Kahala Hotel & Resort Review
The Kahala Hotel is one of the best 5 star Honolulu Hawaii hotels on the beach. Here’s everything you need to know about the Kahala Resort from the restaurants to the Kahala beach.
The Kahala hotel is a legendary resort just outside of Honolulu. It’s removed from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and set on an idyllic private lagoon – Kahala Beach.
Here is our overview of the Kahal Hotel restaurants, beach, dolphin lagoon, and more. If you’re looking for a 5-star Oahu resort, you can’t miss this unbiased Kahala Hotel & Resort review.
Location – Where is the Kahala Hotel?
The Kahala hotel is located just on the other side of Diamond Head from Waikiki. This is an ideal location if you prefer a quieter, more relaxed vacation. At the Kahala, you can avoid crowds but easily go into Waikiki for shopping, dining, and city life.
The resort is about a 20-minute drive from the Honolulu airport and a 10-15 minute drive from Waikiki, making it one of the most convenient Hawaii resorts I’ve stayed in.
Known then as the Kahala Hilton, the resort opened its doors in 1965. It quickly became known as a Hollywood hideaway, thanks to its private location. The resort is famous for hosting many celebrity guests and every U.S. president from Lyndon Johnson to Obama.
We booked the Ocean View room, which was approximately 550 square feet. We had a beautiful view of the ocean and resort. The room was clean and comfortable and the bathroom spacious.
There are 338 rooms at the Kahala hotel, including 32 suites.
Kahala Hotel Restaurants
If you like Italian food, you’ll love Arancino. We ordered a couple of pizzas and a gorgeous salad to go and took our dinner to the beach. Everything was fresh and delicious. I would recommend Arancino even if you’re not staying at the Kahala.
Plumeria Beach House
When staying at the Kahala Hotel, you’ll probably be having breakfast at Plumeria Beach House. You can reserve on Opentable, but the two of us didn’t have any trouble walking in.
There is usually a wonderful breakfast buffet, though it was closed due to COVID protocols. Make this Papaya Boat at home – it’s delicious.
Enjoy a cocktail and the live music on the Veranda at sunset. The menu is small and includes mostly appetizers, but we enjoyed a few delicious sushi rolls here.
The most upscale of the Kahala restaurants, Hoku’s offers 4 and 8-course tasting menus with an ocean view. We did not visit this restaurant but I love that they offer a veggie tasting menu.
Seaside Grill is the pool/beachside restaurant. It’s very casual and a nice option if you’d like to take a salad, taco, or mai tai to the beach. The food was nothing special, so I recommend bringing something to the beach from Whole Foods.
Kahala Beach is a dream. This private beach has clean, soft white sand and shallow, warm, turquoise water. It has two manmade peninsulas/islands to protect the beach. This is an ideal swimming beach and great for kids. We didn’t have any trouble getting a spot for our lounge chairs, and unlike Waikiki, there were no crowds.
The Kahala hotel offers paddleboards and kayaks for rent, but it was too windy while we were there to enjoy them.
Dolphin Lagoon – Dolphin Quest
Many families book this hotel and the Dolphin Quest experience specifically for the dolphin lagoon. While the family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins is lovely, it is heartbreaking to see them confined to a tiny manmade pond, and exploited for photographs.
In the wild, dolphins swim up to 80 miles per day and up to 20 miles per hour.
A much more magical experience could be had watching fish, dolphins, and whales in their natural habitat. Try snorkeling or a whale-watching experience.
Compared to other 5-star Hawaiian resorts, the pool area at the Kalaha was underwhelming. There is one relatively small basic oval-shaped pool on the property. The pool gets buys and filled with kids in the afternoon. If you want a lounge chair, be sure to stake one out early in the morning.
Kahala Beach is so beautiful that the lack of a luxury resort-style pool did not bother me, but if I had small children who wanted a pool I might have been disappointed. If you prefer a resort with a waterslide and lazy river, check out the Grand Hyatt Kauai or Kea Lani Maui.
Things to Do Nearby
The Kalaha hotel & resort has everything you really need, but you might want to venture out a bit.
We didn’t see much fish right off Kahala Beach, but there is great snorkeling nearby. Next time we will make a reservation at Hanauma Bay, which is now a protected marine life conservation area.
We didn’t notice any surfers right on Kahala beach during our stay, but there are nearby surf spots. There are several surfing schools for beginners right on Waikiki beach.
There are several golf courses and country clubs nearby that you’ll have access to as a Kahala hotel guest.
Although you don’t really need to leave the property, I recommend venturing out and trying some of the local restaurants. It will save you money and provide a change of scenery as well as a more authentic local experience.
Our first stop was the Kahala Whole Foods to pick up some local fruit, snacks, and drinks to stock our mini-fridge in the room.
I recommend enjoying the energy of Waikiki one night and a low-key local spot another. We loved Hawaii Sushi, which was about a 10-minute Uber ride.
Kahala Mall is about a 20-minute walk from the hotel and has many shops and a very nice Whole Foods. For a more lively shopping experience, head into Waikiki.
Getting to the Kahala
We flew from SBA to LAX to HNL on United. From the airport, we took an Uber to the resort, which was about a 20-minute ride.
I was happy to skip the hassle of renting a car on this trip and we didn’t need one at all. Getting around on foot or with Uber was easy the few times we left the resort.
Booking the Kahala Hotel & Resort
I booked our hotel and airfare package through American Express Platinum. This was quick and easy and enabled me to use points to pay for much of the trip.
The only disappointment was that when booking, this hotel was listed in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program as including daily breakfast and a room upgrade, among other perks. We discovered later, however, that this is not the case when booking a package with airfare included.
Does the Kahala Resort Offer a Day Pass?
Some resorts offer day passes so you can enjoy the resort without actually staying at the hotel. You can reserve a day pass or cabana at the Kahala on Resort Pass. This is a great option if you’re staying in a vacation rental and want to enjoy the pool and beach at the Kahala.
At a Glance – Pros and Cons of the Kahala Hotel
- Easy to access from HNL
- Convenient yet removed and private location
- Kind and attentive staff
- Beautiful quiet private beach
- Several wonderful restaurants on the property
- Easy walk/bike/drive to the Kahala Mall and Whole Foods Kahala
- Small pool
- Captive dolphins
Final Thoughts – Our Kahala Hotel Review
We loved our time at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. The pristine white sand beach, warm turquoise water, and quiet location can’t be beaten. The resort itself is beautiful with several great restaurants and kind staff. When our kids were younger I would have preferred a resort with more pool activities. The price point was lower than most other 5-star Hawaii hotels. If you’re looking for a relaxing luxury Honolulu hotel on the beach, I would recommend the Kahala.