Four Seasons Hualalai (Trip Report with Photos)

Discussion in 'Luxury Hotels' started by elitetraveler1A, Mar 31, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. elitetraveler1A

    elitetraveler1A Silver Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    33
    Status Points:
    165
    Four Seasons Hualalai (Trip Report with Photos at end)

    -Booked through Four Seasons Preferred Partner (FSPP)
    -Room: Superior Suite - Ocean Golf View Suite
    -5 night stay


    Note: I must preface this trip report by first giving kudos to NYBanker and his report on FS Hualalai from his recent trip in December 2011. I spoke with him a few times before our trip and he, along with his report, were extremely valuable in planning our stay. If you have not read it, you can find his reports on the below links. My report below will just touch upon some additional items and I won’t go into many of the details that NYBanker already covered.
    http://www.sitinfirst.com/2012/01/christmas-in-hawaii-part-4-four-seasons-hualalai-the-experience/
    http://www.sitinfirst.com/2012/01/christmas-in-hawaii-part-5-hualalai/
    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip...alai-halekulani-aa-f-ha-f-co-j-plus-more.html

    And now on to our experience: Our stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai was excellent overall; the resort itself is beautifully maintained, the food was definitely a highlight, and the whole experience was just seamless. One can tell this resort is very well run and has tight and consistent operational strengths. We truly enjoyed our stay, and some small perceived issues that we encountered at the beginning of our stay were quickly forgotten and we can why see this resort has so many repeat guests. All in all, this is an excellent resort, very family-oriented, yet great for couples as well. Photos follow the below write-up.

    Room: We stayed in a “Superior Suite – Ocean Golf View” which is actually not in one of the four crescents that are in front of the ocean but, behind the 18th fairway/18th green area on the golf course, with a view out toward the ocean (it is one of the lower category suites and there are many different suite categories here). As some of you know, I am extremely picky when it comes to suite types and location, and was having a tough time settling on this suite purely because of its further location and some saying to avoid this distant area. Given this was a very last minute booking (my wife suddenly switched jobs and had two weeks off before she started with her new company) and that it was prime spring break season, other suites were either not available at time of booking or were much pricier than what we wanted to spend on this trip given we had other vacations for the year already planned and this was a trip that we had not factored in.

    In the end, we didn’t dislike the location of this suite as much as I thought I would and I would not hesitate to recommend the Ocean Golf category. And it really was only about a 5 minute walk to the furthest areas of the resort from this area. I think this area is better suited to adults than those with families, due to its seclusion and also its proximity to the adults only Palm Grove pool area and also its close location to the gym/spa. A walk to the kids pool and King’s pond, however, is a bit longer from this area. There are also self parking spaces right in front of the entrance doors to these rooms/suites, so if you do have a car and plan on using it frequently, this may also be a good option as you can literally park your car and take a few steps right to the front door of your room/suite. There is also a laundry room building with newer LG washers/dryers and complimentary detergent.

    The suite itself is approximately 1050 square feet and was situated in the furthest building 37 (Suite 3711) closest to the ocean in this area, which I believe offers better views than does some of the other buildings in this area. It seems there are 4 total suites in the entire Ocean Golf area, with the rest of the accommodations in this area consisting of the lowest category regular guest rooms. We were on the upper floor suite in building 37, with an identical unit below us (as many others mention, the lower floors offer outdoor lava showers). From what I gathered, the other 2 suites in this area (I think in building 34 or 35 – upper and lower level) are renovated suites and have steam showers (I cannot confirm this, but someone on trip advisor recently posted photos of their suite in this area and the interior furnishings looked entirely different and he stated they had a steam shower, leading me to believe it was renovated). The only downside to these suites (in 34 or 35) is you are bit further away from the clearing out towards the ocean and probably do not have as good of a view out to the ocean as in Building 37 (see my map photo below to get a better understanding of what I mean).

    The suite had a living room: couch with fold-out bed, chair, desk, small mini-bar area in the foyer with coffee and an empty fridge which you can stock yourself with supplies from the trading company on the property, and a full 3 piece bathroom with large shower. There is also a large flat-screen TV and DVD player. The bedroom area was also nice, with a walk-in closet and a 5-piece bathroom and also a flat-screen TV (but no DVD player). The showers in both the bathrooms only had a traditional showerhead (no rainhead or no separate handheld). The best part of the suite was the large terrace that extends the length of the suite (with sliding doors out from either the bedroom or the living room). The terrace has a comfortable round lounging piece of furniture and then also a table and two chairs. The view is out towards the ocean and the 18th teebox, past the 18th fairway. Looking to your right, you see the 18th green and the clubhouse. This was a great vantage point to watch the sunset or golfers on their approach shot to the 18th green.

    I also made it a point to notice the other suites on property, both in the crescents and the named/specialty suites. The newer suites (Deluxe Suite category) were basically newly formed by constructing these new suites between the buildings in the crescents and are scattered about the Resort. These do have the new steam showers in the living rooms. The other named/specialty suites were also scattered throughout the property (mostly oceanfront) - I have created a map outlining the locations of each of these suites in case anyone would like to know the specific locations. See further below in my pictures.

    Flights: A quick note on the flights we used to get to/from NYC and FS Hualalai. On the outbound we flew EWR-SFO on United metal in First. United First domestic is nothing special and the plane fairly old. We were limited on the time we could fly out, otherwise I would have taken a Continental metal flight with the new BusinessFirst seats (757-200 plane which we did take on the return). We purposely stayed the night in SFO in order to take the morning flight from SFO-KONA so we could maximize our time at the resort and not arrive at night (the other flight from California arrives Kona around 9pm – there are only two flights a day from SFO – I believe the same from LAX). The SFO-KONA flight was again United metal and the 767-300 (or ghetto-bird as I learned from this forum). It was a 2x2x2 configuration in First and, again, a very old plane. The purser was one of the most arrogant, overconfident fellows I have ever seen on a flight and I think he enjoyed being in command and ordering passengers around. On our return, we flew KONA-SFO on the 9:33pm departure (United metal, but this time 757-200 with the standard United domestic First seats) and then connected in SFO to a Continental metal plane (757-200 with the new BusinessFirst seats). If you can, make sure you try to coordinate and choose the Continental planes with the new seats on the coast-to-coast flight. The United planes really need to be updated and were pretty lousy. Of course, you can also fly the Continental nonstop from NYC-HONOLULU and then connect inter-island or, come this summer, fly the JFK-HONOLULU nonstop on Hawaiian Airlines and then connect inter-island. Or fly the traditional P.S. service on United out of JFK to either SFO or LAX.

    Airport Transfer/Check-in/FSPP amenities: Once we landed in Kona, we exited and saw a representative holding a Four Seasons sign. He and his colleague immediately welcomed us (and even knew our name), asked if we had checked bags, took our luggage tag in order to retrieve our bag from the carousel, and told us to take a seat while they took care of everything. There were a few others going to the Resort as well. Sure enough, everything was taken care of (there were a few girls checking each bag as it came on the carousel and matching it to the names of guests), and we were soon in the Resort’s SUV (Cadillac Escalade) for the quick 15-20 minute ride to the Resort. The Resort SUV had water and cold towels awaiting us. Our airport transfers were complimentary as a Suite guest.

    Upon arriving at the Resort around noon, check-in was smooth and we were welcomed by leis and then seated on a nearby couch for check-in, where the welcome drink and scented cold towels were already waiting and someone from the front desk came over with our details. Everything was neatly prepared in a folder, along with our FSPP amenity card, printed schedule of our activities, and resort map. Our room was not ready and we were told to wait and they would call us on our cell phone once it was - it was eventually ready after about 1 hour 30 mins, which is not bad at all. However, I still view this as a small negative as there was no one occupying the suite before us (i.e. no one checking out that morning), the property had our arrival details, and we had requested early-check in through our FSPP, so the suite could have easily been prepped and ready for our arrival. Being able to shower and get unpacked after a somewhat long flight is key.

    I did notice we were assigned the same suite category that we had booked and politely asked if any upgrades were available (per the FSPP upgrade amenity). He said he would check and got up to go to the front desk. In the meantime, the Director of Rooms (Konrad) came over to greet us and was extremely pleasant. I did ask him about the possibility of upgrading and he knew his colleague was already checking. After Konrad left, the same front desk agent came back and said he looked into the possibility of upgrading, an upgraded suite was available, and showed us the resort map where the upgraded suite would be located (in Building 9 in the King’s Pond section), and I could immediately tell he was going to charge for the upgrade. Sure enough, he said he could offer us the upgrade, which suite would normally be an additional $1100/night, for only an additional $550/night using their “Experience the Best” program. This suite was in the same “Superior Suite” category, but with a better view. It was the “Superior Suite – Oceanfront” I believe. Granted it is 3 categories above our booked suite, but it is still within the same Superior Suite category – there are many Suite categories at this property. I asked if he could just provide this suite as a complimentary upgrade per the FSPP program and said he could not. It seemed a bit non-conventional given that an upgraded suite was available, but apparently this property is very strict and only provides one category upgrades (I did bring this to the attention of my FSPP agent and that was basically the response from the hotel regarding upgrades). I guess I have just been lucky/fortunate in the past with upgrades at other properties (I almost always book suites) and perhaps was expecting too much in this situation? My viewpoint is that if a suite is available and not occupied, it should be given to loyal Four Seasons guests.

    Other issues included us requesting a lower floor suite (so we could take advantage of the outdoor lava shower), but this request was not granted either. In addition, I had made it known that I enjoyed steam showers, and the 2 other renovated suites in our Ocean Golf area had steam showers I believe (see above in the “Room” section of my report) – it would have been great if they assigned us one of those suites. Overall, based on these shortfalls, I felt the FSPP program did little more than just provide the breakfast credit and one time lunch credit as none of these special requests at time of booking had been taken into account.

    I did ask, through our FSPP agent, to see if they could honor late check-out on our departure day given our flight was not until 9:33pm (note we already requested this at time of booking, but given the lack of granting any of our special requests, I wanted to ask again), and they typically do not confirm this until the day before departure, but made an exception in our case and confirmed it at the beginning of our stay, which was nice.

    Upon entering our suite, we did notice welcome amenities consisting of champagne and chocolate, along with a note from our FSPP agent and the GM. Fruit was also delivered later that day along with a large bottle of water (the fruit was replenished each day, although the large bottle of water was not). Smaller bottles of water, however, are located in the mini-fridge, provided at turndown, and in the gym/spa.

    Internet is also complimentary for all guests (standard internet, which was more than fine or you can pay to upgrade to a faster service). I believe at least 2 devices are included free of charge, if not 3.

    As NYBanker mentioned, as part of the FSPP program, there is $83 breakfast credit (total for two people) each day to use as you like – we were told you can use it for the a la carte items or the buffet (we always did the buffet) and the $83 credit covered the buffet for 2 people, 15% tip, and tax. We always left a little extra for tip each morning and this additional amount did show up on our folio at checkout. We also received an $85 lunch credit once during our stay. In addition, we received a $1000 resort credit as we had booked a suite stay of at least 5 nights. All items were accurately reflected on our folio when I asked to review the bill closer to check-out.

    These above issues were really my only negatives on our entire stay. By no means did it detract from an otherwise wonderful Resort and a fabulous stay, but did want to point them out to this forum.

    Concierge: Per NYBanker’s suggestion, we booked all our dinner reservations, golf, spa, and helicopter tour ahead of time through the concierge. Given the resort was fairly full due to spring break, we are glad we booked these dinner reservations ahead of time as some people were told that a table was not available for an hour or more as they tried to walk-in. The concierge staff, especially Marcia and Lindsay, was exceptional and we made it a point to meet them in person when we arrived and give them a little something. It seems that certain concierge staff work back in an office and answer guests’ emails, etc while others work at the desk up front in the lobby. They are extremely responsive over email and I was very impressed with their knowledge. You can also request that week’s activity booklet to be emailed to you and the concierge will set a reminder and email it to you right before your stay. This was good reading on our flight to the Resort. A copy is also located bedside in your room.

    Helicopter Tour: Based on the concierge’s recommendation for a helicopter tour, we booked Paradise Helicopters for their “Volcano and Valley landing.” This is the first tour of its kind, where you not only do a full tour of the Big Island, but also land in one of the valleys and can walk around/relax/eat lunch for about an hour. I would highly recommend this tour as the valley landing was pretty incredible and it was nice to get out of the cabin, take a break, and walk a bit. It gets fairly hot in the cabin and our flight was full (two other couples and the pilot). If I could do it again, I would have bought extra seats as it does get too cramped in the cabin for this flight (and the nice woman next to me did get sick). We were able to see some lava flow, “skylights” showing the lava underneath, and also get a great tour of the island. The helicopter company, which operates out of the Kona airport, also picked us up/dropped us off to the Resort. It also afforded me the opportunity to take some pics of two private Global Express jets that were right near our helicopter! The concierge also suggested we take a picnic lunch with us on the helicopter to eat when we landed in the valley. We did and the Resort provided a great lunch (your choosing) and it was more than plenty of food, all packed nicely in an insulated cooler. We actually didn’t end up eating it when we landed in the valley as my wife and I both felt a bit queasy and preferred to wait until we got back to the Resort – we had a nice picnic on our terrace instead.

    Restaurants: We originally made reservations for dinner by alternating between Beach Tree and Pahu I’a. We ended up preferring Pahu I’a slightly over Beach Tree, so switched one of our reservations to Pahu I’a (so ended up with 4 dinner at Pahu I’a and 2 dinners at Beach Tree). Given the spring break family crowd, we preferred the slightly more elegant feel that Pahu I’a had during our stay. Both restaurants were excellent and their food very fresh. We love eating out in NYC and the food here was beyond our expectations. We did go to Beach Tree every night for the sunsets (sunsets were at 6:30pm and we had to get to Beach Tree around 5:45pm in order to get a chair). It was lively, with kids playing in the lawn, live music playing, and a beautiful sunset in the backdrop, along with cocktail in hand. For lunch we would either eat at Beach Tree or order by one of the pools/beach. Only on the last day did we eat lunch at the Resident’s Beach House (although we walked by it every day). We actually preferred the Resident’s Beach House lunch we had over any of our lunches at Beach Tree and wish we had dined here more often. We did not dine at the Hualalai Grille (above the golf clubhouse). Another note was Chef William, who at the breakfast buffet noticed by wife loved the local fruits, and asked where we were sitting. In a few minutes, he came out with a specially prepared platter of local fruits (those not in the buffet), all nicely cleaned and presented. The star apple was by far our favorite! There is also the Lava Lounge in Pahu I’a – this was located on the main floor, right next to the restaurant area, but with couch/low table seating. Apparently, they use the 2nd floor of the building for this Lava Lounge during festive season. You can order from the Lava Lounge menu when dining at Pahu I’a and vice versa.

    Gym/Fitness Classes: The gym area is located next to the Spa and the Lap pool, with separate indoor/outdoor buildings (one building for spinning/classes, another for cardio equipment, and a third for weights, with a courtyard area for stretching, etc. Equipment is fairly new with individual TVs and attendants come around with cold towels and bottled water. Of special note are the various and many fitness classes offered (ask the concierge and they will set a reminder to email you the fitness classes for the week you will be in-house). Classes are $15 each or you can buy a weekly pass. We also enjoyed the complimentary Fitness Walks at 7am each morning – it is a great way to get acclimated with the entire Hualalai community (not just the Four Seasons Resort) and also see some of the exceptional real estate in the community (the Resort shares the area with Residents in this gated community). We also took many walks on our own as well through the different streets in the community and along the ocean.

    Spa: We had a treatment booked and it was a good thing I stopped at the spa front desk to confirm it – they actually had it for Wednesday, even though my printed itinerary stated Thursday, which is the day for which I had booked it. It was not a problem as they easily fixed it to Thursday (it did not seem the Spa was very crowded/busy when we were there). The spa locker rooms can also be used complimentary by guests at any time – there is an outdoor steam room, sauna, and 3 outdoor showers, along with indoor showers. I loved this area and was one of only a few guests who actually used it. I believe the women’s side is identical.

    Pool/Beach: We spent most of our time at the adult’s pool in the Palm Grove section and never had a problem finding chairs. The attendants were great and always came around to refill your water (or even toss out the old water since it may have gotten warm and refill it with cold water) and also came around every so often with treats. We also spent some time in the beach loungers right in front of the ocean, although the service was a bit slower here. There are also some hammocks spread about the Resort.

    Staff: We really liked all the staff as they were extremely nice and efficient. Some were obviously better than others, but overall they were well trained and efficient. Some were just about getting their job done, while others were friendlier and liked conversation.

    Golf: I played a round of golf when I was there and the course is great – a bit surreal with the course carved out in the lava rock. The holes near the ocean are breathtaking. I was not paired with anyone, so played by myself. The driving range/practice area are free for those playing a round and otherwise $45 if you just want to go there on your own. Club rentals include nice Taylormade Burner 2.0 irons. Golf carts are equipped with large screen navigation/course map.

    There are also complimentary golf clinics twice a week. There is a Friday clinic at 8am for sand/bunkers. There is also a Monday clinic for chipping. This is where the Resort needs to get a bit more organized. The time for the Monday clinic is either at 8am or 4pm? The website says one thing, the Voyages brochure says another, the front desk confirmed it was 4pm (when we called on Sunday to ask), and it is not even listed on the daily activity schedule at all. On Monday, my wife and I were planning on going, but when we arrived, they said it already happened at 8am that morning. That was unfortunate.

    Future Renovations: We came to learn the following:
    1. Lava lounge – they will be building a new bar downstairs for the Lava Lounge area
    2. Hualalai Grille (on the 2nd floor of the Golf Clubhouse) – they will be turning it onto a steakhouse.

    Other: There is a pond area underneath Pahu I’a restaurant. They use this area for fish and rehabilitation for sharks, etc. If you can, it is worthwhile to do the shark feeding (small sharks) per the activity booklet – the employee was very knowledgeable and it made for some nice pictures with the sharks. There is also the eagle ray feeding in the King’s Pond area, but you need to sign up in person each day at 10am – by the time we made it over there to sign up, it had already filled up.

    Another interesting activity was the Turtle Talk. The green sea turtles are an endangered species and you can see them on the sand at certain times resting (there are signs to keep your distance). The Turtle Talk is with an employee in King’s Pond (ours was with Pepper who was filled with knowledge and had a background in marine biology) who explains the history and provides an educational chat about the sea turtle. Of course, you can order a cocktail and sip it while listening.

    Note that it can get quite windy in the evenings, especially sitting outside at Pahu I’a. One night, they actually had to move people inside. I believe the have shawls, etc in case people get cold, but may be useful to bring your own.

    Manager’s Reception-we were invited to a Manager’s reception one evening towards the end of our stay and it was a great way to meet the employees of the Resort and also mingle with some other guests. I just wished this had happened earlier in our stay.

    Links to certain PDF documents that may help in planning someone’s stay:
    http://www.fsrh.net/pr/Voyages_Brochure.pdf
    http://www.fsrh.net/pr/restaurants.pdf
    http://www.fsrh.net/pr/island_activities.pdf

    Areas for Improvement: There are usually a number of items that can always be improved upon at a property, but the lack thereof at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai validates what so many others have said about this property. There are only a few items that come to mind, other than the items at check-in around our requests.

    We are somewhat used to being checked on throughout our stay and making a personal connection with management, but that did not happen during this stay until later in the week, after we attended the Manager’s reception. This is one area where I feel the resort can somewhat improve and make it a point, to meet (in person) , their FSPP or Suite guests and check on them throughout their stay since this is a somewhat larger property. I do appreciate when this has been done at other properties (although others may not care and want to be left alone) and it really leaves a good feeling with the guest about the property and leaves the guest feeling valuable. It is a simple, yet rewarding practice. Even though the resort is large, the service level and efficiency is still present throughout and, after a few days of employees recognizing you in the restaurants, etc, you do tend to get that more personal connection/level of treatment.

    The other main area for improvement is the Airport Lounge/Departure service. There is a dedicated Four Seasons Airport Lounge that Suite guests can use (I read about this in an article, although it was never mentioned to me). I figured that upon check-out the front desk would mention something or upon being dropped off at the airport by the Resort’s SUV, the driver would mention it to me, but neither happened (our driver, Konrad, though was extremely energetic and we really liked him). I asked him about the lounge and then he had to call the Resort to get the code for the door to the lounge. It is an unstaffed lounge and really more of just an enclosed room in the open air courtyard area of the Kona airport. It was apparent they did not expect anyone to be using the lounge, as all the lights were off. I feel the Resort, if they are going to offer this lounge, should do it properly and either staff it when they know they have suite guests departing from the airport or at least prepare it with the lights, etc –and also make sure guests know they are entitled to use it. There are some snacks (not many), magazines, and water/soft drinks in fridges in cabinets (although no signs explaining anything, so we basically had to open every cabinet until we found the fridge. There is no bathroom and I really feel this is one addition that could be truly beneficial since the bathrooms at the Kona airport are crowded/not too nice.

    Along the same lines, I think the Resort should offer a Departure VIP service (I would have happily paid for this) as the Kona departure experience is a mess and basically a zoo. I am thinking something similar to the Aman Resorts airport representatives, where they check-you in, bring you to the front of security, take you to the lounge, etc. There is no elite lane for security at the Kona airport and the line tends to take a very long time. Literally upon arriving to the airport, we knew our “vacation” had ended.

    All in all, this was a wonderful trip and would highly recommended this Resort. Any questions, feel free to contact me.

    Lobby Drive/Area:
    [​IMG]

    Overhead View of Property (taken from Helicopter):
    [​IMG]

    Map of Specialty Suites:
    [​IMG]

    Superior Suite Ocean Golf View #3711 (Middle two windows on upper floor):
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    NYBanker likes this.
  2. elitetraveler1A

    elitetraveler1A Silver Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    33
    Status Points:
    165
  3. elitetraveler1A

    elitetraveler1A Silver Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    33
    Status Points:
    165
    [​IMG]

    Superior Suite Ocean Golf View - View from Terrace:
    [​IMG]

    Helicopter Tour - Valley Landing:
    [​IMG]

    Helicopter Tour - Lava Flow:
    [​IMG]

    Helicopter Tour - Valley where we Landed:
    [​IMG]
     
  4. elitetraveler1A

    elitetraveler1A Silver Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    33
    Status Points:
    165
    Palm Grove/Adult's Pool Area:
    [​IMG]

    Shark Feeding:
    [​IMG]

    Turtle Talk:
    [​IMG]

    Beach Tree Sunset:
    [​IMG]

    Old United Seats in First:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. elitetraveler1A

    elitetraveler1A Silver Member

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    33
    Status Points:
    165
    New Continental Seats in First on 757-200:
    [​IMG]

    Global Express:
    [​IMG]

    Four Seasons Lounge at Kona Airport:
    [​IMG]

    Dinner at Pahu i'a Restaurant:
    [​IMG]

    Sunset:
    [​IMG]
     
    NYBanker, kyunbit and Quasiconvexity like this.
  6. Quasiconvexity
    Original Member

    Quasiconvexity Gold Member

    Messages:
    597
    Likes Received:
    1,784
    Status Points:
    1,020
    What wonderful pictures.

    Thanks for your effort - esp in clearly marking the rooms and suites on the maps. Great review!
     
    YULtide, SC Flier and NYBanker like this.
  7. kyunbit
    Original Member

    kyunbit Silver Member

    Messages:
    893
    Likes Received:
    1,154
    Status Points:
    825
    great review
     
    NYBanker likes this.

Share This Page