Spectacular spas, divine dining and exciting entertainment await in paradise.
The reef runway at Honolulu International Airport stretches across bright blue ocean, welcoming visitors to Honolulu over the peak of Diamond Head volcano or curving around the island past miles of pristine beaches. Step off the plane, take a deep breath of tropical air infused by the scent of plumeria blossoms, and prepare to experience Hawaii’s broad spectrum of indulgences.
Spa afficianados will find plenty to love: Kona coffee scrubs, Hawaii-grown chocolate rubs, ti leaf wraps and an endless list of pleasures scented and flavored with fresh coconut. There are literally hundreds of spas here that base their offerings on Hawaiian healing and the botanical wisdom of Pacific peoples. One of the most historic pampering palaces is the Moana Lani Spa, which looks out on a famous giant banyan tree — a view unchanged since its historic location, known as “The First Lady of Waikiki,” was built in 1901.
Heavenly treatment also awaits at Spa Halekulani, a place of healing since 1917. Indulge in massage techniques from across the Pacific in its seven treatment rooms. Exclusive to this spa is a product line called JK7, coveted by celebrities worldwide and invented by Dr. Jurgen Klein — who studied with skin-care masters from Germany to Nepal — and available only at Halekulani. Just steps from the spa’s lanai, you can see the famous pool pictured above.
Fall beckons foodies to the island for the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which annually welcomes more than 80 internationally-renowned chefs and sommeliers to present a week of pure bliss. The fest was created by two of Hawaii’s James Beard Award–winning chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, who both have fine dining establishments on the islands. Book early for the 2015 taste-fest: August 29–September 13. The unique flavors of the islands lead to many extraordinary eating experiences. Think of fresh-caught fish wrapped in coconut crust, resting in a sauce made from golden lilikoi fruit picked at dawn. At more than 20 farmer’s markets, you can seek out exotic fruits and ready-to-eat pupu (Hawaiian appetizers) to keep your hotel room stocked for snacking.
If you’re looking for entertainment, the hottest ticket in Waikiki may be Cabarae. Sit ringside and you just may end up part of the show as trapeze artists, Olympic gymnasts, roller skaters, aerialists, comedians, pole dancers and more talented performers strut their stuff. Don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed by a cabaret artist in full dominatrix gear who seems like she is right out of 1920s Berlin.
If you’re interested in reaching new heights — not to mention taking in an unparalleled view of Waikiki, take an elevator 20 floors up to the Top of Waikiki. It is the only revolving restaurant west of Seattle’s Space Needle and a perfect way to see the whole island. At sunset, look down to watch athletic young men running from post to post, putting flame to tiki torches, turning gardens and hotels into a fairyland of light.
At the other end of the height spectrum are the depths of the 15,000-foot Vintage Cave Honolulu, tucked away in the Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center. Built from 150,000 custom bricks, it is filled with a museum-quality art collection including 18 Picassos. Lit by crystal chandeliers, its bar offerings include a 50-year-old Macallan scotch that you can sip for a cool $6,000 per pour. The members-only club has an award-winning private chef, sommelier and extensive wine cellar, but if the charter membership fee of $500,000 seems a little steep, don’t worry: Special memberships for visitors can be arranged.
Each Saturday, you can even travel back in time to a Hawaii of about a thousand years ago to experience ancient hula and chanting in a garden called Helumoa at the Royal Hawaiian Center. The center also offers lessons in hula, ukulele, lomi massage, lei making and Hawaiian storytelling daily.
There’s so much luxury to experience in Hawaii: private art and museum tours, secret beaches, chefs cooking exclusive meals in luxury suites, and surf pros ready to personally get you “up and riding” on the first waves of the morning. And though we’ve focused primarily on Waikiki and Honolulu here, the “neighbor islands” of Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai are less than a 30-minute jet flight away, each waiting with their own unique adventures.
Visit gohawaii.com to learn much more.
By Lynn Cook
Where to Stay
Visiting paradise? Stay with our travel partners, whom you can trust to treat you with respect. Both properties are conveniently near Waikiki’s great beaches, dining spots and shopping.
Hotel Renew calls itself an “oasis of serenity for savvy travelers” and takes pride in being both eco-friendly (including their grooming products) and dog-friendly — with pups of up to 20 pounds greeted by a special selection of canine amenities including a dog bed and locally-made treats.
Vive Hotel Waikiki welcomes you with fresh local juice and a cold towel upon arrival. They offer yoga mats so you can enjoy the yoga schools and outdoor classes within walking distance. Check out Hula’s, a popular LGBT bar only blocks away, and ask about Vive’s complimentary beach cruisers.
Last modified: October 5, 2018