Kauai – St. Regis Princeville Resort

Genie Davis February 17, 2011 No Comments

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Kauai Princeville Resort Cove View

Princeville Resort Cove View, Kauai

 

This is a good review and a bad review of an elegant and luxurious hotel that’s long dominated the hotel scene on the north shore of Kauai. With iconic views – they filmed the movie musical Bali Hai here – and a rich, wet, jungle flower setting, the Princeville Resort is known the world over as a “must” stop on the beautiful coast line. Opened in 1985, the Princeville used to have a European ambiance, all marble lobbies and Roman fountains, glittery Louis the IV furnishings, tapestries and plush carpets. The idea was to bring up the Hawaiian monarchy’s connection to European royalty. Princeville itself, after all was named for Prince Albert Edward, the son of King Kamehamea the fourth and his queen, Emma, who was a friend of the U.K.’s Queen Victoria. Got all that? The Princeville wanted a royal feel, and it did get it, with a mix of furnishings that could’ve come from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Louvre in France, or a hotel in Venice. Recently, the St. Regis Princeville reopened after a year spent on renovations designed to update the feel and furnishings and create a Hawaiian-centric ambiance instead of a classic European look. 

Today, I can happily say that the Princeville is a family destination worth the splurge – at least for a night or two. When we visited in 2008, that wasn’t quite the case, and therein lies the tale. 

We’d spent two nights at a comfortable bed and breakfast south of Poipu on the dry side of Kauai. We’d had a good time, cooked our own food in an outdoor kitchen, hiked around Waimea Canyon and were ready for some pampering. I’d booked one night, at what seemed to be a bargain rate on line for our family – although it was well over the price I usually pay for a room, and upwards of $350 per night. 

Sunset at Princeville resort, Kauai

Sunset at Princeville resort, Kauai

 

I was excited when we pulled up in front – true, the erstatz fountains and marble, marble everywhere felt more like Paris than Kauai, but it was a classic look, the valets were kind and friendly, the lei greeting was lovely, and as we entered the lobby we had one look at that coast line, the cove, the hills, the bay – the Bali Hai view – and we were smitten. It was mid-afternoon and gold light flooded the lobby, and covered up some of the seams which were showing. Those tapestries – a little worn. Those gold clocks – were they a little dusty? The enormous mirrors backing even more enormous flower displays, were the mirrors a little spotty? 

The elevator, was it musty? The corridors were most assuredly dark. Now our room was a ‘bargain’ albeit a bargain with a view, but why did the furnishings look as if they’d been lifted from the set of a 1980′s Miami Vice episode? The much touted bathroom ‘window’ which includes a privacy switch that, through the use of liquid crystal, shuts the window view above the tub was pretty cool. When open you can see into the bedroom and beyond it, to the view of the coast. But all that black marble in the bathroom… a little dated. The kids didn’t care about that, they liked opening and closing the liquid crystal “shutter.” 

And that view beckoned, with its expanse of blue water across Hanalei Bay to the tip of Makana mountain. It led us to leave our screened window ajar to let in some sea air, and took us down in a series of confusing elevators – all of them were, yes, musty – down more dark corridors, to reach the actual beach and pool area many levels below. 

And when we got there – um, where was the beach? Yes, there were hammocks strung in palm trees. Yes the water was balmy, waveless, and crystal clear. But the beach itself – eroded. Dirt and rock as much as sand. Unappealing enough that here we were in Kauai at – the pool. On lounge chairs that had seen better days. 

Still, we stayed for sunset. Cocktails for the adults, delicious fries and fish sandwiches for the kids, and the hammocks were pretty comfy. Back to the room to change for dinner in town. Where we discovered that the walls of our room were – moving. Crawling with insects of every variety who had apparently spewed in through a small, unremarked upon hole in our window screen. A veritable bug corridor. Frantic calls to the front desk brought immediate assistance – a man with a vacuum cleaner who attempted to suck up all the bugs covering walls, ceiling, lamps, and floor – with a single suction. 

We left him to his work and went to dinner in Hanalei town – returning two hours later to find, well, most if not all of the bugs gone. The ones that were left buzzed, bit, and crawled around the rest of the night. Yes, for awhile it was great fun for the kids to play “bug catcher.” For awhile. 

St. Regis Princeville Fountain, Kauai

St. Regis Princeville Fountain, Kauai

 

In the morning, we dined al fresco admiring that magnificent view – but not the strong chlorine smell emanating from the fountain adjoining our table. Enough was enough. I did protest. And we were comped our night and given many apologies. Apparently, the hotel was due for extreme renovation, we’d come at the wrong time. 

Two and a half years later we’ve tried it again for a single night, and while the prices are still beyond my comfort zone, what you get for your money is a lot better now. Statues, gilt, mirrors, and tapestries are a thing of the past. Limestone floors, mahogany columns, a lotus flower fountain have replaced them. A painting depicting the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele, stretches behind the check in desk. Coconut and koa have replaced the endless black marble. 

There are actual chairs on the bar terrace now for great sunset watching. The rooms are updated, with white comforters and touches of orange and pink. The ceilings are sky blue. And the updated bathroom left the liquid crystal window in place – still fun for the kids and providing a great view when relaxing in the tub. 

There are still some things which haven’t changed. The elevators are no longer musty and the corridors no longer dim, but it still takes two elevators to get to the pool and the beach. And without a balcony and given Kauai’s rain forest weather, you still have to view that magnificent view through a screen – albeit this time, there were no holes. The beach is now sandy and soft again, the pool loungers new and comfortable. There’s now a separate kid’s pool too and free kid’s water toys for the little ones to enjoy, now that bug catching is no longer an option.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Disasters

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