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 |
an independent affiliate of travel experts | a virtuoso agency

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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.

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Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco


Kauai | Napali Coast

Please enjoy this photo of one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Happy Holidays,

There’s nothing quite like a small boat ride, or a hike, to get a look at this part of Kauai.  If you’d like to learn about the top hotel here, read my review of the St. Regis Princeville.

Call Josh for details, excellent pricing & the ultimate in service

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco’s financial district
415.987.0372 |
with travel experts, a virtuoso member agency

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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, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler.  His personal  relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies often allows for exclusive amenities and VIP status. 

 If you’d like to learn more about luxury travel and our services, please contact Josh Friedman Luxury Travel in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.987.0372  or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, too.

associated with travel experts, a virtuoso member and four seasons preferred partner, 201 spear st., ste 1100,  san francisco, ca 94105 cst# 2080753-40

St. Regis Princeville in Kauai | A Visit

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

For photos of this trip to Kauai, please visit my Flickr site.
And for current vacation and cruise promotions, visit my site or click here to go there directly. Or call me.


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

hanalei kauai church

 St. Regis PrincevilleKauai Bridge