These days there are so many fantastic lead-in packages available to Hawai’i and getting there on the cheap is a great way to do it. You can still be within blocks of Waikiki Beach or a stone’s throw from all the action, but what if you wanted to treat yourself this time round?
While I haven’t had the pleasure of staying in all of the luxurious properties on the Hawaiian islands, I recently was lucky enough to experience an impressive few firsthand. Each one of the hotels mentioned below has a special something that makes them stand out from the crowd. But remember, if your budget doesn’t stretch to their room rates, you can always enjoy a cocktail in any of the magnificent bars or dine in their exquisite settings, and it doesn’t matter that you’re not holding a room key.
The Royal Hawaiian, Oahu
The famous ‘Pink Palace’ has just gone through a costly makeover and is looking more glamorous than ever. With its iconic beachfront location, lush gardens, open-air elegance, chic rooms and staff who are always eager to help, you can understand why this is the sort of hotel where most people aspire to stay at least once. A must-do while you’re there is a drink in the Mai Tai Bar – a Waikiki institution, this is where you can watch a wonderful sunset while listening to live music and enjoying an indulgent libation or two!
Moana Surfrider, Oahu
The oldest hotel in Waikiki, this classic property opened in 1901 and is showing its age, but in all the best ways. A beautiful old Banyan tree dominates the oceanfront pool and cafe area and surrounding the courtyard are other sensational dining options. Beachhouse at the moana is world-renowned for its modern classic cuisine and the steak and seafood is divine. The heritage rooms are stylishly appointed with a real ocean feel and simply step out the front entrance of the hotel to be right in the heart of Waikiki.
Outrigger Reef on the Beach, Oahu
This one makes my list of treats because the hotel has everything you could ask for, along with a beautiful beachfront location at the calmer end of Waikiki. The rooms are spacious and look great with their Hawaiian decor, plus this hotel has two of Waikiki’s favourite restaurants. Ocean House is the ideal spot for a decadent breakfast or special dinner (check out the sunset special) and you’d be struggling to find an oceanfront dining experience that’s better value than Shore Bird Restaurant and Beach Bar. Outrigger properties always incorporate the culture of Hawaii into their designs and you’re always welcomed with a warm ‘Aloha’.
Sheraton Kona, Hawai’i (Big Island)
This is one of those hotels that has a wow factor when you first arrive. Walking into the lobby you’re surrounded by original art works and then you spot the incredible ocean view. The open air design gives the resort a wonderful tropical feel and it has one of the most amazing pools, complete with waterslide and poolside cabanas. There’s a free trolley to take you into town, but with a well-priced general store and so many activities and delicious dining opens within the resort, you’ll be happy staying put. The big highlight is Rays on the Bay – not only is this a fantastic new bar and restaurant, but each night ocean lights attract the stars of the show, giant manta rays that love swimming and showing off in the waters surrounding the bar.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Kauai
Grand by name, grand by nature! From the moment you’re greeted at the front desk by the resort’s wonderful staff, you know you’re in for a treat. The attention to detail is obvious at every turn and it extends to the rooms, where the features have been locally sourced and the decor is chosen to reflect Hawaiian heritage. There’s a great choice of dining options to suit your moods and a personal favourite is Stevenson’s Library. This lounge looks like it’s been around for a century and the 27-foot koa wood bar is a beauty. The pool is a stunning central feature and with waterfalls and hidden lagoons, this really isn’t your average swimming pool!
St. Regis Princeville, Kauai
When it comes to a luxurious retreat, St. Regis is in a class of its own. It’s hard to know what leaves the biggest impression – the valet parking on arrival, the huge rooms with every creature comfort (including a St Regis butler service in the suites!), the unbeatable view of beautiful Hanalei Bay or being able to swim with green sea turtles right in front of the resort. Delicious local flavours are celebrated in the resort’s restaurants and bars and there is a wonderful ambiance throughout. If you love your cocktails with a zing, then make sure you try their signature Ginger Margarita – divine! Everything about St. Regis is impressive, but I was especially pleased to see their commitment to protecting their environment. In addition to the regular ‘green’ initiatives, from September to December blinds are lowered in the restaurants and guests are asked to shut their curtains at dusk, so as not to disorientate young shearwaters who fly at night.
While staying in Hawai’i I was a guest of Hawaiian Tourism Oceania, but all the thoughts expressed here are my own and it was due to the quality of these hotels that I felt compelled to share my experiences.