Sit back and relax with a mai tai in hand while palm trees gently sway and the crystal clear waves break onto the beach. Drape a fragrant lei around your neck and you’ll be reminded with every light breeze that you’re in none other than Hawaii. A great travel destination for families, couples or singles, Hawaii is comprised of eight major islands offering a wide variety of activities, amenities, and striking views that visitors won’t soon forget.
My weekend getaway brought me to Waikiki on Oahu, rightly nicknamed “The Gathering Place,” as it’s the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands. While locals may consider it to be a very ‘touristy’ spot, it’s a great way for first timers like me to be introduced to this little piece of paradise. Though there are many hotels that line the beach in Waikiki, one stands out as being among the most luxurious: Halekulani.
Having over 100 years of experience graciously welcoming guests, and as a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, I knew I would be in good hands. I checked in and went up to my room to change for a day of exploring. Before I could do so, I was immediately lured out onto the lanai by views of sail boats gliding through the seemingly endless ocean and laughter echoing up from fellow hotel guests enjoying themselves by the pool.
The room’s décor is sophisticated, but subtle enough to ensure the island’s beauty remains the focus. Modern amenities I would expect to see, like a large flat screen TV and MP3 player, are accounted for, and the spacious bathroom is complete with a brightly lit marble vanity, glass shower and deep soaking tub. Just as I was starting to settle in it was time to head down to SpaHalekulani for a treatment inspired by, and incorporating, natural materials found locally.
My Waianuhea treatment started just outside the spa. I sat down and put my feet up to begin with the Signature Foot Pounding Ritual (it is actually much gentler than it sounds) during which I drank some warm jasmine tea and soaked in the afternoon sun. The outdoor portion concluded with a Pa’akai (salt) footbath and I then went inside for a Pa’akai Ocean Scrub utilizing jasmine-scented salt infused with heeling Limu Kala (seaweed).
After my exfoliation, I stepped into the steam room to rinse off for the last part of this experience, the Hawaiian Lomi massage. Hawaiian seashells are integrated into the treatment, as they are believed have a cleansing property for the body and soul. I certainly did feel renewed. They sent me on my way with some of my own Pa’akai to use at home and a Waianhuea Pareo (island Sarong) as a memento of my visit.
The property has three different dining venues and a cocktail lounge, all of which I was able to experience during my stay. My first night I sat in the open air of the indoor/outdoor House Without a Key where I sipped on a Kiwi Lychee Martini directly in front of the now dark and dramatic Pacific Ocean. A three piece band played the soothing sounds of the island as beautiful Hawaiian dancers charmed the audience with their graceful movements. It’s a great place to have drinks, a casual breakfast or lunch, and enjoy nightly entertainment.
The next morning I went to Orchids for brunch. I was told to bring my appetite but didn’t quite understand why until I walked in to find the most elaborate spread of every possible breakfast and lunch item imaginable, along with a tempting table of desserts. Honolulu Magazine aptly named it “Oahu’s Best Brunch,” and given I hadn’t eaten brunch anywhere else on the island, I could see why it would be recognized. The same ocean view I was starting to become accustom to was waiting for me at my table, where I attempted to taste as many of the culinary treats as I could. I knew I was rounding out my epicurean adventure at Halekulani’s fine dining restaurant La Mer later in the evening, so I wrapped up brunch and spent the day on the beach.
French inspired La Mer is Hawaii’s longest consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond Restaurant offering a more romantic atmosphere than the hotel’s other venues. I was seated by a window that perfectly framed Diamond Head in the distance, further reminding me of my majestic location and reluctance to leave it. Following an elegant three-course meal, executed with impeccable service, I was led down to Lewers Lounge for an after dinner drink accompanied by live jazz music. Not a bad way to end my last night in paradise.
It’s safe to say my first trip to Hawaii was a success. In just four short days I was able to immerse myself in the culture, cuisine, and calming effects of the stunning vistas, all heightened by the genuine hospitality of the Halekulani. If there was one thing I would do differently, it would be only to stay longer.
By Tara Imperatore