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Hawaii hotels usually greet incoming guests with a lei or a glass of tropical fruit juice. But, every now and then, a property surprises travelers with free gifts or experiences that transform the ordinary Hawaii resort stay into a special occasion.
Travel advisors can earn brownie points when they book clients in one of the following properties, where rare amenities turn heads and lift spirits.
Equus Hotel: Polo TicketsWhat’s the relationship between this Waikiki boutique hotel and the sport of polo? It turns out that the Equus Hotel’s owners also manage a 100-acre stretch of unspoiled, beachfront property on Oahu’s North Shore, where Hawaii Polo Club holds forth. That’s why Equus guests receive two free tickets to a match during polo season, from April through Labor Day.
“We hope that our guests get to see another side and aspect of Hawaii that few visitors get to see,” said Equus Hotel’s general manager Mike Dailey. “Equus guests are treated like members in the polo clubhouse, with reserved table seating in the tent and food and full bar service. It’s a wonderful social event in the country.”
Along with adrenaline-charged polo action featuring talented players and teams from around the globe, clients sometimes thrill to a skydiving exhibition at half-time, resulting in one of Hawaii’s most memorable amenities.
Halekulani: Museum AdmissionsThis elegant Waikiki resort provides free access to Oahu’s top cultural draws courtesy of a program called For You, Everything. With their key card, Halekulani guests get complimentary admission to attractions such as Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art and Spalding House.
Clients also enjoy gratis entry to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the U.S.; Shangri La, the exotic home of heiress Doris Duke; and Liljestrand House, designed by architect Vladimir Ossipoff. And, they can stop by the concierge desk to pick up tickets to Honolulu Symphony concerts.
“For You, Everything exposes our guests to local Hawaii cultural offerings that they may not have otherwise thought to visit,” said Halekulani’s general manager Ulrich Krauer. “We are able to show that there is more to life on Oahu outside of Waikiki. Once our guests have been to one of the venues, they definitely make it a point to visit the others.”
Hyatt Regency Maui: Honeymoon ReceptionsA honeymoon in Hawaii is exceptional on its own, but Hyatt Regency Maui takes the celebration a step further with a special amenity on the house. The Kaanapali-based resort offers a weekly reception and cooking class for newlyweds in the lounge of Japengo restaurant.
Held from 4 to 5 p.m., the gathering begins as couples are welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine. Next, Japengo’s chef de cuisine Gevin Utrillo leads a 20-minute poke-making demonstration, after which couples are invited to build their own poke nachos. Guests receive souvenir recipe cards so they can relive the experience back home.
During the reception, clients find out about the Hyatt’s other pastimes available for an extra charge. Topping the list is Romance Tour of the Stars, a dreamy stargazing session on the roof. Intimate options also include a couples’ massage at Marilyn Monroe Spa and oceanside dining for two.
Kaanapali Beach Hotel: Farewell CeremoniesThis northwest Maui hotel promotes itself as the most Hawaiian resort in the islands. It only follows, then, that its free amenity is deeply rooted in local heritage. Unlike other properties, it shares its gift at the end of the guest’s stay, in the form of a farewell ceremony. After a traditional oli (chant), each client receives a kukui nut lei and learns about its significance.
“The kukui nut represents enlightenment, vital to Hawaiian culture, while its oil provides light,” said John White, director of sales and marketing for Kaanapali Beach Hotel. “We hope that our guests appreciate the essence of true Hawaiian hospitality.”
Clients depart with the message that they aren’t saying “goodbye,” but instead, “a hui hou” (until we meet again).
Since its first farewell ceremony on Sept. 11, 2001, the hotel has distributed some 350,000 strands of kukui during the 15-minute ritual, which takes place in the lobby five times each day.
Prince Waikiki: Welcome PuoloAs a hub of many cultures, Hawaii regales visitors with traditions from around the world. That in mind, Prince Waikiki welcomes guests with a trio of puolo (bundles), delivered to their room upon arrival. The puolo are created by wrapping small morsels of sweet mochi (Japanese rice cakes), a symbol of good fortune, in Hawaiian ti leaves.
With their amenity, clients receive a personalized note that shares insights into this time-honored practice, said Brian Soma, director of sales and marketing for Prince Waikiki.
“Puolo is the traditional Hawaiian presentation of a gift,” Soma said. “Ti leaves have been used to wrap and serve food, or for offerings to gods, clothing and to treat illnesses since ancient times in the islands. As our guests unwrap their puolo, they can feel a connection to the past and to this beautiful place, and they can feel the promise of good things to come.”