Stayed here for 9 nights as a stop-off on a round the world trip and have to say I was underwhelmed compared to similar resorts that I've stayed in, in Asia for example. Overall it was particularly crowded in the common areas (beach / pools etc), kids running crazy noisy all over the place, staff a bit frazzled. I felt the resort had quite a corporate, formulaic feel to it, service felt fake/cheesy etc, and it lacked the charm and special touch I've experienced at other tropical resorts.
I arrived at lunch-time and despite the resort having had my arrival details for around a fortnight there was no room ready and I had to wait around three hours. I took lunch in the overcrowded Beach Tree Grill, was lucky to get the last table but then had to wait over an hour for a poor pizza with an undercooked base and flavourless toppings. Lucky I wasn't in a hurry, but the table behind me was and left without eating.
Dining in general was disappointing for a resort of this standard - there are three restaurants and they are all Grills of some description. The aforementioned Beach Tree has an Italian bias but the pasta and pizza were pretty average. Beach Tree is the only one open at lunchtime so it gets rammed and you often can't get a table. Don't understand why this is the only lunchtime dining option in a hotel of this size. The grill at the golf club was a steakhouse but again pretty average by American standards - I got served a mediocre steak with undercooked sides. The Ulu Grill is probably the best of the dining options with a good local sourcing ethos but the menu has thai/chinese/japanese/hawaiian/western influences and none of the dishes seemed to master any particular cuisine (plus the wind got up one night and they had to move everyone inside which led to a bit of a disintegration in service).
One great thing the Four Seasons has in its favour is its location for exploring the island. The airport is only 5-10 minutes away (but you don't hear the planes). The highlights of my trip were things I did outside of the resort and all were pretty easy to reach - Diving with Jack's Diving Locker (25 mins drive), golf at Mauna Kea (30 mins), helicopter tour with Hawaiian Blue (15 mins) and driving Saddle Rd at sunset.
The service at the golf club was good and the course and grounds of the hotel in general were exceptionally well kept. The hotel's golf course is overpriced in my view at $250 when Mauna Kea is a far better course and can be had for $150 after 11am. It was a similar story at the Spa where I just felt they were cutting corners - no choice of inside or outdoors treatment room, no foot bowl at start of treatment, no scent under the face rest, no choice of oils, loud TV in the relax area etc.
Nobody seems to swim in the sea and there are signs warning strongly against it owing to all the rocky lava and strong currents. The beach is very narrow and the on-site watersports crew have pretty much given up offering the diving options that I was expecting from the website, as they say it was pretty much impossible to get in and out of the water with the equipment. The pools are therefore really crowded. I used King's Pond a couple of times (snorkelling pool with tropical fish) which is a nice concept but it was pretty cold and had poor visibility (seemed like a lot of "fish matter" floating around). The adults pool had kids in every time I walked past so I more often used the lap pool at the spa. This is empty most the time as there isn't any staff/service there but this meant that a couple of times sweaty teens would come off the basketball or tennis courts and just jump in without showering or changing which is pretty disgusting.
The rooms on the Ocean have a lovely view and get the sunset in the evening. They are tastefully decorated and the beds are very comfortable. I noticed a lot of noise from neighbouring rooms - sliding doors and toilet flushes etc clearly audible but maybe I just got a bad neighbour. Again compared to other resorts I've stayed in, I would have expected some fresh fruit / large water bottles etc each day but this is another little touch that doesn't happen here.
This was my first time in Hawaii so I've no local benchmark, but for $800-900++ per night it just doesn't stack-up against the international competition for me. It felt like there were some corners cut and that they charge what they do because they can.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled along the legendary Kona-Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island, Hualalai is a Hawaiian destination unlike any other. Blessed with 863 acres of lush oceanfront beauty, authentic Hawaiian artistry and the highly customized services of the award-winning Four Seasons, Hualalai is a holistic, sustainable and globally renowned community that continues to set the standard by which all other resorts are measured. Hualalai inspires and enriches every experience, forever transforming and connecting the lives of all who come here. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai At Historic Ka`Upulehu Hotel Kailua-Kona
- 4 Seasons Resort Hualalai At Historic Ka`Upulehu
- Four Seasons Kailua-Kona
- Kailua-Kona Four Seasons
- Four Seasons Hawaii
- Four Seasons Hualalai
- Four Seasons Resort Hualalai At Historic Ka'Upulehu Hawaii/Kailua-Kona