So we've all seen HBO's The White Lotus, right? Right??? If you haven't, you should. The trials and tribulations of an ultra high-end Hawaiian resort and the deeply damaged people who patronize it (and work there) may be the one definitive breakout series of the summer, with standout performances from Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn and Connie Britton. It's awesome.
It also features some of the greatest use of wallpaper in any series, well, ever. Created by LA's Plains of Yonder, the wallpaper is sadly as fictional as the resort itself. But it's amazing. Here's an example below—but to really drink it in you have to watch the show's opening credits (and the oddball score is pretty great, too).
That being said, a few minutes into the fictional show I had a sense of deja vu—the made-up hotel before me seemed very familiar. And once the cameras panned out and showed the destination's two distinctive wings jutting out towards the Azure Pacific, it came to me: The Four Seasons Wailea.
It's been a few years since I've been lucky enough to stay there, but the location and the swish rooms (even sans the above series-only wallpaper) were immediately recognizable. And it turns out the show was able to film there as the hotel was closed due to the pandemic.
The hotel is actually located in the south part of the tony community of Wailea in South Maui with the Fairmont Kea Lani directly south and the huge Grand Wailea to the north. Unlike the fictional White Lotus, you do not arrive by boat— the closest boat launch is in Kihei, 3 miles north. Instead, you drive from the airport in Kahului, which is about 30 minutes away and decidedly less ritz. They do however perform the lei ceremony when you come in (with kukui nut necklaces for the men), just like in the series. They do also give you some fresh squeezed juice and a moist hand towel to wipe away the detritus of your long journey. And as for the other excursions they show—like a nighttime dinner cruise/throwing your mother's ashes out to sea—while those are't on the official list of Four Seasons activities, trust me, they'll arrange whatever you want that's not illegal.
And other themes in the series rang true. For starters, visitors can and do take off from the beach on outrigger canoe expeditions like Quinn does. And while you can't get PADI-certified in the pool, there is very good snorkelling right off the beach in front. Many people have questioned why, if Connie Britton's character is such a successful businesswoman, did she schlep her entire family into a 1-bedroom suite.
Well, the real Four Seasons is... pricey. And with the insane surge of travel to the Islands of late, it's become downright astronomical. How much you say? A one-bedroom suite, with the same bedroom as Connie Britton but a smaller living room, is checking in at around $6,000USD/night. And they're mostly sold out. (the actual room used was the Presidential Suite with some of the rooms not shown—it's more like $26,000 a night).
Food is not a big part of the White Lotus, with breakfast being the most common meal shown. Here they appear to be mostly eating at Duo, the property's Steakhouse, that along with an outpost of Spago and an Italian spot called Ferraro's, form the main dining options. BTW—the buffet at Duo is a cool $47/head, not crazy by Four Seasons standards, but pricey for the Mossbacher family with its 5 mouths to feed.
Is it worth it? Well, a search of lesser properties (which is pretty much every other place on Maui) shows they're all likewise insanely priced. The Courtyard Maui Airport is currently—I kid you not—$555 a night. But the good news is the prices will come down—and given that the Governor just asked people to reduce travel to the Islands maybe now is the time to plan (not take) your dream trip. Just don't ask for the Pineapple Suite.