Hotel Review: An Ocean View Junior Suite at the St. Regis Princeville
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TO THE POINT: The St. Regis Princeville is a beautiful property on Kauai’s scenic northern shore, perfect for a relaxing vacation. The pros: great location overlooking Hanalei Bay, attentive staff, beautiful grounds. The cons: expensive redemption and cash rates, a long drive from the airport, feels somewhat outdated.
The St. Regis Princeville is not only one of the nicest points properties in Kauai — it’s also arguably the most luxurious hotel on the island. TPG’s visited the hotel not once but twice and overall had very positive things to say, so I was excited to check it out for myself.
With an oceanfront location on the Garden Island’s northern shore near the famous Nā Pali Coast, it’s miles away (both in distance and feel) from the more crowded resorts on the southern side of the island. But with 251 rooms and 51 suites, it’s not tiny — and during my recent stay in early September, it didn’t feel anywhere close to empty.
The St. Regis Princeville is a Category 7 Starwood property, requiring 30,000 to 35,000 Starpoints per night for a standard room. Especially considering that your main avenues for earning Starpoints are the co-branded credit cards, those redemption rates are pretty steep, but the cash rates are significant as well. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of the fantastic 4th Night Free benefit offered with the Citi Prestige Card, which essentially scored us a 25% discount (on top of the 50% rack-rate discount Citi Concierge managed to get by calling SPG, for a total of roughly $351 per night before taxes). Note that this program is changing next July, at which point you won’t be able to get a refund on taxes, but even with that devaluation it’ll still be one of the most generous perks around.
Perhaps even more exciting than that was the fact that our Suite Night Awards cleared, so we ended up in an 820-square-foot Junior Suite instead of the 540-square-foot Garden View Room we actually paid for. That gave us a fantastic ocean view and more space — this is a great redemption for the 10 Suite Night Awards you receive each year as a Platinum member, especially considering that you’ll otherwise need to pay about $200 more per night (at the low end) to book a suite.
Kauai is quite a trek from New York! After taking United’s nonstop from Newark to Honolulu and catching a quick inter-island flight on Hawaiian Airlines, my boyfriend and I jumped in a rental car at Lihue Airport (LIH) and made the hour-long drive up Kauai’s eastern coast.
We drove up to the main entrance just before 5:00pm, and friendly valet staff quickly approached to help us with our bags (not that we needed it — we were just traveling with carry-ons).
Note that it costs $32 per day for valet parking at the resort. It’s definitely worth renting a car here though, especially given the distance from the airport, the lack of affordable taxis on the island and all the potential day trips you can make from your Hanalei Bay base. We rented a midsize car through National and ended up with a Jeep thanks to Emerald Club Executive status, a perk of the Platinum Card from American Express. Including tax, our Jeep cost less than $150 for a four-day rental, thanks to a free weekend day coupon.
Within a minute or two of arriving, we were walking through the hotel’s giant main doors toward an open check-in desk.
Both of us remarked that the property felt a bit like a Las Vegas resort — with plentiful, plush seating, a fountain and a large chandelier — even down to the coconut scent and proliferation of high-end boutiques set just off the main lobby. Not in a bad way, it just wasn’t exactly what we’d expected!
Clearly this hotel caters to well-heeled clientele — this diamond necklace in the jewelry shop cost a cool $30,000+.
The check-in agent who assisted us was friendly, and she offered us a choice of Starpoints or complimentary breakfast as our SPG Platinum amenity — we chose the latter. (Interestingly, we were offered a “continental” breakfast at check-in, but at the restaurant we were able to take advantage of the full buffet.) Just a few minutes later, we were off to our Ocean View Junior Suite, located on the 10th floor, just one level up from the lobby.
Luckily, our Junior Suite felt spacious. I liked the layout, even though it felt relatively narrow compared to its length.
You can get a better feel for the suite in this 360-degree photo (click to view):
The king-size bed was comfortable, and there was a charging station on one of the bedside tables. The decor wasn’t exactly cutting-edge — it actually felt a little outdated — but it was cheery and appropriately rustic for the island setting.
We loved the “living room” area of the suite, which included an L-shaped sofa and footrest along with a table. It was a great place to relax, catch up on emails and take in the ocean views.
We had a great view of Hanalei Bay and the north coast, and could see paddle boarders and surfers out enjoying the water each day.
To the left, we could see some beautiful landscapes beyond the bay. In retrospect, I wish we’d had a balcony to sit out on, but it’s hard to complain too much when the views are so nice!
The room got plenty of light, even when the shades weren’t all the way open.
There was a large entertainment center facing the sofa that featured a flat-screen TV. We actually never used this, but if you want a break from the sun or are waiting out one of the island’s frequent-but-brief bouts of rain, it’s a nice option to have.
We appreciated the mini-fridge (rather than an overpriced mini-bar) — it came in handy when we bought some poke and other snacks later on.
There was also a TV screen facing the bed, which popped out of the desk when activated by the remote control. Pretty nifty.
The bathroom was roomy, with two sinks and plenty of amenities. I wish there had been a standalone shower rather than a combination tub/shower, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker.
You’ll get more amenities here than at most other Starwood-brand properties, such as a magnified cosmetic mirror, face wash and a jewelry holder, along with Remède-branded soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc.
We somehow forgot to pack toothbrushes and deodorant, but the hotel was happy to provide these for us free of charge.
Food and Other Amenities
As we were staying in a suite, we were entitled to St. Regis Butler Service. In practice, this meant we could press a button on our in-room phone to request coffee, tea or a variety of other services, such as luggage packing and unpacking. While there was a coffee maker in our room, we did take advantage of this service most mornings to request a fresh cup — which was always served with biscotti on the side.
One morning, we requested coffee and were told it would arrive within 15 minutes, though it never did. It wasn’t a huge deal, but we followed up to let them know we were headed to breakfast and didn’t need it anymore. The operator was extremely apologetic and we received two follow-up phone calls that day, again apologizing for the mistake.
Apparently the staff tried to find us at breakfast to relay the message in person, but we were already taken care of in the caffeine department. We weren’t even super upset that our coffee never came, but clearly the staff prides itself on its service and doesn’t take little oversights for granted.
Speaking of breakfast, it’s served on a terrace overlooking Hanalei Bay, offering one of the most beautiful views you’ll find on the property. If you want to get a prime spot, your best bet is to arrive well before 9:00am on the weekdays, when rush hour hits (or maybe a bit later on the weekend, when breakfast lasts until 12:30pm).
With our included breakfast we had access to the full buffet, complete with a variety of fruits, pastries and other hot items. We had no complaints about the quality or selection — the omelets and macadamia nut French toast were especially tasty. If you’re paying, expect the buffet to run you $38 per person, plus tax and tip. Sunday brunch is quite a bit pricier, at $60, but you can order à la carte if you’d prefer.
Even though it was crowded, the staff were friendly and attentive. There were a ton of birds circling the breakfast terrace every day during our stay, looking for crumbs the moment a party left the table.
There were a few different dining options available on the property, including the Kauai Grill (curated by Jean-Georges Vongerichten), beachfront Nalu Kai offering Mediterranean cuisine and Makana Terrace. We ate at the latter of these on our last night — it’s in the same space where breakfast is served — and enjoyed an amazing sunset, some lovely Mai Tais and surprisingly high-quality food. I say “surprisingly” because maybe it’s just me, but I don’t expect to have an especially memorable meal at a hotel’s multi-purpose dining space. But everything at the St. Regis Princeville is high-end, so I should have figured as much.
Our server Ginnette was also incredibly nice and didn’t attempt to rush us at all — we stayed a full three hours to soak up the views! We had a seafood stew ($50) and a vegetable pie ($24, if I recall), plus Mai Tais ($16). The manager offered the Mai Tais free of charge following a “table issue,” however — while we were first to be seated and requested a prime table, another couple had come by earlier in the afternoon, marking their territory in advance. Our alternative seating ended up being great, though, and the free drinks more than made up for the discrepancy.
When asked if we wanted a second round, we let Ginnette know that we were saving room for a bottle of Prosecco the hotel had sent in response to an Instagram post a few days before. She very kindly offered to serve it with our dinner, instead — as expected (since it had been provided by the hotel), there was no corkage fee.
The bar off the lobby is another nice spot to enjoy cocktails and good views, both indoors and outdoors. There was live music when we stopped by one night, and most of the seats were taken. We enjoyed some Mai Tais ($16 here as well).
You can also opt for room service, of course — for example, a three-egg omelette will run you $25, while a burger and fries costs $24, plus a 21% service charge and $4 delivery fee. There are also some solid options in the town of Hanalei, roughly a 15-minute drive from the hotel. I recommend Bar Acuda (a TPG-favorite) and Postcards Cafe — both are reasonably priced and delicious, with very friendly service.
The beach and pool are the hotel’s main attractions — both are well-staffed and offer plenty of seating options. Come early if you want a prime spot on the sand, since many guests seemed to be claiming lounge chairs for the day during our stay. Luckily, we were able to find shady spots most of the time, and the staff provided umbrellas and towels.
Based on photos we saw on the resort’s website, I was expecting an amazing, modern pool. The reality falls quite a bit short of that — there’s a small infinity-style section closest to the beach, but otherwise it’s just a pool. But still, it’s a pool in paradise, and it felt great to swim in the hot-but-not-too-hot weather.
Still, though, the facility could use a revamp, and the buildings closest to the water looked like they’d benefit from at least a fresh coat of paint.
There’s an activity center behind the pool where you can rent gear for a variety of outdoor sports, including snorkeling and paddle boarding. We tried to snorkel a bit in the afternoon one day, but the water was already too murky. There’s a large reef where sea urchins apparently dwell — the staff recommended that we don’t touch it, and pointed out some spots where we could see some cool sea life if you venture far away from shore. (Luckily, the water was very calm.) Waters sports and snorkels aren’t free, but they’re reasonably priced ($15 for a two-hour snorkel rental).
Finally, if you’re sticking to your workout routine while on vacation, you’ll be happy to know there’s an onsite fitness center. It’s not particularly modern or extensive, but it has all the basic equipment. (Don’t worry — there are weights around the corner.)
The gym was located just off the lobby on the main floor. Cold towels were available there, which was definitely a nice touch.
And, while you’ll hopefully have plenty of time to unplug, the resort-wide Wi-Fi (free for SPG members) was speedy — even in the room.
We had a phenomenal stay at the St. Regis Princeville thanks to its beautiful location and friendly service. I’ve stayed on the south shore of Kauai several times but this felt like it was worlds away — the northern side of the island is decidedly ritzier and less crowded, but also greener; there are really no bad views here.
Because of the high rates for both points redemptions and paying with cash, an Airbnb stay might be in the cards next time we visit, but I’m very glad we splurged on this upscale property.
Have you stayed at the St. Regis Princeville? Share your experience in the comments, below.
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