Hawaii has no shortage of luxury resorts, laid-back retreats, and backyard bungalows where you can bed down in between beach visits. JS hotel expert Lindsey Olander gives us the scoop on the 10 best hotels in Hawaii.
Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
This hot new opening minutes from Waikiki Beach has '60s surf-chic down pat. The lobby greets guests with beach scenes by native photographer Mark Kushimi and a living fern installation, while L.A.-based Studio Collection modeled the 112 rooms after beach bungalows found on the north shore: batten walls are hung with surf prints and old postcards while beds feature colorful Tori Richard fabric headboards. Everyone is up-talking the pool, which has a “wish you were here"-inscribed mosaic floor. The real conversation, however, revolves around Mahina & Sun’s, the on-site restaurant covered in Andrew Mau shaka wallpaper that’s led by chef Ed Kenney. Order the Kualoa Ranch oysters and marlin poke with pickled mushroom.
This restored 1909 upcountry estate turned educational wellness retreat is a real escape for the soul: there are 24 rooms in plantation-style buildings surrounded by organic gardens and lush lawns, an open-air lounge punctuated by swinging rope hammocks, an elaborate labyrinth, and a meditation lawn overseen by a stone Buddha. Other perks we love: yoga classes, musical performances, and sustainable dinners with ingredients from Lumeria’s own gardens.
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Four Seasons Resort Lanai
It might have just a single airport runway, but Hawaii’s quietest island is picking up energy thanks to the March opening of the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. New owner Larry Ellison has reimagined the resort’s former Balinese-inspired décor into something more contemporary, with 217 rooms done up in teak and zebra wood with hand-woven wool rugs and mahogany floors. You'll also find multiple bathrooms, wooden bathtubs (suites only), and open terraces that look out onto the gorgeous Hulolo’e Bay. Ellison has brought in a few heavy hitters including cult chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who oversees one of the restaurants, and a guests-only golf course even amateurs will want to work into their schedule.
Volcano House, Big Island
Few stays on Hawaii offer what the Volcano House does, which is unobstructed views of the bright, spewing lava that spits out of the Halema’uma’u Crater from its location on the Kilauea caldera rim. Volcano house is the only hotel inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is the state's oldest property (opened in 1846)—but the interiors were given a contemporary facelift in 2013. Don't miss dinner at the hotel's The Rim restaurant, with floor-t0-ceiling windows that look out onto the swoon-worthy vistas.
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The Lodge at Kukui'ula, Kauai
Kukui’ula, a 1,000-acre South Shore’s resort community known for its award-winning Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, has finally opened a “lodge” for non-members—yet this collection of villas and bungalows feels just as private. Those with a penchant for extra space will love the two- and three-bedroom cottages, styled after plantations homes but with all the modern creature comforts (gourmet kitchens, vaulted ceilings, covered lanais, outdoor fire pits) you'd expect. Guests also get access to the Plantation House (a center for dining, drinking, games, and pool), the 18,000-square-foot spa, and the communal farm.
Hotel Wailea, Maui
Hawaii’s only Relais & Châteaux property was made for couples, where 72 adults-only suites (more like private homes) are spread over 15 acres with balconies looking out towards the Pacific, and where the lush grounds—mango trees, koi ponds, footbridges—beg for morning strolls. Private drivers are on call to whisk guests down to the beach, but the hotel has plenty of draws to keep you onsite, from the award-winning (and newly rebranded) restaurant to the cabana-lined pool with its own apothecary-style bar that serves up all things fresh and fruity.
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Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu
After a three-year wait, Waikiki’s newest luxury high-rise is finally open to the public. The 28-story tower embraces a contemporary “island-deco” vibe, where 307 residences (from studios to three bedrooms) face the beach’s west end. This is a Ritz-Carlton, so expect a few indulgent perks including the first Hawaii outpost of gourmet market Dean & Deluca, an 8th-floor infinity pool (the city’s highest), and a serene spa. This property requires a two-night minimum stay, but who flies to Hawaii for just one night?
Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu, Kauai
When it comes to accommodating big groups, few properties do better than Koloa Landing Resort, home to Kauai’s largest villas complete with gourmet kitchens and spectacular ocean views. There’s something here for everyone, including a family-style lagoon pool and a secluded adults-only oasis—both with Jacuzzis, fire pits, and poolside barbeques. A $100 million expansion, to be completed in early 2017, is introducing 200 additional residences (including studios), a poolside bar and grill, and a new lagoon pool with waterslides and cabanas.
Travaasa Hana, Maui
There's little competition when it comes to where to stay in Hana, a hushed, undisturbed town on Maui's eastern coast—but Travaasa Hana still manages to outshine many of the island's other resorts. For some, this is the epitome of island living: 70 cottages and suites (recently remodeled to the tune of $12 million) are void of radios, clocks, and TVs, where your stay is custom tailored to meet your needs—be it all-inclusive or à la carte, with activities that cater to foodies, fitness fiends, adventurers, wellness gurus, or culture hounds. At the gorgeous spa, traditional Hawaiian massages are the order of the day; if you're traveling partner, we highly recommend the two-hour Hana Couples Escape.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection, Big Island
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of this Big Island mainstay, known for its extensive private collection of Polynesian, Oceanic, and Asian art (sourced by its founder, Laurance Rockefeller) as well as its championship golf course and 11-court tennis club. To celebrate, the property underwent an $8 million refresh that saw a complete overhaul of the property’s beloved Copper Bar as well as the addition of a new ballroom, a wedding planner's dream with floor-to-ceiling views of Kauna’oa Bay.