Destination: Four Seasons, Maui
The Four Seasons on the island of Maui offers a family-friendly holiday that will thrill both adults and children.
By Margot Black
Heaven is here on earth and the Four Seasons Maui is proof of that. The gleaming white sandy island of Maui is an enchanted destination that nestles in the Pacific Ocean, embracing the weary traveler like a kindly, yet glamorous aunt. Looking for a family-friendly holiday that could also offer a degree of comfort and would lift our vacation out of the ordinary and into the superlative, I packed up my husband and 21-month-old son, for a week of sunshine, pampering and five-star wonder at the Four Seasons resort hotel and spa in Maui.
A HOLIDAY IN MAUI
Beach lovers and sun worshippers cannot fail to fall in love with Maui. There’s a temperate climate, over 30 miles of beaches and 120 miles of coastline, all featuring beach parks with bright blue seas, picnic facilities and restrooms. There are also many upscale hotels and resorts peppered around the island but our destination was the Four Seasons Wailea, a resort that’s popular for â€˜unexpected’ marriage proposals, anniversaries and special occasions. This AAA Five Diamond rated resort has been newly renovated and this year, their spa is one of CondÃ© Nast Traveler’s top 100 rated spas in the country. So although I was slightly terrified at having to travel without a nanny or extra pair of hands (other than my husband’s), we were eager to experience something memorable and fun.Four Seasons Maui, 3900 Wailea Alanui, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, USA, 96753. Tel: 1-808-874-8000.
Maui airport is a small, busy and efficient hub but it was when we went to pick up our rental car at Hertz that we encountered the biggest irritation of the vacation. We have a toddler and had reserved a car seat but apparently it’s now policy for Hertz not to fit the car seat as they don’t want to be liable for anything that might go wrong. Could there be anything more annoying/frustrating/irritating than having to finagle a car seat while coping with a tired, hungry toddler, at the end of a long journey? The answer is NO. My message to Hertz is to rescind this policy and offer your customers the service they require. Luckily, a guy with kids of his own in the Hertz lot was sympathetic and helped us fix the car seat into the proper position, as long as we told no one he had helped. But we’re so grateful that he did!
However, on arrival at the Four Seasons, after a five-hour flight and miserable car rental experience, the standard of service jumped a thousand luxury notches as the immaculate valet boys swooped in to relieve us of our car and luggage and usher us into the cool, calm check-in area where a refreshing and delicious pot of mint iced tea awaited us. And not to disappoint, we were also showered with traditional lei flowers and beads and Jett got to pick a toy to play with and keep, which was a much-appreciated touch.
RELAXING INDOORS AND OUT
Our room was gorgeous, elegant, comfortable and impeccably designed and joy of joys, they had set up a tent for Jett, who reveled in his indoor camp and would pull me in there to play with him every morning. The view from our room was breathtaking, it was picture postcard perfect.
One of the best features of the Four Seasons Maui is their pool areas. We spent a lot of time at the kiddie pool and having long lunches poolside. Poolside lunches in this grand hotel could not be any more family-friendly â€“ attendants supply high chairs, pac n plays and even the occasionally needed extra swim diaper. There were diaper genies and changing tables in the ladies and â€“ oh joy! â€“ in the men’s room too, just a few steps away from the pool. The outside areas were all super family-friendly with wonderful cabanas, and attentive beach attendants. The place was also filled with toys that the children were able to use freely and that meant keeping them amused was an easy task without having to carry mountains of accessories wherever we went.
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has his name attached to this Spagos, which was our first dinner stop at the hotel. The restaurant has an incredible cocktail area with large orange sofas and amazing floral wall photography. It’s one of a handful of restaurants that are situated on site, the others being an Italian restaurant, Ferraro’s and Duo Steak and Seafood, more of which later. But back to Spagos: if the words â€˜vine-ripened tomato salad’ don’t set your pulse racing, I could understand, but that was before I tasted this particular salad which was literally to die for. The goat-feta was beyond anything I’ve ever tasted and my husband’s fresh fish ceviche was equally delightful. Unfortunately Jett, who had been denied his early evening runabout decided that he would prefer to launch into full tantrum mode (I’m sure the honeymooning couples seated around us were delighted), so we didn’t get to soak in the amazing ambience as long as I would have liked but I can tell you this: the lamb chops grilled with eggplant and chili-mint vinaigrette were exquisite, while Rob’s whole Big Island Moi steamed with chili, ginger and baby choy sum was also to die for. We also had an utterly mouthwatering experience when it came to dessert: the crÃ¨me fraÃ®che soufflÃ© pancake with sautÃ©ed apple bananas was something I still dream about!
Our waiter was flawless in his service techniques, as well as his knowledge of food and wine. He also had a small child at home and his patience with our son was most appreciated. Some of the other dishes that will make your mouth water include their coconut crab cake appetizer, Kobe Gold flank steak with shallots, garlic, chilies and a sweet soy glaze and seared rare sashimi grade ahi tune in a ginger miso butter sauce.
THE FOUR SEASONS SPA
The Spa at the Four Seasons is one of those â€˜don’t miss’ experiences for anyone staying at the hotel. I was eagerly anticipating one of their most esoteric treatments, the Gemstone Dhara Treatment ($275) and it didn’t disappoint. Cut to me floating out of the treatment room on air 80 minutes later with a beatific smile on my face. This one-of-a-kind treatment involved me having soothing sesame oils poured on my forehead (or as it was explained to me â€˜the third eye’), before healing gemstones, such as emerald, quartz, garnet and amethysts, were placed on my head and body. Their spa is the first in the world to offer this treatment, which is said to relieve stress and it certainly calmed this exhausted mother! Other treatments available include a specialty Hawaiian healing wrap ($350), the Wailea Water Ritual cocoon treatment ($125) and many other calming delights such as shiatsu massage (from $155), hot stone treatments (from $160), deep tissue massage (from $165), yoga classes (including one especially for golfers), pre-natal yoga (all from $115), tennis lessons (from $90) and their Hale Hau Oceanside massage (from $170), which takes place in a traditional thatched roof hut nestled among the fragrant naupaka hedges, with beautiful sea views.
Duo’s, the resort’s contemporary steak and seafood restaurant, is situated next to the pool area and frankly, it doesn’t get any more relaxing than looking out across the ocean vista. Happily the food was great. I had a wonderful lobster with baby radish, Fuji apples and a clove-lime vinaigrette. We also shared some tiger prawns in a red Thai curry sauce and my husband plumped for the venison chop with a stuffed tiger tail. He certainly had to do a few lengths in the pool to make up for it the next day! A surprising detail was the arrival of cotton candy to our table. Apparently this is one of their signature fun treats, which we all enjoyed.
My one observation was that they didn’t have a surf and turf plate. Yes, you could pick one of the steak dishes and add seafood but what I really wanted was an all-singing, all dancing ‘surf and turf’ dish that would make my eyes water and stomach burst.
Duo may well also be named after the day and night aspect of this restaurant. During the morning hours, they host a large and sumptuous breakfast buffet. Their full island buffet could set you up for a hard day by the pool. The Wailea buffet comes with French toast, pancakes, waffles, eggs any style, breakfast meats, potatoes and rice.
TORCHES, CANOES AND ART
The Four Seasons has so many wonderful and varied programs, you never need to leave the property: there’s even a games room for those who cannot live without their Wii or Playstation! Every other night or so there’s Hula dancing in the lobby bar area, and I particularly enjoyed the Sunset & Torch lighting ceremony by the ocean, which was beautiful and something that I’m sure my son will never forget.
There’s a free outrigger canoe program although I confess that the combination of exhaustion, relaxation and a small child meant that I missed my slot on an outrigger canoe (but as an ex-sailor, I loved the idea of taking a journey along the reef searching for sea turtles, manta rays and depending on the season, humpback whales).
And for those who prefer to stay on dry land, there’s their 2,600-piece Hawaiian influenced art collection, which was part of the hotel’s $50 million redesign last year. I loved ceramicist Jan Kaneko’s Colossal Heads that greet you in the lobby and there are many other local artists including the sculptures of Maui-born Piero Resta to gasp at. My tour guide didn’t show up but I was able to navigate this vast and well-curated collection easily enough thanks to the iPod tours that are available from the concierge. I enjoyed the chance to wander the hotel at my own pace and learn about the art. It was a very modern way to feel like you were accompanied by your own personal docent.
CAMP FOR KIDS
Children are fully catered to at the Four Seasons, Kids for All Seasons camp (for children aged between 5-12 years), which boasts a full day’s schedule from 9am to 5pm, that include arts and crafts, swimming, a movie, playtime and many other indoor and outdoor activities, including some Hawaiian themed games. Children under four can play in the toddler area, although parent or nanny supervision is requested (for an extra fee, the concierge service is happy to provide you with a nanny, and we took advantage of this and had the lovely Roberta, a more than capable 42-year-old grandmother of two, look after Jett for two happy nights while we enjoyed a dinner date).
FERRARO’S BAR AND RISTORANTE
By far my favorite restaurant experience at the Four Seasons – and really, that’s saying something as the standard is so high – was Ferraro’s. The setting is super romantic â€“ guests sit outside on the patio, so my husband and I were able to take in the beautiful sunset as we tucked into our appetizers, and all accompanied by a live eclectic musical duo playing under the stars. The menu is Italian influenced, and I have to say that the food was extraordinary; the vine-ripened tomato soup with roasted bell pepper bruschetta was delicious and our entrees – Osso Buco alla Milanese with saffron risotto and a roasted sea bass in a cress butter sauce – melted in our mouths. There’s also a yummy lunch menu that covers everything from quesadillas to pizzas to salads. This place is not to be missed!
The Four Seasons in Maui is a magnificent vacation experience. The beaches at Wailea are absolutely beautiful and once inside the hotel grounds, there really is no cause to leave. All of our needs were impeccably catered to and the staff prides themselves on making families feel welcome. Quite simply, a slice of heaven.
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Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Four Seasons Maui