Hidden away in the upscale residential neighborhood of Kahala (on the other side of Diamond Head from Waikiki), this elegant oceanfront hotel has played host to celebrities, princesses, the Dalai Lama, and nearly every president since Lyndon Johnson as one of Hawaii's very first luxury resorts. The Kahala is flanked by the exclusive Waialae Golf Links and the Pacific Ocean, surrounding it in a natural tranquillity. Pathways meander out along a walkway with benches tucked into oceanfront nooks for lazy viewing—only a 10-minute ride from Waikiki by free shuttle. The expansive oceanfront CHI Health Energy Fitness Center offers outdoor yoga and Pilates. Fine dining is available at Hoku's; the poolside bar and grill will serve you at your lounge chair on the beach. The reef just offshore makes the waters here calm enough for young kids. The hotel's "keiki club" offers complimentary cultural crafts and experiences, including pole fishing on the jetty. You can also sign up for dolphin interactions in the 26,000-square-foot lagoon or simply sit and watch the dolphins play throughout the day. The 550-square-foot guest rooms, decorated in an understated Island style with mahogany furniture, are spacious: bathrooms have two vanities, and the lanai are big enough for lounge chairs. If you're a golf fan visiting the second week of January, ask for a room overlooking the course for a bird's-eye view of the PGA Sony Open from your lanai. If dolphins are your thing, request a room overlooking the lagoon.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There have been complaints lately that this legendary resort is falling into a bit of disrepair and could use some updating.
There are a variety of large rooms and suites, with ocean and mountain view, one option even includes a view of the dolphin lagoon. Most include lanai, and all include coffee maker, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and twice daily maid service. The muted tones in the rooms allow for a variety of decor in linens in each room type.
Booking directly on the Kahala website gives guests a bonus of $25-$100 in resort credit (dependant upon the type of room reserving).
Bathrooms are fairly spacious and feature a separate water closet, as well as separated standing showers and soaking tubs, all with granite accents. Some of the bathrooms include bidet with heated seat. Bathrooms feature a large variety of signature toiletries.
The hotel lobby is spacious and grand, with vaulted ceilings, chandelier, some seating, and an inconspicuous reception desk. Guests receive a cool towel and an aloha lei greeting upon check-in.
Though the round pool is a bit small, it is still very lovely and is surrounded by loungers and cabanas. There is also a small hot tub and a nearby children’s pool with turtle mosaic.
The Kahala Spa includes a wide range of treatments, including signatures like the Oli Oli Lomilomi massage (hot stone variation of the traditional Hawaiian massage), the Hemp Recovery Remedy, and the Hawaiian Body Mask and Wrap, among others. In addition to these signature treatments, Kahala Spa sets itself apart by beginning each experience with a traditional Ho’omaka Foot Ritual that includes a sea salt soak, aromatic foot scrub, and cooling eye mask.
The CHI Health & Fitness Center is quite spacious, with lots of room to work out on the wide variety of cardio and weight machines. The center is open 24 hours and includes jacuzzi, sauna, and steam room.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort offers five distinct dining experiences. Hoku’s offers “nature to table” Hawaiian cuisine with ocean views for dinner and Sunday brunch, Plumeria Beach House sits oceanside for all-day, open-air dining that includes a seafood buffet on Friday and Saturday nights. Seaside Grill offers light fare poolside for lunch. The Veranda is the spot for more trendy drinking and dining, with an afternoon tea, live music, and light pupus -- this is a fun spot for hanging out for a drink and a nibble. For something a little different, guests can enjoy hybrid Italian fare at Arancino for lunch, dinner, and a special late night dessert seating.
At Hoku’s, they take ingredients seriously, especially the ones that go into their handcrafted cocktails and house-made syrups (beer, wine, sake, and shochu are also available). The Veranda serves cocktails from 5:30 p.m. until midnight, with conversation pits and live music to keep guests entertained. The poolside bar at Seaside Grill is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for those who want to do some day drinking.
Waikiki and surrounding areas are easily reachable from the airport by cab or rideshare. There is plenty to do in these areas without ever leaving (walking, biking, taking the bus, or hailing a car), so a rental car is only necessary if you want to explore other parts of the island. There is a Resort Shopping Shuttle for hotel guests to Ala Moana Shopping Center, Waikiki and Kahala Mall.
One of Chinatown’s standout spots is trendy The Pig and the Lady (21-min drive), a Vietnamese/Asian fusion restaurant with creative dishes that appeal to a variety of palates. They are even able to modify many of their menu items to meet the dietary needs of vegetarians. Their dessert menu is quite stunning, featuring island flavors and a rotating soft serve program, as is their cocktail menu full of quirky drink names and ingredients.
If you’re in or around the Ala Moana Center, the Hawaiian take on the gastropub is not to be missed. At The Brilliant Ox (21-min drive), guests will find an all-day menu with incredible shared bites, lunch specials that include amazing ingredients on a bun, and a vibrant brunch menu. Late night hours on the weekend make it a great spot to linger and enjoy their handcrafted cocktails and beer menu while grazing through their menu.
Even if you’re not staying at The Modern, you’ll want to sneak behind the bookcases in their lobby to grab a drink at The Study (18-min drive). It may look small from the outside, but this bar with yummy cocktails, incredible live music that gives way to a DJ, and diverse crowd is large and inviting. Alas, you will definitely not get any studying done.
House Without a Key (19-min drive) inside Halekulani Hotel provides some true upscale island ambiance along with its dinner and cocktails. The restaurant has a dedicated portion of its service area for those looking to enjoy a drink and an appetizer along with their nightly music and hula performances. Their signature drink is the mai tai but take our advice and try the off-menu “Lost Passion,” a tequila/passionfruit/champagne concoction that will get you in the island spirit.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Kahala manages to be one of the most luxurious resorts in Waikiki, but doesn’t charge a resort fee. It offers a variety of amenities including a hospitality suite with shower for guests for before and after checking in/out, as well as intro surfing lessons and stand up paddleboard clinics. It’s also an incredibly beautiful place to spend a vacation, and its location just a bit away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki make it even more relaxing.