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In Praise of Tried and True Hospitality

By Julia Cosgrove

Dec 7, 2017

From the January/February 2018 issue

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Courtesy of Four Seasons Wailea

On her first vacation as a mother of two, AFAR editor-in-chief Julia Cosgrove wanted a luxury kid-friendly hotel that would ease her back into working life. The Four Seasons Resort in Maui was exactly what her family needed.

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Magazines devote a lot of ink to the new, and at AFAR, a large part of our job is to inform you about the new experiences we think should be on your radar. This issue—our annual Where to Go Issue—is full of deeply researched travel inspiration for the year ahead, and much of it is tied to a novel reason to visit a destination: a new national park in Finland, a new hotel near Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, a new route across Bhutan.

But recently, as I neared the end of maternity leave, I found myself planning a trip built around a different set of requirements: an easy destination a direct flight away, and a hotel with a beach, a pool and room service delicious enough to distract me from the restaurants where I wouldn’t be dining with my four-month-old and two-year-old. I wanted to relax and feel pampered before returning to work. Unlike many previous trips, this one wasn’t about chasing the new, but rather about chasing a vibe.

After days of research and pondering, I booked a trip to Maui. A month later we arrived at the Four Seasons in Wailea. The resort opened in 1990, and while its rooms underwent a top-to-bottom renovation last year, it retains a classic and refined aloha feel—exactly what I needed.

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We spent mornings splashing in the warm sea and afternoons lounging on our lanai. We ventured to the Mars-like summit of Haleakalā National Park while the babies slept, played hide-and-seek in the resort’s plumeria gardens, and sipped mai tais as we watched graceful hula dancers in the lobby lounge. We ate kid-friendly lunches at Star Noodle and Pa’ia Fish Market, and learned how to crack open a coconut.

Flying home, rejuvenated and ready to return to work, I thought a lot about what makes a destination or a hotel truly exceptional. When the newness is no longer new, what is that ineffable quality—the vibe—that makes travelers want to visit? I think it often comes down to tried-and-true hospitality. Of the 400 original staff members who opened the Four Seasons, 75 still work there 28 years later. That number stuck with me. They know what they’re doing. There aren’t kinks to be worked out. They can intuitively anticipate what guests need before the guest even knows. They know how to make your trip—and every guest’s trip—live up to the hopes and expectations we all pack along with our swimming suits. It’s something we travelers, even as we chase the new, should never take for granted.

Enjoy the issue, and share with us via #traveldeeper on Instagram where travel takes you in 2018.

>>Next: 18 Places to Go in 2018

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