Hawaii hosts all sorts of vacationing celebrities, and there are a range of high-end resorts across the Aloha State where you might spot a Hollywood star escaping the limelight.
One could make a case, however, that the Kahala Hotel & Resort on Oahu has hosted the greatest number of those famous folks over the years, and when you start considering the number of world leaders who’ve actually stayed at the property since it opened in 1964, the competition might not even be all that close.
The Kahala’s presidential suite, for example, has accommodated every president since Lyndon Johnson, and the hotel has welcomed the emperor and empress of Japan on a few occasions. Queen Elizabeth II has also been to the property, as has her son Prince Charles, who brought along Princess Diana in 1985. The couple’s entourage occupied 100 rooms during their stay, according to resort officials.
Of course, there’ve been visits by old Hollywood over the past five decades, including Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, John Wayne and Bob Hope, but stars like Alec Baldwin and George Clooney have also spent time off recently at the Kahala. And Elton John apparently visits on a regular basis.
“I was just hanging out in the hot tub about 10 p.m., and Adam Sandler showed up with his fiancee,” John Ellis, a travel agent working for Ellis Travel House in Beaverton, Ore., told me about a stay at the Kahala a few years ago. “We all just hung out and talked for a while, and it was no big deal.”
Ellis grew up visiting the Kahala, traveling frequently to vacation at the property with his sister, Natasha, and his parents, John and Mila, who actually honeymooned at the hotel not long after its opening in 1964.
“What I love about the Kahala is you’re on Oahu, but you don’t have that pace like you’re in Waikiki,” John Ellis Sr. said. “It’s like you’re on an outer island, [but] it’s also very easy to go to great restaurants or the shopping in Waikiki,” which is just a 10-minute shuttle ride away.
The elder Ellis worked for a travel agency when he traveled with his bride, Mila, to Hawaii for their honeymoon in 1964, but the two opened their own agency in 1979, and now they work alongside their son and daughter, all as agents. And to this day, the hotel is the family’s favorite in Hawaii.
“Just talking about all this really makes me wish I were there now,” the elder Ellis said with a laugh over the phone.
Despite the property’s allure for many big names from Hollywood, both father and son insist it’s the laid-back and secluded quality of the Kahala, combined with its kid-friendly location on a white-sand beach, that makes the property such a great fit for honeymooners, families and celebrities.
“When I was younger, I’d see Jack Lord from ‘Hawaii Five-0’ or Tom Selleck from ‘Magnum P.I.’ there,” the younger Ellis said. “But the stars were just common people at the hotel. It’s not like they were expecting any special treatment, nor did they seem aloof or ostentatious.”
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, the Kahala has launched a number of packages to commemorate the milestone, and according to Roger Bright, the hotel’s director of sales, the specials have been performing so well that U.S. wholesalers and agents have asked for them to be extended.
“We initially planned for them to run for the first six months of the year,” Bright said. “But they’ve been performing so well, and we’ve had so many requests to keep them going, we’ve extended them through the end of the year.”
One of those is the hotel’s Celebrations special, which starts at $422 a night and includes daily breakfast at the Plumeria Beach house restaurant along with a $50 resort credit for a minimum of three nights.
For more about the range of anniversary specials, click here