Poolside at the Halepuna Waikiki
The Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani offers big bright rooms with ocean views
If the latest wave of Hawaii airfare sales hasn't already sealed the deal on your next island vacation, the current surge in hotel openings and updates in the Aloha State may. With many roundtrip airfares from the West Coast falling below $300 round trip, why not splurge on a nice hotel? Here’s an island-by-island overview of the latest hotel openings and updates from Hawaii travel expert Jeanne Cooper, a coauthor of Frommer’s Hawaii 2020.
Hanalei Colony Resort makes its long-awaited return on Dec. 20, just in time for the winter holidays. Famously once owned by Charo, the condo-style compound on Kepuhi Beach served as a de facto community center during much of the 14-month closure of the northernmost stretch of Kuhio Highway, which suffered landslides after epic rainfall in April 2018. A fire three months later destroyed several outbuildings on the resort, which prevented its 52 suites from reopening when the highway did last June. The onsite restaurant Opakapaka Grill, day spa and art gallery/coffee bar, however, are already back in business. Rates start at $499, or $449 for AAA and AARP members. (Note: Local taxes will add nearly 15 percent to all rates listed here.)
While there's no news yet on when renovations are set to begin, all bets are on 2020 for the gradual transformation of the Princeville Resort — formerly a St. Regis — into 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, part of the new, sustainable luxury 1 Hotels brand. Current rates (from $387, plus $39 resort fee) reflect its need for some updating, so go now if you want a bargain.
Formerly a Courtyard by Marriott, the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort in Kapaa debuted Oct. 9. The metamorphosis includes a redesign of its 314 rooms and reinvented public spaces, among them the pool area, oceanfront Crooked Surf tiki bar, Moamoa Hawaiian Fish House and Daybreak breakfast-buffet restaurant. Current rates for mid-December begin at $159, plus a $32 daily resort fee (including parking).
The famed Halekulani’s more affordable sibling, the Waikiki Parc, reopened Oct. 25 after a year-long transformation into Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani. The 284 rooms are still mostly compact (starting at 309 square feet), but feature sleek new furnishings in a serene palette of white, gray, blue and beige. Revamped public spaces include the Urban Escape—a greatly expanded pool on the eighth-floor deck with cabanas, spa treatments, bar, fitness studio an garden sanctuary—and the first Halekulani Bakery & Restaurant, with all-day dining and a “chocolate-viewing” kitchen. Rates start at $350 (with no resort fee).
At the other end of the cost spectrum, Espacio, the Jewel of Waikiki opened in September overlooking the beach on Kalakaua Avenue, with each of its nine multi-bedroom suites taking an entire floor of the former Aston Waikiki Beachside; rates start at $5,000 a night (gulp!), including luxury car use, butler and chef services. Higher floors with unobstructed beach views command up to $8,000 per night. The recent renovation of the nine-floor building was pegged at $6 million per suite, according to Pacific Business News.
The Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina has unveiled several unique programs, including Navy Seal for a Day, an all-day scuba diving/skydiving/tactical shooting experience offered by former Navy Seals ($15,000 for the full package, with individual activities ranging from $600 to $10,000.) Spa Under the Stars, an evening retreat with exclusive access to its spa and pool, a couples’ massage and a private stargazing experience with a professional astronomer ($1,200 for two people). Room rates begin at $550 a night (no resort fee).
Software tycoon Larry Ellison purchases most of this petite, low-key isle, once nicknamed “The Pineapple Island,” in 2012, and has been steadily remolding its limited accommodations ever since. The 10-room, plantation-era Hotel Lanai (from $250, including breakfast) reopened last December with new rustic-chic décor, remote-control window shades, enormous flat-screen TVs in its once humble rooms. But the anticipation was even greater for the Nov. 1 reopening of the former Lodge at Koele, closed since early 2015. The new, 96-room Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, a Sensei Retreat, is an adults-only, all-inclusive wellness retreat (a first for the Four Seasons) with customized menus and itineraries. Amenities include the first Sensei by Nobu restaurant, a new spa and fitness center, new zipline and rope courses, redesigned pool and 18-hole short golf course, and more. The price? A mere $2,685 per night, minimum four-night stay, for one adult, and $4,397 per night for two—dining, activities and airfare from Oahu included.
The Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele is an adults only resort
After pouring $26.5 million into a thorough refresh of its 508 rooms in 2018, the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is now transforming its spacious lobby to include a stylish new bar and all-day café, lounge, reception area, viewing deck and, on the lower level, a family game room. Rates start at $309, plus daily resort fee of $30 (with an additional $24 daily for self-parking, sigh.)
Closed since October of last year, the former Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows will officially re-emerge on Jan. 20 as Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, following a $200 million renovation. At 333 fully redesigned rooms (down from 368, to boost room sizes and number of suites), this will be the largest hotel managed by Auberge Resorts Collection, based in Mill Valley and famed for its Wine Country properties (Auberge du Soleil, Solage and Calistoga Ranch.) Other improvements include an expanded number of pools and restaurants, remodeled spa and a new cultural center. Rates begin at $774 a night, plus $30 resort fee; an introductory package includes a daily $250 resort credit with a minimum four-night stay.
The historic lava flow of 2018 speeded the closure of financially troubled Kalani Oceanside Retreat, a popular yoga and wellness complex near Kalapana, but its lush grounds and accommodations were not affected. The eruption ended last September, leaving a new black sand beach and lagoon at nearby Pohoiki in its wake. in July, a new board of directors reopened Kalani, declaring it a “nonprofit educational permaculture retreat center.” There’s currently no meal service onsite, but its Hale Aloha sells coffee, ice cream and snacks, and food trucks are an option on weekends. Nightly rates start at $149.