The Next Chapter

New owners, same class act at The Kahala

By: Marty Wentzel

It opened as the Kahala Hilton in 1964, and it turned into the Kahala Mandarin Oriental in 1994, but to the locals, east Honolulu’s luxury resort has always been called The Kahala. So, when the hotel changed hands on March 1, the new owners decided to pay homage to that tradition. Today, the property is known simply as The Kahala, and according to officials, it’s undergoing the multi-million-dollar upgrade it deserves.

“The resort was last renovated 10 years ago,” said managing director John Blanco. “A fresh set of eyes is always beneficial, even to a place as distinguished as The Kahala.”

Along with immediate back-of-the-house changes, hotel officials began renovating The Kahala’s public areas on May 1. They closed the signature Hoku’s Restaurant, which reopens in late June with a freshened-up ambience and revised menu. Improvements to The Kahala’s 364 guestrooms start in September, with a break beginning on Dec. 15 for the busy holiday travel season.

“We’ll do the room work floor by floor, with a buffer floor on either side, and there will be no jack-hammering or tearing down of walls,” said Blanco. “We’re addressing the soft goods in the rooms, adding things like flat-screen TVs, upgraded linens and a custom-designed line of high-end bath amenities.”

Next, the lobby is getting a makeover, and the hotel is building a full-service spa. An upgrade of the outdoor space will follow.

“We’re maintaining our popular Spa Suites while creating a new overall spa facility,” said Blanco. “We decided on many of these changes as we were talking with our travel partners and customers. They all have such a love for the resort.”

In the area of service, officials are taking The Kahala to a new level, said Blanco.

“We aren’t removing any amenities,” he said. “Instead, we’re looking at how to make The Kahala a world-class luxury product.”

Services that were subcontracted or outsourced like the concierge and the pool, beach and security staff were immediately brought back in-house.

“As an independent property, ownership and management now have one aligned vision,” he noted. “Since we don’t answer to a corporate brand, we have the flexibility to run the resort as a sort of entrepreneurial environment where all employees feel empowered. We believe our guests will notice the difference.”

Sharon Klaschka, The Kahala’s new director of sales, said she’s focusing much of her attention on selling the property’s location.

“This is the only hotel in an otherwise residential area,” she said. “We’re surrounded by a world-class golf course, beautiful mountains and a fabulous beach. When you’re here, it’s amazing how close you are to Waikiki less than a 10-minute drive away and yet how far removed you feel, like you’re on a neighbor island. When you’re ready to go to Waikiki or a shopping mall, our complementary shuttle will take you there.”

Managed by Landmark Hotels and owned by Kahala Hotel Investors an affiliate of Honolulu-based Trinity Investments The Kahala is not only improving its existing service level and physical environment, it’s bringing travel agents into the fold. Starting July 1, it’s launching a travel agent incentive program called The Kahala Stars Club, a point system allowing agents to earn free nights, hotel services and other rewards. The club keeps in touch with agent members through a bimonthly e-newsletter, listing hotel news and seasonal promotions. Additionally, the Kahala “Agent to Guest” amenity program provides clients with a welcome gift and message from their agent.

In discussing her plans for travel agents, Klaschka said, “When agents visit us, we put them in the best accommodations available. We treat them the way they should be treated, like true VIPs.”


The Kahala
5000 Kahala Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816

Nightly rack rates range from $395 for a courtyard-view room to $4,600 for the presidential suite.
From Aug. 21-Dec. 22, The Kahala’s Fall in Love package ranges $439-$879 per night. Rates come with daily buffet breakfast for two, a choice of one massage or a three-course dinner for two and the fifth night free (five-night minimum).
Commission is 10 percent. For information on the Kahala Stars Club, the hotel’s new travel agent rewards program, e-mail Rowena Anecito (ranecito