To those of us slumming it in the lower 48, Hawaii has always been the stuff of tropical escape dreams. Then along came a global pandemic and work-from-home orders and everyone just…up and moved there, apparently. But even if you’re not quite ready to sell your shoes and live the permanent Aloha life quite yet, it’s always an ideal time to book a Hawaiian getaway—especially now, with spring break and summer holidays on the horizon.
Though 14-day quarantine mandates effectively halted tourism in Hawaii for seven months, vaccinated travelers are now welcome to visit. To welcome visitors back, many of the best hotels across the islands are unveiling multimillion-dollar renovations, high-roller packages and first-class dining and spa experiences. Here’s a look are some of the new and notable things that await you at eight resorts from Maui to the Big Island.
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
The Big Island’s Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection, which is spread out on 32 acres of beach surrounded by black lava rock and ancient fish ponds filled with mālolo (flying fish), recently finished a $200 million top-to-bottom renovation. Now, the look is all earthy elegance, thanks to the use of natural woods, sleek lines and neutral tones. Other upgrades include the addition of a tranquil adults-only infinity-edge pool, Hawaii’s first Goop store and $500-a-day private beachfront cabanas with plush daybeds.
Activities like sunrise canoeing (particularly magical during whale season), a Goop “Glow Facial,” and cultural workshops—think lei making, poi pounding and star gazing—make for dreamy vacation memories. At CanoeHouse, one of the island’s top restaurants, Chef Matt Raso now offers new daily specials based on seasonal ingredients. Starting at $10,000 a night, the five residences—standalone villas that provide bespoke service and complete privacy—get snapped up fast. Rates start at $1,149 per night.
Over on Oahu, Ritz-Carlton Waikiki Beach has transformed into a culinary paradise. Guests can now tour Kualoa Ranch to learn about traditional Hawaiian agriculture before dining in-suite on recipes prepared using the farm’s bounty. Sushi lovers should plan ahead to reserve one of 16 seats at the on-site omakase-style Sho Sushi, or try the new, laidback option: Relax under beach umbrellas by the sea and enjoy that sushi in bento boxes. Rates start at $575 per night.
Meanwhile, Ritz-Carlton’s Maui sister property—Ritz-Carlton Maui, Kapalua—has seven brand-new poolside luxury cabanas, each stocked with comforts like a flatscreen TV, mini fridge, sunscreen and attentive butler service. From inside, the cabana’s opening functions as a frame around postcard views of the swimming pool and ocean. Rates start at $1,249.
At the exclusive, adults-only Hotel Wailea, a Relais & Châteaux member property with 72 suites set 300 feet above the sea, book the Celebration Ocean-View Suite to lounge on your terrace tucked into the lush tropical jungle and watch the whales breach—the suite even comes equipped with binoculars. Or book the new $118,000 Return to Paradise package, which provides seven days of private jets, Teslas, treehouse dinners, yachts and a ride on a “Bubble Bus” that dispenses champagne and caviar.
The hotel also just began a collaboration with Kiawe Outdoor, and starting in April, will host a weekly “Kiawe Nights” experience: This elegant, sustainable outdoor dinner with wine pairings entails open-fire cooking by chefs who hunt, fish and forage hyper-local ingredients and make particular use of invasive species, such as wild boar and kiawe wood. The sommeliers have endless stories to tell and wines to pour from all over the world. Rates start $999 per night.
Fairmont Kea Lani
Down the road from Hotel Wailea, Fairmont Kea Lani, is this month embarking on a multimillion-dollar, top-to-bottom refresh of its 413 one-bedroom suites and 37 two-story villas. The new suites will feature a water-inspired design to reflect the importance of waterways in Hawaiian culture, specifically the Hawaiian perspective that the ocean is a great connector, not a divider. The décor will include a palette of blues, greens and whites, simple wood elements and a nod to canoe travel.
At the same time, Fairmont Kea Lani’s new chef, Jonathan Pasion, is upgrading the on-site restaurant Kō by showcasing locally sourced ingredients, preparing venison (from Maui’s invasive deer population) and serving up the thinnest, freshest cuts of tuna. Pasion, born and raised on Maui, arrived as the property as a whole was increasing its focus on sustainability; this includes last fall’s launch of a reforestation initiative that involved the installing of a regenerative forest system—434 trees and counting—along the slopes of Haleakalā. Suite rates start at $1,429 per night.
Four Seasons Resorts
Four Seasons has five locations across the islands, and many of them have new reasons to check in. For example, fresh off its starring role on the first season of The White Lotus, Four Seasons Maui at Wailea has more recently been focusing on upping its wellness game, adding services like Jet Lag Relief Pack IVs at the Next|Health spa and beach-front massages performed in a thatched hut, complete with sea breeze. The new TopGolf Suite lets private parties enjoy hours of playing golf and other simulation games, while enjoying their own poke buffet. Rates start at $995 per night.
Over on the Big Island, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai recently completed a $100 million renovation executed by San Francisco-based BAMO. Most notable are the three redesigned and expanded villas, including the Hawaii Loa Presidential Villa, the resort’s most high-end accommodations (rates start at $19,295 per night) which features more than five thousand square feet of space, four bedrooms, a private spa and unobstructed ocean views. Rates start at $1,100 per night.
Back on Oahu, Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina also has a redesigned three-bedroom Penthouse Suite—this one adorned with Gray Malin’s photography. (In fact, all three of these Four Seasons properties recently partnered with Malin and are displaying his stunning aerial photos of Hawaiian beaches throughout the resorts.) The Penthouse Suite has two new walk-in closets in the bedrooms, state-of-the-art TOTO toilets, slate showers in the gorgeous bathrooms and, perhaps best of all, a den with its own rum bar. This resort also just launched a series of wellness retreats that focus on reconnecting with nature—think meditating with wellness experts as the whales mist the air above the waves. Rates start at $1,100 per night.