Cool Pools and Hot Spas

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Story by Teya Penniman

Diving into Maui resort pools, I found that each one reflected its own sense of place — not just its location on the island, but also the overall feel of its host resort. I could happily spend more days studying the nuanced differences, but in the end conclude that our featured pools have something to offer everyone. 

Grand Wailea Maui resort swimming pool

The Grand Wailea Resort & Spa

3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea • 875-1234 • grandwailea.com/activities/pool

pool elevator Maui swimming poolYou can get lost here. The Grand Wailea’s nine interconnected pools offer endless opportunities for fluid fun at whatever your comfort level for adventure. Guests can drop from a rope swing, massage the glutes in the Jacuzzi cave, hang with toddlers in shallow waters or join a game of splashy volleyball. I slip into the whitewater river section, where the current transforms my otherwise languid free-styles into Olympic-styled power strokes. I queue up nervously for a trip down the water slide. Like a human bobsled, you can’t see what’s next as you’re tossed from side to slippery side. Dumped unceremoniously into calm waters at the other end, I only wished it wasn’t so close to closing time; like many resort pools, the slides close by 5 p.m. If the swim-up bar isn’t enough respite from the frenzied pace, try the mellow adults-only Hibiscus Pool, located a level above the main pool area. Aquamarine tiles conjure shallow seas sparkling in the sun’s rays. Bronze dolphins cavort above a tiered waterfall, keeping watch over the ever-changing, laid-back cocktail party unfolding below.

Grand WaileaFour Seasons Maui resort swimming pool

The Four Seasons Resort Maui

3900 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea • 874-8000 • fourseasons.com/maui

The Four Seasons’ adults-only pool is all about perspective. It’s built above Wailea Beach; from here, people walking or snorkeling, and rambunctious keiki, appear as mere elements of a painting in motion. Far above the madding crowd, I can’t stop staring across the ocean to the distant horizon. This, I think, is why people come to Maui. From my vantage at the makai (ocean) edge of the pool, West Maui looms like a separate island. The Four Seasons staff live up to the resort’s reputation for attentiveness, draping my lounge chair with a terry-cloth cover, dropping off fresh towels, offering ‘ono (delicious) beverages in case I don’t want to leave the view to quench my thirst. The pool itself is not very large and during peak daytime hours, seats may be limited, but not at day’s end. That’s when the Hawaiiankane (man) blows the pu (conch shell) and ignites large metal bowls of fire at either side of the pool’s infinity edge. A small group of guests claims the Jacuzzi pool that faces west, but I alone am hanging off the edge of the world as the sun sets behind Lana‘i. This, I think, is why people come to the Four Seasons.

Sheraton Grand Wailea Maui resort swimming pool

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

2605 Ka‘anapali Parkway, Ka‘anapali • 661-0031 • sheraton-maui.com

Stepping onto the Sheraton’s beachside grounds has an immediate calming effect on me. Perhaps it’s the arc of buildings surrounding the pool or the resort’s stunning location — tucked into one end of Ka‘anapali Beach, with the Black Rock promontory completing the sweep. The pool inspires that same sense of kick-back relaxation. The lagoon and adjacent paths invite easy meanders. Sculpted boulders shelter the whirlpool area and clusters of lounge chairs create secluded oases. Floating beanbag chairs add to the sense of calm, but there’s plenty of old-fashioned kid action — scaling rock waterfalls or scrambling up a tiled slide. I can’t resist a short stroll through the naupaka down to the ocean for a quick swim with the reef fish, but head back poolside just as the evening cliff-diving ceremony begins, a fitting cap to time in slow motion.

Hyatt Grand Wailea Maui resort swimming pool

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

200 Nohea Kai Drive, Ka‘anapali • 661-1234 • maui.hyatt.com

A study in contrast, the Hyatt will appeal to sun lovers, socializers and water enthusiasts. Brilliant bougainvillea, lime-green loungers, and an aquatic basketball court say, “party time in paradise.” Pounding waterfalls define the Hyatt pool on Ka‘anapali Beach. Cascading curtains create portals to unexplored regions; my lingering passage underneath guarantees a pelting back massage. Two falls bookend the swim-through cave where the crescent-shaped Grotto Bar offers its own approach to liquid refreshment. Crossing the swinging bridge, I stop to watch the keiki, big and small, blast into the water from the 150-foot-long lava-tube slide, one long scream foretelling the next arrival. Littler oneshave their own lagoon with spouting turtles, a water fountain, tide-pool-like wading areas, and a mini-slide. The pool layout facilitates “talk story” sessions with your neighbors and I happily become an impromptu tour guide, sharing my mana‘o (knowledge) about Maui. Consider an early visit to snag your favorite lounging spot. For good reason, this pool is a popular destination.


If You Go

  • It’s Maui, not New York; poolside bars, food service and even pools may close early.
  • No lifeguards on duty; watch the mai tais, especially if the ocean beckons.
  • Day passes are usually not available. Maui folks: try a “staycation” to test the waters.
  • Daylong cabana rentals, seating two, vary in price: Sheraton $45 / Hyatt $100 / Grand Wailea $95-$150 / Four Seasons $465-$545 (only large casabellas available; extensive amenities)

Massage may be an ancient practice, but as I’m about to discover, its most basic elements are being reinvented to offer specialty treatments to guests who want more than “just” a massage. These three Maui spas have created very different paths to bliss.

Wailea Maui spa

‘Awili Spa & Salon

Andaz Maui at Wailea
3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea • 573-1234 • maui.andaz.hyatt.com

The ‘Awili Spa at the Andaz reflects this new resort’s fresh beginnings. Ceiling-to-floor dark wood drawers line the walls of the entrance like an old-school apothecary, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the spa. On a long table surrounded by bar stools stands a tantalizing selection of pureed fruits and vegetables, including grapefruit, orange and avocado. Neat rows of jars hold other enticements: shredded coconut, dried mushrooms, clay, rice blends and hand-infused oils. Over the next half hour, apothecary consultant Teresa Blackwell helps me craft a personalized blend for an exfoliating scrub and massage. Blackwell, who helped design the spa’s kitchen-based concept, enthusiastically explains the purpose and use of each ingredient, until we have whisked up just the right combination for my goals: nourishment and relaxation. She says the omakase approach (Japanese for “your choice”) partners with local farmers to take advantage of what’s in season. Each session for a returning guest will be unique, depending on what’s fresh and the client’s current needs.

As massage therapist Amelia spreads the potion onto my back and arms, I realize I’ve chosen the ingredients of my favorite margarita. The pulverized liliko‘i seeds and sugar granules scrub away old skin cells, while fresh coconut milk soothes and hydrates. A series of warm, moist towels help shed old layers, followed by a cleansing shower and massage. I can’t tell if the maitake mushrooms are boosting my immune system, or if the kava kava root is helping me relax, but I’m a willing convert. I leave with my own recipe card, hopeful that this is just the first of future visits to the ‘Awili Spa, where “hitting the bar” offers a different, fun and healthy approach to indulgence.

If you go

  • Apothecary consultation, $25 per treatment • 60-minute exfoliation, $175
  • Spa facilities include tranquility pool, sauna, steam and plunge pools.

Maui resort spa

Willow Stream Spa

Fairmont Kea Lani
4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea • 875-2229 • fairmont.com/kea-lani-maui

The Fairmont Kea Lani’s Willow Stream Spa has added some new dimensions to its treatment options — literally. Its WaveMotion table, the only one on Maui, is said to promote relaxation by simulating the feeling of being in the water.

My plunge, however, will be a dry baptism — fully clothed and oil-free. Massage therapist Shannon hands me lightweight drawstring pants and a slinky long-sleeved pullover shirt so comfy, I immediately wish I could take them home. She explains that the table can move from side to side, swivel a full 360 degrees and tilt in any direction up to 7 degrees. She assures me that we can switch to a locked position if the movement becomes disconcerting, and advises that eyes closed is the way to go.

We begin belly down, my face cradled in the headrest, with light pressure applied up and down the spine. The gentle force of her fingers creates a slight sideways rocking motion and a sense that different body parts are being massaged simultaneously. My facial muscles, often the last part of a massage, can’t help but soften into the flow.

And then the water sensations begin as my legs, arms, back and feet are pushed, pulled, rocked and stretched. I’m a toy boat pulled by a string carving lazy S’s on a placid lake. I’m paddling a canoe, my strokes pivoting its bow from port to starboard. I’m cast adrift, reeled in over and over by a master fisherwoman and ultimately cajoled into a state of deep relaxation. The massage finishes with a cool towel to the face, bringing me back to the surface.

Would I dive in again? Absolutely.

If you go

  • WaveMotion: 60-minute massage, $185
  • Spa facilities include rainforest showers, steam and sauna rooms, and a palolo (mud) bar.

Maui spa treatments

Spa Montage

Montage Kapalua Bay
One Bay Drive, Kapalua • 662-6600 • montagehotels.com/spamontage/kapaluabay

One wall of the private hale opens to invite the ocean breeze inside. The massage table stands like an altar in its center. I sip an ‘awa-pineapple blend and clap once. Let the ritual begin!

The Montage Maluhia is a series of focused treatments designed by lead therapist Bo Monteiro to rejuvenate and balance. He prods me with questions while probing reflexology points on my feet, gleaning information from my answers and his hands to create a custom blend of green, white and red algae for a body mask. I seem a little rushed, he says, adding more red algae for its calming effects. He dry-brushes my whole body with short circular movements to remove dead cells and prepare the skin to “drink.” With long strokes he spreads the mask, then wraps me in a linen cocoon. While the mix soaks in, he releases kinks in my neck, then applies a sea-salt exfoliation to my feet — a body spot that can never have too many boxes on the “awesome” massage checklist. The red algae must be working; my thoughts become mere companions on this journey in the hands of a master.

The post-wrap shower continues my feeling of connectedness: the hale’s open side offers views of blue sky and bamboo leaves. Following directions, I end with a cool rinse, which helps pump the immune system. The piece de resistance is a full-body massage using laminaria or seaweed oil to nourish and hydrate my skin. Smooth hot stones sweep away any last bits of muscular defiance. Maluhia — the name means peaceful or tranquil. Nailed it, Bo.

If you go

  • Montage Maluhia: 120 minutes, $365
  • Spa facilities include steam room, sauna, infinity pool, rainfall showers, and snack bar.

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