What It’s Like to Stay at Timbers Kaua‘i at Hōkūala, a Luxe Hawaiian Resort Where Everything Is for Sale

Welcome to Checking In, a review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue in cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below. 

Timbers Kaua‘i at Hōkūala

The lobby at Timbers Kaua‘i
The resort offers wrap-around views.

In three words: Move in ready

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The basics:
Timbers Company isn’t in the hotel business. But since opening its 450-acre property on Kauai in July 2018, it has grown into one of the — if not the — most luxurious check-ins on the Garden Isle. Need proof: the resort is currently commanding the highest nightly rates in Kauai.

A developer and operator of luxury resorts, private residence clubs and boutique properties—sixteen so from Kiawah Island, South Carolina to Tuscany—Timbers is in the business of full-service real estate. Like a growing number of companies, it offers 5-star hotel amenities to the owners of its luxury residences. But when the owners of Kauai’s 47 two-, three-, and four-bedroom residences aren’t at home (which is much of the time), they enter the rental pool — and that’s where you, the traveler, comes in.

But this ain’t Airbnb, and you won’t find any of grandma’s tchotchkes on the mantel. The furniture and decor are all from Timber’s design team, creating the aura of a full blown, multi-bedroom hotel suite designed to host families who are used to the best of everything.

The amenities are also strictly “Four Seasons” (fun fact: this is the only major Hawaiian island without a FS; there is a 1 Hotel). Need in room dinning, call down to the oceanfront restaurant Hualani’s. Need help with your luggage, call the front desk. Need groceries delivered, they can handle that too. Outside, there is an 18-hole Ocean Course at Hōkūala—Kauai’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.— as well as a 16.5-acre organic farm, lagoons and miles of trails. There’s also a spa, kids club, all the water toys and famous views (the pier at the start of “Jurassic Park,” and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison logo). If you’ve ever loved a resort so much you wanted to buy your room, well, you literally can here.

The best room

Lāola Nani at Timbers Kaua‘i
Lāola Nani 2005 is one of the latest properties to be made available to vacationers.

The resort is made up of hotel style buildings that house suite-like condos, townhouses and (forthcoming) standalone estate homes. Only a portion of these are available to non-owner vacation bookings, but the newest one to enter the pool is also its best. Dubbed Lāola Nani 2005, this two-story, three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhome has 3,338 square feet and sits on the 15th fairway. Looking out at the Ninini Point Lighthouse, it’s for family entertaining on a scale that would be impractical at a traditional hotel. Private plunge pool? Of course. Unlike most hotel rooms, after you’ve test driven it, you can buy it. It will set you back $6.09 million.

The Rundown

Kaiholo Residence at Timbers Kaua‘i
Check in to the Kaiholo Residence and you’ll get four bedrooms and 3,100 square feet of living space.

Greeted by name at check-in?

Yes and that’s important because your arrival can be a little shocking if you aren’t used to live chickens at baggage claim. Lihue Airport is minimal to say the least and having transportation prearranged is a must. Timbers will, of course, send a car. When you arrive at the largely open air lobby (it’s a 5 minute drive), surrounded by ocean and glittering pool water, it all starts to make sense. No wonder Zuckerberg can’t get enough.

Welcome drink ready & waiting? (Bonus point if it wasn’t just fruit juice) Yes.

A lovely local tincture and hand towels will be ready when you arrive. Champagne? Something stronger (they have their own, very good Timbers whisky)? Head to the bar, just downstairs for that.

Private butler in the room?

Alas it’s BYOB: bring your own butler. But the resort can also pre-arrange staffing needs. So if you need a private chef, a nanny or a chainsaw juggler, just say so.

Sheet thread count 300 or higher?

 Yes, at least. These may be privately owned but the details are consistent. Lines are an Egyptian cotton and Flanders flax blend. The mattresses are coddling, and pillows, pillows, pillows—there’s several fort’s worth.

Heated floor in the bathroom or a bidet? Or both?

 Not in Hawaii and you won’t miss them. The toilets also lack a bidet. However, the ensuite bathrooms are massive, his and her style, with stone floors, rain water showers and large soaking tubs. The bathroom here is especially important as it rains rather a lot on Kauai, not to mention the sand from the beach and the mud after a healthy hike on the trails. You’ll end up scrubbing down practically on the hour.

Are the toiletries full-sized?

Yes, they use full size Molton Brown bath amenities.

Private pool for the room’s exclusive use?

 Yes and no. Yes, the townhouses all come with a private plunge pool. However, those who stay in the multi-family sections have access to two different pools (one just outside) and an infinity pool off of the lobby. Although they are public, the resort’s extremely low density (it’s actually the lowest density resort on the island) means you regularly have them all to yourself.

Worth spending Friday night in the lobby bar? 

Yes, and what a view. The bar sits below the lobby, cover but outdoors, looking out at the ocean. Cocktails show off with literally farm fresh tinctures, botanicals, fruits and garnishes pulled right from the property’s own land. The cocktails are also full of tricks (the espresso martini and old fashion are barrel aged) and are backed with only-in-Hawaii ingredients. The wine list also runs deep, with perhaps a slight emphasis on Napa. The crowd is lively and the chances of meeting friendly strangers is high.

Caviar on the room service menu? 

A farm basket at Timbers Kaua‘i
Lots of resorts have “farms”—but not like this. This is the real thing. Guests can pick up a farm basket.

 You’ll have to head to Zuckerberg’s for the caviar. Room service comes from Hualani’s, one of the island’s best restaurants, which focuses on seasonal, farm-to-table dining (no, they don’t have a sturgeon farm…yet!). Whether you go down to dine amongst the other guests — this will be the only time when the resort feels “busy”— or order up to your room, it’s the same menu of items: like Firecracker Kona Kampachi, Dry Aged Ribeye or Lemongrass Pork Dumplings (inexplicably delightful dumplings, much, much better than they have any right to be). Better still, call ahead and the chef will plan a full menu for your family to enjoy in your “home” (it is one after all). Can’t decide on the wine? The somm will be there, too. They even offer family cooking classes for those rainy days. S no, there’s no caviar. But we can’t fault them for it.

Would you buy the hotel if you could?

Never have this question, on this questionnaire been more relevant. Normally a hypothetical, you literally can here: prices range from $485,000 to over $7.5 million. And yes, if I lived in California and wanted a regular escape on what really is arguably the best of the Hawaiian Islands, I certainly would. The added benefit of buying, is that you get access to all of the other Timbers properties. Suddenly, you have a house in Snowmass, a house in Scottsdale and a villa in Cabo, whenever you need it.

The verdict

Hualani’s at Timbers Kaua‘i
Hualani’s buzzes in the evenings.

Hotels, even the best ones, have their limits. A multi-generational family that wants to be together on a holiday, needs a house, a full kitchen and a laundry room. Airbnbs and VRBOs are unpredictable and lack the service that we know you’ve grown accustomed to. Timbers is the best of both worlds and is easily the nicest way to enjoy a family trip to Hawaii.

Rates: from $1,895

Total score: 8

What Our Score Means: 
1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here. 
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch. 
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms. 
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?

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