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.
Book hotels online (with my perks) here.
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.