Ah, Hawaii. Just the sound of it is enough to send some of us over the top. Beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and gorgeous flowers — they’re just part of the postcard-perfect scenery that makes up the Hawaiian Islands.
Aside from Mother Nature, though, part of the island’s beauty can be found in its beautiful hotels and resorts. Many Hawaiian properties take great care to reflect local culture, showcasing island art, cultural icons and indigenous flowers.
But perhaps the most unique aspect of Hawaiian hotels is how they seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor living. Open-air lobbies, hallways that feature open windows without glass, and huge lanais (decks) allow guests to enjoy the great weather and ocean breezes.
Here are our picks for the top hotels in Hawaii.
1571 Poipu Road
Koloa, HI 96756
The Grand Hyatt in Kauai is at the top of our list. The landscaping and architecture embrace the open air, while the pools, waterfalls and walkways are lined with lush flowers and greenery. This luxury resort hosts many weddings each year, and that’s understandable given its idyllic setting. Each of the hotel’s 602 rooms is large and comfortable, with a private lanai. If you visit only one spa during your trip to Hawaii, this is the one. The 20,000-square-foot Anara Spa features treatments that blend Hawaiian customs with the latest stress-relieving techniques. We liked the fragrant spa products so much that we had to bring some home. Room prices start at $434/night.
Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club
Lihue, HI 96766
This large resort is a one-stop shop, with five open-air restaurants, a huge family pool that any kid will love, and 18 holes of exceptional Jack Nicklaus golf. The resort recently underwent a $50 million upgrade, with nice enhancements to its large rooms and guest areas. Best of all, the property has a great beach where you can take surf lessons. You may never want to leave. If you don’t want to rent a car, the resort has a complimentary airport shuttle. Rates start at $249/night.
Big Island (Hawaii)
Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa
8-128 Ehukai St.
Kona, HI 96740
This resort enjoys an enviable location on Keauhou Bay — an area that draws some unusual guests. Giant manta rays come to feed in the bay each night, drawn by plentiful plankton. The Sheraton Keauhou Bay has been a leader in developing the local manta ray experience, with guest lecturers at the resort providing insight and education on these graceful creatures. Guests are not only informed, but can often view the manta rays from the deck at the resort. Want a closer look? The Fair Wind Manta Experience, a well-respected outfitter, will take you into the bay at night. After donning a wetsuit and snorkel gear, you drop into the water to float alongside a string of lights. The manta rays, unfazed by their cheering audience, come amazingly close as they feed. Trust us — it’s an unforgettable experience. Rates begin at $159/night.
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
62-100 Mauna Kea Hotel Beach Drive
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is our top pick for golfers. The resort’s Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s award-winning golf course has received recent updates by Rees Jones with excellent results. The course is known for its superior amenities (including a nice driving range and putting green) and sweeping views of the Kohala Coast. Our favorite part of Mauna Kea, though, has to be the huge, remodeled guest rooms. The resort artfully melded three guest rooms into two, which resulted in spacious floor plans. The bathrooms are HUGE, with floor-to-ceiling glass providing gorgeous views of the ocean or golf course. In the guest rooms, every luxury appointment has been considered, from iPod docking stations to large flat-screen TVs and top linens. You’ll feel like royalty at this resort. We certainly did. Rates start at $329/night.
Outrigger Reef on Beach
2169 Kalia Road
Honolulu, HI 96815
For decades, Waikiki has been “the” place to go in Hawaii. And that hasn’t changed. This amazing stretch of beach in Oahu is a hub of activity and rarely ever sleeps. Surfers, tourists and locals come for the waves, the beaches and the shopping — not always in that order. The Outrigger on the Beach captures that Waikiki energy, with a resort that melds timeless Hawaiian traditions with top service and comfort. Free Internet is offered in guest rooms, and daily Hawaiian activities include hula lessons and lei-making. Local Hawaiian musicians perform each night at the Kani Ka Pila Grille. The sound of the waves and Hawaiian music are a soothing combination. Rooms start at $199/night.
Kaanapali Beach Hotel
2525 Kaanapali Parkway,
Lahaina, HI 96761
This classic Hawaiian hotel may not be the most luxurious or the most modern, but we love it for all it represents — respect of Hawaiian culture. The staff seems to truly enjoy passing their culture along to visitors. This moderately-priced hotel takes great care to provide activities and entertainment that reflect the local history and culture, from ukulele lessons to lei making to hula every night at sunset. As a result, many guests “connect” with the staff and resort, and come back year after year. The Kaanapali Beach Hotel has been called “Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel,” and we find that’s no exaggeration. Room prices start at $159/night.
If You Go