Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened its doors to Atlantic City on June 28, 2018. In just a little over a year, it has set itself apart as the primary hot spot of Atlantic City.
The property sits on 17-acres of prime real estate overlooking the legendary Atlantic City Boardwalk, directly adjacent from the historic Steel Pier. The music-inspired destination boasts 2,100 slot machines; 120 table games; more than 15 restaurants featuring world-class cuisine and award-winning wine lists; and top-of-the-line entertainment that includes Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena, the beachside Sound Waves, the Howie Mandel Comedy Club, and, of course, the iconic Hard Rock Café located on the Boardwalk.
Before checking out the endless list of entertainment options featured at Hard Rock, be sure to stop in for dinner at Kuro. This new style Japanese restaurant features contemporary artisanal dishes that use locally sourced and direct from Japan ingredients.
Ordering from the menu is an experience in and of itself. Plates are designed with sharing in mind and offer a bold and complex mix of flavors, perfectly balanced and harmonious. Popular menu items include the tuna tartar, crispy tuna rice, Wagyu beef tacos and Chilean Sea Bass, among many others. Choose what appeals to you or go bold and allow your expert server to decide your courses for you—simply answer a few questions on what type of pallet you have and you’ll be rewarded with some delicious dishes that are sure to suit your tastes. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Kuro’s beverage options take inspiration from its culinary offerings. Using fresh ingredients in modern recipes with hints of classic flavors, these hand-crafted cocktails are sure to appeal to every patron. Cocktails are divided into five sections—sweet, sour, bitter, salty and urnami. Also available are local craft and Japanese imported beers, Japanese whiskeys, shochu, 30 different sake brands and 110 wine labels.
If Japanese is not your style, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has a multitude of additional culinary offerings that include Council Oak Fish, an upscale eatery featuring seafood sourced from local fishermen; Sugar Factory, the place to be if you want to indulge your sweet tooth; II Mulino, serving up classic Italian dishes made with fresh pasta and homemade cheeses; Song, a modern, high-end restaurant dishing out your favorite Chinese fares; YOUYU Noodle Bar, offering cuisine inspired by Asian street food; Constant Grind, the grab-and-go spot for coffee, sandwiches and more; and Fresh Harvest Buffet, featuring live-action cooking, carving stations, dim sum and other international delights.
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If you’re looking to quench your thirst, the J Bar offers delicious cold-pressed juice, acai bowls and smoothies. For those craving some fun-in-the-sun, the Hard Rock Beach Bar can be found along the soft sand and provides a tropical atmosphere where you can relax in a cabana while sipping your favorite frozen cocktail.
In-room entertainment at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is unrivaled, featuring one-of-a-kind interactive amenities that can be found at all 30 hotels around the world.
The Sound of Your Stay, designed to enhance your stay through musical discovery and interaction, lets guests choose from one of three unique options to enjoy in the comfort of their own room. The program includes Picks, where guests can channel their inner rock star with their very own in-room Fender guitar; Mix, allowing you to create your own music with a turntable and collection of iconic records; and Tracks, designed for those wanting to sit back and enjoy Hard Rock’s perfectly curated playlists at their fingertips.
If health and wellness is the aim of your stay, Hard Rock has the answer for that as well. Encouraging guests to play hard and purify harder, the hotel has launched the Rock Om program—an in-room and on-site yoga experience fusing together the ancient art of yoga with the beat of music. The in-room yoga experience, created by trusted yoga brand Manduka and film score composer DJ Drez, is meant to bring you an energizing yoga event unlike any other.
In addition to the many aforementioned amenities, guests can also take a private memorabilia tour with the hotel VIBE Manager. Hard Rock is the world’s largest curator of music memorabilia, showcasing 80,000 pop-culture artifacts. With the Music Memorabilia program, you and your group can take a private tour of the music history at Hard Rock and partake in an interactive scavenger hunt or a group trivia contest.
With only a year under its belt in Atlantic City, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is already making a run for the go-to destination for the city’s entertainment. From first-class dining and world-class entertainment to lavish guest rooms and in-room amenities unlike any other around, there’s really no need to venture off property when visiting the historic city of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
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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.
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.
Rangiroa is roughly an hour from Papeete by air. Air Tahiti operates daily flights.
Rates start around $420 USD per night plus tax during the low season.
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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