A friend of mine recently went to a hotel I was very interested to learn more about, Halekulani in Waikiki, Hawaii. Her name is Melissa and she lives in New York. She has worked in television at HBO, Viacom, and BBC New York Productions. Currently, she is working on a young adult novel. Anywho, since she’s a fabulous writer, she agreed to do review her stay at the Halekulani Resort in Waikiki, Hawaii. She’s been traveling luxuriously her whole life so she’s one of the few people whose opinions I trust about hotels. After reading about her experience I am dying to get back to Hawaii! Here is what she had to say:
I always laugh when my grandma and her sister rave about the papaya they eat on vacation, saying that they’ll “try to get it at the grocery store” when they go home, “but it won’t be the same.”
But the papaya in Hawaii? I finally understand after a week at Halekulani in Waikiki, where I had fresh papaya every morning with my outdoor breakfast buffet, along with sweet bread French toast, made-to-order omelets, bottomless cups of coffee, and berries with freshly whipped cream.
Travel is in my blood, from my pilot grandfather to my mother, who books luxury African safaris. When The Flight Deal posted an incredible fare sale on Hawaiian Airlines: $349 roundtrip, direct from JFK to Honolulu, I couldn’t not go.
Halekulani is a member of the Leading Hotels in the World and among the top-rated properties for guest comfort. While I saw some children at the hotel, the hotel definitely exudes a more serene, mature vibe than some of the nearby hotels like the massive Hilton Hawaiian Village. Originally a private home with a few small bungalows, the hotel now hosts 453 rooms, 41 suites, and 3 “premier suites,” one of which was personally designed by Vera Wang.
Halekulani means “house befitting Heaven,” a definition which extends not only to the location but the service. Upon arrival, I was given a tour of the property and escorted to my room, where I checked into the hotel at my own desk. Fresh papaya, bananas, and the hotel’s custom-made chocolates were laid out on the coffee table. From my open balcony, I could hear and see the nightly live entertainment at the hotel’s famed House Without A Key restaurant.
The room itself wasn’t ornate, but it was clean and had a comfortable king-sized bed, a deep soaking tub and separate shower, the option to open the bathroom’s mirrored sliding doors through the closet to the rest of the room, and a flat-screen TV, iPod alarm clock, and free WiFi. A flipped switch by the front door indicated my preference for privacy or housekeeping. My travel agent mama got me upgraded to ocean-view and inclusive breakfast, so I didn’t mind the lack of coffee in the room. Free bottled water abounds, in the room fridge, at the spa, in the fitness center, or any time you encounter hotel staff. The biggest problem I had with my room was that every time I opened the balcony to let paradise in, I ended up with birds as roommates, though they always left amicably.
Whether it was a surfing lesson from Ty Gurney Surf School, a car rental to tour the rest of the island, or on-site dry cleaning after I dropped hors d’oeuvres on my favorite maxi skirt, anything I wanted was promptly arranged with a smile. In the spa, I had a facial so relaxing that I fell asleep. I was able to pick up my rental car directly from the valet at the front of the hotel, where they provided a beach chair and towels – and bottled water, of course. I opted to add GPS, which contained built-in tours that took me to points of interest and gave me cultural commentary as I approached or passed each one. The concierge gave me a map of Waikiki that folded to credit-card size, with a pocket for my Halekulani room key, which did more than allow me elevator access to my floor and to my hotel room – it could get me complimentary access to the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum, the Bishop Museum, and Iolani Palace. The beachfront is tiny compared to other hotels on Waikiki, but Halekulani has a large pool area where it serves food and free mid-afternoon ice cream.
Each night, turndown service leaves mementos, like a seashell, or a wooden magnet or luggage tag with the hotel’s orchid logo. Every Wednesday, Halekulani hosts a cocktail hour for guests on the veranda. On Fridays, there’s a behind-the-scenes tour that shows how the hotel runs so smoothly, taking you into the kitchens of their on-site bakery and restaurants.
The Halekulani features three restaurants as well as an upscale jazz lounge, Lewers. The most affordable and casual is the House Without A Key, whose live entertainment usually involves a former Miss Hawaii performing the hula while older Hawaiian musicians sing Over the Rainbow and Adele covers under a massive 100-year-old kiawe tree and with the Waikiki sunset as a backdrop. Orchids is the mid-tier restaurant, featuring what Honolulu Magazine calls Oahu’s Best Brunch. La Mer, the most formal option, offers French cuisine, enforces a dress code, and does not allow children under the age of eight. Each serves fresh, indigenous ingredients and local fish.
Upon my return to New York, I didn’t see any papaya at the UES Fairway, but I did give a guava a longing glance before moving on. It just wouldn’t be the same.
Halekulani is located at 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI
For more information visit their website.
*Melisssa did not receive a press rate of any sort or any compensation for this review. All photographs are property of Melissa.