The Top Hawaii Travel Stories of 2015

As the New Year approaches, Travel Agent decided to look back on the highlights of this year in Hawaii tourism. 

The following are Travel Agent's most-read stories of the year. And here's to wishing Hawaii specialists a very lucrative 2016!

Westin Nanea Ocean Villas to Open on Maui in 2017

Maui, Hawaii

In February, Starwood Vacation Ownership, a division of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., announced the development of The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas in Hawaii, a 26-acre oceanfront resort. 

Scheduled to open in 2017, the new resort is located on Kaanapali Beach on Maui and will feature 390 luxurious villas and a variety of world-class resort amenities, including an expansive lagoon-style pool and a beach bar. The new resort will also pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for high-performance buildings.

Located on a 26-acre property, which includes a 10-acre public park, The Westin Nanea Ocean Villas has been designed by WCIT Architecture, a local architectural firm. It will be constructed by Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc. Resort amenities will include a 10,000-square-foot, lagoon-style swimming pool with an upper pool, children’s beach pool and play area, two plunge pools, three oceanfront cabanas and a WestinWORKOUT studio.  

A full-service restaurant will offer ocean views and a menu of Hawaiian and international cuisine, plus the Westin brand’s signature SuperFoodsRX menu with nutrient-rich options. The pool bar will provide a relaxing setting to enjoy oceanfront views, cocktails and lighter fare. Guests will enjoy cultural programming celebrating local history, arts and crafts, music and dance, as well as access to resort amenities at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas located next door, including Spa Helani, a Heavenly Spa by Westin.

All villas will feature the Westin Heavenly Bed – with lush sheets, down cushioning and a patented pillow-top mattress, which cradles and contours to the body for complete comfort. 

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JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa Closing Paves Way for Four Seasons

In March, the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa officially closed its doors, paving the way for Oahu’s first Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts hotel, something experts in the field expect to be a real game-changer in the Aloha State. 

The JW Marriott, which was the first hotel to be built as part of the Ko Olina development, was originally supposed to close on January 10. Now it is undergoing a year-long renovation before the name change to Four Seasons Resort Oahu becomes official. 

"The arrival of the Four Seasons brings to Oahu the first true luxury brand name. Four Seasons has a standard of luxury and quality that people can expect and rely on," says Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco, CA. "Its arrival will bring with it many global luxury customers and Four Seasons loyalists that avoided the island or thought the island did not appeal to them. This will benefit everyone."

The project will be an integrated beach resort and private residence that will be a part of the master-planned Ko Olina development on Oahu. Ko Olina is located on the sunny west side of Oahu. Originally conceived in the mid-1980s, the resort has been reaffirmed many times over the years, most recently by the notable success of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, which debuted in 2011. 

Other hotels that call Ko Olina home include Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club and the Ko Olina Golf Club. It is roughly 20 miles from Honolulu International Airport. Ko Olina encompasses 650 acres of land.

"Maui and the Big Island will have a perfect complement with this exciting arrival,” says Sharon Strelzer of Travel.Shop.Dine in Fairfield, CT. “The luxury end market likes to enjoy at least two islands. Now clients have a perfect option and this builds renewed demand for Oahu."

It’s Time to Join the All-Inclusive Party, Hawaii

In March, Travel Agent's Joe Pike pleaded his case for all-inclusive resorts in Hawaii. Pike argues that its the best way for Hawaii to compete with Mexico and the Caribbean, two competitors that are clearly ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering top-notch all-inclusive service. For the full opinion piece, click here.

Shuttered Kauai Resort to Reopen After $135 Million Renovation

Earlier this year, Coco Palms Resort, which has been closed since the early '90s, announced it will soon reopen on Kauai following a whopping $135 million makeover.

According to the report, the Kauai Planning Commission unanimously approved permits to renovate the shuttered Coco Palms Resort.

The resort shut down in 1992 due to extensive damage caused by Hurricane Iniki. Under the approval, the investment group is required to meet a long list of conditions that address issues such as traffic mitigation, historical preservation and parking.

Coco Palms Hui plans to renovate or rebuild 350 rooms, a drop from the resort's original 398 rooms. Also proposed are retail shops, several restaurants, a museum and a new spa and gym. 

Celebrate Romance in Hawaii With the Latest Weddings, Honeymoon and Vow Renewal Offerings

Earlier this year, Travel Agent broke down some fresh romance travel offerings out of Hawaii from a marriage on the ocean to a wedding at a private beach house. Perhaps the most intriguing are Hawaii's same-sex weddings offerings. For a full break down, click here. 

Visit and keep visiting for all your latest Hawaii news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike