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Ko’a Kea: A Boutique Treasure on Poipu Beach



Poipu Beach, on Kaua’i’s sunny south shore, is a place quite unlike any other in Hawai’i. I’ve been intimately familiar with the place since I was a small child, and while there’s been significant development over the years, I’m always amazed at the land’s ability to self-regulate.

There are more hotels here now, compared with when I was young. What was once fields of sugarcane has turned into multimillion-dollar home sites, and there are more high-end shops and restaurants. But even with the additions, the island’s pace doesn’t seem to have changed. Traffic jams and crowds are still rare, visitors and residents alike have a relaxed, unhurried demeanor, and the prevailing soundtrack is still trade winds and pounding surf.

Ko’a Kea Hotel and Resort takes up residence right on Poipu Beach in a low-slung midcentury modern building so close to the surf guests in the oceanfront rooms can taste the salt spray just stepping out onto their lanais. Sandwiched between two larger resorts, the boutique Ko’a Kea is a refreshing contrast. It’s a pleasant feeling to drive past a line for valet at a neighboring hotel to slip right into the resort’s tiny porte-cochere with so little fuss it’s easy to feel like that day’s only guest arrival.

Guests are escorted to their rooms by a receptionist at a relaxed, friendly pace that sets the tone for the rest of the stay. Reservations at the restaurant Red Salt were highly recommended, and there was no negotiating times—7:30? Perfect. Confirmed on the spot. A later, last minute request to change the time was met with the same response—it was almost as though the host had no other guest to attend to that evening.

My oceanfront room was on the ground floor, which allowed walk-out access directly to Poipu Beach, perfect for lounging on the lanai with a cocktail or a glass of wine from the complimentary bottle in the room, which is included in the resort fee. A selection of flavored macadamia nuts also awaited for sate afternoon snacking needs. There’s also a Nespresso machine, spacious refrigerator, and other standard room amenities.

There’s plenty of local color: white coral decorative accents (Ko’a Kea means “white coral” in Hawaiian) adorn surfaces and walls, ribbons of kukui nuts have replaced do-not-disturb signs, and resort-branded flip-flops have replaced traditional bath slippers. Baths are outfitted with multi-directional shower heads and FRESH brand bath products. Some rooms also have soaker tubs.

With just over a hundred units, there’s a distinct feeling of privacy and seclusion, even when the hotel is fully committed. It’s easy to imagine the days in the late 1960s when the building was then known as the Poipu Beach Hotel. Back then, locals fondly remember a weekly $6.95 steak dinner that included a mai tai and a show. The hotel has withstood several hurricanes that hit the south shore directly, but that hasn’t kept generations of guests from returning year after year.

The restaurant, Red Salt, focuses on local ingredients served in a ceiling-fanned dining room with windows looking out over the pool. The restaurant’s eponymous ochre-colored spice was proffered with bread and butter, followed by ahi tartare, a lovely curry soup, herb-crusted rack of lamb, and Tahitian vanilla cheesecake; a fine value for the tasting menu at $79.

When not dining, it’s almost impossible not to yield to the temptation of the pool, where attendants happily chat while setting up comfy lounge chairs with towels, or in the poolside bar, where animated conversations, mostly about Kaua’i, flavor the air into the early evening.

The Takeaway

A refreshing antidote to resort sprawl, this intimate property with relaxed, genuine service and top-notch amenities showcases the best of what The Garden Isle has managed to preserve over the decades.

The Math

I’ve seen rates from around $299 per night during the off-season.

A daily resort fee of $37 includes:

Valet parking

Lei greeting upon arrival,

One in-room bottle of private label wine (must be 21 or older),

High-speed wireless internet access,

Wellness classes

Ko’a Kea flip flops,

Access to PressReader

Instagrammable Moment

Ocean and sunset views are memorable, as are the chickens and geckos that haunt the exterior of the property.


Ko’a Kea and the four California sister properties in the Meritage Collection are part of the Global Hotel Alliance’s Discovery program

Good to Know

Valet is the only parking option; it’s included in the resort fee

Quiet hours are enforced at the hotel

Kaua’i’s famously early-rising roosters are present on-property, but rooms seem well soundproofed

Accommodations were furnished by Ko’a Kea in preparation for this story.

The author recognizes the importance of Hawaiian language diacritical marks such as the kahako (macron) but some markings may have been omitted for web browser compatibility.

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