Hawaii- I’m already convinced I need to get there ASAP! But still looking forward to reading about your adventures there!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Thanks Ashley šŸ™‚ So much goodness to share!

  • becky hutner
    July 10 2014

    yes!!! my husband & i are hoping to finally take our first trip to hawaii in december so these posts come at a good time. the only problem….what island to choose? personally i have always been drawn to molokai but your argument for maui is already pretty strong (i’m looking at you, paragraph 2). any insight?
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      I’m dying to get to Molokai — it’s the only island I haven’t stepped foot on (well, other than Niihau but visitors are not allowed) and it is calling to me. However you know I’m going to say to do both! I believe that the only way to get to Molokai is via Maui regardless, so they’d be the perfect combo trip. How much time do you have?

      • becky hutner
        July 11 2014

        Not sure yet but I think doing both is a great idea. Anyone close to me knows that I can never just go to one place. I always have to TACK SOMETHING ELSE ON, regardless of time constraints. Inevitably, there’s another destination just a short flight away or a long train or a miserable bus ride….i swear it looked closer on the map!
        becky hutner recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          July 15 2014

          Ha! I know how that goes. I am always talking about wanting to take it slow but um, yeah…. I think I’m 0 for 0 on that one so far.

  • Shaz
    July 10 2014

    Yippee! I love Maui! I also spent 6 weeks there, back in 2011, and I can’t wait to get back. I didn’t quite see this high-class side of the island though, except for occasionally sneaking into their pools. Shhhh. If only it wasn’t American-owned so I could just do cheeky visa runs and stay there forever.
    Shaz recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Ha, I did the same thing on my first trip to Maui šŸ™‚ Actually, I spent more time in pools on that trip than this one…. I actually didn’t so much as dip my toe in a single one of these gorgeous pools! Must return someday when relaxation is on the agenda.

  • Katie
    July 10 2014

    I was supposed to be in Hawaii in October, and it just isn’t going to work out. Your posts aren’t helping me cope! šŸ˜‰
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      I’m sorry to hear that, but when you do get there it will make the trip all that much sweeter!

  • Justine
    July 10 2014

    I love the Forgetting Sarah Marshal moment. Too funny! I was lucky enough to tag along on my best friend’s family vacations to Maui every year in high school. Suffice it to say I have a million great memories. And I love it there. I’m so glad you still loved it so much on the second go around! And, um, all those hotels look amazing. Not too shabby! I can’t wait to read more šŸ™‚
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Nice one! Those childhood vacation spots will always have a place in our hearts, right? And that’s a pretty special one!

  • Janice Stringer
    July 10 2014

    Once again Meihoukai, you have made me jealous! I too want to visit Hawaii again. There is definitely something magical about it. You may not be able to see my face but this shade of green I am going, is from envy. It still is one of my must explore more destinations!
    Thank you for taking me away from the english rain and into South Pacific sunshine from a short while.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Maui sunshine will be delivered to your inbox for the next two weeks šŸ™‚ Enjoy!

  • Wow, some of the photos from those hotels made me whistle out loud. I’ve been to a few fancy places, but it almost puts them to shame. I can’t wait to read about the rest of your trip!
    Candice @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Thanks Candice! I’m excited to share. And yes, these were some seriously stunning properties.

  • Maddy
    July 10 2014

    Meihoukai. Stop it. My checking account can’t take it! These pictures are too gorgeous! Must resist the urge to book solo trip to Maui on my credit card right now!

    But seriously, glad you had a great time, and I can’t wait to read about it!
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      I say don’t fight the urge, book book book šŸ™‚ Just kidding, you’ll know when the time is right!

  • ahhh hawaii shall be my very vanilla honeymoon place.. there is nowhere more beautiful (i’m guessing) i want to do super touristy things and FINALLY get those towel animals on my damn bed!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Ha, I’m sorry to say there were not animal towels at either of these hotels… I’ve only ever seen them on cruises (which you can in fact do around the Hawaiian islands!)

  • Shaun
    July 10 2014

    LOL, that bottom pic is too hilarious!

    Both those places look kick ass if you’re looking to relax. The food looks amazing too. Did you get to extend your say?

    p.s.
    My fav quote from that movie is when the two dudes are surfing:

    – F**k you’re cool! It’s so hard to say, because, like, I hate you in so many ways.

    – Yeah, yeah, I know… thx mate.
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Sadly United does not have very spontaneity friendly policies… it was going to be $$$$ to extend so I decided to save that cash for a more appropriately timed return in the future! And HA — great quote.

  • Sarah
    July 10 2014

    My husband and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and stayed at the Four Seasons in Maui and the Regis Princeville in Kauai and we both kept raving about the valet service too! We looked forward to seeing them everytime we left and came back to the hotel! Bottled water, towels, directions, recommendations, they were better than the concierge!

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Isn’t that funny? Glad to know it’s a common theme on the islands šŸ™‚ I’ve heard amazing things about both those hotels!

  • Leah
    July 10 2014

    YOU STAYED AT THE GRAND WAILEA!!! My grandparents had a vacation home in Kihei and we’d always go to the beach in front of that resort and walk around like we owned the place, because of course we never actually got to stay there but wanted a taste of the opulence!

    My mom’s been talking about moving to Maui for years now, how do I get her to bite the bullet? You know, for her sake…

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Maybe emphasize the billion visits she’d get from her loyal daughter and her travel blogging buddy Meihoukai šŸ™‚ And actually the social media manager was telling us a really funny story about local kids crashing the Grand Wailea and then tagging them on Twitter, FB, etc. when they were bragging about it. And she’s like, uh, you know we can see this right? Ha. Kids these days.

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    July 10 2014

    Hey Meihoukai,

    Glad to finally see your Maui posts coming…Eagerly waiting for the rest šŸ™‚

    Aloha,
    Rekha
    Rekha Devarapalli recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Thanks Rekha! I promise they will be worth the wait šŸ™‚

  • You’re lucky! I wanted to visit Hawaii even before I’ve read this and your previous Hawaii posts, but now I want to go there strait away. You’re photos are gorgeous, even better than in magazines of travel agencies šŸ™‚
    2 tickets to Wonderland recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Wow that is a huge compliment, thank you! I don’t feel I can claim much credit though, Maui is too beautiful to take a bad photo of.

  • Tim
    July 10 2014

    I am sad you did not stay at the Four Seasons. Your experience there will far exceed the Westin and Grand Waliea combined.

    Thanks for the story. You have inspired me to book for 2015, with the whole family!

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Well hey, I certainly wouldn’t turn down the chance to give the Four Seasons a spin šŸ™‚ And Maui will be the perfect destination for a family reunion — enjoy!

  • Jade
    July 10 2014

    Your love for Hawaii seeps from the page! I am so excited to read more!

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Thanks Jade! It’s a really special place for me.

  • Julie
    July 10 2014

    I can’t believe there was over a year between your trips to Maui…where does the time go?

    Can’t wait to read more about your trip!

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      Um, tell me about it! It was actually over a year and a half, which just blows me away.

  • You don’t have to convince me to go to Maui – Hawaii is one of my favourite places in the world already! I discovered my love for hiking there back in 2009 which has massively changed and shaped my life into what it is today. I haven’t been back since 2010 so planning to re-visit next year – can’t wait!
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 11 2014

      I would actually say the same for myself, Katie. I never thought of myself as much of a hiker before Hawaii but now I see I was just trekking in the wrong places šŸ™‚ It’s one of my favorite things about Hawaii!

  • Karlijn Travels
    July 11 2014

    Hi Meihoukai, love all your Hawaii posts! I’m hoping to go to Hawaii as part of my round the world trip next year (fingers crossed for that) and your stories inspired me to make it a four week stay on several islands instead of a quick stop over on Oahu. Can’t wait for the rest of your Maui coverage!
    Karlijn Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 15 2014

      Yay, I love hearing that Karlijn! Hawaii is worth SO much more than just a stopover šŸ™‚

  • Sarah S.
    July 11 2014

    Maui holds such a dear place in my heart. It is truly magical and you leave it having been forever changed. Thanks for this post as it brought back so many memories of my special island.

    • Meihoukai
      July 15 2014

      We share similar sentiments, Sarah. Great to hear from another Maui lover <3

  • Camels & Chocolate
    July 12 2014

    Take me with you next time. OKbye.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

  • Kristen Noelle
    July 14 2014

    So drooling at absolutely ALLLL of this. Who can blame you for wanting to spend forever here!? Your Hawaii posts never fail to make me want to get my Aloha on ASAP!
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 15 2014

      Tell me about it! Just writing these posts makes me want to book a ticket back!

  • tammyonthemove
    July 15 2014

    Oh nice. I loved all of your other Hawaii posts, so I am looking forward to reading your upcoming posts.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 16 2014

      Thanks Tammy! That is lovely to hear šŸ™‚

  • MCVK
    July 23 2014

    I’ve never been interested in going to Hawaii (the only thing it has that Panama doesn’t is an active volcano) but you made it sound enticing, to say the least. “Bali Hai may call you . . .” Maybe someday.

    • Meihoukai
      July 23 2014

      Hawaii has such a different culture than Panama does, there are a world of differences between them! But I do think if you love one you’d be inclined to love the other šŸ™‚

  • Katherinelou
    August 17 2014

    I’ve always wanted to stay in Wailea. I’ve only stayed in Kapalua and Kihei but staying at The Grand Wailea sounds like a dream. When a hotel (or any accommodations) provides excellent customer service, it definitely enhances the trip even more. I must stay there sometime soon!

    By the way, I just found your blog and I’m totally loving it!
    Katherinelou recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Aw, thanks Katherine! I’m so glad to hear that — welcome to Wanderland! Hope you’ll stick around šŸ™‚

  • Matt
    March 6 2015

    We LOVE Hawaii, and Maui in particular. We cant wait to get back there again! Thanks for sharing and allowing us to escape back there with you!

    Aloha!
    Matt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 6 2015

      I know how you feel, Matt! Hope I can return again very soon.

  • Adrianne
    October 27 2016

    Hi Meihoukai!

    Big Fan of yours…loved your Maui guide, we did it last year for Christmas and this year we’re doing the Big Island, any recommendations? šŸ™‚

  • Lise
    October 10 2017

    I really enjoy reading about people’s experiences and adventures on Maui. I love that you opened with your spiritual experience while previously here. It is such a magical place and can teach you so much if you are open to it.
    My husband and I are fortunate enough to live on this beautiful island. We own a grocery delivery business and would love to get you set up with a stocked kitchen on your next Maui visit for no service charge. If you are making your way to Maui this upcoming season please check out our website feel free to us!

    • Meihoukai
      October 10 2017

      Hi Lise! Thanks so much for the offer, that’s very kind. I’m always scheming a way to get back to Hawaii, hopefully it won’t be too long!