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Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
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Reviewed 4 July 2011

I live on the Big Island of Hawaii and am lucky enough to get to stay at this hotel two-three times per year. We are also regulars at the Beach Tree bar 2-3 times per week. Since the tsunami and 6-week closure, the hotel has only improved, with the singular expcetion of the Pahu'ia restaurant, which has inexplicably declined..

This oceanfront property is a spectacular series of two-story bungalows which house four to eight 'standard' rooms (two to four upstairs and two to four downstairs). The only difference between all the categories of standard rooms is view, and the fact that the downstairs rooms have private outdoor lava rock showers while the upstairs rooms have a balcony with better views.

The bungalows are arranged in a series of four crescents that encircle 1) the King's Pond, a man-made saltwater snorkel lagoon stocked with tons of reef fish and spotted eagle rays 2) The Sea Shell pool, which is the 'family' pool 3) The beach Tree pool, which is the 'quiet' or 'adult' pool, and 4) the Palm Grove crescent which has a new pool with a swim-up bar (21+ only).

The bungalows that have only four standard rooms (two at each end), have suites in the middle in the place of four of the standard rooms. Most of the suites went through a refurbishing over the past two-four years.

I generally stay in an ocean view room, which are located towards the ends of the crescents. The oceanfront rooms are at the very end of the crescents and front the ocean. I have also stayed in one of the "Executive Ocean Front Suites". These large (1000+sf) one bedroom suites are very similar to the standard rooms except they add a sitting room and a second bathroom, plus a larger lanai. Both the oceanfront rooms and the oceanfront suites are located either in the buildings at the tip of each of the crescents or one building removed.

Aside from the size and second bathroom, the difference between the suites and standard rooms include some amenities. The suites come with coffee beans and a grinder, a nice selection of CDs, lounge chairs on the large lanai, a second TV (flat screen, 42" in the sitting room and a smaller flat screen in the bedroom) and some additional bath amenities. The decor, huge slate showers, huge deep soaking tub, amazing bed and linens (I could devote a whole review to how unbelieveable the bed and pillows are), terry robes, cotton robes, slippers, etc. are identical to the standard rooms.

All in all, I think for the money if you're traveling just as a couple I prefer the oceanfront standard room to the suite. The suite is obviously preferable if you have kids, because you can put them in the sofa bed in the sitting room and it's like a second bedroom, and they have their own bathroom.

I also would always request (not guaranteed) a bungalow at the 'tip' when reserving oceanfront. In particular my favorite building is Bungalow 9, which I think is closest to the water and the quietest location. The sea shell crescent is a little noisy especially in the early mornings when small loud children on mainland time descend on the pool. All of the other buildings in the other crescents are much quieter, although with the addition of the 'bar pool' at the Palm Grove crescent, I've noticed more partying 20-somethings are housed there..

There is an aromatherapy menu in the room which you choose various scents from (all very subtle), which they then provide at turndown. The spa is always a highlight, with beautiful treatment rooms including outdoor massage huts, private lava-rock enclosed gardens surrounding outdoor showers and plunge pools, steam rooms, saunas, a fitness room, and a lap pool, all available free to guests regardless of whether you're receiving a treatment. The facials and body wraps are world-class.

Pool service includes frequent offers of spritzes, cool towels, cucumbers for the eyes, someone to clean your sunglasses, frozen pineapple pops. Service huts offer books to read, spray bottles of mango mint leave-in hair conditioner, sunscreen, and cool aloe vera gel. The pool menu is the same as the beach bar menu, a nice assortment of wraps, pasta, salads, burger, wood-fired pizzas, etc. for lunch.

Breakfast options include the signature oceanfront restaurant, Pahu'ia, which also has dinner. A large buffet is served until 11am or there's ala carte entrees such as bagels and lox, waffles, etc. Or on the lighter side, there's a coffee/lunch stand that offers great smoothies, and some breakfast and lunch sandwiches and wraps. For lunch there's the aforementioned Beach Tree restaurant. For dinner there's Pahu'ia or the Beach Tree, as well as the Hualalai Grille which is no longer an Alan Wong's and is in a transition period, serving some fairly standard upscale alehouse dishes.

One of our favorite restaurants ont he island, the Beach Tree, has surpassed Pahu'ia as our preferred dinner restaurant. Check Nick and manger Chuck Wilson just returned from a trip to Italy and came back inspired with nightly specialties using local ingredients but reminiscent of Tuscan classics. The wild boar pappardelle is perfection with fresh peas and mint. The osso buco lasagna is decadent. The bar on the sand is a lovely place any time of day, but especially at sunset, with some of the best bartenders in the world.

The only downside to our recent stays has been dining at Pahu'ia. While the Saturday night surf, sand and stars buffet remains excellent with grilled lobsters and fish, yummy lilikoi bbq ribs, and souffles, 'regular' dinners there have been very disappointing. Our recent appetizers were great but the entrees were inedible, with a lobster ruined by a too sweet ginger butter sauce, and dry, too-salty short ribs in tiny portions. Service was also very slow and lacking in the normal precision and downright perfection the property exudes in every other area. While at the Beach Tree, I routinely see the manager and am visited by the chef and/or sous chef who walks around checking on everyone, there is no visible managerial presence at Pahu'ia. Hostesses have been frosty on recent occasions at dinner as well.

As an alternate dinner option, there is excellent sushi at the Lava Lounge built above Pahu'ia with a fabulous sunset view.

This is a great resort for kids. There's the Kids for All Seasons program which takes them fishing, snorkeling, swimming, walking, etc. There's a large game room. Then there's the basketball courts, tennis courts, and rock-climbing wall. Surfing lessons. Plenty of jogging paths. A long beach fronts the entire resort, so there's plenty of sand, but the reef is shallow, and the lava shoreline makes entry into and out of the ocean difficult right in front of the property, you have to walk about 10 minutes to the south end of the property to get to a proper long beach with good swimming (Kukio Bay). There is a good 'keiki' ocean pond right in front of the resort, quite large, which is shallow most of the time and perfect for little ones and adults who just want to cool off or float in the ocean. The King's Pond as mentioned above is a great place to snorkel without being in the ocean, good for beginners, and fun for advanced because of the eagle rays and wide variety of fish.

The golf course and service is again, world-class. A gorgeous but fairly forgiving course, with jars of homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies after the ninth hole. Great driving range, excellent Callaway rental clubs.

What really sets this resort apart from even the other Four Seasons in the state is how every inch of it is detailed, everything paid attention to. It is not a pretentious resort, the landscaping is largely native and the overall feel is very tropical without being 'manicured'. But you can tell how much thought goes into everything, and there are plenty of places to find privacy and solititude. In addition, the Four Seasons legendary service is in full bloom here. Everything is lightning fast and incredibly friendly without being either overly so or fake. From the valet, to the bellhops, to the reception, to the bartenders. It's almost always perfection. But, at these prices it's surprisingly laid-back, you will not feel out of place in your Wal-Mart slippahs and board shorts, although there's plenty of Prada walking around too. Everyone seems to co-exist, it's not snooty in the least.

I have been to some of the best hotels in the world, including many Four Seasons, and I can still say that this hotel deserves every number one ranking on every list that it's gotten. It truly is spectacular. But please guys, (1) fix whatever is happening at Pahu'ia and (2) improve the wireless receiption and make it free!

  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled with family
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13  Thank SheaG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 July 2011

We spent two nights at the Four Seasons Hualalai in midJune. Our experience with the Four Seasons' outstanding service began with my phone call asking for a red rose to be placed in our room in honor of my husband's birthday when we arrived. The concierge was lovely, wrote a note for him in Italian, and when we arrived we found we had been upgraded to an oceanview room. Staff was unobtrusively gracious throughout our stay--the beach staff in particular were wonderful.
Our room was large, with beautiful slate floors, a luxurious bathroom and a spacious lanai. Both in the room and everywhere else in the Four Seasons, we were struck by how beautiful and also extremely comfortable the furniture was. Although the ocean was not swimmable (one big negative), the swimming pools were gorgeous, including a 28 meter lap pool with a blue tile bottom which is the most beautiful pool I have ever swum in. There is also a salt water pond where you can snorkel. Sunscreen and leave-in hair conditioner are by each pool, as is cold water and cool wet washcloths to refresh you.
There is also a beautiful walk along the sea, which is spectacular and quite long.
Our very best experience at the Four Seasons was a morning we spent on the beach reading and watching the ocean in comfortable lounge furniture that has a kind of hood c to shade you if you want it. Staff brought us virgin lava flows and mahi mahi tacos (which were the best food we had on the island) in bento boxes for lunch. The word "paradise" did come to mind.
The resort is very expensive, but worth it and I think the bottom category golf/ocean view rooms would also be fine. We don't know the exact cost we paid because our trip was very ably organized by my husband's company's travel agent, Leslie Borghetti of Custom Travel (her own business) in Massachusetts. She was able to get us a price $2000 less than I had been able to find on a combination flight, rental car, two hotels and a B and B. I highly recommend both her and the Four Seasons.

  • Stayed: June 2011, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Luca1932
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2011

Everything was perfect, my wife and I had the best honeymoon anyone could have ask for.

  • Stayed: June 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank WhereAreWe2Go
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2011

There is simply no detail that is missing at Hualalai. Beautiful hotel that is maintained with an eye to detail. Food out of this world and there is simply nothing that the hotel staff won't do to make each guest feel special. Add to that an exceptional fitness program that made out entire family work out daily, from spinning to yoga to pilate. Tennis, volleyball and more in the most beautiful health club every enjoyed at a hotel.

  • Stayed: June 2011, travelled with family
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Thank Krugtravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2011

Although it is expensive, the money is worth it.

You can't really go in the water due to the warnings, but beach access is fine

Expensive food, I suggest going to the grocery and brining in food to eat once in a while

allan

  • Stayed: June 2011, travelled with family
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Thank allancamaisa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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