I once asked a well-heeled traveler where she would recommend I stay in Bora Bora, and she replied ‘wherever is newest.’ There seems to be a lot of wisdom in a statement like that as even the highest rated properties start to not look so good with age. At this point I could digress and start a whole new conversation, but let’s stick to how this applies to hotels shall we?
I chose to stay at The Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii, both as a function of finances and because I’m always tempted by a property that has just undergone a major renovation. However, I couldn’t leave my choice to chance, so I called the P.R. team at the Fairmont and asked them to send me photos of the newly revamped rooms as they hadn’t yet put them on their website. The pictures and the deal through the platinum American Express card were enough to lure me, as well as another family that traveled with us.
Upon arrival we were given kukui nut leis. My friend and I took one look at each other and both laughed that we had officially traded the land of the Four Seasons and their fragrant tuberose leis, welcome guava juices and cool towels, for nuts on a ribbon.
I had joined the Fairmont Presidents Club before arrival, a free membership that gives you discounts on property as well as free resort Wi-Fi and other perks. I checked in at the Presidents Club desk while my friends hit the standard reception. After 5 minutes they were headed off to their upgraded partial ocean view (thanks to platinum Amex) and I started to sweat while the newbie behind the desk tried for another 20 minutes to find me a room that didn’t require changing rooms halfway through my 10 day stay. After a bumpy start, my daughter and I finally made it up to our pristine room overlooking the golf course with the ocean beyond. Things were starting to look up.
Tip: book the North Tower
I’ve been staying at the Four Seasons in Maui for two decades and have visited the Four Seasons Hualalai several times over the last eight years, including one memorable trip where Dan got the Bends. If it were a romantic (and expensive) vacation I was after, I would go Four Seasons all the way. It’s comfort at an entirely different level. I love that the Hualalai property is vast with several two-story buildings and multiple pools effectively carving out a honeymooner and family paradise all in one. I love the fitness center with its Zumba classes and lap pool as well as its general store and washer/dryers throughout the property.
The Fairmont Orchid is also a vast property with some distinct benefits, most notably a swimmers’ beach complete with paddle board and snorkel rentals, as well as kids’ activities like palm frond weaving. I loved the beach and the pool scene more than I expected I would, and I delighted in the many waterfalls and colorful birds around the 30 acres. I also availed myself of complimentary (through FPC) BMW bikes and discounted tennis clinics (also through FPC). By day six I was really digging my morning tennis drills with Leanne and was thinking about how soon I could return.
The great thing about an island vacation is that you can pack light! Calypso is my go-to sundress. I’ll wear one pool or beachside by day and dress it up with an Alexis Bittar gold cuff and some strappy sandals for dinner. A fab bikini is a must (I’m partial to Eres), as well as wide-brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen. And I practically live in Havianas! They’re super comfy and infinitely wearable. From our Spring/Summer Stephanie Johnson line, I’m loving our Tucson Desert Beach Mat and coordinating Mary Alice Tote, as well as our clear Miami and St. Lucia bags. I fill them with sunscreen, hair ties, and other poolside essentials, and I can see exactly what’s in them!
Want more Hawaii? Stay tuned for Destination Hawaii, Part Two for tips on things to see and do, best spots to sample delicious cuisine, and even a whale-watching adventure!