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Hyatt Regency Bellevue: Still Going Strong After 30 Years



The Hyatt Regency Bellevue on Seattle’s Eastside marks 30 years in operation this year, and in the hospitality sphere that’s no flash in the pan—that’s half as long as the Hyatt brand itself.

The architecture of the place is certainly emblematic of the era that spawned it. It’s nestled into the large mixed-use development that dominates Bellevue’s downtown core, and the lobby is, in big bold strokes, the office atrium-cum-shopping mall that tended to dominate the design scene of the late 1980s. It’s an airy, grand space with lots of natural light that brightens the space even in the midst of a dreary day.

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Even with oodles of space and plenty of foot traffic, the guest service desks and public seating areas dedicated to the hotel are tucked away into quieter corners so the bustle melts away the closer one gets to the elevators and guest floors. It’s achieved a difficult feat, managing to feel at once vibrant and energetic while at the same time welcoming and cozy.

Food is something Hyatt does exceptionally well, and this property has plenty of great dining options. The breakfast restaurant, Eques, is the only outlet that’s owned and operated by the hotel itself, but it turns out dishes that draw heavily on Northwest seafood and other locally sourced and foraged ingredients—like benedicts topped with crab or smoked salmon and bread from local favorite Macrina Bakery.

In the evenings, carnivores can enjoy the swanky Daniel’s Broiler for USDA Prime Steak and seafood (there’s also one at the brand new Hyatt Regency Seattle across the lake) plus a rooftop deck for dining and cocktails, but genuine fans of the local culinary scene will step into the 13 Coins.

The half-century-old 24 hour hash temple is famous for a vibe that hasn’t changed much over the decades—it’s still an old school dining room with high backed tufted booths and swivel chairs at the bar, warm brown leather and copper accents, and a menu stocked with throwback favorites ranging from steaks and seafood to sandwiches and egg-based diner fare.

To work off that grub, there’s an expansive fitness room and indoor swimming pool. They’re down a corridor and a set of stairs from the main building, but chilled towels and a water cooler await workout fiends, and the pool is regulation size for lap swimmers.

Guest rooms are recently updated with new interior furnishings and are as wired as any modern day business traveler would expect. There are views to be had in all directions: Mt. Rainier to the south, the Olympics and the city of Seattle to the west, the Cascades to the east and the cities of Bellevue and Kirkland to the north. Guests booking Regency Club accommodations (or who have access via their World of Hyatt membership) will find a well-stocked club room for rather lavish hot breakfasts and afternoon social hours, complete with an outdoor deck for taking in the views.

The Takeaway

Still going strong after 30 years, this Hyatt Regency hits all the brand notes, with a grandiose urban panache that is equal parts cosmopolitan glitz and local color.

The Math

I’ve seen rates from around $170 plus tax.

Instagrammable Moment

Views for days from guest rooms or the Regency Club lounge are sure to attract viewers.


World of Hyatt

Good to Know

Parking is free in the hotel’s underground garage on the weekends.

The hotel is attached to several blocks worth of development via sky bridges. Check with the hotel staff before setting out on a rainy day—there might just be an indoor path to your destination.

13 Coins does offer the option to pickup orders for guests charging to their room—good for an in-room nosh after room service closes for the evening.

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Rangiroa’s Hotel Kia Ora: Luxury on the Reef



After a couple of years traveling to French Polynesia, I began to notice that the territory’s resort hotels are generally populated by two types of visitors: those that are pleased to be there, and those that are pleased with themselves to be there. Both types can be found on virtually any island; it’s the proportion that changes from island to island.

On Rangiroa, there seemed to be more of the “pleased to be there” types, and it was clear many of them had been before by the way in which they pattered amongst themselves in the air-conditioned van lumbering down the island’s single concrete slab road between the airport and the Hotel Kia Ora.

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Rangiroa is one of the largest atolls in the world. It’s so big that the island of Tahiti can fit entirely inside its lagoon, and land isn’t visible from the lagoon’s center. An atoll, by the way, is essentially the bones of a taller island that once existed. Volcanic islands crept up out of the oceans eons ago, and over time became encircled with coral reefs. Over millions of years, the islands sank back into the ocean under their own weight, eventually submerging and leaving lagoons surrounded by the coral.

Atolls are the remains of those islands, little more than vegetation growing out of the reefs themselves, which barely come more than a few feet above the ocean’s surface. Unlike “high” islands with mountains that can capture clouds and moisture coming off the sea, the atolls essentially have a marine environment, not unlike an oceangoing vessel.

With cloud cover constantly blowing right across the surface of the lagoon and the atoll, it rains every day, but only for a few minutes—just enough to keep the island relatively lush, even though rainfall runs through the crushed coral ground so quickly the island often feels quite dry, in a fascinating paradox considering the ocean is visible from both sides of the narrow strip.

The surf pounds on the white coral sands from the ocean side of the atoll, while on the lagoon side it’s as tranquil as a millpond. The reef acts like a filter for sediment, which makes the lagoon shockingly clear, and when it’s sunny the water reflects a brilliant aquamarine that slowly melds to sapphire blue out into deeper water.

The Hotel Kia Ora sits in a coconut grove on the eastern half of the islet of Avatoru. Like many resorts in French Polynesia it’s a collection of thatched roof pool villas, beach, and overwater bungalows separated by tall windy coconut palms waving in the constant breeze that wafts from the ocean to the lagoon.

Guests are deposited under the shell chandelier on the open-air lobby to welcome drinks and cold towels to complete registration paperwork and chat with the activities coordinator about how to fill their days. Cars, bicycles and electric scooters can be had by the hour or day, or guests can avail themselves of the resort’s dive center. The resort can also arrange excursions to the blue lagoon or pink sand beach for snorkeling and lunch.

The Blue Lagoon excursion is a full day in a small boat, setting out across the atoll’s lagoon to a collection of islets of white sand surrounding a deep blue lagoon of striking contrast to its surroundings. There’s plenty of snorkeling with black tip sharks and other marine life in the lagoon, a demonstration of palm frond weaving, and a beachside barbecue lunch offer in view of black crested seagulls.

Back at the resort, days are spent rising to take breakfast in the Te Rairoa Restaurant where eggs are cooked to order and baguettes are served with fresh fruit and house made coconut preserves. After that, it’s a difficult decision of heading back to a garden bungalow to relax in the private plunge pool, snorkel in the lagoon, lounge by the infinity pool or perhaps take a spa treatment.

Lunches are typically pasta, fresh island fish or the Polynesian specialty poisson cru, a raw fish salad marinated in coconut milk and citrus. Dinners on a la carte evenings feature island seafood, meats from Australia and New Zealand and a host of other international dishes. Also on offer is wine from grapes grown locally on Rangiroa—the only known wine made from grapes grown on coral. Tours of the winery can be arranged at the activity desk.

During the day, light meals and snacks are available in the overwater Miki Miki Bar, which stays open for cocktails late into the evening. After a long day in the sun at the Blue Lagoon, a refreshing shower followed by a decadent ice cream sundae and perhaps a frozen cocktail from the bar is a pleasing antidote.

On Wednesday and Sunday evenings, a lavish Polynesian buffet is on offer along with the resort’s Polynesian show. In a smaller community like Rangiroa, the show is an intimate, organic affair, and many of the performers are young students of Tahitian dance who bring infectious exuberance to their craft.

Accommodations are comfortable and spacious. My garden bungalow had a cold plunge pool, outdoor shower, outdoor bath, plenty of sunny and shady seating, along with a concrete wall for privacy. Unlike private homes on the island, which must collect and store rainwater (atolls have virtually no potable groundwater), the resort has a desalinization plant. As a result, the water from every tap is entirely potable, although the resort does also provide bottled water daily.

In the lobby, there’s also a Tahitian pearl and gift shop that also sells limited sundries and stamps. Otherwise, it’s possible to rent a car or scooter and visit one of the stores on the island to resupply.

Speaking of pearls, the Tuamotus are the main center for pearl production in French Polynesia. On Rangiroa, Gauguin’s Pearl is the largest pearl farm, and they provide daily demonstrations of pearl production with free pickup from the hotel in an air-conditioned van. Other pearl shops dot the island’s single road, many without the benefit of air conditioning.

The Takeaway

Other parts of French Polynesia might be known for glitz and status, where visitors conspicuously consume and compare the square footage of their bungalow or the international luxury brand of their resort. Many stay just long enough to check the box and disappear to the next spot on their bucket lists without ever finding themselves captive to French Polynesia’s languid spell.

On Rangiroa that spell is unavoidable. While the Hotel Kia Ora is certainly a luxury property, it’s luxury with an inherently local sensibility. Here, familiarity is fast, the guests are most likely repeat visitors and everyone is pleased to be there.

Getting There

Rangiroa is roughly an hour from Papeete by air. Air Tahiti operates daily flights.

The Math

Rates start around $420 USD per night plus tax during the low season.

Instagrammable Moment

Anything with water in it is a sure bet, whether it’s the glassy lagoon or the tranquil private plunge pools in the pool villas.


There’s no loyalty program but that doesn’t prevent a high percentage of return guests.

Good to Know

The hotel offers transfers to and from the airport for a nominal fee.

Guest rooms are equipped with WiFi.

The hotel’s rental cars are late model with good air conditioning.

Staff at the hotel and the pearl shops are generally multilingual and speak very good English. Excursion operators often speak transactional English; conversation ability with non-French speakers can be limited, and tour narration is typically more extensive in French.

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