This hotel on Kauai’s north shore is the perfect beginning for a discussion of what really defines 5 stars and the term ‘luxury.’ I’ve said it before and now I’m reminded again – but what looks great on paper and on the Internet, isn’t necessarily so. Trip Advisor can fall short of comparing hotels within the same class. – just because somebody writes that their hotel stay was or wasn’t great doesn’t mean that they have much (or any) experience comparing it with other similar hotels. The traveler has to go beyond these tools – ask friends, read Virtuoso Life, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, ask your preacher or ask a good travel agent who specializes in what you’re looking for.
Here’s a non-exhaustive look at some of my impressions of the St. Regis Princeville in Kauai.
The bell staff was probably the best of any hotel I’ve ever stayed out. They were friendly, fast and helpful. You couldn’t ask for more.
The Front Desk staff were good too. I didn’t like my initial room directly over the pool so within a couple of minutes we had something preferable. But they didn’t go out of their way to greet you when you walked by or otherwise make you feel ‘at home.’
The Concierge Desk is very odd. They share staff with the Starwood time share people so you don’t know if you’re speaking to somebody who wants to help you or sell you something. As soon as I got into my room on the first day, I had a phone call from the “Starwood Preferred Guest” person telling me to come down for a gift. Turns out they were the afore-mentioned time-share people. I felt like I was at a cheap hotel in Mexico [so I’ve heard – I would never stay in one]. This was very disturbing.
The first day at the pool we were asked by the server to order our ‘last call’ drink because she wanted to go home. Now that I write this 2 weeks later I still can’t believe she said that. The next day a different server said the same thing.
– The last day at the pool I was never approached by a server asking if I even wanted a drink.
DESIGN & SETTING
This older 80s Sheraton was gutted and reopened a year ago as Starwood’s upscale brand, St. Regis. Apparently they put all their allotted time in planning for service issues to design issues. The hotel is absolutely beautiful. The entrance, lobby, bar, rooms and hallways are all done in a very sophisticated modern aesthetic with Hawaiian accents. They used native Hawaiian material as well as stone from Egypt. I really enjoyed walking around the place as it was so beautiful to look at. And when you couple that with the natural setting – which is one of the finest settings for a resort hotel in the world – it’s really, really nice. No wonder there were so many honeymoon couples there.
ROOMS AND SUITES
They have the perfect rooms for honeymooners – as long as you’re young. Amazing views of Hanalei Bay, and in the junior suites, a shower overlooking the bay. Black marble bathrooms with silver furnishings are quite continental. Rooms don’t have balconies, but the window do open and they have a very nice long window seat. If you’re familiar with Seabourn’s original ships, it’s kind of like that.
But you have to be young because the bathtub/shower combination is raised and you have 2 steep steps to get in there. Once you and your partner are inside you can flip a switch and the opaque wall becomes transparent with a view of the mountains as well as your entire room. Very sexy. But if you’re over 40 there are 2 problems. The first is that you may not be able to make it into the tub/shower without killing yourself and two, if you need you use the bathroom in the middle of the night as soon as you turn on the bathroom light the entire room lights up, opaque or not. Also, there’s no shower door – it’s your European style half glass style. This room is not big on modesty.
The amenities were pretty wonderful. By Remede. I much preferred them over Bulgari or even L’Occitane which seem to be popular lately. Housekeeping was responsive and very good.
RESTAURANTS. PUBLIC SPACES.
We had breakfast in the main restaurant overlooking Hanalei Bay. If you were the honeymooners from Arkansas we met, you probably would have loved it. But I’m from San Francisco and I found the food to be mediocre and the service was slow. I missed the Macadamia Nut pancakes that I had at the Grand Hyatt Kauai on my last trip. Or give me the buffet at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island anytime!
And other than a little café you can go to for morning coffee (room coffee was awful) and a yoghurt, there are no other shops in the hotel at all. Actually there’s an entire area near the Concierge/Timeshare desk that is deserted.
GRAND HYATT KAUAI
It’s been about 3-5 years since I was last in Kauai and stayed at the Grand Hyatt. The hotel is located on the sunnier (and much more active side) of the island, in the area of Poipu Beach. It’s about a 45-60 minute drive to Princeville/Hanalei Bay. It’s much bigger, a bit more commercial and decidedly less snazzy than the St. Regis, but it worked better. The restaurants are nicer as I remember, and the spa is much nicer. The beach isn’t good at all for swimming, but it’s not so great in Hanalei either. And the service at the pool bar was great!
A fun part about staying up north is that your vacation has to be relaxed. There is little to do besides hike, kayak and hang out. And we did all three. Restaurants are good enough and Tahiti Nui does have awesome Mai Tais and healthy size and tasty dinner entrees. All the restaurants are super casual and almost all are indoor/outdoor. Try Bubbas Burgers, Kalypso and Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant. The Kauai Grill (by Jean-George Vongerichten), in the St. Regis, was too austere for my tastes so we didn’t go.
COMPLIMENTARY HOTEL PERKS & BEST WAY TO BOOK
The one-two solution for learning more about Kauai is to 1) call me (415.248.5079) or email me; and 2) have me book you on your honeymoon or next vacation there. And remember, we offer fabulous perks at all top hotels in Hawaii (even the St. Regis), such as complimentary breakfast, upgrades, late check-outs, spa credits, etc. Amenities differ depending on the property. Best rates (if not better) guaranteed at all of Hawaii’s top hotels and resorts.
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Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys. Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA and abroad, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler and management of study abroad groups. Business services include high-touch reservations, exclusive hotel and airline offers. His relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful business or leisure trip.
If you’d like to learn more about Kauai and the St. Regis or Hyatt Hotels, other luxury hotels in Hawaii, or anything else about luxury travel, please contact me in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.248.5079 or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com