Best Luxury Hotels in Hawaii

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A team of Oyster reporters spent a month exploring 92 top resort hotels on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. We slept in the beds, lounged on the beaches, ate in the restaurants, and even danced some hula, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Here's a list of our favorite luxury hotels.

  1. Four Seasons Maui

    The Four Seasons is quieter and more subdued than Maui's more grandiose resorts, but a two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio means over-the-top pampering like nowhere else in Hawaii -- poolside Evian spritzes, beachside yoga classes, and they even have someone to unpack your bags for you. The best part? It's all free -- gym and spa access, beachside cabanas, outrigger canoe outings, and even the kids' club. No ugly "resort fee" surprises either, unlike at most Maui resorts.

  2. The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

    A secluded location in the lush (though rainy) northwestern coast of Maui; proximity to two prestigious, oceanfront golf courses; culture and ecology programs for families led by Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment; and a top-rated restaurant make the Ritz-Carlton feel more serene than many of Maui's other luxury resorts -- like an eco-reserve off the back nine. Plus, a $180 million renovation in 2008 revitalized the rooms, the spa, the gym, and the three-tiered pool overlooking the coast.

  3. The Kahala Hotel and Resort

    Kahala's location in a ritzy Honolulu neighborhood -- away from the chaos of Waikiki -- makes it the most serene luxury option on Oahu. It's also the best. Its phenomenal service truly separates it from its competitors: At check-in guests are greeted with leis and cool washcloths; staff members address you by name throughout your stay (impressive for a 338-room property); and additional thoughtful touches include daily newspapers delivered in blue cotton bags and ice buckets that get refilled at turndown. The elegant rooms feature enormous flat-screen TVs, balconies, and some of the best bathrooms we've ever seen.

  4. Four Seasons Hualalai

    The pristine Four Seasons, the only five-pearl property on the Big Island, is unlike any other resort on the Kohala Coast. Lush and beautifully landscaped grounds surround private bungalow-style rooms and suites tucked along winding paths throughout the large property. The thoughtfully designed architecture, pools (all seven of them), and public spaces are indulgent without seeming excessive. Dining options on-site are few in number but high in quality, and include what is arguably the best restaurant on the Big Island. The service is excellent and the experience is first-rate down to the last detail.

  5. Four Seasons Lanai, The Lodge at Koele

    The 102-room Four Seasons Lodge at Koele is a serene, upscale resort with a Greg Norman-designed golf course. The resort is just a short walk from town, and features top-rated (but expensive) dining, casually elegant rooms, horseback riding facilities, and three tennis courts. The tranquil English-style grounds dotted by Asian accents -- a pagoda sits across the pond from a gazebo -- have a peaceful air and attract honeymooners and couples.

  6. Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

    The Grand Wailea vies with the Four Seasons for the title of the most luxurious resort in Wailea, the manicured planned resort on Maui's southwestern shore. But its style of luxury is flashier. Cascading waterfalls at the entrance, the world's only "water elevator" spewing from a volcano in the pool, and one of the most elaborate hydrotherapy spas in the nation deliver a wow factor, but also contribute to a theme park-esque vibe that isn't right for everyone. Still, opulence marks every feature, from the huge guest rooms to the $30 million in-house art collection.

  7. The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

    Built in 1927, the iconic "Pink Palace of the Pacific" is easily the most recognizable hotel on Oahu -- and, decades later, still one of the most luxurious. Guests receive the hotel's signature drink, a pink hibiscus elixir, upon check-in, and our reporter found banana bread waiting for him when he arrived in his room. Free limo service delivers guests anywhere in the local area in the afternoons and early evenings, and nightly turndown service is accompanied by chocolates or mints, a bottle of water, and a postcard with historical facts about the hotel. Be sure to book in the historical wing for classier renovated rooms (renovated in 2011).

  8. Koa Kea Resort Hotel at Poipu Beach

    The Koa Kea's first-rate, personalized service is the best on Kauai -- even better than what you'll find at the pricier Grand Hyatt. Rooms at this slickly designed boutique hotel all have espresso machines, 42-inch plasma TVs, sleek, dark-wood furnishings, Egyptian cotton sheets, and Italian marble bathrooms.

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