Most Definitely Not Waikiki: A Review of the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina
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To The Point
The Four Seasons Resort in Oahu sets a high standard for a luxury vacation on Hawaii’s most populated island. Pros: Beautiful property, lots to do, modern and spacious rooms. Cons: No poolside service, bad Wi-fi, no black-out shades.
During a recent trip to Hawaii, my girlfriend and I split our time between two islands: Maui and Oahu. When researching places to stay in Oahu, we briefly considered staying in the center of the action in Waikiki. But after reading reviews of Waikiki hotels, we decided to splurge for a hotel that we hopefully wouldn’t hate.
After all, I’ve yet to leave a Four Seasons property disappointed, and I’m thrilled to report that this property wouldn’t be the first.
Rates at the Four Seasons in Oahu typically hover around $550 to $650 per night (excluding holidays). While Four Seasons properties are typically pretty expensive, there are ways to maximize value at hotels that don’t participate in loyalty programs.
One of the best ways to book such stays is through the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which is accessible to those who hold the the Platinum Card® from American Express. The FHR rate was the same as booking directly through Four Seasons, but we received valuable extras on account of booking through Amex. In our case, we received daily breakfast for two, early check-in, late checkout, an upgrade subject to availability and a $100 spa credit for use during the stay.
And now that Amex offers 5x Membership Rewards points on all prepaid Fine Hotel & Resorts bookings, we even earned a bunch of extra Membership Rewards points for booking through the program.
Alternately, we could have booked on Hotels.com using my Capital One® Venture® Rewards credit card for 10% cash back on the card, and stacked that with our pursuit of a 10th night free with Hotels.com rewards. Together, this would effectively have provided a 20% return, a great value despite not entitling us to a spa credit or a delicious free breakfast.
The Four Seasons (blue pin) is 45 minutes by car northwest of Waikiki (purple pin) in Honolulu and 30 minutes northwest of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL, red pin). There isn’t much public transportation in Hawaii, so stick to a rental car, ride-hailing services or taxis for your stay on Oahu.
The hotel itself is nestled in Ko Olina, which features 642 acres of hotels, golf courses and shops all beautifully arranged around four man-made lagoons. The Four Seasons shares a lagoon with Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, so if you’re looking for a serene beachfront vibe, this may not be the place to stay. Other places to stay in the Ko Olina development include the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club and Ko Olina Beach Villas.
Although there were easily over 2,000 rooms along the 2-mile coastline, none of the beaches or shops felt nearly as crowded as the Waikiki area.
After arriving at the resort in the midafternoon, we were quickly welcomed into the beautiful lobby, where we were presented with fresh, colorful leis, ginger-infused lemonade and eucalyptus-scented, cold towels.
Most hotel atriums belong in history books (looking at you, Ritz-Carlton, Cancun), but this was one of the nicest hotel atrium lobbies I’ve seen. The centerpiece of the lobby was the Aa, a racing canoe built in 1902 that belonged to one of Hawaii’s most famous patriots, Prince Kūhiō.
Unlike some other Four Seasons resorts where check-in is completed seated on couches or chairs, we were escorted to the front desk, where a check-in agent quickly helped us with registration.
The agent confirmed our stay details, including all the extra amenities we’d receive by booking through FHR, and upgraded us to a 640-square-foot king oceanfront room, two categories above our entry-level resort-view room.
With upgraded room keys in hand, we made our way up to the seventh floor to check out our room.
Upon entering Room 713, we were immediately wowed by how elegant and understated the room felt. We instantly concluded that this must be one of the nicest hotel rooms on the island.
The room featured a signature Four Seasons mattress, which, to the uninitiated, feels like sleeping on cloud nine.
There was a comfortable lounging sofa at the foot of the bed.
The wooden desk was just underneath the TV.
The coral-colored lounging chair nicely accented the other brown and tan furniture.
Each nightstand had more than enough built-in outlets for easy bedside charging.
The sliding-door closet wasn’t so deep and didn’t have enough hangers for our clothes.
Back near the entrance of the room was the minibar, Nespresso machine and bathroom.
Interestingly, our minibar was not set up upon arrival. Instead, the hotel left a menu of minibar packages that you could order for delivery.
The marble-clad bathroom was spacious and featured two single vanities, a soaking tub, walk-in shower and separate toilet.
Toiletries were provided by Bulgari, a favorite of mine.
The highlight of our oceanfront room was the rectangular balcony that spanned the entire length of the room. We had great views of the resort’s lagoon, as well as the other Ko Olina resorts in the distance.
The balcony featured two padded chairs and a comfortable chaise lounger.
There were two options for Wi-Fi, a complimentary standard option and a speedier premium option at $20 a day. The standard Wi-Fi was throttled to 1 Mpbs download and upload, whereas the premium Wi-Fi reached speeds of 25 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. It’s absolutely ridiculous for a resort charging $550 or more a night to make you pay extra for useable Wi-Fi.
My only other complaint about the room was the lack of blackout shades. If you’re a light sleeper (no pun intended), you may want to pack a sleep mask, since it can get light really early.
Food and Beverage
If you’re trying to keep that beach bod, skip this section. Otherwise, come along with me as we navigate through the hotel’s impressive selection of food and drink.
The resort featured four restaurants, all with unique vibes and cuisines.
Breakfast was served daily in La Hiki Kitchen, which turned into a traditional Hawaiian restaurant by night. Fine Hotels & Resorts covered the full breakfast buffet for up to two people per room, a $65-plus (and 3,000-plus-calorie) value.
Breakfast stations included sumptuous fresh fruits …
… an egg station …
… a Middle Eastern section (shoutout to the delectable hummus) …
… a lox bar …
… and others.
There was plenty of food to keep you full, but if you couldn’t find something you were craving, the waiters would happily bring you anything else off the a la carte menu at no additional cost.
After a breakfast of champions (sans Wheaties), my stomach never had space for lunch. My girlfriend, however, had a bit more self-control at breakfast and was hungry for poolside lunch on one of our two afternoons.
She was transported back to Thailand with the Buddha bowl ($27). Lunch was delivered to our chaise lounges from the poolside lunch restaurant, Waterman Bar and Grill.
We went back to La Hiki Kitchen for some light bites one night. I had the cauliflower steak ($12), and my girlfriend had the GOAT corn ($13). After her first bite of the Mexican/Hawaiian fusion corn on the cob, she agreed that it was, in fact, the Greatest of All Time. (Get it?)
On our other night, we ate dinner at Mina’s Fish House, a collaboration between celebrity chef Michael Mina and the Four Seasons. My black-garlic-and-miso black cod was tasty ($48), and my girlfriend’s pan-roasted opakapaka ($42) was appetizing.
While we didn’t have an opportunity to try it, Mina’s Fish House also offered an affordable happy-hour menu beginning daily at 3pm. If you’re trying to save some money on food and drink, I’d highly recommend checking out the happy-hour menu.
The one restaurant we didn’t try was the Italian restaurant, Noe. After all, we needed to save something for next time.
For a resort of 371 rooms, there was plenty to do to keep the entire family occupied. As expected for a Hawaiian resort, the main daily activity was pool and beachside relaxation. To that end, the resort offered three pools.
The circular serenity pool was never too crowded but was also awkwardly placed between Mina’s Fish House and Waterman’s Grill. There was also a shallow kids’ pool nearby, which was quite popular with the families.
The highlight was the 123-foot-long adults-only infinity pool. With many chaise loungers and a Jacuzzi nearby, this made for the best place to sit soaking in the Hawaiian sun.
If you wanted to splurge, there were daybeds and cabanas available for rent beginning at $150 for the day.
If you really wanted to splurge, the resort had a whole shopping arcade with many fancy designer stores ready to drain your bank account.
Aside from the three pools, there were multiple loungers set up around the hotel’s lagoon. The lagoon was great for kids and families, as it broke the strong surf and created a bathtub-like beachside environment.
The hotel offered a standalone fitness center and spa just outside the main lobby. The six-floor building was a wellness and Zen retreat.
The gym occupied the top two floors and featured separate cardiovascular and weight rooms and multiple tennis and basketball courts. All of the equipment was modern and in good shape, and I especially appreciated the four Peloton bikes. (Definitely the closest I was getting to SoulCycle on this trip.)
There was another floor dedicated to the salon and outdoor lap pool.
The remaining three floors housed the spa and treatment rooms. The locker rooms, which could be accessed for free without getting a spa treatment, featured deep soaking hot tubs, a sauna, steam room and relaxation area.
Aside from the resort’s amenities, you could also take advantage of the amenities of the surrounding Ko Olina development, such as golf, shopping and scenic walking paths.
Oh, and don’t forget your free SPF.
Service throughout the stay definitely matched my high expectations of a Four Seasons. We were always greeted with a smile and addressed by last name.
Since the resort has 371 rooms, it was hard to provide personalized service touches, but I was impressed at how the staff recognized our preferences throughout our stay. For instance, housekeeping left extra water bottles during turndown service after seeing all the recycled water bottles we discarded during the day.
The one service fail, however, was that there wasn’t any signature Four Seasons pool service. At many Four Seasons properties, complimentary poolside service is offered and includes hourly amenities like Evian facial spray spritzes and frozen fruit skewers. During our two afternoons by the pool, the only amenity we received was a mini mai tai taster.
Was this a big deal? Absolutely not. But if you’re used to getting pampered by the pool at a Four Seasons, you may want to adjust your expectations for the Oahu property.
We left the Four Seasons pretty impressed with our stay. The room was modern and airy and embraced the Hawaiian vibe. The food-and-beverage selection was great, and the property had more than enough amenities to keep us occupied. Although this is definitely one of the chain’s larger resort properties, we felt that the service didn’t suffer as a result.
So if you’re looking to do Oahu in luxurious style, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending a stay at the Four Seasons.
All photos by the author.
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