Kahala Mandarin Oriental, Hawai'i - My Family Travels

I chose the Kahala Hotel & Resort (808/739-8888 — formerly the Kahala Mandarin Oriental) near Diamond Head in O’ahu because I heard it had been restored to its original grandeur. (It is such a long-standing favorite of locals that many fondly call it The Kahala Hilton.) The hotel has no doors to the outside: it’s all open-air, ceilings are really high, and the rooms are big and comfortable. On one side of the hotel is a golf course where the Hawai’ian Open is played every year, on the other, a beautiful beach facing a small island that you can swim to.

 There’s also a dolphin lagoon with five dolphins who look like Flipper! Swimming with them was a unique experience. I saw the hotel’s marine biologist lead kids on tours past the dolphins and to a small pool to study a sea tortoise, huge koi, and other colorful fish. Perhaps that was part of their Keiki Club program where counselors took care of kids five- to twelve-years-old while parents played golf, went to the spa or just read a book.

The food is great but expensive. However, at 4pm, every day during my visit, the restaurant near the pool serves fresh fruit punch, while three Hawai’ian women in muu-muus and leis play music and tell stories, sing and dance to old Hawaiian music, and re-enact classic folk tales.

My last day on O’ahu I hired a car and driver for $30/hour to target many sites around the island. I visited the Punch Bowl Cemetery, with those killed at Pearl Harbor, and the Pearl Harbor Monument. From a pier you can look down and see the wrecks of the bombed ships. An amazing documentary is shown that leaves everyone, including kids, crying. Then I went to the Ala Moana Shopping Mall with cool stores like Jams World, where they make their own Hawaiian shirts!

The setting was just like paradise. The Kahala is the place to go if you want to get away from other family crowds, watch palm trees swaying, and overlook the perfect beach. It’s every bit as exquisite and luxurious as you’d want when paying $350 for a room (though two kids under 17 can stay free in parents’ room.)

It’s simply a text book paradise.


[Editor’s Note: As of March 1, 2006, the luxury 364 room property was renamed The Kahala Hotel & Resort, an independent hotel under the Leading Hotels of the World.]

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