Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightAs the much-discussed Disney Aulani Resort & Spa -- currently under construction at Ko Olina on Oahu's west coast -- prepares to open at the end of August 2011, its next-door neighbor, the JW Ihilani Resort & Spa, is also abuzz as it undergoes an extensive refurbishment.

"The hotel is 17 years old, and the rooms have gone through numerous soft redos, carpet, painting, but they've never had a full renovation," said Dan Banchiu, the JW Ihilani's general manager. "The entire room is being gutted out, and we're putting in all new furniture, fixtures, carpet, paint, everything. Even the faucets in the bathrooms are being replaced."

Each room will also get a 42-inch flat-screen LCD TV along with a technology jack pack to connect and recharge MP3 players, smartphones and other personal electronic devices.

According to Banchiu, the room upgrades began last month and will be complete mid-January. Although he wouldn't give an exact dollar amount, Banchiu said the price tag for the renovation of all 387 rooms and suites at the property would end up in the millions.

Work on the first complete overhaul of the JW Ihilani's 35,000-square-foot spa since the property's opening is now scheduled to be complete by the end of this month. Improvements will include a redesigned reception area, new couples treatment room, a 24-hour fitness center featuring new equipment, a new salon and an enhanced meditation area and Zen garden.

The spa will also offer guests a new Hoonanea private suite designed with customizable services for larger groups.

"This new suite will be great for bridal parties or a girls' weekend out where you can have your entire party go in there to relax or spend the day getting ready for the big event," Banchiu explained. "We've put [the new suite] where the old health club used to be so it's totally separated from the men's or women's relaxation areas as well as any of our spa massage rooms."

Guests of the property can also enjoy a recently launched luau event called the Fia Fia Show. The Polynesian review features a traditional luau feast, performances originating from around the Pacific, with Chief Sielu Avea the star attraction.

Asked about his take on the impact of the Disney Aulani's opening at the end of next summer, Banchiu was nothing but positive, insisting that the signature serenity of the Ihilani would continue unchanged.

"My response has been and will always be that I think it's exciting," Banchiu said of Disney's arrival. "Ko Olina hasn't really been on the map for a number of years. We were basically a stand-alone business for most of the last 17 years, and Disney coming on is really going to add a great brand that we can partner with to get the word out that Ko Olina isn't Waikiki, but a very different and special place on Oahu."

Click here to see a video featuring a rendering of the new guestroom.

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