Published October 29, 2013
If you’re planning a trip to the Aloha State and have the budget to splurge, we’ve got you covered. These nine hotels are jaw-droppingly gorgeous and utterly decadent, from the elegant rooms to the tasty restaurants to the impressive pools.
The 251-room St. Regis Princeville is considered by many to be the premier luxury option in Hawaii, and given the stunning setting overlooking Hanalei Bay, it’s hard to disagree. Guests can expect warm, sophisticated decor, suites with personal butler service, world-class golf, and a memorable breakfast buffet on a terrace with gorgeous ocean views. The discerning clientele this resort attracts will find little to fault, though if one had to nitpick, the formal dress code might not appeal to everyone, and food prices — as one might expect at this caliber of property — are steep. The location on Kauai’s lush, ruggedly beautiful northern coast makes for natural beauty that’s unparalleled, but rain is more frequent here and the beach, though lovely, doesn’t have the finest sand.
The Four Seasons is quieter and more subdued than Maui’s more grandiose resorts, but a two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio means over-the-top pampering like nowhere else in Hawaii — poolside Evian spritzes, beachside yoga classes, and they even have someone to unpack your bags for you. The best part? It’s all free — gym and spa access, beachside cabanas, outrigger canoe outings, and even the kids’ club. No ugly “resort fee” surprises either, unlike at most Maui resorts.
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui
A secluded location in the lush (though rainy) northwestern coast of Maui; proximity to two prestigious, oceanfront golf courses; culture and ecology programs for families led by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment; and a top-rated restaurant make the Ritz-Carlton feel more serene than many of Maui’s other luxury resorts — like an eco-reserve off the back nine. Plus, a $180 million renovation in 2008 revitalized the rooms, the spa, the gym, and the three-tiered pool overlooking the coast.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort, Oahu
Kahala’s location in a ritzy Honolulu neighborhood — away from the chaos of Waikiki — makes it the most serene luxury option on Oahu. It’s also the best. Its phenomenal service truly separates it from its competitors: At check-in guests are greeted with leis and cool washcloths; staff members address you by name throughout your stay (impressive for a 338-room property); and additional thoughtful touches include daily newspapers delivered in blue cotton bags and ice buckets that get refilled at turndown. The elegant rooms feature enormous flat-screen TVs, balconies, and some of the best bathrooms we’ve ever seen.
Four Seasons Hualalai, Big Island
The pristine Four Seasons, the only five-pearl property on the Big Island, is unlike any other resort on the Kohala Coast. Lush and beautifully landscaped grounds surround private bungalow-style rooms and suites tucked along winding paths throughout the large property. The thoughtfully designed architecture, pools (all seven of them), and public spaces are indulgent without seeming excessive. Dining options on-site are few in number but high in quality, and include what is arguably the best restaurant on the Big Island. The service is excellent and the experience is first-rate down to the last detail.
Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele
The 102-room Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is a serene, upscale resort with a Greg Norman-designed golf course. The resort is just a short walk from town, and features top-rated (but expensive) dining, casually elegant rooms, horseback riding facilities, and three tennis courts. The tranquil English-style grounds dotted by Asian accents — a pagoda sits across the pond from a gazebo — have a peaceful air and attract honeymooners and couples.
“Halekulani” translates to “house befitting heaven,” and the Oahu hotel’s clean lines, meticulous service, and serene, whitewashed ambience all live up to the property’s name. Service is formal, thorough, and discreet. Guests are personally escorted to rooms for check-in, lavished with welcome fruits and chocolates, and left little gifts each night on their pillows. The large, well-equipped rooms (renovated in 2012) reflect the understated luxury of the rest of the hotel.
Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Maui
The Grand Wailea vies with the Four Seasons for the title of the most luxurious resort in Wailea, the manicured planned resort on Maui’s southwestern shore. But its style of luxury is flashier. Cascading waterfalls at the entrance, the world’s only “water elevator” spewing from a volcano in the pool, and one of the most elaborate hydrotherapy spas in the nation deliver a wow factor, but also contribute to a theme park-esque vibe that isn’t right for everyone. Still, opulence marks every feature, from the huge guest rooms to the $30 million in-house art collection.
The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort
Built in 1927, the iconic “Pink Palace of the Pacific” is easily the most recognizable hotel on Oahu — and, decades later, still one of the most luxurious. Guests receive the hotel’s signature drink, a pink hibiscus elixir, upon check-in, and our reporter found banana bread waiting for him when he arrived in his room. Free limo service delivers guests anywhere in the local area in the afternoons and early evenings, and nightly turndown service is accompanied by chocolates or mints, a bottle of water, and a postcard with historical facts about the hotel. Be sure to book in the historical wing for classier renovated rooms (renovated in 2011).
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