A retreat for famously discerning guests – among them the Dalai Lama, Queen Elizabeth II, Frank Sinatra and just about every US president – Kahala is the place to be on Oahu’s south shore.
But you needn’t be a prince or president to experience this special place. Here, how to spend five days in beautiful Kahala, an oasis in bustling Honolulu.
From 3pm – Check in to the exclusive Kahala Hotel & Resort and waste no time getting into the cerulean waters lapping at Kahala Beach, a 243-metre, white-sand beach right on the resort’s doorstep. Alternatively, spend the afternoon lazing by the resort’s oceanfront pool. Kayaks, snorkels and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards) are available for hourly hire, or arrange a surf lesson.
6pm – Your first night in Hawai‘i calls for a casual dinner at Plumeria Beach House, an award-winning restaurant with uninterrupted beach views. Seafood lovers will be in heaven on Fridays and Saturdays, with the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.
From 6:30am – Enjoy a slow morning with buffet breakfast at Plumeria Beach House, then browse the resort’s shops or relax at the beach. The resort’s natural lagoon is home to a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, so be sure to go and say hello to these beautiful mammals!
10am – Time to head out and learn about Hawai‘i’s unique natural and cultural history at the state’s premier museum, just a 20-minute drive from the resort. The Bishop Museum is home to ancient Hawaiian artefacts, royal family heirlooms, one of the largest natural-history specimen collections in the world, a planetarium and a native Hawaiian garden. Shuttle buses are available from the resort and there’s free admission for Kahala guests who have opted in to the KISCA (Kahala Initiative for Sustainability, Culture and the Arts) goodwill program, which supports local culture and arts through voluntary guest contributions of $8 per night.
1pm – Stop by nearby Kaka’ako for a bite to eat. This hip neighbourhood is nestled between Ala Moana (the famous shopping centre) and downtown Honolulu, and offers uber-cool street art, quality boutique shopping and a grassy waterfront park. Stand-out dining options include Hawaiian fare at Moku Kitchen, Asian-inspired Piggy Smalls, and the Arvo Café, which – as the name suggests – has an Australian-themed menu (Vegemite toast, smashed avo and flat whites anyone?).
7pm – This evening, enjoy dinner at the resort’s award-winning restaurant Arancino at The Kahala. Think authentic Italian feel-good food, such as wood-fired pizzas, fresh house-made pastas and an extensive beverage list including premium Italian wines.
7am – Rise early this morning to climb one of the state’s most famous landmarks, just 10 minutes from the resort. The 2.5-kilometre Diamond Head Summit Trail is best done early to avoid the heat of the day. It requires a moderate level of fitness, with uneven ground and steep sections, but the summit’s panoramic views are totally worth it – trust us!
10am – You deserve brunch. Make your way to nearby Kaimuki, an eclectic neighbourhood just five minutes from the resort. It’s home to unique eateries including Koko Head Café, helmed by US celebrity chef Lee Anne Wong. The popular island-style brunch house serves the likes of poke (chopped and seasoned raw fish) omelette, Hawaiian-style pancakes and the ultra-decadent Elvis’s Revenge (a peanut-butter, bacon and honey concoction you need to taste to understand). Book ahead!
3pm – Work out done, belly full… it’s time to unwind in the resort’s tranquil Kahala Spa. Enjoy one of the spa’s traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi massages performed using warmed ancient pohaku stones. KISCA guests receive two $50 credits toward the Kala Ko’iKo’i Lomilomi treatment and the Oli Oli Lomilomi massage.
6pm – Sample the best of Hawaiian cuisine this evening at Hoku’s, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant with views of the Pacific Ocean. Another award-winning dining destination, Hoku’s has a nature-to-table philosophy (direct from the farm, sea and land) using Pacific ingredients and techniques, combined with international styles.
9am – One of Oahu’s most fascinating sites is the private oceanfront home of late heiress Doris Duke, just six minutes’ drive from the resort. Shangri-La was built in 1937 and inspired by Duke’s extensive travels through North Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. The result is a brilliant example of Islamic architecture and design; the home is adorned in a stunning array of traditional vibrant tiles and ceramics, coloured-glass windows, decorative screens, and an impressive art collection. KISCA guests gain complimentary entry.
1pm – A shopping jaunt in famous Waikiki is a must. Start at the famous Duke Paoa Kahanamoku statue at the end of Waikiki Beach and walk down Kalakaua Avenue, home to modern shopping centres, luxury brands and big-name stores. In between shops, seek out some local food to try, such as poke or shave ice (literally, shaved ice topped with syrup). A shuttle bus runs between the hotel and Kalaimoku Street.
5:30pm – Back at the resort, kick back on the lanai at The Veranda, with a cocktail and pupus (appetisers) and watch some live Jazz or contemporary Hawaiian music.
8am/9:30am – If you’re feeling energetic after breakfast, join one of the resort’s fitness classes. Vinyasa Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Power Yoga are held on the beach so you can find your flow against a stunning ocean backdrop. Spend the rest of the morning relaxing until check out at 12pm.