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Koa Kea Hotel & Resort, Koloa 

2251 Poipu Road
Koloa , Hawaii
Tel: 808 828 8888
view web site ›'s insider take:

Located between several large chain resorts on Poipu Beach, the 121-room Koa Kea hotel is a partially hidden gem. (It can be hard to find if you don't know that it shares a driveway with the Marriott Waiohai.) The hotel's condo-style buildings don't make a great first impression, but the wow factor becomes apparent inside. While the decor gives a nod to the oceanfront location with large shells, pieces of coral, and photos of sea creatures, the design is definitely more city than beach: The sexy rooms, all with ocean views, are done up in crisp white and hot pink bedding and mod Asian-style furniture. The open-air Red Salt restaurant and bar attracts cool-seeking refugees from all over the island. And perhaps the best part of staying here is the smug satisfaction of sharing primo Poipu Beach (which is plenty big) with the monster resorts, then retreating to this intimate and stylish oasis.—Cathay Che

From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:
You might assume that the first luxury property to open on Kauai in 30 years would have made a splashy debut, but the beachfront Ko'a Kea (built on the site of the old Poipu Beach Hotel) slipped onto the scene with barely a ripple. Maybe it's the size: With just 121 rooms—all with balconies or lanais and within earshot of the waves—the resort is considerably smaller than its brand-name neighbors on the sunny south coast. Eschewing waterslides and swim-up bars, Ko'a Kea offers more sedate pleasures: an unadorned swimming pool tiled in deep blue, a sophisticated restaurant/lounge with a sashimi tasting menu, and an expansive lawn overlooking a rocky cove where guests (mostly honeymooners) canoodle at sunset. Rooms might be dismissed as humdrum nouveau-Hawaiian (there's lots of coral) if they weren't so comfortable and thoughtful—each has a cushy chaise longue, a ceiling fan and AC, and an in-room espresso machine that provides a pre–surf lesson pick-me-up (one of the island's best breaks fronts the hotel). When it comes to service, Ko'a Kea demonstrates that smaller may indeed be better: When a recent rainy day kept guests indoors, a desk clerk sent the latest issue of Vanity Fair up to their rooms. —2010 Hot List

Which room to book: Only the garden rooms lack sea views, but they're just steps from a lovely beach.

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