You’ll find ample modern elements in Hawaii, from a contemporary-art museum to cutting-edge cuisine. Yet the destination’s mystique arises from its culture, its history and its natural beauty. Be sure to seek out the Polynesian elements of Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island; you can do that in timeless ways such as attending a luau and wearing flower lei. Or immerse yourself in the destination’s cultural events and historical treasures. Many hotels incorporate tributes to the Pacific state in their decor and programming.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii has exciting resorts throughout the island chain, and each weaves elements of authentic Hawaii into its enticing offerings. At the Sheraton Waikiki, for instance, guests are centrally located in the heart of Waikiki Beach and can step away from their contemporary island-inspired accommodations to create puka shell jewelry, dance the hula, and master surfing on Hawaii’s magnificent crests. The resort recently completed a $188 million transformation that cleverly incorporates Hawaiian touches throughout. Farm-to-table cuisine is prepared creatively at Kai Market, a restaurant inspired by the cultural diversity of Hawaii’s Plantation Era. Hawaii’s first Sheraton Club Lounge, Leahi, offers breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head from the 30th floor.
On the Big Island, sister property Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa honors ancient wonders in small, important ways. Perhaps most captivating is the Cultural Preserve Tour. Using a brochure available at the front desk, you can meander around the property to see ancient sites such as a fishing shrine and a spot where sea salt called paakai was once collected.
Majestic manta rays are inherent to Hawaii’s marine life, and at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay you can watch them swim from a special viewing area while an expert educates guests about the creatures’ habits. For a close-up encounter, snorkel or swim with the mantas during a Manta Experience only five minutes from shore. Throughout the year, the resort hosts cultural events such as a Hawaiian dance and entertainment gathering, a competition among the state’s slack key musicians, and a Kona coffee recipe contest.
If living amid Hawaiian history intrigues you, consider lodging at Oahu’s Royal Hawaiian, located where King Kamehameha frolicked decades ago and where Queen Kaahumanu’s Summer Palace once stood. Here you can enjoy such cultural touches as fresh flower leis upon arrival, cool oshibori towels by the pool, dinners of locally caught fish at Azure Restaurant, and cultural activities including Hawaiian quilting and lauhala bracelet-making sessions.
Outrigger Hotels & Resorts began in Hawaii, and this international hospitality firm embraces its roots. Its two beachfront Oahu properties and the Outrigger-managed Keauhou Beach Resort on Hawaii’s Big Island so integrate Hawaiian culture into their offerings that guests have a true Polynesian experience while enjoying a getaway on the mesmerizing shores of the Pacific Ocean. While a fully contemporary resort, Outrigger Reef on the Beach is simultaneously a living museum. As you enter, you’ll see a richly colored antique Polynesian wooden canoe suspended from the A-frame ceiling. When checking in you’ll be near 18 photographs of Pacific Basin canoes by the late Hawaiian historian and artist Herb Kane. Finely crafted canoe paddles, curator-selected artifacts and Hawaiian literature round out the exhibits. During your stay, you might learn to play the ukulele, make leis, print petroglyph-style, appreciate native plants and hear legendary musicians and hot new island artists.
Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is just as devoted to melding history and relaxation. Year-round, through its Kalakaua Experience program, the hotel features music, dance and festivities. Lei making, and hula and ukulele lessons, are just a few of the weekly guest activities. For the ultimate immersion experience, sign up for a group wedding vow renewal ceremony in true Polynesian style.
On Hawaii’s Big Island, Outrigger’s Keauhou Beach Resort offers a culturally rich experience with remnants of ancient Hawaii scattered across its grounds, including two ancient heiau (stone temples), two massive fishing stones, a replica of King David Kalakaua’s summer cottage, and gardens of indigenous plants.
Guests can also immerse themselves in the culture with daily activities like lei making and Hawaiian language classes.
With so much history to offer, it’s no wonder these Outrigger hotels have earned the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s coveted Keep it Hawaii Award.
The spirit of aloha permeates the elegant Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, from the welcoming service in the chic restaurants to the doting treatments in the spa – especially the authentic lomi lomi massage and the Hulacise sessions. Throughout this AAA Four Diamond property, subtle touches keep Hawaiian traditions top of mind. And every week, Aloha Friday invites guests to experience hula dancing, singing and cultural activities, and observing a fire-knife dancer.
To immerse yourself more in the feel of authentic Hawaii, sign up for the Hyatt’s historical walking tour of Pualeilani. Led by a knowledgeable member of Hyatt’s Regency Club concierge team, you’ll explore the avenues surrounding the hotel, seeing where Hawaiian headliners made a difference in this state’s storied past.
Elsewhere around the sprawling property, you’ll enjoy pampering amenities on a site that was once as popular with Hawaiian royalty as it is with visitors today. Waikiki means “spouting waters” and the resort invites you to spend time on its lively waves with the Explore Waikiki Surf Package. With the help of the luxuryoriented Ty Gurney Surf School, you’ll work with a pro surfer in two 2-hour lessons. The package also includes a 3-night (minimum) stay in the Hyatt’s Regency Club level, comfortable transportation to the surf school, a photo CD of your lesson and souvenir gifts.
During your sunny stay on the prime stretch of beach, you’ll lodge in the largest guest rooms in Waikiki. Each has a flat-screen TV with an iPod docking station and a private balcony. Dine in award-winning restaurants. Shop in a threelevel mall boasting 60 boutiques – right on site. Swim the freshwater swimming pool overlooking the bustling beach. And swing to live music at the Elegant Dive pool bar.
The islands of Hawaii are, individually and collectively, a multicultural treasure chest, and Aston Hotels & Resorts offer easy access to their cultural wealth. On Oahu, Aston has eight enticing resorts. Aston Waikiki guests can step outside and follow the “surfboard signs” on a self-guided walking tour of the beaches, statues and historic sites. Or, hop on Aston’s Saturday Waikiki Trolley and ride up a curving road to the Hawaii Farmers Market to chat with farmers about island-grown fruit and vegetables; some have roots back to the earliest Polynesian voyagers. Food booths offer a taste of the islands.
Kauai boasts four Aston properties. Historyminded visitors often select Aston Waimea Plantation Cottages, which are fully restored former sugar plantation homes.
On Maui, any of the nine Aston resorts offer access to great adventures. Aston Kaanapali Shores, Aston at Papakea Resort and Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas are each a shuttle ride away from the old whaling port of Lahaina Town. Settled in the early 1800s by sailors and missionaries, the town has a historic site on nearly every corner. Also, three resort choices located in sunny Kihei offer a value-priced, family-friendly alternative to Wailea’s super-resorts.
On Hawaii, the Big Island, Aston Kona by the Sea is located just south of historic Kailua-Kona town. The charming shops and slow pace give off the feel of small-town Hawaii. At every turn, visitors find sites of interest: cultural museums; a coffee farm museum; Hulihee Palace, built for Hawaiian royalty in 1838; and Mokuaikaua, the missionary church built in 1837. For golf fanatics, Aston Waikoloa Colony Villas and Aston Shores at Waikoloa are home to a luxurious, upscale lifestyle on the golf course.
Aston’s lodging choices offer a variety of amenities and price ranges and The Aston Collections range from hotel rooms to one-of-a-kind getaways and condominium resorts. 866-774-2924, astonhotels.com
Kaanapali Beach Hotel, fronting world-famous Kaanapali Beach, is officially recognized as Hawaii’s Most Hawaiian Hotel. Full-time Hawaiian cultural advisors share insight about the destination by hosting daily complimentary activities. Hula lessons, lauhala weaving, Hawaiian storytelling, ukulele playing, cultural garden walks, Hawaiian language lessons, pineapple cutting demonstrations, sand image etching, and a nightly complimentary hula show are ways for guests to experience the local culture.
Your immersion begins the moment you arrive at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, as its employees serenade guests upon arrival and perform a Kukui Lei Ceremony upon departure. Through activities, art and artifacts — such as canoes, hales, pahu drums and patches of native taro plants — the hotel surroundings provide a relaxed and true Hawaiian atmosphere.
With oceanfront Family Suites that sleep five and a free year-round Aloha Passport for Kids children’s program, Kaanapali Beach Hotel provides a family- friendly, value-packed experience. Kids 17 years and younger stay for free.
The Tiki Terrace Restaurant serves Hawaiian cuisine prepared by awardwinning Chef Tom Muromoto. For light meals, opt for the poolside Tiki Bar and Tiki Grill. For a treat, enjoy Kupanaha Magic Show Dinner Theater, where world-renowned illusionists Jody and Kathleen Baran present spectacular illusions from the repertoires of seven magicians, incorporating Hawaiian touches. A white-glove, three-course meal is served.
For a more adult-friendly, romantic get-away, visit Maui’s premier bed and breakfast, The Plantation Inn, nestled in a lush tropical oasis in the heart of Maui’s historic Lahaina town, steps from the waterfront and all the excitement it holds, yet far enough to offer precious tranquility. Nineteen rooms and suites, each uniquely furnished and housed in graceful turn-of-thecentury structures, create an intimate hideaway.
The Plantation Inn is home to one of the finest restaurants in the world, Gerard’s. Here Chef Gerard Reversade combines classic French cuisine with Maui’s fresh island products.
Ready for cultural immersion with the modern amenities you love? Vacation in Hawaii.