Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
An intimate, boutique-hotel alternative to the multitude of condos and mega-resorts dotting the Poipu coastline, the 121-room Koa Kea is a hidden gem: The motel-like exterior masks a slickly designed lobby and fine Pacific Rim restaurant, fitness center with new Cybex equipment, and luxurious rooms with 42-inch plasma TVs, sumptuous Anichini linens, and espresso machines.
The former site of the budget Poipu Beach Hotel (devastated by Hurricane Iniki in 1992), 121-room Koa Kea is actually the old Poipu Beach Hotel exterior, completely gutted and redone inside. Under current building ordinances, the owners would have had to build further back from the coastline if they had ripped down the old hotel. By sticking with the old building, Koa Kea was able to remain one of the closest hotels to the beach -- about 25 yards away from the water (much closer than neighboring Marriott Waiohai). The beach is pretty much the same stretch as Kiahuna Plantation's: good for snorkeling and surfing, but with plenty of rocks that are easy for swimmers to cut their feet on as they're pulled with the strong current.
It does feel like you're driving up to an old, signless motel next to the splashier Marriott. But two steps into the sleek white-leather-couch lobby -- done by the same designer behind Vegas' Red Rock and Four Seasons -- and you've entered a completely different hotel. Twenty-four-hour porters whisk your bags away, and a front desk receptionist escorts you to your room, showing you how to use your Nespresso machine. A half hour later, and a staff member came to my door with a letter welcoming me to the hotel and three types of macadamia nuts. This is the kind of five-star pampering you'd find at the Four Seasons Maui -- turndown service, twice-daily housekeeping -- but it's pretty much nonexistent on Kauai's south shore (even at the fancy Grand Hyatt).
Those expecting the expansive list of features that's common in this price range (the Sheraton Kauai mega-resort, just down the street, runs a third less) will be disappointed by Koa Kea's single pool and restaurant. But offering an endless number of features is not the focus of Koa Kea, which falls into the boutique hotel niche rather than the full-on resort category. Koa Kea is for those seeking a lavishly stylish but intimate experience that's less overwhelming than staying at the 602-room Grand Hyatt, considered the most extravagant resort on the island. Koa Kea also offers much more personal, attentive service.
Guests at the Koa Kea can expect attentive five-star service, even better than what you'll get at the pricier Grand Hyatt.
30 minutes from the Lihue Airport, in the middle of the south shore Poipu resort area
Koa Kea is in Poipu, the south shore development that's one of Kauai's biggest resort areas. The town is known for its consistently sunny weather (versus the rainy north shore), picturesque, treelined streets -- and constant construction as developers add more condominiums and hotels to these former sugarcane fields. Located just off Poipu Road, the main strip flanked by resorts on one side and a shopping mall on the other, Koa Kea shares an entrance and beach with the Marriott Waiohai and Kiahuna Plantation.
Small but luxurious, with modern decor and luxury amenities
Confined by the framework of the original hotel, Koa Kea's rooms are smaller than those at the Grand Hyatt (442 square feet versus Hyatt's 500). But they're done up with a cozy, modern boutique-style decor (versus Hyatt's quaint plantation-style) and offer a few more luxury amenities, including 42-inch flat-screens and a drawer hiding an easy-to-use espresso machine (but no bathtub -- just a marble shower with a bench). Westin Princeville's one and two-bedroom condos still have both beat, though -- in size and amenities.
Low on features (one small pool), and $15.62 daily resort fee
As an intimate, 121-room luxury boutique hotel, Koa Kea isn't rich with the same extensive features that the Grand Hyatt or even the cheaper Sheraton Kauai have (multiple pools, several restaurants, a kids' club). Koa Kea's small pool and two-computer business center can't really hold a candle to what you'll find at these larger resorts.
Shares Kiahuna Beach, a narrow crescent-shaped stretch of sand, with several other vacation properties
One of the most family-friendly beaches in Poipu, Kiahuna Beach sits at the foot of three resort properties: Koa Kea, Kiahuna Plantation, and Sheraton Kauai. Beachgoers, predominately resort guests, take surf lessons, play in the sand, and snorkel in the clear water.
Geared more toward couples than families
Koa Kea is a luxury boutique better suited to honeymooners than families. If you're traveling with children, try the Grand Hyatt with its impressive pools and big kids' club.
Serving fresh seafood with Pacific Rim flavors, Koa Kea's upscale Red Salt restaurant is an elegant choice for a romantic evening. But be forewarned that these involved entrees (vanilla-seared mahi mahi with avocado ginger salsa, seared ahi with cilantro risotto) do not come cheap.
This 121-room Poipu boutique hotel offers five-star features -- rooms with fine Egyptian linens, Italian marble bathrooms, and personal espresso machines, and a free fitness center with individual cable-TV monitors. With just one pool and restaurant, it lacks the extras of the mega-resorts -- but the service is more attentive and pampering.