Isle hotels and restaurants get some sparkly diamonds
HOTELIERS and restaurateurs across the state breathed a sigh of relief Friday when the annual AAA Diamond Awards for 2006 were announced.
It is the first time since 2001 that more restaurants than hotels were added to the list of what is now 150 properties.
La Mer at Halekulani upped its streak to 16 years with 5 AAA Diamonds, the only Hawaii restaurant at the top of the travel guide's scale.
Four Seasons Resort, Maui at Wailea has been on the Five Diamond list for 15 consecutive years.
So, is everybody on pins and needles until the list comes out and you can finally exhale?
"We sort of prepare ourselves for it all year long," said Mark Simon, director of marketing.
"I think the most important thing is, 'What are you focused on as a business?'
"We know what the AAA standards are, we know what our own standards are -- and every day in every way, we focus on them. When something like this comes along, it's nice to have a validation that you're doing what you're supposed to be doing."
Other veteran five-diamond bearers are The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua for 10 years, The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai for eight and the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for four.
Sometimes a property can lose a star, thus breaking a streak and several hearts.
Halekulani and The Kahala Mandarin lost their No. 5 stars for 2002 but the Kahala Mandarin regained its stars the following year.
The Four-Diamond designations, nothing at which to turn up one's nose, went to The Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island and the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort, each on the list for 15 years; Princeville Resort on Kauai, 12 years; the Hyatt Regency Maui, 11 years; the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Maui and the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel on the Big Island, each on the list for seven years; The J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa, six years; Halekulani, five years; The Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui, four years; Hotel Hana Maui, and The Westin Maui, each three-year veterans of the list.
Sometimes somebody gets on the list for the first time, such as Hualalai Grille by Alan Wong at the Four Seasons Hualalai Resort.
Wong is accompanied on the list by 17-year-veteran Bali by the Sea at Hilton Hawaiian Village; Orchids at Halekulani, 11 years; Azul at Ihilani, 10 years; Chef Mavro, in Honolulu, six years; Pahu i'a at Four Seasons Hualalai, six years; Hoku's at the Kahala Mandarin, four years; Spago at Four Seasons Maui, four years; The Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, four years; Sarento's on the Beach in Kihei, three years; and The Grill at the Fairmont Orchid, two years.
Restaurants and lodgings undergo a thorough inspection by one of AAA's 65 full-time, trained professional evaluators. The company reviews nearly 57,000 properties and it's a tougher deal to obtain and retain a Five-Diamond ranking. A restaurant or hotel faces more extensive inspections and final committee review.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org