Best Hotels in Hawaii

For many travelers, the Hawaiian islands loom large as a dream trip. When the time comes, there's a hotel in this paradise that can make your dream vacation come alive. It might be a secluded resort on the Big Island that's popular with Hollywood celebrities or a Moorish-inspired hideaway on Maui with a 140-foot waterslide that kids—of all ages—will love.

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No. 1 Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai, Big Island, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai
Don Riddle

“Perfect,” “heaven,” and “the best vacation of my life” are just a few ways guests describe this understatedly gorgeous, isolated resort where all 228 rooms, in low-rise bungalows, have ocean views. It’s popular with Hollywood celebrities for good reason: the five-star service is impeccable; the grounds border the dramatic volcanic rock coast with seawater and freshwater swimming pools; an open-air spa teems with tropical vegetation; and yoga, personal training, and a full menu of fitness classes are offered daily. The private 7,100-square-foot oceanfront Jack Nicklaus signature golf course is carved right into the underlying black lava, which serves as occasional bunkers.

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No. 2 Halekulani, Oahu, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Halekulani
Courtesy of Halekulani Hotel

Service rules at this recently renovated 5-acre Waikiki Beach beauty, which has existed for nearly a century. The Orchid Suite, the newest of the hotel’s premier rooms, made its debut in 2008. The fabled-hotel is a high-style base on Waikiki beach. Stay in one of two Vera Wang–designed suites—especially if you're there to get married at sunset. Don't miss breakfast either. At the open-air dining room at Orchids restaurant, paddle straight for the Hawaiian specialties: pipi kaula beef jerky, marinated ahi tuna poke, lomilomi cured salmon, Waimanalo roast suckling pig, local Kula tomatoes, and Big Island goat cheese. The Halekulani kitchen also whips up the Pacific’s best popovers.

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No. 3 Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
Don Riddle

A favored hideout for Hollywood types in search of a Polynesian interlude, the 380-room resort caters to every pleasurable whim. Stroll in a traditional Hawaiian healing garden to the recently expanded spa, where you can soothe sunned skin with an avocado mask in a treatment room for two. The resort also customizes spa packages—think coconut, pineapple, and kukui nut–based therapies—for its guests.The suites are decorated with tropical accents, facing the Pacific or the dramatic Haleakala volcano. Dine in one of three restaurants or grab a fruity drink in the hotel's four bars before touring the resort's contemporary Hawaiian art collection.

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No. 4 Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, The Lodge at Koele, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, The Lodge at Koele
Peter Vitale

An English country manor sensibility pervades this 20-acre central-highland property on sparsely populated Lanai. The 102 rooms and suites have verandas, many fronting the perfectly manicured lawns where croquet and lawn bowling are played. The backdrop is green hills and tall pines interspersed with occasional glimpses of ocean. After a day of jeep tours, hiking, horseback riding, or skeet shooting, relax by the enormous stone fireplaces in the hunting-lodge-like Great Hall, sumptuous with dark rich wood, skylights, and libraries and sitting rooms in the wings.

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No. 5 Travaasa Hana, Maui, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Travaasa Hana (Formerly Hotel Hana-Maui and Honua Spa)
Courtesy of Travaasa Destinations

Formerly Hotel Hana-Maui & Honua Spa

From its beginnings as a six-room inn opened in 1946, this secluded property has been completely transformed into an elegantly luxe resort, with 69 rooms in sprawling plantation-style bungalows (697 to 1,475 square feet) perched on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s a special place that emphasizes the culture and tradition of Hawaii, from the indigenous patterns used in textiles to ukulele and hula lessons to staff who have been with the hotel for four generations. The spa, with an aquatic therapy pool and lava-rock whirlpool, takes advantage of views of tranquil Hana Bay.

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No. 6 Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Big Island, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
Courtesy of Prince Resorts Hawaii

Hapuna Beach State Park, with its 32 acres of white sand and palms framed by lava-rock outcroppings, provides the jaw-dropping setting for Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, a 351-room resort that’s the sister hotel to Mauna Kea, originally built in 1965 by the founder of RockResorts, Laurance Rockefeller. The property’s beach is equally as beautiful as the one that fronts its sister hotel, and although Hapuna’s interiors are more subdued, they maintain a similarly bright, airy feeling. This spring, three years after Mauna Kea got a freshening up, Hapuna Beach got its turn; 96 of the oceanfront guest rooms and luxury suites were updated with Polynesian-style fabrics and traditional Hawaiian kapa prints, all complemented by raffia and blond wood furnishings, and white shuttered doors that open onto oceanfront lanais. For the ultimate underwater experience, rent fins, masks, and snorkels from the beach club next to the 6,500-square-foot Hapuna Beach pool, and head out to the rocky points at either end of the beach in the early morning, when the water is calm and crystal clear. Come evening, head a mile north to the Mauna Kea Hotel’s Kauna’oa Beach, where a large floodlight shines into the bay so travelers can watch as manta rays feed on tiny plankton lured to the shore.

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No. 7 Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Courtesy of Prince Resorts Hawaii

A $150-million refurbishment, completed in 2007, brought new life to this venerable resort overlooking the crescent of Kaunaoa Beach (originally built in 1965 by the founder of RockResorts, Laurance Rockefeller). The property’s 258 guest rooms—all with private lanais overlooking the sea or the championship Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed golf course—are now sleek aeries outfitted in teak, rattan, and cheerful print fabrics. The renovated common areas, including the lobby and the Mandara spa, are decorated with carvings and statuary from Rockefeller’s museum-quality collection of Oceanic and Asian art (the gilded Buddha overlooking the grand staircase to the North Garden dates from the 7th Century). The waterfront has an 11-court tennis club, and activities like canoeing, snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing. At dinnertime, outdoor tables at the restaurant, Manta, offer prime views over the manta rays that feed nightly beneath the terrac

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No. 8 Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton

Until recently, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua's buttoned-up European look was strangely out of touch with its tropical surroundings. Now, after a $180 million renovation, the hotel has lost the chintzy curtains, faux Renaissance artwork, and yes, the fireplace in the library. The 460 guest rooms are breezy yet refined: kukui tree-patterned rugs cover dark Brazilian ironwood floors, and wrought-iron lanais look out on the island landscape. As they say in Hawaii, Na mea maikai—It's all good.

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No. 9 St. Regis Princeville Resort, Kauai, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: St. Regis Princeville Resort
Courtesy of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc

Unveiled in September 2009 after its conversion from a Sheraton, this resort on Kauai’s North Shore borders one of Hawaii’s most famous golf courses (also called Princeville, it comprises 45 Robert Trent Jones, Jr.–designed championship holes). In its new incarnation, however, the property now also offers enough amenities to tempt even the links-averse—including an expansive spa doling out taro-clay wraps and maile-oil massages; a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant; a 5,000-square-foot infinity pool; and a sheltered beach good for snorkeling and for families. The 252 rooms—some of the largest on Kauai—are all gleamingly new and soothingly upholstered in soft, seashell colors; sea-view rooms and suites overlook Hanalei Bay to Mount Namolokama and, in the distance, Mount Makana (more famously called Bali Hai in South Pacific).

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No. 10 Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, HI

Best Hotels in Hawaii: Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui
Courtesy of The Fairmont Kea Lani

Moorish-inspired hideaway (domes, dramatic archways, and whitewashed walls) on 22 manicured acres. Brave a 140-foot waterslide, string orchids into leis, and golf with a view of mountains and ocean. The 413 suites and 37 villas are on a calm cove ultrasafe for kids.

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