Dolphins the draw at Kahala Mandarin Oriental

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HONOLULU -- Guests planning to participate in the Kahala Mandarin Oriental's dolphin encounter program during their stay at the property should plan ahead: Reservations are booked months in advance during the holidays and the summer months.

Under the program, participants climb into the property's man-made lagoon with three trainers and two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins named Hoku and Liho.

For adults, there are two sessions (see below). Both consist of learning commands that prompt the dolphins to leap into the air, and a course on helping to preserve the animals' natural habitat. Opportunities to pet and feed the dolphins also are part of the experience.

The children's program is more detailed and extends beyond dolphins. For two hours, kids can touch turtles and learn about rays along with their dolphin encounter.

All programs are led by instructors from Dolphin Quest, an organization dedicated to the conservation of marine life through education.

Starting at $417 per night, the Kahala Mandarin Oriental's dolphin package includes accommodations, breakfast for two and a $200 Dolphin Quest credit for use with any dolphin program (prices for 2004 were not available at press time). Commission on the packages is 10%.

Photos are taken during the dolphin encounter and can be purchased for $12.50 per print.

Room rates start at $375 for a ridge view, but will rise to $385 on Jan. 1.

As of Jan. 1, the 30-minute Dolphin Encounter will cost $129 for adults. The one-hour Dolphin Adventure will run $189 for adults, and the children's Quest for Knowledge will cost $154. Prices do not include tax.

For more information, call (808) 739-8888 or visit the Web site at www.mandarinoriental.com.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

Property boosts dining options

HONOLULU -- There's a change in dining options afoot at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, often the first choice here for visiting movie stars and dignitaries (President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush stayed in October en route to Asia).

Six months ago, the 364-room resort added the Cabanas Seaside Grill, an elegant, outdoor restaurant. Next year, it plans to update its casual Plumeria Cafe, according to Eric Kwan, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

Cabanas is upscale -- an a la carte fish dinner for two can run from $26 to $50 -- but still a rung or two below the property's fine dining choice, Hoku's.

All servings at Cabanas are large enough for two -- which means dinner is lots of fun if a couple can agree on both the main course and side dishes.

Cabanas serves about 30 people at a time. To maintain an intimate atmosphere, the maximum allowed in any one party is six, according to restaurant manager Kerry Ichimasa.

In yet another dining option, the Veranda, a quiet, open-air sitting room, specializes in an afternoon tea (2 p.m. to 5 p.m.) of sandwiches, pastries and confectionery items for a fixed price of $20 and curry lunches served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for $15.25. -- K.N.

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