The Kahala Hotel & Resort

5000 Kahala Ave. | Honolulu, HI 96816  [SEE MAP]Honolulu, HI  [SEE ADDRESS]
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Guest Reviews

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 5

Kahala continues to be the ‘Grand Dame’

Jan 22nd, 2020

We return to the Kahala after a 30 absence and are only more delighted with what we experienced. I don’t quite understand some of the reviews talking about how the ‘ new owners ‘ have let the hotel become run down ! Yes it is not as modern as some of the properties in Waikiki.. but who wants to stay in Waikiki? The rooms, the staff… All of them, as well as the general management are outstanding. The restaurants… We dined at all of them ..are superb! Indeed the hotel caters to about 80% Japanese visitors ....But other guests are treated with the same hospitality, courtesy and attention! A small point: While the adults Jacuzzi in the pool area says ‘adults only’ it is always occupied by children...On numerous occasions I had to go to the towel attendant and ask them to enforce this rule . I’m not quite sure why they couldn’t do this on their own. Yes, while the pool tends to be small for the size property and is frequently populated by children ..there’s a beautiful serene beach only a few feet away! Joe Ibarra, The hotel’s GM has done a superb job of having an outstanding staff who are truly an asset to the Kahala company! We very much look forward to our return ...and this time not wait as long as we have in the past! We highly recommend this property to all visitors to this island ! TRIPADVISOR.COM USER 

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 5

My second stay and I love this place!!!

Jan 22nd, 2020

I reviewed the Kahala when I stayed there in the summer of 2017. This year I had the sheer pleasure of staying at the Kahala during the PGA tour’s Sony open! I love the charm and the feel of old Hawaii at this phenomenal resort. Greeted once again by Criag, who has greeted guests at the Kahala for over 40 years, I enjoyed one of the best weeks of my entire life!! My suite was gorgeous overlooking the golf course. The service and the feeling which they create is what makes this beautiful, very famous resort so great! There’s a wall of fame with pictures of heads of state, great artists and just very famous people who have stayed at the Kahala. It seems that any of those celebrities that visit the Hawaiian islands all make a stop at Kahala. The location is so very special. The tranquil neighborhood is one of the nicest in all of the Hawaiian islands and is just on the other side of Diamondhead crater from famous Waikiki Beach. Please also see my review of Hoku, the awesome restaurant in the Kahala hotel that is world class. Lastly the gift shop, which features Hawaiian candies exclusively produced by the Kahala, are the very best I’ve tasted in all of the islands!! This hotel is a definite winner and I can’t wait to get back there again!! TRIPADVISOR.COM USER 

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 3

Landmark hotel that is sadly being let go by current ownership and management

Jan 21st, 2020

I love this hotel... or at least I used to. It was 5 Trip Advisor stars all the way. A classic landmark where you'd always see a Hollywood celebrity or two in the midst of an interesting group of world-class travelers who appreciated the cool 1960's vibe of the Kahala. It ain't that hotel anymore. I'm giving it 3 TA stars due to my affection for what it used to be and my memories of a better-run establishment. It was a unique 5 star city hotel that just happened to be on a beach (as opposed to a fancy cookie-cutter over-the-top outer island resort), which was its charm and why it ended up ranked CN Traveler's best hotel in Hawaii 20 years ago. Now it's not even in the top 30. instead, it's become a mid-level Japanese chain hotel that barely ranks as a 4 star. The owners/management either don't know how to run a world-class hotel (since they've owned it for 5 years or so, they should), or aren't interested in spending the money to do so. The latter is my guess. I've stayed here at least a dozen times in 28 years. First, when it was the fading old Kahala Hilton (which people loved even though it was falling apart...I guess history repeats itself), then as the newly redone and wonderful Mandarin Oriental, and now, as the sad flagship of the above-mentioned chain. I'm very sorry to say, this place is being let go. It looks tired and unkempt. Pros: The Location. It's on a beautiful, quiet beach 4 miles from Waikiki in one of Honolulu's best neighborhoods (or at least it was the best before a Japanese billionaire started destroying it house by house... but that's another fascinating story... he ultimately got sent to jail). The Design. If you love 1960's mid-century modern architecture, you will love the circa 1964 style. It really is a classic. Some of the Staff. A Front Desk Clerk named Given (which is his... given name) is a super nice guy who was extremely helpful with check-in. No Resort Fee. That really is appreciated... and it's the way things should be! Cons: Tacky add-ons and deferred maintenance! Where do I start? Boy, have they tarted up the pure, simple design. They have tacky Z Gallerie level brown (!) furniture in the beautiful, 2-story open air lobby, which is now lit from above with harsh spots that cast an eerie glow on what once was a magical area. There is a tacky metal awning over the outdoor deck off the lobby that looks like it cost $1.50. There is cheap all-weather wicker furniture strewn all across that deck... which was never arranged properly once during my stay. It's always just scattered about. They added tacky blue lighting to the entrance, which clashes with the warm glow of the tiki torches (which they turn off at 10 pm to save on... gas?). There is also incredibly cheap-looking strip lighting under the front entrance stairs. Let me not forget to mention the prison-yard spots that light up the beach area by the restaurant and pool at night. The palms on both peninsulas that frame the beach used to be elegantly lit up at night but all the spotlights have rusted and shorted out. The bulk of the beach area is really dark at night, and there was zero security (as opposed to previous visits). There are multiple cheesy plastic towel dispensers/receptacles blocking the view of the beach from lounge chairs and the rooms. The beach attendants also stacked little side tables on top of each other that block views from the pool. They were stacked there the whole week I stayed. The carpets in the elevator are filthy. There are dead bugs in the elevator's overhead lighting panels. The carpet in the hallway is not clean. The doors at the ends of each hall are so rusted they no longer close. The room carpet is dirty. They added fans to the ceilings and ran the wiring in plastic conduit tacked up along the walls and ceilings. You don't see this in a Hamptons Inn or even a low-rent apartment building. The room furniture cushions were stained. There is an odd chaise lounge in each room that is positioned awkwardly. In fact, all the furniture minus the desk chairs looks on the cheap side and is old and funky. Upon entering, the room smelled a little mildewy, to be honest. The AC makes a weird squeaking noise every time it cycles on. The one positive... the beds are very comfortable, as are the pillows. Alas, the sheets are discolored and don't match. The bathrooms are from 1996... literally... not touched in 24 years. The grout is coming off the white tile, the red granite counters are fading. There are hard water stains on the glass shower. There were the fewest towels of any beach resort hotel I've ever visited. At most, 2 or 3 in a room. And they are not plush ones. The Japanese washlet toilets are noisy and smell like burning plastic due to the heated seats. Also, they're so noisy in the middle of the night I finally had to unplug mine. To make matters worse, the bathrooms are painted a weird yellow color which makes everything look even cheaper. As for the staff, the bellhops/valets (and there's always 4 or 5 around who are usually not that busy) never said hello once -- well, maybe once -- as I entered or left the hotel. Isn't that basic etiquette for a 5 star hotel. To be welcomed? Other staffers were usually quite friendly, including Jacquie at the front desk and the very sweet housekeeper. They did seem to care about your stay. It looked like there was not much pool service, though. (And it's an absurdly small pool, but it always was!) There certainly aren't enough staff at the pool & beach to keep anything looking neat. All the lounge chairs are left askew at night with towels uncollected. Also, for some reason, there were several white couches left adrift on the lawn that get soggy when it rains and have mildew on their pillows as a result. Ewww. Some others have noted the Dolphin experience is upsetting... I'm used to zoos and I do believe they treat the animals well, but no one seems to be paying the exorbitant fees to swim with them anymore, so that suggests either attitudes are changing or maybe it's the fact that they are charging so much for the interaction. There is no resort fee, as I mentioned above, which is nice as is the free wifi. However, it costs $40 to park (self or valet) every night and there is NOT enough self-parking even when the overall garage isn't full. Employees are allowed to park in the same small self-parking area so you are fighting with them for parking during the day. Why not just let employees park on the top level of the garage, which was always empty of cars? Now that the Kahala is no longer tied into any major upscale hotel chain reservation system but rather is Japanese owned and operated, the vast majority of the guests were Japanese, which added an interesting, international flavor to the hotel, which I really appreciated. The downside is the room service and dining menus reflect a less American palate... which means some basics are missing in action. Have I mentioned the prices? If you don't have a car and leave the property for every meal you are going to spend a fortune for mediocre food. The problem is, the Kahala is just not very well-run any longer and the current owners are slowly letting it fall apart. If anything that's been updated, it has not been done with any sense of aesthetics that honor the original design. Perhaps the worst add-on is the tacky Italian restaurant under the rooms adjacent to the hotel entrance. It just looks so out of place and again, cheap. (But it's not!). Until recently, this was by far the most elegant hotel on Oahu. The Four Seasons chain was even interested in taking over after Mandarin left. But I didn't even realize how far the Kahala has fallen until I went to the Halekulani on Waikiki for a visit... that is the hotel the Kahala used to compete with for clientele and it seems those guests are now all at the Halekulani, not here. And the Kahala has such a much better beach and location. I really hope there's new ownership soon, because I don't think the current regime is capable of stewarding this Hawaiian classic back to its former glory. I doubt I'll return till new owners are in place, but I will always have a fond spot for the Kahala due to past fantastic experiences here. For now, it's disappointing and overall, a sad waste of a once-great one-of-a-kind property. I had an okay stay but my visits used to be sublime. I would only recommend the Kahala these days if you can see past all the myriad of imperfections and want to enjoy an Oahu hotel that's not in Waikiki or Ko Olina (don't get me started on that location) and if you can get a good deal, which occasionally appears to be possible. This really was my favorite hotel on earth, hence the lengthy review. I'm that bummed. TRIPADVISOR.COM USER 

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 1

Heartbreaking scene of dolphins in tiny enclosure

Jan 19th, 2020

The rating is for the poor dolphins kept in what amounts to a shallow pond. Not sure why the hotel thinks keeping these beautiful animals in a sea world type enclosure is entertaining. Maybe other guests didn’t find it disturbing, but it made me incredibly sad. It’s unnecessary to exploit animals in such a way for entertainment. If you want to see dolphins, wake up at sunrise and go to some of the quieter beaches, they swim around (freely) in large groups. I will never stay here or support this place again. TRIPADVISOR.COM USER 

TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 1

Dolphins imprisoned for life, for no good reason

Jan 15th, 2020

I stayed here and had no idea until I walked outside about the dolphins in the tiny lagoon out back. Dolphins in the wild have a range of 15 - 20 miles per day; these have a range of a few hundred feet per day. The sight of these dolphins made me so sad I literally sat down and wept. I will certainly never stay here again and I encourage anyone who has any empathy whatsoever for these highly intelligent animals to not only not stay here, but tell management your feelings. TRIPADVISOR.COM USER 

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