It was the best of times, and well, it was the best of times. In April I had the great pleasure of staying at both the Halekulani and the Kahala Hotel and Resort in Honolulu. These are very different properties, and one’s preference for one over the other comes down to location and atmosphere.
Halekulani is located in the middle of Waikiki Beach. It is in a vibrant area close to the Royal Hawaiian Center (Hermes, Fendi, Ferragamo, and other luxury retailers) and a mass of other hotels and restaurants. The pool is right next to the beach and 24/7 beach-goers walk along a beach access walkway, which is separated from the property by a fence and hedge. Halekulani is an oasis in the middle of chaos, and the juxtaposition works. There is such a serene quality to the resort that as soon as I slathered myself with sunscreen and was helped with outfitting a lounger with towels by a pool attendant, I was completely relaxed. When a server came by for food and drink orders I realized the only room for improvement in my sunning state was to have a mai tai in hand.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort is a 10-15 minute drive from Waikiki, located on the other side of Diamond Head, and has a much different feel from Halekulani. It is a ways from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and takes full advantage of its extensive beach. This is a self-contained resort with resident dolphins on site and the Waialae Country Club across the street. My relaxation was enhanced here with a beach cabana, as I needed a little break from the sun. The ocean was yards from my cabana, and I was soon lulled to sleep for a little afternoon nap. Here again there was excellent service, and I woke from my nap hungry and thirsty and was well taken care of as soon as I raised my cabana’s flag and alerted the staff of my desire for service.
Both are Leading Hotels of the World properties; are beautiful; and service was excellent. Dining at both resorts was a treat, as both had casual to fine dining options. Guest rooms were tasteful, beautiful, and luxurious. They offered all that would be expected at a 5 star property, such as full spas; outstanding hospitality; fabulous suites; fine linens; upscale bath products; and nightly turn down service.
Decisions, decisions. How to choose one over the other? If you have little kids or tweens, who will enjoy playing on the beach, Kahala may tip the scale for you. A Dolphin Experience (around $195) is a big kid-pleaser, and that could include kids of all ages. If you have older children who may want a little more action and may want to be where other teenagers are, Halekulani may tip the scale for you. Even though Kahala has a shuttle that ferries folks to and from the shopping district, Halekulani is walking distance to all Waikiki shopping and action.
Having a hard time deciding? You may want to follow my lead. Don’t choose one over the other, but stay at both. Each is a Signature property, which means I can get you a special room rate with amenities, including complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades if available, and welcome gifts. Depending on how long and when you want to stay, there are also packages available for romance, spa, or family vacations. I’d love to help you plan your Hawaiian dream vacation!