Hanalei Bay must be one of the most magical places in the Hawaiian archipelago. Green velvety mountain valleys drop dramatically to a semi-circle of gentle ocean waves. With bright sunshine, clouds heavy with pending precipitation, and a brilliant palate of tropical colors, this dynamic spot on Kaua’i’s north shore is a must see for anybody who wishes to unlock the truly transcendent qualities of the Garden Isle. It is said that one never truly sees the same Hanalei Bay twice. Look away for a moment and turn back and a wailele (waterfall) has appeared or vanished, or an ‘anuenue (rainbow)that was barely discernible is now resplendent in picture postcard brilliance.
True to the brand promise of St. Regis to have luxury hotels at the best address in each location worldwide, it’s difficult to argue that there could have been a better location than this gracious resort which sprawls on a sunny hillside near the southern sea cliffs of the bay, with stunning views of the view made famous by the 1958 movie musical South Pacific. In fact, the same sunny hillside was the exact film location for many of the film’s scenes.
As though Kaua’i itself didn’t feel otherworldly enough, there’s a tremendous sense of arrival from pulling into the enormous porte cochere to leave the car with the friendly but not overly familiar valets and being ushered into a conditioned cool curving corridor with dark woods and polished marble floors. The anticipation builds during the short walk as one is deposited into a vaguely octagonal lobby that could best be described as three hundred and sixty degrees of beautiful. Blown glass are cascades from the ceiling in homage to the wailele that seem to appear on a whim from the surrounding hills. Broad koa wood pillars are perhaps a nod to the Beaux Arts architecture of the vintage 1904 New York City original property, while the wraparound plate glass windows some how manage to magnify and brighten the features of the surrounding ocean and terrain. Outside, the view is but a hint beyond the treeline, but once inside the splendid lobby, the breathtaking splendor is magnified and inescapable. It’s hard not to get a lump in one’s throat.
The brand standard across all St. Regis properties is that guests booked into suites may avail themselves of the hotel’s signature Butler Service. Traditionalists might sniff at Butler Service in a modern setting (traditionally, a Butler is a manager of an estate’s overall domestic staff, service, and alcohol stores) and the uninitiated may balk at having such intimate services performed for them, even whilst on vacation. “I don’t want people going through my things” they say, or “I’m not comfortable with someone hovering”. But some of the services are well worth getting over whatever reticence one may have.
There are niceties, like coffee and tea service upon arrival and once daily in the mornings for each day thereafter (and it’s 100% Kona coffee in a french press, delivered on a silver tray with biscotti and fresh orchids), but the real value can come from the packing, unpacking, and pressing services. Pants wrinkled from a long airplane trip, and planning to dine in (the fabulous, and highly recommended) Kaua’i Grill that evening? Two items per person can be pressed daily, complimentary. Never one to unpack a suitcase? The butler can do this. The best part, however, is the packing service. On the day of departure, is there time for one last drive up the picturesque coast, or is there time for packing? With a Butler, the answer is both, and the packing is beautifully zen: clothes are neatly folded and wrapped in plastic bags to conserve space, delicate items are wrapped in tissue paper and neatly stowed, a St. Regis Princeville souvenir tote placed on top as a final memento of the stay, and the straps neatly buttoned and tightening in military fashion. This is truly caring hospitality, right up until the time of departure. Butlers can also function as an on-demand concierge, booking restaurant reservations, arranging for special occasions or sightseeing excursions.
The Prince Jr. Suites are an indulgence unto themselves. There’s a separate sitting area with a dining table for two that looks out over the bay, and the large picture windows open entirely if one wishes to enjoy coffee in company with the ocean breeze. In care for the local fauna, there’s a notice that shutters will be closed during turn down service each evening, and guests should be careful not to open them while the lights are on at night, lest they confuse migratory birds that frequent the area. One might also luxuriate in the oversized soaking tub complete with a terrycloth sachet of lavendar bath salts while enjoying yet another picture window view of the fantastic landscape, or they can simply flip a switch to turn the windows opaque for complete privacy. Opulent marbles and rich woods found elsewhere in the hotel are also found in these quite comfortable guest rooms, which have original art in their entry foyers.
Pool-goers will delight in a lovely pool with the same famous view, right on the beach front, which is disappointingly not connected to the rest of the long sugar sand beach that fronts the remainder of the bay, but the outflow of an ancient Hawaiian fish pond (named Kamo’omaika’i, one of the few fishponds of its type on Kaua’i) blocks the path. It’s the bit of tall grass immediately adjacent the resort, and it’s soon slated for restoration to its original form. Even faced with such luxury, there will always be detractors. “Can you believe this? Two elevators to get to the beach.” muttered a grumpy fellow guest in an elevator one afternoon. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective: for one who yesterday was nine hours by air and a change of planes away from the beach, two elevators is certainly something of an upgrade.
Another feature of this St. Regis in particular that enchants is the St. Regis Bar, with the same breathtaking view as the lobby, where one can enjoy indoor or outdoor seating, although if one is outdoors at sunset it’s possible to witness the nightly champagne sabering, which has long been a St. Regis tradition to welcome the evening. There are light bites and signature cocktails, including the Aloha Mary, which is the St. Regis Princeville’s version of the signature Bloody Mary (originally the Red Snapper) which was invented at the New York original in the ’30s. In addition to the famous St. Regis Bloody Mary mix, there’s organic Ocean Vodka from Maui, wasabi powder, sriracha, sea asparagus, and a guava smoked sea salt rim. There are plenty of other St. Regis Bloody Marys to try, a particular recommendation would be the Bora Mary, which adds a luscious fresh flavor with a measure of watermelon juice.
Leisurely breakfasts can be had outdoors overlooking a serene infinity pool (photos of which are often used by Starwood Preferred Guest in promotional materials) at Makana Terrace, which offers breakfast seven days a week, and a decadent brunch buffet on Sundays.
Lovers of spa retreats will enjoy Halele’a Spa (Hawaiian for “House of Joy”, also the name of the land district the hotel sits upon). Although smaller in scale when it comes to relaxation facilities and wet areas, it’s impeccably maintained with friendly, thoughtful staff and makes a comfortable respite while one waits for a treatment in one of many Hawaiian healing traditions, or simply for a not-quite-yet-ready guest room.
Rack rates start at $1,225 per night up to $7,575 per night for the Royal Suite. Rack Rate for the Prince Jr. Suite is $2,025 per night. Of course lower rates are frequently available on the hotel’s website; a spot check of website pricing during an off-peak period returned rates as low as $415. Refreshingly, the resort does not charge a resort fee. If there were any complaints to be had, it would be that one must eventually end their time at the St. Regis Princeville and return to everyday life, but one can rest assured that the warm a hui hou (until next time) from the staff is genuinely authentic, just like the rest of this magnificent place.
Mahalo nui loa and warmest Aloha to St. Regis Princeville for furnishing accommodations and some meals in preparation for this story.