We’re starting our 4th day here at the Westin Maui, and I thought I’d share some initial thoughts about the place.
But first, the biggest thing I’ve learned during this trip is that people’s complaints on Yelp are absolutely hysterical. My kids and I read through the Yelp pages on this hotel as well as the Hyatt Luau last night and you would think that the horrors of spending time at both the hotel and that event would be akin to sleeping in a Cambodian child brothel. My favorite review was someone who complained both that the in-room coffee was terrible, and that housekeeping never replaced the coffee cups (waiter, this soup is terrible…and the portions are so small!)
Here’s what the Westin is really like: It’s a very, very nice Westin. This is a large resort with 700+ rooms. If you thought this was an intimate, luxury boutique:
a) I have no idea why you would have thought that; and
b) You are way, way wrong.
There are several large resorts along this stretch of beach in Kaanapali: the Westin, the Marriott and the Hyatt (among others). From what I’ve seen they’re all pretty similar, with a beautiful location on the beach opposite the green hills. If you have children, the pools at the Westin seem to be the most fun – there are 4 kid-friendly pools with 1 large waterslide and 1 small. But the pools at the other resorts looked great as well.
We have friends who stayed at the Honua Kai Resort in Kaanapali and from what we saw of the place, I would call it half a star better than these 3 resorts and perhaps 1 step less infested with kids.
About the kids: The Westin, Hyatt and Marriott are kid-friendly resorts. There will be lots of children here. I was surprised to read about all of the people complaining about the children. There are children here now, there will be children here next week, and there will be children here when you are here. If you don’t want to be around kids, do not stay here. They do offer an adult-only pool (which, unlike Vegas, does not mean people are topless, which is not necessarily a bad thing when I consider the crowd here), and it is quiet and wonderful and you’ll feel like you’re at a different resort, so I’m not sure why people don’t just hang out over there and stop whining about it.
People are also unhappy with the parking situation, which is tighter than one would expect for such a large resort. But if you drive through self-parking and find no spaces, they will valet you for free.
The check-in situation also frequently gets mention, and we did have a bit of a line when we arrived. I can understand this complaint a bit, as after 15 hours of traveling I didn’t really feel like standing around for 15 minutes as other parties checked in. But here’s what seems to be happening: a handful of flights land around 1pm-ish, which gets everyone to the hotel around 3-4pm and there’s a crush then. But I’ve noticed it’s very quiet before then, and it’s very quiet after then. But if you’re part of that crush, may I suggest stopping at the Costco right outside the airport in Kahalui and treating your children to the 2-leis-for-$12 they sell there, partaking in the free samples, and taking your time making your way to the hotel.
The other issue at check-in is that every SPG Gold member checking in here apparently believes that they are entitled to the Presidential Suite (there isn’t one here, but you get my point). There is a ton of DYKWIA (Do You Know Who I Am) during checkin that I could hear, as everyone was haggling over the rooms they reserved. Here’s my advice: book the room you want, and if you get upgraded consider yourself lucky. Every middle-manager from Orange County is coming here with their family and their hard-earned 100,000 SPG points. Not everyone can be a VIP, sorry.
On to the rooms: We used points here, and base rooms start at 12,000 Starwood Points per night (5th night free). They don’t really advertise it, but you can use points to get yourself into a better room. We, instead, used 14,000 points to get 2 Ocean View rooms. I think the 2,000 points (or in our case, 4,000 points) was well, well worth having the view.
There are 2 towers (Beach Tower and Ocean Tower). The Beach Tower has larger rooms, but some people don’t love that you have an angled view of the ocean and are overlooking a shopping area. I don’t have an issue with it (see photos below), but if you want a straight-on view of the ocean, you’re not getting that in the Beach Tower.
The Ocean Tower rooms, however, are about 1/4-1/3 smaller than the Beach Tower rooms, and if you’re heading here over the next couple of months they’re doing construction over there that is apparently rather annoying.
If you’ve been researching this hotel, you’ve likely noticed that Westin also operates the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. This is basically a condo-hotel that is quiet nice and much quieter (kid-wise) than the Westin Resort and Spa (though there are certainly children there). The issue there is that 30,000 points gets you a Studio room (bed with a pull-out couch) but larger rooms double in price for miles, so a 1-bedroom is 60,000 points per night. Given that I can get 2 ocean-facing connecting rooms here for 28,000 points that seemed like a bargain (“bargain”).
About those connecting rooms: This Resort (and the Grand Wailea where we’re moving tomorrow) have a policy of charging you to guarantee connecting rooms – here at the Westin it’s $200/night to guarantee the connecting rooms in advance. I find that egregious. I wrote to the General Managers of each hotel a week in advance asking if they could waive this fee (nicely – very nicely) and each wrote a lovely note back waiving the fee. Those 5 minute notes saved me $1,000.
And the food: Food here is servicable and pretty much what I would expect, price-wise from a resort. Maybe I’m just jaded from Manhattan that it doesn’t seem wildly unreasonable. If you don’t want the crazy breakfast prices there is a Starbucks on-site with cereal, bagels, and other breadstuffs that’s pretty reasonable. At lunch the poolside menu has stuff available under $10. We’ve gone into Lahaina (about 5-10 minutes) twice and had wonderful very, very casual breakfasts at Sunrise Cafe and Aloha Mixed Plate. I recommend both.
Finally – the Luau. If you go on Yelp (and oh do I recommend it) there is a ton of complaining about the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt. A ton. I went to it 15 years ago, and they’re still doing it nightly today, which means that in those 15 years they’ve put on 4,000+ performances and somehow people keep buying tickets. Which is to say, shut the hell up already. We bought our tickets at Hawaiidiscount.com – they’re about 15% off list price, plus one of the kids was free.
Is the Luau “authentic”? I have no idea, but let me put it this way: I know that lions cannot sing, and yet I enjoyed The Lion King even though it is not “authentic” and featured singing lions. It is a show, and if you view it on those merits – and on the merits of spending 3 hours on the beach with a beautiful view listening to Hawaiian music, then I thought it was great. My kids were blown away by the fire dancer and the look on their faces while he was DANCING WITH KNIVES ON FIRE was priceless. Or $240.92 depending on how you view priceless.
I’ll wrap up with the only real issue we’ve had: the pool chairs. There are plenty of pool chairs to go around. There are not plenty of pool chairs in the shade to go around. And when my wife went to the gym this morning at 630am, she saw that most of the under-umbrella chairs had already had towels placed on them by assholes – er – “guests”. I am very, very willing to not play by the rules in certain situations, but I cannot stomach the “reserving” of pool chairs. We’ve been getting to the pool around 11 and have to settle for a place in the sun, and we then move our seats after lunch when people seem to get up. It hasn’t ruined the trip or anything, but it’s pretty annoying.
Overall? It’s wonderful here for a large resort. If you want something quiet and “old Hawaii” and rustic, may I suggest the Hanalei Colony Resort on Kauai where I stayed a few years back. It’s not luxury, but it’s perfectly nice and located at the end of the earth in Hanalei. There are no TVs, but a 2-bedroom villa-ish thing is under $500/night. No, you can’t use points, but it was exactly the opposite of where we’re staying now. (Of course we didn’t have kids, and my own children would have been bored to tears, but every trip has its own purpose, no?)
I’ll finish with on this note: this is my 4th trip to Hawaii, and each has truly been incredible in its own way. I understand the knocks against it (“too touristy” “the real Hawaii is gone” etc), but I don’t care. It’s so easy to avoid the touristy stuff, or to partake and just enjoy the touristy stuff while getting yourself off the beaten path once in a while. Hawaii is still a magical location for lots of people, as evidenced by how many people were celebrating anniversaries (25th, 40th, etc) at the Luau last night…and I really do think you see it on the faces of the guests at the hotel. This is different than hanging out at a Westin in the Caribbean. People still think of Hawaii as a truly special location – that it holds something in the minds of many of the people who come here who view this as different than just a random beach vacation. Those of us on the East Coast have lots of opportunities to just go and sit on a beach somewhere — I’ve never heard anyone talk about The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Aruba or the other islands with the way that people who love Hawaii talk about Hawaii. If the shitty in-room coffee is going to ruin your vacation, this is not the place for you. But I just got back from sitting and watching the sunset at Merriman’s in Kapalua, and I’ll gulp down a whole pot of that sludgy crap if it means I get to see that even once in my lifetime.