Honolulu| Four Seasons Halekulani & Ritz-Carlton

I recently returned from Hawaii where I checked out most of the top luxury hotels in Maui, the Big Island and on Oahu (Honolulu and area).  Here are my thoughts about Oahu, from Waikiki to Ko Olina.

LOCATION*

Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina | On the beach, 20 miles west of the airport and 27 miles west of central Waikiki.

Halekulani | Bascially on the beach in central Waikiki, 8 miles east of the airport.

Royal Hawaiian | On the beach next door to Halekulali

Ritz Carlton Residences | A few blocks from the beach in central Waikiki, right up from both Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian

* Location: Why does it matter?  Ko Olina is pretty far from everything except the Disney hotel next door, some other time shares in the area and a small shopping center. You’re pretty much going to spend your vacation there, enjoying the facilities and their restaurants.  A  half-day trip to Pearl Harbor would be logical.  Waikiki is insanely busy with a lot of high end shopping geared for mostly Japanese tourists. But with that you get lots of restaurants and street buzz. There is also the very SOMA/SOHO type neighborhood in Chinatown  (very close to Waikiki) which is great for hipster bars and restaurants. This was a highlight of my trip, actually.

THE HOTELS AND RESORTS

Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina | I loved this place.  Other than being brand new, the rooms are large, bathrooms huge and sexy, balconies have views, great design throughout and they have Nespresso machines, the best type of pod coffee out there. Highlights include:

  • This is a fairly big resort (371 rooms) with a lot of floors in a 70s building which they’ve done a very good job of ‘lightening up.’ It’s a real 180 from the Four Seasons in Maui, Lanai or the Big Island, especially Hualalai.
  • Views facing east toward the pool, beach, ocean and the hotels down the beach or views facing west of natural beauty and the nearby  evening luau’s at Paradise Cove (which might be the only downside of this view, but I’d risk it)
  • Several restaurants to choose from including Italian (yum, I enjoyed) Fish, Asian & Pool (yum, I love my burgers and friendly bartenders)
  • Fitness.  Tennis – lots of it.  And a gym which is currently being expanded
  • Spa. I thought the spa was just OK as it’s not be redone.
  • Beach. This is shared with Disney’s Aulani next door and there is a rope separating the two.  The Four Seasons has beach chairs and beach service and that’s great. Nearby pool is fine.
  • Adult pool.  Super nice.  This is a brand new very quiet infinity pool on the side of the resort away from the beach. I could have spent all day here. Tres chic.
  • Rooms.  Huge contemporary rooms with huge bathrooms.  Very modern. Very sexy. Overall my favorite rooms between the other Four Seasons (but I haven’t seen the new rooms at Four Seasons Manele Bay in Lanai yet and I hear they’re incredible.)

Halekulani | The history of this hotel goes back decades and has a prime location with truly spectacular views of Diamond Head from some of the rooms and from the pool.  The current building is from around 1980. My thoughts:

  • Service is exceptional and very old fashioned. It’s almost like you’re not in Hawaii though. No Aloha shirts here   – it’s dark suits.
  • They put a lot of effort into their restaurants, and the view from Orchids is pretty wonderful. Of course, any view of Diamond Head is wonderful.
  • Their signature Orchid pool is elegant with their ‘famous’ sunset cocktail hour with hula and ukulele right there. I even had a view of this (& the ocean) from my 15th Floor room.
  • The beach is accessible from the pool area and is right there, so you can walk as far as you’d like to.
  • I’d strongly recommend that I book you a Diamond Head view.

Ritz Carlton Residences | A few blocks from the beach in central Waikiki, right up from both Halekulani and Royal Hawaiian sits the first of two combination residence/hotel towers of the Ritz-Carlton.  It just opened in July 2016.

What I liked: If you want to be in Waikiki, the rooms (which all have a kitchen or kitchenette and washer/dryer) are really nice.  They’re brand new, very light and airy  and have a contemporary theme.  The views, either toward the ocean or mountains, are wonderful. They have the first acclaimed Sushi Sho outside of Japan but it’s $300 a person.

What I didn’t like:  Architecturally, it’s attractive but massive, and it’s only half built! It appears out of place, even for Waikiki.   And because it’s only half built the facilties for its 307 rooms aren’t really ready for prime time. The pool is tiny and restaurants are minimal (just one other than Sushi Sho). But it is Waikiki and there are plenty of places nearby.

Royal Hawaiian | I didn’t see the rooms here, but the public areas are truly unique and a throwback to the early 20th century when the hotel was built.   It’s called the Pink Palace for a reason.  Even with 528 rooms, it didn’t seem overwhelmed or too commercial like the nearby Moana Surfrider, a Starwood 4 star property down Kalakaua, the main drag.

The Kahala | I did not visit.

 

Other Reviews from my September visit to Hawaii:

Maui / Four Seasons at Wailea
Maui / Andaz at Wailea
Maui / Hotel Wailea Relais and Chateau
Big Island / Four Seasons Hualalai
Big Island / Mauna Kea

f o r   m o r e   i n f o r m a t i o n   &   t o   b o o k

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency

facebook  twitter  flickr  you tube
four seasons preferred partner

Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

Call Josh for details, the ultimate in service & exclusive luxury hotel amenities with Virtuoso.

4083 24th street, #460250,  san francisco, ca 94114 cst# 2080753-40

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco

Advertisements

Mauna Kea | Big Island

We were at Mauna Kea a few years ago, and really loved it.  It’s a classic 60’s mid-century masterpiece that looks even more fabulous after a recent makeover.

Built by Laurance Rockefeller on the best beach on the Big Island, it shines in its individuality.  And like any resort, it’s not for everybody. And neither is the Four Seasons Hualalai.

Highlights

  • It’s one easy to navigate building surrounded by oceans and gardens.
  • The beachfront building is a later attachment with rooms opening directly onto a lawn facing the ocean
  • Views are awesome.
  • Classic artwork is everywhere. Their Buddah is particularly wonderful.
  • Their main restaurant has a great view as well and is wonderful. It’s not directly on the beach like at the Four Seasons, but it’s nice. (Not being inches from the beach helps it weather storms better though)
  • Rooms are really stunning (see pictures). Mid-century meets Hawaiian, but not too mid-century.
  • Bathrooms are huge and very indulgent.

Enjoy! And we include complimentary breakfast daily, an upgrade if available and a spending credit (subj to change at any time)

f o r   m o r e   i n f o r m a t i o n   &   t o   b o o k

 josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency
facebook  twitter  flickr  you tube
four seasons preferred partner

Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

Call Josh for details, the ultimate in service & exclusive luxury hotel amenities with Virtuoso.

4083 24th street, #460250,  san francisco, ca 94114 cst# 2080753-40

 

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco

 

Maui | Andaz at Wailea

I’ve been coming to Maui since the 80’s and first came to Wailea in 1985 when I stayed at the InterContinental (with free Pan Am points!) and had a very elegant dinner at the Renaissance.  The Renaissance was so snazzy that when we arrived we were seated and presented with our own personalized matches.

Fast forward 30 years and the InterContiental is now the Marriott (and is undergoing a major renovation) and the Renaissance, after having been closed for about a decade, is now the Andaz.

I’m typically not a fan of luxury divisions of multi-national hotel corporations.  Given the choice I suggest to my clients try a top independent hotel or one from a small chain such as Dorchester, Oetker, Maybourne, Rosewood, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula or Belmond. Small Luxury Hotels and Relais & Chateau are collections of independently owned hotels and overall i like them too.  And the Mauna Kea on the Big Island which I’m visiting on this trip will make this list too. Four Seasons is quite different as they manage only luxury hotels, so they know what they’re doing.

Back to the Andaz. I was really impressed with my visit there  and was able to get the sense that even though they’re part of a large chain, and a brand (Andaz) that I don’t think is super focused, that this hotel has their act together and is a great example of a luxury hotel. Service levels are still significantly below that of the Four Seasons, but for most travelers, they’ll be good enough.

The rooms are modern, chic, sexy and a good size. Check out the photo in this post of their shower.  What you can’t see is the room is directly to the left of the shower and has a clear glass wall between them. Perfect for honeymooners. There are blinds too if you prefer!

The restaurant, Ka’ana Kitchen is equally as sexy. We only had brunch here (twice!). The layout and presentation are truly spectacular. The hostesses were wonderful and cuisine delicious, but the service was too ‘relaxed’ for my preference.  Overall though, awesome and worth the $47 price tag (oh, it’s free if you book with me!). The Four Seasons is $41 and not nearly as good (but that’s free too by booking with me).

The pools? There are 5 of them, including 1 adults only pool. The main 4 are 1 on top of each other, like I imagine the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to be. Very nice.

Loved the spa, too. Wish I had had time to use it.  Like the rest of the hotel (including their very cool 24/7 general grocery/coffee place) it’s very hipster and you can mix your own massage oil. Like that idea.

Suggested improvements?  I don’t like the daily resort fee, and I don’t like the separate cost to use the spa facilities. At prices equaling the Four Seasons, it takes away from the relaxed experience.  The price should be the price. For that matter, the FS shouldn’t charge for parking.

 

f o r   m o r e   i n f o r m a t i o n   &   t o   b o o k

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency

facebook  twitter  flickr  you tube
four seasons preferred partner

Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

Call Josh for details, the ultimate in service & exclusive luxury hotel amenities with Virtuoso.

4083 24th street, #460250,  san francisco, ca 94114 cst# 2080753-40

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco

Four Seasons Hualalai | Beach at Night

Big Island Hawaii| Four Seasons Hualalai

Aloha!

I’m finally relaxed after a week in Hawaii. Amazing how much time it takes. Used to be 5 nights was good.  Now it’s clearly 7.  I’ll just blame in on my urban lifestyle. A successful business I will admit adds to that. But all’s good.

On this trip, I’ve now seen 3 of the 4 Four Seasons Resorts in Hawaii – Maui (Wailea), Big Island (Hualalai) and Oahu (Ko Olina).  Just arrived Oahu so that post will follow.

Hualalai is the opposite of the other 3 (including Four Seasons Lanai which I saw 2 years ago). Instead of high rises there are 2 story bungalows spread out on a fairly long stretch of coastline, and bungalows behind them.  Several swimming pools, from adults only to kid friendly to tres chic to “swimming with fish” dot that coastline. Same with the restaurants. There’s a huge gym/spa and lap pool set back, next to tennis courts, a wonderful store for an early AM coffee and pastry. The lobby is back in there as well.

Service is very Four Seasons which is over the top super friendly and accommodating. On an island with zero percent unemployment this is not easy to accomplish but it’s done well. Maui continues to be more cosmopolitan and things run fast and on LA/NY time. You won’t find that pace here, in the more relaxed Hawaii.

At Hualalai, I adore the gym/pool/spa.  It’s really damn gorgeous and huge. You could spend the entire morning or afternoon here. Outdoor his & her gardens are wonderful, so shed it all if you like.

I also truly love love the main restaurant here which sits directly on the beach. Amazing that the waves don’t come up to the table. I’ve been here before and it’s probably the most romantic restaurant I’ve ever been to. If I can think of another one, I’ll update. The breakfast buffet (free if you book with me) is unreal. Beats the FS Maui (sorry). Yesterday I had lots of papaya and bacon, a balanced meal ?

My room was actually pretty great. The big question clients have about Four Seasons Hualalai is should I take a room downstairs with the outdoor shower, or upstairs (prime) with the ‘better’ ocean view and balcony.  From my downstairs ocean view room in the Palm Court section, I had the best of everything – ocean view (with the waves at eye level not far away), an outdoor shower (yes, very very cool) and very close (30 second walk) to the adults only pool, with its own bar.  Yes, heaven.  So downstairs or upstairs? If you’ve never been to a beach resort or if you just love the (higher/better) water view, go upstairs. Otherwise, I really loved that lower location.

And thanks Four Seasons Hualalai for meeting me (and every guest) right at the Kona airport, even though I had a rental car. That’s a super nice touch.

And one last thanks to my contacts here who take such great care of my clients. We’re a Four Seasons Preferred Partner agency. This is their highest level program which flags bookings at a high VIP level. And of course any bookings from me usually puts a smile on their face too.

Aloha & Mahalo!

 

f o r   m o r e   i n f o r m a t i o n   &   t o   b o o k

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency

facebook  twitter  flickr  you tube
four seasons preferred partner

Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

Call Josh for details, the ultimate in service & exclusive luxury hotel amenities with Virtuoso.

4083 24th street, #460250,  san francisco, ca 94114 cst# 2080753-40

Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco