Last summer, I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands, where I had a wonderful time. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: United Airlines Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to San Francisco
- Review: United Airlines B777 domestic First Class from San Francisco to Honolulu
- Review: The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Honolulu
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Lanai (Lanai)
- Review: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: Travaasa Hana (Maui)
- Review: Andaz Maui at Wailea (Maui)
- Review: St Regis Princeville, Kauai (today)
- Review: Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class from Honolulu to San Francisco
- Review: Swiss B777-300ER Business Class from San Francisco to Zürich
Today (January 3, 2018): Review of The St Regis Princeville Resort, Kauai Island (Hawaii).
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: St Regis Princeville
- Tip: get free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Located in the 9,000 acre resort community of Princeville, the St. Regis Princeville lays claim to Hawaii’s most stunning location – a cliff overlooking dramatic Hanalei Bay on the northern shore of Kauai, the ‘Garden Island’. The spectacular views rank among the most beautiful in the world and are framed by lush tropical hills, cerulean blue skies, puffs of clouds, and mist. The resort has 252 rooms and suites which are located in three separate buildings that terrace down from the top plateau of Princeville to the semi-private beach at Hanalei Bay. Calming and seductive, these contemporary Hawaiian designed accommodations reflects the color palette of the sky, sea and earth. The renowned Makai Golf Club at The St. Regis Princeville Resort winds its way around serene lakes, native woodlands and the spectacular coastline with views of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay.
The St Regis Princeville Resort features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Hawaii, the world’s best luxury hotels to spot celebrities, the world’s most amazing hotel lobbies, and the best luxury hotels in the USA.
In this review (more info below my slideshow & Youtube clip):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Hawaii with my online Hawaii travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- With its awe-inspiring scenery and gorgeous beaches, Hawaii is without any doubt one of the world’s most scenic island archipelagos. And the St Regis resort is set on Kauai, also known as the Garden Island, which is by far the most spectacular island in Hawaii. Having emerged from the sea millions of years before its neighboring islands, Kauai is home to the softest sands, grandest waterfalls, most majestic cliffs and the oldest rain forest in all of Hawaii. Kauai’s wildly verdant and prehistoric landscapes may look vaguely familiar since Hollywood has used the island as the stunning backdrop for many of its epic movies, from ‘South Pacific’ to ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Jurassic Park’.
- The hotel is located at the end of the 2 mile (3 km) private road that runs through the ritzy resort community of Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore. Named Princeville in 1860 in honor of Hawaii’s crown prince, Prince Albert, this exclusive resort enclave was once home to sugar plantations and cattle ranches. Standing amid one of the world’s most stunning natural sites, Princeville became a resort area in 1968 and now caters to the discerning traveler with a myriad of facilities. Besides the world-famous St Regis hotel, Princeville also features two championship golf courses, condos, holiday homes, a Westin hotel, and a gorgeous natural attraction, Queen’s Bath, which is a collection of tide pools surrounded by igneous rock.
- The St. Regis Princeville lays claim on the most fabulous location in Hawaii: the resort cascades down a cliff while overlooking majestic Hanalei Bay and the Napali Coast, with views of jungle clad mountains and the blue Pacific Ocean framed by endless blue skies, puffs of clouds and mist, and cinematic sunsets. Due to the resort’s multi-level layout, these phenomenal views can be enjoyed from most rooms and the pool area, and are the prime reason why you should put the St Regis resort on your bucketlist. It’s the only hotel in Kauai with views of the world’s most spectacular shoreline, the Napali coast, where razor-sharp 1000 m (3,000ft) cliffs tower above the ocean over a distance of 16 km (10 mi).
- The hotel is the sole property on Hawaii of the ultraluxe St Regis hotel brand. Managed by Starwood hotels and now owned by Marriott, St Regis is one of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands. The St Regis Princeville resort opened in 2009 after the year-long renovation of a 1960s property that was formerly called the Princeville Resort and part of Starwood’s renowned ‘The Luxury Collection’ brand. While the new St Regis Princeville retained the unbelievable views of Hanalei Bay that the Princeville Resort took advantage of, Starwood poured $100 million USD into the project to update the hotel’s guest rooms, pool area, lobby, and spa facilities.
- During the multi-billion dollar renovation in 2009, the property’s decor was redesigned in collaboration with hotel design firm WATG and local Hawaiian architecture firm Group 70. Bringing a residential feel to the interiors and reflecting Hawaii’s natural surroundings, the resort’s redecoration was inspired by the Hawaiian concept of Ahupua‘a, a philosophy of living in balance with nature. In line with the St Regis brand’s signature interior style, the hotel features a classic, grand decor that lends it a very European, old-world luxe type of ambience. However, Hawaii’s Aloha spirit is retained by the presence of several tropical design elements such as a coffered ceiling of natural woven raffia and palm wood floors in the lobby.
- The spectacular lobby occupies the resort’s top floor. Although it has an unassuming, almost villa-esque look from the outside, the sheer size of the place will overwhelm you once inside. A giant covered atrium and valet area leads to a small entrance lounge, which gives way to the lobby itself. Eight African mahogany columns in the center of the lobby define a circular seating area, where a Murano glass waterfall chandelier with 4,000 crystals hangs above a lotus blossom fountain. Several facilities are located around this area, such as the reception desk, the spa entrance, a dedicated concierge service, a small shopping arcade, the stairs towards the main restaurant, and a piano bar (with terrace).
- The St Regis Princeville is designed in a series of tiers, cascading down the cliff. From the resort’s lobby on the 9th floor, elevators take guests down to the 252 designed guests rooms and suites on the floors below. During my Kauai holiday, I stayed in a premium ocean view room which came with a dazzling panorama of Hanalei Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The room was nicely outfitted with a king-sized bed, a seating area with custom furnishings, and a writing desk. The elegant bathroom was clad in green marble and featured an oversized tub, double vanity and Toiletries are by Laboratoire Remède. The contemporary (albeit somewhat dated) Hawaiian decor reflected the calming and seductive color palette of the sky, sea and earth.
- Among the resort’s signature features is a beautiful, 5,000 square feet swimming pool, situated in the lush gardens near the ocean, enjoying the beautiful views of Hanalei Bay’s rugged mountains. The pool features lovely glass tile and striking water features reflecting Hawai’i’s tropical outdoor lifestyle. It has an infinity edge, although it isn’t a true infinity pool as several rows of loungers separate the pool from the sea. A couple of jacuzzis (one of them built inside the pool) are made for sunset watching and mai tai drinking, and plenty of complimentary chaise lounges in the shade of the swaying palms around the pool invite guests to lounge the day away.
- The resort is set on a narrow but pleasant golden sand beach – called Pu’u Poa beach – along the warm waters of Hanalei Bay. Protected by the Anini reef, the ocean in front of the hotel remains calm and sheltered year round and provides excellent snorkeling opportunities. Although the beach is public (like all beaches in Hawaii) it feels private since it’s quite difficult for non-guests to access the area. Several row of loungers (free of charge) are set up along the beach, together with a few cabanas which can be rent for a daily fee. Although this is far from Hawaii’s most impressive beach, it will be hard to find any other hotel beach in the archipelago that offers such a spectacular background of dramatic natural scenery.
- At the St. Regis Princeville Resort, leisure takes many forms. The resort area is home two golf courses at the on-site Makai Golf Club – the PGA-standard Makai Course and the nine-hole Woods Course for the casual golfer – which are not imposed on the land but rather inspired by it and consistently rank among America’s finest golfing destinations. The renowned Makai Golf Club is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, which opened in 1971 and was redesigned and reopened in 2010. The Makai Course winds its way around serene lakes, native woodlands and the spectacular coastline with views of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay. The course plays to a par 72 with four different sets of tees that can be stretched to more than 7,200 yards from the tips.
- Following in the tradition of its iconic St. Regis sister property in New York, the St. Regis Princeville Resort features the famed hallmarks of St. Regis hotels around the world including the legendary St. Regis Butler Service. Trained in the English tradition, the butlers provide ever-present, yet unobtrusive service while anticipating your needs and customizing your stay according to your specific tastes and preferences. From a forgotten travel item, to a perfectly pressed suit ready for an important meeting, to a favorite book at hand for an evening read, or a thoughtful, last-minute gift for a loved one, no request is too small or unattainable no matter the hour of the day.
- The resort offers three distinctive dining venues. The resort’s signature restaurant, Kaua‘i Grill, is housed in a dramatically designed space under a spectacular, spiraling, lit fabric ceiling, and serves a menu of internationally influenced cuisine utilizing the freshest fish and ingredients indigenous to the islands, exclusively developed by Chef Vongerichten. The resort’s main restaurant, Makana Terrace, overlooks Hanalei Bay from its outdoor terrace and soaring glass windows, and offers breakfast, lunch and (sophisticated casual) dining as well as a weekly Hawaiian dinner show, called ‘Mailani’. And finally, the Nalu Kai Grill and Bar is located poolside, and offers light light Mediterranean fare at lunchtime.
- The 12-room, 11,000-square-foot Halele’a Spa at The St. Regis Princeville offers individualized spa programs for body and mind inspired by Native Hawaiian healing rituals. Each spacious treatment room is enriched with custom millwork of native Hawaiian woods, palm wood floors, natural fiber drapery treatments and a custom Murano glass plumeria flower chandelier. Signature treatments include the Kauai Taro clay wrap and the ‘Voyage from the Sea Signature Four Hands’ massage and facial, which includes a seaweed extract massage and marine repair facial treatment simultaneously.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
The St Regis Princeville Resort is designed to impress its guests with amazing vistas and a wide range of amenities and leisure facilities. It is one of Hawaii’s finest luxury hotels. Nevertheless, it does have several issues that you need to beware of before considering a stay here:
- This is not an intimate, small-scale boutique hotel, but a massive resort. While the resort is absolutely stunning, its sheer size feels overwhelming from time to time, creating an ambience that resembles that of a large corporate hotel. In many ways, it feels more like a Sheraton or Westin (Starwood’s mid-level luxury hotel brands) than a St Regis.
- Beware that there is only one pool. An adult-only pool is not available, which can be problematic for those in search for some well-earned tranquillity, given that the resort is a magnet for families with (young) children, and there’s no way to escape them around the pool or on the beach.
- The St Regis Princeville Resort charges a daily resort fee of $30 USD (excluding tax). Although this is common practise among resorts in Hawaii (with the exception of the Four Seasons properties), it is still a bitter pill to swallow. This fee includes lei greeting, welcome refresher, WiFi, local & domestic long distance calls, shuttle service to the golf course, daily fitness class, daily cultural experience, daily newspaper, daily sabering lesson, and discounted golf and preferred tee time at Princeville Makai Golf Club. If you don’t like golfing, then this fee is an unnecessary obligatory cost.
- An overnight parking fee of $35 per day will be charged to your guest room. While this fee includes valet parking, entry and exit privileges in a monitored parking location for your ease of mind, this is far from cheap and it’s obligatory since valet parking is the only option (and you need a car to get around and explore the area).
- The food at Makena Terrace (the resort’s main restaurants) was mediocre at the best (I would not recommend it). Dinner was good, but the breakfast was inedible and not what you would expect from the high-end St Regis brand. I don’t say this easily nor do I consider myself to be a picky person, but this was by far the worst hotel breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen at a luxury hotel: while the quality of the breakfast was ok, it was the poor selection of items available at the buffet and the absolutely unappetizing buffet presentation (e.g. plastic folios covering the fruit bowls, cereals in cardboard boxes) that bothered me the most.
- Although appropriately rustic for the tropical setting, the design feels dated in certain areas, especially in the guest rooms and bathrooms. Although I could not really care with all those heart-stopping views of Hanalei Bay and the Na Palí coast, I would have expected a more up-to-date decor for the price tag I paid. It’s clear that the resort is in need of a refurbishment.
- Remarkably, the lobby of the St Regis Princeville is the one area that was actually downgraded as it was renovated in 2009. The lobby of the old Princeville Resort – which I visited in 2005 – was open on most sides (letting in refreshing sea breezes) and captured the phenomenal vistas from all sides. However, during its transformation to a St Regis resort, the lobby became an enclosed space (with massive windows), its ceilings were lowered, and a new hallway was built, resulting in a total blocking of those fabulous views that wowed guests when they entered the old Princeville Resort’s lobby.
- The elevators don’t go straight down from the lobby on the resort’s top floor to the pool area on beach level. A first set of elevators shuttles between floors 4 to 9, while a second set of elevators serves the lower 4 floors. It means that guests with a room on floor five or above, will always have to change elevators on the 4th floor to get to the pool or beach. While this is definitely a first world problem, it can get annoying after a few days when you take into account the often long waiting times for an elevator.
- The small beach is not very impressive, although it does have calm waters and those stunning views of course. The good news is that there are lots of spectacular, public beaches close by, such as Lamahai beach (made famous by Hollywood in the movie South Pacific) and Haena beach (where lush tropical jungle meets golden sands and turquoise waters), but you’ll need a car to explore them.
- The weather on Kauai’s North Shore isn’t Hawaii’s sunniest, with long cloudy periods and frequent passing showers. If beach combing is a must for you, you should consider a stay on Kauai’s sunny beaches near Poipu instead of the wet North Shore.
- The hotel’s multi-leveled, white, 1960s exterior is an eyesore in the spectacular scenery of Kauai’s North Shore.
Despite all these negatives, I still consider this resort to be one of the best in the USA, simply because there is no denying that its location is one of the most breathtaking on the planet, albeit breathtakingly overpriced.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 7/10
- Pool: 7/10
- Rooms: 7/10
- Food: 7/10
- Breakfast: 4/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: good (but could be much better): 7,5/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like St Regis Princeville at Wailea, whether it’s booking a room at the cheapest price or receiving complimentary VIP perks (e.g. upgrade, breakfast, resort credit, etc …).
- Save money: enjoy free VIP perks at St Regis Princeville when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: book your room with an additional 20% off making use of Starwood’s Best Rate Guarantee.
- Save money: Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) with Gold or Platinum status are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – free high-speed WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and free breakfast (SPG platinum). Click here to read my review of the SPG program (with pros & cons).
- Room tip: my one big room tip for the St Regis Princeville – as for most properties in Hawaii in general – is to book the view that you want and do not count on an upgrade. The property is often fully occupied and you don’t want to end up in a room without a sea view. Rooms on floor four and above enjoy the best views.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Hawaii’s off-season – when the best rates are available and the islands are less crowded – is spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) – a paradox because these are the best seasons to be in Hawaii, in terms of reliably great weather. Winter (December to March) can be a surprisingly cloudy and wet affair in the archipelago.
Each island has a leeward side (the side sheltered from the wind) and a windward side (the side that gets the wind’s full force). The leeward sides (the west and south) are usually hot and dry, while the windward sides (east and north) are generally cooler and moist. The St Regis Princeville Resort is located on Kauai’s windward side, and experiences an abundance of rain (even in spring, summer and falls), what makes the area so verdant.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most guests of The St. Regis Princeville Resort fly in via Kauai’s principal airport – Lihue Airport – which is located approximately 32 miles (52 km) or a 45 minute drive south of Princeville. Lihue Airport served by inter-island and major airline carriers, including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin America. Check the wikipedia page of Lihue Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Kauai.