Luxe Waikiki

 

The Royal Hawaiian’s Kamehameha Suite
The Royal Hawaiian’s Kamehameha Suite has a cloaked interior lanai area—the perfect setting for alfresco dining.

 

We look at an array of high-end, under-the-radar retreats in Honolulu.

The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, which has long been a celebrity magnet in its 83-year history, has hosted a series of notables, including Bill Cosby, Justin Long and Heather Graham. In its heyday, it was the vacation hot spot for Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Didion and Dean Martin. It’s likely that during their stays, at least a few of them stayed in the resort’s Kamehameha Suite, which received a modern redesign when The Royal Hawaiian underwent its $60 million renovation in 2009.

 

 

Busy times in Honolulu


These special events tend to draw large groups of travelers, so be sure to reserve well in advance. Summer is high season (June, July and August), as are the holidays from Christmas to the New Year.
 

January: Sony Open (PGA tournament)
February: NFL Pro Bowl (returning to Hawaii in 2011)
May: Golden Week (Japan Holiday Week)
September: Aloha Festivals
October: Hawaii International Film Festival
December: Honolulu Marathon

 

 

What we love the most about these posh quarters is its huge lanai, which measures 26 feet by 38 feet and gives access to views of the Diamond Head crater and Waikiki Beach. The lanai, which is where the suite’s dining area is usually set up, provides access to the large master bedroom, which has a fun four-poster bed and a master bathroom with double sinks and a Jacuzzi soaking tub that’s placed so you can gaze out at the ocean as you bathe. We also love the sitting area next to the master bedroom. There’s no working kitchen here; however, entertaining in this fab suite is still an option, since the guest room that connects to the suite acts as a staging area for events requiring food and beverage (this also provides a separate entrance for staff and the option of a second bedroom for the suite as well).

Note: Butler service doesn’t come with the suite, but can be arranged for a fee.

There’s plenty going on outside of the Kamehameha Suite, if guests ever want to leave. The Royal Hawaiian’s Abhasa Spa has five indoor treatment rooms and five outdoor cabanas, where the options include the “Royal Combination” package, which comes with a facial and a massage. The signature treatment is “abhasa Harmony,” a Hawaiian-inspired Lomi Lomi massage infused with Japanese Shiatsu. Get in touch with the facility’s director, Peter Georgeson (peter@venere-corp.com), with questions or to set a reservation.

The resort’s head concierge, Wendy Nagaishi (wendy.nagaishi@luxurycollection.com), can snag your client a great table at The Royal Hawaiian’s top restaurant, Azure, which serves fresh fish from the Honolulu Fish Auction. Reservations are recommended at least a few days in advance for weeknights and a week in advance for the weekends.

The Presidential Suite in Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Ali’i Tower
The Presidential Suite in Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Ali’i Tower has floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific Ocean.

Fun Touch: The hotel regularly hosts family activities on Waikiki Beach, a sandcastle building contest, Hawaiian storytelling and beachfront yoga classes.

Contact James Palank (james.palank@luxurycollection.com; 808-923-7311), director of sales and marketing, if you want to secure the suite for your A-lister.

The hotel’s general manager is Kelly Hoen; she welcomes luxury travel advisors to get in touch with her at kelly.hoen@luxurycollection.com if they’re making arrangements for a VIP.

The Aston Waikiki Beach Tower is a well-kept secret among international celebrities who want to enjoy a very private vacation. Set across the street from Waikiki Beach and close to Diamond Head, the condo-resort has just four suites per floor and two suites per wing. This, coupled with the fact that it has a private, gated entrance hidden from Waikiki’s main stretch, makes it ideal for those flying under the radar. Nice Touch: All one- and two-bedroom suites here have been newly renovated and boast kitchens; the management can stock up the cupboards and refrigerators prior to arrival. And while butler service isn’t available, private chef services can be arranged upon request.

Halekulani’s Orchid Suite
Halekulani’s Orchid Suite is situated oceanfront and apart from the hotel’s main building.

Want to make special arrangements? There’s a trio of on-site executives ready to assist. Contact General Manager Mike Tasaka (mike.tasaka@astonhotels.com; 808-926-6400), Assistant General Manager Wesley Kawakami (wesley.kawakami@astonhotels.com) or Guest Services Manager Czarina Lam (czarina.lam@astonhotels.com).

If all this appeals to your VIP who also must know they’ve got the top digs in the house, put them in Presidential and Penthouse suites on the 37th and 40th floors; these come with panoramic views of Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, downtown Honolulu, the Koolau Mountains and Oahu’s south shore. If these are taken, don’t despair, all suites have great views of the beach. Good to know: The Penthouse Suite on the 38th floor has been “super-luxed” with about $350,000 in posh fixtures, including a 60-inch LED TV in the living room and 46-inch LED TVs in the master and guest bedrooms. There’s also a state-of-the-art sound system with Stealth in-wall speakers. Feeling Zen? In keeping with feng shui principles, the suite was reconfigured to remove all right angles.

Note: Families traveling together will want a Two-Bedroom Suite (measuring more than 1,200 square feet); these can sleep up to six people comfortably with the existing bedding. They also have two bathrooms, full kitchens, large private lanais and washers and dryers. Important Note: The resort does not accept pets.  

Flying in via private jet? Honolulu International Airport’s South Ramp on Lagoon Drive is the primary location for private jets and charter flights. It is a 20-minute drive from the Aston Waikiki Beach Tower.

Aston Waikiki Beach tower has fully equipped kitchens
Aston Waikiki Beach tower has fully equipped kitchens in each suite and direct access to Waikiki Beach.

There’s no spa here but the condo-resort does have a sauna and sundeck and access to services rates and added amenities at nearby spas.

Guest Services Manager Lam helped arrange nuptials for a couple who decided to marry the day after they got engaged. With just 24 hours’ notice, she and her staff helped select a venue with an ocean view and wheelchair access, found a pastor of the couple’s liking and arranged flowers, transportation and food.

In another instance, two families had arranged a trip to Hawaii during the holidays. Prior to the trip, a member of one of the families passed away, while another member of the other family had become severely ill. Upon hearing this, Tasaka and his staff set up Christmas trees in their suites prior to their arrival, decorated them and bought gifts for both families.

Aston Waikiki Beach Tower is just over a block from the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, a 10-minute walk from the luxury stores at King Kalakaua Plaza and a short drive from Ala Moana Center.  

With 22 oceanfront acres, the Hilton Hawaiian Village is a destination resort with lots of entertainment and pools—but did you know it also has two Presidential Suites that are a peaceful retreat and yet close to all the action? These accommodations may be the ideal place for those traveling with families who want access to a kids’ program, five swimming pools, 15 restaurants and fireworks, along with top-of-the-line accommodations.

 

 

Advisor Insight: Oahu

Claudia Murphy, a Hawaii specialist at A Way to Go Travel, recommends several hidden gems in Oahu that visitors can discover.

“Fans of the hit show Lost can go on the Judd Trail, where many scenes in the last season of the iconic TV series were filmed,” she says. “Lanikai and Kailua beaches are on the Windward coast, and Pearl Harbor is always a must-see. Hikers can climb to the top of Diamond Head; snorkelers can visit Hanauma Bay; and those who can’t decide what to do can try the bike-sail-snorkel expedition. This involves hiking down a five-mile jungle road, cruising aboard a 38-foot catamaran and snorkeling in turquoise waters. Foodies should visit Alan Wong’s Restaurant for contemporary Hawaiian cuisine.”

For hotels, Murphy has particular praise for the Kahala Hotel & Resort, especially their oceanfront Presidential Suite on one of the top floors, which offers complete privacy. The Imperial Suite, meanwhile, has tower vistas from Diamond Head to Koko Head.

“There are lots of things I enjoy about Honolulu,” Murphy says. “On the island of Oahu you can surf the Bonsai, visit Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center or you can walk along a private stretch of beach...you can make your vacation on the island of Oahu anything you want it to be.”

 

The Ali’i and Mahele suites on the 15th and 14th floors of the Ali’i Tower are oceanfront accommodations with sweeping views of Waikiki Beach, including Diamond Head. Each has two bedrooms (the master has a bathroom with double sinks and a soaking tub), a living/dining room and balconies that measure 500 square feet. Note: There’s no full kitchen here, rather, a serving area with a refrigerator.

Security is top-notch with an entire department dedicated to moving heads of state in and out of the Ali’i Tower, which also has access to a quiet road that allows for private entry. The security team has put its magic to work: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and Margaret Thatcher are among some of the heads of state who have stayed here. Celebrities who have landed up in the suites seeking to keep a low profile include the late Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and John Legend.

Sending a VIP? Luxury travel advisors can contact Valerie Okamoto-Moad and/or Wanda Williams in the sales department at 808-949-4321.

Note: Because the Ali’i Tower is considered a “hotel within a hotel,” it has its own check-in desk, fitness center and pool. 

A resort this size has to have a large spa, and indeed it does. Important to know about the Mandara Spa is that one treatment room can accommodate three clients at once, making it ideal for a bridal party or girlfriend getaway. Try the Lomi Lomi massage and be sure to ask for top massage therapist Rieko Kitami. Darryll Leiman (darrylll@mandaraspa.com; 808-947-9750, ext. 223; cell: 702-604-0694), vice president of resort operations, is on hand to answer spa queries.

Need special services for your client, such as top seats at the resort’s Bali Steak & Seafood Restaurant? Contact the Concierge Team Supervisor John Delos Reyes (jdelosre@hgvc.com; 808-846-6822; cell: 808-348-5194).

Halekulani is no secret when it comes to Hawaii luxury as everyone knows—it’s the go-to place for top celebrities and A-listers in Waikiki, thanks to its high level of service and gorgeous accommodations.

On our last visit, we fell head over heels in love with the ground-level Orchid Suite, which is a healthy 2,365 square feet. What’s good? The chef’s kitchen is stocked with fresh local provisions and has a dining table that seats six; there’s also a bar and a vintage wine mini cellar with rare international wines selected by Halekulani’s master sommeliers, plus top shelf gin, vodka, whiskey, mixers, wines and juices.

The one-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath suite comes with butler service; it also has a home theater by Steinway & Sons Architectural Speaker System. And while it doesn’t have a private entrance for staff, it does have a foyer area that allows the butler to screen visitors. The master bathroom is a dream with double vanities, an en-suite spa, chromatherapy tub and steam shower.

If one ever wanted to leave the Orchid Suite, they could go to the SpaHalekulani, which has seven treatment rooms and a full-service salon. We recommend the Custom Massage or the Lomi Lomi Massage. Contact Spa Director Lena Mossman (lena.mossman@halekulani.com) with questions and be sure to reserve in advance.

Hot Wheels: The resort’s Orchid Suite, Vera Wang Suite and Royal Suite not only have fabulous oceanfront views, they come with the use of a Bentley Continental GTC and Lotus Elise.

The hotel’s concierge team has five Les Clefs d’Or members; the staff is at the ready to arrange fishing charters or helicopter excursions. One recent feat involved making arrangements for a family to go to Heeia Pier in Kaneohe. The family knew that Pirates of the Caribbean was being filmed in Hawaii and was hoping to get a glimpse of the ship in the movie, the Black Pearl. The concierge found out where the ship was stationed and chartered a Lincoln Navigator to take them to Heeia Pier. While at the pier—because the ship was anchored offshore—the concierge secured the services of a boat to allow the family a close-up look. 

The team can also reserve a great seat for your client at Table One in Orchids, which serves farm-to-table cuisine (book three to four weeks in advance). Orchids is also a treat for brunch; for special holidays, be sure to reserve months ahead. La Mer is Halekulani’s AAA Five-Diamond French restaurant and another hot table in town; be sure to try the Chef’s Degustation Menu.

The hotel is run by General Manager Gerald Glennon (808-923-2311), but luxury travel advisors should contact Geoff Pearson (geoff.pearson@halekulani.com), with special requests.