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Hotel Review: St. Regis Princeville on Kauai

by on February 21, 2012 · 25 comments

in Hawaii, Hotel Reviews, Starwood

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Stunning sunset over Hanalei Bay.

As I mentioned yesterday in my review of the Kauai Grand Hyatt, I changed my trip plans once I got there and decided to spend the third and fourth nights of my stay on the island at the St. Regis Princeville instead.

I enjoyed the Grand Hyatt, but it was purely a points decision since my suite upgrade was only confirmed for my first two nights, and I would have had to use 54,000 Gold Passport points to stay in a club room for the second two nights, whereas I found award night redemption availability at the St. Regis for 21,500 a night, for a grand total of 43,000 Starpoints. Plus, with my SPG Platinum status, I suspected I would be upgraded to a suite. Plus, my award stay would count toward SPG elite status qualification, an aspect where Starwood has Hyatt beat.

The St. Regis lobby

Arrival

The Grand Hyatt is on the south side of Kauai, but the St. Regis is pretty much clear across the island on the northern coast overlooking Hanalei Bay and near the famous Na Pali Coast cliffs, so the scenery is just gorgeous and much more dramatic. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes from the Grand Hyatt, depending on traffic.

Compared to the Grand Hyatt’s 602 rooms, the St. Regis only has 251, making it feel a lot quieter, more intimate, adult and exclusive. Just what I was in the mood for.

The Suite

As I had hoped, though I only booked a standard room, when I checked in, I was upgraded to a Prince Junior Suite. Yes, it’s the lowest suite level but it’s still pretty spacious at 820 square feet and has a separate living room and bedroom. The lowest rate for it I could find in the next month is $773 a night, so I felt I’d scored a good point redemption. And like all the suites, it came with signature St. Regis Butler Service, so just an added bonus. I thought about calling our butler to mix me a drink using the mai tai welcome amenity in the room, but ended up doing it myself.

The living room of my Prince Junior Suite. Look at that view!

I loved the look of the room with original Hawaiian art, hardwood fixtures, custom-built furniture and plantation shutters, and a lot of marble in the foyer and the bathroom. It felt very colonial Hawaii. The Prince Junior suites are all oceanview, so it had those million-dollar views of Hanalei Bay, even from the bathroom.

The separate king bedroom in my Prince Junior Suite.

The main room had both a large sitting area with an upholstered sectional sofa, leather ottoman and coffee table, a small breakfast table with two chairs near the window, a stocked minibar, and a huge entertainment center with a 52-inch flatscreen TV and a Bose sound system.

The bedroom itself was also pretty large and had a pillow-top king-size bed, a big wooden work desk, another smaller minibar “wine cooler,” and another cool gadget: a smaller television that popped up out of a console when you wanted to watch TV from bed.

The Prince Junior Suite full bath suite with a window overlooking Hanalei Bay that you can shade or brighten electronically with a switch on the wall.

The bathroom was marble, marble and more marble, with two sinks and stocked with Remède bath products. I did find it strange that it had a bath-shower was a combo rather than separate bath and shower, but I couldn’t argue with the view. My favorite feature was the huge liquid-crystal window with that same stunning view that you could lighten or shade for privacy using an electronic switch on the wall. Great gadget.

The Resort

The resort is on the clifftops over the bay, so beach access is a bit of a pain (a transfer to two elevators), but the infinity pool is beautiful and was quiet even though there were a lot of other guests, so we spent some time relaxing there until a gorgeous sunset.

The St. Regis's gorgeous pool...folks enjoying the jacuzzi.

Dining

I thought the food experience at the resort was great, if expensive. We had brunch one day at the Makana Terrace, the resort’s main dining room, overlooking the bay and Makana Mountain. It was pretty expensive at $60 a person, and the total including tip for two people with a glass of wine and a couple coffee drinks came out to $180!

We had brunch with a view at this terrace table.

For dinner one night, we also decided to try the hotel’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, the Kauai Grill. I’ve heard other people have been disappointed with it, but we had a great meal there. We got the tasting menu for $86 per person and wine pairings for an additional $48—if one person at the table orders the tasting menu, everyone at the table has to have it.

Dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Kauai Grill at the St. Regis. This is sauteed lobster with butter cabbage, scallion and ginger.

It was five courses and included sautéed Kona lobster with butter cabbage, scallion and ginger paired with a pinot noir from Oregon, and caramelized Wagyu strip loin with grilled shiitake and black sesame mustard with a tempranillo from Spain. The white chocolate and yuzu Pavlova with Thai basil syrup for dessert was unique and delicious.

Another Level

What sets the St. Regis apart is the service. Shortly after I made my reservation, I had an email from Alfredo, the super helpful Butler Services Manager, who helped make my stay perfect. I love being able to make plans via email, so we went back and forth until I had a perfect schedule of plans for my final two days, which will be highlighted in a different post and included surfing lessons at Hanalei Bay and an aerial tour of Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast. Alfredo also took care of our restaurant reservations and each table we got was prime.

Even at Kauai Grill, the general manager Ashlee was more than helpful and the chef d’ cuisine Garrison also stopped by to talk about the food and his experience living in Kauai (he used to work at the Peninsula Chicago). All around the resort I was greeted by name and everyone was eager to help us with anything we needed. And it was never overwhelming, which sometimes gets on my nerves when hotels are too intrusive and overly inquisitive.

The only downsides are the high rates and lack of cash & points availability, though it’s a hot resort that was packed during my stay, so it’s understandable why they can charge a premium. I hope Starwood runs another free resort night promotion, because I want to come back for at least 5 days next time.

Another small pet peeve that doesn’t effect 99% of the population is that the ceilings and doorframes are pretty low. I’m 6’7″ and I whacked my head while walking into the bathroom a number of times and I even had to duck while walking down the hallways to avoid the exit signs.

Tall people problems

But overall, it was one of my favorite hotel experiences and each day I spend in Kauai it steadily increases on my list of favorite places I’ve been. More on Kauai in a separate post later this week!


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  • Jeff

    The Princeville is my favourite Starwood hotel, even better than the St. Regis Bora Bora. I haven’t had any difficulty with C&P redemptions. It was available when I check spring through summer.

  • Michael

    Agree completely but it should be noted that this is not a great place for kids (that’s where the Grand Hyatt excels) but is more for couples who want an intimate and (because of the dramatic views and sunsets) dramatic experience

  • Anonymous

    Good point though there were more than a handful of kids enjoying the ext out of the infinity pool when I was there. But the grand Hyatt did seem more family friendly

  • Tony Zhao

    Haha that exit sign picture is priceless!

  • Will

    Brian-I’m 6’5, most door frames seem to be either 6’6 or 6’8. So I’m fortunate to be an inch under sign smacking height. My height is the reason I have accumulated points-to avoid being pancaked into the tiny seats in coach. Thanks for your help.

  • http://twitter.com/ColinMcHale Colin McHale

    Great hotel, certainly loved my stay there on my honeymoon late last year, but I completely agree with your bathroom analysis. For being such a nice / expensive hotel, I thought the shower setup was pretty weak! Without a doubt though, I would go back here!

  • Anonymous

    ha – I think I sat in that exact table for brunch last sept. Great review and 1000% agreed on the level of service, and specifically the service that Alfonso and his team provides guests. On our last day there (it was part 1 of our honeymoon)….he sent up a bottle of *very* nice champagne, with a handwritten note, followed up by a personal phone call letting us know we could contact him ahead of any stay at any st regis…we have stayed a couple since then and he has gone above and beyond making sure we were taken care of. Just a above and beyond level of service.

  • http://studiobokeh.wordpress.com/ studiobokeh

    i’ve been following your blog because i like to travel and just had to comment on this since the firm i worked for renovated the st. regis princeville; glad to hear you enjoyed your visit!

  • ashah

    Thanks for your review! We’re staying at the SRP this upcoming August as a family of 4 (bringing along our 2 baby boys) using cash & points. It would be awesome if we got upgraded to the Jr. Suite like you for the additional space, but we only have SPG gold status. Was the suite upgrade something that you specifically requested while making the reservation or at check-in, or did you just get upgraded automatically because of your Platinum status? I’d appreciate some advice on how we might be able to get such an upgrade!

  • http://twitter.com/ThinkJeffThink Jeff Reynolds

    Hi TPG,

    Any general tips on getting upgraded more often?

  • Rich

    Seems like many resorts/hotels really take advantage of people on food items. I’m a pretty casual/basic food person and can’t imagine spending that much money on brunch (maybe once in a great while on a great steak dinner).

    I’m glad I’m just a bit above average height at 5’10″. 6’7″ and not making $$$ in pro sports can make travel difficult. On a return flight from Vegas (to PHX) I sat in a row across from Charles Barkley in coach. He certainly filled up the seat and more. Great guy and very friendly to everyone (autographs, photos. etc.). I guess he decided to get a ticket at the last minute and first class seats were long gone.

  • jcmitchell21

    As Gold, expect upgrade to deluxe ocean view. Plat gets junior suites. There isn’t much difference between the two … the suite has a bathroom on the exterior wall with ocean views while the deluxe has a bathroom in the interior of the room.

  • thrashsoundly

    As a fellow tall person (6′ 8″ sans shoes), I had to LOL at the exit sign photo. Short people just have no idea what it’s like.

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Great review and awesome looking resort. We’ve had pretty good success at Jean Georges restaurants, so that’s an added bonus…

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  • Rem

    Love the St. Regis Princeville. By far, one of the best hotel/resort experiences I’ve had. This hotel is the reason I decided to drop Hilton and Marriott and go exclusively with SPG. The difference is the level of attention the staff pay to you from the front desk all the way to the wait staff at the pool. They even move the pool deck umbrellas for you as the sun moves across the sky!! I agree about the liquid crystal glass in the bathroom – very high on the cool factor.

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  • mizz12

    TPG, I am looking to stay at St Regis Princeville around the first two weeks of May 2013. The SPG calendar isn’t showing any Cash and Points availability at all from May-Aug. Is that because they haven’t loaded inventory yet? If I wait until Jan do you think something might pop up?

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  • Erichoog

    For those with families, the Westin Princeville is a great kid friendly option on Kauai. It’s 2 miles from the St. Regis and Westin guests can use the St Regis beach. The Westin has 7 pools including a great kiddie pool with a slide. Their suites have full kitchens and washer/dryers! Plus, its a great value at 12,000 SPG points per night.

  • Sam

    I’d been thinking about the SRP for a honeymoon, but with the reclassification I’m wondering if it’s actually worth 30k points/night. Over 5 nights, that would drop to ‘only’ 24k, but I can’t use my plat requalification gift. Any thoughts or alternatives that you would recommend? I’m pretty committed to high end beach resort, but less committed to Hawaii

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