Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Best Hotels of Hawaii and Aloha Spirit

Aloha is the coordination of mind and heart... it's within the individual. It brings you down to yourself. You must think and emote good feelings to others.
A stands for AKAHAI, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness.
L stands for LOKAHI, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony.
O stands for `OLU`OLU, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness.
H stands for HA`AHA`A, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty.
A stands for AHONUI, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

Just back from 12 days in Hawaii and i was touched by the Aloha spirit. Some of you may have heard me say before going - i am not keen on Hawaii - it's such a long way to go for beaches that are not as good as those we have nearby.
     It has been 27 yrs since I was there - hard to believe. i used to go every year before that with one group or another and one of my early fams was to Hawaii. But then flying became such a chore. Well not on Continental - they have superb service I must say, and flying their nonstop (767) was delightful. the 767 does not have flat beds, but a very well padded and comfortable seat and the leg rest was perfectly positioned for getting a solid 6 hrs. of sleep.
     Continental's airport facility at Newark is very, very good, with lots of good shopping, restaurant outlets, and very courteous and friendly ground crews, and equally friendly flight attendants in each direction - it was a pleasure to fly Continental. I know Cliff and Luisa indicated they shared this nice experience recently on CO as well.

     So yes, it's a long way to go, but CO makes it very pleasurable and you can get a good solid sleep. From the moment you land, one is touched by the Aloha spirit. I learned this time around, that it is not just a tourism gimmick, but deeply felt as part of the culture, which is why i give you the essence of the Aloha spirit.. This spirit is embodied in everyone at Four Seasons and the Hawaiian people practices Aloha, and finds pleasant things to say and do as part of every day.
     One usually says one needs at least 10 days for Hawaii - I would add another two for twelve days if one can do it and the perfect blend was the hotels I had the wonderful opportunity to visit. The perfect in every way to do it is with the three Four Seasons properties. but first another great hotel....


Halekulani - we all know it, and it has won many an award as being one of the best hotels in the world, and it did not disappoint. The redo has exceptionally beautiful furnishings and style, and immediately puts one in a calm and serene frame of mind, despite being in the midst of Waikiki (although it is tucked away just enough off the main street ). Lewers Street from Kalakaua leading to the Halekulani is oh so lovely, with torches lining the streets at night, sweet little boutiques with very reasonable prices, and for those wanting Hermes, etc. it is right there - extraordinary shopping along Kalakakaua.  Afterall, here is where the Japanese come to shop the LV & Hermes of the world, with great selections. One can even save on the sales tax which is a paltry 4%, and the selections are terrific.

     The terrace and outdoor dining spot "House Without A Key" is an enchanting people watching spot around sunset. Really sophisticated and low key crowd, and a nice combo playing that wonderful 40's music puts you in another world. with Waikiki beach as a backdrop, surfers riding the last waves, the music wafting through the palms, one feels as if on a set of From Here to Eternity. the crowd ranges from families, to California hip, film crews and everything in between, Food is excellent at the hotel.

     We had a corner deluxe room facing Diamond Head and a large terrace. While the terrace was quite a good size, the room was a bit smaller in the Japanese sensibility, but with lovely furnishings, fine linens and appointments.
     Halekulani means " House Befitting Heaven" and, for us old timers ,who remember when it was a collection of one story (most two) cottages on prime Waikiki real estate in sore need of a redo. Well the new construction honored the old ,and it is an inspired modern design that strikes just the right scale.
so i keep the little note from my pillow on my bedside table now.... "May your journey bring you home to our "House Befitting Heaven".

     Kahala Resort- we did go out to Kahala to see how it is and it is still a quiet, wonderful little spot and the best place to eat beachside. The central lobby is still elegant and has held up very well although I miss the dolphins as you check-in. they have moved them along the lagoon thing along the back - a sign of the times I guess. Now it has sort of an admission booth - not quite, but some kind of sign up station which changed the feeling quite a bit.
    Lunch was okay but not wonderful, although the magical setting along the beach is still as I remember, and the people are that wonderful friendly style of Hawaii.
    Waikiki is most definitely worth a stopover - a place where East meets West in a gentle land, and one cannot beat the shopping, dining and city scene which goes all night. 

Hawaii in Four Seasons style .... the absolutely best way to see Hawaii and capture the Aloha Spirit

First stop Four Seasons Maui - 4 nights here which was the perfect length. allowing time to wander up to Kaanapali and a dinner stop in Lahaina (Wailea is 45 minute drive from Lahaina). A visit to Maui's Upcountry is also an interesting and easy day trip, where one can go back to the agricultural roots of Maui . We were told they are trying now to move from the dominance of sugar cane to grow other things ,and they are starting some artisanal farms for goat cheeses, mushrooms, etc. The Up Country villages on the way to Haleakala offer some interesting vignettes, some hippie boutiques and, I am told, some good little bistros.
much has changed, and now Wailea is, from my view, the more desirable side of Maui, but then, Kaanapali is so close to charming Lahaina.

Lahaina Grill - a very special restaurant in Lahaina owned by the former executive chef of The Mandarin in Hong Kong and one knows when dining at this colorful, historic  spot that one is in the hands of a master chef.

     The Four Seasons Maui offers something for everyone and is a lovely hotel in design on a very nice cove beach good for swimming. The outdoor restaurant serves a good selection and is chaming and candlelit for dinner under the stars.

     The hotel is a large edifice however the lovely gardens (and they are grand) and the open feel of the lobby, bar and dining areas add that Four Seasons touch.

A new addition - an adults only serenity pool is marvelous - the GM told us it was done at a cost of $10 million and one can believe it. a delicately done, tasteful swim up bar, cabanas where one can get a discreet outdoor massage, and ringed with jacuzzi jets around the perimeter that stretches the length on both sides of the 50 ft. long infinity pool. all of this is on the hill overlooking the Pacific, and the curve of the beach - breathtaking!

     Duo, the main reastaurant is open air, skirted by the main pools and the food is excellent and inventive. Another good dining experience is in Wolfgang Puck's signature restaurant for the wonderful fusion they serve up.
     In keeping with FS policy, they invite local artists to exhibit their work in the lower lobby and, as one goes to/from breakfast ,there are these wonderful artists, and a chance to find a special piece, which adds to the connectedness of place that FS always strives for. Did you know that Isadore Sharp (founder and wonderful leader of FS, started with his first hotel in Toronto, and introduced it by starting an art show for emerging artists, which is now 40 years old and going strong.
     It is the exposure to art and fine taste that makes all FS unique, and one feels lifted up in spirit being surrounded by such quality and fine, fine service and kindness. Not to mention I had one of the best massages of my life here, and became pain free (bad back) for the first time in over a year as a result.

Four Seasons Hualalai - Big Island Kohola Coast - now here is Hawaii just the way one would dream of spending days in Hawaii. This resort is very, very special and the golf I understand is C'est Extra!

     Most rooms face the sea in 4 distinct areas each offering certain charms. we were in Sea Shell which was perfect for us. There was a salt water lagoon just in front for worry free swimming in the Pacific, and a pool and one of the restaurants was just nearby. The other areas are Beach Tree (nearest to main pool), Kings Pond, and Palm Grove . Each area is different to some extent and I would be happy to help if you are sending clients to this wonderful resort. Some of the outdoor rooms have outdoor lava showers while the upstairs rooms from the terrace give lovely views - the terraces are large with a table & chairs and two chaise longues.

Hualalai has been all redone and, while I heard a few women colleagues say they found the rooms a bit on the masculine side, I personally find them very much in keeping with the ambiance of the Big Island.
The several dining options all proved to be very good and at night the property is lit mostly by torch- lit paths that meander the extensive property. Everyone you pass smiles and says aloha.Once again it is this gentle mood that becomes pervasive and puts one in a sense of calm and peacefulness.

     The rolling waves and tradewinds just lull one's spirit. The spa treatments are very good here as well and massage can be outdoors.

There are a number of dining options all offering sea views and wonderful food.

   VOG -one negative is this volcanic Smog they call Vog. it comes from the Big Island, a new fizzure that opened two years ago and adds sulphur dioxide to the air when the trades stop blowing., Oahu was particularly effected when we were there, when the Kona winds blow, (prevailing winds are from the NE) but when the wind comes from the south it reaches Oahu,. At certain times the air quality on Hawaii is not good for anyone who suffers from asthma or respiratory conditions and the local people I am told put multiple air filters on their homes.
     Last stop the quiet island of Lanai - Lanai had been a private island for the Dole Pineapple Company and their 3,000 workers and in its heyday no one could go to Lanai unless they were connected to Dole Food Company now owned by Castle & Cooke who became real estate developers..

Four Seasons  Manele Bay is a wonderful place to unwind, where one can have a room opening directly onto the Pacific Ocean. The beach is quiet with good swimming and snorkeing, where Spinner Dolphins come to romp each morning, and wild turkeys parade past one's terrace if you are ground level.

     Genny tells me the golf is superb here and I don't doubt it.

      The rooms are all very large, nicely appointed with big verandahs or terraces.

While all FS offer children's programs and do special things for kids, we were very impressed by the children's center on Lanai especially, . The program offers a good sampling of activities and Lanai is perfect for families. But it is also perfect for honeymooners or, as we had, a final stop on a Hawaii sojourn. It is so very relaxing.

     Lanai City is a 15 min drive in the complimentary shuttle or, for those that are more sportive, a bicycle ride away and offers some little art galleries, I am told some nice island boutiques and a glimpse into old Hawaii.
     There are only 3,500 inhabitants on Lanai. The airport is modern and for the outdoor types ,Lanai offers some good outdoor adventures such as riding along the ridge in jeeps along the crest of the island.

    Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is very special . Maginificent grand Norfolk Pines line the road all the way up and it is truly a unique experience to visit the lodge. All visitors to Lanai should plan on using the Lodge facilities as well as Manele Bay.

When one walks into the great hall of the lodge there are fireplaces burning on either side. The air is decidedly cooler and a bit misty as the sun sets which makes it just right. The sunsets from here are spectacular, and the rooms at the lodge are everything one would expect from a Great Lodge - charming with views over the extensive gardens, horse pastures and croquet fields.

Rooms at Koele Lodge are in keeping with the Great Lodge feeling from the original plantation house and offer those cozy comforts one would expect in a great lodge

A perfect Hawaii vacation - combine all three because each one offers unique charms, and each is quite different. Island hopping is easy, remind your clients to pack light, (not like me - ugh!) and they will succumb to this land of Aloha spirit and magic


posted by: Barbara Herrott   |  President
Travel Exchange | 32  Thread Needle Lane | Stamford, Ct. 06902 | 203.961.1900 | 800.248.0248

Original Post: 02/03/10

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