Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Located next to rainforest trails -- but not a swimmable beach -- this 48-room, unplugged resort (no TVs, no phones) functions more like a hands-off condo with scaled-back services and just a small spa, pool, and restaurant.
Just a couple miles past Princeville's tony golf resorts, the casual 48-room Hanalei Colony Resort embraces a simple, back-to-basics approach to exploring the North Shore's rugged beauty. All of its guest rooms are two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo units with fully equipped kitchens, but none of them have a TV, an air conditioner, or a phone. There is free Wi-Fi throughout, however. Service is hands-off, more like a condo complex than a traditional resort, meaning that the front desk closes after 6 p.m. (there's no real lobby here, just a registration office) and housekeeping only comes every three days (in the interests of "water conservation").
The five-acre property doesn't have the amenities found at most other resorts, like a poolside bar or a fitness center. Most of the essentials are here, including a casual spa, an independent art gallery that showcases the work of local Hawaiian artisans, a no-frills rectangular pool, and an excellent Mediterranean restaurant (voted the "Best New Restaurant in Kauai" by Honolulu magazine back in 2007). But because the restaurant is a tad overpriced and cooking in a kitchen without AC isn't ideal in the summer, you'll likely want to head to Hanalei and Princeville for most meals.
Also, unlike most other Hawaiian resorts, you're not on a swimmable beach. Hanalei Colony is the only resort on the North Shore that fronts the ocean -- and it is quite picturesque -- but you'll still have to drive at least a mile and a half to the nearest swimmable beach. On the plus side, Hanalei Bay, one of the greatest beaches in Kauai and a famous pro-surfer destination, is only five miles away.
All in all, this is a great resort for family bonding or affordable destination weddings, given its secluded location, relatively cheap rates for rooms that can sleep up to five people (rollaway beds available for a fee), and phenomenal views -- you can't get any closer to the rainforests and lush valley of the Na Pali Coast. You can get a room at a value-priced mega-resort like Sheraton Kauai or Kauai Marriott for around the same price -- but it would be a two-person hotel room, not a condo with a kitchen.
More like a condo complex than a full-service resort
No porters, no room service, no dedicated concierge, no poolside wait service -- none of the perks you'd find at a real resort, like the Kauai Marriott or Sheraton Kauai. The minimal service does fit with the hotel's simple, back-to-nature charm -- a poolside pina colada here would seem a little bizarre -- and the limited housekeeping at least helps conserve water (while also cutting down on the cost of staff, naturally).
But there are inconveniences. If you arrive after office hours, you'll need to give 48 hours' notice to arrange a time to pick up your keys. As there are no porters -- or elevators, for that matter -- you'll have to haul your own luggage over to your room (and up stairs if you have a 2nd-floor room). Other time-share-focused properties on the island, like the Marriott Waiohai or the Kauai Coast Resort, do boast more services (like porters, or a 24-hour front desk).
Hanalei Colony Resort is not in the city of Hanalei (as one might assume) but about five miles outside it in Ha'ena. Shortly past Hanalei Colony, the paved road ends and the 6,175 acres of the Na Pali Coast State Park begins.
Five miles east, in the city of Hanalei, there's a smattering of popular take-out and plate-lunch spots, outdoor shopping malls like Ching Young Shopping Village, and the famous, two-mile Hanalei Bay Beach, where parts of South Pacific were filmed and where huge waves attract the best professional surfers in the winter. Just past Hanalei (the city), the north shore's rugged beauty transforms into Princeville's gated private communities, posh resorts, and the manicured Princeville Golf Club course.
It's on the water, technically, but you can't swim there. Drive a few miles, and you'll get to some of Kauai's best beaches.
Hanalei Colony is the only oceanfront resort on the north shore, but aside from its coastal views there's no major advantage to this. Due to strong currents and a reefy shoreline, you can't swim at the beach bordering the hotel. A few (usually empty) beach chairs are set up on the grassy lawn for lounging, right before you reach the rocky shore -- but that's it for the beach scene here.
All guest rooms are huge, two-bedroom, 850-square-foot individually owned condos large enough to sleep five (if you spring for a rollaway bed, charged nightly). But unlike other condo-hotels -- like, say, Whalers Cove on the South Shore, where each room can look radically different -- the Hanalei Colony management holds owners to a strict set of rules. No room can have a TV, phone, or AC unit. There is Wi-Fi throughout. For the furniture, condo owners can only choose a different color of the same pattern print or a different color of the same furniture style. This keeps every room pretty much identical -- all equally bright, cheery, and tropical. Expect functional but fairly no-frills, standard white appliances.
Due to the abundance of windows and the condos' overall open-space floor plan -- meaning that the bedrooms are separated by wooden partitions that can be drawn around the master bedroom and the second room -- they all get loads of sunlight. (Though, you sacrifice a little privacy for the natural light.)
Ideal value for low-key families
There are no TVs, kids' clubs, or video game arcades -- but to many families, this is a good thing.
Clean across the board
Everything -- from the dust-free table tops to the bathroom fixtures to the pool area -- looked very clean and well maintained, excusing some worn, slightly mildewy tiles in one of the room's showers.
On-site dining options are on the slim side. For breakfast, your only option is a bagel or muffin at the Napali Art Gallery and Coffee Shop. The independently owned Mediterranean Gourmet restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner, and is only open six days a week (it's closed Sundays).
Outside the hotel, you can check out some of Hanalei's small, but solid, range of restaurants, like fine dining at Postcards Cafe (local, organic cuisine with entrees $20 to $30) or something more casual at Polynesia Cafe in Ching Yung Village (entrees include nachos, local plate lunches like kahlua pork, and fresh-baked cakes).
No TVs or phones; instead, you get rare oceanfront views and hiking in the breathtaking Na Pali Coast. The pool's small, housekeeping only comes every third day, and there's little for breakfast other than bagels. But the 48 two-bedroom condos with full kitchens are worth the downsized features.