Condominiums offer a great lodging alternative to hotels. Maui has thousands of condo units in the resort areas of the island. Most condo complexes on Maui were built prior to 1990. My rule of thumb is that usually the older the complex, the larger the units. Most Maui condos are either studio, 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom units. There are only a handful of 3-bedroom units. If you want a 2- or 3-bedroom unit at Christmas, in February or in June or July, be prepared to pay extra (sometimes a lot extra!) during these high-season times.
Some things to remember about condos:
- Since they are not hotels, the level of service available is often far less. Front desks may not operate 24 hours, there most likely is no bell service, and they probably do not have hotel-type amenities like restaurants and spas on site. Condo properties may not have daily housekeeping, an activity desk or concierge, or maintenance people to immediately help you with no hot water or a missing remote control. Condos work better for guests who are self-directed and who appreciate having their own space.
- Each unit in a condo complex is individually owned. In most places, that means that each unit is completely different from every other unit in terms of room décor, amenities and bedding.
- Condo rates are usually less than those of a hotel. The rates are lower because there are fewer services. You don’t get what you don’t pay for.
- Many guests prefer condos because they have a kitchen. The term kitchen can be somewhat broadly defined as having a sink, cooking device such as a microwave and a refrigerator. Many condos have much more fully equipped kitchens with ice makers, dishwashers and stove/oven combinations.
- While you can pretty much rely on hotels to have air conditioning, condos may be “breeze conditioned”, meaning you have to open the jalousie windows to help cool the unit.
It is critical if you are not familiar with the property you are considering that you assume nothing and ask questions. If having air conditioning and an oven are important to you, by all means ask the property prior to making the reservation. The lower price of a condo as compared to a hotel room is only a value provided that what is offered for that rate is acceptable to you.
There are generally three different management types for condos, which is important to know when you are making your reservations.
On site management means that the company with whom you are booking is actually at the property. Usually the on site management company represents quite a few of the units at the property. In many cases, you book your condo through the on site company as you would a hotel; i.e., you make a reservation in advance and you pay when you check out. You usually check in at a registration desk at the property. Since on site management companies manage multiple units, should you for whatever reason be unhappy with the unit to which you are initially assigned, you may have the option of moving to another unit. If you’re not happy with the condo complex, most on site management companies have sister properties to where they might refer you. Also, on site management companies often offer some form of daily housekeeping service, either full or limited service.
Off site management means that the management company has an office away from the condo property. These companies are usually run by a licensed real estate agent. Most likely, you pay in advance for these bookings. You check in at their office and then have to drive to the condo. Since there is no one on site, you must phone the management office for problems and they will dispatch someone to your location. If you are unhappy with your condo unit, you may or may not be permitted to change. Also, if you are not happy with the complex, you may not be permitted to change. There is likely no housekeeping; you are presented with a clean unit and you may even be required to return it to them in the same condition and/or pay a cleaning fee. If these things are important to you, it is important that you ask about the management company’s policies prior to making your reservation.
The third type of condo rental is renting directly through the owner. Most condo owners do not live on Maui, so you do the research through third-party websites. These owners always require you to pay in full in advance. You may have to check in at a management company or at the condo’s front desk, for which you’ll probably pay a fee. You will not get any type of housekeeping and will have to wash your own linens. You’d better be sure that you do your research because if you are unhappy with the condo unit or complex, too bad for you; the owner has your money and lives somewhere else. Most likely these condo owners do not have any on-island management; if you need something additional or a repair or experience some other problem, you’ll need to call the owner on the mainland and hope he can (or will!) help.
When booking a condo, it is imperative that you do your homework ahead of time. The differences between condos and hotels, not to mention the differences between each separate condo complex mean that, in order to fully understand what you are buying, you must do the research to help insure a successful vacation.
Bill Rees is the General Manager of the Outrigger Maui Eldorado Resort. He has been in the hotel business for longer than he cares to admit and he has the anecdotes and nervous tics to prove it! When not at work or exploring Maui, Bill, who is a Honoapiilani Highway road warrior, spends time working on his historic Wailuku home. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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