Hawaii offers a landscape straight out of Jurassic Park (it was filmed there, after all!), and if you want to get a true feeling of the island and its beaches, watch the box set of LOST, and you will see what you are missing out on.
Towering jungle-covered peaks rise from the deep blue Pacific Ocean, and palm-fringed beaches give way to glorious surf and quiet bays. The islands of Hawaii are simply spectacular.
The islands belong to the United States of America as the 50th and most recent state to have joined the USA. Luxury resorts here are large, and most sit right on the beach. Some rooms are so close to the ocean that the sound of the sea will lull you to sleep.
My take on Hawaii is that these islands offer a magical place to escape when the weather gets cold. I love to paddle down on Waikiki beach in the evening with Elvis yodeling from a distant hotel bar. He’s still popular on the islands and seems to provide a background soundtrack to the swaying palms, particularly just before Christmas.
The sand always feels warm on your feet. Even in the evening, an island breeze is ever present and ruffles your hair, and lights from all the seafront hotels twinkle and reflect in the waves. Unlike many Caribbean islands, you feel safe in Hawaii and can walk miles along deserted beaches.
And when you step off the plane, you feel the heat. It is rarely too hot or cold in Hawaii (except in their air-conditioned shops, which can be freezing in a t-shirt). It is almost always just right. It does rain, but the rain is rarely continuous. If you want to avoid rain, pick the dry side of each island, like the resort area of Wailea on Maui.
The Four Seasons resorts are particularly outstanding on the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii is paradise. It has something for everyone, and here is our pick of the top ten luxury hotels on these magical islands.
1. Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Four Seasons Lanai and Four Seasons Hulalai are the two best hotels in Hawaii. They are impossible to choose between. Four Seasons Lanai is particularly good for sunshine, and the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay is the best resort on Lanai.
Four Seasons actually has five hotels in Hawaii; Four Seasons Hualalai (on Big Island), Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, Four Seasons Maui at Wailea, and Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina. They are all gorgeous and are the best hotels in Hawaii. We’ve already outlined which is the best Four Seasons hotel in Hawaii. For us, it is Lanai or Hualalai.
If you fly to this private island, you arrive at a small airport with a private Four Seasons lounge. From the airport lounge, you are driven to the Four Seasons Lanai on Manale Bay, which is about the most picture-perfect beach you can imagine. Only Four Seasons guests use this beach, and as many spend the day playing golf, the beach is usually fairly empty. It is often just you and the dolphins that are there to enjoy the sunshine in this slice of paradise.
This luxury resort, which reopened in 2016 after undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation, offers dazzling views over the gold crescent of Hulopo’e Beach to the blue-green waters of a protected marine preserve. Expect to see all sorts of fish in the water, and when we were there, dolphins were jumping about in the shallows.
The pool, the views, and the newly refurbished stylish rooms make this resort perfect. The beautiful interiors showcase walls of teak and zebra wood edging. Floors are indulged with wool hand-woven area rugs. Tropical gardens, two lagoon-style pools, and cascading waterfalls serve as a beautiful backdrop.
Two hundred seventeen over-sized guest rooms & suites all have a private lanai, so there simply isn’t a bad room in the resort; you pay more for the view and a room right by the ocean. A Spa and two golf courses will keep you busy if you get bored of the beach.
In the evening, men run around lighting tiki torches, and you can enjoy an alfresco meal at Nobu or just stroll down to the deserted beach and look at the stars. There is no light pollution for miles, so this is a great place for catching a shooting star.
To say this resort is magical is an understatement, and you can read more about the best resort in Hawaii in our review below. Of note, its sister resort on Lanai, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai The Lodge at Koele, which is not on the beach, has reopened and is a luxury mountain option in Hawaii. It is usually cheaper than the Manele Bay beachside property and can be a way of enjoying this exclusive island at a discount.
2. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island
This is also the best Four Seasons in Hawaii. I love this resort for the open-air showers in many of the downstairs rooms, the turtles that come and say hello on the beach, and the pool full of fish that you can swim in.
Set on the Big Island’s exclusive Kona-Kohala Coast. The 243-room resort is low-rise (just two-storey bungalows) and spread out. Its award-winning golf course is one of the best on the islands. The pools here are beautiful and have a natural look with lots of volcanic lava.
The hotel itself is perched on dramatic blackened lava from the Volcano. The entire low-rise complex is dotted with palm trees and has a long, private beach. The mix of warm sand, deep blue Pacific waters, lush green tropical foliage, and neon flowers means that the setting can only be described as breathtaking.
The design of this low-rise hotel means that it never feels full, even though this glorious hotel often enjoys 100% occupancy. The two-story buildings are spread out, so you never feel like the hotel is particularly busy. The Four Seasons Hualalai also has a wonderful garden that stretches down to the beach, and its pools are an absolute highlight.
Guests can choose from three restaurants and two lounges, along with an award-winning sports club and spa and a private Jack Nicklaus signature golf course. But it is the turtles, fish pool, and showering under the stars that keep us coming back.
3. Four Seasons Maui
Situated in the sunny resort of Wailea and easily the best hotel in Wailea on Maui, this is the place to stay. The Four Seasons Maui at Wailea is located on 15 oceanfront acres, overlooking a beautiful crescent-shaped gold sand beach in Wailea, also offering three championship golf courses. The hotel has 376 spacious rooms and suites located in an eight-story building.
At the Four Seasons Maui, most of the rooms face towards the sea with gorgeous Lanai. Base rooms face the mountain and car park but are still large and lovely with a less sunny lanai. A top tip is that this Four Seasons has a Club lounge, so you can snack for cheap if you book a room with Club Lounge access.
Sitting right on a beach that is shared with the Hilton and Marriott, this Four Seasons is up the road from the Fairmont and the Andaz. There is also a rather lovely open-air shopping mall a short walk away to pick up snacks and to buy some new clothes.
This resort is quite busy and does not feel as exclusive as Lanai, but it is such fun. All the bars and restaurants look out over the beach, and a 2-mile (3 km) beach walkway connects all the luxury hotels and runs along the end of the beach in the resort, so you can walk for miles to wear off any overindulgence.
4. Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ka Olina, Oahu
This is the newest Four Seasons resort and is awfully convenient for Honolulu airport and also for shopping in Waikiki, which is a drive away. In fact, in our opinion, this is the best luxury hotel on the island of Oahu, closely followed by the Halekulani on Waikiki Beach, which is also on Oahu, and the Ritz-Carlton, which is also excellent in Waikiki.
Situated on Oahu’s sunny western coast, the five-star Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina offers a luxury beach resort with vast ocean views from 371 rooms and suites. Guests can swim in pools and lagoons and enjoy numerous water sports from the resort’s own beach, play tennis and golf, and relax in the spa.
5. Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
Step into the airy lobby at this resort, and you will be hit by its modern and trendy design. This resort is luxurious but also feels cool. With 290 guest rooms and suites and seven residential villas, the hotel, with its stylish rooms with private lanais, are designed to make the most of the stunning Hawaii sunsets.
The resort has two award-winning restaurants with island cuisine served family-style at Ka’ana Kitchen or Western and Japanese fine dining at Morimoto Maui, led by the acclaimed celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto. The Golden sand beach and stunning pool areas make this modern hotel a brilliant choice on Maui.
6. Halekulani in Waikiki
Waikiki is built up, bold, and brash, but this city-on-a-beach has everything you could possibly need for the perfect beach vacation, with the exception of exclusivity and quiet. The luxury Halekulani is situated right in the heart of Waikiki and is the best luxury hotel on this shoreline. The grounds lead right onto the beach, and a freshwater pool provides a beautiful place to escape the madness of Waikiki.
Nestled on five acres of lush gardens, Halekulani means “house befitting heaven”) the hotel is a sophisticated destination for discerning guests like Clark Gable right in the center of Waikiki. The hotel’s much-praised French restaurant is a highlight. The oceanfront La Mer elegantly combines island ingredients with impeccable southern French techniques and an award-winning wine list.
If you prefer, you can just sit in the bar as the sun sets and watch the hula girls dance…
5. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach is located at the heart of Oahu. Tucked away from the buzzy beachfront, the 552 contemporary residences, ranging from studios to four bedrooms, feature floor-to-ceiling windows that frame all-ocean views.
Enjoy Ritz-Carlton’s legendary service and resort amenities, including an island-inspired spa and Waikiki’s highest infinity-edge pool. Whip up dinner in a gourmet kitchen with Miele appliances, or savor chef Keiji Nakazawa’s omakase-style cooking at Sushi Sho.
This is a gorgeous hotel but is not beachfront, which is why it comes in position 5 of our listing.
6. The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, Kauai
If you fly into Kauai, this is one of the best hotels on the island. Located in the 9,000-acre resort community of Princeville at Hanalei, the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas has some of the best views in Hawaii. Situated on a cliff overlooking dramatic Hanalei Bay on the northern shore of Kauai, the “Garden Island”.
The spectacular views rank among the most beautiful in the world and are framed by lush tropical hills and deep blue ocean. The resort’s rooms are located in three separate buildings that terrace down from the top plateau of Princeville to the semi-private beach at Hanalei Bay. The renowned Makai Golf Club at The St. Regis Princeville Resort is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, which opened in 1971 and was redesigned and reopened in 2010.
We love this hotel. It feels like you’re staying on the set of Jurassic Park, but it can be very, very rainy, so I would always two-center this hotel with another on the islands so that I come home with a tan. That said, the views are simply unmissable!
7. Royal Hawaiian Waikiki
The Royal Hawaiian opened in 1927. This “Pink Palace of the Pacific” is located slap band in the center of the famed Waikiki Beach. With 528 rooms and suites, The Royal Hawaiian features modern comfort, indigenous accents, and refined luxury. Each room in the Royal Beach Tower provides an intimate lanai for a private vantage point of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. In the Historic Building, fresh and elegant guest rooms. The resort’s signature restaurant, Azure Restaurant, is perched along the Waikiki beachfront and serves some of the best seafood in Waikiki and in Honolulu.
8. Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui
This hotel should arguably be higher in the list, but due to its location with 54 stunning acres on the northwestern tip of the island of Maui, the hotel is lovely, but the weather can be windy on this side of the island. This puts this hotel in position 9 of our 10 best hotels and resorts in Hawaii.
The resort has recently completed a $180 million USD transformation, featuring a refined organic architecture deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture. The resort offers 463 fully-renovated guestrooms, including 107 Residential Suites featuring dark wood floors, new marble bathrooms, flat-screen LCD televisions, and Hawaiian-inspired artwork. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua also features six restaurants, a fitness center with spectacular ocean views, a spa, a renovated meeting space, a children’s pool, and the Ambassadors of the Environment program for children and teens 5-18 years old.
9. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Kauai
I finish with this chain hotel that offers excellent rooms, a club lounge, and the most incredible pool. On the sunny side of Maui, you can’t go wrong at this resort and can even stay for free if you pay for it with World of Hyatt Points. Watch out for resort fees when you make point bookings at luxury hotels in Hawaii. They can be extortionate!
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa has an amazing tropical lagoon for the kids set on 50 acres tucked between the verdant mountains of Kauai and the sea. Camp Hyatt is an active program for kids between 3 and 12 years old that features a range of Hawaiian-themed activities, like palm frond weaving and lei making.
10. Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort
Set in the hills in Lanai, so not on the beach, is Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort, which combines wellness with serene architecture and lush gardens to create a wellness retreat at this island sanctuary.
Step into your private spa hale, onsen bath, or light-filled room that harmonizes with the tropical landscape. Experts will craft a customized program that balances wellness, culture, recreation, and technology to guide your journey to greater well-being. Reinvigoration is paramount, with endless adventures designed to energize and soothe. Try the outdoor rainforest shower, jungle canopy zip-line course, or rhythmic yoga. Then refuel with fresh dishes at Nobu for Lāna’i.
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