One road in, one road out.
Driving up the narrow, palm tree-lined road to the Kahala Hotel and Resort on the east side side of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, our local tour guide and friend explains the property is famous for its privacy and security.
It's the limited access to the resort that's made it so popular over the decades with visiting politicians, royalty, rock stars, sports legends and Hollywood movie types of every description.
Several walls near the Kahala's lobby are dedicated to hundreds of photographs of visiting notables past and present, including Queen Elizabeth, Rat Packer Sammy Davis Junior, Michael Jackson, Bob Hope, Elizabeth Taylor, the Rolling Stones, Indira Gandhi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elton John, Lucille Ball and every serving American president since Lyndon B. Johnson.
There are also several photographs of famous rappers, such as Dr. Dre and Jay-Z, who've visited the resort, their gold bling in sharp contrast to the understated elegance of the property. I was hoping to rub shoulders, or possibly flippers, with at least one rapper during our travels and kept an eye out for a Snoop Dogg sighting, but no go. (I did bump into Flavor Flave last year at an ABC store in Waikiki.)
The Kahala's reputation for privacy and discretion began almost immediately after Conrad Hilton opened the doors in 1964, when a group of bigwigs at NBC reserved the entire resort for its annual affiliates' meeting. That event launched the Kahala's reputation as a celebrity hideaway for movie stars, pop-culture icons and even royalty to the resort, including a visit by Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the early days of their marriage during which they booked 100 rooms for themselves and accompanying entourage.
During the years of Hawaii Five-O -- the iconic Jack Lord edition -- the Kahala became the go-to hotel for visiting guest stars such as Martin Sheen, who wanted to avoid autograph seekers.
While chances are today's visitors will still bump into a celebrity or foreign dignitary or two during a stay, the atmosphere remains warm and welcoming with no sense of pretension.
The Kahala is truly elegant and successfully dances a fine line between allowing guests the ultimate in privacy and discretion, while attending to every detail. On our second day at the Kahala, my partner and I wandered out the front doors off the lobby where a bellman we had never met greeted us by name. Nice touch.
The resort's secluded beachfront location adds to the feeling of seclusion and a short walk out to Kissing Point highlights the romance of the property, making it the ideal backdrop for a wedding, of which we saw several during our stay.
The resort is located about 15 minutes west of Waikiki Beach on the site of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village once known as Waialae-Kahala, where King Kamehameha landed in 1795 at the start of his conquest of Oahu.
Today's Kahala respects that history, while embracing many modern and green initiatives, including the use of sea water pumped in to cool the hotel's chiller systems and upgraded equipment, such as new washers and driers, elevator motors and hot water heaters to lower water and energy use. The resort also embraces a local attitude to food, including an herb garden on the property that offers a regular harvest of basil, oregano, rosemary and edible blossoms used in the Kahala's kitchens. Much of the other produce, meat and fish is purchased locally from organic vendors and farmers.
We visited the Kahala after spending more than a week in bustling Waikiki and it was a great way to end our vacation. Our holiday to-do list accomplished, our pace slowed to a crawl as we did little more than lounge, read and swim. Peering out from behind my giant sunglasses, I also kept an eye out for celebrities. But the success of my celebrity hunting remains a secret, because what happens at the Kahala stays at the Kahala.
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