The Hawaiian Islands are welcoming the new year with new accommodations, experiences, attractions, events, and restaurants. Brand new hotels are opening their doors while more established hotels are rolling out the red carpet for visitors with new programming and newly remodeled spaces. There’s never been a better time to visit the islands, and flight deals galore make it more affordable than ever to visit the only U.S. state entirely composed of islands. Check out what’s new so you can plan your spring escape to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands.
What’s new on Hawaii’s hotel scene …
The all-new luxury lifestyle resort Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection will open in January on the island of Hawaii following a property-wide reimagination and renovation. The resort will open with contemporary guest rooms and suites, five private bungalow residences, five restaurants and lounges, three distinct pools, and a signature spa and wellness haven, as well as the property’s Kainalu active-pursuits program, Living Culture program and interactive Holoholo Kids Circle. Call (808) 885-6622, or visit aubergeresorts.com/maunalani.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is offering a special package for groups arriving between January 4 and March 31. When booking either a minimum of 10 rooms and a catered event, or a minimum of 20 rooms, groups can receive one room upgrade, one complimentary VIP welcome amenity, no resort fee, complimentary lei greeting, and complimentary Wi-Fi in all guest rooms. Planners will need to mention “OVB What’s New” when booking to receive the offer. The package is subject to availability and blackout dates may apply. aulani.com
The new Halepuna Waikiki by Halekulani luxury boutique hotel welcomed its first guests in October. Featuring 284 rooms and four suites, the completely reimagined multimillion-dollar property is situated directly across Kalia Road from its iconic sister hotel Halekulani. Incorporating Hawaii’s culture and the philosophy of Halekulani, Halepuna Waikiki, according to its management team, is “a refined retreat in the heart of Waikiki where Hawaiian traditions, warm and engaging service, and fine design enrich every guest room, dining experience and amenity.” With the meaning of its Hawaiian name being House of Welcoming Waters, the Halepuna Waikiki incorporates calming, water-inspired design features throughout the property. halepuna.com
Kaanapali Beach Hotel’s recently introduced waa (canoe) paddling tour offers guests an opportunity to venture beyond Kaanapali Beach’s Puu Kekaa (aka Black Rock) to learn about Maui from both above and beneath the surface of the ocean, and from a Hawaiian perspective. During the winter months, tour guests can also enjoy whale watching as they paddle, with beach alakai (guides) assisting canoe passengers as they view the giant marine mammals from a safe distance. kbhmaui.com/packages/waa-canoe-paddle-tour
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa is offering its guests a special opportunity to experience whale-watching season with its seasonal package Kohola in Kaanapali. Available for travel dates between now and April 12, the package includes newly-renovated, deluxe oceanfront accommodations; an outrigger canoe whale-watching experience for two guests with Kaanapali Surf Club; two mai tai cocktails from the resort’s new lobby bar, The Sandbar; an educational whale talk at the resort’s Hawaiian Marine Life Hale led by a marine naturalist from Maui Ocean Center; and a welcome amenity, including a 3-ounce tin of Raw Elements reef-safe sunscreen and the resort’s signature mango bread. Daily rate starts at $499, with a minimum three-night stay required. Call (866) 716-8140 and mention rate code YX1, or visitmarriott.com/hnmsi.
Koa Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach recently introduced its new Endangered Kauai package, highlighted by a dolphin-safe charter sail along Kauai’s breathtaking Napali Coast. Guests reserving the package also receive complimentary reef-safe sunscreen and a reusable water bottle. In support of Hawaii marine life and individuals devoting their time toward protecting them, the resort is also donating 5% of all booking fees for the Endangered Kauai package to the nonprofit Kauai Surfrider Foundation. Call (877) 276-0768, or visit meritagecollection.com/koa-kea.
New dining options for 2020 …
Halekulani Bakery & Restaurant at Halepuna Waikiki features a range of fresh-baked artisan breads, pastries, cakes, and coffees. A chocolate-viewing kitchen allows guests to observe the daily creation of the eatery’s delicacies, including its signature dragée chocolate macadamia nut pearls. Open for all-day dining, the restaurant features a menu focused on locally-sourced ingredients and service in a relaxed setting. In addition to indoor seating, outdoor lanai seating is available for diners opting for grab-and-go food. Halekulani Bakery & Restaurant is located across the street from the Halekulani hotel on Kalia Road. halepuna.com/bakery
KoHana Distillers, the Oahu-based boutique distillery of KoHana Hawaiian Agricole Rum, has introduced its newest rum KoHana Koa, billed as the world’s first spirit aged in barrels made of native Hawaii koa wood. The inaugural batch of 437 bottles of KoHana Koa (each 375ml) is available exclusively at the distiller’s KoHana Tasting Room. The first 50 bottles of the new spirit are individually numbered and packaged in koa wood boxes. Bottles 51 through 437 are numbered with a commemorative koa wood medallion. kohanarum.com
The recently opened Mugen restaurant offers Japanese-French cuisine with a focus on high-quality ingredients curated from around the globe by the restaurant’s culinary team, led by Executive Chef Jason Yamaguchi. Dining at Mugen—a Japanese word meaning ‘infinity’—is, according to the restaurant’s team, “an intimate and unforgettable experience, much like stepping into a beautiful home—an inviting ambiance, filled with personal touches and memorable interactions with the chefs.”espaciowaikiki.com/dining-at-mugen/
Surfclub Tacos recently opened for business in the north shore Maui surf town of Paia, offering a menu of taco classics crafted with local and organic ingredients, including ulu and fresh fish. Head Chef Jeremy Hannon’s menu features multiple taco options, including chili lime lobster, pollo verde, al pastor, beef ranchero, local shrimp and fresh catch, as well as vegetarian options like cauliflower and batata (sweet potato). Surfclub Tacos’ tortilla chips are prepared fresh and served with the eatery’s homemade Surfclub salsa. The design of the restaurant was inspired by Paia’s town and country surroundings with an aim toward embracing the area’s surf vibe. surfclub.com
New things to see and do …
Bike Hawaii recently introduced a solar-powered bike tour to its lineup of eBike tours of Honolulu’s Koolau mountain rainforests. The 250-watt electric-assist mountain bike eases the tour’s 5-mile uphill climb before the road’s eventual descent. Bike Hawaii also recently introduced a full-day private Koolau Waterfall Hike and Kamehame Ridge combination tour, which covers the scenic vistas of two privately-owned Oahu properties. bikehawaii.com
Bishop Museum is presenting its new original exhibit “Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaii,” now through May 3, in its Castle Memorial Building. Utilizing the museum’s research and collections in partnership with the local surfing community, the exhibit explores surfing’s history and ongoing technical and cultural developments, which have made the sport an international phenomenon. Highlights of the exhibit include displays of the oldest traditional Hawaiian surfboards alongside surfboards belonging to legendary surfers like Duke Kahanamoku. Interactive display teach visitors about surf forecasting, and archival photos and rare memorabilia at the exhibit share surfing’s roots in traditional Hawaiian culture and influence on modern Hawaii culture. bishopmuseum.org
The Hawaii Forest & Trail Hilo Chocolate & Waterfalls Tour is great for families as they learn about Hilo’s rich heritage on the way to a working cacao farm. At the farm, guests embark on an interactive tree-to-chocolate adventure that includes harvesting cacao pods, learning about the fermentation process and of course, chocolate tastings in the comfort of the Chocolate Bar. After everyone has their fill of chocolate, the adventure continues with an exclusive swim under a 120-ft waterfall. Hilo Chocolate & Waterfalls adventure includes light snacks and lunch. Cost is $149 per person with children 12 and under at $124. Gear provided includes walking sticks, daypacks and rain ponchos. Pickups from select Hilo locations.
The Polynesian Cultural Center recently announced the launching of its new Alii Luau show featuring “‘Onipaa”, a tribute to Hawaii’s last ruling monarch Queen Liliuokalani. The new luau will debut in the spring, replacing the center’s current show. polynesia.com
Get out on the water with Hawaii’s winter-season kohola (humpback whales) on Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Whale Watch, offering adventures now through April. Led by a Cousteau-trained naturalist on a 12-passenger private boat, the whale watch offers guests insight into humpback whale biology and social behaviors, with opportunities to listen to whale songs using an underwater hydrophone. Transportation, digital photography and refreshments are included. Tours, open to adults and children at $139 per passenger, run from 12:15 to 3 p.m., Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Call (808) 665-7292, or visit ritzcarlton.com/kapalua.
Wailea Village recently opened in Maui’s Wailea Resort area. With more than 90 percent of its shops comprised of locally-owned small businesses, the new shopping center offers travelers an opportunity to experience and bring home mementos made on Maui emphasizing local, casual, creative and artful offerings. Shops at Wailea Village retailers include Akamai Coffee, Paper Garden, Kohola Gallery, Droplets, The Bikini Market, HUE Interior Design and Decor, Sabado Art Gallery and Boutique, Manoli’s Pizza Company, Wailea Blue Course Pro Shop, Snorkel Bob’s and WaterLily Maui. thewaileavillage.com
On Kauai ATV’s Makauwahi Cave Tour, guests are invited to see mankind’s impact on a fragile ecosystem and become a part of preserving native endangered species and Hawaiian culture. The tour visits Kauai’s fossil-rich, limestone Makauwahi Cave, which has attracted archaeologists and visitors from around the world. Guests learn about the history of the cave’s ecosystem gleaned from fossils and artifacts found by scientists, stroll through a tortoise ranch and visit a thousand-year forest populated by Native Hawaiian plants. The tour also visits Kauai movie-production sites and shares the history of sugar plantations in Hawaii. A portion of the tour’s proceeds support the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. Call (808) 742-2734, or visit kauaiatv.com.