For a well-heeled retiree in the market for a spot in paradise, Wailea Beach Villas in Maui, Hawaii, is a spectacular choice. As part of the 1,500-acre Wailea Beach Resort, its neighbors include the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa to the south, the Outrigger hotel to the north, and the upscale Shops at Wailea to the east. To the west is a stretch of oceanfront that routinely garners “best beach” awards from travel magazines. Owning one of these two-, three-, and four-bedroom villas or penthouse spaces must be downright heavenly.

HAWAIIAN PUNCH: The penthouse building at Wailea Beach Villas (above) shows the influence of  some of Hawaii's older stucco structures. A kitchen (below) is full of the  kinds of luxury materials that affluent retirees demand.
David Watersun HAWAIIAN PUNCH: The penthouse building at Wailea Beach Villas (above) shows the influence of some of Hawaii's older stucco structures. A kitchen (below) is full of the kinds of luxury materials that affluent retirees demand.
David Watersun

Now think about what it would be like to design those 98 homes, which have to some-how hold their own against two of the world's most luxurious hotels. What would it take to persuade someone of means to buy a place in heaven rather than rent a spot?

“Because it's a resort destination, you have to consider that people always have the option of buying or renting,” says Newport Beach, Calif., architect Mark Scheurer, who was given the design challenge by Lokahi Ventures, the development team that bought the 10.74-acre luxury infill site. “We had to do something that's better than the hotel [room] you could rent down the road or next door.”

Scheurer Architects also had to deal with a steep, sloping site, taking care to design homes that would take maximum advantage of ocean views. The solution was to begin at the ocean with attached villas and build density and massing slowly uphill to a larger structure, a six-story penthouse building that contains not only individual units but also amenities.

SITE SENSITIVE: The site plan (above) shows how Scheurer Architects dealt with a steep, sloping  site, positioning the penthouse to take maximum advantage of ocean views. Attached  villas (below) are positioned on the lower part of the site.
SITE SENSITIVE: The site plan (above) shows how Scheurer Architects dealt with a steep, sloping site, positioning the penthouse to take maximum advantage of ocean views. Attached villas (below) are positioned on the lower part of the site.

Rather than go with the more expected plantation style, a Hawaiian staple in recent years, Scheurer opted to look for inspiration from some of Hawaii's older structures, which were fashioned from stucco and topped with red tile roofs. “The plantation style, with its wood siding, wasn't going to work on this scale,” says Scheurer. “These units had some pretty high price points and were also significantly larger in square footage than a typical Hawaiian resort package. This had to be something different.”

Some of the things that set the Wailea Beach Villas apart from its resort neighbors are bigger rooms and larger balconies with built-in outdoor kitchens. And because the penthouse building is single-loaded rather than double-loaded, there aren't any corridors, a clear way of distinguishing the structure from a typical hotel. “You've got all the services of a five-star hotel, but you don't have to sit at the pool with a thousand other people,” says Scheurer. “When you go back to your own unit, you've got some sense of possession and individuality.”

The amenities offered with these for-sale units also had to be stepped up a notch. “We decided that we were going to provide something that was nicer than anything in that market in terms of the residential experience,” says developer Mark Whiting, who joined with partner Paul Lambert to form Lokahi Ventures. That means a check-in/check-out desk, a concierge, and fitness and club facilities. It's the best of both worlds, in an out-of-this-world kind of place.

Project: Wailea Beach Villas, Maui, Hawaii; Size: 10.74 acres; Unit size: 2,000 to 3,111 square feet; Total units: 98; Price: $1.2 million to $7 million; Builder: Dick Pacific, Honolulu; Developer: Lokahi Ventures, Honolulu; Architect/Land planner: Scheurer Architects, Newport Beach, Calif.; Interior designer: Philpotts & Associates, Honolulu

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Honolulu, HI.