Not all islands are created equal. Some people may believe one speck of sand is the same in the Maldives as one in Indonesia or that the pitons in St. Lucia are close enough to Mount Otemanu in Bora Bora. Still others may assume all of Hawaii’s 137 islands, including the eight large ones, are alike. If there’s one thing my travel has proved, it’s that islands are vastly distinct. Among those in Hawaii, Kauai, the oldest of them all in the region, is the prize place.
So called the “Garden Isle” and considered one of the wettest places on Earth, Kauai is far less visited than its neighbors, but lures the likes of the studios behind Jurassic Park, Avatar, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more. The island’s stupendous emerald mountains, dozens of waterfalls, and nearly 30 beaches cements its status as a natural show-stopper. There’s perhaps only one luxury property that takes full advantage of Kauai’s dazzling status, and that property, fittingly named, is the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay.
It took a few years for the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay to open its doors earlier this year and for good measure. The property was previously operated as a cloistered St. Regis. Instead of a complete tear down, the 1 Hotel group spent nearly $300 million since 2018 reviving the grounds into a modern Hawaiian, health forward haven. In doing so, the hotel saved an estimated 73.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, an important factor for its pending LEED certification. It’s the vision long-time Kauai lover Barry Sternlicht, the founder of 1 Hotels as well as the W hotels and Starwood group, holds for 1 Hotels: to cherish and celebrate nature while protecting it for generations to come.
I’ve been to dozens of resorts around the world that tout sustainability as an aim, but the 1 Hotel brand seems unmatched in its initiatives and intentional green partnerships which I uncovered firsthand. The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay partnered with Re-Use Hawaii, an up-cycling non-profit, to repurpose nearly 150 tons of existing furniture and design motifs, from teak joists to Puka lava stone. Outdoor “jungle gym” equipment is carved out of an invasive tree species, in partnership with another local non-profit, the Albizia Project. I used the “jungle gym” every day on the beach, a fun respite from the massive indoor gym. Further, the property’s rainwater capture system by Rain Bird, helps reduce water consumption on site by nearly 97%. (The refillable filtered water stations inside of every one of the 252 rooms further cuts down on plastic use.) Off site, guests can hop in a complimentary Audi e-tron, the fully electric car partnered with the entire 1 Hotel group.
Sustainability is hard enough, but making it luxurious and seamless is another level which the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay unlocks. Nicole Hollis, the international interior designer who just snagged the coveted ASID Designer of the Year Award, is behind each 1 Hotel interior. Her brilliance is in subdued restraint: nothing competes for attention from a design perspective, particularly at this 1 Hotel. The primal eye candy of the resort, Hollis undoubtedly knows, is its shimmering water and mountains right beyond its ledges, including from the “one” shaped infinity pool. Natural plants, nearly all of them native to the island, fill the reception area, a half outdoors sanctuary of sorts. Downstairs to the beach access level, beige sand is used indoors as natural base boards. My favorite natural flourish were the intricate fiber artworks by Marques Marzan, a Hawaiian artist and cultural practitioner Hollis sourced.
Not to be outdone by stunning sustainability, the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay’s wellness offerings are reason alone why some guests book this Kauai option. The Bamford Wellness Spa, created by the multi-hyphenate Englishwoman Carole Bamford, is the 1 Hotel’s spa partner and offers several non-touch rituals, Hawaiian plant medicinal treatments, facials, natural wraps, and more. I could live in this spa for a week and hardly get to half of its offerings, an alluring reason to return, though I did get a sensational deep tissue massage by Summer, a local of the island her whole life, and a few sauna sessions in. Around the corner, the enormous Anatomy gym, is a dream for the fitness inclined. Several complimentary classes are hosted weekly, and I just wish I had made it to Stefan’s myofascial release (a la foam rolling) class every day of my stay.
Just like islands, luxury resorts are not created equal. The 1 Hotel group is making this stunningly clear, especially at its Hanalei Bay destination.