A half-hour’s drive west from the glittering throngs of Waikiki beach, Honolulu, the Four Seasons Oahu in the gated community of Ko Olina is a paragon of upscale vacation glamour, its pristine sophistication made all the more apparent by its proximity to a neighboring Disney Hawaii resort, which has a faux volcano by its pool and is fantastic from a distance. Formerly a JW Marriott, the Four Seasons Oahu is the result of a $250 million (U.S.) upgrade. This 18-month renovation saw the complete refurbishment of lobby and guest rooms, a design overhaul of the modern-regal white marble variety, the perfection of a stunning $17,000-per-night penthouse suite, and the addition of two new pools—which, naturally, are what I chose to visit first.
The resort is home to an Olympic-sized, adults-only infinity pool perched on the cusp of the Pacific Ocean, and enchanted by sedulous attendants whose contributions to one’s poolside experience cannot be overstated. Within the course of an hour’s lounging, one may be offered a tangy glass of lilikoi juice; a spritz of cooling Evian mist; a de-smudging of sunscreen-y sunglasses; a cake pop; and a champagne cocktail served out of a jaunty bicycle-mounted cooler—all of which certainly amount to a sybaritic afternoon.
And though one could (and understandably may choose to) spend an entire stay supine, poolside, languidly accepting gifts like an ersatz Cleopatra at her leisure, the Four Seasons does not cloister its guests away from adventure. Quite the opposite is true. Concierges are able to arrange custom itineraries to suit any interest, from deep-sea fishing excursions, to helicopter tours, visits to local farms followed by cooking lessons, and a guided Palehua hike through the Waianae Mountains. Located in the protected Honouliuli Preserve above Makakilo, this hiking site is off-limits to the public but open to Four Seasons guests keen to wander its rainbow eucalyptus groves and marvel at its flourishing population of marigold-hued Kamehameha butterflies.
I chose to scuba dive—specifically, at night—an adventure that has always appealed. Something about experiencing firsthand what David Foster Wallace, in his 1996 send-up of cruise ship living for Harper’s magazine, described as “bottomless depths inhabited by tooth-studded things rising angelically toward you” struck me as dreamlike and wonderful. So, one evening I set sail aboard Nai Kai Dive operator’s boat (a craft well-stocked with chopped pineapple and hot chocolate, because the ocean leaves everyone hungry), and as the purplish lights of Waikiki’s distant towers began glowing against the twilight, I splashed into warm, dark water. This was my first night dive (I’m an amateur diver at best) and the 120-foot descent to a shipwreck was at once serene and vivifying. Flashlights provided each diver a small view cone, and the group’s collective illumination rendered the wreck itself murky but not pitch black. This was ideal for spotting backlit clouds of angelfish, buck-toothed moray eels, green turtles, and tiny, baby sea creatures (mere transparent iterations of their adult selves) suspended in the water and strikingly visible inches before a flashlight’s beam. Also: a four-metre, uncannily fast, pale-skinned whitetip shark. Upon it ribboning through our vision and back into the surrounding darkness, Joshua—my dive guide and an active U.S. Marine—permitted me to hold his hand, a tender moment I fear I later made awkward by thanking him for.
Back at the resort, softer pursuits are available off the cuff. One may opt-in for morning yoga amid the fragrant plumeria bushes, paddleboard in the lagoon, dye indigo beach wraps then hang them to dry on a line in the sun, or learn to make a haku lei—a traditional flower crown—thick with local hibiscus and bougainvillea. The resort’s on-site spa is marvellously equipped with a room made of pink Himalayan sea salt bricks where one can meditate while getting a scalp rub, and tented massage cabanas wherein one afternoon an extremely tall Swiss masseuse did something to my back muscles that felt like a steamroller slowly crunching a gravel road into powder. And, there’s always eating to do.
The hotel’s four restaurants provide much to choose from. La Hiki, a pan-Asian spot inspired by Hawaii’s Eastern influences, serves dishes like Japanese okonomiyaki and yakitori, Singaporean chili crab, and Thai-style barbeque duck. It does double duty as the resort’s breakfast spot, where diners may order à la carte or sally forth into a breakfast buffet so diverse all I can really say is try the local honeycomb and fresh fruit juice. From there, Fish House offers fresh catches and impressive seafood towers, Waterman Bar & Grill provides poolside fare in case the cake pops leave you peckish for tacos and truffle fries, and Noi—keeper of the island’s most expansive wine list—serves upscale Italian cuisine under the stars.
If the goal of one’s vacation is to find a balance between complete relaxation and local adventure, the Four Seasons Oahu does not disappoint, providing a level of detail-oriented luxury unlike that of any other accommodation on the island.
Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA, +1 808-679-0079