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These days, nearly every Hawaiian luxury resort strives to provide a sense of place. But when the place is Oahu’s lesser-known leeward coast, and when the hotel is Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, even the most experienced island visitors are likely to see Hawaii through new eyes.
Making its debut in May 2016, the $500 million reinvention of the former JW Marriott Ihilani capitalizes on its setting. In the lobby, designers did away with its predecessor’s ocean-facing wall, so arriving guests view the water right off the bat. From the light-filled reception area to the open-air Hokulea lounge, public spaces channel the glories of the great outdoors, encouraging clients to discover their surroundings.
“Opening up the lobby and pulling the natural beauty of the elements into the interior spaces creates a sense of wonder and a desire to explore,” said Sanjiv Hulugalle, general manager for Four Seasons Resort Oahu.
Indeed, exploration is a major focus of Oahu’s first Four Seasons. It promotes an abundance of experiences, many of which are only available to hotel guests. Employees, who know the destination intimately, customize activities for each client, whether it’s an exclusive mountain hike with cultural practitioners or a cageless shark swimming adventure with ocean experts. Even if guests never leave the resort, they can easily delve into the significance of its setting, Hulugalle says.
“Oahu’s western coastline is home to revered storytellers, artisans, crafters and some of Hawaii’s most fascinating living legends,” he told me. “One of the ways we’re honoring these traditions is with our ongoing series of workshops called #FSWayfinders.”
The workshops offer opportunities to learn bamboo wood carving, "haku" lei making, "lauhala" weaving and sarong dying, to name a few.
As for accommodations, Four Seasons Oahu strikes the perfect balance of the upscale — think 65-inch televisions and bedside master switches — and the local, such as Hawaiian wood furnishings and banana leaf headboards. My private lanai looked out to the sea and leeward coastline, providing a peaceful, rural scene that’s rare among Oahu hotels. The spacious marble bathroom boasted two vanity sinks, and the minibar came with a sleek Nespresso machine.
Four Seasons Oahu presents five exceptional restaurants under the artful direction of executive chef Martin Knaubert. My favorite was Fish House, which draws inspiration from its oceanside perch. A highlight of its ultra-fresh seafood menu is the melt-in-your-mouth poke with avocado, cucumber, red onion, citrus and brown rice.
Swimmers can float in the calm cove fronting the resort. The property also features two family pools, a lap pool and a fabulous adults-only pool, which is the largest infinity-edge pool on Oahu. Other amenities include a 35,000-square-foot spa, a state-of-the-art tennis facility and a golf club, where guests get special privileges.
As Four Seasons Oahu provides superlatives both on- and off-property, it defies expectations, given its remote location 45 minutes west of Oahu’s famous tourist hub of Waikiki.
“We’ve created an oasis of luxury on the undiscovered leeward coast,” Hulugalle said. “It’s an entirely new experience of Oahu.”
5 Singular Services at Four Seasons Oahu1. In Caprice, the chic resort-wear boutique, guests can reserve the VIP Missoni room for a private, high-end retail experience complete with champagne.
2. A holistic approach to personalized hair care awaits at the hotel’s salon. Stylists start with a feng shui consultation to determine which colors and coiffures best suit each client.
3. In the hotel’s handsome barber shop, male guests can order a craft beer while indulging in a shave and haircut.
4. Poolside perks include a “tanning butler” offering an array of sun protection. Additionally, staff pedal around with food and drinks on beverage bikes, including one equipped with a beer tap.
5. The resort’s food truck sells oceanfront lunch such as fish tacos and hibiscus lemonade (weekdays from 11 a.m to 3 p.m.), a great source for an easy, local-style meal.