1 Hotel Hanalei Bay

Why book?

This beachfront location overlooking the iconic Hanalei Bay, with the waterfall-striated Hihimanu, Nāmolokama, and Māmalahoa mountains in the distance, has to be one of the prettiest on the planet. 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay has all the ingredients you might want to cook up a truly magical Hawaiian getaway—a swimmable beach right out front, a legendary surf break a short paddle away, a stunning main pool (and a sleek adults-only one), great onsite bars and restaurants, a cute town nearby for exploring, and easy access to excellent hiking. But what makes this property truly stand out in an archipelago dotted with luxe oceanfront resorts is that it’s also a legitimate wellness destination, with cutting-edge spa and medi spa offerings as well as serious fitness and mind/body programming. Against the backdrop of 1 Hotels' sustainability DNA, this property feels like the 2.0 lifestyle hotel we’ve all been waiting for.

Set the scene

One of the first things that jumps out at any of 1 Hotels' locations is the biophilic design. The living wall in the lobby of the Brooklyn location is a lovely foil to the bustling urban surroundings, the ivy-cloaked facade of the Nashville outpost is a refreshing burst of green in the heart of the city’s downtown. But here, on the fecund North Shore of Kaua’i where almost everything grows, it feels like the brand finally has the space and climate to realize all its green dreams. Endemic plants—ferns, palms, Kukui nut trees, birds of paradise, grasses—make up the bulk of the lush landscaping, and rooftops pull double duty as kitchen gardens (bonus: this keeps the buildings cooler, meaning less need for A/C).

There’s no way around it—luxury beachfront hotels on Hawaiian islands are expensive, and this property pulls a casually well-heeled crowd. This is Kaua’i,  however, not St. Barts, and while guests clean up for dinner, the point of this place isn't to be seen but rather to see and do. It’s swimsuits and snorkels, workout gear, and hiking boots by day; stylish but low profile (think Ulla Johnson sun dresses, white jeans and chambray shirts) by night. Active families, newlyweds, solo travelers, fit friends, long-together couples, locals meeting for drinks—there’s a lovely mix of guests staying at (and just visiting) the property.

The backstory

This hotel has lived several lives since opening in 1985 as Sheraton, and then being rebranded as the St. Regis Princeville in 2009. The hotel was acquired by Starwood Capital Group in 2018, and opened under the 1 Hotels aegis in February 2023 (Barry Sternlicht–Starwood Capital co-founder and chairman, and 1 Hotels founder and chairman, has a longstanding love and respect for this part of the island from vacationing here with his family for decades; he saw the magic years ago). There have been so many changes—millions of dollars worth—to turn it into the sustainable, well-designed retreat it is today.

For those who knew it as the St. Regis, two biggies will stand out. For starters, the exterior color was bright white when it was a St. Regis; set against the cerulean of the bay and the rain forest-green of the nearby hills, the hotel was highly visible from air, land and sea. It's now been painted a shade somewhere between beige and a soft army or olive green—a color that bridges the sand and surrounding vegetation. When floating on my back in the bay, it almost disappeared into the landscape, which I’m sure is the point, and in lockstep with the 1 Hotels ethos. The second major change is that a swath of the roof was removed, creating an expansive courtyard and open-air entrance and lobby area, which feels right for the location and, again, cuts down on the air conditioning.  1 Hotels is known for its mission-driven hospitality; for really walking the sustainability walk and demonstrating that luxury and eco-awareness can truly coexist. This plays out in numerous ways across this property, from the design choices to the cocktail menu to the products used in the spa.

The rooms

I’m always a little wary when visiting a new property in a location that has a longstanding design vernacular, like Hawaii does; the decor tropes often prove too irresistible. That did not happen here. The Hawaiiana, if you can even call it that, throughout the public spaces and the 252 guestrooms, including 51 suites, is highly restrained. Rather than the usual island suspects, design firm NICOLEHOLLIS created a sense of place through materials, tones, and textures. Guest rooms are a study in neutrals—sand-hued walls, reclaimed teak ceilings and furniture with rope and reed accents. Potted plants live in woven baskets and stag ferns are mounted on the walls, dried grass skirts are hung like pieces of art, the bathroom walls are lined with lava stone, and the island’s seafaring history comes through in the most subtle of ways—sconces that almost resemble fishing nets, or a single conch shell displayed on a shelf. The effect is soothing. You know exactly where you are, you just haven’t been hit over the head with it. I stayed in an ocean-view king suite, which had a huge bathroom and plenty of living space to lounge and work (if one must). Every morning I would open the louvered wood shutters and get back in bed and watch the light change over the water. The design of the rest of the hotel follows a similar brief; lots of wood and neutrals. There’s beautiful art throughout the property; again, place-specific but quietly so—a painted wood surfboard, a woven-grass wall hanging. Rates from $1,464 per night.

Food and drink

There are three main restaurants at the hotel. Neighbors Café, a breakfast and lunch counter spot, skews healthy with wellness drinks like a supershroom latte, fresh juices and smoothies, and overnight oats (there are also tasty pastries and breakfast sandwiches). If you just want to grab a coffee or something fast before starting your day, this is the place. 1 Kitchen is the hotel’s signature restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner; it doubles down on local ingredients with plenty of salads and dishes like a half chicken with pineapple fried rice and grilled kanpachi with green papaya salad.

Welina Terrace, which is only open for dinner, feels a bit fancier; low-lit with live music and epic views of the bay. I had dinner and drinks there on opening night and the place already had a vibe; it felt like it had been open for months. The menu spotlights locally sourced Japanese dishes—the nigiri and the sushi rolls are excellent—as well as sake and a solid selection of Japanese whiskey. The cocktails at both 1 Kitchen and Welina Terrace are fantastic, and my favorite—I admittedly tasted a few—was the Kaua’I-Tai, a sort of tart take on the Mai Tai with Hawaiian rum, pineapple yuzu syrup, and passion-fruit foam. There’s also poolside bars and restaurants that serve the sort of things you want when you’re swimming and sunning—like poke bowls and fish tacos. There's a shaved-ice stand as well as a juice bar adjacent to the gym with smoothies, fresh pressed juices, and kombuchas for pre- and post-workout sustenance. The hotel does an excellent job of tapping local producers and purveyors; just about everything you see on the various menus is sourced from Kaua’i or one of the neighboring islands, and the dedication to partnering with local businesses, like Kaua’i Juice Co. and Hanalei Coffee Roaster, shines through.

The spa

When the word gets out, people who don’t even like the ocean or the sun (it’s hard to believe, but they do exist) will still come here for the Bamford Wellness Spa. I'm not exaggerating when I say the treatments are transcendent. When I was there, Bamford’s Julie Johansen was in town from London to train the team. I had a cryofacial from her and left feeling and looking like a new person (she is a wizard); I overheard another guest comment that she had the best facial of her life from a therapist Julie had just trained. There are 18 treatment rooms and the spa menu is long. In addition to the facials, highlights include treatments that incorporate native Hawaiian medicinal plants like kava and noni, massages on a quartz bed (it’s like laying in warm sand while getting your kinks and knots worked out), and floats in the sensory deprivation tank where you lose track of time and space in the best way possible: A single session is supposedly the equivalent of four hours of REM sleep, and you do feel like you’ve had a total mental and physical reboot when you emerge. More high-tech equipment is on its way, including full-body cryotherapy chambers. Later this spring, the 1 X Vitahealth Medi Spa will open and offer things like hormone balancing, weight loss, nutritional consulting, and custom IV therapies. Also opening soon is a sort of wellness retreat within the larger resort: Dedicated guest rooms and suites (dubbed the Within Collection) will have amenities like Vitamin C shower heads and special mattresses and weighted blankets for enhanced sleep. Guests will have welcome and post-departure wellbeing assessments, and work with a “wellbeing sage” while they’re at the hotel.

There’s an outpost of former NFL player Marc Megna’s Anatomy gym onsite. The Anatomy here is huge, with every piece of equipment you might want as well as trainers and fitness classes. Also on offer: yoga and other healing modalities that incorporate sound and light therapy and breath work. The daily programming is really impressive–guided hikes, sound baths, glute-blasting classes on the beach–there’s always something going on.

The neighborhood/area

As mentioned, the location right on Hanalei Bay is hard to top when it comes to natural beauty, as well as easy access to snorkeling, surfing, and swimming. The surrounding community of Princeville is low key, with a few other hotels including a Westin and a Wyndham, and residential streets lined with homes and vacation rentals. That said, the community is a world away from developments like Kaanapali or Wailea on Maui. The 1 Hotel is a 10-minute drive from the charming town of Hanalei, where there are a handful of shops and good restaurants like AMA and Bar Acuda. The fish market at Dolphin Restaurant in town had my favorite poke (these might be fighting words in Hawaii; every local you ask will have their own favorite spot). If you keep heading west from the town of Hanalei, you’ll pass Tunnels Beach and eventually you’ll reach the end of the road and Hā'ena State Park, where the Na Pali Coast trail begins. Drive about 20 minutes east from the hotel and you’ll reach the town of Kilauea. It’s less touristy than Hanalei and has a number of cute shops, like Hunter Gatherer, and places to refuel like Trilogy Coffee and an outpost of the Kaua’i Juice Co, as well as the grocery story Kilauea Market (home to my second favorite poke of the trip).

The service

Casual but professional, and everyone from the concierge to the person helping you get set up at the pool is incredibly friendly and more than happy to share their favorite spots around the island.

For families

It’s a great place for families, and especially fun for those with kids who are old enough to surf and snorkel. Children are welcome at the aforementioned main pool, and the hotel’s version of a kids club, called Seedlings, offers cooking classes, ukulele lessons, and outdoor activities that focus on exploring the natural world.

Eco effort

Sustainability is at the heart of the 1 Hotels brand, and this comes across in almost every aspect of the hotel from responsibly sourced and reclaimed building materials to the design to the in-room amenities (right down to the soy ink in the pens). The hotel is in the process of LEED certification and on the path to being 100-percent certified carbon neutral. The community branch of sustainability is equally visible in the number of on-island partnerships with local businesses and the dedication to sourcing as much as possible from nearby farms and purveyors.

Accessibility

ADA standards are met, and there are elevators and ramps in place. There are six accessible room types.

Anything left to mention?

The hotel boutique is quite chic, with Hawaiian brands like Mikoh, and stylish cover ups and sun hats. Also worth mentioning is some cool programming and partnerships that the hotel has in the works, like one with legendary surfer and board shaper Bill Hamilton (he is also Laird Hamilton’s dad) where you work in advance with Bill to design a board that fits your surfing needs and ability. Once you’re on-island, you have a session with him. The hotel is also developing a program where guests can temporarily adopt dogs from the local SPCA and take them on hikes or have them stay overnight; 1 Hotels is very pet-friendly, but Hawaii has such elaborate steps for bringing pets into the state that it probably doesn’t make sense to bring your best friend along for a short stay. This program is a lovely solution.

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