Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort reopens

The largest Hilton in the world and Hawaii’s largest resort – Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki reopened on Dec. 15, 2020. Situated on 22 oceanfront acres of Waikiki’s widest stretch of beach, the grand reopening was a celebration. There was a Hawaiian blessing held with Hilton Hawaiian Village staff and tenants, and the first guest group to check-in received a complimentary upgrade to the Niumalu Suite in the Rainbow Tower, a gift bag and beautiful lei. Click here for current specials.

Photo Courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village

“We have looked forward to this day for a long time, and our team has worked tirelessly to make our reopening possible,” said Debi Bishop, managing director of the property. “Our guests and Team Members will find that we have created a resort experience that prioritizes safety while retaining the warm Aloha spirit that our islands are known for.”

Photo by Hilton Hawaiian Village

In addition to its prime location on Waikiki Beach, 5 pools, waterfalls and one of the best water slides, the world-class Mandara Spa reopened for treatments. The Waikiki Beach Activities beach concession reopened for guests to enjoy outdoor activities on the ocean or the saltwater lagoon.

Both guests and team members feel safer with the ultimate Hilton CleanStay hospitality cleaning protocols. To ensure the safety of guests and employees, Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection delivers an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection in Hilton properties across the world.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

Hilton Hawaiian Village guests will notice the resort is cleaner and safer to stay in from check-in to check-out. Standards for Hilton CleanStay include a Hilton CleanStay Room Seal to indicate that a room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, flexible housekeeping options, and more.

Hilton EventReady with CleanStay provides curated solutions with creative food and beverage, thoughtful technology resources, elevated standards and practices with redesigned spaces for physical distancing, and reimagined ways to meet and gather to create a safe and comfortable environment for event planners and their attendees.

Photo by Jill Weinlein

All transpacific travelers who desire to bypass Hawaii’s 14-day travel quarantine are required to participate in the Safe Travels Hawaii program by furnishing a negative COVID-19 test result from one of the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners 72 hours prior to departure. Travelers must have the negative result in hand prior to going through airport security. This pre- travel test is part of a multilayered screening process that also includes the mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form, and temperature screening at all Hawaii airports upon arrival. For more information visit HawaiiCOVID19.

Hawaii’s Fairmont Orchid Resort

The “Big Island” of Hawaii offers multiple climate zones. On the majestic Kohala Coast above Kona, this area gets about 10 inches of rain a year, with a little bit more up in the hills. Whereas the area around Hilo receives up to 150 inches of rain.


The 32-acre Fairmont Orchid Resort is located in an ideal climate zone on a northwestern beach along the Kohala Coast. The weather is wonderful year round for family reunions, weddings, and corporate functions.

The Fairmont Orchid offers the Hui Holokai Beach Club for ocean and cultural activities, including complimentary snorkel, mask and fins to explore the resort’s lagoon. While snorkeling, guests will see Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, a colorful lagoon triggerfish that swims peacefully among an array wrasses, tangs and butterfly fish.


Since the lagoon is shallow, it’s an ideal spot for swimming, floating on an inflatable raft, take an outrigger canoe voyage, paddle board, kayak and watch the nightly sunset and torch lighting ceremony.


Walking near the waters edge of the Fairmont Orchid, near black lava rocks and sand, green sea turtles beach themselves in the afternoon. In Hawaii they are called honu and can weigh up to 300 pounds. Native to the Hawaiian Islands, these are the largest hard-shelled sea turtles in the world.


Outdoor adventures include complimentary BMW road bicycles to explore the area for Bonvoy members. There are many hiking and walking trails along the beach and through the largest petroglyph field in the Pacific.


Afterwards refresh with a swim in the 10,000 square foot oceanfront pool or soak in a nearby tropical hot whirlpool overlooking a waterfall.  There are two different spa experiences at the Fairmont Orchid. The “grass meets the sand” area is a curtained Spa Without Walls massage experience. Another blissful spa area is at the waterfall massage hale (huts). The sound of water from the ocean or waterfall provides instant relaxing.


There are multiple restaurants and lounges at the resort including Brown’s Deli and Brown’s Beach House offering sunset al fresco patio dining. The Hale Kai offers lunch and Happy Hour. In the evening, guests may enjoy a casual dinner at tables right on the sand for barefoot dining.

The elegant Luana Lounge near the main lobby offers live Hawaiian entertainment and array of after dinner beverages. Impressive Hawaiian artwork is displayed throughout the indoor rooms.


Since there is a year-round children’s program, parents can enjoy a round of golf or evening out, while little ones enjoy an array of supervised activities. For more information or to reserve a room, click on this link Fairmont Orchid.

Check out another one of my Fairmont Orchid reviews in JustLuxe.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Chef Fest 2019


One of the most luxe Hawaiian culinary events of the year is the annual Chef Fest Food and Wine Festival on the Big Island Hawaii. Hosted by the esteemed Executive Chef Thomas Bellec at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, this unique Hawaiian experience is from November 13 through November 16, 2019.

This year the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has partnered with The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport to ensure Chef Fest guests begin their luxury moment as soon as they arrive at the airport. The Private Suite provides guests with a personalized lounge including snacks, blankets and outdoor lounge seating. There is a private TSA screening, and BMW 7-series tarmac service.

During Chef Fest, guests who book one of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai ten Specialty Suites will receive complimentary access to The Private Suite.  All other Chef Fest guests will receive a special rate for the door-to-door service at LAX.IMG_0637 Once guests arrive on the Big Island of Hawaii, Executive Chef of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Thomas Bellec (a 20-year Four Seasons veteran and member of Les Maitres Cuisiniers de France/ Master Chefs of France), has planned an impressive culinary experience for guests to participate in cooking classes, interactive dinners, mixology showcases, and rare wine tastings. The list of this year’s award-winning participating celebrity guest chefs includes:

Gabrielle Hamilton (Chef Owner of Prune, New York City) Four time James Beard Foundation Award winner including “Outstanding Chef,” Iron Chef winner, Daytime Emmy Award winner for Mind of a Chef, author of New York Times bestseller Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef.

Kris Yenbamroong (Chef Owner of Night + Market restaurants, Los Angeles) James Beard Foundation Award finalist, “Best New Chef” by Food + Wine, “Best Restaurants in Los Angeles” by Los Angeles Times, and author of Night + Market cookbook.

Claude Le Tohic (Chef Partner of ONE65, San Francisco) Three-Michelin star recipient, James Beard Award winner, and member of Les Maitres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chefs of France).

Mashama Bailey (Executive Chef and Partner of The Grey, Savannah) James Beard Award finalist, featured on Chef’s Table, and “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater.

Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske Valtierra (Chefs and Owners of Contra, Wildair and Una Pizza Napoletana, New York City) “Chefs of the Year’ by GQ, World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Michelin star recipients, James Beard Award Foundation finalist, “Best New Chefs” by Food + Wine, “30 Under 30” by Forbes.

Cyrille Pannier (Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco) 15-year Four Seasons veteran at eight hotels and resorts around the world, and Chef’s Cycle participant.IMG_0643

Luca Moriconi (Chef de Cuisine at CULINA and Vinoteca at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills) Born and raised in Tuscany, Chef Luca is a 11-year Four Seasons veteran and speaks four languages.

Kalani Garcia (Executive Pastry Chef of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai) Hawaii native, 16-year Four Seasons veteran, and multi-year winner at Big Island Chocolate Festival.

Charles Phan (Chef/Owner of The Slanted Door, Out the Door, OTD, and Hard Water, San Francisco; Rice & Bones, Oakland) Two-time James Beard Award winner, Iron Chef participant, featured on How to Cook Everything, and author of IACP award winning cookbooks Vietnamese Home Cooking and The Slanted Door.

The Chef Fest kickoff begins with brunch with the chefs at 9 am on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at the Hualalai Trading Company -Bocce Patio. Later in the day is a Cocktail Demonstration with Julie Reiner at the Beach Tree Stage. Also in the afternoon is a wine blending class featuring Domaine Anderson at the Hualalai Grille, before the Chef Fest Grand Tasting at the Hoku Amphitheater.


The following day Thursday, Nov.14 includes a Cocktail Class with Kyle Reutner at the Beach Tree Stage, Cooking Class with Chef Kris Yenbamroong at the Cooking Academy at the Herb Garden, and later an Interactive Cooking Class with Chef Gabrielle Hamilton at the same location. A Mixology Class with Tony Abou-Ganim is before sunset on the Moana Terrace, and then the Ohana Chef Fest Dinner at the Beach Tree Restaurant.


On Friday, Nov. 15 there is a Cocktail Demonstration with Chandra Lucariello at Beach Tree Stage. Afterwards an Interactive Cooking Class with Chef Claude Le Tohic, and a Haku Lei Class with Meleana Estes on the Beach Tree Lawn. From 2 to 4 pm guests can attend an Interactive Cooking Class with Chef Mashama Bailey, followed by a Rare Wine Tasting from 4 to 6 pm. Dinner is an Aloha Friday Beach Cookout on Kumukea Beach.

On the last day Saturday, Nov. 16 Tony Abou Ganim leads a cocktail demostration and Chef Jeremiah Stone and Chef Fabian von Hauske Valtierra lead an interactive cooking class lunch. Chef Charles Phan leads a cooking class from 2 to 4 pm, before guests get ready for the Gala Dinner at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge.

IMG_0648Founder and owner of Au Bon Climat Winery Jim Clendene will attend and pour at this year’s Chef Fest. His Santa Maria winery produces over 30,000 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris varietals annually.

Those seeking the most of a vacation can request the Four Seasons Resort’s Experience More package including a nightly credit of up to $200, which can be used towards dining, activities, spa, and more.  For reservations call (808)325-8000 or book online.

Ohau’s Gunstock Ranch Ecotourism Experience

According to the United Nations aviation division, carbon emissions from air travel are on track to triple by 2050 if no action is taken. Travelers are becoming more aware of this and are seeking experiences to be good citizens of the world.


Hilton Hotels in Hawaii offer a list of ecotourism activities to help guests give back to the islands. Many are located at farms and ranches located about one hour from Waikiki Beach.

Charley’s Taxi Charter drives guests through the center of the third largest Hawaiian Island, to to see a more exotic and natural environment to the Hawaiian Legacy Forest at Gunstock Ranch.

Visitors have the opportunity to walk the footsteps of Hawaiian royalty and support the island’s conservation efforts. This 600 acres working cattle ranch is located at the base of the majestic Ko’olau Mountains. This is birds sing, the wind whispers, and the earth thrives.


When the owners purchased this land years ago, they discovered only four native plants on the property. To help support their efforts to reforest their land with native plants, the ranch offers family-friendly opportunities including horseback rides, off-road experiences, walking and hiking tours to some of the most spectacular ocean views on the windward side of O‘ahu. Gunstock Ranch guests can be a part of Hawai‘i’s history by planting a Legacy Tree in O‘ahu’s first Hawaiian Legacy Forest. The Milo tree was a favorite to the great warrior, diplomat and leader King Kamehameha. It’s dense wood was used for bowls and carving a canoe. Not only do these trees grow tall fast, but they produce a heart shaped leaf.

Along the drive are signs with corporate sponsors including All Nippon Airways (ANA). According to Ty, one of the ranch handlers, ANA has donated one million dollars to plant Milo trees. “They are committed to reduce global warming and build a sustainable society. In return they earn carbon credits from the Hawaiian government.”


I learned ANA planted 520 legacy trees in Kahuku to represent the number of seats on board a plane that flies to Oahu. For almost two years, Gunstock Ranch has planted a 3,000 saplings to offset the carbon of a family of four, and is filling the earth with light and warmth.


Personally planting a milo tree is a special ceremony. Not only do guests get a choice of small saplings, but also the location of where to have their tree grow. Ranch handlers provide nutritious potting soil and water for the tree dedication. The tree is uniquely paired to each person through GPS technology, allowing visitors to monitor it’s growth on a return visit.


Next time you visit Oahu, visit Gunstock Ranch and learn how this cattle ranch is providing an important way to improve the health of Oahu and, on a small scale, the health of the whole planet, with the King’s tree offsetting carbon pollution throughout its life. 

This review is featured in Luxe Beat Magazine 

Visiting Oahu’s Hollywood Movie Set – Kualoa Ranch

A memorable Hawaiian ecotourism experience is exploring East Oahu’s movie and television sets at Kualoa Ranch.


IMG_6089Designated a US Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places since the 1970’s, Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the eighth-generation descendants of Dr. Gerritt P. Judd.

Located about 24 miles from Honolulu, the ranch consists of three valleys: Kaʻaʻawa Valley, Kualoa Valley, and Hakipuʻu Valley. Besides raising cattle and fresh saltwater shrimp on property, Kualoa Ranch enriches people’s lives by preserving Kualoa’s sacred lands and celebrating its history.

Established in 1850, some of Kualoa’s 4000 acres are open to locals, tourists and movie IMG_6056studios with a goal to protect and enhance the natural beauty, while developing sustainable recreational, agricultural and aqua cultural enterprises that are compatible with the environment.

More than 79 movies and TV shows have been filmed at Kualoa over the years. Visitors can ride horseback or drive an Ultra Terrain Vehicle on a guide led tour of the Kualoa Private Nature Reserve.  The one-hour tour traverses over a saddle trail to multiple movie sites with props located along the journey for photo opportunities on the Ranch’s beautiful 1,000-acre Ka‘a‘awa “Jurassic” Valley.


Some of Hollywood’s “Hawaii Backlot,” props from movies and television shows filmed on the ranch include infamous Jurassic Park fallen tree, Godzilla’s footprints, and the famous “penguin” road site from 50 First Dates. See the house structure and replica of Mighty Joe Young from the movie. There are numerous Hawaii Five-0 and LOST areas, including Hurley’s golf course. Other photo opportunity stops include a WWII army bunker built entirely into the side of the mountain range.

You will recognize scenes from Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, 50 First Dates, Hawaii Five-0, Mighty Joe Young, Pearl IMG_6117Harbor, Kong: Skull Island, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

All tours and commercial activities enable Kualoa to keep the lands undeveloped so that future generations will be able to enjoy them as well.  They truly care about and strive to educate all visitors to the third largest Hawaiian Island.

This review was also featured in Just Luxe .




Sipping Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum

Learning that over 40 bars and restaurants in Hawaii serve Kō Hana Agricole Rum, I was excited to visit one of Oahu’s sugar cane farms and rum distillery for an ecotourism tasting tours.

Driving from my DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Alana in the Waikiki Beach area, we drove into Manulele Distillers, makers of Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum. In every direction were acquired acres of sugar cane fields. This was once the old Kunia Camp on an old Del Monte plantation in West Oahu.


Taking a tour of Kō Hana Agricole Rum, visitors learn that this unique and meticulously crafted farm to bottle spirit has a story. Named Kō (Hawaiian name for sugarcane) and Hana (Hawaiian for craft), the sugar cane only needs sun and water to grow year round. The single varietals are hand harvested, pressed to juice and then distilled to create one of the world’s finest pure cane rums.


What makes this distillery different, is the owners cherish their sugarcane, just as a craft tequila company does to their agave plants, or boutique winery cultivating their grapes. These Kō plants are progenitors from sugarcane that the first Polynesians brought from other islands. They might be from Papua New Guinea and Tahiti that arrived to Oahu by canoe thousands of years ago. Sugar cane is a calorie dense plant that provides hydration and potassium to nourish one’s body and soul.

We learned that Papua New Guinea grows over 100 varieties of sugar cane. Here at Kō Hana they grow 34 varieties on red volcanic soil. Some have yellow and green stalks, others have shades of purple and green. Rows of sugar cane grow among a scattering of banana trees.

While many of the Caribbean rum distilleries traditionally make rum from molasses, this  rum is made from pure sugar cane juice. It’s more labor intensive, however this rum is a labor of love.


The distillery tasting room is inside the town’s old plantation store and post office. The store’s old walk-in refrigerator now holds a variety of  Ko Hana rum bottles. There is a pass through window where workers would come to get a hot meal. On the wall is an artistic message in a bottle display to leave a comment about the rum experience

Every varietal has a story and flavor profile of its own. The tasting experience includes a pour from four sqaure glass bottles holding 3.75 ml. This unique rum bottle travels well and looks more like an elegant decanter.

We started with a clear Kō Hana Kea (unaged rum) offering sharp herbal and grassy notes. Guest are encouraged to take a deep breath and breathe in the rum’s aroma, verses taking a big sniff from the tasting glass.


Next we sipped a white Pakaweli that offered a more peppery and well rounded flavor profile. Koho the third pour is from one of the select aged in charred oak whiskey barrels, and finished in used Madera oak barrels. This extra step enables further development and reveals the essence of the flavors. It offers a tingle on the tongue and is ideal to sip with a large ice cube that slowly melts.


The last pour was a sweeter rum named Kokoleke, made with local cacao and honey. This makes an awesome dessert drink to sip or to pour over ice cream.

Next time you visit the Oahu Island, reserve at least two hours at KŌ HANA Distillers. They have a pizza oven to prepare a pizza and salad combo. Address: 92-1770 KUNIA RD #227, KUNIA, HI 96759, USA(

Phone 808) 649-0830 INFO@KOHANARUM.COM

This article was also featured in JustLuxe

Seeing Rainbows in Oahu, Hawaii

The island of Oahu should be named the “Rainbow Island” since every time I visit the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s rains once or twice and rewards its residents and visitors with a colorful rainbow.


Like the colors of the rainbow, the diversity of Hilton Hotels in Honolulu and Waikiki Beach offers accommodations for every budget. One of the most iconic luxury vacation destinations is the Rainbow Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach. Set on 22 acres, the beachfront rooms and suites are located near tropical swimming pools, a salt-water lagoon, 20 restaurants and bars and the Mandara Spa. Each room in the Rainbow Tower offer picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and the Honolulu coastline from both sides of the building. This is the largest Hilton property on the island and very family friendly.


One block away is the more boutique Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Hotel Beach. With only one heated tiled swimming pool, it offers a relaxing and quieter atmosphere.  The 21 story hotel offers a pleasing decor in the main areas, and soothing colors in each guest room with a private lanai (balcony), looking out to partial ocean, city and mountain views.


Staying in suite 1421, I had two lanais with a 280 degree view of the mountains to ocean. The first morning I stepped out to my lanai and noticed a rainbow touching one of the Hilton Hawaiian Village towers.


Since I’ve been to Oahu multiple times, this time I wanted to investigate the farms and ranches offering visitors Ecotourism experiences. After a morning swim and breakfast buffet at the onsite Tree’s Restaurant, I boarded a shuttle to the Ko Hāna Rum distillery for a tour and rum tasting.

As the sun peeked out from the clouds, my group took a guided walk through the sugar cane fields. We learned Japanese war planes flew over these fields before bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.


Kō Hana Agricole Rum is meticulously crafted from farm to bottle. Inside the tasting room we first tasted freshly pressed sugar cane juice, plus three other distinctive rums. The last Kokoleke is enhanced with local cacao and honey. Not only is this rum an ideal after-dinner drink, it can be poured over ice cream.

Having a Charley’s Taxi Charter bring me back to Waikiki, I enjoyed lunch at Hiking Hawaii Cafe known for their organic paninis, wraps, gluten-free options and acai bowls made from scratch. Located on the ground floor of The DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Beach, not only does this cafe offer healthy cuisine, but also organizes outdoor hiking adventures.


This is ideal for the active traveler who doesn’t want to hike alone, or would like to meet like minded people. Group hikes include Manoa Falls, Makeupu’u Lighthouse and a North Shore Tour. Families and groups can also book a private and custom tour. It might rain while on a hike, however the rainbow you might see when the sun peeks through the clouds will be spectacular.

This article is featured in Luxe Beat Magazine 

Jill’s Top 10 Travel Destination to Visit in 2019

This year I visited over 20 luxury resorts and wrote about my adventures for JustLuxe, LuxeBeat and Go World Travel. Some of the standout travel destinations, hotels and resorts include luxury spa experiences, outstanding restaurants, tennis courts, golf courses and enriching experiences that include cooking classes, wine tasting and morning yoga. 

Here’s a list of my favorites in 2018 that I would happily return to in 2019:


1. Luxe Spa in AvalonJustLuxe. Located on Catalina Island , The Island Spa offers ocean theme treatments, products and experiences. There is a day-long yoga and kayaking adventure. Guests meet at the spa and walk to Descanso Beach to enjoy a 1.5-hour paddle tour to coves and headlands along Catalina’s dramatic coast. Participants paddle through giant kelp forests teeming with sea life, and may see dolphins, seals, pelicans, and plenty of bright orange Garibaldi fish. After the paddle and lunch, attendees take a personalized yoga class at Island Spa Catalina, and dip in the heated pool before returning to one of the island hotels or take a boat ride back to Long Beach.


2. Washington DC New Neighborhood – Luxe Beat Magazine. The new InterContinental Washington D.C., located in the newly repurposed The Wharf area along the Potomac River is a 12-story waterfront hotel offering 278 guest rooms with 33 suites. One suite is a two-story Presidential penthouse, just below the rooftop bar and sparkling pool with views of the riverfront, Jefferson Memorial and beyond.


3. Living like a Queen in WaikikiJustLuxe. This historic hotel near Waikiki Beach recently completed $35 million dollars in renovations. With the help of Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts of Philpotts Interiors, the hotel is now filled with Hawaiian colors, local art, comfortable furniture and engaging public spaces. It’s modern, hip and a trendy vacation destination. The staff host Hawaiian experiences for guests that include fitness surfing and yoga classes in the morning, daily Kona coffee tastings, fun interactive wellness workshops, and craft cocktail and live music in the evening.


4. The Ultimate Wedding Destination in Oahu – JustLuxe. The historically inspired Hawaiian Four Seasons chapel built in the center of the resort provides intimate wedding ceremonies next to beautiful stained glass windows. Doors open out to the tropical gardens for cocktails and pu-pu platters. Weddings can also be held next door at the historic Lanikuhunoa Cultural Estate.


5. Hawaii’s Immersive Spa ExperienceJust Luxe The 23,000 sq. ft., Laniwai Spa at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa provides guests with Hawaii’s wellness traditions. Laniwai in Hawaiian means freshwater heaven, and the crystal raindrop chandelier and soothing cloud lights transport guests to a new realm of relaxation. There is a hue of colors symbolizing the gifts of nature that join together to create a rainbow. These organic and natural Hawaiian treatments rejuvenation and renew spa guests.


6. The Best in Baja CaliforniaLuxe Beat Magazine Alaskan Airlines flies directly to Loreto on Thursdays and Sunday from LAX, once you arrive at the Villa del Palmar overlooking Danzante Bay and Isla Danzante, the exclusive all-suite guest rooms provide ocean, golf course and the Gigantic Sierra Mountain views. Activities include paddle boarding and kayaking in the protected bay, golf, tennis, spa and hiking excursions to see the ancient painted caves.


7. Leisure Elegance in Santa BarbaraJust Luxe. Driving up to the Mission-style Hilton Santa Barbara along the American Riviera with swaying palm trees, miles of sandy beaches, a lively wharf and glorious mountain views, this elegant pet-friendly resort offers modern comforts after a multi-million dollar renovation.


8. Newport Beach’s Newest Luxury HotelLuxe Beat Magazine Upstairs on the fourth floor is the only rooftop bar and lounge in Newport Beach called Topside Roof Deck. Guests taking the elevator up to the top are welcomed to spectacular sunset views. Since the day it opened, this sophisticated and celebration-worthy resort offers a heated pool, farm to table dining, bicycles and family suites.


9. Napa’s Newest Wine Country ResortsJust Luxe. The newly refreshed Vintage House lobby lounge and rooms are the quintessential wine-style country living. A complimentary breakfast is offered in this room from 7 to 11 a.m. In the evenings, both properties offer a complimentary wine tasting in their lobby each Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The large, heated pool and 103-degree whirlpool are framed in outdoor cabanas and chaise lounge chairs with thick pads. A highlight to each room is a hanging wicker basket swing to sit and swirl a glass of wine.


10. Indulge at La Quinta Resort & Spahttp://www.justluxe.com/travel/spa/feature-1967158.php. About thirty minutes from downtown Palm Spring is a celebrity hideaway in the town of La Quinta. Built in 1926. It became a retreat and playground for Hollywood’s biggest names, U.S. Presidents Taft and some of the wealthiest families in America. Many of the historic casitas, suites, villas and vacation units are surrounded by green lawns, flower gardens or clustered around one of the 41 pools and 53 hot tubs.

Recharge your senses at one or more of these award-winning resorts.

Long Live Queen Kapiolani Hotel

In the late 1800s, Hawaiians developed a fondness and admiration for their Queen Kapiolani. They appreciated her deep commitment to health, education, and well-being for the Hawaiian people. Her motto “Strive for the Highest” helped establish the Kapiolani Home for Girls and the Kapiolani Maternity Home, with her lasting legacy The Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.


In the 1960s one of the first modernistic 19 story hotels was built across from the Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. It was named in honor of the Queen and soon became a favorite for visitors due to its location near Waikiki Beach, the Honolulu Zoo and Diamond Head. Then the luster of the Queen started to fade.


Meeting Joy Shinobu Tomita, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Knot’s Coffee & Bar in the lobby, I learned Prospect Hill Group and Hawaii hotel executive Patrick Fitzgerald recently acquired the property and invested $35 million dollars to make improvements and renovate the rooms. “The hotel is not the most luxury hotel in Waikiki, instead its engaging, authentic and unique,” said Joy. “We are bringing back the Golden Age with a modern twist.”


With the help of Hawaiian designer Mary Philpotts of Philpotts Interiors, the hotel is now filled with Hawaiian colors, local art, comfortable furniture and engaging public spaces.


Touring the hotel with Joy, I admired the large open-air lobby that fronts Kapiolani Park. In the reception and corridors, Waikiki’s vintage artwork is hung with classic posters from “the Good Old Days of Waikiki.” Each floor is decorated in artwork of a different travel theme that includes airlines and cruise ships.


As Queen Kapiolani helped the people of Oahu, the newly refurbished hotel is helping young Hawaiians by contributing to the KoKua Hawai’i Foundation. This community non-profit established by Jack & Kim Johnson, provides educational experiences to Hawaii’s youth to better understand the sustainability and how to be good stewards of the land. Guests can contribute $1 per day of their stay to support the environmental education programs in the local schools and communities.


Another way the hotel is helping local artists is by commissioning their wall-sized pieces and displaying them for guests to admire and appreciate. Upstairs on the second floor Royal Art Gallery, the hotel features portraits of Queen Kapi’olani, King Kalakaua and other Hawaiian ali’i and dignitaries. 


To help maintain guests health, the Queen Kapiolani offer a new fitness center and Hans Hedemann Surf School and shop. On the third floor is an expansive 8,000-square-foot lanai offering a sparkling pool, lounge area and al fresco DECK restaurant perched above Kapiolani Park. This area offers one of Waikiki’s best views of Diamond Head. At sunset and early evening some of best musicians in the Hawaiian music scene perform as guests sip Mai Tai’s on tap and enjoy a variety of Modern American dishes with a Hawaiian flair.


Entering room #1816, I admired how light and bright this one bedroom with a kitchenette, large outdoor lanai, and two bathroom suite was overlooking Waikiki Beach to Diamond Head. Below is the Honolulu Zoo with a bird’s eye view of the flamingo pond, elephant habitat and beautiful Hawaiian flowering trees.

The hotel offers guest experiences throughout the week with Hawaiian Coffee tastings at the lobby Knot’s Coffee Bar, visits to the nearby Farmers Market, surf lessons and art experiences. There is an Aloha Whip Confectionery and retail shops offering fun Hawaiian lifestyle art and gifts.

Waikiki’s Queen Kapiolani regains its luster offering beauty, health, wellness and an educational Hawaiian experience to all visiting Oahu. Renovations are scheduled to be completed by September 2018. For reservations – https://www.queenkapiolani.com.

This review was also featured in JustLuxe.

Luxurious Laniwai Spa at the Aulani Resort, A Disney Resort & Spa

Recently I met Lucia Rodriguez Amasio, the Laniwai Spa Director at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa for a tour of her 23,000-square-foot luxurious spa. As she greeted me in the lobby, I learned Laniwai in Hawaiian means freshwater heaven.

The backsplash at the reception counter is wavy and white with a hue of rainbow colors. The lighting decor includes a crystal raindrop chandelier and soothing cloud lights. Both symbolize the gifts of nature to create a rainbow. “Rain comes down from the heavens, travels down the mountains to the sea and back to the heavens,” Amasio said. “We try to replicate that experience for our guests.”

What makes this spa different than other resort spas is the Disney Imagineers play on color, light and water to create a rainbow effect throughout the spa. Also, the music is not Disney-esque, but soothing Hawaiian sounds that change as one walks through the locker rooms, rain showers, steam room, dry sauna and treatment rooms.

Spa guests are initially given a wood bowl filled with po.haku or wish stones. I was instructed to hold my hand over the stones and select one “or one might select you,” said Amasio. I chose one with the word “Balance.” On the back side was the Hawaiian translation Pono. “Balance can be both physical and mental,” Amasio said, as she handed me a glass of pineapple lemongrass water to begin my detox cleanse. I held onto the stone and followed her to the center of the spa before stopping at a small circular pond.  “Our guests can never get lost, because this is distinctive and round like a rainbow. We only see the arch of a rainbow, but actually a rainbow is a complete circle,” she said.

I was told to make a wish, and place the stone into the pond. “Keep balance in your mind all day,” Amasio said. I noticed as I dropped “Balance” into the water, it landed near stones that said “Dream”, “Happiness” and “Harmony”. The wood sticks lining the wall in this area are made of the ohi’a lehua trees. It’s a species of flowering evergreen tree that is endemic to the six largest islands of Hawaii.

Amasio encouraged me to drink a glass of pineapple and coconut water from the hydration station. “All superfoods rich in antioxidants to help fight free radical damage, promote skin cell rejuvenation, boost metabolism and provide a super immune boost,” she said.

Guests are advised to arrive one hour before their appointment to take full advantage of the outdoor relaxation garden as a prelude to their treatment. We stopped at the complimentary exfoliation station known as the Pulu Bar. Guests may take a container of coconut vanilla salt scrub to one of the six different shower heads to achieve a soothing and polishing E Kala Mai shower experience. Nearby are two different temperature plunge pools – a hot one at 101 degrees and a colder one at 90 degrees for sensitive or pregnant guests. Above are rain drop lights hanging in the lushl trees. “This tropical area has become a popular spot for anniversary celebrations and even weddings,” she said.

Spa guests may sit out in a cabana in the garden and order light and healthy snacks that include a protein shake and salad. There are complimentary banana muffins and cookies available in the morning, and chocolate treats in the afternoon. The staff will also offer a tea flight served with organic gummy bears for a sweet snack.

Taking a tour of the 15 treatment rooms, I learned guests can choose from four different Hawaiian scents for aromatherapy and a vaierty of music to personalize their experience. The treatment beds are heated, and the products used are organic lotions that are not too strong to all the senses. After a treatment, guests receive a glass of hydration water and cube of guava jelly for a little spike of sugar.

What is new for younger guests is a high-style retail studio and salon to help little girls can get luau ready and become Moana or pretty mermaids, while young boys can don new board shorts and rash guards to look super cool in the Rainbow Reef or sliding down the Volcanic Vertical waterslide.

The Painted Sky Spa experience is for 13 to 17-year-old guests who seek a clarifying facial, new hairstyle, or makeup lesson. The 1,500 sq. ft area. allows teens the Laniwai spa privileges with an accompanied adult. Together mother and daughter may enjoy the showers, plunge pools, relaxation lounge areas, complimentary snacks, and hydration waters.

Since the Painted Sky is near the adult-only outdoor Wailana pool and pool bar, parents can enjoy some quiet time while their teen is receiving a treatment. Also near the spa is the 2,000 sq. ft. Mikimiki Fitness Center filled with Life Fitness equipement, free weights and stretching areas.

While enjoying the Alunai Resort or staying at a nearby property in Ko Olina, be sure to make a reservation at the luxurious Laniwai Spa to unwind, detox and satisfy all of your senses.

To make a reservation, go to https://www.disneyaulani.com

Read my review in Just Luxe – http://www.justluxe.com/community/luxurious-laniwai-spa-at-the-aulani-resort_a_1967491.php

Hawaiian Wedding at the Four Seasons Oahu in Ko Olina


Finishing up lunch with Yvonne Hunter, the Director of Public Relations at the Four Seasons Oahu Ko Olina Resort, she took me on a tour of the newer resort. Almost three years ago the JW Marriott Ihilani (built in 1998), became the Four Seasons Oahu. Set among green lawns and a dramatic coastline with the Waianae Mountains in the background, Hunter told me Ko Olina in Hawaiian means “Place of Joy.”


Walking out to the resort’s grassy oceanfront peninsula enclave, I noticed a long table beautifully set for 30 guests. Exotic flowers were displayed to enhance this semi-private wedding or reception spot offering ocean, resort and verdant mountains.


As we passed the adult-only infinity pool, I noticed the bride-to-be and her wedding party enjoying some sun and fun at a private cabana. Zane the Four Seasons Tanning Butler approached the ladies with a tray of five different strengths of sunning lotions and sunscreens to help prevent painful sunburns and achieve golden tans.


Hunter shared that other pre-wedding activities include swimming in the sheltered beach lagoon with complimentary water toys and paddle boards. Guests can take a ride on the Four Seasons outrigger canoe or relax and get a massage in a waterfront cabana at the Naupaka Spa & Wellness.


The 35,000 sq. ft. space offers 17 treatment rooms, plus three muliwai healing hales. Muliwai is Hawaiian for where the water of a slow-moving stream meets the sea. These three hales offer two treatment beds and oceanfront breezes and views. Yamaguchi Salon is available for bridal hair, makeup and nails, while there is a men’s barbershop for the groom and groomsmen. The luxury facility includes steam, sauna, whirlpool, change rooms, and relaxation areas.


Hunter walked me over to the historically inspired Hawaiian chapel built in the center of the resort. No one needs to leave the resort for a traditional or Hawaiian wedding ceremony. This intimate Four Seasons chapel has beautiful stained glass windows. Doors open out to the tropical gardens for cocktails and pompous. Executive chef Martin Knaubert and his team will happily prepare dinner outside or in the Ocean Ballroom. Weddings can also be held next door at the historic Lanikuhunoa Cultural Estate.


Before leaving Hunter led me through the 3,840 sq. ft. Presidential Suite on the fourth floor. Offering full ocean views, the suite offers two Hawaiian decorated bedrooms, a private theater screening room, elegant dining and living room, plus a stairway leading up to a 516 sq. ft. terrace and lounge area. She showed me a separate kitchen for guests to have meals prepared and enjoyed for al fresco dining.


The Four Seasons Oahu is truly a “Place of Joy” for vow renewals or a memorable wedding that appeals to all the senses.

To make a reservation, go to Four Seasons Oahu Ko Olina

Chef Fest at the Four Seasons Hualalai

Built in 1996 and enhanced in 2009, the Four Seasons Hualalai is an exclusive luxury resort along the Kona-Kohala Coast on the Big Island, Hawaii. Guests staying here are immersed into authentic Hawaiian culture and traditional design.

There are 192 guest rooms and 52 suites in the two-story intimate bungalows. Throughout the property is an extensive art collection with local pieces from 1775 to the present. Guests are encouraged to visit the Ka’upulehu Cultural Center to view the exhibits and participate in the interactive programs and visits by Hawaiian cultural specialists and historians.

At the four dining venues—’ULU Ocean Grill, ‘ULU Sushi Lounge, open air Beach Tree and Hualalai Grill—Executive Chef Thomas Bellec prepares locally sourced dishes using Kona avocados, Big Island goat cheese, Waimea red and yellow tomatoes, Hamakua mushrooms, Kona cold lobster, Volcano white organic honey and Kona baby abalone. He harvests sea salt from the resort’s volcanic rocks and cultivates the red seaweed raised at the hotel to use on his elevated Hawaiian dishes. Chef Bellec recently flew to Los Angeles to cook with celebrity chef Neal Fraser at Fraser’s popular downtown LA restaurant REDBIRD. This dynamic duo cooked for 20 foodies at a Chef Fest preview dinner.


While sipping a flute of sparkling wine, we learned that from October 4 to 8, 2017 the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai will host an annual culinary celebration in Kailua-Kona. During the day, guests have the opportunity to participate in interactive Chef Fest cooking classes and culinary experiences featuring some of today’s top celebrity chefs. Andy Ricker (a two-time James Beard Award winner and Michelin Star recipient), Gabrielle Hamilton (three-time James Beard winner, Iron Chef winner and Emmy winner forMind of a Chef), Neal Fraser (beloved Los Angeles chef and Iron Chef winner), Edward Lee (James Beard finalist), Ivan Orkin (New York Ramen Genius), and Jonathan Waxman (James Beard winner). Two other Four Seasons chefs will participate in Chef Fest with Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas chef Christof Syre and Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walk Disney World Fabrizio Schenardi will fly to Hawaii to cook with Chef Bellec. Together they will teach, sip cocktails and entertain guests in an luxurious and relaxed beach setting.


Four Seasons Hualalai Chef Fest Preview Dinner

Here is a peek at the menu that Neal Fraser and Chef Bellec prepared at REDBIRD; expect to see some of these dishes prepared again at Chef Fest in Hawaii. Starters include oysters that “wow” your senses. For the first course, Chef served up a sauteed Mongchong with chanterelle mushrooms and wonderful English peas. This was paired with an Austrian Weingut Brundlmayer Kamptal Gruner Veltiner Terrassen.

Oysters that “wow” your senses

The second course comprised of a marinated Kona Kampachi (a sustainable fish in Hawaii raised a few miles from the Kona airport) with pickled ogo, Wow’s Farm organic heirloom tomatoes, sliced radishes, baby cilantro and smoked lava salt. This dish had a delightful crunch with a sprinkling of rice cracker pearls. What I loved about this dish was the coconut and kaffir lime sauce. I asked Bellec for seconds of this luscious cool Hawaiian flavored broth and he was kind enough to ladle two helpings into my bowl.


This dish was quickly followed by fried whole Kinki fish with an artichokes barigoule and fish sauce paired with a German Riesling.

For dessert, we were served a roasted pineapple cheesecake with chopped macadamia nut, haupia and li hing mui with coconut gelee. Prepared by REDBIRD pastry chef Kasra Adjar, this was served with an Italian Saracco Moscato D’Asti.

The resort is offering a $150 credit for guests who make a reservation to stay at the resort during Chef Fest. This credit can be applied to any of the Chef Fest events – click on this link Special Chef Fest Deal.