Stayed here four nights before venturing over to Kauai, and later Maui, this last visit March 17th, 2013. We have stayed here three times now, over the years. We keep coming back because it is just such a carefree and comfortable way to enjoy Oahu. We usually take a taxi from the airport here when we first arrive from the mainland. It helps to know we don't have to make a connection or rent a car, etc., upon our arrival. The trip from the East Coast of the mainland is arduous enough without dreading further hassles upon arrival. Taxis are always waiting in front of the airport (check in with airport attendants at the taxi stand, who will make sure you get the next available cab, and that the taxi is legitimate). Taxi fare from and to the airport averaged us around $46.00 before tip, one-way.
We find the staff at this resort just simply OUTSTANDING. We are older, seasoned Hawaii travelers...so we've sifted through all the options and now only stay at hotels with great employees and management. Almost all my hotel reviews are five stars because of that. No use traveling 5 thousand miles one way to stay less than great. Please don't think I hand out praise indiscriminately, though...I just choose very carefully to begin with.
Loved the latest stay and wished we could have lingered longer. Next time we will. Rooms larger than average, beds super comfortable, atmosphere relaxed and welcoming, staff attentive. Best of all, though, is the BEACH. It's large, sheltered by breakwaters and its natural cove shape, right out front of the hotel, soft sand, free lounging chairs which the pool attendants will cheerfully outfit with chair covers and towels (we tipped of course, but no formal charge for these). The beach is easy for children or older people to negotiate, but anybody would love it, and it's gorgeous as well. The water is warm and gentle, the underwater slope EXTREMELY safe and gradual. You could sit there all day and never grow tired of the view. I especially like sitting under the spreading shade trees where the grass meets the beach. Really sweet. AND the folks from the poolside cafe make regular trips out there to serve you...even if you're all the way down the beach near the end of the property.
No resort fee. I like that because I don't want to be burdened with a car there, and I hate paying a resort fee that includes parking...like so many large resorts. If you want to go to Waikiki or the Ala Moana Shopping or Kahala Shopping Centers, you can take the free hotel shuttle, which runs about every hour. You can tell by this review that I expect to pay top dollar for my room or my meals (if they are worth it, as they are here), BUT I do NOT like to pay for a lot of extras). I don't feel nickeled and dimed here like I do at many other Hawaiian resorts.
Food options were in flux while we were there. We were surprised that our favorite on-site eatery...the beachside Plumeria Beach restaurant was closed on Sunday and Monday nights. We arrived on Sunday, ready to relax there for our first night's decompression... and that made us sad. Hope they change that, and soon.
They were getting ready to open a new Italian restaurant where the Japanese restaurant/Sushi bar used to be (on the front-side of the hotel), but it wasn't open yet. Dinner and lunch menu at Plumeria Beach has changed since our last visit, and now includes more Asian type dishes (we'd like to see just a bit more choices). Staff there treated us like royalty...especially Joy, the superb hostess/manager. The breakfast buffet (also in Plumeria Beach) is just excellent. Definitely get a breakfast package when you stay here.
Another treat: high tea on the Veranda lounge...even my husband liked it (yes, it's true, and he is NOT the high-tea (or even middle or low-tea) type! : ) We don't eat at Hoku's (not feeling like dressing up or making the effort most times). All food and drink at the Kahala is, well, it's just plain expensive. Just understand that going in and plan for it...it's no different anywhere else worthwhile in Hawaii. At least, you get what you pay for here.
Here's a tip about restaurants in this hotel: they are heavily patronized by local residents, especially at holiday time, so if you're coming then, make your dinner reservations before you arrive (we stayed once in December and many office parties, family gatherings, etc. were being held both in public restaurants and in private banquet facilities). We also noticed many local families in the restaurant this time (March) as well, because the schools were on Easter break. I'd eat here regularly, too, if I were lucky enough to live in the Kahala neighborhood.
We are thinking about making another trip from the DC area to Hawaii some day soon. We figure we could take the new non-stop flight from Dulles Airport and be in Honolulu by mid-afternoon, taxi out to the Kahala, and just settle there for the whole vacation. As we get older and airports get more annoying, we look for ways to make it easier on ourselves. If you have to pick one island, Oahu has a lot going for it. We also find that there are more attractive flight options (wide-bodies, non-stops, lower prices and more frequent flier seats available) for incoming mainlanders as opposed to outer islands. If you stay here at the Kahala, you have the outer-island feeling of being isolated and on the beach...but you can have a wealth of other cultural, entertainment, and scenic options easily at hand. The concierges are SO helpful...and can get you a car any time you want it, so you can explore the island.
Lots of families with children were staying here this time (spring break). Usually I avoid hotels with this demographic, but you aren't really affected so much--especially if you sit down toward the end of the beach, away from the swim platform (I like that better anyway). The hotel does not FEEL crowded, even when it is full (not noisy at all, and I attribute some of this to the fact that it is not U-shaped like so many hotels on the beach...those high-rise hotels that have pools in the middle seem to serve as echo chambers for children's delighted squeals...the kind that can cut through you like a knife sometimes). It also has cleverly-designed landscaping and made-made waterfalls that absorb noise.
You just have to understand that there may be a lot of children in the (rather small) pool and the one nearby hot tub. If that takes away from it for you (it does me), then go to the free fitness center beachside and use the adults-only hot tubs (gender-specific)...really hot, really clean, and usually empty. There, you also have the use of saunas, steam rooms, showers, exercise equipment, and lockers at the same time. Quite nice! And all perfectly free. (and did I mention grownups only?)
The Dolphins are always enchanting, the waterfall landscaping lovely, the grounds beyond beautiful. It's easy to get around without hiking long distances. I honestly love this place.