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What's New in the Hawaiian Islands - July/August 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015


  • Reopening in 2016, the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel will be rebranded as Hilton Garden Inn Kauai/Wailua Bay. In addition to gaining a new name, the property will undergo a renovation to include the complete refurbishment of all rooms, its lobby and meeting spaces, and exteriors. Once completed, the renovated property will be the only Hilton branded hotel on Kauai and the second Hilton Garden Inn in Hawaii.
  • Each of the 602 guestrooms at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa now has its own spacious lanai, one of several exciting renovations at the resort. Guests can also expect an upgraded workout facility, improved amenities at the resort’s award-winning Anara Spa, and renewed dining spaces at Stevenson’s Library, Ilima Terrace, Poipu Bay Clubhouse, The Dock and Hale Nalu. Newly installed fire pits encourage guests to snuggle up and enjoy a night under the stars.
  • Hilton Worldwide announced the franchise license agreement to open DoubleTree by Hilton Hilo-Naniloa, previously branded the Hilo Naniloa Hotel and Golf Club. The 12-story, three-tower, 388-room oceanfront property will undergo an $18.5 million makeover. Key upgrades include the introduction of 20 spacious suites, a farm-to-table restaurant, a health club, golf course and outdoor pool. Completion is scheduled for the end of 2015.
  • The newest hotel on Oahu’s North Shore, the Courtyard Oahu North Shore by Marriott, is welcoming residents and visitors to book accommodations. Located in Laie, the three-story hotel recently opened with 137 large standard rooms and seven suites featuring island-style furnishings. Key renovations include an upgraded swimming pool with a waterfall, keiki (kids) pool and hot tub, as well as a bistro, 24-hour fitness center and meeting facilities.
  • Named after the paakai (salt) ponds that once dotted the low-lying wetlands of what is now Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood, SALT at Our Kakaako is designed to become the city’s epicenter for local culture, food, shopping and innovative events. By repurposing existing structures, landowner Kamehameha Schools is planning a lively, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. Upon completion, it is expected to be Hawaii’s first urban mixed-use, mixed-income community.
  • Oahu’s Ala Moana Center, the world’s largest outdoor shopping center, welcomes Hawaii’s first Bloomingdale’s department store this fall. Scheduled to open Nov. 12 in the center’s new Ewa Wing Expansion, the 167,000-square-foot, three-level store will offer smart fitting rooms, charging lounges, dining services and an extensive roster of brands exclusive to Bloomingdale’s Hawaii location. Exclusive brands include Armani Collezioni, Boutique Moschino, Cami and Jax, Chloe, Ferragamo, Frette, Gucci, Max Mara, Rebecca Taylor, Sandro, Shinola, Tidal and Bloomingdale’s exclusive ready-to-wear line, AQUA.
  • Outrigger Resorts recently announced a partnership with Blue Note Entertainment Group to bring world-class music performances to Hawaii, aiming to create the state’s premier live venue for artists spanning music genres from jazz and blues to Hawaiian. Located in the former Society of Seven showroom inside the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort on Oahu, the performance venue will undergo an extensive, multi-million-dollar revitalization and is expected to reopen in early 2016.
  • Street Grindz, the company behind Oahu’s popular monthly Eat the Street food truck events, recently debuted a new pop-up food truck spot, Street Grindz: Kewalo, at the former Fisherman’s Wharf location at Kewalo Basin boat harbor. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the pop-up’s vendors include Kau Kau Grill, Waimanalo Country Farms, Milian’s Sweets and Aloha Plate, all serving grab-n-go meals. Customers can also dine al fresco under umbrella-shaded tables on the waterfront.
  • Chef Ed Kenney recently opened his third restaurant, Mud Hen Water, in Honolulu’s Kaimuki neighborhood. The restaurant’s name was inspired by its Waialae Avenue location, which translates to “waters frequented by the Hawaiian alae, or mudhen.” Celebrating Hawaii’s ethnic diversity, Mud Hen Water’s menu features locally sourced meat, fish and produce in every farm-to-table dish.
  • Hana Ranch Provisions is scheduled to open in Maui’s Paia town in August. The restaurant will feature cooking from scratch inspired by and primarily sourced from Hana Ranch’s certified organic farm and ranch in East Maui. Guests can also purchase fresh produce from the farm from a small market. Hana Ranch Provisions will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
  • Grand Wailea, Maui’s largest luxury resort, invites guests dining at its Humuhumunukunukuapuaa restaurant to try the five-course Ka Malama Dinner. Created based on the early Hawaiian moon calendar, the menu by chef Mike Lofaro and Hawaiian cultural ambassador Kainoa Horcajo includes malolo (flying fish), opelu (mackerel) and opihi (limpets). Sommelier and beverage manager Yeshua Goodman also creates cocktail and wine pairings for the menu.


  • CLIMB Works Keana Farms, a three-hour guided zipline tour, added its final and longest zipline, making it Oahu’s longest zipline reaching nearly half a mile long. Participants explore a working agricultural farm along the tour, which includes eight world-class dual ziplines, two rappels, four sky bridges and a fun ATV adventure to the ridgetop. They also learn about Hawaii’s rich history and culture all while taking in panoramic ocean and mountain views of Oahu’s famous North Shore.
  • Hikers traveling to the Islands next year can book the exciting new Maui and Lanai Walking and Hiking Tour. Set for Feb. 7-12, 2016, the six-day, five-night adventure includes stays at Hotel Wailea on Maui and Four Seasons Resorts Lanai at Manele Bay. Hiking terrain varies from exposed lava rock paths to lush forests as guests trek the Hoapili Trail and Waihee Ridge Trail on Maui, and the Koloiki Ridge Trail and Naha Trail on Lanai. For more information, visit Backroads or call your travel professional.
  • The Bishop Museum on Oahu honors the legacy of Hawaii Olympic swimming champion and ambassador of aloha, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, with a special exhibit, running Aug. 8-Nov. 2 in the J. M. Long Gallery. Feel the rush of Duke’s legendary 1917 mile-long surfboard ride at Waikiki via a virtual reality 3D experience, or compete to break his 1920 Olympic men’s 100-meter freestyle swimming record with a tabletop upper-body pedal exerciser.
  • The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu on Hawaii Island makes discovering the unique marine life of the Islands effortless with motorized scooter snorkeling. Enjoy diving into clear waters for one-on-one time with brightly colored tropical fish, or experience other modes of water adventuring, such as stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing and more.
  • See Hawaii Island from above with KapohoKine Adventures’ HeliZIP Evening Volcano Explorer tour. Take in the beauty of the land via a two-mile, eight-line course at Zipline Through Paradise, and a helicopter tour of Kilauea volcano, tropical rainforests and waterfalls that will leave you breathless.


  • The annual Okinawan Festival, sponsored by the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, returns to Kapiolani Park on O‘ahu on Sept. 5 and 6. Enjoy live entertainment, Okinawan food favorites such as andagi (sweet deep fried dough) and champuru (pork and vegetable stir-fry), and a variety of game booths and cultural activities.
  • Aloha Festivals celebrates its 63rd annual cultural showcase of Hawaiian music, dance and history this September in Honolulu with the theme “Hulu Aloha: Beloved Feather Treasures.” Join thousands of attendees at Aloha Festivals’ two biggest events—the Waikiki Hoolaulea block party on Sept. 19 and floral parade on Sept. 26—for food, family-friendly fun and live entertainment.
  • The annual Kauai Mokihana Festival, happening Sept. 20-26, offers attendees a rich Hawaiian heritage experience. The festivities include hula competitions, Hawaiian and contemporary music contests, crafts, history talks and more. Celebrate the year of “Na Wai Ola (Living Waters)” at this weeklong festival named after Kauai’s highly treasured mokihana berry. 
  • On Oct. 3 and 4, unique crafts, games, foods and contests will commemorate the many uses, and historical and cultural importance, of the humble coconut. The Coconut Festival on Kauai will host some of the island’s best local crafters, artists, chefs and entertainers, all gathered to offer non-stop family-friendly music, activities and fun.
  • Sample fresh dishes utilizing locally grown produce from more than 30 of Hawaii’s premier chefs, at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range. The 20th annual celebration will be held at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawai‘i Island on Oct. 9. Every dish at the event is created using 100-percent pasture-raised and grass-fed pork, lamb, goat, mutton or wild boar. Attendees can talk story with local farmers and ranchers, and enjoy exhibits spotlighting agriculture, sustainability and healthy food alternatives. 
  • Each year on Kauai, kumu hula (hula masters) and their dancers commemorate the legacy of Hawaii’s Queen Emma as a humanitarian leader at the Eo e Emalani I Alakai Festival. On Oct. 10, enjoy daylong outdoor exhibits, forest crafts and cultural demonstrations at Kokee State Park.
  • Beach chairs and blankets will fill the Maui Arts & Cultural Center lawn and music will fill the air at the Maui Ukulele Festival happening Oct. 11. Spend the afternoon relaxing to the ukulele stylings of world famous players, including Herb Ohta Sr. (Ohta-San) and Jake Shimabukuro. Performances by local artists and community kupuna (elder) and keiki players will also be showcased. Admission is free. A complimentary ukulele workshop happens from 10-11:30 a.m.
  • The Festivals of Aloha, Maui Nui Style honors Hawaiian heritage with street parties, concerts, family activities and more on three islands. Celebrate on Maui, Sept. 4, 5, 18 and 19, at the 14th Annual Richard Hoopii Leo Kiekie Falsetto competition and winners concert. On Sept. 12, catch the True Hawaiian Spirit Celebration Parade and pay tribute to community kupuna on Lanai. From Oct. 3-10, in Hana on Maui, play makahiki games, view the Hana Royal Court presentation or participate in a talent show, among other great events. On Molokai, from Oct. 8-10, attendees can choose entering a bed race or an aloha attire contest.
  • The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa hosts Black Rock Dinner and Farm Series, a two-day event kicking off with a farm-inspired five-course dinner and wine pairings at the property’s oceanfront Black Rock Kitchen. On Oct. 23, guests will be able to talk story with the event’s chef, winemaker and farmer about Maui-grown ingredients in gourmet dishes. On the morning of Oct. 24, guests can embark on a private farm tour, which includes a gourmet lunch.
  • Committed to covering the local fashion scene, HONOLULU Fashion Week, created by HONOLULU Magazine, brings Hawaii’s top fashion and accessory designers together with other well-known national and international designers. From Nov. 20-22, catch the latest trends in urban streetwear, contemporary tropical ensembles and swimwear on the catwalk in the Hawaii Convention Center on Oahu.
  • Celebrate the Kona Coast’s world-famous java at the 45th annual Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, happening Nov. 6-15 on Hawaii Island. Since 1970, the festival has honored Kona’s cultural heritage and the accomplishments of area coffee pioneers, farmers and roasters. Take a living-history farm tour, experience picking coffee beans fresh off the tree, or participate in cultural workshops throughout the 10-day celebration.


  • Hawaiian Airlines recently launched its Featured Chef Series, an inflight culinary program highlighting creations from Hawaii’s top emerging chefs, in partnership with executive chef Chai Chaowasaree. Featured local chefs include Jon Matsubara of Japengo Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, Lee Anne Wong of Koko Head Cafe, Wade Ueoka of MW Restaurant, Andrew Le of The Pig & The Lady, and Sheldon Simeon of Mala Wailea and MiGRANT. Through 2017, all Hawaiian Airlines flights from Hawai‘i to the U.S. mainland will showcase dishes by one of the featured chefs, rotating in six-month intervals. Meals designed by chef Chaowasaree will be offered on all U.S. mainland flights returning to the Islands.
  • Honolulu-based Makani Kai Air has expanded its interisland service to include flights between Molokai and Maui. Established in 2009, Makani Kai Air recently acquired its third Cessna Grand Caravan. Six daily roundtrip flights are scheduled between Kahului, Maui and Hoolehua, Molokai, as well as twice-a-week flights between Kapalua, Maui and Kalaupapa, Molokai.


  • Compiling user votes and expert insight, U.S. News Travel ranked Maui first on its list of 13 best summer vacation spots worldwide. Rankings are based on factors such as activities and entertainment options, lodging and dining venues, summer weather conditions, overall accessibility and more. Maui took top honors for its multicolored beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and five-star resorts, as well as being home to the Hana Highway, Kaanapali Beach and Haleakala National Park.
  • Travel + Leisure magazine, geared toward the sophisticated, well-traveled person, released 2015 rankings for its annual World’s Best Awards, which rank the greatest islands, cities, hotels, cruise lines, airports and more, determined by reader vote. The list of Hawaii winners includes:

Top 10 Overall World’s Best Islands:
7 - Maui
8 - Kauai

World’s Best Islands – Hawaii:
1 - Maui 
2 - Kauai 
3 - Hawaii Island 

World’s Best Hotels – Hawaii:
1 - Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
2 - Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu, Hawaii Island 
3 - Halekulani, Oahu
4 - The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui
5 - Koa Kea Hotel & Resort, Kauai
6 - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Oahu 
7 - Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay
8 - Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Hawaii Island
9 - The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii Island
10 - Kauai Marriott Resort
11 - Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, Maui
12 - Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Hawaii Island 
13 - Westin Maui Resort & Spa
14 - Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, Hawaii Island
15 - The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, Oahu

World’s Best: Family Travel – Hawaii Resorts: 
1 - Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Oahu
2 - Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, Maui 
3 - Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea 
4 - Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawaii Island
5 - Kauai Marriott Resort 
6 - The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii Island 
7 - The Westin Maui Resort and Spa 
8 - The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui 
9 - Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu, Hawaii Island
10 - Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay 
11 - Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
12 - Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa, Oahu
13 - Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, Oahu

World’s Best Domestic Airlines:
3 - Hawaiian Airlines 

For more information, visit

  • Each year, the editorial team at TravelAge West, headed by editor-in-chief Ken Shapiro, reviews hundreds of travel suppliers and products, utilizing on-site visits, surveys and online research. A list of “Editor’s Pick” nominees in a variety of categories are confirmed, then placed on an official WAVE (Western Agents’ Votes of Excellence) Awards ballot and voted on throughout the month of April. The Hawaiian Islands received 2015 WAVE Awards honors for “Destination with the Highest Client Satisfaction, USA” and “Tourism Board Providing the Best Travel Agent Support.” 

Other Hawaii businesses honored:
Pleasant Holidays for “Tour Operator Providing the Best Travel Agent Support
Pleasant Holidays for “Best Tour Operator, Hawaii
The Fairmont Kea Lani (Maui) for “Best New Resort or Major Renovation, Hawaii
Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii for “Best Hotel Chain, Hawaii

For more information, visit

  • Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, on Oahu’s east side, was named “America’s Best Beach 2015” by Dr. Beach for his annual top 10 list. Dr. Beach —aka Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University— compiles the list by evaluating and scoring U.S. beaches according to physical factors on a 50-category criterion.
  •’s “2015 Top 100 Al Fresco Dining Restaurants in America” list included 17 restaurants across the state of Hawaii. The Top 100 includes:

Ola at Turtle Bay

Duke's Beach House Maui
Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante
Hula Grill

Plantation Gardens

Hawaii Island
Ulu Ocean Grill and Sushi Lounge
Blue Dragon Restaurant
Brown’s Beach House 
Canoe House
Island Lava Java Bistro
Kamuela Provision Co.
Lava Lava Beach Club
Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai

For more information, visit

  • After extensive research of more than 300 beaches, announced its selections for “The 35 Best Beaches in America for Fitness Lovers” for 2015. The six Hawaii locations recognized on the list include Honolulu on Oahu (No. 3), the Kohala Coast on Hawaii Island (No. 7), West Maui (No. 8), the South Shore of Kauai (No. 12), the North Shore of Kauai (No. 18) and the Kona District of Hawaii Island (No. 19).
  • Fodor’s Travel released its list of “America’s Best Urban Bike Paths,” highlighting 10 bicycling paths doubling as roadmaps to adventures within each respective city. Oahu’s King Street Trail made the list for a route passing major downtown Honolulu historic sites such as Iolani Palace, the Hawaii State Capitol and the Honolulu Museum of Art.
  • Fodor’s Travel also featured the island of Oahu on its list of “America’s 10 Best Summer Road Trips for 2015.” On an island-circling road trip totaling 126 miles, Fodor’s Travel recommends visitors escape the hustle and bustle of Waikiki and Honolulu to see the island from a new angle.