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.
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)
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.
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