A classic puzzle when planning a family trip is how to juggle between the desire to get the whole family moving in the same direction with activities on the one hand and finding time for Mom and Dad to chill on the other hand. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea has been working on that conundrum and has launched its “We Time/Me Time” initiative. We gave it a test for several days with our teenage girls, and it worked very well. The facilities are sufficiently contained for us to let tour daughters have free range over the resort. They drifted from pool to ocean to volleyball court with ease. We four dined together at two of the resort’s tremendous restaurants (DUO and Ferraro’s, more below). Mom and Dad were rewarded with some quiet time enjoying a couple’s massage and strolls along the shore.
As Maui’s only five star resort, it was a pleasant surprise to find that most activities were gratis at the Four Seasons, from internet to the outrigger canoes to snorkel rentals. This happy policy is in juxtaposition to many other resorts, where the add-on charges quickly erode any sense of value. At the Four Seasons, no one is charged extra for footballs, frisbees, iPods, beach volleyballs, boogie boards, golf green putting or tennis. Our girls quickly attracted a pack of beach volleyball players, but I lacked the energy to join the fray. Instead I happily dozed on a hammock, hoping I was not looking too much like Homer Simpson.
Customized itineraries can be arranged by the Four Seasons’ concierge for children, teens and parents to experience age-appropriate Maui activities. We had the happy problem of deciding between snorkel trips to Molokini, ziplining “upcountry,” biking down the volcano or relaxing by the pool. We chose a bit of each, and the Four Seasons’ concierge staff was knowledgeable and efficient.
The beach is in a well-protected bay, so there is no fear of kids being buffeted by large waves. We saw snorkelers for most of the morning, but our seemingly thorough search for turtles was fruitless. Others apparently have more luck. The staff was cheerful and helpful in setting up our umbrellas on the beach, and circulating periodically with ice water.
We kidded our teenage girls about signing them up for the Kids for All Seasons program, which is for ages 5-12. Had we been visiting several years ago, we would have signed them up. This complimentary recreational and educational program lets kids attend for a few hours or all day (9:00 am to 5:00 pm). They can take part in indoor and outdoor activities including games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education and lots more. I noticed that in order to keep the main pool calm from the auditory squeals of delight by kids, Marco Polo gameplay is limited to the kids’ pool. This is a subtle and clever way to reinforce “We Time / Me Time.”
Our kids are now a long way from the days we parents remember sometimes dimly, hauling around strollers, diapers and the like. Four Seasons have figured out a way to eliminate all that travel stress: provide it on-site. The Resort provides baby baskets to young families when they check in, with swimming diapers and many of the other products with which a family needs to travel. All parents eventually enjoy traveling light as their kids evolve. We pondered wistfully that we no longer needed any of the equipment the Four Seasons is happy to supply young families: car seats, baby strollers, baby monitors, Pack ‘n Plays, high chairs, baby bathtubs, bottle warmers, singing baby swings, and bed rails. My memory is suitably foggy about the endless preparation of our earlier family trips, but I do recall that many of these items were necessary fixtures on our voyages.
One of the Resort’s facilities that our teenage daughters could not enjoy was the adults-only Serenity Pool. Recently renovated (to the tune of nine million dollars), the pool is perched above the property affording it an unobstructed view to the beach and ocean beyond. My wife and I smugly strolled to the Serenity Pool and agreed we will need to return to try the three golf courses and complimentary tennis courts. Indeed, the Resort is planning several memorable events before the end of the year, including a windsurfing clinic in November taught by two champions, a tennis fantasy camp with champions, a vintage wine tasting weekend and several other similar events.
Our usual post-dinner activities at the Resort revolved around family games. On offer in the Games Room we enjoyed table shuffleboard, billiards, ping-pong and foosball. Other folks enjoyed video games.
The family-centric approach of the Resort is not compromised at the two restaurants we visited. Both had superb cuisine, and at both restaurants children five years and under eat free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Restaurant Manager Kevin Miao described how they attained a 70% local produce proportion in their menu. As superb examples he directed us to the Hamakua mushrooms (delicately sautéed in olive oil and garlic after being grown in jars and flown in from the Big Island) and the Kula corn. The latter was poached in water with butter and was as crisp and sweet as anything found right off the cob in Nebraska. The flat iron steak was excellent; it is cross-bred on the Big Island with Kobe stock. The most amazing starter was the Keahole lobster bisque. Blended with tarragon cream, the lobster is raised on a Big Island farm which pumps in deep seawater. The result is the closest thing to the crustaceans drawn from Maine’s waters. The several other lobster bisques we tried elsewhere on Maui were no match.
DUO’s theme is seafood and meat, and they have clearly struck a delicious balance. We deferred to Bradley our waiter on the wine selection, and he proffered the Patz & Hall 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which had a satisfying finish. For dessert, we were unsure where to start. Bradley guided us to two winners: Tahitian crème brulee with pineapple chutney and a green tea crouton, and banana bread with rum raisin ice cream and a salted caramel sauce. DUO’s signature move is to bring a plate of cotton candy with the check; we grinned over our Granny Apple treat.
By morning, DUO offers an eclectic buffet breakfast. Kids are encouraged to their own buffet, overseen by stuffed animals and bright fixtures.
Ferraro’s Bar & Restaurant
The most delightful meals in our family have been while enjoying Italian cuisine. Ferraro’s raised the bar for us. The gentle ocean breeze at sunset certainly helped, as did the acoustic guitar and violin duo playing arrangements of current and classic songs. But our senses were working overtime by the time the food began to arrive.
The burrata cheese in the caprese salad was as soft and delicious as any we have tasted outside Italy. The polenta fried calamari turned our daughters into believers of this dish; the sweet cherry pepper and lime aioli did the trick. For the primi piatti, my frutti di mare was comprised of a bold tomato sauce in which basked mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and white fish over a bed of linguine. Our daughters were unsure of which gnocchi to select, so our waiter helpfully offered to have the chef split between the ricotta and potato gnocchi, each with red wine braised short rib ragout and fresh mint.
The sun fell below the horizon as our dessert arrived, but was it only the delicate lighting that had my family glowing? I realize now it was the wonderful experience of all five senses being nearly overwhelmed with the artisanal craft at Ferraro’s.