Welcome Back 7-7-2006

Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort returns to its roots

By: Dawna L. Robertson

John Kiszla is an imposing man. At six foot, five inches, the former rower admits he loves a challenge.

When we met on my recent stay at the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort, Kiszla, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, was taking on the daunting task of rebranding to Hilton status.

Ironically, the property opened as a Hilton in 1986. Its Sept. 1 relaunch will bring it full circle, enhancing Hilton’s Hawaii posture with properties on the four major islands.

Outrigger reopened the resort post-Hurricane Iniki in 1992, with Radisson at the reigns more recently. Since January 2005, it’s been owned by Anekona Properties and managed by Anekona Management.

“In 2005, the owners decided to transition from Radisson and reflag as a major national brand,” said Kiszla.

Enter Hilton. Again. No stranger to the company’s stringent criteria, Kiszla actually began his career at the Dallas Hilton.

“Hilton’s rebranding is a lengthy process,” he noted. “The company goes beyond structure and amenities to service and staffing as well.”

Sprawling along a three-mile stretch of beach on Kauai’s Coconut Coast, the soon-to-be-born-again Hilton holds a springboard spot in central Kauai near the Lihue Airport. Its subtle, understated style is a natural on an island that strongly embraces its former sugarcane stature.

Still fresh from a 2003 lobby and restaurant upgrade, the Kauai Beach Hotel is seeing $14 million invested by Anekona to tack on new facilities and services necessary to reach Hilton brand standards.

Enhancements include a new 24-hour business center, executive club floor, expanded fitness center and implementation of the Hilton HHonors guest reward program.

Kiszla stressed how the comprehensive project has played so well into the hotel’s plantation-style ambiance.

“We looked at history. Instead of one uniform color palette, plantation-era buildings featured subtle differences in shades to set them apart. We’ve done that here,” he said.

Each of the resort’s 350 guestrooms includes fresh interiors with plush carpeting, plantation-louvered closet doors and travertine marble bath and floors. Especially appealing are the Balinese-style wood entry doors that offer a sense of safety without compromising style.

“We wanted rich, tropical colors reminiscent of a plantation look,” Kiszla said. “We’ve added wall sconces and rich surfaces like travertine marble that are comfortable, yet opulent.”

Amenity-wise, rooms have been reoutfitted with the Hilton Family alarm clock radio with MP3 player connectivity, coffeemaker, mini-refrigerator, television with on-command video, working desk with ergonomic chair, Wi-Fi access and the Hilton Serenity Collection Bedding which is literally a dream for sleeping, as I learned firsthand during my stay.

Bathrooms have been buffed up with Hilton Serenity Collection bath items, and Crabtree and Evelyn line of La Source bath amenities.

“We wanted the vanity area to be clear,” explained Kiszla. “So we eliminated clutter by adding shelves below the sink for towels. We’ve also added extra lighting.”

It’s clear that even simple details are major to Hilton. Just as impressive are the recreational upgrades. As we strolled past a slew of guests chaise-lounging the day away, Kiszla noted the work in progress to an already generous water recreation area.

The four-pool complex has added quartzite stone decking, a flume and waterslide at the sand-bottom pool, a 12-foot waterfall cascading into the main pool and an 18-person whirlpool spa set amid a stone grotto with lush ferns and another waterfall.

“Water will spill into the pool from both sides of the grotto,” said Kiszla.

Nice touch, I thought. Never known to neglect the business market, Hilton requirements also saw a refreshing of the ballroom and meeting rooms, including an expanded entry and reception area.

I noticed how the property was garnished with touches of universal appeal. At the complimentary Manager’s Cocktail Hour held nightly from 5-6 p.m., the crowd was a mix of aloha-attired vacationers and casually clad conventioneers. They all merged for the mighty mai tai, taking full advantage of the pre-sunset gathering that included live entertainment.

“The property represents an incredible travel value,” added Kiszla. “We’re centrally located, just minutes from the airport, yet very convenient to the major natural wonders of the island.”


Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort

For reservations on bookings from
Sept. 1:
Commission: 10 percent

Hilton will operate its “Best Available Rate” structure, where rates fluctuate with demand. Through Dec. 22, rack rates range from $139-$329