HONOLULU & The Kahala Resort (2015)

On Friday we got back from a two-week vacation in Hawaii.
We spent six days on the island of Oahu at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, and eight days on the island of Kaua'i at St. Regis Princeville Resort.
It has been a wonderful trip and vacation, beautifully enriching and beautifully relaxing at the same time...
My first post is about our experiences and my impressions during our first part.
I'll come with another post for the second part of our vacation.

It was only a 5 1/2 hour flight that separated us from our destination (San Francisco-Honolulu), and since this is not an international flight this aspect spared us from all the hassle of long security controls, and these two things together created an excellent background for all three of us to arrive at our hotel in a very good shape and mood.

Before getting there two facts were impressing about The Kahala: that it was founded in 1964 and it was the most expensive hotel in the world at the time, and that every sitting President of the United States has stayed or visited the hotel at some point during their election campaigns or presidencies.
So it was a bit of "is it going to be indeed as good as I imagine it to be?" anticipation.

I loved The Kahala from the very first moment, we all loved it.
It's a very peaceful, elegant, traditional resort, the lobby is beautiful -- what a delight it was walking through this lobby every time --, it has its own private lagoon and a waterfall, it is isolated from the crowds and chaos on the Waikiki beach and Honolulu in general.

We had the "scenic ocean view" one bedroom suite (# 312), a very large space with two full bathrooms both having a very generous size and small detail luxuries like Bulgari toiletry products, wonderful vistas encompassing the scenic hills, the hotel's private lagoon and waterfall, and a glimpse of the ocean too...

In other words The Kahala immediately seemed like a wonderful choice for our stay in Honolulu.

However, on the "weird/mind-gripping travel experiences" category, here is a brief exchange of information with one of the pool staff members, right on the first day after our arrival:

Me: "Excuse me, where is the restroom?"
Answer: "Right there (he pointed out in the direction)" and then he added with a playful smile "Or you can jump into the pool and pee in there."  

?!?! OH, NO! Training for the pool boys at The Kahala, please?!

The Kahala - The Lobby

The Kahala - The Lobby

The Kahala - The view from our suite

The Kahala - The view from our suite

The Kahala - The view from our suite

The Kahala - The pool, where I used to swim for 30 minutes every day in the early morning

The Kahala - The beach, where I used to run for 30 min every day in the early morning, and some days in the afternoon too

The Kahala - Dolphins swimming in the hotel's private lagoon

The Kahala - Dolphins swimming in the hotel's private lagoon

The Kahala - Sea turtles in the hotel's private lagoon

"The Kahala Hotel & Resort is part of a resource program for the endangered native green sea turtles or Honu.
Two young turtles are raised to maturity in Kahala's natural 26,000 sq ft lagoon.
At maturity, they are released back into the Pacific Ocean."

The Kahala - The hotel's private lagoon

The Kahala - The hotel's private lagoon

A famous place for getting married - the gazebo wedding on the lawn right next to the Plumeria, the restaurant where we ate breakfast

And the same spot ready for a wedding ceremony

We saw so many couples getting married at The Kahala during our stay.
And, very interesting, almost all of them were Japanese, and they were all young, and very good-looking

We saw many young Japanese couples getting married at The Kahala


Our intentions for the first part of our vacation were (more) on the sightseeing side but staying at The Kahala actually set the tone for a much more relaxed approach on our initial plans.
With some effort, for three days out of six, after having a lovely start of the day with an ocean-view breakfast at the Plumeria, we managed to get out of the hotel and to actually do and see something.


Luau is an elaborate Hawaiian feast featuring traditional foods and entertainment.

We went for a Luau at the Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park.

We had a good time, the hosts were welcoming, the natural, open setting overlooking the coast with mountains on one side and the ocean on the opposite one (behind the stage) was beautiful, our daughter did a little Hula dance, we saw how Hawaiians cook a pig in the ground, the show itself was an easy, crowd-pleasing, a little kitschy overall entertainment but fun and we had a good laugh, the dances -- from several Polynesian Islands and Fire Dancers -- enjoyable, there have been stretched moments here and there during the show, and the food was on the average side.

Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park

Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park

Chief's Luau at Sea Life Park

Diamond Head is an extinct volcanic crater, Hawaii’s most recognized landmark, and a "symbol of the worldwide recognition of the Hawaiian Islands".

We hiked to the top of Diamond Head.
Although the hike wasn't difficult, it wasn't a casual stroll either, not too long (less than a mile, surprisingly), but steep, and in the plain heat at 90 degrees/32 Celsius it took us about an hour.

The path is very narrow, and there is a constant stream of people both up and down the trail, you go through a tunnel (225 feet long/about 70 m), there is a 99 step stairway that looks quite daunting, and then another short tunnel and a spiral staircase, and then we reached the top and we enjoyed the stunning coastal views.

Diamond Head hike - a stop on the way up

Diamond Head hike - a stop on the way up

Diamond Head hike - climbing the 99 step stairway

Diamond Head hike - finally on top enjoying the views

Diamond Head hike - on top, enjoying the views

Diamond Head hike - on top, enjoying the views

Pearl Harbor Memorials and Museums is a historic site, "the grounds of one of the most significant, and important sites in United States history", "the tragic attacks of December 7, 1941 shook the island of Oahu, and the United States, forever".

Unfortunately we had time to visit only one site (there are four sites, and each of them requires about 1.5 - 2 hours for visiting) and we decided for the Bowfin Submarine and Museum.

We loved the whole experience, seeing a submarine that actually participated in the WWII, and imagining what life on board must have been like for her 80-man crew, leaving in such tight space, sleeping in shifts, eating in shifts, taking a shower only if it was enough water...
The audio guide for the tour provided great information, with survivors of the war speaking.

I was sad that we haven't planned better (to allocate more time, all the time necessary for visiting all the sites) to immerse ourselves in all the history.

Bowfin Submarine - the deck

Bowfin Submarine - the deck

Bowfin Submarine - very tight space throughout

Bowfin Submarine 

Bowfin Submarine - very tight space throughout, sleeping took place in shifts

Bowfin Submarine - very tight space throughout, eating took place in shifts

Iolani Palace was the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy until the Kalakaua dynasty was overthrown in 1893.

We visited the palace, and we enjoyed again a slice of history, a great overview of Hawaii's history and culture.
The audio guide was comprehensive providing good details on each of the main rooms.

I was impressed to find out about the modernity of the Iolani Palace - King Kalakaua fitted the palace with the latest conveniences including electric lighting, modern lavatories and wash rooms as well as a Bell telephone (upstairs in his study) well before Buckingham Palace or the White House.

A sad room in the palace is the room where the sister and successor of King Kalakaua, Queen Lili'uokalani was imprisoned for several months after the 1893 overthrown.

A detail that I felt particularly connected with was that writer Robert Louis Stevenson was a frequent guest at the Iolani Palace (we live on Robert Louis Stevenson Avenue, and with my daughter I've learnt several of his poems over the past few months).

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace - the throne room

We drove by the Waikiki beach and downtown Honolulu couple of times and they looked so crowded that we decided we don't want to spoil our tranquil state of mind, so we didn't stop.



We had a great start each day with a lovely breakfast buffet just a few feet away from the ocean at Plumeria, one of the hotel's restaurants.
Very good continental food selection with variations every day, and, to my delight, with an Asian/Japanese area too (there were a lot of Japanese staying at the hotel).
I tried many things from this section, and in spite that it was (very) unusual for me to eat things like soups, pickles, etc in the morning for breakfast I liked everything I tried, and even enjoyed a lot some of these specialties.

Plumeria restaurant at The Kahala where we had breakfast every day.
One the left, in the background, hidden behind the trees, you can see the gazebo wedding

(photo via The Kahala website)

Plumeria restaurant at The Kahala where we had breakfast every day.

Afternoon Tea

Although we've heard that the Afternoon Tea at Veranda at The Kahala is very good, we didn't have a chance to try it.
But instead, we had an Afternoon Tea in another beautiful place - the Orchids at Halekulani Hotel.

Excellent tea, savory sandwiches, and sweets, great ambiance, and great beach and ocean view.

Afternoon Tea at Orchids restaurant at Halekulani Hotel

Dinner & Cocktails

Apart from the Luau dinner that I wrote about above, we had excellent dinner experiences.

Hoku's (at The Kahala hotel) is an upscale restaurant serving dishes that blend Hawaiian, Asian, and European flavors.
I loved the chef's take on preparing the sauteed foie gras -- beautiful creation done with baked Maui onion, and macadamia nut caramel sauce.

Hoku's restaurant at The Kahala
(photo via The Kahala website)

Veranda (at The Kahala hotel) is a combination of bar/restaurant/lounge, the place is an extension of the hotel's lobby, and it has a very unique feeling.
Light jazz music is performed daily, in the evening, and the music and ambiance transported me to an old-world... special and very relaxing.

PS: Veranda is described in the hotel's magazine as "the newest 'in' spot for the trendy Honolulu crowd as well as hotel guests looking for the place to see and be seen".

Veranda restaurant/lounge at The Kahala

(photo via The Kahala website)

Veranda at The Kahala - light jazz music performed daily, in the evenings

At the suggestion of one of my husband's friends we tried Roy's (they have several locations, and since we wanted to see other parts of the island too we went at Roy's at Ko Olina in Kapolei, West Oahu).
The location of this restaurant proved to be another wonderful place to eat -- we stayed outside on the terrace overlooking the spectacular view of the golf course from the 18th hole -- and everything from appetizers to desserts tasted great.

Roy's restaurant at Ko Olina in Kapolei
(photo via Trip advisor website)

Roy's restaurant at Ko Olina in Kapolei
(photo via Trip advisor website)

And a few more personal photos from the days we spent at and around the hotel...

The Kahala

The Kahala

The Kahala

The Kahala

The Kahala

The Kahala
The Kahala

Except for the odd dialogue at the pool we had excellent experiences at every level during our six-day stay at The Kahala...
Now we were ready to head off for the second part of our vacation in Hawaii: eight days at St. Regis Princeville on the island oh Kaua'i...

Leaving The Kahala and the Oahu island,
ready for the second part of our vacation: St. Regis Princeville on the island of Kaua'i

Leaving The Kahala and the Oahu island, 
ready for the second part of our vacation: St. Regis Princeville on the island of Kaua'i