‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach
2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
When ‘Alohilani opened last winter in Waikiki, it filled a much-needed void in Oahu’s packed hotel scene—a modern, super sophisticated property that feels fresh, light, and without a hint of stuffiness or formality (in other words, a place you’ll feel comfortable wearing shorts and flip-flops everywhere). Its 839 guest rooms are outfitted in a clean, calming palette of white, beige, and natural wood, with zero clutter that might distract from the epic Hawaiian views outside (including, in many cases, the iconic slopes of Diamond Head and the endless Pacific Ocean that’s directly across the street). We love the location, too: It’s in the heart of Waikiki, within walking distance to some of the island’s best restaurants, shopping, and sites. But it also feels removed from it all, positioned at the neighborhood’s southern end, near a large city park, so the feeling is much quieter here than at hotels further up the shore. Even if you aren’t staying here, though, it’s worth a visit for a meal at Morimoto Asia Waikiki, helmed by “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto. Grab a seat on the open-air terrace overlooking Kalakaua Avenue (Waikiki’s main strip)…
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
1 Ritz Carlton Dr., Lahaina
Fresh off a resort-wide renovation, this North Shore Maui hotel benefits from its relatively out-of-the-way location. Unlike the string of hotels that cluster around beaches further south, The Ritz-Carlton stands alone on a bluff overlooking the Pacific and the tiny island of Molokai. All 466 guest rooms have been updated with a neutral, subdued color scheme and hints of what’s outside—green accent pillows that echo the color of the palm trees, coral-patterned textiles, conceptual images of surfboards as artwork. Of the five restaurants on-site, our favorite is Ulana—especially for breakfast. The macadamia and banana pancakes are worth the indulgence, though the healthy smoothies (like the Green Goddess, made with spinach, kale, avocado, kiwi, apple, chia seeds, and matcha powder) are a very close second.
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka, Poipu
Kauai is paradise, in part because it's the least touristed of Hawaii's islands, but with that comes a dearth of good place to stay. One relatively new and excellent antidote to the housing crunch—particularly for families, or anyone traveling with other couples—is the Lodge at Kukui'ula, a private club in Poipu that stretches across 1,000 acres. Comprised of multi-bedroom homes—most with adjacent guest houses—it is really well done, with plenty of high-end touches and amenities. It is so well done in fact, that you might find yourself spending too much time sprawled out on the couch, and not enough time at the beach. While all the homes are equipped with lavish kitchens, the club restaurant is excellent, and serviced by an on-site organic garden. There's a multi-level pool, complete with hot tubs, a water slide, and a beach (the real beach is just across the road), a keiki play room lined with toys, DVDs, and all the things you might not have packed, including bouncy chairs and strollers, and an on-site outfitters staffed by locals who know all the island's secrets—what's better is that they'll take you there, or…
Andaz Maui at Wailea
3550 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea
The new Andaz Maui is a relaxed and affordable changeup from the Wailea beach big-hitters (Four Seasons, Fairmont…). Designed by David Rockwell, we hear the open-air lobby is insanely cool: You enter on a footbridge that crosses an infinity pool to arrive at a sandpit (where you’re encouraged to remove your shoes) while checking in…on an iPad. It’s super contemporary—even the apothecary-style spa, which means your therapist will custom-blend locally grown herbs, plants, and fruits for your treatment. Oh, and in addition to Ka'ana Kitchen, an onsite restaurant with a great breakfast spread, Morimoto is here, too. There are also lots of beachside activities, from boogie and paddle board rentals to snorkeling gear (which can be deployed right in front of the hotel), all of which are included in your resort fee. They book up fast, so make a reservation at the kiosk off the beach right when you check in. Friends have also told us that it's worth taking advantage of the hotel's car service for exploring Wailea, as the über situation is still pretty few-and-far-between.
Montage Kapalua Bay
1 Bay Dr., Lahaina
Seeing as this is a Montage and all, this lavish, 24-acre beach-front resort is splashy in the best possible way: there's a huge golf course, camps for both kids and teens, tennis, plenty of pools, hiking, snorkeling, and really good on-site restaurants. It's all suites, with many multi-bedroom options for families, meaning it's the sort of place where you can easily spend an entire holiday vacation—the fully decked-out spa (with plenty of daily fitness classes) certainly helps.
The Surfjack Hotel
412 Lewers St., Honolulu
Most of the hotels in Waikiki read a bit touristy and over-the-top for our tastes, so the understated Surfjack, with its laid-back, hipster vibe is a more than welcome addition. Expect to see bamboo, bright colors, and staff decked out in Hawaiian-print shirts, though all those classic décor motifs are cooly balanced by mid-century furniture and modern pieces of art. The hotel is also home to an excellent restaurant (helmed by local chef hero Ed Kenney) and Olive & Oliver, a smaller outpost of the Oliver boutique that’s outfitted with a sweet little coffee bar serving Café Vita espresso and cold brew.
6867 Koolau Rd., Kilauea
Nestled on a secluded 5-acre estate in the Moloa’a hills on Kauai’s north shore, The Palmwood is a veritable sanctuary—as a bed-and-breakfast, it’s got a personal touch you aren’t likely to find at the major resorts. Inspired by the country inns found in the mountains of Japan, the rooms here are on the cozy side with warm, Eastern-inspired furnishings, and the grounds are lush and green. Best of all: this intimate, peaceful hideaway is close to some of the island’s finest attractions. As it is a real-deal B&B, we also hear that Auntie Eddi makes the very, very best breakfast. (Tip: you can reserve any one of their three rooms on Airbnb.)
St. Regis Princeville
5520 Ka Haku Rd., Princeville
Tucked away in a secluded beach cove a few miles from Hanalei, the St. Regis at Princeville is Kauai’s preeminent luxury resort. Boasting everything from pools and a spa to a kid’s club, this is a popular destination for those with a generous budget—but it’s still got the quiet, relaxed atmosphere you’d want for your Hawaiian getaway. The rooms here offer jaw-droppingly gorgeous, unobstructed ocean or mountain views, and their restaurant’s curated menu focuses on local delicacies, meaning you can enjoy an extravagant yet quintessentially Hawaiian experience in their staff’s very capable hands.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
72-100 Ka`upulehu Dr., Kohala Coast
The seven varied pools at the Four Seasons on the Kona-Kohala coast provide ample opportunity for R&R, as well as fun and games for the kids. The adults-only pool faces the ocean and has a swim-up bar with bench seating. The lagoon-shaped family pool has an infinity edge that seems to bleed into the ocean and is dotted with cabanas big enough for the whole gang. (Next to this is a smaller, freshwater kiddie pool with a sand bottom. And for kids ages 5 to 12 who might enjoy more organized activities, the Four Seasons offers a camp-like program at their Cultural Center—shell necklace making, star navigation, Ukelele lessons, Hawaiian classes are all on offer.) There’s also “King’s Pond,” a 1.8-million gallon pool that combines fresh and ocean water and is home to 4,000 tropical fish for those who feel too timid to snorkel in the open ocean. Plus, a lap pool, an incredible spa, and a fitness complex where they even stage occasional Iron Man workshops. The rooms here, needless to say, are well-appointed, but the private two- and three-bedroom villas are on another level: set in secluded…
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Kohala Coast
When Mauna Kea opened in the mid-1960s as part of Laurance S. Rockefeller's hotel group, it was said to be the most expensive hotel ever built, at $15 million. Designed by architect Edward Charles Bassett of the firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the hotel itself is a stunning modernist masterpiece. In the decades since, it’s remained a favorite Big Island hotel—thanks in part to a $150 million renovation in the mid-2000s that helped Mauna Kea keep pace with the newer luxury resorts on Hawaii. The beach here (white-sand Kauna‘oa) is one of the best hotel beaches you’ll find on the island. Mauna Kea is also known for its famed golf course, which was built by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and debuted in 1964 with the Big Three (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player) on the course. Like the hotel, Mauna Kea Golf Course underwent a thoughtful renovation (overseen by Rees Jones, son of Robert Trent Jones) that maintained all its beauty (and challenges). For those who favor tennis, there’s an also an 11-court seaside club at Mauna Kea. The restaurant to dine at here is Manta though they also…
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