Honest Review of 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay: Paradise Found or Overpriced Oasis?

Honest Review of 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay: Paradise Found or Overpriced Oasis?

Nestled cliffside at Princeville, on the north shore of Kauai, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay stands as the new beacon of luxury and sustainability, promising an idyllic getaway at one of Hawaii’s most picturesque locations. The hotel, emerging from what was previously both the Princeville Resort, and more recently, the St. Regis Princeville, it recently received a $300 million makeover and reopened last year. Beat of Hawaii recently went onsite to bring you our honest assessment of the latest Kauai resort.

Open air lobby with native plants at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

It is indeed a transformation to behold, following its rebirth from a musty old relic of the ’80s and ’90s to this unique modern-day oasis. The hotel aims to merge seamlessly with the natural north-shore Kauai surroundings. If nothing else, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is certainly impressive. But does it live up to both the hype, its ideals, and the hefty price tag involved? Let’s dive in.

The transformation to 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay.

Upon arrival, the first thing that strikes you is just how different the hotel looks compared with its prior iterations. With an open-air lobby, the hotel indeed succeeds at blending in more with its environment. Gone are the prior stark colors and gaudy designs, replaced now by materials and textures that are far more natural in appearance and fold naturally into the landscape. The latest design aesthetic is pleasing and hopes to reflect the hotel’s stated commitment to sustainability.

Edible rooftop gardens at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay experience.

The iconic location indeed sets the tone of an upscale, eco-conscious retreat. The brand has gone to extreme measures to reflect a new symbiotic relationship with the environment, if not the community of Hanalei Bay itself. You’ll find unusual touches that include barware made by local artists, on-site edible rooftop gardens, and much locally sourced food.

Anatomy Gym at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

Activities on offer are also designed to provide the feeling of immersing guests in the local culture and the beauty of Kauai. They include such things as guided hikes to explore lush landscapes, on-site yoga, and, a gym that is a complete standout on all of Kauai. These experiences may be enriching, and some of them come at a premium, raising questions moreover about the value proposition for 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay guests.

Beat of Hawaii’s guest suite at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel which also included a Japanese soaking tub.

The reality of luxury.

With room rates often starting at more than $1,000 per night, and the room that Beat of Hawaii editors stayed in normally costing nearly $3,000 per night, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is, without doubt, a big splurge. Beat of Hawaii editors paid a media rate, which was substantially less. We enjoyed the experience enough that we stayed a second night.

Seated personalized check-in at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

Compared to the lowest price rooms at Grand Hyatt Kauai, the entry point at 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is 22% more. For the extra cost, you’ll have a much more personal and boutique experience, one of the best hotel pools on Kauai with the iconic view of Hanalei Bay and a gym that is truly amazing with every kind of weight-lifting equipment you can imagine.

Swimming pool with iconic view at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

While its offerings are high-end, from the extensive albeit odd breakfast buffet to the myriad of unbelievable fitness and wellness options, the financial outlay to enjoy 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay fully is quite significant.

Beach at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

Comparatively, other resorts on the island, such as the bellwether Grand Hyatt, may offer somewhat competitive amenities at a lesser cost, though arguably not in such a new and unique setting.

Sustainability: beyond the buzzword?

The hotel’s commitment to sustainability is evident, from the absence of single-use plastics to the incorporation of native plants and solar-powered lighting. A water dispenser in each room provides filtered water poured into locally produced glasses. However, the true impact of these initiatives can sometimes feel overshadowed by the inherent exclusivity and consumption that comes with any luxury hotel. Thus, it begs the question of whether it Is truly possible to reconcile these two aspects fully.

Personal touches and misses.

Service at the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is where the property attempts to truly shine and often does. Personal connections with staff members, from the servers at breakfast to those leading the activities, seek to add an invaluable layer to the experience. Yet, there are moments when the exclusivity can fall short and feel isolating, and the emphasis on luxury can seem at odds with the traditional, more laid-back island vibe many travelers still seek out while in Hawaii.

1 Kitchen Restaurant at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

Service was often great, but not always.

While dinner was excellent, when we tried to eat at the breakfast buffet, the experience quickly fell flat. There was a long wait to be seated, and there was no host to help people. We waited more than a half hour even while the restaurant sat largely empty.

Long wait to be seated at breakfast buffet; 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

Then, too, the buffet is served in a very small and cramped area of an otherwise lovely dining room. There was inadequate room for guests to access the food. Speaking of food, it was as expected at a high-end hotel breakfast buffet, but was not a standout in any way.

Conclusion: paradise with severe caveats.

1 Hotel Hanalei Bay offers a slice of paradise for those willing to pay the premium. Its commitment to sustainability, community, and luxury is evident, creating an experience that is both indulgent and conscious. However, the high cost and the sometimes-overwhelming emphasis on exclusivity may not appeal to every traveler.

For those seeking unparalleled luxury and are willing to invest in it, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay is a remarkable choice. But for others, the question remains: can the true essence of Kauai be experienced through such a highly curated lens?

View of Hanalei bay from guest suite at 1 Hanalei Bay Hotel

As we left the spectacular setting of Hanalei Bay, we were left pondering the balance between luxury and authenticity, wondering if perhaps the true spirit of Hawaii lies somewhere in the middle. While we sometimes choose less curated stays, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay was equally unforgettable.

We welcome your thoughts about 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay.

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41 thoughts on “Honest Review of 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay: Paradise Found or Overpriced Oasis?”

  1. Starwood REIT, owner of 1 Hotel is apparently facing serious financial challenges per NY Times, Bloomberg, MSN etc.
    Search: Starwood REIT 5/24/24 for in-depth info.

  2. We used to spend an evening at the St. Regis bar area for drinks, apps and the magnificient sunset. This is not even an option at this severly overpriced, Fred Flinstone-ish contraption. The only place worth visiting is the pool bar for a drink and lunch after a bit of local beach time.

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  3. There is no reasonable way someone who is not staying at the hotel can access it even to look around it. There’s a so-called public path to the beach, but no parking except valet parking @$45, refundable if you spend $100 inside the hotel. This is elitism, keeping out locals and people of modest means.

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  4. We’ve known each hotels built at that location since the beginning and 1 Hanalei is our least favorite, especially the setting of the restaurant and the main entrance of the hotel. It was much nicer and elegant before, less pricey and reflecting more the Kauai style.

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  5. We ventured over to 1 Hotel for breakfast during a recent stay in Princeville. Our breakfast was fine and the service impeccable, but the setting, while impressive, left me perplexed. For that price wouldn’t you want to spend your time enjoying the hotel amenties you’re paying for, and is that the reason people travel to Kauai? It felt isolated from the community and culture of the island. The infinity pool was annoyingly pretentious, and, when we walked down to the main pool, there was a hotel employee Raking the sand on the beach. We came back later to snorkel and found most of the reef has been trampeled to death. Can honestly say it’s not my jam, which is good because I also don’t have that kind of money to spend!

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  6. It’s a bust. I understand the former Sheraton execs who are behind this are losing their shirts. So much that a local veteran real estate agent told me several months ago the Sheraton execs are trying to sell the place. Plus they can’t get staff to work there.

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    1. I hope that they are not turned into ritzy condos by a developer. I believe that the moves to restrict short term lets will lessen the demand for these.

  7. If you squint really hard at your last picture, you can see the beach out in front of our place.

    The few people I’ve spoken with that have gone there (just for lunch or drinks) or worked there (one of our friend’s sons waited tables – it is union, you know), the word is: “Nice, but maybe once a year for lunch if you have several hundred dollars to blow”

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    1. I hope they rebuild in the style of the Guslanders and do not go for another “Tiki Room” remake. Of course there will be those who want faster internet, large spa etc but we have enough hotels like that. The big problem I foresee is the traffic on the highway and accessing the beach the seashell restaurant.

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