2199 Kalia Rd., Honolulu
Halekulani may be one of the oldest hotels in Honolulu, and it’s one of the best. A bit more buttoned up than what you’d expect in the land of aloha—but it’s the five-star property’s proximity to all of the best big-name shopping, surfing, eating, and anything else you could possibly want to do in Waikiki that really steps up its game. Plus, the hotel itself is quite lavish—all two oceanfront towers of it—with its unbeatable Diamond Head views and the kind of precisely manicured lawns that attract a fair share of weddings. Days are spent pool-ing, spa-ing, or paddling out in the rolling waves that make up Halekulani’s backyard. And when you’re all activitied-out, kick off your flip-flops and head to the swanky Lewers Lounge—where the lychee martinis are as strong as the dress code is strict. And don’t skip the impressive Sunday brunch (we swoon for the poha berry popovers at Orchids).
5031 Hana Hwy., Hana
The moment you set foot on the property, you’ll be entranced. This quintessential Maui hotel is perched on the far eastern tip of the island, making it an ideal location to relax and replenish. And did we mention? It’s moments away from the black sand beaches and ocean-view hikes. Other activities include biking from your room to a yoga class that overlooks the ocean, or working for your dinner and casting a net into the water for fish. And then there’s the spa: A wide array of organic, bioenergetic treatments make it all too easy to spend an afternoon—or a day—there. The whole place conspires to quiet the mind and instill a sense of calm like you’ve never experienced before.
3770 Ala’oli Wy., Lihue
Perched on a cliff with panoramic ocean views, Timbers Kauai is serene and cozy, perfect for families and long stays. The forty-seven vacation rentals are multibedroom residences with the comfiest beds and sofas, beautiful high-end kitchens, spacious lanais, iPad concierge service, and luxury amenities that make everything just so easy. The property is stretched across 450 oceanfront acres, and the two infinity pools really will trick you into thinking they’re spilling into the Pacific. We highly recommend a tour of the property’s organic farm, from which the restaurant, Hualani’s, sources ingredients like sugarcane, bananas, and papayas. And the spa does a transformative Hawaiian lomi lomi massage—don’t skip the heated coconut oil scalp massage at the end.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Waimea
Few hotels enjoy the name recognition of the Mauna Kea. When it 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, the hotel is a stunning modernist masterpiece. In the decades since it opened, it’s become an icon of Hawaii—and a $150 million renovation in the mid-2000s has helped it keep pace with the newer luxury resorts on the island. The beach here (white sand Kauna'oa) is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Mauna Kea is also known for its golf course, which was built by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and debuted in 1964 with the Big Three (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player). Like the hotel, Mauna Kea Golf Course underwent a thoughtful renovation that maintained all its beauty (and its challenges). For those who favor tennis, there’s an eleven-court seaside club. The restaurant to dine at here is Manta, though on Tuesdays, the hotel also puts on an excellent luau, which is a pure delight for kids. (You don't have…
‘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.
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