A flash of gold flickered up from the wet paddle as our outrigger canoe sliced through the water. We were up just as the sun started to heat the sand, making our way out into the cradle of the water that hugs Maui's southern coast and extends to the nearby islands of Kaho'olawe and Lanai.
It's here that hundreds of whales come to calf during the winter months, thanks to the warm waters and the protection that these natural barriers provide. After a long paddle out from the shore to the bay, the command came to lift our oars into the boat, and our guide placed a hydrophone underneath the surface of the waves. Suddenly, the silent air erupted with the haunting groans of hundreds of whales that were swimming directly beneath us. It was mesmerizing, chilling and jaw-droppingly beautiful.
This experience was one of many at the Wailea Beach Resort -- Marriott, Maui that left a lasting impression on me. Maui was the last stop on a monthlong exploration of the four major Hawaiian Islands, and I truly believe that we had saved the best for last. Maui has a little bit of something for everyone, from remote hiking trails and lush jungle to volcanic landscape, deep valleys, bustling towns, a wine culture and fabulous resorts.
The new adults-only Olakino pool is a wellness oasis within the Wailea Beach Resort. Photo Credit: Wailea Beach Resort -- Marriott, Maui
Wailea Beach Resort sits on the southwestern coast of Maui, a bit removed from the frenetic beach energy closer to the Kaanapali Coast. The quiet community is known for the ritziest resorts on the island, quiet beaches and gorgeous ocean views. In 2016 Wailea Beach Resort underwent a $110 million renovation that included all the guestrooms, the lobby, a new restaurant and other touches. Additional room renovations continued in 2019 with the extension of lanai decks in front of the Oceanfront rooms. And still new changes were taking place into 2023.
A new pool experience
Most recently, the 22-acre resort debuted Olakino, an adults-only wellness and pool experience. The posh sanctuary is centered around a new Olakino saline infinity-edge pool that overlooks Wailea's coastline. The pool area features in-water chaise lounges, luxury cabanas and a lengthy list of wellness experiences. These include in-water workouts, Yin Yoga, Sacred Sound Meditation and acupuncture. Guests can order food and cocktails (or cocktails) poolside, as well.
The programming at the wellness pool rotates on a four-day schedule, tied to the pillars of La'i (tranquility, harmony), Ala (awaken), Konea (restored), and A'o (to acquire knowledge). Guests have the option to book a day pass to Olakino every day, which gives access to the special pool and programming.
There are many other activities available to guests of the Wailea Beach Resort. Its signature Te Au Moana Luau experience is a favorite -- a beachfront luau featuring a lavish Hawaiian fest, traditional dances and local music. It is an educational and entertaining experience, one that comes with spectacular sunset views.
Wailea Beach Resort's Humble Market Kitchin is a collaboration between the resort and celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi. Photo Credit: Wailea Beach Resort -- Marriott, Maui
Dinner at the Humble Market Kitchin is a must, as well. Part of the 2016 renovation included the addition of this Roy Yamaguchi restaurant, showcasing Hawaiian-inspired cuisine in a beautiful oceanview setting. The resort is independently operated and the menu was created by local Hawaiian celebrity chef. My recommendations: the Vietnamese-style Maui beef gyoza and the sashimi platter are necessary.
As much as I enjoyed my time at the Wailea Beach Resort, in the end it was Maui's natural beauty and its abundance of wildlife that make the island such a special place.
That sunrise outrigger canoe experience was the very best part of the Maui visit for me. Was it because the skies over Maui looked so lovely washed in pale pink and purple so early in the morning? Was it because I was truly embracing my outdoorsy side? Maybe it was simply because it was our last day in Hawaii after a month of exploring, and I was feeling emotional about having to take my leave. Whatever the reason, this was quite the way to close out an incredible life chapter -- listening to a hundred humpback whales sing out Hawaii's closing credits.