Maui offers many great resort options. Two award-winning luxury five-star options are the Fairmont Kea Lani and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, and I recently stayed at both resorts. To start with the Fairmont Kea Lani, it is paradise perfected. It’s the kind of resort you sigh at least once during your stay, if not every day, to say, “Do we have to leave?”
Our suite (all rooms are suites) had a sunset view from the lanai. It was comfortably and tastefully updated. As with all of Fairmont Kea Lani suites, there was a separate living room and a little kitchenette with a small fridge and microwave. The bathroom was incredibly spacious and had one of the best hotel showers I can remember.
My husband and I made sure we experienced both the beach and adult pool. He preferred the pool because every afternoon little ice cream mochi balls – little balls of ice cream perfected in rice ball dumplings – were passed around. The beach though was great for lounging and watching kids play in the gentle surf.
The Kea Lani has some of the best restaurants on Maui. We really didn’t need to leave the resort. We dined at Nick’s Fishmarket (rated a top Maui restaurant), Ko Restaurant (another award-winning Maui restaurant), and Ama Bar and Grill. We tried fresh cocktails at Luana Lounge and, to round out our experience, ordered drinks from the pool (a civilized form of a swim-up bar).
At Kea Lani, the resort fee covers self-parking, one hour of snorkel rental per day, lei greeting, a professional photography photo shoot, and more.
Our favorite part of our Kea Lani stay was the staff. They were in touch via text during our stay to make sure all was well, and we certainly were happy. And when we left, they sent us an “until we meet again” text!
We were discussing how great the Fairmont was as we drove up the coast towards the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, and we felt sorry for the Ritz; it had a big act to follow. Arriving at the Ritz, we immediately noticed how the property completely embraced its surroundings. With a recent multi-million-dollar renovation, this 25-year-old resort has had more than a surface facelift. The lobby has an indoor-outdoor ambiance that perfectly combines what you think of when you conjure up “Ritz-Carlton meets Maui.” It is elegant, natural, warm, and epitomizes island luxury. The guestroom decor was the perfect balance of sand tones and turquoise ocean hues.
When we stayed in late 2018, the Terrace restaurant remodel was not finished, but we enjoyed coffee and quick bites from Kai Café off the lobby. As coffee snobs, we completely endorse the Honolulu Coffee served there. We ate at Hook + Knife, a breakout restaurant, and had a fabulous buffet breakfast.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua has a wide beach with services, and there is a fabulous snack stand there aptly named the Burger Shack. But the main feature of the resort is the three-level 10,000 square-foot pool. Yes, it is manmade and not exactly of the land, but it is spectacular. There are new Cabana Suites at the adult pool with full butler service, great cocktail service at the pool, and at the lowest pool level, there is a kids’ pool with a kids’ play area nearby. The Keikis were definitely considered in the resort refurbishments, and even the most discriminating 10-year-old would have to approve.
So, you might be wondering, which resort do you choose? This is a tough question. Neither one is better than the other. They are different. One offers a more family-friendly experience. One would be more appealing to foodies. One is located near some of Maui’s best snorkeling. The other is in the sunny section of Maui. The entry category of one offers some of the largest rooms on Maui. The other offers some of the most fabulous suites. In short, the answer to which ones is the better one can be summed up with: it depends. Are you traveling with your family? Friends? Is the trip romantic? Food-focused? For the sole purpose of golfing? I’d love to help you decide between the two resorts.
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