In 1960, Laurance S. Rockefeller, a conservationist and hotel visionary, was invited to the undeveloped island of Hawaii. As he flew over the volcanic island, he spotted a beautiful, crescent-shaped white sand beach at the foot of the dormant volcano, Mauna Kea.
Unable to peel his eyes away, he asked to take a swim after landing. Looking up from the bay, Rockefeller dreamed of a resort that conformed to, but did not intrude upon, the location’s incredible spirit and beauty – one that inspired guests to return for generations. Here, the magic of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel began. A luxurious retreat was conceived, and the industry’s leading contractors were hired to build it.
Making its breathtaking debut in July 1965, it was the first resort hotel on the island and – at the time – the most expensive hotel ever built, at $15 million. More than 50 years later, resting on the gemlike turquoise bay of Kauna’oa, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is a jewel of its own. It remains a legend and a tradition, offering guests a beautiful beach, the finest cuisine, championship golf and tennis, and endless aloha.
When Rockefeller found Kauna’oa Bay, there was little there: no roads, no power and no water; undoubtedly the right spot for his masterpiece.
He brought in every resource to transform the rocky landscape into a grand resort, including Mexican flagstones, Italian marble, ancient lava rock, black beach pebbles, concrete, steel and more than 200 varieties of plants to develop the lush, colorful landscape. One-and-a-half million man-hours went into building the “invisible” midcentury mega-structure.
A stone-stacked sign marked “Mauna Kea” and an extra-long winding drive leads guests to paradise at the resort’s entrance.
Blue tile floors matching the waters of Kauna’oa Bay line the open lobby, capturing the view of the ocean and encouraging guests to relax immediately upon arrival. The walls and pillars conform to the color of the bay’s sand. A multistory garden with sky-scraping coconut palms fills the center.
The 252 guestrooms – all with ocean or golf course views – were designed with an understated elegance in the style of an Old World mansion. Multiple sliding doors offer privacy and fresh-air cross-ventilation.
Guestroom doors open to corridorless floors that float over an atrium, where gardens and sky can be seen and trade winds can freely pass through. Suspended stairways rise throughout the concrete structure, connecting the floors. Monumental lava-rock walls adorn nooks and crannies.
More than 1,600 authentic Pacific and Asian artworks are displayed, giving the impression of a grandiose estate filled with fine art. With pieces from India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Melanesia and Polynesia, Mauna Kea has one of the most extensive collections of Asian and Oceanic arts assembled by one person.
It was developed as an integral feature of the resort, and includes hand-selected works like the 7th-century pink granite Buddha resting under a Bodhi tree at the top of an enormous staircase; the two golden Buddhist disciples cast of bronze, guarding the lobby entrance; and the hand-stitched Hawaiian quilts and hand- dyed kapas and tapas lining the fifth through eighth floors.
Some pieces were intentionally selected for outdoor display. Others were chosen for exhibition in lounges, corridors and alcoves to inspire and inform guests.
Marked by two oversize bronze Japanese koi, Manta resembles an 18th-century Buddhist temple. The open-air restaurant overlooks the bay and Manta Point, where amazingly graceful manta rays feed along the shoreline most nights.
It’s home to a legendary daily breakfast buffet and an even more colossal Sunday brunch buffet. As the sun sets, the ambiance changes as guests watch executive chef Roger Bartle and his team prepare ocean-and farm-fresh fine cuisine in the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. The Batik curry remains a staple while specials change nightly. Displayed outside are the resort’s resident Macaw parrots, Mango and Keo.
Hau Tree rests on the beach and serves fresh salads, wraps, ice cream and the resort’s famous Ovaltine froth, a perfect beachside treat. Grab-and-go breakfast, sit-down lunches and relaxed dinners around the gazebo mean guests only need to stray steps from the sand for a great meal. It’s the ideal place to enjoy a Fredrico, the signature cocktail of Mauna Kea. Spiced with velvety Jack Daniels, the “Freddy” is a modern take on the island’s Mai Tai. It was named in 1988 after a guest who desired a crisp drink to enjoy in large quantities.
The most iconic gathering place is Copper Bar. With wide floor-to-ceiling panoramas of Kauna’oa Bay and copper accents throughout, it underwent a slow and calculated renovation in 2015 to preserve the multigenerational feeling and allure of Mauna Kea. The original copper bar top was transformed into a beautiful backsplash. Marine rope that once lined the pillars was reused as a new art wall. Skylights splash the bar with light from the lobby level above. Eighteenth and 19th-century Indian temple toys, made of extravagant bronze and brass as offerings to Hindu deities, are displayed. Elegant island favorites like seared poke bowls and spicy macadamia nuts are served daily. Mixologists shake craft cocktails like the Mauna Kea mule, made with house-made ginger beer and Maui’s own Pau vodka, and served, of course, in a copper mug.
Never has a grand hotel seen such grand activity. Although the trade winds smell particularly sweet and the waters look glass-calm in the early dawn, the crescent-shaped beach is lovely any time of day. Sun worshipers can bask in year-round warm weather, while adventure seekers can snag stand-up paddleboards (and glow SUPs at night), canoes and trendy inflatables from the Beach Club.
Snorkel gear is available for water enthusiasts looking to see the reef, located a few short fin kicks from shore and Manta Point.
Kids can engage in Keiki Club Adventures, a daily program filled with fun activities, while children and adults alike can enjoy cultural activities such as ukulele lessons, cast-netting, coconut weaving, lei making and more. Eleven tennis courts overlooking the ocean can be booked for private or group sessions with instruction offered daily at the Seaside Tennis Club. A weekly art tour explores some of the unique pieces in Rockefeller’s collection. The protected Ala Kahakai trail, which circled the entire island before there were roads, connects Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and sister property Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel via a rocky oceanside hike over hardened lava.
Developed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. on black lava rock, the award-winning 18-hole Mauna Kea golf course mirrors the resort in design, vision and glamour.
The elevated greens challenge players with prevailing winds and breathtaking ocean and hillside views. Some holes play right along the water, and others across it. The prized third hole draws masses all on its own with waves crashing into the rocky shoreline with each putt. Guests can carve their way through the course with a GolfBoard or get pro-style tips from new GPS-equipped golf carts.
Whether couples are renewing their vows or planning a destination wedding, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel offers stunning backdrops to make their special day one to remember. Outdoor venues include the classic Hole Number 3, located on the ocean’s edge of Mauna Kea Golf Course, while the new Kauna’oa Ballroom offers panoramic views of the bay and coastline.
With Rockefeller pedigree at its foundation, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel continues to welcome guests to experience rest, relaxation, adventure, and the timeless magic of Hawaii at Kauna’oa Bay.
WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE LOOK?
This small Dorsoduro hotel is a celebration of the very Venetian art of decadence, and has its own private jetty to boot. Located inside the walls of a 16th century palazzo, traditional décor abounds – flocked wallpaper, marble, velvet curtains and carvings in dark woood – but charming eccentricities (liket he vases that contain swimming goldfish as well as lilies) stop it feeling over the top.
WHICH ROOM IS MOST MEMORABLE?
Headed to the quintessential island getaway destination of Phuket? Centara Hotels & Resorts offers a diverse range of accommodations to fulfil your every holiday need, whether your agenda includes romance, adventure, or both
Best for the extended family – CENTARA GRAND WEST SANDS RESORT & VILLAS PHUKET
Generously-sized living and playing areas make the spacious Centara Grand West Sands Resort & Villas Phuket the perfect destination for indulging in some great family fun in the sun. A dedicated children’s water play area, two kids’ clubs, a multitude of swimming pools, and an endless list of leisure activities promise limitless entertainment for the little ones, while older guests who remain young at heart will love the adrenaline-pumping thrills and spills at the Splash Jungle water park. Barely 15-minutes’ drive from Phuket International Airport, and with an extensive range of family-friendly residences and suites, the resort is an ideal destination for adventurous holidays with the extended family and friends.
Best home away from home – CENTARA KARON RESORT PHUKET
Backed by green hills and comprised of four residential zones, Centara Karon Resort Phuket provides an air of quietness and privacy that would make the perfect base for exploring the rest of Phuket and Karon Town. Karon Beach itself has excellent snorkelling spots at its southern end and is wide enough for beachgoers to never feel crowded. Couples and small families will enjoy The Terraces’ residential options, while larger families and groups of friends are spoilt with the spacious The Lagoon studios just steps away from the waterslide and pool. More private accommodations are also available with generous one- and two-bedroom Cabanas with spacious garden terrace and plunge pool.
Best for romance – CENTARA VILLAS PHUKET
Found in a tropical oasis, where the lush jungle meets the serene sea, Centara Villas Phuket is a romantic hideaway of private Thai-style villas nestled within a haven of green, perched atop a dramatic incline for sweeping views of Karon Beach and the sea. Relax, rejuvenate, and find the inner tranquility that only nature can bring. Candle-lit dinner and drinks at The Cliff Restaurant and a refreshing Thai-style lunch at The Bayview Restaurant & Bar offering dramatic views of the glittering Andaman Sea.
Those of you who are of a certain age will recall a time when Indian trains had three classes of travel: first, second and third. There was no air-conditioning even in the first class coaches but you could sit and sleep four to a cabin. Electric trains were still in the future. At a halt the attendant would get off and get you a mug of hot water from the steam engine in front. That’s how Frank Moraes, the legendary editor of The Times of India, shaved in the morning. Ah! The romance of train travel in those days!
Second class had cushioned seats but one had to sit up throughout the journey if the cabin was full. It was the worst deal of all. In third class there were wooden berths and we were packed like sardines. Once I spent the whole night sitting on my suitcase.
“I TRAVELLED LIKE A MAHARAJA IN ONE OF THE MOST LUXURIOUS TRAINS IN THE WORLD, THE DECCAN ODYSSEY”
But I was partial to third class travel for no other reason except that it was financially viable for me. With a student discount, I could travel from Delhi to Bombay for twenty rupees. By now you probably have a good idea on my age!
That was then. A few months back, I went to the other extreme for a whole new experience. I travelled like a Maharaja, pampered and fussed over, in one of the most luxurious trains in the world, the Deccan Odyssey. It was a five-star hotel in perpetual motion. The seven-night ride on wheels takes you through the major historic spots of the Deccan and sometimes beyond. It costs an arm and a leg but more on that later.
On a balmy Saturday afternoon, we were sent off in style to the sounds of drums beating and boisterous folk dancing from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Station. (They can call it whatever they want but this magnificent Gothic train station will always be Victoria Terminus for me!). This set the mood for the journey ahead. Almost all the passengers were foreigners, among them Canadians, Europeans, a couple from Hong Kong and a large amiable contingent from Turkey.
Udaipur is one of the most romantic palaces in the world. Seemingly floating atop Lake Pichola, be mesmerised with delightful boat rides, historic rooftop views, gourmet meals curated in royal kitchens and fine living in suites that are timeless symbols of eras gone by. Enjoy a once in a lifetime experience at the Jiva Spa Boat. The only one of its kind in the country, the regal spa on a boat blends the aura of Taj Lake Palace and the rejuvenating experiences of Jiva Spa.
It is the last of India’s great palaces and one of the world’s largest private residences. This golden hued monument, made of desert sandstone can be spotted from anywhere in the city. Designed by the famed Edwardian architect, Henry Lanchester, from art deco-inspired interiors to traditional Rajputana concepts of luxury, Umaid Bhawan Palace is a timeless testimony to extravagant living. One must experience the private dinner at The Baradari Lawns. A beautiful white marble structure stands in the middle of the lush green expanse and gives you a breathtaking view of the palace and fort. Walk down a candle-lit pathway, ushered by traditionally turban-clad attendants to the majestic dining area.
Extravagance has always been a way of life. Once the residence of the royal family, even today, peacocks strut in the evenings and a buggy passes you by. Butlers are at your beck aid call and luxuries include private meals in tents lit by flaming torches. The theatrical interiors and ceremonial suites make Rambagh Palace deliberately lavish. Discover rooms adorned with crystal chandeliers, arched stonework, textured drapes and gold-leaf frescos. From the Sukh Niwas Suite to the Maharani Suite and Peacock Suite, the Historical Suites and Palace Rooms, step in and live the good life.
Small, stylish hotels have been quietly springing up around Bangkok for a few years now, especially near the Chao Phraya River. Some are in heritage buildings, while others are purpose-built. Many aren’t five-star (or even four-star for that matter), but visitors seeking somewhere more intriguing than brand-name hotels, these nostalgic boutiques are romantic, unforgettable and fun. To get started, here are some of the best.
THE ASADANG & THE BHUTHORN
These intimate bed-and-breakfast guesthouses occupy century-old shophouses on different streets in Bangkok’s original Occidental business district. Both are therefore subject to strict conservation guidelines and have been refurbished to period authenticity – with the addition of mod cons such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, television and modem plumbing. Each of The Asadang’s nine guest rooms is decorated with antique, vernacular furniture and Thai fabrics. The Sino-Thai ambience of its dining/sitting room and the heritage architecture throughout are delightful. With an eagle-claw tub in your bathroom, plus the guesthouses’ location – adjacent to two khlongs (canals) – you’re immersed in old-time Bangkok, so to speak. The smaller property, The Bhuthom, offers three guest rooms in the heritage-listed Phraeng Bhuthom enclave, and while far less spacious is equally authentic. Western and Thai breakfast options at both places are delicious; however service standards still have a way to go to match the competition. Be sure to try the po-tong-go donuts and sticky rice balk if they’re on the menu,
The Cabochon Hotel located in the Walpole Building, is tucked away discretely at the end of Sukhumvit’s Soi 45. oblivious to the restless boulevard beyond. Designed by Taiwan’s Eugene Yeh, the Cabochon has four suites and four studios, all of which – along with its restaurant bar and library – tip their Panama hats and fascinators towards wicked, between-wars Shanghai. The decor is an exercise in smart postcolonial sampling, sans kitsch: wickerwork, teak flooring retro light-switches and antique bedsteads, with the addition of free Wi-Fi and other mod cons. Dine in the Thai Lao Yeh restaurant where the food is as authentically local as the bentwood chairs, tiffin holders and abacuses, or enjoy a nightcap in the intimate Joy Luck Club’s library lounge bar.
LOY LA LONG HOTEL
A night at the two-storey Loy La Long Hotel, perched beside the River of Kings, really brings the Leonard Cohen lyrics: “You can hear the boats go by. You can spend the night beside her,” to life. Barges, ferries and long-tail boats, plus water hyacinths and a classic Chinese pagoda are right at your window in this century-old, wooden hideaway. Each of the six unique guest rooms are creatively decorated in retrofunk-steampunk – a style that defies description. Loy La Long (which means “let it be, let it go, let it flow”) has a small cafe and bar plus sunny river-view decks where you can snooze, dine and allow your mind to drift downstream. Situated in the grounds of a riverside Buddhist monastery, Loy La Long also has romantic credentials as the setting of a memorable love scene in the 2009 chick flick, Bangkok Traffic Love Story.
From multi-room suites and divine staterooms to bathrooms with proper baths, accommodation on a luxury cruise ship is sophisticated and swish.
If you thought luxury cruising was beyond your reach, think again. Not only can it offer superb value for money, with lots of inclusivity within the price, but it’s also an incredibly relaxed way to explore the world.
“Luxury cruising continues to surge ahead as it becomes more attainable to a wider audience that would normally travel on the premium cruise lines,” explains Bernard Carter, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, EMA, for Oceania Cruises. “Empty-nesters, in particular, are interested in upgrading their cruise to the more intimate and inclusive experiences that are available at the top end of the market.”
“The luxury cruise market is evolving,” agrees Andy Harmer, Vice President of Operations, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Europe. “The extremely high attention to customer service remains of course, as do the luxurious and spacious ships with their exceptional design and cuisine. But luxury is now also about the ability to deliver unrivalled memories in amazing locations.
“I’m sure the arrival of two new luxury ocean ships this year – Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer and Seabourn Encore – will not disappoint.
“Luxury is not limited to just ocean cruising either. This year also sees the launch of a number of luxury river vessels from river cruise lines including Ama Waterways, Scenic, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offering guests new destinations and unforgettable experiences.”
Which might seem an incongruous way to lead off an article about a Caribbean cruise. And yet, Windstar’s stylish $8,5 million stem-to-stern refit of its 106-suite Star Legend (acquired last year from Seabourn) recalls the glamour of the old seafaring days, minus their stodginess. The ship itself is, as Katharine Hepburn memorably said in The Philadelphia Story, “yarˮ sleek lines, quick to the helm, “everything a boat should be…ˮ An oversize yacht rather than a leviathan liner, her interiors gleam with brass, chrome, hardwood and marble accents. The beautifully understated cabins (the smallest so large at 277 square feet that Windstar justifiably terms them suites) subtly recall bygone days with touches like crystal stemware in glass cabinetry, a palette of deep blues and earth tones, granite-clad bathrooms and handsome nautical artwork.
And the public spaces have just the right touch of grandeur, most memorably the Yacht Club on deck 8 right above the Bridge… its cushy, vaguely Deco furnishings take advantage of stunning 180-degree views through floor-to-ceiling picture windows.
Yet a delightful lack of pretension and formality prevail. In every aspect, the experience is much less structured than on larger cruise ships. For example, there’s no set seating – or time – at meals. (Which does create a brief logjam when the doors at the refined AmphorA open for dinner). Bianca, the charming guest services manager confirms in her lilting South African accent, “Yes, you can sit where you want when you want.ˮ “What if you’re alone?ˮ I retort with a mock comic sigh. “Well, we don’t quite run a dating service but we’ll match you up.ˮ
First things first. Time for lunch while we’re still in San Juan (the first time Windstar has launched from a U.S. port of call in recent history), getting ready to embark on the week’s adventure, I head up to the Veranda, Deck 7 Aft, the breakfast/lunch buffet restaurant with delightful outdoor terrace seating. Bianca confided that I should try the special Embarkation Roast Beef Sandwich. The meat is siow-roasted for over a day, then served in slabs on fresh-baked bread with the chef’s house-made creamy horseradish sauce. Ahhhhh yes.
I meet the rest of the press group, along with our intrepid P.R. host, Dana, over cocktails at the al fresco Star Bar (Deck 8 Forward). This would become the scene of much revelry over the next week, with creative cocktails of the day (ideal for toasting the ship as it sails from each port), as well as after-dinner cigars and live music alternating between two engaging U.K. musical duos.
After a brief tour of the main facilities with Bianca (including the soigne Compass Rose lounge on Deck 6 Aft, the other primary post-dinner music and cocktails venue, conveniently located by the small casino), we repair to AmphorA on Deck 3 for dinner.
The staff impresses right off the bat with such thoughtful touches as bringing black napkins for those who, like me, favor the standard Soho/WeHo-issue couture. And we receive a fine intro to the talents of Executive Chef Nilesh Kavinde and his corps de cuisine of 22 (28 including the cleaning crew). Each nightly changing menu offers several choices of appetizer, soup, salad, entree, sides (including fab crispy fried tossed in truffle oil and parmesan), and desserts (along with a list of always-available classics for the finicky like grilled Black Angus sirloin or North Atlantic salmon).
The culinary team and Dining Room Manager are adept at offering vegetarian or gluten-free variations with advance notic. “The Captain drives the ship but I make stomachs happy,ˮ the engaging Chef Nilesh informs me later on the voyage,
Between the supercar-lined streets of South Beach, the booming new nightclubs and the soaring starchitect-designed skyscrapers, Miami might just be the most luxurious city in America. Here’s where to eat, play and stay when you go.
From world-renowned architects to internationally acclaimed chefs, it seems that just about everyone is flocking to Miami these days. And with good reason: The Magic City is hotter now than it’s been in years. Whether you’re at the beach or in Brickell, Downtown or in the Design District, shift your gaze upward and you’ll understand what everyone’s buzzing about. Astounding acts of contemporary architecture are confirming the city’s position as a modern-day cultural capital, a status it’s proudly been touting since the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair put it on the map for connoisseurs and collectors a little more than a decade ago.
“Art Basel Miami Beach started the process by raising the cultural pedigree of the city,” says developer and art patron Jorge Pérez, whose $40 million donation (half cash, half art) to the Miami Art Museum resulted in it being renamed the Pérez Art Museum Miami in his honor.
Pérez is also one of the masterminds behind Miami’s sexiest new residential projects, like the 53-story SLS Hotel & Residences Brickell, where a 5,000-square-foot rooftop includes a pool, lounge and restaurant; and the 54-story Gran Paraiso tower in Edgewater, where EDM DJ and music producer David Guetta and New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez have already bought multimillion-dollar penthouses. These days you can’t swing a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog around the city without hitting a real estate development dreamed up by a blue-chip architect whose place-making works define city skylines around the world.
On the ground, meanwhile, intimate high concept nightclubs—like Ora on Collins Avenue— are giving sophisticated partyers a VIP alternative to the arena-size hot spots of the past. The restaurant scene is heating up too: New York’s famed Caviar Russe, known for its indulgent menu of rare fish eggs, recently opened a second outpost at Miami’s Four Seasons Tower, and James Beard Award winner Paul Qui is bringing his exquisite Asian cuisine to Pao at the new Faena Hotel.
The restaurant is yet another draw for the Faena District, which is the Miami mecca that’s demanding the most attention of late. Here, in Miami’s Mid-Beach, a formerly down-on-its ear neighborhood is being remade thanks to the vision of Argentine hotelier Alan Faena and the fleet of international aesthetic minds he’s assembled. There’s a luxury hotel, a cultural center, a retail hub and an 18-story beachfront condominium tower, Faena House, where the four-bedroom, 8,273-square-foot penthouse features a 66-foot-long rooftop pool and an ocean view wraparound terrace. That penthouse, together with the unit directly below it, sold this past fall for $60 million, breaking all sorts of Miami real-estate records. But fear not: You’ve still got a chance to call it home. Citadel CEO Kenneth Griffin, who bought the apartments, has already relisted them—for $73 million.
Bienvenido a Miami in 2016, where high art, high design and high prices converge.
Sandy Lane is one of the resort world’s classiest acts, its house-proud Bajan staff treating every guest with the same degree of service they gave Queen Elizabeth when she visited. Although independent since 1966, Barbados has retained a veddy British atmosphere, and life at this former sugarcane plantation is redolent of the old cultural ties, with many Brits (including some royals) filling the guest register.
Things are done on a grand scale, from the snow-white Rolls-Royce greeting you at the airport to complimentary Champagne at breakfast and vast marbled bathrooms the size of most hotel guest rooms.
An army of gardeners carefully tends the 320-acre grounds, and the hotel’s own championship 18-hole, par-72 golf course is but one of a host of complimentary recreational activities (which also include tennis, deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving).
Plan to spruce up for dinner—the dress code is enforced more by the guests than by management—and plan to follow your meal with dancing under the stars on the Starlight Terrace. Could it be more swank?