This is a guest post by contributor Thrifty Tourist, who will be making frequent posts on Travel Summary going forward. Thrifty Tourist is just getting started in social media and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
After my Hilton Honeymoon Disaster in Paris (which you can read about here), Hilton Worldwide tried to make things right by offering me a package of 2 nights at any Hilton property, an upgrade from the Standard Room and $100 in resort credit. Granted this package cannot take me back to Paris and allow us to relive our honeymoon, but this was the BEST package I could get after weeks of “negotiations” with Hilton Worldwide.
I was determined to get the most out of this package and began researching where I could attain the most value. Hilton issued me two Be Our Guest Certificates which would allow me a Standard Room at any Hilton Portfolio property, including Waldorf Astoria Resorts. As a loyal Hilton HHonors Diamond member, I had made it a goal of mine to try to visit the best Waldorf Properties in the world. I was lucky enough to spend a week at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives (while it still existed) and the Rome Cavalieri. I have traveled extensively around the world but never visited Hawaii because I always took it for granted as being a location so close to home. The posh Grand Wailea has been on my list of properties I wanted to visit, so I decided to look at the value of redeeming my two night certificates there.
Nightly rates in January for a Standard Room were in excess of $600/night or 80,000 HHonors Points, as this was a Waldorf Category Redemption. While I could have earned a little more value by redeeming my certificates at a resort with higher nightly rates for a Standard Hotel, I realized the benefits provided by the Grand Wailea would end up saving me more money over the duration of the entire stay. I had specific dates in mind and when I searched for those online, I couldn’t find any Standard Room availability. Some Hilton properties can be pretty cryptic when it comes to defining what rooms they consider Standard Rooms, so I decided to call the HHonors Diamond Desk. They confirmed that there were no Terrace View – Standard Rooms available during my date. The nice lady suggested that she try and call the Hotel directly to confirm what they consider a Standard Room. After being on hold for 5 minutes she returned with good news: the Grand Wailea didn’t have any Standard Rooms available, but they would allow me to use my two certificates for a Deluxe Garden View room.
If I’m visiting the Grand Wailea, I wouldn’t want a Garden View room. I would want an Ocean View Room, so I was betting that Hilton Worldwide would hold true to their word and provide an upgrade and my HHonors Diamond status would further help me get the room I wanted after booking a Standard Room. I had read FlyerTalk forums regarding the Grand Wailea and most HHonors Diamond members reported no upgrades due to their status, so it was a very risky bet, but one that I was willing to try.
We arrived at the hotel and were greeted by the Valet staff. Keep in mind that there is no self-parking at the resort and Valet Parking is charged at $30/day. We were presented with the traditional Hawaiian leis: an orchid lei for my wife and a green seaweed lei for myself. I guess seaweed is supposed to be more masculine, but it was real seaweed and it just felt odd having that around my neck. We were directed to the check-in counter which is located in the beautiful open air lobby of the resort.
The resort itself and the rooms are built on a raised foundation which allows not only most rooms to have a view down to the ocean, but also allows the entire lobby to see the ocean as well. It was an amazing site to see the entire beach behind the check-in counter. My Reservation Type was listed as Gift Certificate, so I was immediately asked for my two certificates, which I presented. I asked about my $100 resort credit that I was owed and was told they didn’t have any information on that but would check “in the back”. After a few minutes she returned and confirmed that I would be getting the $100. I was presented with a hand-full of vouchers that I was asked to sign for (acknowledging I received them). This was the first time I have been asked to sign for coupons, but quickly realized that they were extremely valuable coupons. I believe I received them because of my Diamond status, but was too busy looking them over and forgot to ask. I received coupons for:
- 2 Free Cocktails (or any drink) at the Flagship Restaurant Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. [Drinks range from $3-$24).
- $40 off Dinner at Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.
- 1000 HHonors Points if I spend $50 at Humuhumu
- 2500 HHonors Points if I spend $125 or more at the Grand Spa (voted #1 Spa in Hawaii)
- 20% off Any Spa treatment at the Grand Spa
It just so happens that I had dinner reservations that same night at Humuhumu so these coupons would be extremely handy! I also purchased a discounted Gift Certificate for the Spa at Costco (see my future post on how to save money in Hawaii for details), so the Spa coupons were a welcome sight as well.
After receiving my coupons, I was told that I had been upgraded to a Deluxe Ocean View Room in the Haleakala Wing. I was also told that the daily $25 resort fee would be waived since I was using certificates. We were then directed to the elevators and shown which one of the 6 Wings our room was located in. Deluxe Ocean View is the highest upgrade, without being upgraded to a Suite. So I had been upgraded from a Standard Room to a Deluxe Garden View Room to a Deluxe Ocean View Room. This vacation is starting off just the way I want it. As we walked to the elevators, I noticed a bowl of free apples, free water and free guava juice. It was sitting on a table between the check-in counters and the elevators and was a free-for-all, take as much as you want type of deal. These weren’t your tiny apples that you see on the side of your dinner plate at some restaurants, these were big, blemish free, shiny apples that you would find at Disneyland. I grabbed some juice and headed to the elevators.
My room was on the 9th floor, which is the top floor of the hotel. As we entered the room, the first thing we saw was the lanai and the full, unobstructed ocean view that we had. I didn’t get a suite, but the room was more than adequate with a decent sized lanai and an amazing view.
The 640sqft room featured a King sized bed, loveseat sofa and separate sofa chair, a desk with both wireless and wired internet, and a lanai with two chairs and a small table. The bathroom had a separate shower and tub with products from the Grand Spa. The toilet had a separate room adjacent to the shower. Not bad for free!
The refrigerator had two bottles of water with a sign that said only two bottles were available complimentary per stay. Initially it bothered me to see that, until I realized they offer free water and juice in the lobby.
We had just about an hour before our dinner reservations, so we decided to walk around the 40 acre resort. The resort has impressive grounds with immaculate landscaping. We walked past 10 pools which again range from 40 feet above sea-level to some at sea level. There is everything from an Adults Only pool to Kid’s pools with a Tarzan Rope, lazy river, multiple water slides, waterfalls, caves and the world’s only water elevator. After walking half the resort, we headed toward Humhumu for dinner.
The great thing about Hawaiian culture is that cargo shorts, slippers and a Hawaiian shirts are completely acceptable in their fine dining restaurants. I came equipped with all the coupons I received at check-in. Since I had two free drink coupons, I looked at the cocktail menu and found the prices to be somewhat outrageous compared to the mainland, but probably spot-on for Hawaii. Cocktails ranged from $14-$24. We both ordered drinks around $20 each.
Next was dinner where entrees were averaging $40 each. With my $40 off coupons, I basically would be getting one meal free. I checked Yelp before coming to the restaurant and everyone suggested we try their signature Humuhumu Mud Pie dessert. Before we could order it, our server brought one with “Congratulations” on the plate. He said he was notified we were celebrating our honeymoon and said it was on the house (valued at $12). Score! Not sure if it being free made a difference, but it honestly was the best dessert I have ever had! The glass of water behind the dessert should provide some comparison to see how big the dessert was. After 2 free cocktails, one free entrée and free dessert my bill came out to $52 after tip, which was just enough to get 1000 HHonors points using the coupon. With a $100 resort credit, the meal was free with $48 to spare!
After dinner we decided to drive around the Wailea area. As the valet brought our car up, we noticed two bottles of cold water in the car. We soon realized that while they only give two bottles of water free in your room, they provide two bottles free in your car each time they retrieve your car. Along with free water and juice in the lobby….we were set!
The following day we decided to try out what Conde Nast Traveler called one of the top 10 Spas in the United States. The Grand Wailea Spa is a huge 50,000sqft oasis. I already purchased discounted spa gift certificates from Costco and with the 20% coupon I received at check-in and the offer of 2500 HHonors points for spending $125 at the spa, it made the transaction that much easier. We also found a great deal for the Spa in the in room magazine called “Wailea”. They offered a couples massage with lunch at the hotel for $198.00, which is a great deal. If you combine that with the HHonors points and discounted spa gift certificates, you can really make it economical.
Being a Waldorf property, the Diamond benefits were extremely limited. No free breakfast and no access to the Executive Club lounges. The Grand Wailea does have a Club Lounge, which is only available to those staying the Napua Towers. I learned from Flyer Talk forums that it was extremely rare for Diamond’s to be allowed entry into the Napua Towers and those that were allowed in, found it to be extremely underwhelming. Breakfast was not really an issue for us as the first morning we arose at 3am in order to see the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala and ended up having breakfast up on the volcano. The next morning we had reservations for FREE Scuba Diving lessons at the Grand Wailea (a perk of the daily resort fee) in their special pool designed specifically for Scuba instructions complete with fake fish, so a large breakfast would not have been wise. For those that want breakfast they have multiple restaurants/cafes that offer everything from buffets, to a la carte to cafeteria style meals.
Part of our goal for Maui was to see Hawaii for what it really is. We wanted to see the waterfalls, rivers and rainforests that you always see on TV. To see that in Maui you have to drive the Road to Hana, a 3 hour, one-way drive from Wailea…and that is if you don’t stop and hike to any waterfalls. Because we wanted to see everything Hana had to offer, we didn’t think it would be wise to drive back and forth between Grand Wailea and Hana. So after two nights at the Grand Wailea, we were off on our Road to Hana adventure with reservations for the next two nights at the only full service hotel in Hana, the Travaasa Hotel.
Stay tuned for my next post on how to find valuable discounts for high-end activities in Hawaii. Remember, Live Frugal….Travel Rich!