Review: Fairmont Kea Lani

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Review: Fairmont Kea Lani
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The Fairmont Kea Lani is an all-suite hotel in the Wailea area of Maui, in a neighborhood with several other upscale hotels like the Andaz Maui, the Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea, and so forth. There’s a beach path running between all these resorts, which are interspersed with residential areas. The Fairmont is on the far end, and the curve of the coast means it’s a bit more secluded.


Fairmont Kea Lani entrance

Hotels in Hawaii are a bit complicated, style-wise. There are architectural influences from all over the globe, but most of the executions seem to look fairly dated fairly quickly. The exterior of the Fairmont Kea Lani, for example, is basically a gigantic Moorish-inspired complex, but didn’t feel as out of place as one might think.


Fairmont Kea Lani exterior


Fairmont Kea Lani exterior

The interior, however, was beautiful. The common areas were all indoor/outdoor, with elegant tropical decor. More on that later.


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby

We were immediately welcomed by the valet and bell staff, who greeted us with kukui nut and orchid leis. Self parking is complimentary, so after our bags were unloaded my husband went to park the rental car while I handled the check-in formalities.


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby

The lobby had soaring arches, elegant tile floors, and an abundance of orchids.


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby

Check-in was…efficient for a resort in Hawaii. I didn’t have to queue at all, which is always a plus, but at a large resort there are always a lot of details to go over.

The Fairmont Kea Lani has an option where you can text the concierge, for example, so we had to register our phone numbers. Details of the Hawaiiana experiences were shared, Virtuoso benefits were confirmed, and so forth. It took about 15 minutes, when all was said and done.


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby


Fairmont Kea Lani lobby

We were given directions to our room, which was down a series of open-air hallways.


Fairmont Kea Lani walkway

Polynesian-inspired art and garden atriums broke up the architecture, giving a very relaxed and tropical vibe.


Fairmont Kea Lani entrance


Fairmont Kea Lani terrace

Suites at the Fairmont Kea Lani

We were originally assigned a room on the second floor (the same level as the lobby), on the far end of the hotel, facing “out” from the resort.


Fairmont Kea Lani floorplan

The room was lovely, but the height of the trees meant that the room was very shaded, and a little dark.


Fairmont Kea Lani second floor lanai

At this point in the trip we could already tell that we’d be spending an unfortunate amount of time in the room (we both had work complications), so called and asked if there was a room available with more natural light, even if it had an inferior view.

The request was happily accommodated — I was given the new room number and told that the bellman would meet us at the new room with our bags and fresh keys.


Fairmont Kea Lani fourth floor view

Anyway, both rooms were identical other than the views, but I just wanted to explain that first since my pictures are a mixture of the two rooms.

The rooms at the Fairmont Kea Lani are basically circular, which I thought made for a great floor plan. The foyer featured a bar to the left, an open archway to the sitting room, and then the door to the bathroom was on the right.


Fairmont Kea Lani suite

The bar area had a tea and coffee station, as you’d expect, but the cabinet also had a mini-fridge (empty except for two complimentary bottles of water), and a microwave. A family could easily keep a few snacks in their room — we stashed fruit and yogurt in here for early mornings. I thought both were a very nice touch, given how expensive food in Hawaii can be.

Many properties on the islands try and nickel and dime their guests, and while the Fairmont was certainly pricey, I noticed several of these small hospitable gestures.

The living room was spacious, and opened out onto the covered balcony.


Fairmont Kea Lani suite

The furnishings themselves were fine — everything was in good condition, and the overall style didn’t seem particularly dated. And again, Hawaii is a complicated market for hotel styling.

For those traveling in a larger party, it’s worth noting that the sofa folds out into a bed.


Fairmont Kea Lani suite


My husband took conference calls from this desk starting at 3AM every morning of our trip, and said the chairs were fine

Both the patio and the living room connected to the bedroom, which had a king bed, and a second ceiling fan (I love seeing overhead fans in the tropics).


Fairmont Kea Lani suite

A second sliding door in the bedroom provided access to the patio.


Fairmont Kea Lani suite

On the other side of the room, two closets flanked the entry to the bathroom.


Fairmont Kea Lani suite

I actually loved this split closet setup, as opposed to having a single larger closet. It was very efficient for a couple, and made it easier for both of us to stay organized.

The bathroom itself was spacious, with a soaking tub, walk-in shower, dual pedestal sinks, and a separate toilet closet.


Fairmont Kea Lani bathroom


Fairmont Kea Lani shower

The bath amenities were Rose 31, by Le Labo — Fairmont’s signature scent.

The bathroom was clean, and the linens were high-quality. Looking at the pictures it seems a bit dingy, but I think that’s just a side-effect of the lighting.

We spent a lot of time in the room (my husband had conference calls from 3AM-10:30AM on all but our last day, and y’all know how I work when traveling), and found the layout of the room really conducive to mixed schedules. Obviously our circumstances were driven by work, but I could also see this floorplan being ideal for families, as you had multiple ways to get in and out of every room.

Breakfast at the Fairmont Kea Lani

Because we’d booked through Virtuoso, we received a complimentary breakfast for two each morning. Our routine was generally to wake up early and one of us would fetch coffee from the lobby, then we’d eventually go down for “brunch” around 10:30.

Breakfast was offered in an indoor/outdoor space adjacent to the adult pool — I guess the assumption is that no one is going to use the adult pool prior to noon, because it was very noisy during breakfast.


Fairmont Kea Lani breakfast


Fairmont Kea Lani breakfast

Our booking included the full buffet, but there was also an a la carte menu:


Fairmont Kea Lani breakfast

Unlike most buffet situations, coffee refills were plentiful. And the food was of a good quality as well.

My only real complaint is that the buffet area itself seemed to have been designed by someone who had never been through a buffet line before.

The entrance to the buffet was in the back corner of the restaurant, behind a set of double doors, which created the first bottleneck.


Fairmont Kea Lani breakfast

Once inside, sideboards encircled the room, including two islands, creating a narrow figure-eight. Add in the omelet station, people toasting pastries, and staff coming in and out of the kitchen, and it was very cramped, and extremely chaotic. Considering that the Kea Lani has 450 rooms, and most people are probably not traveling solo, the buffet area needed to be at least twice as big.

The food was tasty, though simple, with a solid mix of fresh fruits, meats, cheeses, yogurts, and pastries, along with Asian-inspired options like miso soup and congee. I have limited pictures, unfortunately, because it was so crowded.

Other dining options

Outside of breakfast each day, we only had one meal on property, at Ko, which advertises “plantation era-inspired cuisine.”


Fairmont Kea Lani lounge

The menu was quite interesting, with a mixture of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese influences. We shared a quick sushi roll before heading to the airport, so I can’t speak to all of those options, but the service was great, and the fish was fresh.


Fairmont Kea Lani sushi

The Fairmont Kea Lani also has an upscale seafood restaurant and a poolside casual restaurant. The nice thing about being on the Wailea side of the island is that you are close to great local spots in Kihei and surrounding areas, but if you don’t want to leave the resort, the Fairmont makes that easy.

The resort also has a great coffee shop/bakery/mercantile. In addition to coffees and baked goods, they also had a full deli, and an assortment of grab and go items. So you could get a panini, or gelato, or some deli salads. The selection was really impressive, and the pricing was fair. Whole fruit, for example, was the same price as I’d paid at the Foodland in Kihei.

So again, lots of good options for people who don’t want to leave the resort.

Pools and beaches

This is obviously why most people come to Hawaii, and the Fairmont didn’t disappoint.

The adults-only pool was in the center of the resort (meaning splashy kid noises didn’t carry to as many rooms), and was well-equipped with lounge chairs, towels, the works.


Fairmont Kea Lani adult pool

The Fairmont employees were great about setting up chairs and umbrellas, and managing the towel situation so nothing ever looked too messy.

The afternoons tended to be more crowded, in which case chairs would be added to the lawn areas.


Fairmont Kea Lani lounge chairs

The “main” pool was massive (this is only a small portion of it), and had a lazy river, waterslide, a shallow splash pool for little ones, and even more cabanas.


Fairmont Kea Lani main pool

The main pool also had the activities kiosk, where you could borrow or rent various pool toys, get extra towels, sign up for scuba lessons, etc. As usual, the staff was incredibly friendly.

There was a separate hut for beach activities, as the beach is a decent walk downhill from the pools. You stay on the resort the entire time, and everything is immaculately manicured, so it didn’t feel like you were going that far, but the effect was that the beach itself felt incredibly private.


Fairmont Kea Lani beach

We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time there, but the beach also played host to one of our favorite experiences at the Kea Lani: outrigger canoeing.

I have no pictures of this (because canoe trip), but it was wonderful, and something you should absolutely do if you’re staying at the Kea Lani. There isn’t an additional fee, but you do have to reserve in advance, as there are only a handful of trips each morning and the boat only holds four guests. We wanted a sunrise trip (and you do too, as that’s when the water is calmest, and the crew sings the Hawaiian chants to bless the boat at sunrise, which is lovely), and when we booked our room the only sunrise boat trip was on our departure date.

I can’t express enough how pleasant it was to paddle out on the morning seas. We had a bit of time to snorkel as well, and it was just a delightful experience. A must do, for sure.

Small touches

What I loved most about the Fairmont Kea Lani was the abundance of hospitality. The staff was universally friendly and helpful, and I very much felt like a guest rather than a profit center. I’m so accustomed to being charged for everything at resort properties (the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach is a classic example of this), and it was dang refreshing to see a large resort offering those small touches that you typically only see at more boutique properties.

Like complimentary early-morning coffee:

Activities for kids and adults:

Complimentary sunscreen and aloe by the pools, and portable device chargers upon request:


Fairmont Kea Lani sunscreen station


Fairmont Kea Lani device chargers

The resort also offered a complimentary shuttle within Wailea, and internet access for everyone, along with water and fresh fruit in the gym and spa. I don’t like resort fees, but this resort at least provided a slew of benefits.


Fairmont Kea Lani mountain view

Bottom line

All things considered, I had a wonderful time here. Had we not been so distracted by work and family, I think we would have enjoyed spending more time by the beach, and taking greater advantage of the resort amenities.


Fairmont Kea Lani at night

That being said, this is still a pretty large property for my specific taste, so I don’t know that I’ll be back. Given the prices of comparable resorts on Maui, however, I found the room rate to be very reasonable, especially as you’re guaranteed a suite.

So if you’re looking for a larger room at a full-service resort, particularly for a non-points stay, the Fairmont Kea Lani is a solid option.

Any other resort recommendations for Maui?

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Comments

  1. Great review Tiffany!
    That is one of the best made beds, the Housekeepers knows her hospital corners. Did the yellow covers stay on the coffee the entire time or was that just prior to them being in use?
    Love seeing more posts from you, so please keep them coming!

  2. Stayed there last year. Way better option for families than the points hype to stay at the overrated Andaz. Highly recommend and you get free parking. Suites are huge with amazing sea views and LeLabo amenities in thr bathroom. BTW, there is a fantastic hidden beach next to the Fairmont that only locals know how to get called Palauea beach. It is simply breathtaking.

  3. The absolute saddest bit of the entire story: “At this point in the trip we could already tell that we’d be spending an unfortunate amount of time in the room (we both had work complications),”.

    It’s harder to enjoy a vacation when the job follows you there.

    🙁

  4. Hands down; my favorite resort; if it wasn’t 6,000 miles from home, I’d go once a year.
    If you’re looking to relax, this place is sublime; if you can’t chill here……………………………………
    Only thing missing is Mama’s Fish House; a half hour drive, but worth it. Best restaurant in Hawaii!

  5. The wife and I signed up for the fairmont credit card each getting two free nights here last winter. Very relaxing vacation especially when it’s free. You also get a room upgrade so we had a partial ocean view and the mountains. Great review of the hotel. You can also get free mountain bikes to ride to the nice park at the end of the road the hotel is on. Very peaceful and pretty bike ride along the ocean.

  6. We have stayed a few times with our son. We liked the sleeper sofa. I thought the beds were very comfortable. Sometimes we mix it up and stay here a few and then Grand Wailea. Of course our son likes the pools at Grand Wailea better! But the Fairmont would be nicer without kids. Their breakfast a la cart is very good. They also have a small café with the best red velvet cake. We have even ordered food to go from the café and enjoyed it back in our room on the lanai. Our favorite rooms are on the side where you have a huge grass area off lanai!

  7. Nice review, I just stayed at the Grand Wailea for Labor Day weekend and was curious about the other options around. We ventured onto the Four Seasons next door and we were absolutely blown away compared to the Grand Wailea. TBH while the suites at the Fairmont are nice, I think the Grand Wailea looks more impressive with nicer pools although it is a HUGE and busy property (not for everyone).

  8. Not sure why people are bashing the Andaz. Just stayed there last month and had a great time – from the check in person to valet and waiters, and the pool and beach staff. I read reviews saying condescending service was an issue but did not find that to be the case at all. I find the Fairmont and Grand Wailea to be way too crowded just b/c of the property size. Andaz I would go back in a heartbeat.

  9. Since there are inevitable comparisons to the Andaz, I’ve stayed at both >3 times each in the past few years and my thoughts are:

    The Andaz is much more slick and hip looking with modern design and the property is much more compact than the sprawling Fairmont (and Four Seasons). The Japanese-inspired long gated entryway and the terraced pools are stunning, especially at night. Also, the cocktails and restaurants again are more “modern” vs. Kea Lani.

    But I liked the Fairmont Kea Lani a lot. It’s definitely the best value in the area for a suite since it is priced closer to entry-level rooms at the Andaz. The bathrooms in particular are way more spacious than the Andaz’s similarly-priced rooms. I also think the service was a tad better at the Fairmont. The Fairmont room decor is “dated nice” but it has no “wow” factor. That being said, some of the slick modern design elements in the Andaz are impractical IMO: flat sinks where sand won’t wash down, people dragging heavy in room chairs across loud stone, very low beds, showers that splash water everywhere, heavy light control automation sometimes making it hard to figure out how to turn off one specific light without killing all power, etc. i.e. pretty looking but at some cost.

    All things considered, I tend to stay at the Andaz because I prefer the food and drink options on property and it caters to a younger crowd. Morimoto in particular is my favorite restaurant in the strip of hotels in Wailea. It’s hard to go wrong in that area in general because Wailea is awesome!

  10. I’ve stayed at the property a few times now and love it.

    My only complaint is that I have always thought the coffee is TERRIBLE – weak and watery (which is a shame for Hawaii). I end up driving to the Marriott for Starbucks or the mall for CB&TL for a stronger kick.

  11. Stayed at this Fairmont in 2012. On the night of my departure, a tsunami warning shut down the airport and all flights were canceled. I spent the night on the phone in the lobby calling United to get my flights changed. When the hotel staff saw me, they offered to give me a room for the night, for free. (I assume they had empty rooms because people who were scheduled to arrive couldn’t.) For this gesture, I give them an A+. Was very impressed.

  12. @dh I have to agree on the automated light switch issue but all the other ones did not seem to bother me too much. The breakfast buffet at Ka’ana was probably one of the better spreads I’ve had besides hotels in Asia.

  13. You mentioned the reasonable rate a few times, but it’s not listed anywhere. What do you consider reasonable?

  14. @ bluecat — I know, but couldn’t be avoided in this case. I actually don’t mind working from wherever, and generally find ways to do it where it doesn’t impede anyone else’s vacation, but husband had critical planning meetings with East Coast colleagues that got pushed back, so there was no way to avoid it.

  15. I haven’t stayed there but during a trip in 2012 we hit the beach there. I love that each beach has some sort of parking and access, even if parking is only a few spots. We drove down from Kapalua to check out Wailea and found a parking spot. The Fairmont grounds were beautiful and the beach was great…and quiet. After seeing that I was really tempted by the Fairmont CCs with the free nights but didn’t have firm plans to return anytime soon. But I’d certainly stay there over some of the other hotels in the area.

  16. We love the Fairmont and have stayed there every year for the last three years. Sadly the free room benefits of the Fairmont credit card are gone- the card was just terminated by Chase. The service there is second to none starting at the top with the hotel manager Gary Sutton. The food at Ko is first class and the breakfast buffet is fantastic. We found great happy hour specials at Ko and Nicks. The adults only pool is one of the nicest,most serene pools I have ever been to. Strongly recommend this property.

  17. @Tiffany – I stayed at the Marriott in Wailea a few years ago and the wind in the afternoons was unbelievable. It made being outside uncomfortable. Did you find that to be the case?

  18. We’ve stayed at the Kea Lani twice since last December. First time was in a three-bedroom oceanfront villa when the accessible two-bedroom villa was not available. Kea Lani engineering built temporary ramps to the patio and inside the villa so that my father’s powered wheelchair could access the villa! Hospitality and housekeeping were amazing, from the fully stocked refrigerator and the welcome layout of fresh flowers, fruits and a bottle of Ocean vodka. Once housekeeping realized that we enjoy strong coffee, the Nespresso coffee maker was never without ample pods; they brought a box of 50 pods to the villa and it was never diminished. Two of our chef friends came over from the big island to cook for us and we had an amazing dinner in the villa. Chef Pang at the Ko was kind enough to let our chefs keep their preps in the Ko kitchen. One interesting note was when our chefs discovered that the villa has an induction stove and that their cookware wouldn’t work. Not to worry, the villa’s kitchen comes stocked with a full complement of Le Creuset cookware but there was only one skillet! The fun started when Chef started to braise the foie gras and set off the villa’s smoke alarms…we had to call the front desk and tell them not to roll the fire department and for us to open the doors to the villa to vent the smoke. Boy did the villa smell good!

    As others have posted the Ko restaurant and Nick’s Fishmarket are fantastic and we highly recommend them! The daily brunch was included in our villa reservations and we enjoyed both the dining fare and the staff’s hospitality each morning.

    Our second stay was in the two-bedroom accessible ocean view villa and it was just as comfortable and accommodating as the three-bedroom villa. Again housekeeping was immaculate and our stay was perfect.

    In both stays we enjoyed the Willow Stream Spa. My father had a daily individual aqua-therapy in the adult pool and both my parents enjoyed a couples massage (as did I) in the Spa. The whirlpool was great as were the hot steam and cold mist rooms to intermix with the dry heat sauna. I experienced a “Vichy” shower massage and my friend had the “WaveMotion” table massage which she said was amazing.

    We have stayed at other properties on the island and find that the Kea Lani is our favorite for just relaxing and being pampered.

  19. Love and miss the Kea Lani. Just more peaceful than the surrounding resorts (esp the 4S).

    Rooms are great for family of three. On bucket list is to stay in one of the villas. But when room rate is $500/nt and north, probably not going to happen.

  20. Love Fairmont and happy to hear about another property especially one with suites (we have a young child and that is an amazing bonus!). We have stayed in the Fairmont Orchid on the big island (near Kona) and loved it. Nice to see another option that is equally gorgeous! The service at every Fairmont is impeccable and has made our stays from Hawaii, to Mexico, to Kenya a delight.

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