Hawaii's stars of Mobil Travel Guide's stars
THIS year's Mobil Travel Guide has named only its second five-star spa in America -- but it is not in Hawaii.
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in New York has joined Spa Montage at Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, Calif., as the only ones to receive a five-star ranking from the annual Mobil Travel Guide.
Hawaii's usual suspects received four stars -- Hualalai Sports Club and Spa at the Four Seasons Resort in Kona; The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea; Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort, also on Maui; SpaHalekulani at Halekulani in Waikiki and the Spa Suites at The Kahala Hotel and Resort, formerly the Kahala Mandarin Oriental.
Three-star recipients include Spa Moana at the Hyatt Regency Maui in Lahaina and Spa Kea Lani at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui, in Wailea.
The four- and three-star recipients have maintained their rankings in each of the Mobil spa list's three years.
It was especially gratifying to the Kahala Hotel and Resort, which changed ownership and management this year.
"We are happy," said Scarlett Dooley, marketing communications manager at the Kahala.
Citing a competing ranking organization, Dooley noted that the Kahala is the only AAA 5-diamond hotel on Oahu.
The ownership and management transition had people in and outside the industry "hesitant, leery, wondering which way we were going to go. This kind of confirms that we are and will continue to be a luxury resort," she said.
"We are only going to upgrade our service standards and our facilities so the resort will maintain its unique position in Hawaii."
The upgrading is a process that takes place every day, she said. "We are constantly looking to improve on things ... why not five stars?" said Dooley.
Of all the spas, in all the towns in all the world -- well OK, just the United States -- Mobil's inspectors, traveling anonymously, chose 83 upon which to bestow stars. Fourteen of them are additions to this year's list and six returning spas actually added a star this year.
The Mobil Travel Guide is published by Publications International Ltd. under a license from Exxon Mobil Corp.
You practically have to be Exxon Mobil Corp. with its $8.4 billion first-quarter profit, to have a "spa day" at one of the five-star joints.
There are few two-digit prices at the five-star Spa Montage in California. Hair removal services start at $50, as an example. While a therapeutic beach walk is free, a 30-minute Thalasso bath, with underwater massage is $115. That is not outrageous for an upscale hotel spa.
This year's five-star newbie is another story.
Nothing so gauche as a dollar sign appears on the menu of spa services on the Big Apple's Mandarin Oriental Web site. Rather, prices appear next to the letters USD, for U.S. dollars.
One could receive a manicure there for USD 60, an hour-and-20-minute massage for USD 292 or one of a range of "Journeys" beginning at USD 430 for one hour and 50 minutes.
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