from Los Angeles
Submitted on 01-09-2017
We are a family of five, with a 17, 13 and 10 year old. We were at the Kahala for three nights over Christmas, after spending a week on the Big Island at the Mauna Kea. In this review, I will provide some thoughts not only about the Kahala, but also that contrast the Kahala with the Mauna Kea to provide some comparison between two of Hawaii‚??s classic resorts. The Kahala, as most know, is well situated in an upscale residential neighborhood about a 10-15 minute drive from the hustle and bust...
We are a family of five, with a 17, 13 and 10 year old. We were at the Kahala for three nights over Christmas, after spending a week on the Big Island at the Mauna Kea. In this review, I will provide some thoughts not only about the Kahala, but also that contrast the Kahala with the Mauna Kea to provide some comparison between two of Hawaii‚??s classic resorts. The Kahala, as most know, is well situated in an upscale residential neighborhood about a 10-15 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu. The hotel is tall and built in 1960s style. Clearly the Kahala is very popular with Japanese travelers, as compared with the Mauna Kea which has a guest base that appears more drawn from the US mainland. The lobby area is really beautiful, and the hotel has some nice upscale shops on the main floor. The rooms are very spacious and are gorgeous. We had two rooms ‚?? the kids‚?? room faced the mountains. Ours had a spectacular full-on ocean view with a lanai. Both rooms were very large, with a sitting area and flat screen TVs. The bathrooms are huge, with two separate vanities, an enclosed toilet (heated seat) area, and a separate bath and shower area. The ceilings are high. The rooms are generally really beautiful and updated. In short, the physical space ‚?? both the main floor and rooms ‚?? was terrific. The physical space of the hotel structure is more upscale than the Mauna Kea, although less spread out.
The beach is located within a cove and has no waves due to a coral reef that shelters the beach area. This makes for good swimming and paddle boarding, but no ability to boogey board or body surf. The beach itself is fairly long, although not very deep. The sand was fairly compacted (as compared with the Mauna Kea beach), and almost gives the appearance of a man-made beach. All in all, the beach area was fine, although as noted we were spoiled from having spent 5 nights at the Mauna Kea, where the beach is about as good as it gets. Perhaps the beach scene did not seem as active as one would imagine due to the weather. On the days we were there, the wind was strong in the afternoons, and at times brought moisture (drizzle) from the mountain behind the resort. In general, the weather in late December was much spottier at the Kahala than it was at the Mauna Kea, and the beach/pool area is not nearly as sheltered from the wind as we would have liked.
The pool area felt pretty cramped. There is one kidney/oval pool and a Jacuzzi. As with the Mauna Kea, the pool and Jacuzzi are 1960s in design, certainly not the monster pools that newer resorts are building. At the Mauna Kea, it seemed to work better because the pool area was removed from the beach, and there was more physical space available so it felt less cramped. At the Kahala, the pool/beach area was pretty hectic (it was the high season). Much less tranquil than the Mauna Kea, which somehow manages to get through the high season without the resort feeling too full. There is a dolphin lagoon winding through the pool area. It was nice to see the dolphins, although we were of mixed feelings about the whole captive dolphin idea.
We ate at the nice restaurant (Arancino), which was very good, and expensive. We also ate at the Plumeria Beach House, on the beach level, which was fine (other than a ridiculously overpriced buffet on Christmas eve, which might have been okay except for the loud children and babies that were packed into the restaurant.) The breakfast scene at Plumeria was largely hectic ‚?? one generally had to wait (although not too long) for a table, and the atmosphere was pretty loud. By contrast, the breakfast experience at the Mauna Kea (Manta restaurant), was more laid back.
The staff were all lovely ‚?? we enjoyed all our interactions. My only gripe was that the concierge was not terribly helpful in helping us plan out our Pearl Harbor visit ‚?? did not seem to have a grasp on when we should leave, given our reservation time, how long the various attractions would take, and how to piece together the various aspects of Pearl Harbor (the Arizona memorial, the Missouri, the Bowfin, etc). I felt they should have the Pearl Harbor thing down, since many guests (like us) are there largely to visit Pearl Harbor. We did take a great trip to the north shore where we watched the surfers at the banzai pipeline (spectacular!) and stopped by one of the killer garlic shrimp stands, which we enjoyed more than the $85/person Christmas eve buffet!
In closing, don‚??t get me wrong ‚?? we enjoyed our visit to the Kahala. It is a lovely hotel, and we would come again if visiting Oahu. It‚??s just that the Mauna Kea was a really difficult act to follow. While the Kahala is a very good hotel, it cannot compete, in my view, with some of the more tranquil, spread out resorts elsewhere on the various islands, but maybe it is unfair comparing a Honolulu resort to a resort on a different island. Certainly the Kahala compares well to other Honolulu resorts, most of which are on Waikiki and are probably even more hectic in feel.