My wife, our two kids (4 years and 18 months), and I spent a half day at the Wailea and Four Seasons deciding which one to stay at for the second half of our trip (we extended our trip and just showed up at the hotels). We literally walked the properties, asked questions of the respective staffs, etc. And while we chose the GW for the kids, we had meals at several locations (including three at the 4S).
Notwithstanding a lot of the gloss in the other reviews on this site, there are vast differences between the GW and 4S.
If you have children, the pools and water park at the GW are compelling. Two big slides (kids must be at least 46 inches tall to ride at all) and plenty of smaller pools and slides for others to try out. There is also a baby beach area, which is a sandy part of the pool that is just like a real beach, but without waves. It is a great place for little ones to be watched by their parents (and nannies), without some of the stress of playing on a beach with waves.
Another plus of the GW is the grounds, which are sweeping (the property is huge). At least from where we were staying, one can look out over an expansive lawn to the beach. The 4S is on a bit more of a hill (maybe 30 to 40 feet), so the feel is more of being at an Italian resort overlooking the water (without the beach being immediately visible from most spots).
Downsides of the GW:
1. The service can be impersonal. A valet drove over an inflatable tube that we had, leaving a tire imprint and (later, we found out) putting a leak in the tube. The bellman and valet just kind of shrugged. This would never happen at a 4S.
2. In rounding a corner en route to our room, the bellman clipped my daughter's boogey board on a corner, causing it to emit a cracking noise. He just looked at us and then ignored it.
3. Our room was fantastic and subpar. We were in 0016 (0010-0017 are all similar). Ocean view, ground level. We had a terrace a foot above a fish pond. It was fantastic for the kids to be able to throw bread in for the koi. It was a morning and evening ritual. Downsides are that the room was very musty / moldy and the carpet very dirty. Literally, we would get out of the tub or shower with clean feet and then our soles would get very dark just walking around the room. Would not happen at 4S.
4. Food is not just a notch, but two notches below the 4S and the prices are just about the same, with the GW higher in many cases (particularly for items from the children's menu). If you are a foody and decide to stay here, just have all of your meals over at the 4S.
5. The pools / water park are madness. Very loud and teeming with people, hundreds and hundreds of them. Screaming bands of kids. Kind of reminded me of that Mel Gibson movie, "Mad Max". This is okay if you have kids and are there for mayhem. But it is not relaxing, if that is what you are looking for. It is important to note that hotel staff can have birthday parties for their kids at the hotel, with tons of kids packed into normal hotel rooms for sleepovers and then invading the pool the next day. Another thing to consider is that the GW also sells admission to the pool to non-guests. $150 per week for adults and I did not check on the kids rate. So, as a result, some savvy folks who want a more refined atmosphere will stay at the 4S and then buy weekly passes for their kids to go next door and descend on the GW pool system.
6. The hotel is big and can get crowded. To get good chairs, I had to go down to the pooly by 7:00 a.m. each day, which wasn't that bad because we like to get an early start anyway. But it is something that one does not have to do at the smaller 4S.
7. My biggest problem with the GW is that, much like a cruise, it is designed to separate you from your money. Wailea is expensive, which is fine. I have no problem paying $40 or $50 per entree at the good restauarants, because that is the going rate. But I really hate being nickle and dimed by my hotel:
a. Pool cabanas: 4 chairs under a cabana + 4 exterior chairs. One of the few ways to get shade. No real amenities. There are maybe 15 or so cabanas. The cost? $275 per day. That is not a typo. I was floored. So, I asked the question at the 4S, which had almost the same number but for a much smaller # of guests -- the answer was "no charge." Needless to say, we didn't pay for this. Nor did we pay $175 for the use of a two-chair "cassetta" for the day.
b. Their are two tiers of in-room internet access. The better option, which is the only one that will replicate what you are used to, is $15 per day. More nickle and diming.
c. Printed a 75-page document at the business center. $1 per page. $75. Okay, so far. But then they were going to charge me $0.50 for a binder clip.
d. It is actually more costly to have kids at the GW than at the 4S. For example, breakfast is free for < 5 guests at the 4S; not so at the GW. And the rest of the meals at the 4S for kids are far superior (and less costly) than at the GW. Also, the 4S puts out corn dogs and mac and cheese at the pool for kids -- again, at no cost.
The ironic thing is that the rooms at the 4S are somewhat more expensive, but when you factor in all of the ways that the GW will separate you from your money (I have only listed a few), they must net out to be about the same.
Finally, the atmosphere at the 4S is much more distinguished than at the GW. There is no comparison. The pool is much smaller (though still of a respectable size). It has a refined Italian resort feel to it, instead of a water park.
In sum, I do not know why a couple would ever choose the GW over the 4S. For those with kids, the GW makes sense (with knowledge that you are consciously making some sacrifices), but just remember to have your meals over at the 4S (it is a short walk). Or alternatively, stay at the 4S and buy passes to the GW pool for your kids so that they can go run around somebody else's pool.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, is the ultimate destination for a fabulous Hawaii vacation, perfect for families, spa goers, honeymooners, golfers and active vacationers. Situated on 40 acres of lush, tropical Hawaiian gardens, Grand Wailea opens onto Maui's beautiful Wailea Beach, voted one of the best beaches in America, with elegant and newly-renovated accommodations, indulgent spa treatments, fine dining and thrilling recreational options. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Wailea - a Waldorf Astoria Hotel Wailea
- Grand Wailea Maui
- Grand Wailea Resort Maui
- Grand Wailea Hawaii
- Grand Hotel Wailea
- Grand Resort Wailea
- Grand Wailea - A Waldorf Astoria Resort Maui, HI