Each of the Hawaiian Islands offers something unique to discerning travelers—Oahu is great for first timers to explore the ever popular city of Waikiki and big wave surfing; Kauai contains the only navigable river in Hawaii and nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” boasts spectacular cliffs; Lanai is quiet and private, with not one single traffic light on the island; Maui features some of the best beaches in the world and is a great location for whale watching during the winter months; The Big Island’s diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to snowcapped mountains to active volcanoes, make it an exciting and enticing locale; and the less frequented island of Molokai exudes a more historic feel, with half its population coming from Native Hawaiian descent.
With these varying island environments comes the need for many different hotels and resorts. While some are focused on all things outdoors, other are centered on families, romance, world-class spa treatments and even epicurean experiences. What they do all have in common however, is a reputation for superior luxury, stunning views from all directions and Hawaiian hospitality that warmly welcomes guests into the island culture.
Here are our picks for the top five hotels in Hawaii:
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea: Home to the largest guest rooms in Maui, this family-friendly resort shows visitors how much they care by paying careful attention to the details—offering fresh fruit by the pool every hour, milk and cookies upon arrival and kids' menus at all three of the hotel’s restaurants.
Halekulani: Waikiki Beach on Oahu is lined with luxury hotels, but Halekulani ranks among the best for its breathtaking views of Diamond Head, slew of on-property dining options, award-winning spa, sophisticatedly simple guest rooms, and over 100 years of experience hosting visitors from all over the world.
2199 Kalia Road Honolulu, Hawaii 96815; (808) 923-2311; Halekulani.com
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel: In 1965, Laurance S. Rockefeller founded Mauna Kea, with the idea that “Every great beach deserves a great hotel.” In 2006, the property was given a $150 million facelift following destruction from an earthquake, but still maintains its historic and timeless appeal. A 1,600-piece art collection, championship golf course updated to current USGA standards, and Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar featuring an exhibition kitchen and extensive wine program are some of the highlights.
St. Regis Princeville: This hotel will surprise guests from the second they walk in to the lobby—located on the top floor, travelers are immediately faced with unparalleled views of the island of Kauai. On property is a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool, two golf courses, Halele’a Spa offering poolside treatments, romantic dining under the stars, Mailani dinner show overlooking Hanalei Bay, and the Young Voyagers Club with programs for kids and adults incorporating activities revolved around science, culture and marine life.
The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele: This resort is actually one of the few that does not sit right on the beach. Its location gives guests a chance to get away from the ordinary Hawaiian scenery and experience more of the customs and traditions of the peaceful island. The concierge is happy to arrange for a Jeep rental so guests can drive to popular attractions like Polihua Beach, Munro Trail, Hulopoe Bay or the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center.
One Keomoku Highway, P.O. Box 631380 Lanai City Hawaii 96763; (808) 565-4000; FourSeasons.com