Andaz Maui at Wailea
3550 Wailea Alanui Dr., andazmaui.com; 297 rooms from $509 (U.S.).
If Hawaii makes you think of luaus, pupu platters and tiki drinks, it's time for a revisit. There's a Hawaiian cultural renaissance under way, and the Andaz Maui is at the forefront of a hip contemporary vision of Hawaii – with no kitsch.
Enter through a long, open-air arcade, flanked by reflecting pools and tropical plants, into a lobby that tells you you're somewhere special: a modern Polynesian pavilion of warm woods, local stone and glowing light. There's even a fun grown-up sandbox/lounge. The authenticity is not just skin deep; Andaz has its own Hawaiian cultural director and an apothecary-style spa that blends custom remedies from local herbs and plants, some grown right on this property, which was traditionally blessed by a kahuna (Hawaiian elder) before opening.
A series of sun terraces and infinity pools (plus a private, secluded adult pool) provide plenty of resort space. In each room, louvered-wooden screens provide lanai privacy, and in suites, you can swing the afternoon away cocooned in a hanging bamboo chair. There's nothing like this chic resort on Wailea beach. With 297 rooms and several villas, Andaz (which opened in September) is destined to become a Hollywood hot spot.
There's almost no bad beachfront on Maui: Even the stretches punctuated by jagged black lava rock are gorgeous. But the nicest bit might just be Wailea, the west-facing, made-for-sunsets strip of south Maui where luxury hotels pose in a red-carpet-worthy lineup. Andaz is at the western end of Wailea, called Mokapu beach; a quiet cove where you can stroll the boardwalk, paddle board, snorkel or just work your tan. All beaches in Hawaii are public, but being farther from public-access points means the Andaz's stretch of sand remains chill on the hottest day.
Eat in or eat out?
In. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is an intense perfectionist and his twinkling lantern of a restaurant at the Andaz Maui is true to form. The sushi rice is custom-polished on site; waiters not only tell you where the fresh local fish was line caught, they cite the length of the fishing line. Snack on sushi or greatest hits such as rock-shrimp tempura and broiled spicy crab, or linger for an omakase (chef's tasting) menu.
Room with a view
Without a doubt the four-bedroom villas, glass boxes perched on the beach from $15,000 (U.S.) a night, are the place to watch the sunset. If you prefer a birds-eye view, the corner suites in the Makai (ocean) tower ending in "40" have big picture windows facing the ocean: 540, 640 and 740 are stellar views.
If I could change one thing
Maybe it's the light sleeper in me, but it's not a luxury hotel unless the door whooshes silently shut. I loved everything about the Andaz's room entry – touchless keycard, do not disturb light, alcove outside the door for notecards or small deliveries – except for the sound of heavy-closing doors morning and night.
Complimentary minibar items, which are replenished daily, from refreshing Honest Ade orange-mango juice to Kind bars and Popchips. Plus, an island-wide plastic-bag ban on Maui means you're given a colourful cotton-mesh tote at check-in, with a refillable water bottle to use and take away.
Whom you'll meet
Couples and honeymooners, Angelenos hiding behind big sunglasses and a few well-heeled families with kiddies in tow.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.