New Perspectives on Timeless Views
- Toby Neal
The first time I saw Kaua`i’s Hanalei Bay from the site of the St. Regis Princeville, I was five years old. The five-star resort location was a pasture with a steep slope that ended in a little beach we called “Cowpies” because Princeville Ranch cattle napped under the spreading leaves of the kamani trees on the hidden beach. Much has changed since then—but not the iconic drip-castle headland of Bali Hai nor the triptych of mountains Hi`imanu, Namolokama and Mamaloa that overlook sparkling Hanalei Bay.
Forty years later, the view is the same and in place of cowpatties are lovely green beach umbrellas. The kamani trees still spread shade over the pristine beach, and canoes still paddle and sail by regularly—but in the place of pasture is a gracious hotel first built in 1985 that has been the crown jewel of Kaua`i’s North Shore since its inception. The St. Regis Princeville continues to shine since its renovation and re-opening seven years ago under management by Starwood Resorts.
For me as a returning Kaua`i resident, visiting the island for family friend Bethany Hamilton’s wedding, opening the door to our luxury room four floors above the beach was emotionally impactful. The view strikes you like a Technicolor backdrop, and the well-designed space capitalizes on it with a built-in window seat where you can take in the moods of the Bay from sunrise to sunset, the changing pattern of light and shadow across the sculptured green mountains, the sailboats, canoes and classic view of Hanalei Pier all viewed from a perch of exquisite luxury.
From the elegant furnishings to the silky sheets, everything about the St. Regis is top quality and the staff are exceptional. Toppy, our bellman, was a fountain of information on the hotel as he had been on staff with sixty others who have remained “since the beginning.” His demeanor was animated as he told us about the various incarnations of the hotel since 1985 when it began as a Sheraton, then became a Mirage, then the Princeville Hotel and is now the St. Regis.
I had also visited the hotel numerous times over the years, and its present décor is the most gracious of all. Parking is all valet so guests feel the aloha spirit each time they enter and exit with greetings from the hardworking and energetic staff. From the porte cochere to the rooms guests are surrounded by the theme of water: reflection pools and fountains decorate the grounds, most spectacularly inside the lobby where a series of cascading infinity pools reflect the stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the mountains and Hanalei Bay. A modern chandelier in the entrance continues the theme, made of clear glass balls and bubbles that give the impression of sunlight in a waterfall.
We enjoyed listening to a world-class jazz ensemble in the newly-expanded and redecorated St. Regis Bar, done in comfortable couches where guests can pop in to read, relax or take in the sunset through massive windows. Food was delicious (if pricey) at the Makana Terrace grill with its amazing view of Hanalei Bay where we met friends for brunch.
If you have only one resort to stay in on Kaua`i, make it the St. Regis Princeville. It takes one of the world’s most beautiful locations and maximizes it into an ideal vacation in paradise.