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We love hotel renovations nearly just as much as we love new hotels. But what we really love about hotel renovations is seeing the transformation that happens when an old, tired and lackluster room gets a modern makeover and transforms into new, spiffed-up, stylish guest room. Or put more simply, we love comparing the Before and After.
Kea Lani means "white heaven" and the all-suite and villa Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui certainly is divine now that it's completed its extensive three-year, $70 million renovation. Improvements have touched nearly every aspect of the 22-acre Wailea property.
Above is how a one-bedroom suite at the property used to look. Just a bit too dated for our tastes. But keep reading to see how the place looks now!
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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The few things we know at this stage? It will be the first Four Seasons hotel on the island of Oahu, the fourth island of Hawai’i with a Four Seasons (the others are Maui, Lana’i, and the Big Island), and the fifth Four Seasons in total. Another first is the creation of private residences, which adds to our expectation that the current room count of 387 will change.
The only rendering we have is above, a sweeping staircase (complete with lady in a mustard-yellow ball gown) over reflecting pools. The architects working on the renovation include 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Toyo Ito.
When we look at the JW Marriott website, we can only make reservations up to January 9, 2015. We think it will be 2016 or 2017 until Four Seasons reopens.
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.
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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.
While visiting Maui in May, we often looked across the beach from Wailea where we were staying, over towards the island of Lana'i.
One time, while staring at Lana'i, a passerby told us, "Do you know who bought that island? Larry Ellison of Oracle." Wow, we thought. That's how rich he is. He can buy an island in Hawaii. An island that contains two Four Seasons Resorts. Turns out it's not that simple.
Technically, Ellison owns 97 percent of the island, not the whole thing but as the New York Times pointed out, that's still a lot. The cost to buy the island in 2012 was $300 million and Ellison, who stepped down as CEO of the Silicon Valley company last year, wants to turn the Lana'i into the "first economically viable, 100 percent green community." Ellison, under the guise of his management company, Pulama Lanai, expressed interest earlier in the year to build a fourth resort (Ellison also bought the Hotel Lanai, the other resort on the island) and hoped to extend the island's airport, along with other modern modifications to the island.
However, not all the plans that Ellison has for the island are working out, like the extended airport and the desalination plant. Also, a renovation of the Four Seasons Manele Bay was apparently downsized. Not that it has mattered to guests. The TripAdvisor reviews are still off the charts. The hotel did renovate all of its rooms and they do look rather incredible on the website. Here's how the general manager explained the renovations to the NY Times:
They say opposites attract, although isn’t internet dating saying the opposite these days? Anyway, here’s an interesting combination: laidback Hawaii meets stiff-and-proper Paris as the head barman from the Ritz Paris is heading to the Halekulani hotel in Waikiki to present an “interactive cocktail pairing experience”.
Colin Field, from the Ritz’s Bar Hemingway (and the “best barman in the world”, according to Forbes), will be in Hawaii from 22-26 September, propping up the bar at L’Aperitif. On his final evening (6-8pm) he’ll lead a “tasting experience”, demonstrating the art of cocktail making and then (the crucial part) doling them out, along with posh amuse bouches created by the hotel’s exec chef.
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That’s right: the latest news coming out of Hawai’i is that Four Seasons might get its hands on a fifth hotel in the island state. Above the current JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina, which Pacific Business News is reporting will close early next year for extensive renovations and reopen “under one of the top luxury brands in the world”.
While there is no official confirmation yet from either the developer or Four Seasons, the latter has registered a business in Hawaii under the name “FS Ko Olina Inc.”, which seems to suggest something is indeed in the works.
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Maui Week continues! On Monday, we gave you a list of Must-Stay Hotels for Wailea in Maui. Today, we're heading up the mountains for a different side of Maui. Don't worry, it's not too far from the ocean. Mahalo!
Your dream vacation to Maui probably involves lounging on a beach and sipping on a Mai Tai. What your dream vacation probably doesn't involve is getting up early to wait in line to reserve a beach lounge chair. Or dealing with screaming kids by the pool. Or waiting for an elevator in a sopping wet bathing suit.
While the resorts along the beach in Wailea offer easy access to the ocean and beach activities, along with several different pools to try, they aren't exactly the most tranquil spots in town. Enter The Hotel Wailea, a Small Luxury Hotel of the World.
Located in the hillside, about a mile from the beach resorts, the Hotel Wailea features 72 suites spread across a 15-acre property. Each one-bedroom suite has generous bedrooms, and living areas with sectional couches, along with outdoor lanais. All of them are extremely private and quiet and most have full ocean views. None of them require elevators to reach. Rather, you meander along winding pathways, admiring the waterfalls and koi ponds along the way.
Now, beach bums, don't fret. The hotel has complimentary shuttles to the beach along with a dedicated beach attendant, ready with complimentary water bottles, chairs and umbrellas. It's the best of both worlds.
Exactly what you want to see after a long flight to Hawaii.
In today's extremely competitive luxury hotel market, high-thread counts, personal assistants, and in-room dining menus from Michelin-starred chefs simply won't cut it anymore. Airport Lounges, however, will set you apart from the other five-stars out there. And that's just what the Four Seasons Resorts Lania (which includes Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele) has done at the Honolulu International Airport.
Located in the commuter terminal, the 1,000-sq.ft. luxury lounge allows guests special treats and amenities while waiting for their quick flight to Lanai (it's about 25 minutes.) That includes food, beverages, iPads, Wi-Fi access, charging stations, luggage holding areas, magazines, newspapers, and HDTVs. There will also be a lounge concierge on hand to assist with check-in, activity arrangements and restaurant reservations.
And since guests will be arriving at various terminals in the Honolulu airport, the Four Season Lounge can arrange a "Concierge Transfer" from Island Air which will pick guests up at their arriving terminal and either walk or drive them over to the Four Seasons Lounge.