Luxury, Sustainability and Aloha+ in Wailea, Maui


All suites at the Fairmont Kea Lani have ocean views.

All suites at the Fairmont Kea Lani have ocean views.

When we think of big resort hotels, we sometimes default to thinking there will frequently be waste issues in food, trash, laundering and energy. It is with delight when we discover a major destination property that has figured it out and made a commitment to sustainability principles.

As guests at the Fairmont Kea Lani, set on lovely Polo Beach on the Valley Isle of Maui, you might get a hint of this commitment with your first Mai-Tai by one of the pools, served in a “glass” made of corn (and 100% compostable).  It doesn’t stop there.


Poolside Mai Tai in a “glass” made of corn tells part of the story of the Fairmont Kea Lani’s commitment to sustainability.

During a recent stay, we learned a great deal more about the Kea Lani’s sustainability efforts on Maui and the significant corporate commitment by the Fairmont’s global properties.  For example, by the end of 2013, Fairmont’s goal is to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below their 2006 levels, the equivalent of taking 19,777 cars off the road annually.  Look for Electric Car charging stations coming later this year, a developing addition to Maui travel.  Leftover food donations to local food banks, farm-to-table sourcing and on-site “Green Teams” prove that this is not just a “trendy” corporate nod, but a way of life for the Fairmont culture since 1990.

We found the poolside service to be excellent.  The nicely tranquil adult pool is great for guests who wish to, well, be without kids for a little while.

The "adult" quiet pool at the Fairmont Kea Lani is tranquil with excellent Mai Tais poolside.

The “adult” quiet pool at the Fairmont Kea Lani is tranquil with excellent food service poolside.

Snacks and beverages are brought to your small chaise-lounge tables. Hint: Go for the Kalua-Pork Quesadilla with Mango Salsa.  Zesty!


The spacious and comfortable lobby of the Fairmont Kea Lani is a great place to relax and meet with friends.

The Fairmont Kea Lani actively engages its guests to be partners in the sustainability effort and we found ourselves easily tuned-in and mindful, thanks to the hotel’s examples, led by General Manager Charles Head, a cheerful host, custom-made for the modern hospitality industry.  He is the real deal.



Live bamboo incorporated into the lobby ambience at the Fairmont Kea Lani.


Amenities.  Big ones, small ones, lots of them.  The little touches that you remember.  Have you ever been to a WSUE Resort (World’s Slowest and Ugliest Elevators)?  The Kea Lani’s elevators arrive quickly and are beautifully designed.  Expect top of the line Rose 31 eco-products by Le Labo in the spacious bathroom(s), great in-room coffee and tea service, and high-quality linens and down pillows. Staff attitude?  Aloha says a lot but let’s just say “Aloha-Plus” for this staff. How do they remember who we are by name?  Do they have chips installed?


Whoever came up with the all-Suite resort concept was brilliant.  With 413 of these 800 square-foot-plus ocean-view suites and 37 very private ocean-view villas (each with their own small pool), the Kea Lani is a sweet-spot in resort size.  Add to that a very unique location tucked in the Polo Beach cove and you have a feeling of privacy in the heart of Wailea.


Polo Beach Cove gives the visitor a feeling of coziness. Beaches in Hawaii are public but this setting has a sense of privacy while not being “uppity.”


The whale-watching, in season, from your private lanai, libation-in-hand, is, well, the stuff of dreams.  Speaking of Lanai, that’s the island right out your window.

Service gets to you fast because the resort is adequately staffed with well-trained and motivated employees (each of whom is imbued with the culture of the property and Hawaii by going through a comprehensive cultural training program run by the resort’s own cultural advisor).


The welcoming lobby and adjacent lounge at the Fairmont Kea Lani is a great place to meet friends for an afternoon libation.

There is, of course, lots to do on Maui: from the top of Haleakala to the snorkeling and myriad water sports; to the great helicopter tours, upcountry touring and the gorgeous marathon drive to Hana…but, if you just want to stay put, the Kea Lani makes it easy. This property clearly wants you to relax and enjoy everything.  For off-property adventures the Concierge desk is at your service, and will arrange for just about any activity.

The best deal is to get the Sunnyside Breakfast Package when you reserve.  This is a real value.  We’re not normally big buffet fans, but the Kea Lani Restaurant somehow re-wrote the book on resort breakfast buffets.  From Chef Irwin or Chef “Smiley” at their made-to-order omelet stations, to the huge fresh fruit bar and fresh pastries (the apple strudel and the mango cobbler), with staff bringing fresh pots of coffee, refreshing your water and juice (or mai tai)…well, maybe you’ll be lounging at the hotel today.  And if you are off for an adventure, this breakfast will fortify you.  (You can also order from the menu, but value-wise, go for the Breakfast Package).


Chef Irwin works his magic at the Fairmont Kea Lani Restaurant omelet station.

Later in the day, other dining options will tempt you to stay on the property:

Nick’s Fishmarket Maui is a seafood and steak establishment, with a great terrace and a lively bar; the Polo Beach Grille and Bar is a poolside, casual daytime place where friends gather and includes a handy swim-up bar; and Caffe Ciao Bakery and Deli is open from early morning to late night and has a wide range of food options including custom picnic baskets.


Caffe Ciao makes a great picnic lunch, wonderful coffee drinks and is a great place to pick up those sundries you might have forgotten to pack.

Overseeing all food at the Kea Lani is Executive Chef Tylun Pang.


Chef Tylun Pang oversees all of the food at the Fairmont Kea Lani and is the driving force behind the “Plantation Cuisine” at Kō Restaurant at the resort.

He is also the driving force behind one of Hawaii’s great authentic restaurants, Kō, which was the dining highlight of our Fairmont Kea Lani stay.  There is so much to say about Kō and the integration of Hawaiian home cooking that we are dedicating a separate article in this issue to the restaurant and Chef Pang’s commitment to local food sourcing and environmental stewardship.  That said, one meal at Kō will open your eyes and palate to the cultural influences on contemporary, Hawaiian cuisine.  Move over fusion; let’s get down with some plantation-inspired home cooking.

An over-arching quality for any deluxe property is the amount of return business.  At the Kea Lani we asked staff members about this and the story was consistent:  Families have been coming here year after year.  In fact, many employees have worked at the property for many years and have seen children grow, and return with their own families.  These are qualities of a destination property that can’t fit into any metric but are as important as any.


Along the never-boring Wailea hiking path, easily accessible from the Kea Lani.

Wrapping up this intro to the Fairmont Kea Lani, let us add that evening walks along the Wailea hiking path (which passes through the beachfront of the resort) is another delight.  Because of the Kea Lani’s location, the foot traffic seems modest and there is never a feeling of being crowded, even during high season.  That feeling of seclusion and tranquility carries through this unique property.  Couple this with the Fairmont’s leadership in Maui’s environmental stewardship and we give this great family destination a big thumb’s up!