By Sandra Ramani
July 10, 2019
Courtesy of Montage Kapalua Bay

Back in 1866, a young reporter for the Sacramento Union newspaper spent four months exploring “the Sandwich Islands,” which we now know as Hawaii. They are “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean,” wrote Mark Twain then — and, based on comments from Travel + Leisure readers, modern-day travelers wholeheartedly agree.

Chief among the reasons to fall in love with Hawaii today is its wealth of exceptional resorts, as is reflected in the 2019 World’s Best Awards survey. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

RelatedThe World's Best Awards 2019

Easily accessible via direct flights from several mainland U.S. hubs, Hawaii continues to be a beloved destination drawing a wide variety of travelers, from families to honeymooners, adventure seekers to sun worshippers, foodies to culture hounds. Much of its enduring popularity comes from the diversity found within the chain; main island Oahu bustles with museums, big-name restaurants, high-end shopping, and more, for example, while laid-back Lanai is a favorite for its small-town charm, and Maui — which ranks among the Top Islands in the World in this year’s survey — stuns with its hikeable volcanic peaks, 30 miles of beaches, and refreshing natural pools and waterfalls.

Diversity is also a big part of Hawaii’s hotel landscape, as is evident in this year’s Top 15 Resort Hotels in Hawaii list. Part of the Relais & Chateaux collection of boutique properties, Hotel Wailea (No. 2) on Maui is an adults-only, all-suite hideaway, with its 72 rooms spread out over 15 acres of Zen gardens. “This hotel is like your own private paradise,” noted one reader, adding that the “impeccable service” makes “each guest feel like family.” Also on Maui, the contemporary, 301-room Andaz Maui Wailea Resort (No. 14) is notable for its lively vibe, farm-to-table fare, and spa, where guests can create their own products using island-grown ingredients. Travaasa Hana celebrates local culture through a focus on culinart, adventure, and wellness activities. Over on Oahu, the legendary Halekulani continues to delight with its Waikiki Beach views and fine-dining options, while the quartet of Four Seasons properties on the list include the Big Island’s Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, a Kona Coast spot that readers commented is “one of the most relaxing places in all the Hawaiian Islands.”

Whether you’re planning a trip to Hawaii or are in need of some vacation inspiration, read on to see what made this year’s list of reader-picked spots in the state — and learn more about the No. 1 winner.

15. Wailea Beach Resort, Maui

Courtesy of Wailea Beach Resort

Score: 87.90

More information: waileabeachresort.com

14. Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, Big Island

Courtesy of Fairmont Orchid

Score: 88.17

More information: fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii

13. Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Big Island

Courtesy of Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 88.73

More information: aubergeresorts.com/maunalani

12. Andaz Maui Wailea Resort

Courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

Score: 89.06

More information: hyatt.com

11. Halekulani, Oahu

Courtesy of Halekulani

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.46

More information: halekulani.com

10. The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, Big Island

Courtesy of The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort

Score: 89.57

More information: marriotthawaii.com

9. Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina

Courtesy of Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina

Score: 90.71

More information: fourseasons.com/oahu

8. Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Courtesy of Four Seasons Maui

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.75

More information: fourseasons.com/maui

7. Travaasa Hana, Maui

Courtesy of Travaasa Experiential Resorts

Score: 91.23

More information: travaasa.com/hana

6. Trump International Hotel Waikiki, Oahu

Courtesy of Trump International Hotel Waikiki

Score: 91.65

More information: trumphotels.com/waikiki

5. Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort, Kaua'i

Courtesy of Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort

Score: 92.30

More information: meritagecollection.com/koa-kea

4. Four Seasons Resort Lanai

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resorts

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 92.89

More information: fourseasons.com/lanai

3. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island

Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 94.55

More information: fourseasons.com/hualalai

2. Hotel Wailea, Maui

Glenn Parry/Courtesy of Hotel Wailea

Score: 95.74

More information: hotelwailea.com

1. Montage Kapalua Bay, Maui

Courtesy of Montage Kapalua Bay

Score: 95.88

More information: montagehotels.com/kapaluabay

“Why go anywhere else?,” asks one reader about Montage Kapalua Bay, which tops our list for the second time. It’s a good question, given the Maui resort’s unique feel and standout amenities. Spread out among 24 lush acres fronting Namalu Bay, the residential-style getaway encompasses just 50 one-to-three-bedroom suites, each redesigned in 2018 and featuring separate living areas, full kitchens, furnished terraces, and either ocean or garden views. The “huge residences” mean “space is never an issue, especially for multigenerational families,” notes one reader. To celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2019, the resort has revealed the new dinner-only Hideaway restaurant — where chef Robert Barrera serves up signatures like coconut shrimp satay and bigeye tuna tartare — and a new spa partnership with noted skincare line Valmont, which has created an exclusive treatment for Spa Montage, the Masterpiece Facial. Add to that guest-favorite activities like “complimentary hula lessons, ukulele lessons, and lei making” that “help in embracing the Hawaiian culture,” and it’s easy to see why several readers cite Montage Kapalua Bay as their “favorite place in the world.”

Want to experience one of the World’s Best resorts for yourself? This October, join Travel + Leisure editor in chief Jacqueline Gifford and Food & Wine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle for an intimate trip to California’s Wine Country during fall harvest season. With the iconic Meadowood Napa Valley as your home base, you’ll be treated to exclusive tastings at some of the region’s best wineries, including a handful that are typically closed to the public. Book your trip now before spots disappear.

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.

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