Your selection of where to stay can be one of the more important decisions you’ll make in planning your visit. To some, it’s just a place to sleep and rather meaningless. To others, it’s the difference between a good vacation and a bad one. On this page, we give you our unbiased reviews of popular Hawaii resorts on each island.
Turtle Bay Resort
This 840-acre resort is on 5 miles of beaches. On our visit for this edition it was looking the best we’ve seen it. The place seems to have a very low-key, relaxed vibe overall, and the staff is nice. New owners have slowly but steadily been putting money—over $70 million (including solar power)—into the property. In other circumstances, they might have simply leveled the buildings and rebuilt them. But Hawai‘i’s current laws would never again let them build so close to the ocean. The result is a polished gem.
Rooms in the main building are simple, clean, modern and warm in tones of turquoise and browns. The new bathrooms are fabulous with rainshower heads, handhelds, and even benches in some showers.
Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach
This 1973 property was formerly the Ohana Waikiki West. Like so many other recent Waikiki hotel transformations, the $110 million spent on this property was well worth it. Everything was gutted and replaced, even the elevators and the pool. From the moment you walk in, it has a fresh, modern feel with a lot of warmth. Each of the Garden Inns around Hawai‘i is unique, and we like that about this brand. It’s not overly pretentious or too pricey.
The pool deck isn’t very large for a resort of this size, but it works with a full service bar (although, if you want food you’ll have to order a takeaway from the restaurant located in the lobby), a billiard table, plenty of seating and a view overlooking the new International Market Place. There are two fitness rooms, one with cardio machines and one with free weights and floor space for yoga.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina
This Four Seasons opened its doors in 2016 after a $250 million renovation to the former JW Marriott Ihilani Resort. Although the entry and footprint don’t feel much different to us than the former hotel, many amenities have been added to bring it up to Four Seasons’ standards.
They have added an adult pool and spa/hot tub and a keiki pool that is partly sand-lined, as well as a keiki spa/hot tub. Their fitness/tennis/spa center occupies the same building as before with a tennis pro on site, basketball court, separate cardio and weight rooms (with personal trainer), full service spa (with its own lap pool and spa/hot tub) and children’s center. The children’s program called “Kids For All Seasons” is free for guests, and they even have a room for parents and babies, as well as an adult game room for those who can’t give up their Playstation time.
Ko‘a Kea Hotel & Resort
This was originally the Po‘ipu Beach Hotel built in the 1960s and whacked by hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992. It was left abandoned until the current owners rebuilt this upscale boutique-type hotel on the original footprint of the old buildings in 2009. The resort is airy and modern with themes of ocean life in bright colors scattered about. Most rooms are dark chocolate and white with a splash of hot pink, orange or teal and feel larger than their listed size. They’ve thought of many nice touches you don’t often find at hotels of this size, such as Nespresso machines (unlimited pods supplied), ceiling fans in every room so you can leave the doors open and enjoy the ocean sounds, reading lights, Egyptian cotton sheets, down feather beds and pillows (which they can remove if you don’t like them), keyboard height pull-out desks on wheels, and showers with rain shower heads mounted in the ceiling and wide benches to sit on. Overall, we found it relaxing, peaceful and appreciated the intimacy with the ocean.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
It’s hard for us to review this resort without sounding like drooling sycophants. But the reality of the Hyatt is that they did almost everything right. Put simply, it’s our favorite big resort on the island.
As you walk into the lobby and see the ocean framed by the entrance, you realize that here they really sweated the details. The grounds are as exotic as any you will find in all the islands, complete with parrots and other birds. Their pools are incredible. Gallon for gallon, they’re more fun than any we’ve seen on the island. The upper swimming pool seems to meander forever. It even has a slight current and hides such goodies as caves tucked behind small waterfalls (they’re easy to miss). Take your time exploring as it winds through lush vegetation. The Hyatt’s an easy Real Gem, and their awesome grounds put them in a class of Hawaii resorts by themselves.
Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club
From the immaculate, garden-like grounds (complete with birds and koi) to the smashing pool area, this resort works. The overall feel is calming. They have tons of artwork strewn around the resort. Marriott has an unbelievable circular pool with a bridge to the center island and spas along one edge. What strikes us as most impressive about the Marriott is the service. They obviously take great pains to provide whatever the guest wants. Their last renovation to the rooms modern furnishing and a good use of colors.
They organize many activities, such as scuba diving in their pool, beach massages and private poolside dinners. They have many cultural programs on site and movie nights on Kalapaki Beach.
Four Seasons Resort Maui
Oh, my, where do we start? We’re fearful of sounding like drooling stooges for the Four Seasons, but this is our favorite resort in Wailea.
When you walk in, you can actually feel the tension falling from your limbs. It soon becomes evident why. Here, they did everything right. The resort is immaculate and lovingly cared for. The smallest details seem to have been anticipated. The grounds are impeccable. Not a dead leaf or blade of grass in sight. The staff here is the most professional we’ve seen and seem genuinely concerned about your happiness. There are two and a half employees for every room. (It’s getting harder and harder to find those half employees.) While you’re at the pool, they’ll come by and spritz you with Evian water, clean your sunglasses, offer chilled towels, snacks and even wet the beach sand with water so you don’t toast your tootsies. (Their beach, Wailea Beach, is one of the best on the island, an absolute dream.) The pool area doesn’t feel as packed as some other Wailea Hawaii resorts.
Westin Nanea Ocean Villas
This is the newest resort in Ka’anapali—and that’s a title they’ll probably be able to hang on to for a long while since the resort was built in 2017 on the last remaining stretch of vacant land along this part of the coast.
The comfortable, modern, apartment-like villas are ideally suited for people who want to stay a week or longer. Spacious with well-appointed living rooms, “Heavenly” king beds (yeah, that’s their branding not-so-subconsciously working its way into this review, but the term fits), fully equipped kitchens and luxurious bathrooms. There’s a consistent design theme that runs throughout the resort that incorporates elements of ancient Hawaiian culture, but it’s subtle and not at all stereotypically Hawaiian.
Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
With over 1,000 condominium units, this is the mother of all properties on Maui. Seven plantation-style buildings on 26 acres located on beautiful Kahekili Beach. Built as a timeshare property, they also maintain a healthy inventory of vacation rentals.
If you have kids, this is the place to be. They have a dreamy kids’ program and center, which offers everything from arts and crafts to cultural activities to video games. The program is $80 for the day for kids 5–12 and includes lunch and a seasonal night camp for $65. You have to love the pirate ship keiki pool because your kids will have a blast (no pun intended) using it. The other pools are lagoon-shaped with a 109-foot waterslide at the south pool, but they do tend to jam a lot of chairs around all the pools. There is also an adults-only pool.
Big Island Resorts
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
This was the first resort to grace the Kohala lava desert area, and a large part of their business is repeat customers. Built by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1965, it set the standard for all that came afterward. The Mauna Kea has traditionally been one of the most popular resorts on the island, and it’s a grand place to stay. The resort is very restful and pleasing, and the staff is top-notch. The rooms in the main tower are modern and clean with touches of teal and orange, the hotel’s trademark colors.
They have the best beachside location on the island, with the marvelous Kauna‘oa Beach (usually called Mauna Kea) right at its doorstep. This beach alone qualified it for a real gem, as far as we’re concerned.
Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
The King Kam (as it’s known locally) is a Kona fixture. Located next to the Kailua Pier, the hotel is fronted by the tiny but calm Kamakahonu Beach. The Ahu‘ena Heiau is also on the grounds. This area was the home of King Kamehameha during his later years, and his legacy has been adopted by the hotel in paintings and artwork (they give tours).
Rooms can be described as modern and fresh. The design is rooted heavily in Hawaiian nature patterns and is reflected in everything from the coffee bean fabric on the chairs to lava pattern on the hallway carpets. This design works for us. Microwaves may be rented for $10/day. Rooms either have two queen beds or one king. The infinity pool is very inviting. They have activity vendors on-site to help with everything from yoga classes to parasailing, along with beach gear for rent and cabanas available for a full ($55) or half ($40) day. The staff shows a lot of aloha toward guests.
We try not to blather on about a resort—it hurts our credibility. But when it’s right, it’s right. The Fairmont Orchid has an intoxicating richness that permeates everything. The lush grounds have a very sculpted and precise feel. Nothing is out of place. The inside is just as flawless. The lobby, halls and rooms are all richly furnished with lots of wood and fine carpets—even the elevators are paneled in koa with crystal chandeliers. The overall effect of the resort’s rooms and common areas is European-Hawaiian elegance. The entire staff seems obsessed with pleasing you. Restaurants are what you’d expect, on the higher end with delicious results. They have their own garden and bees on property and use items they grow for their recipes.
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