Beach & Sun

Splurgy Stays in the Hawaiian Islands

luxury hotels in the hawaiian islands where to splurge

[trip style = luxury + sun]

Over my trip styling tenure, I've had the pleasure of putting on my modern muumuu and jumping aboard the pineapple express more times than I can count. And, if I'm going to splurge, Hawaii is my go-to destination to add a few extra stars to my stays given its sure-thing weather, palm tree perfection, rock star-status hotels, and legacy of curated escape.

When I go, sometimes I do a quick, three-day getaway to a edited abode; other times I save to splurge, and set aside the last few nights for a chi-chi stay.

With this, here are a few posh pins to consider placing on your Hawaii map. Aloha!

mauna lani hawaii

THE ISLAND OF HAWAII: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Without naming names, let’s just say that a number of travelers—the types who have private jets—touch down at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows regularly. While the hotel has numerous rooms and suites fit for fabulous frequent fliers, the Bungalows provide that extra dose of wow-factor with their 2,700-square-feet of living space sprawled across two bedrooms, two master baths {complete with TOTO Toilets, and rain showers cascading into a tropical garden}, a kitchen, and a wet bar. Couple this with a private pool and jacuzzi, and sunset views over the Pacific, and you may want to move in {or become BFFs with a private jet owner}.

Trip Styler tip: Want a taste of upcountry life? Don't miss the ultra-authentic Aloha found at Puakea Ranch {reviewed here}, a four-cottage farm stay gorgeous enough to grace the cover of any travel mag {and a favorite stays in all my trip styling days}.

fs maui

MAUI: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
As a regular stop on celebs’ travel itineraries—every time I go I spot at least one member of Hollywood royalty—the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is a staple stay for those who like the finer things in life: haute-couture art, chic poolside treats, customizable beds, and the option to “posh” your drinks {insider tip: Add bubbles to put some sparkle in your “spirit”}, and suites with a personal assistant. In a meticulously planned move, the property just “poshed” itself transforming everything from the presidential suites to the pool cabanas to an exclusive place to see, be seen—and be unseen—on the Wailea coastline.   

LANAI: Four Seasons Resort Lanai
Dear, Fellow luxury lovers, don't walk, R-U-N to the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, an off-the-beaten-path hideaway catering to those who want to explore Hawaii’s private island paradise in style {spoiler alert: It’s only a 35-minute ferry from Maui}. Like its luxe sibling in Maui, this Four Seasons also underwent a recent multimillion dollar renovation upgrading every fit and finish to it-status. Case in point: Their pool is actually a lagoon, their room keys are actually waterproof wearables (so you don’t lose your key while playing in the waves), and their restaurant, NOBU LANAI, is actually the world’s only NOBU to source greens from its own on-site garden. {Fun fact: Not that he'll remember this, but NOBU LANAI is where we celebrated Blue Styler's 6-month birthday. He wore a blazer with a pocket square for the occasion.}

halekulani

OAHU: Halekulani
As one of the Aloha State’s most sought-after stays since 1907, this Waikiki legend offers a throwback to the warm and welcoming hospitality that has made the tropical paradise famous (in addition to the gorgeous beaches, that is). Inside the 453-room hotel, Halekulani‘s rooms are beautifully decorated with plush white-on-white textures to highlight the technicolor shoreline meeting each guest’s gaze. At the cusp of this coastline, don’t miss House Without A Key, the hotel’s outdoor restaurant preserving a time-honored tradition: cocktails, live music, and hula under their century-old Kiawe tree. Visit at the day’s end to drink in one of Hawaii’s most dreamy scenes with a Mai Tai in-hand.

Trip Styler Tip: If pairing Aloha and ah-mazing design is more your thang, don't miss The Modern Honolulu.

koa kea resort

KAUAI: Ko`a Kea Hotel & Resort
With 121 rooms, this boutique-style hotel recalls retro Hawaii with its tiki architecture and modern Hawaii with its upscale amenities (think: In-room Nespresso). Located on the sunny South shore of the Garden Isle, Ko`a Kea Hotel & Resort is the island’s closest hotel to the ocean, and ups its own ante brining the surf to turf with its saltwater pool. Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, beeline for the hotel’s Red Salt restaurant to nosh on local favorites: macadamia nut- and banana-topped topped Belgian waffles and lemon-pineapple soufflé pancakes to get some Vitamin T (tropical) before you even hit the beach!

Trip Styler Tip: Get money-smart about splurging on hotels in Hawaii. Many of the above resorts offer fourth-night-free promotions in shoulder season, think: Sept-Nov and April-June.

[All photos courtesy of hotels mentioned. Lead photo of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows’ pool. This piece is a variation of an article I recently wrote for the Expedia Viewfinder Travel Blog.]

In Praise of Puakea

puakea ranch review

[trip style = sun + food]

Editor's Note: Photos below.

There's a grocery store down the road from Puakea Rancha stylish, salt-of-the-earth escape on the Island of Hawaiibut you won't peruse the aisles more than once because the farm-stay's fertile grounds turn every day into gourmet. 

Set on a 33-acre plot gently cascading down the northwestern tip of Hawaii's biggest isle, Puakea Ranch begs you to live off the land. The "house" chickens lay eggs daily; fruit trees rise at every turn; and the garden's produce is fit for a chef. And then there's Angus, the bandana-wearing pup-come-site-savant who is keen to show off his idyllic habitat {especially when the task relates to food}. 

With Angus as our guide, we found many of the fruit trees and lived off the landan inclusion when you stay in any of the four restored 1940s cottages situated in quiet corners of the ranch. Each day, when the sun came up, we'd brew Kona coffee, throw on the same clothes as the day beforethe place is cool but not pretentiousand saunter down to the chicken coop to see what how many eggs had hatched.

Thankfully, Blue Styler was so distracted by his new BFF, Angus, we'd swipe the eggs before he could reach {and crack} them, and place them into our basket, filled with papaya, coconut, limes and mangoes we gathered in the brief walk from our cottage to the coop. This was breakfast along with some crusty bread from the nearby town of Hawi.  

As a traveler and writer who relishes in places where chic meets unique and au courant meets authentic, Puakea has been on my radar since I started Trip Styler in 2009. Due to its unique grounds and well-groomed guest experience, it's the kind of stay that makes you want to break out into song à la Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

"I developed Puakea because I wanted an honest-to-goodness place to vacation with attention to detail; when I couldn't find it, I developed it," Christie, Puakea's owner and visionary told me over coffee. "At first, the cottages were deemed tear-downs," she recalled, which is hard to believe given they each look like they could occupy the cover of any leading travel magazine. Three years later, she proved that derelict should not be overlooked: Each bungalow now holds court on the State's Historic Register, a stud-to-style undertaking taking three years of planning and development, as well as a hands-on building crew who lived onsite in safari tents. 

To say Puakea is labor of love is an understatement. Original hardwood floors grace each abode. And the shingles sheltering each cottage? They were taken off, re-stained and hung on clotheslines to dry before being slotted back into place. Every window, piece of wood, and stud has a story, including the boot-kick in the doorway of Cowboy House, an indentation used by the house's original inhabitants to remove the dirt from their boots after a long day in the fields.

Speaking of cowboys, another hint at the ranch's history is the Architectural Digest-gorgeous bathhouses outside of every stay. Once housing tubs for the wranglers and workers to soak in after a hard day on the range, the owner resurrected the washhouses with wow-factor fixtures such as an antique copper soaking tub for two or a Japanese furo bath, and wood-slab counters.

When you're not making friends with the pigs and her piglets, wondering if you're in a dream as white horses gallop past you, or picking mangoes from the trees, there's the lava rock-rimmed swimming ponds with leafy views peering over the Pacific. Taking a dip is the perfect way to end the day before you head back to the garden to pick up some swiss chard and tomatoes to toast your gourmet vacay. Can I get an Amen? 

Details
+Yoshi's House: Two bedrooms {sleeps six} with its own swimming pond + wraparound lanai overlooking the ocean.
+Cowboy House: Three bedrooms {sleeps six} with private hot tub + shared swimming pond.
+James' Cottage: Large studio-suite {sleeps two} with private hot tub + shared swimming pond.
+Miles Away: Two bedrooms {sleeps four} with private dipping pool.
-->Included in each cottage: Washer/Dryer, kitchens, BBQs; as well use of pools, fruit from trees, veggies from garden, eggs from coop, and toys from the Toy Box room.

 The welcoming committee 

The welcoming committee 

 The communal swimming pond

The communal swimming pond

 The tree-lined path to Yoshi's House

The tree-lined path to Yoshi's House

 Yoshi's House entry {where we stayed}

Yoshi's House entry {where we stayed}

 Yoshi's House interior

Yoshi's House interior

 Checking out the just-picked lime plucked from a tree outside our cottage

Checking out the just-picked lime plucked from a tree outside our cottage

 Heading out to pick veggies from the garden

Heading out to pick veggies from the garden

 The garden

The garden

 Photoshoot-ready tree

Photoshoot-ready tree

 Blue Styler meeting one of the little chicks

Blue Styler meeting one of the little chicks

 Even the chick and chicken coop is beautiful

Even the chick and chicken coop is beautiful

 Toy Box playroom 

Toy Box playroom 

 Blue Styler playing with a vintage Tonka dump truck {Mr. Trip Styler used to have one...!} from the Toy Box

Blue Styler playing with a vintage Tonka dump truck {Mr. Trip Styler used to have one...!} from the Toy Box

 Our  familia  hanging in Puakea's upcountry Hawaiian paradise 

Our familia hanging in Puakea's upcountry Hawaiian paradise 

[photos by @tripstyler, taken while as a guest of the rancha place I'll return to yearly. Mark my words.]

Mexico with Familia

Mexico with family + punta mita

[trip style = luxury + steal + beach + sun]

Ah, Mexico. Blessed with more than 450 beaches stretched over 6,000 miles of coastline, the southern part of North America is one of my trip styling faves.  

Almost every January since I've been hitched to Mr. Trip Styler, we've taken a trip to kick off the New Year. This year we started 2017 on an o note playing on the beach, eating guacamole {at every meal} and sipping cervesas in Riviera Nayarit with the little stylers AND Ama and Papa Styler!

Here's a snapshot of our tiempo en Mexico

 View over Playa Las Destiladeras, a gorgeous, mile-long swath of sand that's perfect for walking, or running after your toddler. Blue Styler was SO elated be playing at  la playa , he spontaneously broke out in song {Jingle Bells, btw} every day his feet touched the sand.

View over Playa Las Destiladeras, a gorgeous, mile-long swath of sand that's perfect for walking, or running after your toddler. Blue Styler was SO elated be playing at la playa, he spontaneously broke out in song {Jingle Bells, btw} every day his feet touched the sand.

 Daily "diet" {all of which was made, chopped and mashed by hand}.

Daily "diet" {all of which was made, chopped and mashed by hand}.

 Palapa vibes at our first hotel,  Rancho Banderas , a 48-room, all-suite, beachfront stay where palm trees merge with practical amenities in '90s-styled glory. {Mr. Trip Styler and I feel Rancho is rare gem even though it's not chocolate-on-your-pillow fancy or design-focused.} Here, one main dining room overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and at mealtimes  you can choose to do all your eating in the dining room, pool or beach via a "meal plan" option, or do your own thing.

Palapa vibes at our first hotel, Rancho Banderas, a 48-room, all-suite, beachfront stay where palm trees merge with practical amenities in '90s-styled glory. {Mr. Trip Styler and I feel Rancho is rare gem even though it's not chocolate-on-your-pillow fancy or design-focused.} Here, one main dining room overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and at mealtimes you can choose to do all your eating in the dining room, pool or beach via a "meal plan" option, or do your own thing.

 Blue styler with Ama and Papa Styler. 

Blue styler with Ama and Papa Styler. 

 Our version {these days} of a family photo.  Perfect in its imperfection . 

Our version {these days} of a family photo. Perfect in its imperfection

 Mr. Trip Styler and Pink Styler enjoying my favorite time of day: The golden hour before sunset when the sun embraces you in hug-like warmth.

Mr. Trip Styler and Pink Styler enjoying my favorite time of day: The golden hour before sunset when the sun embraces you in hug-like warmth.

 Just down the beach: The  W Punta de Mita , opened in mid-2016 and dripping in all kinds of gorgeous. {This is where I'd like to escape for a quick trip with Mr. Trip Styler.} 

Just down the beach: The W Punta de Mita, opened in mid-2016 and dripping in all kinds of gorgeous. {This is where I'd like to escape for a quick trip with Mr. Trip Styler.} 

 Beach walk with my main man, while the kiddos spend time with Ama and Papa Styler. 

Beach walk with my main man, while the kiddos spend time with Ama and Papa Styler. 

 Playing airplane with Pink Styler.

Playing airplane with Pink Styler.

 Trying to outrun the waves with Blue Styler.

Trying to outrun the waves with Blue Styler.

 The second week we stayed at another all-suite resort closer to Puerto Vallarta. Our three-bedroom room was more than enough space for all of us, but on the last night we were upgraded to a villa with its own palapa and plunge pool. 

The second week we stayed at another all-suite resort closer to Puerto Vallarta. Our three-bedroom room was more than enough space for all of us, but on the last night we were upgraded to a villa with its own palapa and plunge pool. 

 Pool por uno, por favor.

Pool por uno, por favor.

 Golden hour view of Playa Las Destiladeras. The amount of people you see in this shot was part of this beach's perfection: Busy enough so you're not worried about safety, yet deserted enough that you have space and serenity. 

Golden hour view of Playa Las Destiladeras. The amount of people you see in this shot was part of this beach's perfection: Busy enough so you're not worried about safety, yet deserted enough that you have space and serenity. 

 This photo has NOT been intensified; the sunsets in the Riviera Nayarit are this shade of red almost every night. Fun fact: Another locale sunsets are this deeply hued and dramatic is on the Island of Hawaii, which is along the same latitude where distinct markers such as clear air and low light make for a unique viewing plane.

This photo has NOT been intensified; the sunsets in the Riviera Nayarit are this shade of red almost every night. Fun fact: Another locale sunsets are this deeply hued and dramatic is on the Island of Hawaii, which is along the same latitude where distinct markers such as clear air and low light make for a unique viewing plane.

The Illusion of Perfection

[trip style = any]

There is a belief in our society that traveling equates to a perfect life. I'm not sure if this goes back to humanity's nomadic nature, our thirst for wonder, or our curiosity with what's new and different, yet it seems as though the general perception of a person who travels is:

Travel = Perfect Life {Wealth + luxury of time}

As someone who has placed many pins on the map both personally and professionally, the above perception is both true and false.

True
In high school I was part of a group of teens who spent a few Spring Breaks in a financially destitute community in Mexico helping to build a clinic. The area did not have sufficient medical facilities, so the all-volunteer clinic was a welcome addition to the town's infrastructure. Noticing the lack of anything on the walls in the clinic's waiting room, treatment rooms or hallways, I asked the director why there was no art or photoseven something basic. "We don't want to put up art or photos of far-flung lands because it would be unfair to dangle places these people will never see in front of them," he replied. So, the idea that "everyone" can travel is a middle class/+ phenomenonone that is never lost on me. I feel incredibly grateful to do what I do {and realize it can appear "perfect"}, and if you can afford to buy a plane ticket here or there, you should too.   

False
Both on the road and at home life happens, reminding me that the illusion of perfection associated with frequent flying is not as it seems {both for me and for Kim Kardashian}. While traveling I don't just quit the demands of life, such as paying bills, changing diapers or washing clothes, it all has to be done whether I'm in Morocco or Mexico. Then there's the time I was almost attacked abroad, but that's another story altogether.

Aside from typical sickness you can pick up from foods in foreign lands, I can recall more than a few situations where random health boutsthe kind that happen at home, toohave come into the equation. A recent one was in Italy last summer when the day we left, which was also a National holiday in Canada {meaning I couldn't easily get meds}, I woke up with a giant red bump on my eyelid. I got on the plane reluctantly because I was NOT about to give up three weeks in Italy for something that could be solved. The second I settled in Rome, I visited a pharmacy where I showed the pharmacist my eyelid and she found cream that healed my eye.  

Right Now
Right now I'm in Mexico loving Punta Mita's beach life, and eating tacos every meal of the day. However, one thing my photos don't showbecause there's no time to snap these momentsis Pink Styler developed a minor eye infection which I noticed as we were traveling here {thankfully breast milk seems to have solved it!}, and is cutting a tooth which is making her v-e-r-y frustrated. Blue Styler had a touch of montezuma's revenge associated with new foods and life abroad, as well as a chaffed groin from swim diapers and/or sand.

So, life happens on the road and at home. It's beautiful, it's meaningful, it's messy, and it's ongoing. And so, we keep going, because all we can do is *try* to live our best life in it's imperfect perfection. 

[photo by Grandma Styler]

 

It is Well

[trip style = luxe + food + beach]

Editor's Note: Hello 2017! Here's a dose of wellness to kick off Trip Styler version 2017!

Built on land known as Kalahuipua’a where Hawaiian royalty used to retreat for mind-body-spirit rejuvenation, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows is a touchstone to its well beginnings. Just stepping foot on the property you feel a sense of renewal beyond the bliss that splashes your soul when you first arrive at a destination.

With a prime position pointing due West, the arrow-shaped property is situated along the Kohala Coast where quiet coves, sugary sand, and the rugged remains of the Hualalai volcano cozy up to the coastline. 

As one of the first hotels in the area, the land is wide open {read: Views for miles} and filled with native Hawaiian flora and fauna saturating the resort from its ancient fishponds to the hotel’s atrium, a botanical garden where nature is the main showpiece. 

At this divide between surf and turf, sparkling water, historic petroglyphs, a thatched-roof spa, or dinner at the sunset's edge will make you want to relocate to the island permanently. Wherever you go in the 30-acre property, it becomes clear why the land was once a royal retreat. It is well.  

 The pool at twilight.

The pool at twilight.

 The supermoon I captured at 5:30am from my oceanfront suite.

The supermoon I captured at 5:30am from my oceanfront suite.

 I spy a Trip Styler beelining for the shaded beach cabanas, an inclusion that ensures there's somewhere to retreat from the heat. {Most hotels charge extra for beach lounges like this...}

I spy a Trip Styler beelining for the shaded beach cabanas, an inclusion that ensures there's somewhere to retreat from the heat. {Most hotels charge extra for beach lounges like this...}

 A feel-good stay: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows was the first resort in Hawaii to implement commercial-scale solar energy with a photovoltaic system so major, its panels span three acres. 

A feel-good stay: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows was the first resort in Hawaii to implement commercial-scale solar energy with a photovoltaic system so major, its panels span three acres. 

 Bird's-eye view of the pools.

Bird's-eye view of the pools.

 Blue Styler plotting his path for the day.

Blue Styler plotting his path for the day.

 A bridge over one of the seven ancient  Kalahuipua'a Fishponds  used by ancient Hawaiians to raise fish and supplement their ocean fishing efforts. 

A bridge over one of the seven ancient Kalahuipua'a Fishponds used by ancient Hawaiians to raise fish and supplement their ocean fishing efforts. 

 I'm pretty sure he was thinking: "Why can't I spend every day like this?" 

I'm pretty sure he was thinking: "Why can't I spend every day like this?" 

 Plotting my retirement, part one...

Plotting my retirement, part one...

  Plotting my retirement, part two...

Plotting my retirement, part two...

 The Mauna Lani Spa, ahhhhhhh, one of the island's best wellness retreats.

The Mauna Lani Spa, ahhhhhhh, one of the island's best wellness retreats.

  Outfitted in a traditional lava lava, I felt lighter the minute I stepped on the ancient lava flow’s grounds graced with thatched-roof huts, pools of orchids, and palms rustling in the wind.

Outfitted in a traditional lava lava, I felt lighter the minute I stepped on the ancient lava flow’s grounds graced with thatched-roof huts, pools of orchids, and palms rustling in the wind.

 Two treatments that keep you connected with Hawaii's healing and calm your senses draw on the energy of the island’s essential elements. In the first, detoxify and destress as you sit under the sun in open-air lava sauna slathered with volcanic clay. A private outdoor shower is the treatment’s cleansing crescendo. Also using water—but a lot more of it—is the Lava Watsu Pool situated in an ancient lava tube. Here, aquatic body work focusing on tranquility, stretching, and meditation harness the power of planet Earth to fill your cup with more than just water.

Two treatments that keep you connected with Hawaii's healing and calm your senses draw on the energy of the island’s essential elements. In the first, detoxify and destress as you sit under the sun in open-air lava sauna slathered with volcanic clay. A private outdoor shower is the treatment’s cleansing crescendo. Also using water—but a lot more of it—is the Lava Watsu Pool situated in an ancient lava tube. Here, aquatic body work focusing on tranquility, stretching, and meditation harness the power of planet Earth to fill your cup with more than just water.

 Room service breakfast, obvi.

Room service breakfast, obvi.

 Sesame-encrusted island goat cheese with Waimea strawberries and edible flowers enjoyed {immensely} while partaking in the below view at CanoeHouse...{more below} 

Sesame-encrusted island goat cheese with Waimea strawberries and edible flowers enjoyed {immensely} while partaking in the below view at CanoeHouse...{more below} 

 CanoeHouse: A mainstay in Hawaii's dining scene since the 1980s, and the resort's alfresco, oceanside eatery where Chef de Cuisine Allan Nagun dials Hawaiian regional cuisine up a notch with his take on every dish, including his signature and award-winning poke: Served in a flavor-enhancing glass and topped in truffle dust.

CanoeHouse: A mainstay in Hawaii's dining scene since the 1980s, and the resort's alfresco, oceanside eatery where Chef de Cuisine Allan Nagun dials Hawaiian regional cuisine up a notch with his take on every dish, including his signature and award-winning poke: Served in a flavor-enhancing glass and topped in truffle dust.

[Photos by @tripstyler, taken as a guest of Mauna Lani. Select photos, including lead, courtesy of the hotel. PS: I only write about standout experiences, read my strict editorial policy.]