HAWAII Travel Guide
A few months ago, we put out a poll that asked readers how they felt about hotels replacing traditional keycards with electronic wristbands. A few people liked the convenience of having everything on their wrist and not keeping track of a key, but most, including this writer, balked at the idea.
Part of it is that the hotel chain in question, EVEN Hotels, is charging guests $8 for them. The other part of it was the belief that if anything is going to replace our beloved keycards, it should be smart phone technology. Who needs one more thing?
Alas, it looks like enough people are at least interested in the concept to give the trend a chance to become a mainstay. But this time it’s no small potatoes. This time, it’s Four Seasons touting them as a perk.
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Paia Inn Hotel
On Maui, most of the mega-resorts are concentrated in two areas: Wailea south of Kihei, and in Kapalau and Kaanapali north of Lahaina. This week, as we zoom around Maui, we've kept our eyes and ears open for some alternative places to set up shop, boutique properties outside of these main hotel zones that put visitors in small towns around the island. Here are a few to check out if you want to switch things up on your next trip to Maui:
Paia Inn Hotel
The Paia Inn is appropriately located right smack in the middle of downtown Paia, a small, T-shaped town that sports one of the more liberal and laid-back attitudes on Maui. The 11-room Paia Inn has been raved about for quite some time by the press, and it has also been enjoyed by many a guest. The Inn echos the town's vibe with bamboo floors and boldly-colored local paintings. Rates start at $199/night and includes free wifi, beach chairs, and boogie boards.
Hanalei Colony Resort, Kauai
The island of Kauai presents a number of resort options up and down its east coast, from the Grand Hyatt at Poipu Beach in the south to the Marriott outside of Lihue. For first timers to the island, this location makes sense for lodging as it puts you between the island's main attractions: Waimea Canyon and Hanalei Bay.
For those who have been to Kauai before, or who simply don't feel the need to zip around the island, Hanalei Bay is a great place to set up shop. It's a prime spot to learn to surf and, officially, home to only one resort, the Hanalei Bay Resort. Still, that doesn't mean there are no crowds. The small town is the main attraction for those staying in neighboring Princeville and remains a top draw for all visitors to the island, including those passing through on their way to the Na Pali Coast in the northwest.
View from Hanalei Colony Resort looking towards Wainiha Bay
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Pool at the Four Seasons Manele Bay
So much for Larry Ellison's plans being on hold. Right now, he is a permit away from closing down all three hotels on the island of Lanai for a substantial part of 2015.
We already told you last week about how the Hotel Lanai is going to be used to house construction workers for the next year, and now it appears the Lodge at Koele - one of the two Four Seasons properties - will also contribute to the cause. Multiple outlets are reporting that Ellison plans to close the 102-room Lodge to vacationers for nearly all of 2015 to accommodate workers.
What are all of these workers going to be doing? It's all about the other Four Seasons property, the Resort at Manele Bay. It's currently undergoing renovations to its restaurants and west-wing rooms, and an additional proposal introduced last week would see a new round of renovations begin in January, culminating with the resort closing completely for about five months from June to October. Pulama Lanai's spokeswoman, Lori Teranishi, gave Pacific Business News an overview of the island-wide effort:
Now that they've seemingly made their impression upon locals across America, we've seen all sorts of attempts by ride share services Uber and Lyft to break into the tourism market the past few months, turning their attention to hotel guests. The Hyatt app now includes the Uber app within it, and Lyft gave guests of the Vagabond a code to use for $25 off their first ride. The latest spotting comes from the Shoreline Hotel in Waikiki, where cards offering a free $30 ride greets guests upon check in.
The catch is that you have to be a new user to redeem the deal - obviously the goal is to get new people to sign up, though it'd be nice if they threw a bone to those of us who are already members, since taxis are everywhere in Waikiki, and it is sometimes easier to just step outside and have staff whistle a cab than go through the process of requesting a private ride.
What makes the island of Molokai special is quickly evident when you start to peruse its lodging options. Not only are there no major resorts, there is only one hotel on the island, simply named the Hotel Molokai. Unless you're renting a condo or a private home, this is where you'll rest your head during your stay.
An absence of choice can be scary, especially when traveling so far from home. But once you visit, you'll understand why the lack of a resort scene makes total sense. Molokai is by far the least touristy of the major Hawaiian islands, and if there is any doubt about its unwillingness to concede, just ask the owner of Molokai Ranch or the cruise ship industry.
With that in mind, what we found was that the Hotel Molokai perfectly fit the personality of the island, a place residents can be proud of and accept. It houses one of the two bars on the island, which is very popular with locals, especially when the weekend kicks off with "Aloha Friday" and a group of a half dozen Molokai musicians take over the stage.
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By now, we're all up to date on the situation regarding Lanai and new-ish owner Larry Ellison. He has a plan, but no one is exactly sure what it is or how it will play out. While that's generally accurate, there are a few truths that have come to light since Ellison started pouring money into the island. We discovered one earlier this week during a visit to the Hotel Lanai: You won't be able to get a room here for the next year.
As the big plan continues to take shape, Ellison has begun work on a number of specific projects, including rebuilding community infrastructure and partially renovating the Four Seasons Manele Bay, one of the two Four Seasons properties on the island (there are three properties total on the island, the two Four Seasons and the Hotel Lanai). As you might imagine, these changes require a lot of construction, and many workers are being brought in from off the island. Due to the shortage of housing that already exists on Lanai, going forward, workers are being housed at the Hotel Lanai.
When we think of visiting Hawaii, it is usually beaches and palm trees that come to mind, not crowds and concrete. But anyone who has visited the south side of Oahu knows that it is extremely different from the rest of the Hawaiian Islands in terms of its development. While any fool can surmise what we mean from the photo above, we decided to dig a little deeper and take a look at the numbers as it relates to the hotel scene.
Using the most recent numbers from the 2012 report, the Hawaiian Islands have 144 traditional hotels with a total of 43,151 rooms (not including B&Bs or hostels). The breakdown across the islands shows that Oahu has the most with 68 hotels and 26,186 rooms; Hawaii Island has 32 hotels with 6,785 rooms; Maui has 26 with 7,172 rooms; 15 and 2,660 for Kauai; and Lanai has 3 hotels with 348 rooms. According to the report, Molokai had no properties that qualified as a hotel.
The total number of units for the state of Hawaii, including hotels, B&Bs, hostels, rental condos and apartments, timeshares, and other rentable inventory is 74,650. Of that total, Oahu has 35,126 units; Maui has 19,659; Hawaii Island has 10,794; Kauai has 8,289; Molokai has 429; and Lanai has 353. This means that in terms of places to stay in Hawaii, Oahu and Maui harbor about 73% of them with 47% and 26%, respectively.
A few years ago, Hawaii was hit with a tsunami that caused damage to hotels on both sides of the island, mostly in the lobby and the lower levels where the water rushed in and ripped through.
We're happy to report that the unlucky hotels have since renovated, which we suppose is one (and perhaps the only) benefit of having your entire first floor wiped out by a wave of water - an excuse to spruce things up.
We visited two hotels on opposite sides of the island, the Hilo Hawaiian and King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, which were both affected by the tsunami and have since redone their lobbies and parts of their property. Although there is a risk that comes along with the ocean-front location, it also rewards with rockin' killer views.
Although Kauai and the word "big" would never be used in the same sentence to describe its size, it does have a surprisingly large property in the form of the Grand Hyatt Kauai, which is located on 50-acres with over 600 guest rooms, an outdoor spa, seven restaurants and a golf course.
It's a resort in every sense of the word, but it certainly is a beautiful property. It recently renovated its 37 suites and committed itself to green initiatives, the coolest of which is a design aspect that says no building can be higher than the tallest coconut tree, ensuring that the natural environment remains a main attraction despite it being a sprawling resort.
This HotelChatter contributor learned a valuable lesson and enjoyed a red-sand beach along the Road to Hana, but more importantly, he discovered that driving back to "civilization" on the same day would be foolish given the hotel that awaits travelers. Despite being a small, sleepy town, Hana is home to one (and only one) rather incredible resort, the Travaasa Hana.
Formerly the Hotel Hana Maui, the deal here is that you are transported back to the "old Hawaii," a place before all the concrete and cars showed up. While we know that sounds odd since we're talking about a resort, we were impressed by how well-incorporated it was into the landscape. Other than the floors of the buildings, the only concrete to be found was the path that led from the lobby to the rooms and the small walkway around the edge of the infinity pool. Otherwise, it's green grass, palm trees, and ocean views.
There is definitely a market out there, especially when it comes to Hawaii, of people who simply want to pull up a chair on the beach and plop down for a week, with no interest whatsoever in exploration outside of the resort walls. Give them the ocean and the sand and a couple rum punches followed by a decent dinner, and they're happy little Hawaiian campers.
But what if you like the sound of the above, yet also consider yourself somewhat of an adventurous person - maybe not someone who will walk into any dive bar in any small town, but one who wants to venture off property during the day and return to a beautifully maintained resort to relax? Just because you enjoy staying at hotels doesn't mean you have to close yourself off completely to your surrounding environment, and we found the 72-room all suite Hotel Wailea in Maui to be a perfect example of the type of hotel the adventurous should be after.