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The people who carved Wailea out of the hilly seaside desert on the leeward flank of Maui's great dormant volcano, Haleakala, have a careless habit of referring to their creation as a "destination resort." They don't really mean it, but they should watch their language. Wailea is both more—and less—than that, and in this case less also is more. The phrase is a sort of real estate Newspeak that popped up during the '60s and it is about as definitive as saying Secretariat is a horse.
A destination resort can be anything from a) a place you can't get out of once you're there and wish you could, to b) a place you never want to leave. Wailea's sponsors, naturally enough, hope that it will prove to be the latter. The prospects, as indicated on the previous pages, are pretty good that it will. Especially if it is described accurately: a planned residential resort community. As such, it is the first of its kind in Hawaii.
The theory behind the destination resort is that it will anticipate and fulfill every visitor's every need, desire or whim. A destination complex, such as Maui's four-hotel Kaanapali resort near Lahaina, the onetime seat of both the Hawaiian monarchy and the whaling industry, comes pretty close, but it is a tall order for the lone, isolated hotel, which all too often exaggerates its capabilities. Bruised survivors of these old and failing or new and fast-buck hostelries have given the "destination" label a bad name.
Even the best (among them Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui's Hana- Maui) eventually run afoul of Thompson's Law, a standard set some years ago by the editor of a once-famous (but now defunct) weekly magazine whose bride-to-be had booked the honeymoon at a remote, one-hotel Mexican village. "I won't go anyplace where if I get in a fight with the bartender I can't walk out and find another bar," the editor said. The Thompsons went to Acapulco, are still happily married, and the lawgiver is editing a famous (and now flourishing) monthly magazine.
The search for a friendly bartender is, of course, only a symbol of the variety (and the options) many travelers prefer. While it is unlikely that the officers of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., one of Hawaii's legendary "Big Five" sugar and pineapple firms, had ever heard of Thompson's Law when they began planning Wailea in 1969, they were in complete agreement with its strictures. From the outset they were determined to group residential condominiums around at least two, probably three and conceivably four luxury hotels, not cheek by jowl as in Waikiki but within pub-crawling distance of each other.
A&B and its prospective co-developers, Grosvenor International ( Hawaii), Ltd., originally called the resort The City of Flowers, but this sounded a slightly terminal—one could even say funereal—note, especially when linked with "destination." Wailea, the Hawaiian word meaning "waters governed by Lea, the goddess of canoe making," was finally chosen. There was no argument about what to do first: commission an 18-hole golf course and build a clubhouse, as a signal that something was afoot in the wilderness.
A Phoenix architect, Arthur Jack Snyder, designed an 18-hole links, one that conformed to the rolling terrain a few hundred yards uphill from the seashore, which is scalloped by five lovely crescent beaches. Before the course was finished, Grosvenor had dropped out, but A&B went ahead, anyway. The first nine opened in December 1971 and the second six weeks later.
If A&B had launched a moon rocket out of the southwestern Maui wilderness, it could hardly have attracted more attention. In no time at all, the Wailea course was out-drawing the isolated beaches of Makena, where rumors of hippies bathing nude and sometimes acting in pornographic movies were all that attracted visitors to the area. Early in 1972 Northwestern Mutual Life became co-developer, and the two firms set up a joint-venture subsidiary, Wailea Development Company. What it has developed so far is an 11-court tennis complex, complete with clubhouse and bar; the first 300 of a projected 3,600 condominium units; a town center, which by summer will be in business with a bank, stores and an art center; and a 558-room luxury hotel, the Inter-Continental Maui (rates: double room, $45 to $53), with four restaurants and two bars. A second hotel, the Wailea Beach, to be operated by UAL's Western International Hotels subsidiary, will open early in 1978, and that will give Wailea a minimum of 10 bars, all within walking distance of each other—if the promulgator of Thompson's Law is listening.
Even at this early stage, Wailea is a knockout. For one thing, it is all green, intersected by sweeping avenues and adorned by extravagant plantings. For another, the first condominium village, Ekahi, offers its residents four swimming pools, two paddle courts and a beach pavilion, plus unlimited access to the tennis club and the golf course. Bulldozers are now shaping a second 18 to be ready by December. By then the developers will have spent $60 million on Wailea, and they are prepared to spend $40 million more.
With its multiple sports opportunities and its beaches shelving into the sheltered waters of the Lahaina roadstead, Wailea may, indeed, attract both visitors and residents who will never want to leave the resort grounds. But the developers have no desire to wall in guests or buyers, even with amenities. They are selling Maui as well as Wailea.