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If you have decided to take your family to the island of Kauai, you have probably already made one of the best vacation decisions of your life. However, even after you make that awesome choice, you have to still decide where to stay. If you have opted to use points to stay at a hotel you have narrowed your lodging decision making down some, but there are still many options.
There are way too many points-friendly hotel choices to look at in-depth here, in fact that is an entire chapter in my new ebook on using miles and points to go to Hawaii, but there are two hotels that I think many looking for a points splurge on Kauai get to pick between, the Grand Hyatt Kauai and the St. Regis Princeville.
I have now had the pleasure of staying at both, twice at the Grand Hyatt Kauai both in a room and a suite, and once at the St. Regis Princeville in a Junior Suite courtesy of the SPG Amex Stars program, so I want to share a few thoughts for those making the “tough” call between the two properties for their next vacation. You can read all of the in-depth reviews here.
First, let’s be real, we are talking about Kauai, and those are both great high-end properties, so there is no wrong decision. This post is just intended to help you make the best decision for your family between two great choices. Because while the two properties have lots in common, they actually were very different, and I don’t think either is universally “better” than the other for everyone.
Location, tie based on preference:
The St. Regis Princeville is located on the northern side of Kauai, near Hanalei Bay. While Princeville itself seems to be a very affluent part of the island, the North Shore in general I found to be very laid back with an almost hippy vibe. There were lots of small and delicious places to eat and absolutely breathtaking views of tall green mountains, something you don’t have on the Poipu side. However, this beauty comes at the cost of consistently sunny weather that you will find on the southern side of the island where the Grand Hyatt Kauai is located. Expect some rain on the northern side of the island, though often this will only encompass a small portion of the day…with a rainbow as a treat after the rains are through.
Pools, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai:
The pool complex at the Grand Hyatt Kauai was so amazing it was deserving of its own post. There are so many beautiful pools to choose from at this hotel from the adult pool, to the activity pool, a water slide, lazy river, and salt water lagoon.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai has the best pool complex that I have ever seen at a resort, and while the St. Regis Princeville had a very nice pool with a smooth bottom (better on bare feet than the bottom at GHK), there is just no contest regarding which pool is better whether you are an adult looking for a quieter pool area, or a four-year-old kid looking to race down the water slide.
Beach, advantage St. Regis Princeville:
The beach at the Grand Hyatt Kauai was beautiful, and a great place to go for a stroll or spot munk seals, but it was too rough for many to safely swim.
In contrast, the beach at the St. Regis Princeville was much calmer and better for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. I’m sure there are some seasonal differences to be adjusted for, but in general the St. Regis was a much better beach for swimming. It wasn’t perfect, as there were a fair number of rocks just off shore, but it was pretty darn good.
As an added bonus, the St. Regis provided complimentary beach toys with lots of chairs and shade, where as the Grand Hyatt Kauai does not have complimentary chairs, toys, and umbrellas on the beach.
The sunsets on the beach at the St. Regis were especially breathtaking, too!
Views, advantage St. Regis Princeville
While the grounds of the Grand Hyatt Kauai are very lush and beautiful, the southern side of the island is relatively flat and does not have the green mountains and views that the northern side has to offer.
I will never forget my feeling of amazement and awe at the beauty of Kauai during our first evening at the St. Regis as we watched the sun set from their Makana Terrace.
For me, the views were the most outstanding feature of the St. Regis Princeville, and one that the Grand Hyatt Kauai could never replicate.
Food, tie based on preference
I had enjoyable meals at both the Grand Hyatt Kauai and St. Regis Princeville, so I don’t think there is a clear winner here. I do think that the dining at the St. Regis might average a tad more upscale than the Grand Hyatt Kauai, but that may be a pro or a con in your book.
We enjoyed our outdoor meal at the Makana Terrance at the St. Regis and our meal by the lagoon at Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai equally, and would look forward to returning to both.
Both hotels also offer a “grab and go” option for less expensive meals on the go, though I believe the Grand Hyatt Kauai had more restaurant options than the St. Regis. We did not try the nicest restaurant at the St. Regis, the Kauai Grill.
Rooms, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai
This one is another category that could be a toss-up based on preference, but I’m giving the edge to the Grand Hyatt Kauai because of their suites. The base rooms at either property would be roughly a tie. Both have standard rooms with one king-size or two queen beds, and while the St. Regis rooms have better views and bathrooms, the Grand Hyatt Kauai rooms have private lanais or balconies.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai gets the edge for me because of the wonderful large suite you can confirm on cash and points stays with a Diamond Confirmed Suite upgrade. They are real, large, and luxurious suites that can really help a family spread out and enjoy. Even if you aren’t Hyatt Diamond yet, you can do a Diamond challenge and experience the suite via that challenge. We got a Junior Suite at the St. Regis as a complimentary upgrade as Platinum members, and that was great, but all things being equal, I’d prefer confirming a suite in advance and having a bit more space as we did at the Grand Hyatt.
Club Lounge, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai
The St. Regis Princeville does not have a club lounge, so this winner is clearly the Grand Hyatt Kauai. If you like grabbing a complimentary soda, snacks, complimentary breakfast, or dessert, then the Grand Hyatt Kauai lounge can meet your needs. You can book a room with lounge access for additional points or cash, or get complimentary access with Diamond status.
As an added bonus, I love the outdoor seating area for the lounge! The downside of the lounge, if there is one, is that it means that there is no complimentary full breakfast at a restaurant for Hyatt Diamonds.
Bar, advantage St. Regis Princeville
If you like to spend some time in the evening at a nice bar, then the St. Regis Princeville is a better alternative as it has a beautiful and classic looking St. Regis Bar just off the lobby, complete with piano player and sunset views.
Spa, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai
Both properties offer full service spas, but the slight advantage for me went to the Grand Hyatt Kauai as they have a private lap pool for the spa area and they were able to squeeze us in for an appointment on shorter notice, which is great when you want to enjoy a vacation without too many things already pre-planned. I also like that the Grand Hyatt Kauai spa offers a discount at certain times to Hyatt Diamond members, and had a large outdoor treatment area.
Size of resort, advantage St. Regis Princeville*
The Grand Hyatt Kauai is huge – it has over 600 rooms and is over 50 acres in size. You would think this means it wins the size category since the St. Regis “only” has 251 rooms and I would guess has less than half the footprint of the Grand Hyatt Kauai. However, it can start to feel overwhelming walking to and from the lobby, your room, the pool, the club, etc. at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. I clocked most of our walking on the property one day during a recent trip to the Grand Hyatt Kauai and it came in at over 9 miles in one day – and none of that was “aerobic walking” or on the golf course, it was all just back and forth to the pool, restaurants, etc.
If it was just the adults, I would probably be happy with all the walking, but for little feet it can get to be too much, so we actually preferred the smaller footprint of the St. Regis as it made it easier to run down to the pool for a half hour or so, when the pool can be almost a mile away from certain rooms at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
Kid’s Club, tie based on preference
Both the St. Regis Princeville and Grand Hyatt Kauai had very good kid’s clubs that were similarly priced. They both had very nice facilities and staff and both had activities outside of just the club room. It is worth mentioning the St. Regis Kid’s Club starts at age 5 and the Grand Hyatt starts at age 3, so that edge goes to the Grand Hyatt if you have young children, and the St. Regis if you have older children.. Also worth mentioning that the Grand Hyatt has a half-day option that goes until 1PM and includes lunch, which the St. Regis half-day program ends at noon with no lunch option.
Included free activities, tie based on preference
Both resorts offer included activities every day that can be a great way to enhance your experience without adding on extra costs. The Grand Hyatt offers parrot activities, lei making, fish feeding, and hula dancing. The St. Regis offers an evening bonfire and s’mores, Hanalei stargazing, snorkel lessons, and sunset champagne sabering. On the whole I think the Grand Hyatt activities are geared more to younger families than the St. Regis activities, but both did have a good mix of activities that make it hard to pick a clear winner as it will come down to your preferences.
Upscale Luxury vibe, advantage St. Regis Princeville
If you are looking for an upscale luxury vibe complete with butlers and champagne, the St. Regis is going to probably be more your style than the Grand Hyatt which is very nice, but a much more laid-back and family oriented resort. If you are going on a honeymoon or anniversary trip and want an upscale experience, you may be happier at the St. Regis, instead of the Grand Hyatt.
Elite benefits, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai
This is a close call, but I’m giving the elite benefits recognition award to the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Top tier elites at the Grand Hyatt will get access to the club lounge, the option of using their Diamond amenity to secure a cabana, free access to the spa amenities (not services), and will have the option to use a diamond confirmed suite upgrade for a full suite.
The St. Regis will give top tier elites continental breakfast buffet for two and a potential space available complimentary upgrade to a junior suite. It was still pretty decent elite perks, but not quite as good as the Grand Hyatt Kauai. The scales might have tipped if the St. Regis gave full breakfast benefits to Platinums as opposed to just the cold breakfast items.
Value on Points, advantage Grand Hyatt Kauai:
The Grand Hyatt Kauai is a Category 6 Hyatt meaning it costs 25,000 points per night or 12,500 points + $150 per night on a cash and points award. There is a $25 resort fee at the Grand Hyatt Kauai that is waived on points stays, but does include a self-parking option. Hyatt points are pretty easy to rack up thanks to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and the 1:1 transfer option via cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Plus® Business Card.
The St. Regis is a SPG Category 7 property that goes for 30,000 – 35,000 SPG points per night depending on the season, or 15,000 SPG points + $275 per night via a cash and points stay. That is very pricey for an SPG hotel, but is made a bit better if you have a five night award stay where the 5th night is free. That can drop the per night cost to as low as 24,000 points per night in low season. You can earn SPG points via the Starwood Preferred Guest Personal Credit Card from American Express. There is no resort fee at the St. Regis, but there is a mandatory valet parking charge of $30 per day.
I give the points value advantage to the Grand Hyatt Kauai primarily due it being easier to rack up Hyatt points, and the ability to confirm a Diamond Suite Upgrade on a cash + points stay, but the return per point can be quite high at both resorts thanks to very high cash prices during peak seasons, like the summer.
Which is Better? St. Regis Princeville or Grand Hyatt Kauai:
As you probably guessed by this point, there isn’t a clear winner. Our own family did not clearly prefer one to the other, though there were certain things about both properties that did stand out as better. Overall, I found the St. Regis to be a much more manageable size with a better beach, amazing views, and we absolutely loved the North Shore location. The Grand Hyatt Kauai has amazing pools, we loved the large suite, and it catered to young families a bit more than the St. Regis. If we didn’t have kids, I would probably give preference to the St. Regis. However, as a family there are things about the Hyatt resort that just can’t be beat. Whether you have a family or not, there isn’t a clear answer on which is best. It will come down to personal preference, and the details you are looking for on your Hawaiian vacation.
Of course, you could always do what we did and spend time at both…
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