On a Grande Scale

When it comes to superlatives, the island of Maui has many to boast. It offers more miles of swimmable beach than any other Hawaiian island, hosts the largest dormant volcano in the world, and is consistently rated one of the best Pacific islands by travel magazines. With its pristine azure beaches, seemingly endless sunny days, and an utterly perfect climate, Maui is also home to Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort, the largest spa in Hawaii.

 Spa Grande's relaxation terrace provides a magnificent view of the resort and beach.
Spa Grande's relaxation terrace provides a magnificent view of the resort and beach.

At 50,000 square feet, Spa Grande offers 40 treatment rooms and more than 100 menu options that keep guests coming back for more. Spa manager Cecilia Hercik believes that Spa Grande is, in a sense, viewed more as a destination spa than a resort spa by patrons and is a huge reason that people return to the property. "It is very common to have guests visit more than once during their stay," explains Hercik. "They are intrigued by our extensive menu and often will book multiple services on different days due to the fact that there is simply not enough time to explore all of the treatments in one visit."

Guests can enjoy a relaxing cabana massage
Guests can enjoy a relaxing cabana massage

At maximum capacity, Spa Grande can handle 400 guests on any given day. Due to the vast selection of offerings, the spa's clientele is extremely diverse and not necessarily defined by age, gender, or even financial status. "They are people who make health and well-being a priority and adopt the spa philosophy as a lifestyle," says Hercik. While most of the spa's traffic does come from resort patrons, long-term visitors staying in the Wailea area, as well as referrals from other concierges, make up part of the clientele. Although competition for tourism is fierce on Maui, Hercik mentions that some referrals even come from properties that offer their own spa services because there is plenty about Spa Grande that makes it stand out among its neighboring competitors. Besides a lengthy selection of packages and specialty treatments, one of Spa Grande's unique aspects is its water therapy experience, known as the Termé Wailea Hydrotherapy circuit.

Before taking a dip in the resort's Formal Hibiscus Pool
Before taking a dip in the resort's Formal Hibiscus Pool


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One hour prior to most scheduled services, guests are invited to visit the multi-room Termé, which brings together bathing rituals from Hawaii, Asia, and Europe. The experience, also available as an á la carte service ($85, 60 minutes), kicks off with a full-body loofah exfoliation by a Termé attendant. Guests then have the freedom to try any of the five specialty baths, Japanese furo, Roman tub, sauna, steam room, cascading waterfall shower, or the Swiss jet shower within the one-hour time frame. In addition to the health benefits—including soothing fatigued muscles, detoxifying the skin, increasing circulation, replenishing minerals, and relieving muscle tension—a visit to the Termé, according to Hercik, is meant to slow down the world and give a sense of calmness before treatments. "It's hard to reap the benefits of a massage when you are rushing into the spa to make an appointment and then have somewhere to go immediately after," she says. "The relaxation guests receive during this hour allows them to truly reap all of the benefits of their treatment and makes an overall spa journey a true 'wow' experience."

The spa's renowned Termé Wailea Hydrotherapy circuit includes a cascading waterfall massage
The spa's renowned Termé Wailea Hydrotherapy circuit includes a cascading waterfall massage

This type of hydrotherapy ritual undeniably lends itself to Western tradition. Whereas the lavish spa decor can broadly be described as European, there is an Eastern influence at Spa Grande—treatments such as Shiatsu ($155, 50 minutes; $225, 80 minutes) are offered—as well as a major Hawaiian influence evident throughout the menu. "People come to Maui expecting to experience treatments that are unique and indigenous to this area," says Hercik. Locally inspired services, especially those featuring native ingredients, play an essential role at the spa and outsell other body treatments 2-to-1. Hercik credits this attraction to guests' desire to feel that they have truly experienced what Hawaii has to offer.

For those interested in a taste of the islands, Spa Grande has a number of treatment options to sate them. Using crushed hibiscus, jasmine, lavender, passionflower, and rose, the Island Flowers Body Masque ($160, 50 minutes), one of the spa's most popular body treatments, features green tea, kaolin clay, mango butter, and papaya leaves. Another popular treatment, and a fairly recent addition to the menu, is the Essences of 'Olena and 'Awa ($260, 80 minutes), featuring tumeric ('olena) that is used by Hawaiian priests to provide immunity to negativity, as well as a derivative of kava ('awa) used by both priests and chiefs to rid the body of stiffness. Ending with a Lomi Lomi massage, the island-inspired treatment also incorporates coconut oil, ginger, Hawaiian sugar cane, and lemon.

Five aromatic baths
Five aromatic baths

Spa Grande's packages offer guests other types of sweet escapes. For the fitness-minded, Lokahi ($268, 4 hours), Hawaiian for "harmony," invites guests to spend time in the Termé; consult with a personal trainer for an hour; choose among a private yoga, Pilates, or meditation session; and end with either Shiatsu or a Thai Massage. Seafarers can opt for the Wailele ($460, 4 1/2 hours), which means "waterfalls." In addition to an hour in the Termé, this package includes a Seaweed Masque, Seashell Massage, Deep Cleansing Facial, and haircut for men or shampoo and blowdry for the ladies.

For families interested in spa-ing together, the Malama Ka 'Ohana ($374, 25 minutes; $540, 50 minutes) allows two adults and two children to enjoy massages together in a private spa suite—Lomi Lomi massage for the parents and Chocolate-Coconut Massages for the kids. If this doesn't sound like a vacation to some parents or tweens, there are plenty of spa-ing options for the younger set to experience sans their folks. The Keiki Spa menu allows children between six and 12 years of age to garner the health benefits of spas with age-appropriate treatments, while the Teen Spa menu gives 13- to 19-year-olds plenty of options of their own.

European-inspired architecture surrounds the cold plunge pool  and Roman whirlpool.
European-inspired architecture surrounds the cold plunge pool and Roman whirlpool.

In order for spa-goers to get the most out of their treatments at Spa Grande, therapists find it important to educate them on their services. "We feel that when people travel thousands of miles to Hawaii, they are intrigued by the history of the Hawaiian culture," says Hercik. "We have incorporated some of the plants into our treatments as a tool to teach our guests about the benefits of our products and the history of how they were used by native Hawaiians."

Educating guests at this level requires hiring a knowledgeable staff. According to Hercik, Spa Grande therapists are required to have a minimum of 600 hours of education as well as a minimum of two years of experience before they will be considered for hire. "We encourage our therapists to continue their education, and many often take sabbaticals to travel the world in search of new techniques," she says. According to Hercik, most of her team has either learned from well-traveled masters or has traveled extensively themselves—especially throughout Polynesia, Thailand, and India—to learn specific modalities. "Many think of themselves more as healers than just massage therapists or estheticians and feel that training is a lifelong process, going way beyond achieving a certificate," she explains.

With so many interests and characters peppered among the staff of more than 200, it is no surprise that Hercik uses the word "diverse" to describe her colleagues. "We have a huge melting pot of personalities with different life experiences," she says. "It is truly amazing to see a large group of people share a common goal and work together to achieve great accomplishments for our spa." For the most part, it is due to this highly trained staff that Hercik can ensure that each spa-goer receives the elevated attention they are seeking at such a large spa and that all systems run smoothly. "We have a magnificent facility with a very qualified staff that does a wonderful job of upholding the spa's mystique and ensuring that personalized experiences happen for every guest," she says.

It's this type of winning attitude that has led Spa Grande to not only have a major presence in Hawaii, but also make quite a splash in the industry. Among its accolades are consistent mentions by Travel + Leisure, Spa Finder, and Condé Nast Traveler as one of the top spas in the United States and North America. American Spa readers have even anointed Spa Grande the Best Resort Spa two years in a row in the magazine's annual Professional's Choice Awards.

Acknowledgements such as these certainly make Hercik and her staff's hard work and day-to-day challenges worthwhile. One of Hercik's constant concerns is staff turnover. "Maui is a very transient island," she explains. "Qualified people move to the island and often stay only for a year or two and end up moving back to the mainland to be closer to their loved ones. This presents a challenge because of the cost and time associated with training new team members." Another challenge is marketing longer treatments, such as 80-minute services that can sometimes surpass $260, as well as higher priced specialty treatments, such as the 6 Hands Lava Stone Massage ($450, 50 minutes), featuring three therapists. Hercik's solution: Offering small gifts such as 8-oz. bottles of lotion or a spa robe to entice people to buy these types of services.

By the sound of it, guests don't need much luring when it comes to indulging at the first-class Spa Grande. Whether they choose to be massaged or manicured in a poolside cabana, surrounded by silence in a luxe treatment room, or even left to soak up the striking view from the spa's outdoor relaxation area, a spa-goer's wish is the staff's command. This theory on customer service and Hercik's willingness to listen to customer feedback is what makes the Spa Grande experience topnotch for its guests. "Oftentimes our guests have a fresh perspective on our establishment," she says. "We would be foolish not to listen to them."

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