As we inch out of the pandemic purgatory, traveling is a slower, more conscious exercise than it was in the pre-COVID era. In a way, that added to my experience and my gratitude for the vaccine that gave me the freedom to feel safe enough to fly to Maui, the Eden of the Pacific.
With many international destinations still off limits to Americans — though indications are that will change this summer, at least for vaccinated Americans — few domestic locales are as lovely as our 50th state in general and Maui in particular.
It was in these Hawaiian islands that I spent the bulk of my formative years and first commenced my first career as an attorney. So I may be a bit biased, though I highly doubt it.
While an interlude on Maui is always a great idea, after the fear, stress and monotony of the last 13 months, being on the Valley Isle this time felt downright intoxicating.
Set on 15 dazzling beachfront acres, the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort opened in 2013. Andaz means personal style in Hindi and the Andaz is certainly stylish while staying sensitive to its tropical locale. As it happens, the vast majority of guests at the Andaz are millennials and generally not first-timers to Hawaii.
There were only a handful of children at the hotel while I visited, though I was told there are a few more during summer and festive holidays.
Spread out in several wings thus providing a sense of space, Andaz has 301 rooms including 35 suites and 11 luxury villas. In June completion is expected of 19 more enormous, three-bedroom, three-bath, fully equipped villas. Some can be connected so one could have several couples or families staying together, yet sufficiently apart.
Spacious rooms have marvelous bedding with high-count sheets, Nespresso machines and furnished lanais to take advantage of the tradewinds. Sizable bathrooms have Maile amenities and titillating Toto toilets. If you’re looking for bliss, snag a pool-side, step-out, one bedroom suite that has direct pool access from the suite’s lanai.
Andaz’s public spaces are adorned with art, much of which is created by surfboard resin artist Welzie. His colorful, whimsical, vibrant take on island life and the water that surrounds it may have you channeling your inner surfer. welzie-art.com
The beachfront Andaz also boasts five ocean-facing pools, including an infinity pool and an adults only tranquility pool. From nearly every vantage point on the property, the vast blue Pacific beckons. https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/hawaii/andaz-maui-at-wailea-resort/oggaw
Those who know me or regularly read this column, know I’m an enormous devotee of eating. Huge. While an admitted die-hard foodie, happily I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body: I’ve written about well-known chefs and their artistic creations and also waxed poetic about places appealing to my soft spot for soft serve and permanent partiality to pastry.
If there was anything good that came from the COVID-era, it’s that hotel breakfast/brunch buffets are now served by gloved and masked staff. I hope this stays long after the world is vaccinated and memories of COVID are relegated to history books. Not only is this far more appealing, hygienic and safer generally, but it also staves off smorgasbord-induced abject gluttony for which I am guilty as charged.
Rest assured that it is far harder to verbally request 26 portions of pastry chef Sonia Crisologo’s to-die-for Nutella brioche served at Andaz’s Ka’ana Restaurant, than it is to simply take them while no one’s looking to bear witness to the crime. The brioche’s beauty is a soaring leap that terminates in the most gracefully luscious delicious landing. You will have to trust me that eating just one is simply not a viable option. Teeny, tiny string bikini be damned.
The word Ka’ana means sharing. However, you will likely not want to share even one bite of Ka’ana’s Wagyu Hangar steak garnished with green papaya, nuoc cham and peanuts. The coconut ice cream sundae with morsels of moist coconut cake perfectly appealed to my sweet sensibilities.
Neon-colored sunsets on the horizon mesmerized me while Lehua Lounge’s live music serenaded. An excellent spicy poke served with Furikake rice completed the picture.
Several years ago former Japanese baseball catcher Masaharu Morimoto traded in his mitt for maki. The rest is international culinary history. Sip a cocktail at Morimoto Maui located beachfront at Andaz, then enjoy some tasty soft-shell crab bao and outstanding Mitsuba fish carpaccio. It will leave you dreaming of the sea.
A few steps to the left of the property, there is excellent snorkeling where Mokapu and Ulua Beaches meet. The water is so clear schools of fish are visible, even at waist level. Massive sea turtles often glide by seemingly in direct contradiction to physics. In 12 months of few tourists and less sunscreen, corals appeared healthy, plentiful and thriving.
Fronting Andaz is three-mile path perfect for morning or sunset walking/jogging. One end of the path drops off at Makena Road with beachfront homes so magnificent it makes the hills of Nob and Beverly pale in comparison.
Plenty of complimentary water activities await at Andaz. I opted for early morning outrigger canoeing; the experience was peaceful on glassy waters with the islands of Kaho’olawe and Lanai and islet of Molokini in the distance. There are also complimentary stand-up paddleboard lessons, guided kayak tours and beachfront yoga. For those preferring to sit still, daily cultural classes include ‘ukulele, lei making and mixology.
Retail therapy at Andaz can be had at creative pop-ups brilliantly placed in underutilized business spaces.
For further therapy, a 10-minute walk alongside the stunning Wailea Golf Course are The Shops at Wailea. In addition to the usual retail shops, there are some local ones such as ABC and Whaler’s General Store in the event of a macadamia nut emergency. The Pint & Cork Gastro Pub has a nice patio should a Maui Brewing Company Bikini Blond Lager become urgent.
For the final countermeasure of the year that was not, relaxing treatments at Andaz’s Awili Spa & Salon will induce the requisite amnesia.
The lesson learned
Every time I get ready to leave this island paradise of my youth to return to the mainland’s urban sprawl, including this time, I feel rather breathless, reminding myself that while my heart is that of a local island girl grateful for the many gifts Maui had bestowed upon me and my family, my soul is that of an urbanist. Zipping my carry-on, I exhaled a bit easier knowing I’d return and that meanwhile, Maui would always remain on my mind.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, legal columnist and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com. Some vendors hosted the writer however content was not reviewed by them prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.
As of press time, to avoid a 10-day quarantine, the state of Hawaii mandates a negative COVID-19 NAAT test taken by a “Trusted Travel Partner” within 72 hours of departure to the islands. Additionally, travelers to Maui (airport code OGG) must download the AlohaSafe Alert App and will require a second, cost-free, rapid test on arrival to be administered at the airport. Fully vaccinated trans-Pacific passengers with documented proof are exempt only from the second testing requirement for the island of Maui. As requirements are subject to change, travelers are urged to regularly view Hawaii’s portal. HawaiiCovid19.com/travel